*This article is part of the articles I’ve written on Islamic Studies lessons kids and focuses on Surah al-Fatiha for kids.
Part 1 | Part 2
Surah al-Fatiha is one of the most important surahs in the Quran and our starting point for understanding the Book. The word surah basically refers to something that distinguishes something from something else, like a fence or a gate. So each surah of the Quran is part of the whole but at the same time its own part.
Al-Fatiha means “The Opener” and carries many of the broad meanings of that concept. It obviously is the the chapter that opens the Quran. It has also been used in Muslim societies in the form of a prayer that opens up various things. So it can be used in an engagement party for example to ask for openings of goodness in the relationship. It can also be used at the conclusion of a business transactions to ask for blessings to be opened in the business relationship. There are many other examples as well. One of the most common of them is reading it for those who have passed away.
What are some occasions where you think it would be a good idea to read Surah al-Fatiha?
Before we go into detailed discussion of the meaning of the Surah we want to cover some of the many names that it is known by. Its official title is The Opener, but there are other names that it has been known by as well from the time of the Prophet (pbuh) and through the ages.
Some of its names:
- The Praise (al-Hamd). It starts by declaring that all praise is due to God. Human beings are actually incapable of praising God in a way that He deserves for his magnificence and beauty. So part of His generosity to us is that He showed us how to praise Him by giving us this expression in the beginning of this surah.
- The Prayer (al-Salah). This is one of its titles because the Prophet said, “There is no acceptable prayer except by reciting al-Fatiha.” The hadith teaches us that reading Surah al-Fatiha is a required part of prayer and because of its position and importance in prayer that became one of the titles for it.
- The Mother of the Book (Umm al-Kitab). In Arabic the mother or umm refers not only to the biological mother but also anything that brings other things together. An example of this is God referring to Mecca in the Quran as Umm al-Qura or The Mother of the Towns because of its central position in Arabia and the world. The surah is called this because it contains all the meanings of the rest of the Quran. It is said that everything that God wanted to share with the world is in the scriptures: Scrolls of Abraham, Torah of Moses, Psalms of David, Gospel of Jesus, and Quran of Muhammad. Then it is said that everything in those is in the Quran and that all of the Quran is in al-Fatiha, so it is The Mother of the Book.
- The Healing (al-Shifa). It is called this because one time some of the Companions were came to a people and sought their hospitality. They didn’t treat them well, but after some time their leader became ill and they came to the Muslims asking if they had anything to cure him. They said yes and then read Surah al-Fatiha on the man, healing him completely. They then went back to the Prophet and told him the story and he affirmed their experience saying, “How did you know it was a healing?!”
- The Seven Oft-Repeated. This name is tied to the second one about prayer because it is such an important part of prayer and the units of prayer are so repeated during the day the surah itself became a surah that is repeated often.
One of many cool stories from Muslim history about this surah is told by Ibn al-Qayyim, one of the famous and great scholars of the middle period. He said the following:
“I had some troublesome pains that were nearly preventing me from moving while in my tawaf and other worships. I would read al-Fatiha and wipe it on my places of pain and it would be as if pebbles were falling (meaning the pain would fall away). I tried it many times [and it was effective]. I would also take a container of zamzam water and read al-Fatiha over it and drink it. When doing so I would find benefit and strength that I would not find in any other treatment.”(Madarij al-Salikin 1:58)
These are just a few names to get us started on understanding this blessed chapter of the Quran. You can remember these five by remembering the following sentence:
My mother is the best, I see her all the time and she prays for me and takes care of me when I’m sick.
Can you find the five names of the surah in this sentence??