You can find the complete series on this link Quran Tafsir – Surah Al-Fatihah Series
Ayah 4 (Part 1) Iyyaka Na’budu Iyya ka Naa’budu (Only You We Worship [a’budu])
Until ayah 3 we understood who Allah is, His quality and what does He mean to us. He is our Master, but a very loving caring and merciful master. And he is someone who ensures justice among His slaves as well. This is the first thing that Allah tells us. He doesn’t start by saying” Do not worship anyone but me or there is no god but Allah therefore all the gods you worship are fake.”
How do we start our dawah? We need to understand that when we introduce Allah to the non- Muslims there can be no better introduction than what Allah himself gave us in Fatiha. Now the first 3 ayaat were something like a portion you have in the beginning of every book “About the Author”.
As soon as we reach the fourth ayah, it is shocking.“Only You, we worship!” We mean humans and You mean Allah. So when we read the fourth ayah we realize this surah is being recited while me being the first person and Allah being the second person. All the time we are reading the first three ayah. It seems like Allah is saying those words but actually we are the ones saying all these words.
I like to explain further that suratul Fatiha as “Fatiha is a Contract written in front of you, and the Ameen that which you say is your signature on this contract.” The content was written in front of you; Praise is to Allah, He is Rabb and He is so and so thus we worship Him only and so… will you sign it? Then say Ameen. If you don’t wish to sign this contract then don’t say Ameen. The contract is that you will worship only Him. Whatever we were reading before, is the reason why we want to worship You only.
Another amazing is, Ameen is not written in Fatiha. You have the choice in the end if you wish to sign this contract or not. Understanding suratul Fatiha as a contract is a very very important theory if you are continuing to study Qur’an because the complete Qur’an is based on this one theory (which is supported by Hadith that I will quote later on).
Let’s first understand what this contract is; Iyyaka Na’budu. What does Na’budu means?
Na’budu is a verb in present tense if we remove tense from it the root word is A’bd. It’s amazing that a’bd is grammatically the opposite of Rabb. Rabb means master and a’bd means slave. Iyyaka Na’budu actually means “Only Your Slavery we accept.”
So this is not a general contract rather a contract of a job. We are signing that we accept this job and that is to be a slave of your Master (Rabb). It’s amazing that we don’t mind being a secretary of a boss but the idea of being slave of Rabb makes us hesitant. So this ayah actually serves as a portion you find in any book referred to as “Is this Book for you”.
Here we have to decide do we accept the slavery? If yes then we move on reading this book, or we want to reject this job of slavery then close the book immediately.
According to a narration of authentic Isnad it is reported to have said; “Allah sent 404 Books on Earth. The summary of all books is Zaboor, Tawrah, Injeel and Quran. The summary of all four books is the Qur’an. The Summary of the Qur’an is Fatiha. The summary of Fatiha is Iyyaka Na’budu. “ In this narration it is very clear that the complete Qur’an is based in just this one part of ayah, the theory that we sign this contract of slavery to Allah. Not to mention that this contract also has its expiry time. That is why daily five times a day, Allah calls us to renew this contract again and again. In the first 3 Ayah we understood who Allah is and then it is our decision to accept Allah or not. Now we are understanding who we are and it is our decision to accept what we are or not.
Ayah 4(Part 2) Wa iyyaka Nasta’een “And from you only we seek Help”
So we actually just read “is this book for you” portion from Fatiha. Now either we accept the job of slavery and move on to study more of the Qur’an or we reject and leave its study. Perhaps we all chose to accept that’s why I am still writing this Tafseer and you are still reading. Alhamdulillah for guiding us! This makes us the slaves of Allah. Great! We got the job, superb! But what to do in this job, what is next!!? Every job has some guidelines and to be successful in your profession you have to abide by the guidelines.
So here is the next commitment, “From you only we seek Help”. Help for what? First and foremost we need the help of our Master to be successful in this job of Slavery and to be able to know what to do and what’s not to do. And we need help so He forgives our mistakes. And that He be easy on us also considers our own worldly needs.
But there is one thing very interesting in this ayah, notice that Allah mentions first you accept the slavery then you may ask for Allah’s help. First get devoted to Allah!
There are lots of people in this ummah who sadly turns to Allah only at the time of trouble. This is not supposed to be and it doesn’t work this way. First accept that Allah is your master and you do that which Allah permitted and leave what the master prohibited, then it is when your call for help is heard.
Now this part this important; the word Nasta’een doesn’t mean we want help. The ‘AS’ in nASta’een actually means seeking something, being desperate for something. The contract which we are signing actually says, “We give ourselves to Slavery to only you, & we desperately want your help regarding what to do next.” In other words each time you recite Al Fatiha, you are signing a contract that says, you are desperately eager to get to Master’s command and you being a slave obey to it!
Now you answer, are we lying when we say Ameen at the end of Fatiha? Sadly most of us might do, yes we say Ameen to Fatiha which is the seal of commitment to this contract between us and Allah however we neither care to understand the contract nor we care to follow it. What makes you think that if you sign a contract without reading then you will automatically attain your property in jannah.
How many times inside Qur’an Allah tells us, why don’t you ponder upon my ayaat? Why don’t you think? Why don’t you understand if you listened and thought? Etc…There are certain opinions about why Allah only mentions in this contract you or we ask for help. Why Allah doesn’t clearly mentioned help for what? The most interesting answer one can find in the tafseer called Ruh ul Ma’ani (it’s available only in Arabic & urdu — but the best work of tafseer according to me).
So why doesn’t Allah clearly mention for what things we are asking for help? Let us look at this situation; A man is in a very nice place, a mountain cliff however, he suddenly fell down and found something to grab but left him hanging midair. Then what probably he will shout?
“All those who are listening you are being informed that I am hanging from a cliff in mid air and whosoever is around please come and don’t forget to bring a rope to drag me up”. This is so illogical. Of course he will just shouts one word, Heeellllllppp help help help and he will just keeps repeating it. He doesn’t even care to tell why he is asking help or for what reason..!!!
After reading the description of Allah we find ourselves in a severe error, from this point, we need to change so that Rahman’s love surround us and Malik’s judgement doesn’t hit against us. So we decide to accept Allah as Rabb and ourselves as A’bd and then shout desperately for help. If you hear an Imam cry during salah (notice, many imam cry right at this point) because they realize that they are asking for help desperately and whatever Allah’s command comes after this, is actually the answer of the cry of help they are shouting.
May Allah give us the ability to understand our salah in the right way and bring khushu’ in our salah as well as open our hearts to understand this mighty book of wisdom, Ameen!