The Second Aspect
You have learnt that Sūrah Fātiḥah, as a preface to the Qur’ān, comprehensively covers the primary Qur’ānic themes, which are three in number. It is also a miniature Qur’ān in that it exhibits the form of coherence of the entire Qur’ān. If you recite the sūrah, you can get a reflection of the coherence of the entire Book. Seen in this perspective, this sūrah is like a small mirror reflecting a huge object. This is thus another aspect of it being a complete representation of the entire Qur’ān in a miniature form.
The details of this brief statement follow. When you consider the Qur’ān in its entirety, you learn that it starts by an expression of gratitude to God. Then you find it revealing the principles of Islam, in both their exterior and interior dimensions. It develops on till the point in which it completes the discussions with a mention of the help granted to the believers. The disbelievers are finished and annihilated, and the prophetic mission of the Prophet Muhammad (sws) culminates. The Sūrah of Tawḥīd (112) has been put at the end as a representation of the last covenant of God. At this point, the divine city represented by the Qur’ān is fully constructed. Then there are two bulwarks built around it for defensive purposes. Or, we can say that two swords, or rather a double edged sword, are appointed to defend it. These are the last two sūrahs of the Qur’ān, the so called mu‘awwidhatayn. We can say that the Qur’ān is like an eternal garden which is watched over by two guards holding shining swords in their hands. This issue shall be detailed out in the discussion on the arrangement of the sūrahs.
If you imagine the Qur’ān this way and ponder over Sūrah Fātiḥah, you will notice that the sūrahcontains a stark similarity to the entire Qur’ān in this sense. It starts by an expression of gratitude to God. Then it takes up the theme of justice. Then we see two bases of worship. Then there is a mention of the right guidance and straight path consisting of tawḥīd and sunnah. Then surfaces the theme of seeking refuge in God. This seeking of refuge in God, just like the mu‘awwidhatayn, contains two aspects, both external and internal. A detailed discussion on this correspondence between the themes of the sūrah and that of the entire Qur’ān requires a great amount of detail. This shall be clear to you once you have studied the commentary on the last sūrahs of the holy Qur’ān. However, you will find some important points in this regard in the explanation of the verses of the present sūrah.
The above, it is hoped, reveals that like the entire Qur’ān, this sūrah too is an eternal garden protected by two guards. This similarity between the two is not a baseless poetical imagination. It is, on the contrary, based on firm foundations and clear evidence. This basis shall be explained with the help of God.
The Third Aspect
This sūrah, the foundation block of the ṣalāh, prefaces the great Qur’ān. From its placement and relation to the Qur’ān, we can infer that the ṣalāh is the foremost directive of the religion. The one who does not offer regular prayers indeed abandons the entire religion. This conclusion drawn from the placement of the sūrah and its relation to the Book of God appears, after all, to be a mere inference. However, when we study the religious directives contained in the Qur’ān and the Sunnah this inference is established. Thus the status of the ṣalāh is edified seeing that God has made this sūrah the opening of the last divine covenant that He contracted with human beings.
In my commentary on verse 152 of the second sūrah (Baqarah) of the Qur’ān (“So remember Me, and I will remember you”), I have mentioned that the divine covenant made with this ummahis kept intact through the ṣalāh. When we hold fast to the ṣalāh, we in fact stick to the rope of God (the holy Qur’ān) and also have a firm bond with Him. In return, God helps us over the enemies of the religion. He protects us from the worst enemy (Satan) who is residing with us. God has promised this in many places in His book. In the most clear of words, this promise has been put in the following saying of the Almighty Allah: “Surely the ṣalāhkeeps off indecency and evil.” (29:45)
The fact that abandoning the ṣalāh had put some of the earlier nations in error and waywardness is clear in the following verse: “A later generation succeeded them who have lost the ṣalāh and followed lusts. They shall soon meet error.” ((19:59) This verse has been placed following a mention of those whom God blessed, the Prophets and their followers. This points out that abandoning the ṣalāh means expulsion from the group that has God blessed, or the party of God. In Sūrah Fātiḥah this has been emphasized. God taught us to specially ask Him to put us on the path of this party of God. The above suffices as an introduction. I shall take up this issue again and deal with it in detail in my commentary on the following verses of Sūrah Ḥajj: “Those who, if we granted them power in the land, establish the ṣalāh, do their alms, enjoin good and forbid evil.” (22:41) I will also deal with this theme in “Guard strictly your prayers, especially the middle prayer.” (2:238) This issue will in addition be taken up in the commentary on the initial verses of Sūrah Mu’minūn and Sūrah Kawthar.
Let us consider the internal coherence in the sūrah. Before taking up that, however, I would like to uncover some of the facts implied in this sūrah, the full extent of which none other than God can fully know. Some of this knowledge escapes like rays emanating from a concealed body. A very careful and keen observer can be led by these rays, which are delicate textual indicators and allusions to their source: implied knowledge. Since, however, they are not based on clear and explicit textual statements, it is not necessary for common people to have faith in them.
