By Shofi Ahmed:
To be in the know is to be with the world. And the essence of it is to be simple. It can happen. The big world couldn’t be a smaller one. Nowadays the world fits in the palm of one’s hand. Our time is celebrated as Information Age. We can read the whole Qur’an, Hadis, tradition and any latest up to date progress on the mobile phone. The essence of information is simplicity.
The planet earth is now known as a global village thanks to the technical know-how and online information. The pick of the Himalaya, the highest place on earth now can be seen on live screen without lifting a single finger let alone climbing any mountain. However, there are good old facts these never change. Not even with the tremendous advancement of science. For instance, the demand for simplicity, demand for wellbeing, these always been and will always be. Although how people will strive to get them might vary from time to time. Likewise, it’s always been and is still the case the bigger the crowd the less the time is to reach out across the board.
The Qur’an is spot on meets this universal demand. Sura Al-Fathiha is the most simple opening chapter under the sun. It barely takes a minute but delivers the message direct and to the point. And relates to the people extraordinarily simply.
A big shout doesn’t ink a deal. What does is a short concise intro that’s to the point simply simple and meaningful. That takes least of the people’s time but delivers the most. Such an opening pitch is most sought after by the spin doctors and contemporary information age nerds alike.
Remarkably we have this ideal, golden opening. We read it we hear it, again and again, day in day out. It’s the same opening chapter we draw into. Yet it’s never old. Always new. Most of the Muslims know it. It’s the most known, most read chapter.
It’s sura Al-Fathiha! Simply the most simple opening chapter under the sun. Barely takes a minute but it tells the complete story. It’s easier to read, easier to memorise and sounds extraordinarily simple. Moreover, it’s very easy to relate to it. We can barely feel any complication though we read it through on the day and in the night. Before the sunrise, in the day and after the sunsets. And that happens every day without feeling any pinch whatsoever. It’s that fluid. Yet ordinary and extraordinary folks alike can extract meanings from it forever.
Obviously, the first chapter of the Holy Qur’an Sura Al-Fathiha has tons of multiple qualities. Nonetheless, in addition, it is being presented in optimized simplicity. That constitutes the basis of the ideal communication. A simple statement, especially the simple opening is universally regarded as the best.
Not only in pen and paper the demand for simplicity outstrips. Expands to the technical sphere too. The experts say the more the technology is advancing at a lightning speed so is the demand for quick, fast, live communications. So bigger the audience shorter the time is for effective delivery of the message. The demand is for one that simply gets through.
It’s as like long gone are the days for many expats when writing letters from the UK were the means of communication with the loved ones at back homes. We know. Now even the phonecard lost its bite. It’s a matter of live call now that too is free. Just IMO Viber or WhatsApp. It’s happening because of the growing demand for simple communication.
What’s simple and yet meaningful. One that swiftly cuts in and effectively conveys a deep message. According to the Oxford University professors, the ideal piece is one that starts in concrete terms and ends in abstract or vice versa.
Concrete terms refer to objects or events that are available to the senses. This is directly unlike abstract terms, which name things that are not available to the senses. For examples, concrete terms include spoon, table, green, hot, walking etc. Because these terms refer to objects or events we can see or hear or feel or taste or smell, their meanings are pretty stable. If one is asked what he or she meant by the word spoon, that can pick up a spoon and show it.
Abstract terms refer to ideas or concepts; they have no physical referents. Examples of abstract terms include love, success, freedom, good, moral, democracy. So while one can pick up a concrete spoon but can’t pick up to show an abstract freedom. While abstract terms like love change meaning with time and circumstances, concrete terms like spoon stay pretty much the same.
If we look at the composition style of Sura Fatiha, we can see it starts with introducing Allah SWT. The beginning is in His name. All the praises belong to Him. He is Allah who cherishes, nourishes and sustains the universe. He is loving and merciful. And He is the King till the end, The King of the Day of Judgment. A very concrete start. Then leading to the end the subject is a prayer to be guided on Siratum Mustaqim. Generally translated as the straight path.
The quest is for the straight path Siratum Musatakim. What’s indeed straight? There is no generalisation which is academically perfect. There can be no bonafide definition of an absolute good straight path. It’s an abstract term, like love changes meaning with time and circumstances e.g when we marry, have children and when we look back at lost parents or spouses or children.
We don’t see a generalisation in Al-Fathiha. We see an example. Perfectly at the right place following seeking to be on Siratum Mustakim as we read the chapter Al-Fathiha. Allah SWT then gives us examples: “The path of those who have received Your grace; not the path of those who have brought down wrath, nor of those who wander astray”. Ameen.