Chapter one of the Quran, By Abdullah Yousef Ali

1:1 In The Name Of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.

The Arabic words “Rahman and Raheem,” translated “Most Gracious” and “Most Merciful” are both intensive forms referring to different aspects of Allah’s attribute of Mercy. The Arabic intensive is more suited to express Allah’s attributes than the superlative degree in English.

The latter implies a comparison with other beings, or with other times or places, while there is no being like unto Allah, and He is independent of Time and Place. Mercy may imply pity, long-suffering, patience, and forgiveness, all of which the sinner needs and Allah Most Merciful bestows in abundant measure.

But there is a Mercy that goes before even the need arises, the Grace which is ever watchful, and flows from Allah Most Gracious to all His creatures, protecting them, preserving them, guiding them, and leading them to clearer light and higher life. For this reason the attribute Rahman (Most Gracious) is not applied to any but Allah, but the attribute Rahim (Merciful), is a general term, and may also be applied to Men.

To make us contemplate these boundless gifts of Allah, the formula: “In the name of Allah Most Gracious, Most Merciful”: is placed before every Surah of the Quran (except the ninth), and repeated at the beginning of every act by the Muslim who dedicates his life to Allah, and whose hope is in His Mercy.

Opinion is divided whether the Bismillah should be numbered as a separate verse or not It is unanimously agreed that it is a part of the Quran. Therefore it is better to give it an independent number in the first chapter. For subsequent chapters it is treated as an introduction or headline, and therefore not numbered.

1:2 Praise Be To Allah, The Cherisher And Sustainer Of The Worlds;

The Arabic word Rabb, usually translated Lord, has also the meaning of cherishing, sustaining, bringing to maturity. Allah cares for all the worlds He has created.

There are many worlds – astronomical and physical worlds, worlds of thought, spiritual world, and so on. In every one of them, Allah is all-in-all. We express only one aspect of it when we say: “In Him we live, and move, and have our being.” The mystical division between (1) Nasut, the human world knowable by the senses, (2) Malakut, the invisible world of angels, and (3) Lahut, the divine world of Reality, requires a whole volume to explain it.

1:3 Most Gracious, Most Merciful;
1:4. Master Of The Day Of Judgment.
1:5 Thee Do We Worship, And Thine Aid We Seek.

On realizing in our souls Allah’s love and care, His grace and mercy, and His power and justice (as Ruler of the Day of Judgement), the immediate result is that we bend in the act of worship, and see both our shortcomings and His all- sufficient power. The emphatic form means that not only do we reach the position of worshipping Allah and asking for His help, but we worship Him alone and ask for His aid only. For there is none other than He worthy of our devotion and able to help us. Then plural “we” indicates that we associate ourselves with all who seek Allah, thus strengthening ourselves and strengthening them in a fellowship of faith.

A passage of the deepest spiritual meaning. Even the humblest man who accepts Faith and does good becomes at once an accepted member of a great and beautiful spiritual Fellowship. It is a company which lives perpetually in the sunshine of Allah’s Grace. (This passage partly illustrates 1:5). It is a glorious hierarchy, of which four grades are specified:

(1) The highest is that of the Prophets or Apostles, who get plenary inspiration from Allah, and who teach mankind by example and precept. That rank in Islam is held by Muhammad Mustafa.

(2) The next are those whose badge is sincerity and truth; they love and support the truth with their person, their means, their influence, and all that is theirs. That rank was held by the special companions of Muhammad, among whom the type was that of Abu Bakr Siddiq.

(3) The next are the noble army of Witnesses, who testify to the truth. The testimony may be by martyrdom. Or it may be by the tongue of the true preacher or the pen of the devoted scholar, or the life of the man devoted to service.

(4) Lastly, there is the large company of righteous people, the ordinary folk who do their ordinary business, but always in a righteous way. They are the rank and file of the beautiful Fellowship, in which each has his place and yet all feel that they derive glory from the common association.

1:6 Show Us The Straight Way,

If we translate by the English word “guide,” we shall have to say: “Guide us to and in the straight Way.” For we may be wandering aimlessly, and the first step is to find the Way; and the second need is to keep in the Way: Our own wisdom may fail in either case. The straight Way is often the narrow Way, or the steep Way, which many people shun.

By the world’s perversity the straight Way is sometimes stigmatized and the crooked Way praised. How are we to judge? We must ask for Allah’s guidance. With a little spiritual insight we shall see which are the people who walk in the light of Allah’s grace, and which are those that walk in the darkness of Wrath. This also would help our judgement.

1:7 The Way Of Those On Whom Thou Hast Bestowed Thy Grace, Those Whose Portion Is Not Wrath, And Who Go Not Astray.

Note that the words relating to Grace are connected actively with Allah; those relating to Wrath are impersonal. In the one case Allah’s Mercy encompasses us beyond our deserts. In the other case our own actions are responsible for the Wrath – the negative of Grace, Peace, or Harmony.

Are there two categories? – those who are in the darkness of Wrath and those who stray? The first are those who deliberately break Allah’s law; the second those who stray out of carelessness or negligence. Both are responsible for their own acts or omissions. In opposition to both are the people who are in the light of Allah’s Grace: for His Grace not only protects them from active wrong (if they will only submit their will to Him) but also from straying into paths of temptation or carelessness. The negative ghayr should be construed as applying not to the way, but as describing men protected from two dangers by Allah’s Grace.