I have decided to explain these points of wisdom buried in the sūrah only because I see that in the present day a new sect has arisen seeking to interpret the Qur’ān without knowing the art of interpretation after the example of a sect emerging with the claims of the esoteric. Prominent figures and leaders among this latter group claimed to be the heads of state at the time that they were “the guarded and infallible leaders”. This was in spite of the fact that the scholars among them stated, in no unclear terms, that they based their conclusions on the books of the Prophets and the philosophers. In a similar fashion, a group in our times has claimed that God has sent to them a messenger. He has, they claim, revealed to them the secrets of the Qur’ān. Thus this new Prophet, or rather impostor, put those, who lacked the knowledge I intend to give here, in great tribulation. He created divisions in the Muslims. He decreed that those who did not believe in him and his revelations would perish.
When I saw that people faced with the test of this claim which mixes truth and falsehood, needed guidance, I decided to uncover some of the realities buried in the sūrah so that they could learn the truth and follow it. They would then be able to understand that the revelation and the status of a divine messenger are beyond and superior to what the party believing in the imposter have assumed. I intend to explain that we must not rely on anything other than the Qur’ān or the books of the Prophets (the scriptures). Whereas, in this discussion, I have followed the method of the people of symbolisms and figurations, yet I have not followed any absurd argumentation. At the same time I have not abandoned the obvious meaning of the words for esoteric meanings. This is enough for a preface. Now I proceed to uncover the treasure of knowledge buried in the sūrah with the help of God and His blessings.
The First Screen
It would be useful to know that the number of verses of the sūrahs of the Qur’ān has not been clearly mentioned in the Book. This sūrah, however, is an exception. The Almighty has given it a name, which develops on the number of its verses. This means that God intends us to ponder over the number of its verses. We know that numbers are given extraordinary importance in the divine books. Similarly the philosophers too hold that all the matters of the world are determined through numbers. A similar statement is found in the Qur’ān where the Almighty says: “We have created everything under a decreed measure,” (Q 54:49) and again “to God everything is in a set proportion,” (Q 13:8). The issue concerning the importance of numbers will be explained in my book al-Taqdīr wa al-Ḥisbān.When we contemplate on the role of and correspondence between numbers and what they indicate, we are not actually following baseless superstitions.
Furthermore, the Qur’ān has told us that there will be eight carriers of the divine throne on the Day of Judgment. God says: “And eight (angels) will carry above them the throne of your Lord that day,” (Q 69:17). Scholars have believed, as do I that the number of the angels holding the throne shall increase on the Day of Judgment. Presently there are only four angels to carry out this duty. This has been mentioned in a prophetic tradition, though not in great detail. We can, however, find the details in the books of the biblical Prophets. It has been mentioned in the Bible that the Prophet Dhū al-Kifl (sws) and the Prophet Yaḥyā (sws) saw seven spirits under the throne of God and four angels engaged in glorifying God. I interpret the tradition in the light of these biblical statements.
We learn from the Qur’ān that there is al-rūḥ (spirit) which is special and more important than the angels, just as a human being is superior to an animal. God almighty says: “On the day when al-rūḥ and the angels shall stand arrayed,” (Q 78:38) and again “al-rūḥ and the angels ascend in it,” (Q 97:4). Notice how the Almighty mentioned al-rūḥ before the angels while referring to their standing before God, and then He reversed the order while mentioning their descent. This indicates the superiority and high status of al-rūḥ. Then, in the mention of the holding up of the throne of God, both have been mentioned in a general manner. However, God has here again, differentiated between those who hold the throne and those who surround it. He says: “Those who hold the throne and the ones who surround it,” (Q 40:7). At another place He says: “You shall see the angels surround the environs of the throne,” (Q 39:75). From these verses we learn that those who hold the throne are the seven superior al-rūḥs and surrounding it are angels.
Note that the total number of al-rūḥs and the angels mentioned in this reference is seven. It also needs to be appreciated that al-rūḥ deals with souls and spirits, while the angels are entrusted the affairs of bodies. The Almighty says: “The angels and al-rūḥ descend in it with the permission of their Lord, with all decrees,” (Q 97:4). This shows that there is no issue regarding which the angels and al-rūḥ do not descend with divine decrees. The Almighty says: “To him ascend the angels and al-rūḥ in a day the measure of which is fifty thousand years,” (Q 70:4). In the book of the Prophet Dū al-Kifl (sws) and in the revelations of the Prophet Yaḥyā (sws), we learn that the angels appeared to them in the form of a man, lion, bull and eagle. These make four. The fifth was an animal they did not recognize for they had not seen it before. He was the one already expelled. He was previously included among them. He is Satan, the chief of the lowly, in the form of a serpent. This is why he has been named Satan. Similarly they (Dū al-Kifl and Yaḥyā) did not mention two more angels who are in charge of vegetation. Both of them are below that place near the Sidrah al-Muntahā. These angels of the second cadre are junior in status to the seven holding ones. The latter also are seven in number as has been mentioned earlier. It has also been explicitly mentioned in the books of the prophets.
