Every Muslim recites this short surah of seven آيات at least seventeen times a day. An authentic hadith of the Prophet, peace be upon him, says: “A prayer by one who does not read the Fatihah is invalid.”
This short surah contains a great deal of the central basic ideas of Islam, its beliefs and concepts. It outlines many of its essential perceptions and attitudes. All this makes it clear why it is chosen for frequent recitation and why it is essential for the validity of prayer.
The very first آيات of the Qur’an revealed to Prophet Muhammed, peace be upon him, which begin with: “Read in the name of your Lord...” (96: 1) establish the Islamic etiquette of invoking the name of God at the beginning of every action.
The divine attributes of the Compassionate, al-Rahman, and the Merciful, al-Rahim, encompass all aspects and meaning of mercy, and can only be used together with respect to God Almighty. It would be appropriate to use the attribute of al-Rahim in reference to a human being, but the Islamic faith requires that use of al-Rahman is exclusive to God.
Having invoked God’s name and acknowledged His infinite mercy, one is directed to praise God and recognize His absolute sovereignty over all beings. Consequently, praise of God is the first feeling aroused in a believer’s heart at the mention of God. For man’s own existence is an aspect of God’s infinite grace, which engenders gratitude and reverence towards God.
The last part of the آيَة, “Lord of all the worlds”, expresses the belief that is at the very core of the Islamic concept of God. God is the sole, absolute and ultimate owner with full independent authority to act in the whole cosmos. He is the overall supreme master who has created the world and continues to watch over it, take care of it, and ensure its stability and well-being. God has not created the world and abandoned it to its own devices.
This is followed by the آيَة that extends the ownership of Allah to the life hereafter which is a fundamental Islamic principle with most profound influence on human life.
Belief in the hereafter is essential because it engages the human soul and mind and concentrates man’s attention on a future existence. This in turn helps to rein in man’s obsession with the present life, and to transcend his immediate earthly desires. He is no longer anxious to reap all his rewards here and now; he can conquer his selfishness and develop altruistic feelings and interests. Man is able to go through life as a motivated, tolerant, confident and optimistic being.
The next آيَة states that the logical next steps are to worship Him alone and seek help from him Alone.
Followed by آيات that describe the first thing and the most important thing to seek is guidance to the right path.