بســــــــــــــــــــــــــــــــم الله الرحمن الرحــيــم

السلام عليكم و رحمة الله وبركاته

Allah directs us to ask Him to guide us to the siraat al-Mustaqim. Note, that immediate after a declaration of seeking help from Allah alone, we are to seek help in guidance, another reminder of the master-slave relationship. We could have asked for help in a number of good things: forigveness, rizq, easy life, a ton of other things, but guidance is the most valuable of them all, and with guidance everything else is solved. Also, look at the example of Musa, alayhi as- Salam, and Pharoah; Ibrahim, alayhi as-Salam against his people; Muhammad salla Allahu alayhi wasallam, versus the ‘rich’ and ‘powerful’ of his community, real success was with the ones who were rightly guided, regardless of the worldly false standards of a ‘good-life’.

As for the imperative verb, ‘Ihdina,’ one may ask why it is in the plural first-person. Why not ihnidi? The answer to this has great implications to our life as an ummah, in general, and as communities and individual families, in particular. Allah asks us to live this life together. The collective life of a Muslim is extremely important. It encourages one to do good deeds and discourages evil. The rewards of collective good deeds are multiplied. And the angels descend upon a gathering in which the remembrance of Allah takes place. And so, the fact that we ask Allah for help in a gathering is not to be taken lightly. A side note, we recite al-Fatiha at least 17 times each day, and each time we go through this ayah where we beg Allah to guide us to the straight path. To put things into perspective, imagine yourself sitting in a restaurant. You are extremely thirsty and ask the server for water. After the first drink, you feel like having some more and ask the server for another glass. Would your second request sound the same as the first one? Will it have the same level of urgency? Imagine that there was no easy way of getting water, yet your throat was dry with thirst. Imagine you were unable to get water from anywhere, would you be in a state of desperation? Would you cry out for water? Would you keep repeating your cries for water until you received it and were satisfied? Similar is the case with guidance. Allah, by making it mandatory for us to recite this surah in every salah—to the point that the Prophet salla Allahu alayhi wasallam said that there is no salah without the fatiha—has shown us the reality of our lives in relation to guidance. We beg for guidance over and over each day, yet fail to realize that this is because we don’t own guidance. We need guidance, we are desperate for it. Perhaps our situation is comparable to a person who is unaware of some internal physical injury. This person might not get treatment for it because they may not realize the magnitude of their injury. Like that, we, fail to truly reflect upon the implications of the constant repetition of al-Faitha in our lives, from the day salah becomes mandatory upon us to the day we die, we are to repeat this surah, and beg Allah for guidance. It is almost as if we ask Allah for guidance at Fajr, and lest we get misguided by noon, we ask Allah again for guidance at Dhuhr, and lest we forget it by the afternoon, we do so again at Asr, and so on. We are to ask Allah for guidance our whole lives.

And if that is not enough, we recite al-Faitha in the first rakah, and we bow down to Allah, and rise up and ask for guidance again, as if we were prone to have not been guided during the time we were praying! In essence, our lives are the times we pray, the hours between are times when we see whether we have been guided or not. This is another indication of the difference between knowledge and guidance. Many people have knowledge, few are guided by it. Knowledge is easy to obtain, guidance is only from Allah. Whomsoever Allah guides, no one can misguide, whomsoever Allah leaves to go astray, no one can bring back to the path of guidance. As for the word ‘siraat,’ then there can only be one ‘siraat’. This words comes from ‘suraat’, which means a long straight sword. Siraat is a kind of path, from A to B, without any alternate route. So, for instance if you deviated slightly from that path, your GPS would not calculate a new route, rather it would instruct you to rejoin the point of the siraat that you deviated from, where are no shortcuts. That is why in the Arabic language, it doesn’t even have plurals, unlike sabeel (subul), tareeq (taraaiq), shari’ (shawaari’), and so on. There is only a siraat.

Just how Allah says, إن الدين عند الله الاسلام Linguistically, there can only be one siraat, it has to be straight and linguistically it also has to be wide, as Shiekh Ahmad al-Kubaisi explains. The benefit of wide path is perhaps that it can accommodate more travellers. Also, historically speaking, a siraat is very dangerous. Since the pat is so straight, simple, predictable, and without many turns, it would make caravans vulnerable to attacks. Likewise, a siraat makes it easy for its users to be attacked. The next word in the ayah is al-Mustaqim, which is commonly translated as straight. Now, what is the problem with that translation? Well, we already saw that the word siraat itself implies straightness, so this would be a redundant translation. Mustaqim is related to istiqaamah, which means to seek straightness (when something stands straight), and it is related to qaamah, which means to stand (like how it is used in the iqaamah). Another dimension this adds to the meaning is that Allah is telling us to tread a path that is going straight up, a spiritual jouney to Him. Literally, this path is going up like a ladder, leaving this dunya. We are basically struggling against the gravity of the worldly life, on our journey to Allah. And this gravity of this dunya, its temptations, seductions will always be there till we die and end our initial journey. It doesn’t matter how much worship we have done, this gravity is always going to be there with us while we are alive. In reality, the higher you are up the ladder, the harder you will fall once you slip. And the more Allah has raised you with His blessings, and you still disobey Allah, the harder you are going to fall. In fact, Allah has compared such a person to likes of a dog (not even a direct comparison with a dog, perhaps implying this person is below the dog).

Allah says in surah al-A’raaf (v.176), If it had been Our will, We should have elevated him with Our signs; but he inclined to the earth, and followed his own vain desires. His similitude is that of a dog: if you attack him, he lolls out his tongue, or if you leave him alone, he (still) lolls out his tongue. That is the similitude of those who reject Our signs; So relate the story; perchance they may reflect.” And this is the trick of the shaytaan, who slowly brings the human to a path of disobedience, as Allah describes his action in surah surah al-A’raaf (v.22), “Fa dallahuma…” that he slowly got them into what he wanted; like someone raising a bucket from a well, slow and steady. So we discussed that this path is straight, long, wide, difficult, heading upwards, and now we know where we have to go.

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