The Holy Qur’ān has informed us of issues regarding the Spirits and the angels which were not told in the books of the earlier prophets. Conversely, there are issues which the books of the earlier prophets detail for us and which the Qur’ān does not speak about, for general human beings did not need to know about them. The holy Qur’ān merely referred to them in allusion. They are, however, discernable by those granted understanding which they employ and obtain additional grandeur. Thus the Almighty initially mentioned in the holy Qur’ān that He commanded the angels to prostrate before Adam (sws) blowing His spirit into him.
We have learnt that al-rūḥ is an entity superior to the other servants of God. It shows that God commanded the angels to obey the Sacred Spirit (al-rūḥ al-qudus). The Book clearly states that al-rūḥ al-qudus is distinguished and obeys the will of the Lord. The implication is that the angels must be obliged to following al-rūḥ al-qudus.
We know that every creature in this world is made to serve man. It is obliged to serve him. This fact leads us to the thought that man partakes of the spirit of al-rūḥ al-qudus which is the obeyed one (al-mutā‘). To whatever degree a man goes higher in worship of God and purifies himself from the contamination of his flesh, to the same measure God increases his share in the qualities of al-rūḥ and more creatures surrender before him with the permission of God even when he does not intend to subjugate them to his will. Such a believer grows into a perfect worshipper, who is satisfied with his fate. God too is pleased with him. It has been mentioned in the holy Qur’ān concerning the dignified servants of God. It has also been mentioned in the sound ḥadīths that (God says): “[….] until I become his ears and his eyes […..].” Thus the creatures obey him and he obeys his Lord. This means that following him is in fact following God. The Qur'ān says: [Tell them O Prophet], “If you love God follow me, God will love you,” (Q 2:31). Being obeyed in this way, he does not become a partner to God nor a deity. Rather, he is a perfect servant of God who has obtained perfection in worshipping Him. He is to God as a command, pen, and the law are to a king. Whoever obeys laws issuing from a king is deemed to have followed the king himself.
In the Holy Qur’ān, the Prophet Abraham (sws) is reported to have said: “Except the Lord of the worlds, Who has created me (in love and passion), for He shall guide me (to his presence). It is He who feeds me and waters me (in this worldly life from beyond the screens). When I fall ill He cures me (from the physical ailments. Will He not then cure the one suffering from burning thirst of the soul in this worldly life?) The one Who gives me life and gives me death (just as He cures someone after he is weak and ailing). The one Who, I hope, will forgive my mistakes on the Last Judgment (for He is dayyān, the retributer, and just so it is only appropriate to hope that He would cover me with His mercy on the Day of Judgment).O Lord, (now Abraham (sws) calls Almighty Allah in this manner as he started in the beginning by referring to the divine attributes, the Lord of the worlds, in a profound sense of nearness) grant me wisdom and annex me to the virtuous ones (those who are Your party and those of our forefathers who have obtained access to Your presence). And create for me a tongue of truth in the last ones (i.e. raise from among my successor generations people who fulfill my word and who join me). Make me one of those who shall possess station in the paradise of blessings (where I shall mix with those who are Your party and where You will feed and water me just as You gave me sustenance in this world and so that You forgive me and place me under Your mercy.” (Q 26:77-85)
These verses indicate that all virtuous people shall reside in the same paradise, in spite of the fact that there would be many paradises for people of different religious and moral status. Consider, for example, that we have been blessed with many faculties. Some of us are superior to others in spite of the fact that a single spirit runs through all of us. Similarly the residents of Paradise shall be placed in a single garden with varying blessings. This is also evident from the following Qur’āinc verse wherein the Almighty says: “And we remove whatever rancor may be in their breasts. As brethren, face to face, they rest on couches raised,” (Q 15:47). In regards to the invocation of Abraham (sws) mentioned above, we refer to what he (sws) said following the above mentioned supplication. He mentions the dwellers of Hell and says: “They shall be thrown headlong into it and with them the erring ones (just as they fell upon their faces in this very world. Satan is their perfect example who walks on his belly) and also the armies of Iblīs, all of them (that is all such people as have adopted to fall on their faces with regards to facing the truth and walk prostrated on their bellies),” (Q 26: 94-5).
If you ponder over these verses, you will notice that two groups have been mentioned in contrast to each other, as has been briefly mentioned elsewhere, where God says: “A party shall be in Heaven and another party in Hell,” (Q 26:7). God mentioned the characteristics of both in the following verses: “Is he who goes prone upon his face better guided or he who walks upright upon a straight path,” (Q 67:22). Man thus represents an independent world. He shall reside with those similar to him. The Prophet (sws) therefore uttered before his death: “God, but with the most superior company.” He meant to say that the purpose of his prophethood had been fulfilled and the divine teachings had been perfected, therefore he could not bear to stay away from His blessed company. He did not say: “the companions”. Rather he said “the company” in order to stress the perfect unity of the members of the company. Only those who intend to understand may comprehend that these companions (desired by the Prophet (sws)) are none other than those who followed the right path of leading a servant to his Lord (ṣirāṭ al-mustaqīm). This has been alluded to in the following verse saying: “My Lord is on the straight path (that is he can be found by pursuing the right path),” (Q 11:56). This is the path all the prophets, the virtuous ones, the witnesses to the truth, and the righteous ones followed. The details of this you shall learn soon.
