The first chapter of the Quran is a light and short reading, and appropriately called Al-Faatiḥa, “The Introduction.” It is a prayer and a psalm, from the speaker to God.
Because this chapter is so short, I think it is easy and appropriate to give you the transliteration (my own) and translation (Sahih International):
al-ḥamdu li-llaahi rabb-il-ʕaalamiin
iyyaaka naʕbudu wa-iyyaaka nastaʕiin
ṣiraaṭ-adh–dhiina anʕamta ʕalayhim ghayr-il-maghḍuubi ʕalayhim wa-laa-aḍ-ḍaaliin
In the name of THE GOD, the Entirely Merciful, the Especially Merciful,
[All] praise is [due] to THE GOD, Lord of the worlds,
The Entirely Merciful, the Especially Merciful,
Sovereign of the Day of Recompense.
It is You we worship and You we ask for help.
Guide us to the straight path –
The path of those upon whom You have bestowed favor, not of those who have evoked [Your] anger or of those who are astray.
My app comes with murattal by Muhammed Sidiq el-Minshawi, and while I don’t understand the music theory that determines its patterns, he has a good voice. I rather hope that by the time I get through the whole book, I’ll have developed an ear for the musical patterns. I enjoy the way this surah sounds. Notice that there is a light rhyming scheme to the verses, with each verse ending with a “een” or “eem” sound.
I’d like to share a little Arabic grammar. In Arabic, adjectives come after nouns and they have to match the definitive case of the noun. This means that if the noun comes with “the,” then the adjectives also have to have their own “the.” “The green heavy book” thus has to be come, “The book, the green, the heavy.” Proper names have an implied “the” in their nature, and so “Jolly Old Saint Nick” becomes “Saint Nick, the Jolly, the Old.” It’s a quaintly grand way of describing things that I find enjoyable. Everything starts sounding rather royal, which suits the object of this surah.
The title of the surah is something to note. There is no fixed pattern determining chapter titles in the Quran. Sometimes a chapter is titled for some odd or repetitive word in its content, or sometimes its first words, and the names can be different according to the traditions of different cultures. This chapter is simply called an “introduction.” By the simplest interpretation, it is the introduction to the Quran as the first chapter. It also looks like an introduction to prayer as a formula or example. In brevity, some content, and cultural function it does resemble the Lord’s prayer. It is also an introduction to God and sets up the relationship between man and God.
As far as introductions go, this is a very gentle one. Its message finds resonance in the beliefs of its religious cousins: Only God is all-knowing enough to determine right from wrong. Because God does not sanction wrong, mankind must appeal to His mercy and ask for guidance. The message of this surah is the presence of both danger and hope. The big question left hanging is, “what is God’s answer?” and we’ll get Islam’s reply as we keep reading further.
I take consolation in that I’m journaling personal explorations here, and not trying to break out some new information that people never had access to. So while I know that Wikipedia is not an academically viable resource, can we all just give it a hurrah for collecting as much information as it has, and for making it available subscription and ad-free to the public?