The opening chapter of the Quran, al-Fatiha, is an introduction to the Quran itself. Often times introductions contain summaries of the contents that will come after them so it is not surprising that al-Fatiha summarizes some main principles for guidance in life.
- We read in al-Fatiha, “It is You alone we worship.” From the repetition of this verse throughout each day of our lives we are re-calibrated to focus on God in all of our affairs. It is only through this submission that we can gain objectivity. If it’s about ourselves, it’s not about God. If it’s about power, or wealth, or recognition, or self-healing, it’s not about God. Only in submission can objectivity, or at least as close as possible to it, be sought.
Stay Humble in the Journey
- “It is You alone we rely upon.” To do this is to live a life of humility. The one who only relies upon God knows the true source of their accomplishments and understands their limitations. Their reliance is not focused on themselves and their skills or talents, but on the source of all good, God Himself.
Do What Needs to Get Done to Succeed
- “Guide us to the straight path.” When we want to succeed in life there are always things that need to get done. This part of the chapter teaches us to seek those means, to take the path.
Seek Practical Guidance and Mentorship from Others
- “The path of those upon whom You have bestowed Your grace.” From this part we learn that in the journey of life we need examples we can learn from. Apprenticeship was the traditional model of learning in many societies around the world and is necessary up to today in many fields. Good mentors are priceless on the journey towards any goal.
Avoid Major Obstacles that Stop the Journey
- “Not the way of those who have received Your anger.” In any journey there are obstacles that can completely inhibit one from reaching their goal. They are betrayals of the path. One cannot be a therapist or counselor if they abuse their power and act unethically. One cannot be a teacher if they are sloppy in their academic integrity. One cannot be a leader if they are irresponsible and untrustworthy. All of these mishaps are obstacles that completely block one from their goal. They must be avoided at all costs.
- “Nor those who have gone stray.” Misguidance is a reality in the sea of information. Some people, the good mentors and advisors, will lead you on the path and facilitate the journey. Others, the sources of misguidance, will give advice and share information that is inaccurate and therefore negatively affect the journey. These too can become major obstacles and must also be avoided.
These six simple principles derived from al-Fatiha serve as signposts for every believer in their journeys throughout life. Mentors and advice will always vary. Sometimes we will have access to good teachers and sometimes we will not. Regardless of the circumstances we can always hold these principles in front of us so that we can be guided through the divine guidance of the Most High. They should be brought to mind when we read al-Fatiha in our daily prayers and throughout our lives.
*These principles were abstracted from the tafsir of Ibn ‘Ashur.