Paradise is the place of meeting and union of pure souls. It is the place where the countenance of God shines upon the perfect man, according to the measure of perfection he has obtained. The perfect man is the one who covers the traits of the seven rūḥs. It is, in fact, the eighth rūḥ which is lost under the dazzling light of the greatest name of God. Seven verses of Sūrah al-Fātiḥah, thus, represent the seven stations and degrees. These seven verses are crowned by the verse, bismillāh al-raḥmān al-raḥīm. This verse assumes the eighth stage. Upon it shine the rays emanating from the divine light, which has been termed the throne of God. This (that the throne of God is in fact the divine presence) I understand in the light of the following verse: “The God-fearing people shall reside in the gardens and the canal in the station of the truth near the powerful owner,” (Q 54-5). We shall return to explanation of this eighth stage in...So this sūrah, just as it is a brief mention of the Qur’ānic themes, comprehensively covers the worlds of the spirits and the carriers of the throne of God.
The Second Screen
The sūrah also removes the screens from the facts regarding degrees and status of men. God has said: “The path of those You have blessed, not those Who earned Your wrath nor those who went astray,”(Q 1:7). In Sūrah Nisā’, the Almighty says: “And we did not send any messenger but that he should be obeyed by Allah’s permission; and had they after having wronged themselves come to you and asked forgiveness of Allah and the Messenger had also asked His forgiveness for them, they would have found Allah Oft-relenting and Merciful. But no! By your Lord! they do not truly believe unless they make you a judge of that which has become a matter of disagreement among them, whereas they did not find any straightness in their hearts as to your decision and fully submitted. And if We had commanded them to lay down their lives (as we had previously prescribed for them through Moses (sws)) or go forth from their homes (as Moses (sws) had expelled their forefathers previously), they would not have done it except a few of them; and if they had done what they were admonished for, it would have certainly been better for them and best in strengthening them; and then We would certainly have given them from Ourselves a great reward (as I promised them great reward if they obeyed this unlettered Prophet). And We would certainly have guided them in the right path. Whoever obeys Allah and the Messenger, these are with those upon whom Allah has bestowed favors from among the prophets and the truthful and the witnesses (to the truth) and the good, and a goodly company are they! This is grace from Allah, and sufficient is Allah as the Knower.” (Q 4:64-70)
Most part of the meaning and implication of these verses was not lost upon the commentators. They all agree that these verses explicate the “mun‘am ‘alayhim” (the blessed ones) mentioned briefly in Sūrah al-Fātiḥah. They hold that these people are of four degrees of status: the prophets, the truthful, the witnesses to the truth and the pious. Now I proceed to explain this matter in light of what has been mentioned earlier and what is related to the above mentioned verse of Sūrah Nisā’, which contains the details of the four degrees of excellence.
It is to be noted that these verses address the People of the Book and that the hypocrites also belonged to them. These verses call them to true submission, and perfect and unconditional following of the Prophet (sws). It informs them that if those who have wronged themselves by sin came to the Prophet (sws), and also seek God’s forgiveness through intercession by the Prophet (sws), they would find God oft-relenting and merciful. He would forgive their previous sins. Then if they remained firm on this repentant attitude through proper obedience, they would be granted more reward. He would then bestow them with guidance to the straight path, the path followed by those whom God has blessed. We thus learn that below and yet next to the above mentioned four degrees of status, there lies a fifth degree which is that of those who seek God’s forgiveness after having wronged themselves. They too would join these four groups of people. This can be clearly gleaned from the following divine statement: “These are with those upon whom Allah has bestowed favors.” (Q 4:69)
Repentance after error, therefore, awards a believer a degree of excellence. It is an attitude which has frequently been praised both in the Qur’ān and the Gospels. We know that the characteristics of the Prophets include first inābah (turning to God in repentance), second, al-ṣalah (righteousness), third, al-shahādah (bearing witness to the truth), fourth, ṣiddāqiyyah (uprightness) and fifth, the nubuwwah (prophethood). The Prophets combine all characteristics of ‘ubūdiyyah (bondage/servitude to God) and its associated beauties. All these excellences mediate between two other degrees of distinction, as you shall soon learn.
Know that the first of these levels of excellence resulting from servitude to God is repentance (tawbah) and the last one is gratitude. Some of the Prophets attain perfection in some of these levels of excellence. The same is the case of their followers. You know that the highest blessing of God in this world has been bestowed in the form of His last covenant with humans, the Holy Qur’ān. In contrast, the best form of blessing humans shall be awarded in the Afterlife is meeting with Him and returning to Him. It is therefore understandable why the Last Prophet (sws) was awarded the station of ḥamd (praise) i.e. he is the praised one. The holy Qur’ān says: “It may be that your Lord will raise you to a praised status,” (Q 17:79). It is to this characteristic that the names (Aḥmad and Muḥammad) of the Last Prophet indicate, as has been said in a ḥadīth that the flag of ḥamd (praise) is in his hands and he is the leader of the white footed with white-foreheads.
