Tafseer Surah al-Faatihah: vs. 6



Brother Abû Rumaysah



The saying of the Exalted, "Guide us to the Straight Path": After praising Allaah, the servant then proceeds to ask of Him from His bounty and blessings. This is the most virtuous way of asking Allaah by first praising Him and then asking of Him.

Abu Daawood reports from Fudaalah bin Ubaid that :

The Messenger of Allaah (SAW) heard a man supplicating in prayer. He did not glorify Allaah and neither did he invoke blessings on the Prophet (SAW). The Messenger of Allaah (SAW) said, "he made haste." He then named him and said to him or to those around him, "if any one of you prays, he should commence by glorifying his Lord and praising Him; he should invoke peace and blessings on the Prophet (SAW) and thereafter he should supplicate Allaah for anything he wishes." [1]

Al-Haafidh ibn al-Qayyim explains the causes that lead to ones supplication being answered in a beautiful way saying,

When the servant combines in his supplication presence of the heart and its being attentive and devoting itself solely to Allaah, sincerely asking Him for the desired matter, doing so at one of the six times when the supplication is more likely to answered - these being:

The last third of the night.
At the time of the adhaan.
Between the adhaan and iqaamah.
At the ends of the prescribed prayers.
From the time the Imaam ascends the pulpit to the time the prayer has finished on the day of Jumu`ah.
The last hour after the prayer Asr.
Alongside this the servant appends to this fear and reverence in the heart, beseeching his Lord in a state of humility and submissiveness. He faces the Qiblah and is in a state of purity, he raises his hands to Allaah and begins by praising and extolling Him, then he invokes peace and blessings upon Muhammad, His servant and Messenger (SAW). He precedes mentioning his need by seeking forgiveness from Allaah and then he earnestly and sincerely makes his request as one who is needy and impoverished, supplicating to Him out of hope and fear. He seeks the means of getting close to Him by mentioning His Names and Attributes and making the religion sincerely for Him Alone. Before making supplication he gives in charity. If all this is done then this supplication will never be rejected especially if the servant employs the supplications that the Messenger of Allaah (SAW) informed us would be accepted or if his supplication includes mention of Allaah's Greatest Name. [2]

The word hidaayah, linguistically meaning direction and guidance is used in two senses in the Qur`aan.

1. Guidance of clarification and direction, not taking into account whether the person to whom it has been clarified traverses the path of guidance or not.

With this respect is the saying of Allaah,


"And as for the Thamud then We guided them but they preferred blindness over guidance." [Fussilaat (41): 17]


Meaning: We made clear to them the True Way upon the tongue of our Prophet Saalih, upon him and our Prophet be peace and blessings, despite the fact that they did not traverse this way as proven by His saying, "but they preferred blindness over guidance."

With this respect also is His saying,


"Indeed, We guided him, whether he be grateful or ungrateful." [Al-Insaan (76): 3]


Meaning: We have made clear to him the Way of Good and the Way of Evil as proven by His saying, "whether he be grateful or ungrateful."

2. The specific type of guidance which is Allaah bestowing His Grace upon the servant by making him conform to the Way of Truth.

With this respect is His sayings,


"They are the ones whom Allaah guided, so follow their guidance." [Al-An`aam (6): 90]

"And whosoever Allaah Wills to guide, He opens his breast to Islaam." [Al-An`aam (6): 125]


When you come to understand this then any difficulties in understanding the following sayings of Allaah will also be removed,


"Indeed! You [O Muhammad] cannot guide those you love, but Allaah guides whom He Wills." [Al-Qasas (28): 56]

"And indeed you [O Muhammad] are guiding [mankind] to the Straight Path." [Ash-Shuraa (42): 52]


Because the aspect of guidance that has been negated is the specific guidance as this is in the Hands of Allaah Alone. As for the aspect of guidance that has been affirmed then it is the general guidance which is to make clear the Way of Truth. And the Messenger of Allaah (SAW) explained this to the extent that it became like a great white plain whose night is like its day. [3]

There is also a third sense to the word guidance that was mentioned by ibn al-Qayyim, and that is guidance on the Day of Judgement to the path to Paradise - this being the bridge leading to it. So the one who is guided in this life to the Straight Path will be guided to the straight path in the Hereafter that leads to His Paradise. His firmness on the path that Day will be dependant on how firmly he trod the Straight Path in this life. [4]

The Straight Path is the path that the one journeying to Allaah traverses and it is none other than obedience to Allaah and His Messenger (SAW). The Salaf have described the Straight Path in various ways but all of their definitions revolve around this basic fact:

The Book of Allaah as stated by Alee bin Abee Taalib and others.
Islaam as stated by ibn Abbaas, ibn Mas`ud, ad-Dahhaak and others.
The Religion of Allaah other than which He will not accept as stated by ibn al-Hanafiyyah.
The Prophet (SAW) and the two Khaleefs who followed him as stated by Abu al-Aaliyah and Hasan al-Basree.
The truth as stated by Mujaahid.

