Al Fatiha – The Qur’an – First Chapter – 3rd Part
The next verse, which is verse number five says
“Only to You we worship and only from You we ask for help.”
This verse lays the foundation for a very important principle of Islamic theology. And that is: only God can be worshipped. Even if you love someone at the highest level of love, such as our love for the prophets of God, like Jesus, Moses, and Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon them, you are not allowed to worship them. Worship is only for God. You may have great respect for saints and the prophets of God, but you are not allowed to put them at the level of God. In the history of Islam, a small group among the Shiite Muslims developed and believed that Ali, the cousin of the Prophet and the fourth caliph, was an incarnation of God and therefore they considered him a deity. But, Muslim theologians and the majority of Muslims, Sunni Muslims and Shiite Muslims, strongly were against this and emphatically said that no one but God can be worshipped.
Also in this verse there is an emphasis on the importance of sincerity while preforming prayer. That is to feel the presence of God. So when a person prays in Islam this person has to remember that he or she is in the presence of God. This feeling is very important and it gives also a strong sense of feeling that God is present. And therefore when you address God, you are addressing someone who is present, not far away from you. On one occasion the Angel Gabriel comes to the Prophet and asks the Prophet several questions. Now I like to tell you the story, and these questions, a little bit on these questions. The goal of Angel Gabriel was to teach the principles of religion to the Islamic community. Gabriel’s questions are about islam, iman, and ihsan. With regard to Islam, which can be translated as submission to the will of God, the Prophet says “Islam is submission. Submission means that you should bear witness that there is only one God and no deity other than God and Muhammad is God’s messenger, that you should perform the five daily prayers, give charity, fast during the month of Ramadan, and make the pilgrimage to the Ka’ba if you are able to go there.” Regarding iman, the Prophet replies “Iman is faith. Faith means that you have faith in God, in God’s angels, in God’s books,scriptures, in God’s messengers, and in the Last Day, and that you have faith in the encompassing plan of God.” And what is directly related to the verse that I just mentioned, verse five in this first Chaper of the Quran, is Angel Gabriel’s question about ihsan, which literally means to do what is beautiful. But the Prophet has a different description of this ihsan. Angel Gabriel asked the Prophet, the Prophet replies
“Ihsan is to worship God as if you see God, for even if you do not see God, God sees you.”
Since this verse of the Quran, verse five specifically uses the Arabic pronoun of “you” in addressing God, it indicates that God is near to you and when you pray, you are in the presence of God. As a Qur’anic verse says
“God is closer to human beings than their jugular vein”.
Therefore, the worship of human being goes to God and when they need help, God is closer to them than anything.
So now I like to talk about the sixth verse of this chapter which is about asking guidance from God; guidance to the right path, to the straight path. Or as some Islamic scholars interpret it, to the middle way or to the balanced path. The verse says
“Lord, guide us to the right path.”
The word for the right path has some connotation of the middle way or the just way as is found in this Quranic verse. What can be understood from this verse is that human beings have various capacities and that to be on the right path, they have to use these capacities in a balanced way. They have been given the biological capacity of desire. They also have been given the capacity of anger as well as the capacity of intellect. Each of their capacities can be used in an extreme way, a middle way, or a way that falls short. The Qur’an suggests the middle way as the ideal and the two others as negative and following the middle way is actually following the way of wisdom which is mentioned in the Qur’an chapter 2 verse 269 which says
“God gives wisdom to whom He wants and the one who has been given wisdom has been given an abundance of goodness.”
Therefore, Muslims ask God in their daily prayers to be guided to the right path, to the way of wisdom.
Now I like to move forward, to the last verse of this Chapter of the Quran, the Fatiha. The last verse is again describing the straight path by saying that this path is the path of those that have received God’s bounties. That is to say Muslims, when they ask for guidance, they ask to be guided to the right path. But what is this right path? Basically they say
“Guide us to the right path. The path of those on whom You have bestowed Your grace.”
Hence a believer who performs the prayers asks God to be among those who have received the bounties of God since the beginning of history and until the end of time. This includes all messengers of God and all righteous people throughout history. So a believer asks God to be among the groups that followed Abraham, the groups that followed Moses, the groups that followed Jesus, the groups that followed Muhammad, peace and blessing be upon them all. The combination of these groups can be considered a procession of righteousness and believers want to be among them on the same path. So Muslims, when they have their daily prayer, and recite this last verse of the Quran, they basically ask God to be among the group of righteousness. This last verse contains and also emphasize that there is an opposite path as well. This is the path of those who received the wrath of God and those who have continued to go astray. That is to say, a believer asks God to be protected from joining the path of those with whom God is not pleased; the path of criminals, the unjust, and those who deny God.