Fourth ayah of al-Fatihah: Iyyaaka na’abudu wa iyyaaka nasta’een
The first three ayahs of al-Fatihah are Allah’s complete introduction to Himself. All of these things are knowledge of Allah has taught us about Himself. All this knowledge leads to results. All lead to us saying, I’m ready, sign me up.
If we learn who Allah is in the first three ayahs, automatically know that He is listening. Because if he is Master, He is listening to His slaves. So no reason for you to wait and get an appointment.
Translation: It is only You that we give ourselves totally absolutely completely in worship. Note: We are talking to Allah, not talking about Allah. Allah taught us to talk to Him. Natural result is to want to talk to Him.
This is a declaration of slavery. Declaration of dependence. Beautiful because when you and I give up our independence, it is the only time that we are truly free. We don’t feel bad because short or fat or anything else, because only One we have to impress is Allah. It is the real declaration of independence because it is independence from everything else. Money, praise of people.
“Only You we give ourselves into slavery and worship.”
- Definition of a slave is someone who doesn’t do what they want, do what the Master wants. Only time do what they want is when Master says ok. Otherwise never do what they want without asking Master.
- In Qur’an, word Rabb comes in close proximity with word huda (guidance). Over and over again, Allah repeats word Rabb (Master) with huda.
- Q: What is relationship between master and guidance?
- A slave is only a slave when does s/he what the Master wants. A Master only Master when gives slave instructions. What is guidance if not instructions? If you have accepted Allah as Master, need guidance after declaration of dependence. Without instructions, can’t be a slave. Revelation is Allah saying you asked, here it is.
wa iyyaaka nasta’een
Translation: Only Your help we seek.
Specific help described by word nasta’een is help in matters that you are struggling with. If ask for help when already struggling, use this word. So by using this word, making a claim that Allah, I’m already trying everything I can, please help me, can’t do it all by myself. In other words, if you are not making any attempts, have no right to ask Allah for help. That’s what that verse means. Allah is saying, Don’t you dare ask for help until struggling yourself already.
This is a formula from Allah for life and you see this throughout the Qur’an. First Ibrahim thrown into the fire, then fire becomes cool. First Muslims show up at battle of Badr then the angels come. First make effort, then the help arrives. When we ask Allah for help, already claiming that “Ya Allah I’m already trying”. So you better not be lying to Allah. Bad lying to each other, but shouldn’t be lying to Allah. If saying in salaat, “I declared slavehood to You, and I’m trying so hard, please help me” and running from Maghrib to watch tv, watch out. Is that not insulting to Allah? Is that not lying to Allah? Don’t make a joke of salah. It’s supposed to transform your personality. It’s is not hit and run that you get it over with. So ironic that people recite the shortest surah they know. And Surah al-Asr the whole surah is telling you that you’re in trouble because you don’t have any time.
Full translation: It is only You that we put ourselves in slavery and it is only Your aid (after putting in effort ourselves) that we seek.
Why put ayah in this sequence?
Created to become slaves and worship and in order to do that, we need help. Primary task of ours is mentioned first. What we owe Allah should be mentioned first out of respect, and what we want for ourselves is secondary. What Allah wants comes first, what you want comes 2nd. Don’t ask Allah on the 27th of Ramadan, saying “I need a promotion, I need a raise, I need…”, when you’ve haven’t given Allah attention the entire year. Don’t ask Allah for things when you haven’t given him his due first. We’re learning right here that before you ask Me, you better be doing your job. And you bettter be doing so much of your job that you are brave enough to actually have the guts to stand here before Me and say “Ya Allah I’m making a claim that I’m enslaving myself to You. And that’s why I feel I am qualified to ask You for help. I’m trying to become Your Slave. Please help me.
And if you can honestly do that, now beginning to understand what al-Fatihah is and what it’s supposed to do for us.
2) Once ask for help, need to say what you need help with. Needs to be clear. Only time don’t need to say what you need help with specificaly is when it’s obvious to person asking help from. Here, we haven’t said “Allah help me with x”.
Reasons for this:
- He already knows
- LIst was so long that I just said help, because don’t need help with one thing (need help with career, health, mother in law, parents etc). List is so long, just say help.
- Desperate. Not time to explain. Desperate for Allah’s help, can’t come up with words, so just saying help.
- Principle of proximity: Saying to Allah, help me with slavery. Not limited to slavery, but first help needed is with being a successful creation, a successful slave.
- So we ask for specific thing of instruction, and then other things.
– Nouman Ali Khan, Bayyinah TV, Quran Cover to Cover.