Monday, May 18, 2015

Commentary on the Quran: Chapter 1 Verse 2

This is the second post and another personal commentary on the Quran. To continue from the last post, I am going to post my commentary on the first chapter of the Quran: “The Opener” and this time I will focus on the second verse. Since I am being somehow lazy, I will try to make this a bit shorter than the previous post. The chapter is commonly named based on this verse, you will find many Arabian Muslims calls the first chapter of the Quran: “Surat Al Hamd” surat means chapter, Al-Hamd stands for the praise. This is usually common, some names of the chapters in the Quran are taken from the verses of that chapter, or a special story or an event…etc Anyway, the way it’s written in the copies of the Quran is: “Al Fatihah” which means “The Opener”. Anyway let’s start

Chapter 1 Verse 2
الْحَمْدُ لِلَّهِ رَبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ
Transliteration: “Alhamdu lillahi rabbi alAAalameen"
Translation: “All praise is due to Allah , Lord of the worlds”

I think this is an easy verse to understand, nothing hard to get. Clear, simple and utterly beautiful. Let’s turn on the engine of curiosity and start asking few questions. Why did Allah start with Praising himself? why did he select the word “Praise instead of All thanks”? Why did Allah say: “Al Hamdu” instead of “Hamdu” ? Some may think that I am being annoying by asking these questions, but believe me… the answer of such questions allows you to learn more about God’s words and feel it’s beauty. First of all ,vwhat is “Al Hamd” ? Many Muslims and Arabs use this word as an expression of giving thanks to God. You may hear them saying: “Al Hamdu Lillah I passed the exam” they use this term to express their gratitude and thanks to God for passing the exam, for getting money, for being gifted with a new born child, …etc but the word “Al Hamd” is more than thanks and gratitude, it has a greater meaning. The word: “Al Hamdu” not only it covers the thanks and gratitude part, but also means praises, praises to God. Praises for being the supreme God, praises for being the creator of the universe, of life, of mankind. What’s the different between “Al Hamd and Al Shukr”. Al Shukr means All thanks, all gratitude. While Al-Hamd all praises. We, human beings by nature, tend to thank anyone who does any good to us, if they give us money we thank them, if they help us we thank them, if they protect us, we thank them. However we, usually don’t thank those who didn’t do us any good. But we may still praise them. We say this man is a great person, a great scholar, an awesome soul, artist, smart, genius, …etc all these are different type praises but it does not necessarily mean you are grateful to them. 

Based on the above, you will understand why God said: “Al Hamdu “ instead of “Al Shukru” because Allah the God, is worthy to be praised even if he gave you something or he didn’t, he is worthy to be praised now, before and in the future. He is worthy to be praised even before creating the man.  Also, deserves to be praised after creating humanity and life. Now… why did Allah use the word: “Al Hamdu” instead of: “Hamdu” without the Al? if Allah wanted to be praised “Hamdu was enough, why did he add “Al”? in Arabic, adding the Al gives deeper meaning to the word, it means the whole thing, the whole praises, all that can be under the shadow of this world. So adding the two letters: “Al” before “Hamdu” it will cover all types of praises, this includes, all type of thanks, gratitude. So when we say: “Al Hamdu” we are declaring that all type praises, all type of thanks is for Allah. Which makes sense! Who but Allah, deserves all the praises and thanks? Allah has been always giving you blessings even though you are still in your mother’s womb, in fact, the protection you receive, the love that is born in your parent’s hearts, the food and the care you get from the doctors, …etc Don’t all this  require gratitude? Anyway, I am not going to write why we need to thank God, because it’s obvious. I just wanted you to notice the different it makes to add only two letters to a word, it gives it a greater meaning. 

Also another interesting thing what’s the importance of saying: “Al Hamdu lillahi”, because no human can gives thanks to everything God gave us. We humans sometimes feel bad if we gave someone 10 things and he only thanked us for 5 things out of the 10 we gave him, right? many of us at least expect thanks to everything we give, but God isn’t like that, why? because God is a merciful God, he knows that no matter how much humans try, even if they are given the chance to live for thousands of years, it wouldn’t be enough for them to thanks God for everything he gave them. So he accepted the least in few words: “Al Hamdu Lillahi”, it’s sad some people say God is demanding too much, if God was really demanding too much, even if we add the age of all human beings to our age it won’t be enough, because every breath we are breathing demands a gratitude, who can do this? every cell in your body requires a gratitude, every motion of electron requires gratitude if we are aware of it’s importance … yet God didn’t ask for you to thank him this way, because God is not a human being, giving him thanks wouldn’t add anything to his great kingdom, he simply gave us instruction to behave respectfully, and the instruction was very simple, very meaningful. 

Now you would understand why Arab Muslims never say: “Al Hamdu” to anyone but to God, not even the messengers of God. You will never find in Islamic scriptures and writings something like: “Al Hamdu Li Mohammed” the reason for that, because Mohammed may be praised for ten to two things to more, he can be thanked for this or that, but the one who really worths all the thanks, all the praises is only God. So if you found in the future, anyone saying: “Al Hamdu to Messenger Mohammed or to the King, or the President” immediately tell them, stop being a liar. The only reason the King, the President or even the great messenger Mohammed could give you anything worth gratitude from your side, is because of Allah. If Allah didn’t create them, could they create themselves and give you what they give you? so you can give them all sorts of thanks and praises? Think about what I said for few seconds…

Why God started his book with this? I mean all praises to God, why is that? God is telling you, whatever that exists, whatever you are going to read is all due thanks to God. It’s also a way to show respect to the great God, that before you start, you are seeking his blessings (Previous post), then you started praising him. It’s like a loving servant of a king, he is trying to deliver a message to people, what  would he say? He could say: In the name of my King, he instructed to do this and that” or he could say before giving the instruction, “In the name of my King, the one who deserves all the praises and all thanks, the one who did this or that…etc he is instructing you to… “ which one do you think will be accepted more by the people? and which one do you think is more respectful to the king? of course the second. 

