When I first opened the Quran and read Al Fatiha, I was struck: out of all the Holy Books I read—the Bible, the Mahabharata and Baghavad Gita, the Book of Mormon, and others—none began like this, with such comprehensive worship of God, and such a thorough explanation of the belief system itself. Alhamdulillah!

بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ
الْحَمْدُ لِلَّهِ رَبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ
الرَّحْمَٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ
مَالِكِ يَوْمِ الدِّينِ
إِيَّاكَ نَعْبُدُ وَإِيَّاكَ نَسْتَعِينُ
اهْدِنَا الصِّرَاطَ الْمُسْتَقِيمَ
صِرَاطَ الَّذِينَ أَنْعَمْتَ عَلَيْهِمْ غَيْرِ الْمَغْضُوبِ عَلَيْهِمْ وَلَا الضَّالِّينَ

In the name of Allah, the Entirely Merciful, the Especially Merciful.
[All] praise is [due] to Allah, Lord of the worlds –
The Entirely Merciful, the Especially Merciful,
Sovereign of the Day of Recompense.
It is You alone we worship and You alone we ask for help.
Guide us to the straight path –
The path of those upon whom You have bestowed favor, not of those who have evoked [Your] anger or of those who are astray.

Every unit of every prayer starts with Al Fatiha, so Muslims read this beautiful dua at least 17 times per day. Repeating it over and over again, prayer after prayer, day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year, I sometimes just mumble my way through it and don’t ponder it’s deep import, and may Allah forgive me.

If this is a problem for you too, here are some things I’m trying to work on and keep in mind during the day and especially during Salat. First, Quran.com has some short video explanations of each ayat in Al Fatiha from Nouman Ali Khan.*

Next: tafsir. Ibn Kathir is a good start, and there are others, and if you don’t like to read, Mufti Menk has a “brief” lecture (in comparison to the written tafsir, anyway) that’s worth a watch…

And third, during the Hanbali Fiq class at the Islamic Center of Irving a couple of weeks ago (first week of January, 2018, I think), Imam Nick Pelletier breifly went through Al Fatiha ayah by ayah and suggested things to keep in mind while praying, and that I’ve paraphrased (from memory) here

We begin everything in the name of God, He who created everything that is, was, and will be.

All praise and thanks belong to Him, the Creator, Sustainer, Provider, the Lord of all possible worlds.

His Mercy extends to all, those who believe and are thankful, and those who are not.

He blessed us with this life and this planet, He will ask us all about what we did and didn’t do in this life and He alone will judge us.

Does it make sense for us to worship anything else? Allah created everything else… Does it make sense to ask others for help? Sure, but others can help only if Allah wills it, and we ask Him first.

Who else can guide us? He created all and knows all, and His is the only guidance.

Dear God, make the path easy for us like you made it easy for those who came before us. Protect us from choosing the wrong path willingly and protect us from wandering aimlessly, Ameen.

May Allah help us to maintain focus in Salah, and guide us to work hard in our daily lives, remembering Him and thanking Him, and asking Him, so that when we stand for prayer, we don’t have so much random stuff interfering with our remembrance, Ameen.

*Now, I know very well all the things being said about the brother, and I share in much of the anger and discomfort around the allegations that I hear from my darling, adorable wife and others. That said, his interpretations and explications remain easy, engaging points of entry to the word of Allah (especially for those of us who are fluent in English, but not fluent in Arabic), and we pray that Allah grant justice and peace to those who have suffered at the hands of others, we pray that He guide the oppressors and wrongdoers, we beg Him to make us not from the oppressors and wrongdoers, and we leave judgement to Allah alone.

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