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Part 3: An Analysis of Surah Al-Fatiha – The Concept of Praise

13Mar 2015
Part 3: An Analysis of Surah Al-Fatiha – The Concept of Praise

After starting this chapter in the Name of Allah (swt) the Beneficent The Merciful, it is vital to recognise who it is that has gifted us with all that we have. Therefore the next verse in this chapter is “All Praise be to Allah (swt)”.

In order to understand the meaning of Hamd (Praise), it is important to briefly discuss the difference between this term (i.e Hamd) and Madh (Admiration).

Linguists define Hamd as praise due for an act of perfection that is performed with one’s own will.[1] For example, it can be used to praise the good attributes and moral characteristics an individual may have chosen to adopt, such as the virtue of honesty or trust in a person.

On the other hand, Madh is a form of praise due for an act of perfection that may have been performed with or without one’s own will.[2] This type of praise includes the above as well as an attribute or action which the individual or object has not actively chosen to adopt, such as praising a pearl;[3] The beauty and value of the pearl is not gained or chosen by it.

In summary, there are two main differences between Hamd and Madh:

  1. Madh is used for the intellectual realm (‘alam al-uqool)[4] as well as the non-intellectual realm (e.g. material objects). Hamd is only used for the intellectual realm (e.g. the human being). So Madh can be attributed to a human being as well as a pearl, however Hamd can only be attributed to a creation with intellect such as the human being.
  2. Madh is used for an attribute or action performed or gained with or without will (e.g. good facial structure), but Hamd is only used for an action or quality undertaken by choice (e.g. a person being honest).

Therefore every Madh is Hamd, but not vice-versa.[5]

The Al at the beginning of Alhamd (All praise) refers to generalisation (Ta’mim),[6] and some say it also refers to genus (e.g. Jins). This means that all praise belongs to God[7], in other words any existing praise in reality belongs to Allah (swt). If an individual praises a good action performed by someone else, in reality he is praising the Creator, whether he recognises it or not. Of course it is not only mankind who praises Allah (swt), rather the entire creation and all thats in existence does Hamd of Allah (swt) as mentioned in the Qur’an.[8]

The l before the word Allah (swt) (Lillah), refers to Allah’s (swt) ownership of all things, thus all praise belongs to Him.[9] Therefore, all that is praised in this world or the next, whether human or object is not the real owner of the praise.

As discussed above, praise is exclusive to Allah (swt); some of the reasons for this are listed below:

  1. Allah (swt) is the one who has created everything. As the Qur’an states: “Say: “Allah is the Creator of all things: He is the One, the Supreme and Irresistible….” (13: 16).
  1. He has created everything in the most perfect manner. As the Qur’an states: “He Who has made everything which He has created most good: …” (32:7).

Therefore, given the above two statements highlighting Allah (swt) is the Creator of all things and that His creation is perfect; thereby He is the One worthy of all praise.

Additionally, the verse mentions “All praise be to Allah (swt)”, previously we mentioned that the word Allah (swt) is the combination of all the names/attributes of perfection. Therefore the reason for all praise belonging to Allah (swt) is also explicit in this verse.

There are five chapters[10] in the Holy Qur’an which start with praising Allah (swt), and there are two main blessings for which we praise Him:

  1. The creational blessings, as the Qur’an states: “Praise be to Allah, Who created the heavens and the earth… (35:1)”
  1. The legislative blessing that is ultimately the guidance He has provided for His creation as the Qur’an states: “[All] praise is [due] to Allah , who has sent down upon His Servant the Book and has not made therein any deviance (18:1)”

In the next part of the verse Rab al-‘alamin is mentioned. This is also another reason why all praise belongs to Allah (swt), as he is the Cherisher and Sustainer of the worlds[11]. Rab is from the root word “Rubo” which means growth[12] and refers to the owner of something who is also responsible for the cherishing and nurturing (i.e growth) of it.[13] This is exclusively used in the absolute sense for Allah (swt), and if it has been attributed to other than Him, it is with an addition. For example, Rabb al-Dar (the owner of the house), this ownership is not real as we shall come to explain in future verses, the real owner of the creation is the One who has created it.

‘Alamin is the plural of ‘Alam’; it refers to that through which knowledge is attained (ma yu’lamu bih). The reason behind this naming is that all of the worlds (i.e realms) are signs of Allah (swt) through which knowledge of The Lord is gained[14]. There are different explanations as to which realms this refers to, but the common understanding is that it refers to the whole existence. However some have said this only refers to the realm of human and Jinn, because the Qur’an states: “Blessed is He who sent down the criterion (i.e the Qur’an) to His servant, that it may be an admonition to all creatures;” (25:1). In this verse ‘Alamin is used to refer to the creation that have an understanding and hence Allah (swt) has sent legislative guidance to them. Other explanations suggest that because we can gain knowledge of Allah (swt) through all of His creation then ‘Alamin refers to all the existential realms.

In summary, whatever and whoever is praised for any quality they have, since Allah (swt) is the Creator, therefore in reality Allah (swt) is being praised. Although no one is able to offer the due praise He deserves, as Imam Ali (as) mentions:

“Praise is due to Allah whose worth cannot be described by speakers, whose bounties cannot be counted by calculators and whose claim (to obedience) cannot be satisfied by those who attempt to do so, whom the height of intellectual courage cannot appreciate, and the diving’s of understanding cannot reach…”[15]

However it is our duty to praise Allah (swt) and also recognise that He is the source of all perfection. In one tradition, the holy prophet (saw) is reported to have said: “The first (group) who will be called towards heaven, are those who praise Allah (swt) in hardship and ease”.[16] Furthermore, even the inhabitants of heaven will praise Allah (swt) in paradise as stated by the Qur’an.[17] Prophet Mohammad (saw) himself according to traditions, used to praise Allah (swt) during the day and the night[18]. Moreover Imam Sajjad (as) in the recommended Wednesday supplication mentions a few reasons we should praise Allah (swt). Examples of this are for creation, life, death, cure, illness and so on.[19]

Indeed the best way to praise Allah (swt) is to spend and dedicate the blessings He has bestowed upon us in the way that He is pleased with. However, this will never be enough, as Imam Sajjad (as) says: Every time I praised you, it became incumbent upon me to praise you again[20] (for having given me the ability to praise you).

 Written by Mohammad Ehsan Rangiha

[1] Al-Mizan, v1, p.31

[2] Ibid

[3] Al-Mizan, v1, p.19

[4] Creation which has intellect, such as angels, human beings, jinn.

[5] Tafsir Kabir, v.1, p.223

[6] Tasnim, p.330

[7] Al-Mizan, v1, p.30

[8] Qur’an 17: 44

[9] Tasnim, p.331

[10] Hamd (1), An’am (6), Kahf (18), Saba’ (34), Fatir (35).

[11] Amthal, v.1, p.29

[12] Tasnim, p.332

[13] Amthal, v.1, p.30

[14] Tasnim, p.332

[15] Nahj al-Balagha, Sermon 1.

[16] Bihar al-Anwar, v 90, p.215

[17] Qur’an 10:10

[18] Noor al-thaqalayn, v.1, p.216

[19] Mafatih al-Jinan

[20] Munajat al-Shakin – Mafatih al-Jinan

Previously in this series:

Part 2: An Analysis of Surah Al-Fatiha – The concept of Mercy

Part 1: An Analysis of Surah Al-Fatiha 

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