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Surat al Fatiha,
Foundation of the Qur’an
By Hamid Algar (excerpts) 

     Why is it necessary at this point to pray for guidance on the straight path? In so far as we have already acknowledged the Oneness of Allah (swt) and the several attributes mentioned earlier in the Sura we already have a certain degree of guidance, and might hope already to be on the straight path. The sense of the supplication may therefore be: "support us through additional guidance; make it possible for us to retain our state of guidance; enable us through continued guidance to remain and to advance on the straight path". For hidaya, guidance, is not a one time matter, something that once attained has a permanent and definitive effect, it is something calling for constant renewal and strengthening. It can never be assumed that the attainment of faith is
an absolute guarantee against all deviation.

The straight path is defined further in the following ayas, first positively, as "the path of those whom You have shown favor," and then negatively as not those who have incurred anger and those who are straying. "Those whom You have shown favor" refers to the prophets, according to many commentators who adduce 19:58 as evidence. This is clearly appropriate in that Allah has bestowed favor on the prophets by selecting them to be the bearers of His message, preserving them from sin and error, and entrusting them with the great task of guiding men
towards the purpose of their creation. However, if Allah meant only the prophets, when speaking of "those whom You have shown favor," this could have been conveyed by a more explicit wording. We therefore conclude that "those whom You have shown favor" is a category which
includes the prophets but is more comprehensive, including all those who have been given the favor of divine guidance and through their efforts and the support of Allah continued on the straight path.

Before turning to the negative description of the straight path it is worth noting that in the phrase "those whom You have shown favor" Allah associates Himself directly with in'am, the bestowal of favor; He is the subject of the second person verb an'amta. By contrast, in the negative description of the straight path, He does not associate Himself verbally with either anger or misguidance. Ghayr 'I maghdubi 'alayhim, "not those who have incurred anger, "is sometimes translated as "those with whom You are angered", but this involves a subtle distortion of meaning. For Allah has deliberately associated Himself with in'am and created a distance between Himself and anger by avoiding a wording such ghayri 'l ladhin ghadibta 'alayhim. Likewise, al'dallin
are those who are astray, not whom Allah has led astray.

However, there is another aya in which vulnerability to anger from Allah is more broadly distributed: "However, whosoever enlarges his breast for unbelief, then upon him is anger from Allah and for him is a great punishment" (16:106). In general, anger and wrath are not an
important theme in the Qur'an. It should in any event be noted that both in the ayas referring to the Jews and the aya of more general scope there is a certain distance between ghadab and Allah; the verses speak of "an anger from Allah", an anger that proceeds from Him but not
one with which He associates with Himself directly as its agent, for it is the consequence of men's actions. Let us also refer to the Hadith in which the Prophet describes seeing in the course of the Mi'raj an inscription on the Divine Throne which read sabaqat rahmati ghadabi ("My Mercy has outstripped My Anger'). This can be paraphrased to mean that while mercy is intrinsic to the Divine Essence, anger is not, being rather a consequence of men's failure to respond to His Mercy, His signs displayed in creation and revelation.

It may be thought that when we ask Allah to maintain us on the straight path and to save us from the path of those who have incurred anger and those who are astray, we are seeking primarily to avoid the states that lead to anger and misguidance. Those who are the object of anger have
no share in the straight path, and their chances of discovering it are minimal except in so far as Allah wishes. Those who are astray are those who have no relationship to the straight path whatsoever; they wander, lacking in the discernment and perception that are required to
embark upon the straight path.





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