ENTITLED SURAT UL FATIHAT (THE PREFACE).
Revealed at Makkah.
THE chapters of the Quran are entitled Suras. Muir, in his Life of Mahomet, Introduction, p. 7, says, "Weil has a learned note (Mohammed, p. 361) on the meaning of the word Sura as used by Mahomet. It was probably at first employed to designate any portion of his revelation, or a string of verses; but it soon afterwards, even during Mahomet's lifetime, acquired its present technical meaning."
This chapter is held in the highest esteem among all Muslims, "who," says Sale, "give it several other honourable titles; as the chapter of prayer, of praise, of thanksgiving, of treasure, &c. They esteem it as the quintessence of the whole Quran, as the Christians do the Lord's Prayer."
The author of the Tafsir-i-Raufi declares that "he who has read the Fatihat has, as it were, read the whole Quran." According to this author, its separate clauses contain the sum of the divine attributes, ascriptions of praise, promises to believers, and threatenings of judgment against infidels, &c., as contained in the Quran. Muslims always say Amen after this prayer.
The following transliteration will give the English reader an idea of the rhyming prose in which the Quran is written:
Muir regards this as the daily prayer of Muhammad during his search for light, previous to his assumption of the prophetic office. "It was afterwards recast to suit the requirements of public worship." Life of Mahomet, vol. i. p. 59.
Muslims are here met with a difficulty as to the divine authorship of their Scriptures, arising out of the form of address in this chapter. The orthodox belief in regard to the origin of the Quran is that it was copied literally from the divine original, which is engraved on the Luh-i-Mahfuz, or Preserved Table close by the throne of God. The speaker throughout is God. It is God's Word. But this chapter contains a prayer apparently suitable for sinful men groping after divine light and heavenly guidance. As the text stands, the chapter clearly claims a human origin, and would express very well the desire of the Makkan reformer. Muslim commentators, however, avoid this difficulty by explaining this chapter as an inspired model of prayer, revealed to instruct the faithful how to pray, and they understand it as introduced by the word "say." Abdul Qadir says, "God has enunciated this chapter in the language of his servants, in order that they might thus address him."
To us it seems that in the mind of a Muhammadan, boasting of the absolute perfection and purity of the text of the Quran, and stickling for the very jots and tittles of the text, the omission of this word - a word without which the status of this whole chapter is changed - should arouse serious objection to such a mode of avoiding a difficulty.
As to the prayer itself, the Christian reader cannot but admire its spirit. It is throughout earnest and devout. Interpreting its language in a Christian manner, any one might respond to it "Amen."
Supposing this prayer to express the feelings and aspirations of the Makkan reformer at the time it was written, we could hardly regard him as a deliberate impostor. Had he continued his search after truth in the spirit of this prayer, how different would have been his religion from that which he proclaimed in later years!
Concerning the formula, "In the name of the most merciful God," Savary says; "It is prefixed to all the chapters (with the exception
of one). It is expressly recommended in the Quran. The Muhammadans pronounce it whenever they slaughter an animal, and at the commencement of their reading, and of all important actions. Giaab, one of their celebrated authors, says that when these words were sent down from heaven, the clouds fled on the side of the east, the winds were lulled, the sea was moved, the animals erected their ears to listen, and the devils were precipitated from the celestial spheres."
It is almost certain that Muhammad borrowed the idea of the Bismillah from the Jews and Sabains. The latter introduced their writings with the words, "Banam i yazdan bakhshaisbgar dadar," i.e., In the name of God the merciful and the just.
Rodwell says, "This formula is of Jewish origin. It was in the first instance taught to the Koreisch by Omayah of Taief, the poet, who was a contemporary with, but somewhat older than, Muhammad, and who, during his mercantile journeys into Arabia Petrĉa and Syria, had made himself acquainted with the sacred books and doctrines of Jews and Christians. Muhammad adopted and constantly used it."
The two terms, "Rahman," the merciful and "Rahim," the blessed, have nearly the same meaning. The Tafsir-i-Raufi explains the former as only applicable to God, while the latter may be applied to the creature as well as to God. Others explain the former epithet as applicable to God as exercising mercy towards his creatures, the latter as applicable to the mercy inherent in God.
(1) Praise be to GOD, the LORD of all creatures; (2) the most merciful, (3) the king of the day of judgment. (4) Thee do we worship, and of thee do we beg assistance. (5) Direct us in the rightway (6) in the way of those
(1) Lord of all creatures. "The original words are Rabbi'lalamina,
which literally signify, Lord of the worlds; but alamina,
in this and other places of the Quran, properly means the three species of
rational creatures, men, genii, and angels." -- Sale. Savary translates it,
"Sovereign of the worlds." Rodwell has it, "Lord of worlds." Abdul Qadir of Delhi
has it, "Lord of the whole world." In the Persian translation it is rendered
"Cherisher of the worlds."
(5-7) "This last sentence," says Sale, "contains a petition that God would lead
the supplicant into the true religion, by which is meant the Muhammadan, in
the Quran often called the right way:
(5-7) "This last sentence," says Sale, "contains a petition that God would lead the supplicant into the true religion, by which is meant the Muhammadan, in the Quran often called the right way:
to whom thou hast been gracious; (7) not of those against whom thou art incensed, nor of those who go astray.
in this place more particularly defined to be the way of those to whom
God hath been gracious, that is, of the prophets and faithful
who preceded Muhammad; under which appellations are also comprehended
the Jews and Christians, such as they were in the times of their primitive purity,
before they had deviated from their respective institutions; not the way
of the modern Jews whose signal calamities are marks of the just anger of God
against them for their obstinacy and disobedience; nor of the Christians
of this age, who have departed from the true doctrine of Jesus, and are
bewildered in a labyrinth of error (Jalaluddin, Baidhawi, &c.) This is
the common exposition of the passage, though al Zamakhshari and some others,
by a different application of the negatives, refer the whole to the true believers
and then the sense will run thus: The way of those to whom thou hast been gracious,
against whom thou art not incensed, and who have not erred, which translation
the original will very well bear."
These two views really coincide, inasmuch as the claim of Islam is that all true
believers among Jews and Christians were Muslims.
Abdul Qadir says that by these words we are to understand four classes - the prophets,
the righteous, the martyrs, and the good and by "those against whom God is incensed,"
the Jews are indicated; and if any other class be included, it is that of the Nazarenes.
These two views really coincide, inasmuch as the claim of Islam is that all true believers among Jews and Christians were Muslims.
Abdul Qadir says that by these words we are to understand four classes - the prophets, the righteous, the martyrs, and the good and by "those against whom God is incensed," the Jews are indicated; and if any other class be included, it is that of the Nazarenes.
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