This point is the key to understanding the levels of excellence of the Prophets. For we see that Adam (sws) is the model for the repentant. He fell into error, repented and was subsequently chosen as a guide. Those with firm knowledge of religion do not condemn a wrong committed out of ignorance. Falling into error out of ignorance is the initial level of a being human. It is only because of his impetuousness that man opted for being entrusted with the amānah.If man did not have this characteristic , he too would have refused to take this trust like the heavens and the earth. This is not the proper place to explain this point fully. There is no doubt that Adam (sws) is placed on the initial level of excellence. You shall soon learn that he partakes of the last level too in a certain way.
As you have learnt the first and the last level of excellence, I deem it appropriate to inform you of some of the secrets of all the levels. One should be aware that the prophets have seven different levels corresponding to the seven verses of this sūrah (al-Fātiḥah). Therefore, the first verse, al-ḥamdu lillāhi rabb al-‘ālamīn (all gratitude is due to the Lord of the worlds) refers to the status of Muhammad (sws). This has just been explained. The second verse, al-raḥmān al-raḥīm (the Compassionate the ever-Merciful) refers to the status of Jesus Christ (sws), for he was an epitome of mercy. This is based on some clear and implicit textual proofs. Regarding the implicit basis, we know that the word raḥmān mostly occurs in the sūrahs which specially mention Jesus (sws). This point has not been raised by any of the earlier commentators of the Qur’ān as far as I know. As for the clear proof of my assertion, it is based on the fact that God has mentioned that mercy is the characteristic of Jesus’s (sws) followers. God Almighty says: “And (we) placed compassion and mercy in the hearts of those who followed him (i.e. Jesus),” (Q 57:27). The third verse, māliki yawm al-dīn (the master of the Day of Judgment), reminds us of the status of Moses (sws). This is because he exhibited perfect justice and enjoined virtue and forbade evil. God did not bestow upon any of the Prophets coming before or after him detailed laws in the manner in which he was given them. This has been affirmed by the Holy Qur’ān. He also exemplified the Last Judgment in its miniature form in this very world. During his prophetic mission, God behaved as though He was a ruler over them. He showed them His signs so that they might believe in the Judgment Day and its ruler. Consider the verse: “Then, We gave the Book to Moses to complete Our blessings on him who would do righteous actions, and in which was a detail of all things and a guidance and a mercy, so that they should believe in the meeting of their Lord,” (Q 6:154).
A student of the Torah with sound knowledge of the circumstances of rule of the Israelites, from Moses (sws) to David (sws), would know this fact. For it was during this period that God refreshed His covenant with the Israelites and made them build the Sacred House (bayt al-maqdis). If we consider these and other related facts, it becomes evident that the rule of God was clearly discernable among the Israelites.
The fourth verse, iyyāka na‘budu wa iyyāka nasta‘īn (you alone we worship and you alone we ask for help), reminds us of the time of David (sws). For during his times, the armies of God visited the Israelites continuously. God had helped them another time. He granted them a great empire. He caused them to build a sanctuary for Himself in their land so that they could worship Him in it and seek blessings through this House. This can be learnt from the history of the Israelites, as mentioned in the books of their prophets. The holy Qur’ān too narrates the story of David (sws) in the second sūrah. The Almighty specially mentions His help for the Israelites. He tells us that the purpose of it was nothing other than the fact that they were made to worship God and to purify the House of God. Details can be found in the commentary on the verse: “And David slew Goliath and God gave him rule and wisdom and taught him of whatever knowledge He desired. And had God not repelled one people through another, the earth would indeed be full of mischief, but God is extremely graceful upon the people of the world,” (Q 2:251). In the referred to commentary, you shall learn the essence of worship and jihād. David (sws) was the first king among and over the Israelites. Ṭalūt was sent before David (sws) in order to pave the way for David (sws). He was a king for the time being. He had snatched the rule (from tyrants). The task of building the Sacred House too was delayed till the rule of Solomon (sws) for certain reasons and under a great wisdom. In fact, it was David (sws) himself who decided to build the House and he asked God’s permission to do so. God Almighty did not allow him to do so for certain reasons residing in His wisdom. God, however, promised him that his son, Solomon (sws), would be performing this blessed service.
It is not difficult for a serious student of the scriptures to discern that David (sws) is the head of all Israelite kings. It is for this very reason that Jesus (sws) has been termed an “heir to David” (sws) in the Gospels. And it is precisely for the same reason that, in the Scriptures, the kingdom of the Israelites is mentioned by way of parable as “the throne of David (sws)”. David (sws) is the servant of God who sought God’s help. Just read through the Psalms to learn how earnestly he supplicates God for help and how humbly he asks Him to grant him, and also his followers, the power and the ability to curb the power of the wicked and remove them from the land. This is why God has selected the Psalms for mention of the glad tidings regarding those who would be granted rule of the land. God says: “We have written in the Psalms, following the reminder, that my righteous servants shall inherit the land,”(Q 21:105). Similar statements abound in the sayings of the Prophet Solomon (sws).
The fifth verse, ihdinā ṣirāt al-mustaq̣īm (guide us to the straight path), clearly refers to the station of Abraham (sws). For the straight path is that of tawḥīd and God-orientedness. There is no doubt that all the Prophets of God adhered to this very path but:
1. Abraham (sws) is the leader of the monotheists. A great number of Qur’ānic verses term the path of Abraham (sws) as the straight path.