All of these opinions are correct. So whosoever follows Islaam has followed the Prophet (SAW) and the two Khaleefs after him, i.e. Abu Bakr and Umar. Whosoever has followed them has followed the Truth and whosoever has followed the truth has followed the Qur`aan and whosoever has followed the Qur`aan has obeyed Allaah.

At-Tirmidhee reports from Nawaas bin Sam`aan that the Messenger of Allaah (SAW) said,

Allaah has set forth the following as a parable: There is a road that leads straight to the destination. On either side of the road there is a wall in which there are open doors with curtains hanging on them. From the remote end of the road, a voice calls, 'proceed straight and do not turn aside.' Whenever someone intends to lift a curtain from the door another voice calls from above, 'beware! Do not lift the curtain, otherwise you will be lured inside.'

The Prophet (SAW) explained the parable by saying that the straight path is Islaam, the walls are the limits imposed by Allaah, the open doors are the things that he has prohibited, the voice which calls from the end of the road is the Qur`aan and the voice which calls from above is Allaah's monitor in the heart of every believer. [5]

From the above verse we also learn that the Straight Path is one path and not many and indeed that anything that deviates from it is to be regarded as misguidance. Ash-Shaatibee explains this further by saying,


"And verily, this is my Straight Path, so follow it, and follow not [other] paths, for they will separate you away from His Path. This He has ordained for you that you may become pious." [Al-An`aam (6): 153]


The Straight Path is the path to which Allaah has named and that is the Sunnah. The other paths are the paths of the people of disagreement who deviate from the Straight Path, and they are the People of Innovation. The intended meaning here is not the 'paths of disobedience' because no one makes disobedience a path that he continuously treads upon - in imitation of and resemblance to the legislation, but rather this description is specifically for the newly invented innovations.

In what Ismaa`eel has narrated from Sulaimaan bin Harb lies evidence for this: Hammaad bin Zaid narrated to us; from `Aasim bin Bahdalah; from Abu Waa`il; from Abdullaah [Ibn Abbaas] who said:

'One Day the Messenger (SAW) drew for us a long, straight line' and then Sulaimaan drew for us a long, straight line, 'and then he drew lines to its right and to its left and then said, 'this is the Path of Allaah.' Then he drew lines to its right and to its left and said, 'these are different paths, upon each of these ways is a devil calling to it', and then he recited the verse:


"And verily, this is my Straight Path, so follow it, and follow not [other] paths..." [Al-An`aam (6): 153]


meaning these paths:


"...for they will separate you away from His Path." [Al-An`aam (6): 153]


Bikr bin `Alaa said, "he meant the devils amongst men and these [other paths] are the innovations and Allaah knows best."

And the hadeeth has been reported in many ways.

Umar bin Salamah al-Hamdaanee said, "we were sitting in the circle of Ibn Mas`ood in the Mosque, which had been plain land after it had been covered with gravel.

Ubaydullaah bin Umar ibn al-Khattaab, who had just returned from an expedition asked him, 'what is the Straight Path O Abu Abdur-Rahmaan?' He replied, 'by the Lord of the Ka`bah, it is that which your father was firmly established upon until he entered Paradise' and he swore firmly upon that three times.

Then he drew a line in the ground with his hand and also drew lines to either side of it and said, 'your Prophet (SAW) left you upon this end and its other end is in Paradise. So whoever remains steadily upon it will enter Paradise and whoever takes any of these lines will be destroyed.'"

In another narration [the wording is], "O Abu Abdur-Rahmaan, what is the straight path?" He replied, "the Messenger (SAW) left us upon the nearest end of the line and its other end is in Paradise. And to its left and right are roads in which there are men who invite those who pass by them, saying, 'Come this way! Come this way!' So whoever is taken by them to those paths will end up in Hellfire and whoever remains steadfast upon the great path will end up, through it, in Paradise."

