Surah Al-Fatihah – The ‘Greatest Surah’ in the Quran

According to the prophet (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam), Surah Al-Fatihah is considered as “the greatest Surah” of the Quran. The following provides information about this great Surah along with its many benefits and virtues including its use in healing.
The many names of Surah Al-Fateha

This chapter has a great many names, each one indicating a different aspect of its meaning. In the eyes of Arabs if a thing had many different names, this was an indication of its importance.
The popular names of this Surah are the following:

  • Al-Fatihah (The Opening) – It is named Al-Fatihah, the Opening – because it opens the Book and by it the recitation in prayer commences.
  • Umm al-Quran (Mother of the Quran) – According to At-Tirmidhi on the authority of Abu Hurayrah that the Messenger of Allah (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said, “The chapter commencing with] “All praises and thanks are due to Allah the Lord of the Worlds” is the Mother of the Quran, the Mother of the Book, the Seven Oft Repeated Verses and the Great Quran.” Ibn Jarir at-Tabari said that it was named so because the meaning of the entire Quran is summarized therein. The Arabs named anything that concisely summarizes something or comprises its most important part, Umm, or Mother.
  • Umm al-Kitab (Mother of the Book) – Al-Bukhari said in the beginning of the Book of Tafsir in his Sahih: “It is named Umm al-Quran because it is the first chapter written in the Quranic texts and the recitation in prayer commences with it.”
  • Sab’ul-Mathani (The Seven Oft Repeated Verses) – It is also named Sab’ul-Mathani, the Seven Oft Repeated Verses, because they are frequently recited and indeed recited in every rakaah of the prayer. Allah says in the Quran:

“And indeed, We have bestowed upon you seven of Al-Mathani (the seven repeatedly recited Verses), (i.e. Surat Al-Fatiha) and the Grand Quran. [Quran: Surah Al-Hijr (87)]”

  • Al-Hamd (Praises to Allah) – It is also named Al-Hamd, the Praise, because it contains mention of hamd just as Al-Baqarah is named so because it contains mention of the cow. Some scholars also gave the reasoning that Al-Hamd comprises heart of Al-Fatihah.
  • As-Salah (The Prayer) – It is named the Prayer because its recitation is a condition for the validity of the prayer.
  • Ash-Shifa – It is also named Ash-Shifa’, the Cure, due to what Ad-Darimi reports on the authority of Abu Sa’id that the Messenger of Allah (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said: “The Opening of the Book is a cure to every poison.”
  • Ar-Ruqyah – It is also named Ar-Ruqya, the Spiritual Cure due to the hadith of Abu Sa’id reported by Bukhari that after he had recited it to cure a person who had been bitten by a scorpion, the Messenger of Allah (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) asked him, “…And what made you to know that it was a ruqya.”
  • Asas al-Quran (the Foundation of the Quran) – Ash-Sha’bi records on the authority of Ibn Abbas that he named it , and that he said, “The foundation of Al-Fatihah is, “Bismillah…” (with the Name of Allah, the All-Merciful, the Most Merciful.)

Other scholars have also named it as Al-Kanz (the Treasure), Ash-Shukr (Gratitude), ad-Dua (Supplication), Ash-Shafiyah (the sufficient), Al-Kafiyah(the Sufficient), Al-Wafiyah, the Fulfillment and more.
Revelation of Surah Al-Fatihah

It was revealed in Mecca as stated by Ibn Abbas, Qatadah and Abu’l-Aliyah.
It is also postulated that it was revealed in Madinah as stated by Abu Hurayrah, Mujahid, ‘Ata ibn Yasar and Az-Zuhri. It is also said that it was revealed on two separate occasions – once in Makkah and once in Madinah. However the first opinion is the most likely due to Allah’s saying,
“We have sent to you the Seven Oft Repeated Verses.” [Al-Hijr 15:87]
This verse was revealed in Makkah by agreement of the exegeses.
The Ruling of Reciting Al-Fatihah in Prayer

The opinion of the majority of the scholars, amongst them Malik, Ash-Shafi’i and Ahmad, is that it is obligatory to recite Al-Fatihah in the prayer and that the prayer is invalid without it. Their opinion is based upon many proofs; from amongst them, the sayings of the Prophet (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam), who said that “There is no prayer for the one who does not recite the Opening of the Book.”
Narrated ‘Ubâdah bin As-Sâmit Allâh’s Messenger said,
“Whoever does not recite Sûrat Al-Fâtihah in his prayer, his prayer is invalid. (Sahih Al-Bukhâri, Vol.1, Hadîth No. 723).
However, Abu Hanifa and some others had differing opinions on this.
In the case where one is a follower in a congregational prayer then the scholars fell into three opinions with regards to his reciting Al-Fatiha,:
1. It is obligatory upon him to recite it in all prayers.
2. It is upon him not to recite it in all prayers.
3. He should recite it in those prayers in which the recitation is silent, but not in those prayers in which the recitation is loud.