Rafed English

Surah al-Fatihah - Interpretation of Al-hamdulillah Rabb al-‘alamin

The word “Allah”‌


Some people have regarded the word “Allah”‌ to be derived from “اَلِهَ”‌ “aliha”‌ meaning “عَبَدَ”‌ “‘abada”‌. By “Allah”‌ they mean the Real Worshipped Being who has all the perfections. Others, however, have regarded it to have been derived from “وَلِهَ”‌ “waliha”‌ with the meaning of adoration, love and amazement. Therefore, the word “Allah”‌ means the Sacred Essence whose bliss has astounded and fascinated all.


It must be noted that the word “خدا”‌ “Khoda”‌ or “خداوند”‌ “Khodavand”‌ (“God”‌ in Persian) is not a perfect translation of the word “Allah”‌ because “Khoda”‌ originates from “خودآى”‌ “khuday”‌ which is termed in philosophy as the Necessary Being {wajib al-wujud} while the word “Khodavand”‌ also means “Owner”‌. For example, in the Persian literature, we say, “khodavand-e khaneh”‌ to mean “owner of the house”‌.


The meaning “owner”‌ or “necessary being”‌ falls short of conveying the meaning of “Allah”‌. “Allah”‌ means the Essence that is worthy of love and worship because It possesses all the perfections.


In the Qur’an, approximately one hundred Names of God have been mentioned, among which “Allah”‌ is the most comprehensive one. In principle, each of the Names of God points to one of His Attributes, and not just one sign and symbol for God.


The names of individuals are diverse. Some names are only symbols and are in no way compatible with the character of the person in question; in fact, one’s name is sometimes repugnant to one’s character such as a liar whose name is Sadiq {truthful}!


There are also times, nevertheless, when the name of a person, apart from it being his own name is also an exact description of himself, pointing to his attributes and excellences such as the name “Sadiq”‌ for a truthful person.


Some names are like the alarm of a clock which only indicates the arrival of a certain period of time. Others, however, are similar to the voice of the mu‘adhdhin {caller to prayer} which is both symbol and substance.


The Qur’an says: “To Allah belong the Best Names.”‌[1] in the traditions, 99 names of God have been mentioned which are described as Asma’ al-Husna {the Best Names} and it is stated that anyone who would pray to God with these Names, his request shall be granted. [2] And in the Dua’a Jawshan Kabir, we call on God with a thousand Names and Attributes.


The presence of the words, “rahman”‌ {All-beneficent} and “rahim”‌ {All-merciful} after the word “Allah”‌ signifies that man commences his work with hope for divine favor and mercy and considers God as the source of all hopes and mercies.


Beginning an action with expressions of mercy signifies that the divine foundation and basis is anchored on mercy and grace, and it is only fitting for man to seek assistance from the Fountainhead of Mercy.


Rahman is a name exclusive for God because it is only His beneficence which is universal, all-encompassing and perpetual. Others either have no beneficence {rahmah} or what they have is not all-encompassing. In addition, if others would ever give something, it is because they expect worldly or otherworldly rewards; they give grass in order to get milk!


Regarding the words, “ar-rahman”‌ and “ar-rahim”‌, we shall elaborate on them under the verse, “ar-rahmani’r-rahim”‌.


“Al-hamdulillah”‌ {All praise belongs to Allah}


The words, “madah,”‌ “shukr,”‌ and “hamd”‌ have identical meanings, but each of them also has its own particular meaning. For instance, the word “madah”‌ means “to praise”‌ regardless of whether the praise is worthy, based on flattery or something unworthy, or whether on account of one’s excellences, fear, covetousness, beguiling, or ingratiation.


The word “shukr”‌ means gratitude for the grace and favor given by others to someone. In the word “hamd,”‌ however, apart from gratitude and thanks, another meaning is latent and that is worship. Gratitude and thanks to the extent of worship is “hamd”‌. Hence, to express “madah”‌ and “shukr”‌ to others is permissible, but “hamd”‌ is exclusive for God because He is the Only One worthy of worship.


