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Tafsir of [1:4]

Al Hasan al Basri said: Allah sent a hundred books of revelation and out of them, 4 major books, and out of them the Qur’aan to Muhammad sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam. The knowledge of those 100 is gathered in those 4 major books. The knowledge of those 4 is gathered in the Qur’aan. The knowledge of the Qur’aan is gathered in the mufassal and the knowledge of the mufassal is gathered in al faatihah and the knowledge of al faatihah is gathered in “iyyaaka na’badu wa iyyaaka nasta’een”

Recall the hadith that Allah said He has divided the prayer between Him and his slave into two halves. Half for Him and half for His slaves.

The first three aayaat are for praising Allah and glorifying Him.
The fourth ayah is split into two, the first half (iyyaaka na’badu) is to acknowledge Allah’s right to be worshipped. The second half (iyyaaka nasta’een) is for the slave, acknowledging our need for help from Allah.
Ibn ul Arabi quoted a narration that said that this ayah is the connector between the two halves of al faatihah.

By this ayah, worshipping Allah alone and seeking His help alone becomes obligatory.

Understanding this ayah

"You (Alone) we worship, and you (Alone) we ask for help."

Principle: Everything that exists other than Allah is in need of two things without which they cannot exist.

Things that benefit and are good for it (e.g. food). Requires the means to obtain/achieve the good.
Removal of those things that are harmful (e.g. the cold). Requires the means to remove what is harmful (e.g. shelter).

The only one who can provide these things is Allah as is mentioned in many aayaat in the Qur’aan:

“Say, "O Allah, Owner of Sovereignty, You give sovereignty to whom You will and You take sovereignty away from whom You will. You honor whom You will and You humble whom You will. In Your hand is [all] good. Indeed, You are over all things competent.” [3:26]

“And if Allah should touch you with adversity, there is no remover of it except Him. And if He touches you with good - then He is over all things competent.” [6:17]

“Whatever is in the heavens and whatever is on the earth is exalting Allah. To Him belongs dominion, and to Him belongs [all] praise, and He is over all things competent.” [64:1]

There are many such examples in the Qur’aan and Hadith and the ummah is in agreement upon this.

One may think something is beneficial or harmful for him when it is the opposite, e.g. interest, fasting etc.

It is only Allah who can decide this as He is the one who created and knows the true benefits and harms.

There are 9 important elements in this ayah:

1. It is waajib upon us to worship and turn to/seek help from Allah alone by this ayah and anything other than this is disliked.

2. Worship is the reason that Allah has created man and jinn as in [51:56] – “And I did not create the jinn and mankind except to worship Me.”

3. Love is of three kinds, natural attachment, love of Allah and the love of the mushrikeen (sharing their love with partners to Allah)

The first is permissible and should not be put over the love of Allah, the love of Allah is the only absolute love and is waajib and the love of the mushrikeen is haraam.

“And [yet], among the people are those who take other than Allah as equals [to Him]. They love them as they [should] love Allah. But those who believe are stronger in love for Allah...” [2:165]

4. Only Allah is able to help creation.

5. If a person attaches himself to anything other than Allah if not for the sake of Allah, then it harms him.

Thus one can only be attached to something if it helps in worshipping Allah, beyond this is harmful (e.g. eating beyond what is required).

Hadith: “The world and all that is in it is cursed, except the remembrance of Allah and what leads to it.”

(Tirmdhi and Ibn Maajah from Abu Hurayrah)

6. Trusting in an absolute manner in other than Allah will harm and disgrace a person.
Allah is the only one who is free of need and provides you purely out of His mercy and blessing.

7. The creation will not try to benefit or harm you without seeking some benefit for himself.

8. If you are harmed, you cannot remove it without the permission of Allah

Therefore, medication cannot help without the permission of Allah.

9. If you are harmed, no creation can help except with the permission of Allah.


Ibn Taymiyyah said this ayah is a comprehensive statement which encompasses everything, the first, the last and everything between falls within the scope of this statement.

If a person understands this, then he understands this life, its purpose, its good and bad and the aim of the hereafter.
This is the great principle of the tawheed of Allah, sincerity towards His face and all the actions for his sake.


'Ibaadah includes two meanings:

1) The one who worships Allah by compulsion:

“So is it other than the religion of Allah they desire, while to Him have submitted [all] those within the heavens and earth, willingly or by compulsion, and to Him they will be returned?” [3:83]

“There is no one in the heavens and earth but that he comes to the Most Merciful as a servant.” [19:93]

This means that all creation must follow certain things Allah set such as one having to see from his eyes and hear from his ears. He cannot see from his ears or hear from his eyes.

2) The one who worships Allah willingly:

This ‘Ibaadah is defined as a “comprehensive term for everything that Allah loves and is pleased with from the statements and actions, whether open or hidden...”
This is the one who will be rewarded.
This is the meaning of worship in this ayah of al faatihah.

Previous nations made a mistake in their tawheed in terms of worship:

They had no problem accepting Allah as the rabb, the one who created, gives life, provides and causes death. However, they worshipped others beside Him, hoping for some intercession (like the Quraysh).

For this reason, all the messengers emphasised the issue of worshipping Allah alone (uloohiyyah), coming with the message

"Worship Allah, and avoid Taghut (all false deities, etc)." [16:36].

There are 4 types of people in relation to this ayah:

1. Those who worship Allah but do not seek His help in difficulty due to a lack of trust.

“And among mankind is he who worships Allah as it were, upon the very edge (i.e. in doubt); if good befalls him, he is content therewith; but if a trial befalls him, he turns back on his face (i.e. reverts back to disbelief after embracing Islam). He loses both this world and the Hereafter. That is the evident loss.” [22:11]

Thus, he has a lack of patience and struggles when tested.

2. Those who would not worship Allah but would seek His help in difficult times.

3. Those who neither worship Allah nor seek His help

These are the worst kind, the ones who turn away from the worship of Allah
Includes the people who worship their desires and are only interested in the world.
Also includes the people who think they are religious but are following another religion:

“...They follow but a guess and that which they themselves desire, whereas there has surely come to them the Guidance from their Lord!”[53:23]

4. Those who worship Allah and seek His help alone.

These are the ones who Allah said about them:

“...but Allah has endeared the Faith to you and has beautified it in your hearts, and has made disbelief, wickedness and disobedience (to Allah and His Messenger SAW) hateful to you. These! They are the rightly guided ones” [49:7]