Significance of prayer

Al-Fatiha is name of the opening chapter of the Quran. It was revealed to Prophet Mohammed in Mecca and it consists of seven verses. The translation of which is:
(1) In the name of Allah, most gracious, most merciful (2) Praise be to Allah, the cherisher and sustainer of the worlds (3) Most gracious, most merciful, (4) Master of the day of judgment (5) Thee do we worship, and Thine aid we seek (6) Show us the straight path (7) The path of those whom Thou hast favoured; not the (path) of those who earn Thine anger nor of those who go astray.

These seven verses form a complete unit by themselves, and are recited in every prayer and on many other occasions - rightly called the Essence of the Book. It teaches us the perfect prayer.

Prayer is the heart of religion and faith. But how shall we pray? What words shall convey the yearnings of our miserable ignorant hearts to the knower of all? It is worthy of Him or of our spiritual nature to ask for vanities? The inspired one taught us a prayer that sums up our faith, our hope, and our aspiration in things that matter. We think in devotion of Allah's name and His nature; we praise Him for His creation and His cherishing care; we call to mind the realities, seen and unseen; we offer Him worship and ask His guidance; and we know the straight from the crooked path by the light of His grace that illumines the righteous.

In our spiritual contemplation the first words should be those of praise. If the praise is from our innermost being, it brings us into union with Allah's will. Then our eyes see all good, peace, and harmony. Evil, rebellion, and conflict are purged out. They do not exist for us, for our eyes are lifted up above them in praise.

Then we see Allah's attributes better. This leads us to the attitude of worship and acknowledgement. And finally comes prayer for guidance, and contemplation of what guidance means.

Allah needs no praise, for He is above all praise; He needs no petition, for He knows our needs better than we do ourselves; and His bounties are open without asking, to the righteous and the sinner alike. The prayer is for our own spiritual education, consolation, and confirmation.

That is why the words in this chapter are given to us in the form in which we should utter them. When we reach enlightenment, they flow spontaneously from us.

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