“Al-hamdullillah”‌ is followed by four descriptions of God: “rabb al-‘alamin,”‌ “ar-rahman,”‌ “ar-rahim,”‌ and “maliki yawmid-din”‌ which indicate that on account of these divine favors and grandeur, man has to express “hamd”‌ to God. But before all these descriptions, the word “lillah”‌ {belonging to Allah} appears. It means that “hamd”‌ is solely for Him and as He is the Only One worthy of “hamd,”‌ those descriptions can also be assumed even if they had not appeared afterward.


گر از دوست چشمت به احسان اوست تو در بند خويشى نه در بند دوست


If your eyes are focusing on the benevolence of the Friend, then you are under the fetter of your self, not under the bond of the Friend.


“Rabb al-‘alamin”‌ {Lord of all the Worlds}


God is the Lord of all the worlds. He is the Lord of whatever is in the heavens and the earth and whatever is between them:





“The Lord of the heavens and the earth and whatever is between them”‌ [3]



هُوَ رَب كلّ‏ِ شيْ‏ءٍ


“He is the Lord of all things.”‌[4]


Imam Ali (A.S) says about the interpretation of “‘alamin”‌:


من الجمادات و الحيوانات


That is, He is the Lord of the inanimate objects and the animals, the living and non-living things.


Although in the Qur’an sometimes “‘alamin”‌ refers to human beings, in most cases “‘alam”‌ refers to creatures while “‘alamin”‌ points to all creatures. It can be thus understood that He is the Lord of the entire creation and that what some believed during the pre-Islamic period of ignorance {yawm al-jahiliyyah} and among some nations that there is a distinct god for every type or kingdom of creatures is a false idea.


God has determined the course of growth and perfection of all creatures after creating them and the divine nurture is the same course as that of divine guidance. “Our Lord is He who gave everything its creation and then guided it.”‌[5] It is He who taught the honeybee which plant to suck. It is He who taught the ant how to preserve its winter resources. He has created the human body in such a way that it is automatically hematogenous.


Yes, such a God is worthy of praise and gratitude. One of the peculiar characteristics of man is that he appreciates beauty, perfection and elegance, and expresses gratitude for favors and goodness. God, the Exalted, is worthy of praise on account of His Beauty and Perfection, and He is worthy of being thanked because of His goodness and favors.


Of course, to be grateful to God is not inconsistent with expressing thanks to people provided that it is the command of God and in the way of God. Although anyone can show his appreciation for others in diverse ways, in reality he is praising the Source and Fountainhead.


“Rabb al-‘alamin”‌ means that the relationship between God and the creatures is a perpetual and close-knit relationship.


“Rabb al-‘alamin”‌ means that there is the possibility of growth and training for all. Not only the good but the bad also benefit from the divine favors. “To these and to those””to all We extend.”‌[6]


God says: “We assist all and have provided the ground for all so that each person could attain whatever aim he has.”‌ Since the world is the abode of prohibition and obstacles, it is natural that not everyone can attain his or her goal.


“Rabb al-‘alamin”‌ means that God is both the Ruler and the Manager of creation.


The word “rabb”‌ is derived from either “رَبَيَ”‌ “rabiya”‌ which means “one who bestows growth and training”‌, or from “rabba”‌ which means “owner”‌. God is the Owner of the world as well as its Nourisher and Manager. “All creation and command belong to Him. Blessed is Allah, the Lord of all the worlds.”‌[7]


According to the traditions, the phrase “All praise belongs to Allah, the Lord of the Worlds”‌ [8] is the best gratitude for the favors of God. Thus, it is enjoined to praise {hamd} God before any supplication or request is made of Him; otherwise, the supplication is defective.


Not only is it mentioned at the beginning of supplication and adulation but the inhabitants of paradise also repeat the same phrase at the end of a task:


وَآخِرُ دَعْوَاهُمْ أَنِ الْحَمْدُ لِلّهِ رَبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ


“And their concluding call, ‘All praise belongs to Allah, the Lord of the all the worlds.”‌[9]



[1] Surah al-A‘raf 7:180.


[2] Tafsir Nemuneh, vol. 7, p. 27.


[3] Surah Maryam 19:65.


[4] Surah al-An‘am 6:164.


[5] Surah Ta Ha 20:50.


[6] Surah al-Isra’ 17:20.


[7] Surah al-A‘raf 7:54.


[8] Surah al-Fatihah 1:2.


[9] Surah Yunus 10:10.

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