2. He is the first who broke the idols.
3. He is the one who laid the foundations of the House of the one God, just as David (sws) had built the Sacred House of sacrificial offerings. For a detailed discussion, see my commentary on Sūrah al-Fīl (Q 105).
4. He is the first to have quickly adopted the religion of God and to have fled to Him immediately. This makes him the leader of the emigrants in the way of Allah. This is why the Prophet (sws) of Islam has been commanded by God to follow him. The circumstances of both were similar.
5. He is the one who named us muslimīn (submitters to the truth) previously. Muslims are, therefore, more rightfully related to Abraham (sws). Consider the following verse: “Abraham was neither a Jew nor a Christian. He was a plain Muslim. And he was not of those who associate partners with Allah. Surely the nearest of people to Abraham are those who followed him and they are this Prophet and those who have believed. And Allah is the friend to the believers,” (Q 3:67-8).
Notice the way the verse concludes with remarks that God is the friend of the believers. Thus we learn that Abraham (sws) set the path of friendship to God. He showed us how to meet God by following the straight path. Now consider the following verse: “Declare: ‘My Lord has indeed guided me to the right path; a most right religion, the faith of Abraham, the upright one. And he was not of the polytheists’. Declare, ‘Indeed my prayer and my sacrifice and my life and my death are all for Allah, the Lord of the worlds,’” (Q 6:161-2).
The above discussion, it is hoped, has made it clear that the straight path contains a special reference to the station of Abraham (sws), because of his initiative to prepare himself to tread this path, and because of the extraordinary perseverance he showed in this way. I shall, by the will of God, add to the discussion on the vast and profound meanings that this expression contains in the following discussions.
Since you have learnt the correspondence and affinity of these five verses to the status of five great messengers of God, it is time to refer to the correspondence and relation of four of the qualities of nubuwwah (prophethood), ṣiddīqiyyah (uprightness), al-shahādah (witnessing to the truth/martyrdom) and al-ṣalah (righteousness) with four Prophets. I will resume explanation of the remaining three qualities afterwards.
Note that the first of these qualities, nubuwwah, is specifically the characteristic of the status of the Prophet Muhammad (sws). The Torah has specifically called him ‘al-nabī”. The particle AL signifies distinctiveness. It serves to indicate that a particular nabī is being referred to. The second quality, ṣiddīqiyyah, is particularly attributed to the Prophet Jesus (sws), the ṣiddīq. The Qur’ān has ascribed the attribute ṣiddīq to many prophets, including Abraham (sws), Isma‘īl (sws), Idrīs (sws) and to Maryam, in a general sense. Generally, every such person showing truthfulness in faith can be called by this appellation. The verse: “Those who believed in Allah and His Messengers, they are the truthful (ṣiddīq) and the witnesses (al-shuhadā’) in the sight of their Lord,” (Q 57:19) uses this word in this general sense. Thus all the prophets are truthful (ṣiddīq), as well as witnesses to the truth (shahīd). Besides, we see that truthfulness is a flower which grows out of purification (ṭ@ahārah). Ṭahārah has not been attributed to any prophet except for Jesus (sws). While referring to his attributes the Almighty says: “(I am) going to raise you to Me and purify you,” (Q 3:55). Concerning his mother Mary, He says: “God has selected and purified you and has chosen you above all the women of the world,” (Q 3:42).
Purification of a servant of God denotes that he devotes himself to the service of God. I see that this quality is glaringly obvious in Abraham (sws). He abandoned his personal desires and needs, including his wealth, father and nation. He migrated to a barren land. Similar is the case with Ismā‘īl and Maryam. Both of them devoted themselves to the service of the House of God. Thus a ṣiddīq is a person who is truly devout and obedient. This is why the king of Egypt called the Prophet Joseph a ṣiddīq. Joseph was, in the sight of the king, purified from all blemishes. He was a true slave. This is reflected from the following saying attributed to him in the holy Qur’ān: “You are this day a person of established position and trust with us.” (Joseph) said: "Appoint me over the treasures of the land, for I am a good and knowing custodian,” (Q 12:54-5).
A ṣiddīq, thus, is a man who deserves to be trusted with, first and foremost, the position of vicegerent. This is precisely why the Almighty Allah made the Prophet Jesus (sws) leader of all the Israelites. He was perfectly devout and truthful to God. He dedicated himself on the command of the Almighty. This entitled him to the kingship over the entire nation of Israelites. This has been indicated in the Qur’ān and the Gospels.
Once God had placed Jesus (sws) at this high position of purity, trust and kingship, He made him a giver of glad tidings of the advent of the Prophet Aḥmad (sws) (another name of Muḥammad), the seal of the Prophets and the completer of the religion. This was because such a prophecy coming through Jesus (sws) would be the most perfect and the soundest one. It meant that the Israelites did not have a valid excuse to deny the Last Prophet (sws). They had to believe in the prophesied one. That is why, prior to the advent of Muḥammad (sws), they sought God’s help and victory through him over those who wronged them. This prophesy by Jesus (sws) was fulfilled. No one could deny it. The world saw that the Prophet Muḥammad (sws) was victorious in a very short period of time. He wiped out the three great empires of Rome, Egypt and Persia, who had previously subjugated the Israelites. He obtained victory for the progeny of Abraham (sws) and his own brethren. We know that these three defeated nations were once the most exalted nations on the earth. This incident has no parallel in human history. (For details, see my commentary on Sūrah al-Baqarah.)
