The Names and Revelation of Surah al-Fatihah: Tafsir al-Baghawi

Before proceeding to explain surah al-Fatihah verse-by-verse, Imam Abu Muhammad al-Husayn al-Baghawi included a short discussion of its well-known names and when it was revealed:

 ولها ثلاثة أسماء معروفة فاتحة الكتاب وأم القرآن والسبع المثاني . ـ

Surah al-Fatihah has three well-known names, which are:

سميت فاتحة الكتاب ؛ لأن الله بها افتتح القرآن . وسميت أم القرآن وأم الكتاب لأنها أصل القرآن منها بدئ القرآن وأم الشيء أصله ، ويقال لمكة : أم القرى؛ لأنها أصل البلاد دحيت الأرض من تحتها وقيل لأنها مقدمة وإمام لما يتلوها من السور يبدأ بكتابتها في المصحف وبقراءتها في الصلاة والسبع المثاني لأنها سبع آيات باتفاق العلماء . وسميت مثاني لأنها تثنى في الصلاة فتقرأ في كل ركعة وقال مجاهد سميت مثاني لأن الله تعالى استثناها لهذه الأمة فذخرها لهم . ـ

It is called Fatihah al-Kitaab because Allah opens the Qur’an with it.

And it is called Umm al-Qur’an or Umm al-Kitaab because it is the foundation of the Qur’an with which the Qur’an begins, and the umm of something is its foundation. Mecca is called Umm al-Quraa because it was the origin of the cities which spread out across the surrounding land. And it is also said that surah al-Fatihah is called Umm al-Qur’an because it is an introduction and a leader for the surahs which follow it. Its text begins the mushaf and its recitation begins the prayer.

And it is called al-Saba’ al-Mathaani because it is seven ayaat – as agreed upon by the scholars -, and al-Mathaani because it is frequently repeated in the prayer, for it is recited in every unit of prayer. And Mujaahid said that it is called al-Mathaani [here meaning “prevented”] because Allah made it exclusively for this ummah and kept it just for them.

وهي مكية على قول الأكثرين . وقال مجاهد : مدنية وقيل نزلت مرتين مرة بمكة ومرة بالمدينة ولذلك سميت مثاني والأول أصح أنها مكية لأن الله تعالى من على الرسول صلى الله عليه وسلم بقوله ” ولقد آتيناك سبعا من المثاني ” ( 87 – الحجر ) والمراد منها فاتحة الكتاب وسورة الحجر مكية فلم يكن يمن عليه بها قبل نزولها . ـ

And it was revealed during the Makki period [i.e. before the Hijrah] according to the position of the majority. But Mujaahid said it was revealed during the Madani period [i.e. following the Hijrah]. And it is also said that it was revealed twice, once in Mecca and once in al-Madinah, and that that is why is it called al-Mathaani [here meaning “repeated”]. But the first position that it is a Makki surah is most accurate because Allah described it as a blessing upon the Messenger (ﷺ) in His statement:

وَلَقَدْ آتَيْنَاكَ سَبْعًا مِّنَ الْمَثَانِي

And We have certainly given you seven of the mathaani … [15:87]

with the intended meaning of that being surah al-Fatihah. And surah al-Hijr (in which this ayah is mentioned) was revealed during the Makki period, so Allah would not have described this as a blessing that was given to him prior to actually revealing it.

[Tafsir al-Baghawi 1/50]

For more on posts regarding this surah, we have translated three complete explanations of it, including:

For more information about each of these explanations, please see: Tafsir of Surah al-Fatihah Guide.

See also: The Seven Oft-Repeated Verses: Tafsir al-Shinqitee

See also: Ibn Kathir’s brief remarks on the contents of Surah al-Fatihah

3 thoughts on “The Names and Revelation of Surah al-Fatihah: Tafsir al-Baghawi

  1. Pingback: Ibn Kathir’s brief remarks on the contents of Surah al-Fatihah | Tulayhah

  2. Pingback: The Seven Oft-Repeated Verses: Tafsir al-Shinqitee | Tulayhah

  3. Pingback: The Makki and Madani Surahs in Chronological Order: al-Suyooti | Tulayhah

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