Quranic Prayers as Insights for Living
1. All praise and thanks are for Allah, the Lord of the worlds
2. The Merciful, the Ever-Merciful,
3. The Master of the Day of Judgment
4. We worship You alone, and we seek help from You alone.
5. Guide us unto the Straight Path,
6. The path of those You have blessed,
7. Not of those with whom there is displeasure,
Not of those who went astray” (Quran 1:1-7).
In this series, we are reflecting on the Quranic prayers to draw some principles to live by. Our first reflection on this prayer was an awakening call to the significance of seeking guidance in the form of du’aa. Based on our sincere seeking and determination to attain and maintain a good level of guidance, Allah will graciously lead us into and through the path of closeness to Him. In this segment, we are revisiting the Fatihah prayer to read it as a whole and draw a spiritual lesson from the flow of its gems. The way this Quranic prayer is structured draws a roadmap for the seekers of guidance as it clearly defines the desired goal (vv. 6-7) and the milestones needed to reach it (vv. 1-5). The overall structure of genuine guidance seems to consist of three steps: knowing, deciding, and praying.
In an interrelated way, the first three verses build our perspective on who Allah is, who we are, what is life and what is the afterlife. Allah is described as the Rabb (Lord) of the worlds. The word Rabb is filled with rich meaning that builds a relationship between us and Allah. It means sustainer, owner, master, planner, and healer. Therefore, without Allah, we cannot be here and we cannot continue to survive. To correct any potential misunderstandings, verse 2 comes to teach us that divine providence is governed by divine mercy, whether we can see it or not. Thus, we graciously owe Allah our life and our breaths. We practically have no sense of entitlement but we have joy in being the servants of the Lord of the worlds. If a person takes pride in being the cook or driver of a president, we are supposed to have an inexpressible joy to be known and recognized by God as His special servants. Verse 3 broadens our concept of life to teach that life in Islamic perspective extends to include the afterlife which is the real, eternal home—a belief, once firm in our hearts, would be a source of encouragement to lead a life of purity and mindfulness, and a source of comfort to face difficulties with courage and resilience.
Having awakened our hearts to reality (about God, humanity, life, and afterlife), the prayer moves on to the next step: making a decision and a commitment to lead a life of purpose, to take every moment as precious and serve God—the Real Existent. It is easy to notice that the shift in thought from knowing to deciding is linguistically expressed through a shift in pronoun. The first three verses address God in the third person as we try to know Him. Once knowledge of God is confirmed in our hearts, we feel His presence and closeness. That is why verse 4 addresses God in the second person to reflect an intimate relationship. Finally, verses (5-7) directs to the third step of seeking guidance through prayer and practice, as we explained in the first segment.
By Sh. Ahmed Arafat