Notice the close relation between both of these prophets (Jesus and Muḥammad (sws)). God called them both a mercy. Concerning Jesus (sws) God says: “So that we made him a sign for the people and mercy from Us,” (Q 19:21). Similarly the Prophet Muḥammad (sws) has been called “Mercy for all mankind,” (Q 21:107). Likewise, both have been called nūr (light), sirāj (lamp), ‘abd (servant) and mubārak (blessed). Since the condition of both is similar, the stage of perfection is characteristic of the Prophet Muḥammad (sws) and the status of the ṣiddīq is next to the status of nubuwwah (prophethood), I hope you might be able to conclude that the Prophet Jesus (sws) is placed in status, as far perfection is concerned, right next to the Prophet Muḥammad (sws). Later on I will, however, explain this point further by the will of God.
The third quality (shahādah) is characteristic of the Prophet Moses (sws). Through generally all the Prophets are shahīd along with their followers, as has been clearly mentioned in the Qur’ān, yet the Prophet Moses (sws) is the next most superior shahīd after the Prophet Muḥammad (sws) and Jesus (sws). Moses (sws) witnessed the truth over his people by the most manifest miracles and divine signs. Even today, the Torah is the clearest evidence of the divine judgment and rule. Moses (sws) declared his people to be witnesses over the nations. He made his people stand at the mashhad (witness stand). He gave them the clear Book of God. He is the one who stood against the despot king (Pharaoh). He proclaimed the truth openly before the despot. This was because God had made him a witness to the truth and naturally its upholder. He struck the Copt with his fist for the wrong he had committed. He directed his people to kill themselves. He would also become furious for the sake of the truth. No Prophet before him directed his followers to do such things. This is the meaning of shahādah (witnessing to the truth). Moses (sws) is, thus, the leader of shuhadā’ from among the Israelites. Whoever, thus, speaks the truth, helps the truth, has no fear in conveying the truth, and strives hard against the falsehood with his hands and body is a shahīd.
The Almighty Allah made Moses (sws) a perfect shahīd. He chose him as the greatest witness to the Prophethood of Muḥammad (sws) as he promised the Israelites that God would complete their mission through a Prophet (sws), raised from among their brethren. He bound them in a firm covenant. He sprinkled blood on the heads of the leaders of the twelve tribes of the Israelites to establish the covenant. They promised to believe in the promised Prophet (sws). They were in reciprocity of the promise that God would grant them victory over their enemies through this promised Prophet (sws). Moses (sws) also informed them that if, instead they chose to disbelieve in the promised Prophet (sws), God would curse them and inflict them with great punishment. History has proved that what Moses (sws) foretold in this regard was perfectly fulfilled. The details of this issue can be found under the commentary of the following verse of Sūrah al-Mā’idah. God Almighty says: “And God entered into a covenant with the Children of Israel. And We raised among them twelve leaders. And God said to them: “Surely, I shall be with you, if you observe the ṣalāh and pay the zakāh, and believe in My messengers and support them,” (Q 5:12). Some part of the discussion can be found under the following verse of Sūrah Baqarah: “And when there came to them a Book from God confirming that which they already possessed, and previously they used to pray for victory against those who disbelieved,” (Q 2:89).
At the fifth level is the status of the Prophet David (sws), the ṣāliḥ (righteous). He is indeed the person whom God chose for khilāfah as has been clearly mentioned in the holy Qur’ān. God has, in the Qur’ān, used this word to qualify many Prophets to teach us that they are the model in this regard. Know that ṣalāḥ is a quality in an individual which is based on his ability to properly deal with the people and is reflective of his social conduct. The essence of ṣalāḥ is forgiveness, accommodating the erring, tolerance, longanimity, and avoidance of showing disinterest in affairs, accompanied by submission and turning to God. Ṣalāḥ, therefore, earns one great excellence. It is based on one’s ability to engage in good dealings with related people and the capacity of appropriate social aptitude. It is in considering this meaning of the term that we come to learn why it is widely used in different connotations in the holy Qur’ān. Consider a few such examples. God says: “And arrange marriages for widows from among you, and for your male slaves and female slaves who are fit for marriage (al-ṣāliḥīn),” (Q 24:32). At another place it has been said: “So virtuous women (ṣāliḥāt) are devout, and guard the secrets,” (Q 4:34). Even in the Torah and the Gospels this adjective is frequently applied to those deserving khilāfah. Also consider the way David (sws) deals with Saul (Ṭālūt) in Samuel 1 and his dealing with Bishalum in Samuel 2. It is considering this quality of the Prophet David (sws) that God chose him for giving the glad tiding that the ummah of the Prophet Muḥammad (sws) would inherit the khilāfah of the land, as has been stated in the verse mentioned above.