Then ibn Mas`ood recited:


"And verily, this is my Straight Path, so follow it, and follow not [other] paths, for they will separate you away from His Path. This He has ordained for you that you may become pious." [Al-An`aam (6): 153]


Mujaahid said about the saying of Allaah:


"...and follow not [other] paths." [Al-An`aam (6): 153]


[That it refers to] "the innovations and doubts."

Abdur-Rahmaan bin Mahdee said, "Maalik bin Anas had been asked about the Sunnah to which he replied, 'it is whatever has no other name for it except 'the Sunnah' and he recited,


'And verily, this is my Straight Path, so follow it, and follow not [other] paths, for they will separate you away from His Path.' [Al-An`aam (6): 153]"


Bikr bin `Alaa said, "he means - if Allaah wills - the hadeeth of Ibn Mas`ood that the Messenger (SAW) drew a line..." and he mentioned the hadeeth.

And this explanation shows that the verse includes all the different paths of innovation and does not specify one innovation over others. Also amongst the verses [that are related to the censure of innovation] is the saying of Allaah the Exalted,


"And upon Allaah is the responsibility to explain the Straight Path but there are ways that turn aside. And had He willed, He would have guided you all." [An-Nahl (16): 9]


The explained path is the Path of Truth and that which is other than it, turns away from the truth - and these are the paths of innovations and misguidance - may Allaah protect us, by His Excellence, from travelling upon them. It is sufficient for whatever turns away [from the Truth] that it is warned against and the verse contains a warning and a prohibition [of taking other paths that deviate from the Truth].

Ibn Waddaah mentioned that "Aasim bin Bahdalah was questioned: 'O Abu Bakr, have you considered the saying of Allaah, the Exalted,


"And upon Allaah is the responsibility to explain the Straight Path but there are ways that turn aside. And had He willed, He would have guided you all." [An-Nahl (16): 9]


He replied, 'Abu Waa`il informed us; from Abdullaah Ibn Mas`ood saying, "Abdullaah bin Mas`ood drew a straight line and drew lines to its right and to its left and then said, 'the Messenger (SAW) drew just like this. He said about the straight line, 'this is the path of Allaah' and about the lines to its right and left he said, 'these are different ways, upon each of these ways is a devil calling to it.' Allaah the Exalted said,


"And verily, this is my Straight Path, so follow it..." [Al-An`aam (6): 153]


to the end of the verse.'"

At-Tustaree said, "explanation of the path - that is the path of the Sunnah; 'ways that turn aside' - meaning to the Hellfire and they are the sects and innovations."

Mujaahid said, "explanation of the path - meaning the one who is justly balanced between exaggeration and negligence," and this shows that the one who turns aside is one who commits excesses or is negligent, and both of them are amongst the descriptions of the innovations."

From Alee (RA), that he used to read it the verse, 'Wa minkum jaa`ir...' (and amongst you is one that turns aside). They said: "He means by that [from] this nation."

So it is as if this verse along with the one before it have come with the same meaning. [6]

If it is asked why is one supplicating for guidance to the Straight Path when a Muslim is already regarded to be on the Straight Path?

Shaykh al-Islaam ibn Taymiyyah says,

The case mentioned above is similar to what some of them ask concerning His saying, "guide us to the Straight Path" [Al-Faatihah (1): 6] saying: 'Allaah has already guided the believer, so what benefit is there in seeking guidance?' Then some of them reply by saying that the meaning is 'keep us firm upon guidance' as the Arab would say to the one who is asleep, 'sleep until I come to you'. Others from amongst them say that the meaning is, 'keep our hearts firm upon the guidance' and that the request for firmness has been omitted. Yet others from amongst them say that it means, 'increase me in guidance.'

This question really occurs due to the absence of their contemplating upon the Straight Path to which the servant seeks guidance to, for the meaning [of the verse] is [seeking guidance to] act according to what Allaah ordered, and leave what He forbade in all matters.

This is because the person, even if he has believed that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allaah and that the Qur`aan is the truth in a general way, is commonly in need of knowledge of that which would benefit him and harm him. He is in need of knowledge concerning what he has been commanded to do and forbidden from doing in the finer aspects of the matters and in those areas of which he has no knowledge. [Not only this but we find that] that which he does have knowledge of, he does not put the greater part of it to practice! Assuming that all of the commands and prohibitions contained in the Qur`aan and Sunnah have reached him, then the Qur`aan and Sunnah contain laws that are general and universal for which it is not possible to specify to every individual person - therefore the person has been commanded due to the likes of this to ask for guidance to the Straight Path.