Let’s ask few more questions, why did Allah say: “Al Hamdu Lillahi? All praises and thanks to Allah? Why didn't he say: “Al Hamdu LiRahman” or All thanks and praises to Al-Raheem or to All-Mighty, …etc? if you read the previous post you would understand. Well, it’s because as I said previously, the name Allah contains all the meanings of the other great names of Allah. When you say Allah you are recalling all other names such as The Lord, The God, The Merciful, The All-Knowing, The Forgiver, …etc” so instead of listing all names, One is enough. If you think about it, it’s somehow contains mercy in itself, imagine if God asked us to praise him by all his names, who can do this? no one! Also if you are poor and you suddenly find hundreds of thousands on the ground and no one was there, you might recall the attribute of God the giver, or if you were close to die in a car accident, but somehow you survived, you would recall the “Protector” attribute of God, or if you repented to God and suddenly you feel a peace of mind and heart you might recall the attribute that God is all-forgiving. So instead of thanking God by using specific name, he made it easy to all human beings by teaching them the best way to give praises and thanks to him, and that’s by simple saying all praises and thanks to Allah. which is very simple in Arabic: “Al Hamdu Lillahi”, isn’t it beautiful? It seems I am failing to make this short, I am sorry. Please bear with me, I will try to finish it soon. 

Now to the second part of the verse: 

Transliteration: Alhamdu lillahi rabbi alAAalameen"
Translation: All praise is due to Allah , Lord of the worlds”

Rabbi AlAalameen in simple terms means the God of the worlds, or the God of all that exists. Be it plants, animals, humans, angels, stars, worlds, universes, …etc. Al Rabb in Arabic does have different meanings, it means the Lord, or the who educate and raises or the guardian, and it also means the sustainer. If you go in depths to each of these meanings with the Arabic roots you would understand why God used this term specifically in this verse, I will try to avoid that because it will make this very long. 

So this name of God: “Al Rabb” covers the above three or four different meanings, and I see it equivalent to the english word God. Allah mentioned he is “Rabbi AlAalameen” after saying all praises to Allah in his words: “Al Hamdu lillahi”, have you ever thought why? Think about it, assume you are talking to someone and you started praising God, and let’s assume that other person doesn’t know what is God, and he doesn't know any special name of God such as: “Allah or Al Rahman” what’s the best way to describe him? it’s by describing his position and greatest works or acts of God. The Lord of the worlds is his position, he created the world, he raised it (Made it come into existence the way its) and raises his creation and their guardian in sense of educating through revealing or other means and finally sustain and control existence. If you think about these three things, you would realise it’s basically covers in my opinion everything God does. I am going to explain in a second.

God creates, he created the universe, planned how the world would run and executed his plan through his direct interference or indirect. He placed the mechanism out there, he created mankind, man and woman, …etc all these acts of creation is part of the God name: “Al Rabb” and it’s the first of the three main works. The second part is sustaining the world and controlling it, so if God wrote death upon someone, he sent his punishment… sent his angels to do this or that, …etc all these type of acts fall under sustaining and controlling. God answers prayers, God supports his messengers with his Powers, God gives his messengers miracles, …etc all these type of works is part of the guardian. It’s simply one word God used: “Al Rabb” but it covers all the above, and honestly dear reader, is there any better way to describe God? You describe his position, his main acts/works/…etc in less than one short verse. If God used any other name of his beautiful name, it wouldn’t give the above meaning to the verse. If he used his most known names or special names/attributes, some might not know that’s why he didn’t use Allah or AlRahman, I mean he didn’t say: “Allahu AlAalameen” or “Rahmanul AlAaalameen”. Imagine if I keep praising myself, you might say: “But who are you AbdulAziz” If I answer: “I am AbdulAziz I am Ahmed, or Mohammed, or Ali, or Omar…etc” it wouldn’t give the one asking me any information. However, if I gave them my position, my role, what I do, …etc they would say yeah now it make sense why is he praising himself or deserves praising. Try it with atheists, or Christians, Jews, Hindus, tell them All praises to Allah” not all of them understands what’s Allah, but all of them understands what is God. Similarly, if a Jew came to me and said, all praises to Yahweh I wouldn’t understand who is he referring to, but if he said God I would definitely understand. If Christians said all praises to Jesus, to me as a Muslim I know Jesus as great messenger of God, so when I hear they say this, it comes to my mind they are praising Jesus not the supreme God who created the universe. But if they said all praises to God, I would immediately understand who they are talking about. 

If you understood what I said, you would realize the above international translation of the verse is lacking somehow in the meaning of “Rabb”. They translated as Lord of the Worlds, while its ok but doesn’t indicate the deeper meaning of God’s name: “Ar Rabb” as mentioned above. Alright I promised I will try to make this short which is a promise I failed to keep. If you are interested in knowing more about this verse, I wrote 3 blog posts in Arabic and they are available in my blog. Thank you for reading and may God bless you, your family and loved ones. 

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