• Anees Bhayat

Exploring Al-Fātiḥah

Āyah 1

اَلْحَمْدُ لِلّٰهِ رَبِّ الْعٰلَمِيْنَ

All praise is due to Allah, Rabb of the cosmos.

الـ

The majority of translators have taken into consideration the istighrāq element in al-ḥamd, while many others have opted not to, including the likes of Muftī Muhammad Taqi.

الحمد

The word ḥamd in the Arabic language refers to praise for a person or being due to their qualities, despite them not having conferred any favours upon the one giving the praise (Al-Qurṭubī).

لـ

The majority of translators are split between a group who translate this as ‘due’ to Allah and others who say ‘belong’ to Allah. Both convey the meaning of Allah deserving the praise (istiḥqāq).

رب

The word Rabb carries the meaning of ownership (mālik), authority, leadership (sayyid), rectification (muṣliḥ/jābir), disposal (mudabbir) and watching over (qāʾim).

- The word ‘Lord’ holds the meaning of power, authority and influence, which is what the majority of translators have opted for. ‘Master’ carries a similar if not the same meaning. Others have opted for ‘Sustainer’, however it lacks depth in its meaning. Some have opted for God, which carries the meaning of a supremacy and deity; yet doesn’t cover the spectrum of meaning Rabb carries.

- ‘Cherisher’ carries the meaning of treating, caring for and nurturing dearly and tenderly, yet still, the word does not carry the broad meaning of Rabb.

العالمين

The word ʿālam has its roots in ʿilm; thus according to the Mufassirūn, that by which the Creator is known, which is through His creation. Hence *all* creation would be ʿālam, and when pluralised it’s meaning is emphasised.

- The majority of translators have opted to translate it as ‘world’ or ‘all the worlds’, to signify the universe and beyond (Paradise and Hell etc.), as well as the micro-worlds within the universe itself.

- Others have opted to translate it as ‘Universe’, which covers everything that exists anywhere.

- A more fitting term would be cosmos, which although is synonymous to universe, carries a meaning of things that are even unknown to humans, hence a broader meaning.


Āyah 2

الرَّحْمٰنِ الرَّحِيْمِ

Ar-Raḥmān and Ar-Raḥīm

الرحمن

The majority of translators have used The Gracious/Most Gracious; which is an adj. for someone characterised by kindness and warm courtesy, especially someone in authority to his/her subjects. It descends from the Latin word for goodwill.

- Many have also used Beneficent, which holds the meaning of generosity and doing good to help others. This to me does not give an accurate reflection of the Arabic term.

- Many other translators have opted for Compassionate, which carries the meanings of empathy and pity and concern.

- In truth, none of the words used reflect the true meaning of the Arabic term. Perhaps the closest is Merciful, which carries meanings of kindness, being forgiving and lenient, and also compassion (empathy and sympathy). The word Ar-Raḥmān signifies a mercy that is all-encompassing and unrestricted, and so I find myself inclined to translations that are wordier and reflect this element, the likes of Umm Muhammad’s Sahih International translation: ‘The Entirely Merciful’ and others.

الرحيم

Although from the same root as Ar-Raḥmān and hence the same root meaning, Ar-Raḥīm differs in that it is more specific in its transitivity to the Believers, while the former is more accommodating. Again, ‘the Especially Merciful’ as translated by Umm Muhammad is the one I incline to.

- The vast majority of translators have opted for The Merciful, and many opting for an added element of intensity like the ‘Most Merciful’.


Āyah 3

مٰلِكِ يَوْمِ الدِّيْنِ

Sovereign of the Day of Retribution.

ملك

There are two elements to this in the Tafsīr: one is of rulership and total authority; this interpretation is more in line with the Arabic wording. The second is that of power as a result of ownership: the idea being that as an owner of something one has total autonomy and freedom to do as they please.

- Many translators have opted for ‘Lord’; however the word is commonly used for many other Arabid terms, though it does reflect the meaning of power, authority and influence well. ‘Master’ too is of that nature.

- Many translators have also opted for ‘Owner’ and ‘Possessor’, in keeping with the first interpretation.

- The other majority group of translators opt for ‘Sovereign’ or ‘King’; the former denotes ultimate power and authority, without compulsion or restraint, as well as carrying the meaning of the latter, i.e. monarchy.

الدين

The word Dīn has many meanings, the most pertinent one here being reward and punishment in proportion to the deed of the object. The majority of translators have opted to translate the term as Day of Judgement, which is in effect what the meting out reward and punishment is. However, the translation is one that is commonly used for Qiyāmah too, which remains to be addressed.

- Many other translators have used ‘Day of Repayment/Recompense’ words that are used when paying back for an imbalance; to correct a wrong or to return something owed. Personally, I feel this falls short in the sense that Allah does not owe anyone anything. ‘Requital’ is paying back or returning a favour, which falls in the same bracket.

- The word ‘Retribution’ actually comes from the Latin giving back what’s due, whether reward or punishment. However, in vernacular, it’s commonly used only for revenge and as punishment. In its original form, this word would fit best.


Āyah 4

اِيَّاكَ نَعْبُدُ وَاِيَّاكَ نَسْتَعِيْنُ

Only You do we worship, and from You alone do we seek help

Āyah 5

اِهْدِنَا الصِّرَاطَ الْمُسْتَقِيْمَ

Guide us to the Right Path

الصراط المستقيم

The majority of translators have opted for the ‘Straight Path’, while many others have translated it as the ‘Right Path/Way’. While both are correct, the path itself is a conceptual and figurative one, not so much a physical, tangible one, and so I personally incline to translating it as the ‘Right Path’.


Āyah 6

صِرَاطَ الَّذِيْنَ اَنْعَمْتَ عَلَيْهِمْ

The path of those whom You have favoured;

Āyah 7

غَيْرِ الْمَغْضُوْبِ عَلَيْهِمْ وَلَا الضَّآلِّيْنَ

Not of those who are objects of Your wrath, nor of those who are astray.

غير الـ

Many translators have opted for ‘incurred’ or ‘earned’ anger. The Arabic wording is that of an Ism Mafʿūl, which particularly gives an element of continuity in the meaning, and so a relative nominal translation would reflect this aspect better in my opinion. The objects of Allah’s Wrath are those who chose disbelief and died upon it and that is where the continuity element kicks in; those who incurred Allah’s Wrath are those who chose disbelief too, yet the latter can be open ended because of the verbal wording used: they could have just incurred it for a finite period and then reverted to belief. The former however, holds a more definitive, continuous meaning in that being the objects of His wrath implies permanence.

المغضوب عليهم

Wrath is an intense anger that expresses itself in a desire to punish, which is what is implied in the purport of the verse.

- The majority of translators are split between ‘anger’ and ‘wrath’.

الضالين

Translators are split between the words ‘astray’, ‘misguided’ and ‘lost’.

- Someone going astray adv. is the sense of them wandering off from the proper place, either physically or morally.

- Misguided adj. implies something done without good judgement and careful thought.

- Lost adj. describes anything that cannot be found.

- While all three convey the meaning of the Arabic term, the first is the closest in my opinion, though the other two are not wrong at all.

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