Guidance to the Straight Path includes all of the following matters: cognizance of what the Messenger (SAW) came with in detail, cognizance of what comes under his general orders and concern for acting according to ones knowledge, for indeed just having knowledge is not a cause for attaining guidance if one does not act according to his knowledge. This is why He said to His Prophet after the treaty of Hudaybiyyah,


"Indeed We have given you a manifest victory. That Allaah may forgive you your sins of the past and future, complete His Favour upon you, and guide you on a Straight Path." [Fath (48): 1-2]

And He said with respect to Moses and Haroon, "and We gave them the clear Scripture, and guided them to the Right Path" [As-Saaffaat (37): 117-118]


The Muslims have differed as to what Allaah Willed from the textual matters - matters of knowledge, belief and action while all of them are agreed that Muhammad is the truth and the Qur`aan is the truth. If all of them were to have attained guidance to the Straight Path in totality then they would never have differed. Furthermore the majority of those who know what Allaah has ordered disobey Him and do not follow His Way. If they were guided to the Straight Path in these matters then they certainly would have performed what they had been commanded to do, and left what they had been forbidden from. As for those whom Allaah guided from amongst this nation until they became from the God-Fearing Friends of Allaah, then the greatest reason for this was their supplicating to Allaah with this supplication (guide us to the Straight Path) in every prayer along with the knowledge of their continuous need of Allaah that He guide them on the Straight Path. So due to their continually saying this supplication and their acknowledging their continuous need of Him they became God-Fearing Friends of Allaah. Sahl bin Abdullaah at-Tustoree said, 'there is not route between a servant and Allaah closer to Him then need.'

The one who has attained guidance in the past is in need of guidance in the future, this is the real meaning behind the saying of those who say that it means: 'establish us and guide us to being firm upon the Straight Path.' The opinion of those who say that it means: 'increase us in guidance' includes what has preceded. But all that has been stated refers to His guidance to the Straight Path that is to be granted in the future, for indeed action in the future is upon knowledge that is not yet attained. And the person is not considered to be one who is guided until he acts according to his knowledge in the future, but it is possible that this knowledge not be there in the future, rather it could be removed from the heart, and if it still be there it is also possible that it not be acted upon. Therefore all of mankind is in dire need of this supplication, this is why Allaah made it obligatory upon them in every prayer and they are not in need of any other supplication as they are of this one. When guidance is obtained to the Straight Path then help, provision and all of the happiness that the soul seeks are obtained [from Allaah]. Allaah knows best. [7]

Allaah commands His servants to supplicate,


"Our Lord! Let not our hearts deviate after You have guided us and grant us mercy from Yourself. Indeed You are the Bestower." [Aali Imraan (3): 8]



{1} Abu Daawood [Eng. Trans. 1/390 no. 1476], at-Tirmidhee [no. 3476], an-Nasaa`ee [3/44], Ahmad [6/18] and others with a hasan isnaad. Refer to the notes of F. Zamrali to 'at-Targheeb fee ad-Du`aa' [pg. 11].

{2} Ibn al-Qayyim, 'ad-Daa`u wa ad-Dwaa`u' [pp. 13-14]

{3} Referring to the hadeeth, "I have left you upon the great white plain, its night is like its day, none deviates from it except he who is destroyed."

Reported by ibn Maajah, al-Haakim and Ahmad from the hadeeth of Arbaadh bin Saariyah (RA). Refer to 'Silsilah Ahaadeeth as-Saheehah' [2/528 no.937] for detailed documentation.

{4} Ibn al-Qayyim, 'Madaarij as-Saalikeen' [1/16]

{5} At-Tirmidhee [Adaab, no. 76], Ahmad [4/182-183]. It was declared saheeh by al-Albaanee in 'Saheeh al-Jaami`' [no. 3887]

{6} Ash-Shaatibee, 'al-I`tisaam' [1/40-45] translation by br. Abu Iyaadh and modified.

{7} Ibn Taymiyyah, 'Diseases of the Heart and their Cures' [Eng. Trans., pp. 44-47]. The original text is to be found in his 'Majmoo Fataawaa' [10/ 91-138 ]



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