When you have learnt the four degrees of the status of the prophets (the truthful, the witnesses to the truth, the upright and the virtuous), have grasped that all these Prophets are on the straight path, knew that Abraham (sws) is a follower of this straight path, and discovered that all other Prophets are his progeny and followers of the same path, it must have become clear to you that the followers of this straight path make a spiritual caravan. The leader of this caravan is the Prophet Muḥammad (sws). He holds the flag of ḥamd (thankfulness to God) which flutters above all the rest. He is the leader of the party of God. He will be the first to raise the slogan on the door of Paradise: “all gratitude is due to God alone.” All the believers who offer regular ṣalāh in this worldly life are his followers. This is what is meant by the prophetic saying “I shall be the leader of the white footed ones with white-foreheads.” It is known that this refers to those worshippers who offer the ṣalāh. They will be easy to recognize because of the spots of wuḍū. When he (the leader) shall say: “All gratitude is due to God alone,” they shall return the same slogan in unison. We, the Muslims, develop this habit in this very world, as is said that every person shall get reward of what he became accustomed to in this world.
We know that God made Abraham (sws) a leader of the nations in general wherein He says: “We made Abraham the leader of the nations,” (Q 2:124). All the divine religions, Islam, Christianity, and Judaism, follow the Prophets who belonged to his progeny. All the three monotheistic nations consider him as their leader. He is the supreme authority. God made him issue the most prominent prophecy regarding the advent of the Last Prophet (sws). He mentioned the advent of Muḥammad (sws) in the clearest terms. He prayed to God to send the promised one to the city he had built. He also asked God to make the promised one an heir to the custodianship of the House which he himself had built as a center of monotheism.
Resuming the discussion on the eight characteristics, each of which is exemplified by a particular Prophet mentioned above, I will proceed to deal with the sixth one. The sixth verse refers the station of the Prophet Noah (sws). I base this on the fact that in the holy Qur’ān, as well as in the Torah, no Prophet has been mentioned before Abraham (sws) except for Noah (sws). Just as the blessed ones among the ordinary people consist of four categories, the same is true regarding the blessed Prophets. This has been mentioned in the following verse: “These are the people upon whom God bestowed His blessings from among the Prophets of the posterity of Adam (sws) (1), and of the posterity of those whom We carried in the Ark with Noah (sws) (2), and of the posterity of Abraham and Israel (3); and of those whom We guided and chose (4),” (Q 19:58).
Here the Almighty has mentioned Noah (sws) first among those of the Prophets who had been blessed by God. There is no doubt that the blessing of God generally covers all creatures. However, there are extraordinary cases. Noah (sws) is the one such Prophet who has been particularly blessed in such a manner. Thus he became the leader of those blessed by God as mentioned in this reference. This is how I was able to identify his station corresponding to this verse (sixth verse of the Sūrah al-Fātiḥah). The rest of the blessed people make up his party. God chose him particularly to give the glad tiding that the He would bestow His greatest favor upon humans in the form of the religion of Islam, as divulged through the Prophet Muhammad (sws). God made the progeny of Sam the upholders of the divine religion. The rest of Noah’s (sws) progeny obtained blessing through the progeny of Sam. Thus the progeny of Noah (sws), with the exception of the children of Sam, could not obtain God’s blessings except until after the advent of Muḥammad (sws). The previous Prophets were sent only to their respective nations. They could not cover the progeny of the children of Noah (sws), other than those from Sam. The Prophet Muhammad (sws), on the contrary, has been sent to the entire human race. Thus the children of Noah (sws) in addition to the progeny of Sam also become his addressees.
The seventh verse sheds light on the status of those people who flee the company that earned God’s wrath, and also on those who abandon the stray folk for the rightly guided ones. We have already referred to this fact though briefly in the ninth section. These are, in fact, those who repented from among the People of the Book besides others. The ones who earned God’s wrath (maghḍūb ‘alayhim) are those who persist in waywardness in spite of clearly recognizing the truth. The Jews are an example of this. The strayed one (ḍāl) is the one who is inclined towards disobedience and persists in it. Christians represent this group. Thus, those among these two groups who abandon their previous position to join the earlier four categories are the ones who have escaped the wrath of God. Such a person is one who is perfected and complemented by the perfection of Adam (sws) (who erred and then repented). After the entry of these groups the door of Paradise is closed. The seventh verse, as a summary, relates to the repentant among the Jews and the Christians. They are those who join the party blessed by God, as has been explained earlier.
Since repentance has been implanted in human nature through which one can perpetuate oneself on the straight path, and since we know that Adam (sws) is the leader of the repentant, we come to learn that the seventh verse indicates his place.
. The author intended to write a book on this issue but could not accomplish it. It is not even found among the manuscripts and notes he left behind.
. The discussion has been left unfinished.
. Reference is to the fact that the Almighty offered all the creatures, including heavens and the earth, the trust and they all refused to carry it. Man however decided to take the responsibility. This holy Qur’ān says that this is because man lacks knowledge and is impetus. (Translator)
. For details, see the book by the author: Fī Malakūt Allah