Item Number: 630
Manuscript Leaflet: Surat al-Fatiha (The Opening)
Size: 300 x 193 mm
Frame: Dark brown wood
A large, unusual Quran leaf from India, dated AH 1161/ AD 1748. The script is of Surat al-Fatiha (The Opening). There are six lines of Naskhi script scribed in black ink. Diacritics and vowel points are in black while surad headings are in red. It contains catchwords in the margins. Condition of this leaf is below fine.
A l-Fātiḥah is considered by the vast majority of scholars to be among the first sūrah s to have been revealed in Makkah. According to Mujāhid (d. 104/722– 23), one of the leading scholars among the second generation of Muslims, this sūrah was revealed in Madinah. Most scholars claim that this is impossible, however, as the Muslims would not have been able to perform their required prayers without it. The primary meaning of al-Fātiḥah is “The Opening,” which indicates the sūrah ’s function as “the opening of the Book” (Fātiḥ at al-kitāb ) and as the first sūrah to be recited in each cycle (rakʿah) of all the canonical prayers as well as the manner in which it serves as an opening for many functions in everyday Islamic life. It can also be taken as a reference to this sūrah’s ability to open one’s breast to faith in God.
The Fātiḥah is often believed to be a synthesis of the Quran’s message and to be its most important sūrah. Hence it has been given the title Umm al-kitāb, “Mother of the Book,” a term also applied to other aspects of the Quran (3:7) and to the celestial archetype of the Quran and in fact all sacred scripture (see 13:39; 43:4). It is also known as “The Mother of the Quran” (IK, Ṭ ), a reference to its containing the meaning of the entire Quran (IK). Other titles are “The Seven Oft- Repeated” (al- Sabʿal-mathānī, 15:87); “The Cure” (al-Shifāʾ ), because it is said to have healing powers for both body and soul; and “The Foundation” (al-Asās), because it serves as a foundation for the whole of the Quran. Also known as Sūrat al-Ḥamd, “The Chapter of Praise,” and Sūrat al-Ṣalāh, “The Chapter of the Prayer,” the Fātiḥah is recited at the beginning of each cycle of prayer by all Sunnis and many Shiites. In Shiite law one is allowed to recite the Fātiḥ ah in the third and fourth cycles or to recite, “Glory be to God, and praise be to God. There is no god but God, and God is great.” It is also recited by Muslims on occasions as diverse as a funeral, a wedding, the birth of a child, the inauguration of an official event, the signing of contracts, and the commencement of an individual endeavor, such as the beginning of a journey. In some lands, funeral services are referred to as fātiḥah, because they mark an opening from one life to another.
Many sayings of the Prophet Muhammad attribute an exalted status to the Fātiḥah . In one, the Prophet told a man that he would teach him the greatest sūrah; when asked what it was, the Prophet responded, “It is Praise be to God, the Lord of the worlds, the seven oft-repeated, and the Mighty Quran [15:87] that I was given”. A famous ḥadīth qudsī — that is, a non-Quranic saying of God reported by the Prophet— states, “I have divided the prayer between Myself and My servant, and My servant shall have that for which he prays. When the servant says, ‘Praise be to God, Lord of the worlds, ’ God says, ‘My servant has praised Me.’ When the servant says, ‘The Compassionate, the Merciful, ’ God says, ‘My servant has magnified Me.’ When the servant says, ‘Master of the Day of Judgment, ’ God says, ‘My servant has glorified Me. . . . This is My portion and to him belongs what remains’”. Seen in this light, the Fātiḥ ah is more than the confessional prayer of Muslims. It is a prayer that encapsulates all the metaphysical and eschatological realities of which human beings must remain conscious; God asks human beings to recite it because it contains in principle the nature of God and the disposition God wishes them to have toward Him. The Fātiḥ ah thus has a threefold structure: the first three verses deal with the nature of God, the middle verse deals with the relationship between God and human beings, and the last three verses deal with the various states of human beings.
Many other reports from the Prophet and his Companions indicate the great power that Muslims associate with this sūrah . In one the Prophet says, “By Him in Whose Hand lies my soul, in neither the Torah, the Psalms, the Gospel, nor the Quran was the like of it revealed” (IK, Sh). According to another saying attributed by some to Mujāhid and by others to the Prophet himself, “Satan was frightened four times: when he was cursed by God; when he was expelled from the Garden; when Muhammad was sent [as a messenger]; and when the Fātiḥah was revealed.”
The exalted status of the Fātiḥah has resulted in numerous independent commentaries upon it, some numbering hundreds of pages. Such commentaries, which could be said to constitute a subgenre of Quranic exegesis, often attempt to illustrate the manner in which the whole of the Quran is contained in this sūrah . According to a famous saying attributed to ʿ Alī ibn Abī Ṭālib (d. 40/661), the Prophet’s cousin and son-in-law, who became the first Imam of Shiite Islam (632– 61) and the fourth Caliph of Sunni Islam (656– 61), “The whole of the Quran is contained in the Fātiḥ ah, the whole of the Fātiḥ ah in the basmalah [‘In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful’], the whole of the basmalah in the bāʾ [the opening letter], and the whole of the bāʾ in the diacritical point under the bāʾ .” This point can be understood to represent the first drop of ink from the Divine Pen (al-qalam; see 68:1c; 96:4c) with which God wrote the archetypes of all things upon the Preserved Tablet (al-lawḥ al-maḥfūẓ) before their descent into the realm of creation. In this sense, just as the basmalah marks the beginning of the Quran, so too does it mark the beginning of creation.
1 In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful. 2 Praise be to God, Lord of the worlds, 3 the Compassionate, the Merciful, 4 Master of the Day of Judgment. 5 Thee we worship and from Thee we seek help. 6 Guide us upon the straight path, 7 the path of those whom Thou hast blessed, not of those who incur wrath, nor of those who are astray.
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