In the name of Allah, the Compassionate, the Merciful. Salaam dear friends and welcome to the 2nd episode of this series. In this episode we are going to start with a simple exegesis of the first chapter of the holy Qur'an namely chapter Hamd.
First or opening Surah or chapter of the holy Qur'an is called "Faatiha", which means the Opening. It is also known as "Hamd" or Divine Praise. It has seven Ayahs, but is so important that its recitation is obligatory in all the first two rak'ats of the 5-times-a-day ritual prayer.
In other words, a Muslim regularly recites it, at least ten times during the day. This Surah begins with the Ayah "Bismillah-hir-Rahman-nir-Rahim", which means "In the Name of God, the All-Compassionate, the All-Merciful". Here we should point out that since the dawn of creation, it has been customary to start any work including eating with the words In the Name of God in order to make that work or duty blessed.
As mankind spread across the face of the earth and split into ethnicities and creeds, because of distortion and disobedience of the revealed words of God, this habit was maintained, but in a mutilated way, since the idolaters and the polytheists, started mentioning the name of their own creation, that is, the idols, before starting any work.
When Europe replaced religion with secularism, the name of God was replaced by kings, presidents, and prime ministers, before starting any work. But let's use our brains! Is there anything or anybody Greater than God the Omnipresent? The answer is No. Then is it not wise to mention the Name of God before the start of any work in view of the fact that His Will and power transcend all human intentions and the degrees of power. Indeed all other divine scriptures start with the Name of the Almighty.
Thus, Islam not only recommends us to begin all our affairs with "Bismillah" it also teaches us not to eat of the flesh of an animal slaughtered without reciting "Bismillah". As we said, Bismillah is not restricted to Islam. As it is mentioned in the holy Qur'an, Prophet Noah boarded his Ark at the start of the Great Deluge with the recitation of Bismillah. History also records that millenniums later, Prophet Solomon started his letter to Belqeis, the queen of Saba' or Sheba in Yemen, with the same words, that is, Bismillah-hir-Rahman-nir-Rahim, or in the Name of God, the All-Compassionate, the All-Merciful. According to the exegetes Bismillah-hir-Rahman-nir-Rahim in this surah is an ayah itself. In their opinion the reason for this is the fact that the infallible Ahl al-Bayt or the Blessed Household of Prophet Mohammad (SAWA) used to always recite it loudly and discouraged its recitation in a low voice. Bismillah is the source of bounty and blessing and indeed it ensures the affairs started by it. It means that we seek God's help in our works.
Bismillah gives a divine aspect to one's works and deeds, thus making them devoid of hypocrisy, apostasy, or polytheistic tendencies. Bismillah means "O my God I haven't forgotten you, so You, too, do not ignore me." One who says Bismillah attaches himself to the infinite power and the boundless bounty of God. The next ayah of Surah Hamd is:
الحمد لله رب العالمین (al-hamdu-lillah-e Rabbil-a'lamin)
"All praise belongs to the Lord of the universe" (1:1)
Starting the Surah with the God's name we come to the second ayah that teaches us to thank and praise God the Creator of each and every thing. He is the One Who has taught the bee how to build the hive and which flower's nectar to take. He is the One Who has taught the ant how to save its winter provision. He is the One Who turns the wheat seed to a sheath or an apple seed to an apple tree. He is the One Who has created this lofty sky and has designated a fixed orbit for each planet or celestial body. It is He Who has created us from clay and water, evolving us in our mothers' wombs and providing us with the best means of upbringing. He is the One Who has enabled our body to defend itself, to repair a broken fracture or to restore the lost blood.
God is not only the Source of our physical rising but also the Source of our spiritual and psychological guidance and upbringing. He is the One Who has designated wisdom and cognizance and sent the Messengers and Apostles to guide mankind. From this ayah we learn that: That the human beings and all living creatures, and even inanimate objects owe their existence to God Almighty, and feel grateful for His favours. The 3rd ayah of this surah is:
الرَّحْمَـٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ (ar-Rahman-nir-Rahim)
"the All-Compassionated, the All-Merciful" (1:2)
God is the symbol of mercy, kindness, and forgiveness. We can see myriad examples of His mercy in the bounties that He has created for us. The beautiful flowers with sweet smells, tasty fruits, colorful clothes, and so on and so forth are all gifts of God.
God has set child's affection in the mother's heart while He himself is kinder than every mother. His chastisement and punishment are also manifestations of His attentiveness to awaken the sinful servants to repent and seek forgiveness, and not the sign of His vengeance.
Therefore if we repent of our misdeeds, He will erase our bad deeds and forgive our sins. From this ayah we learn that; God raises creatures by His mercy and affection because He has twice introduced Himself in this surah as "ar-Rahman-nir-Rahim". It means that our grooming and education is placed between two mercies and that instruction begins from mercy and ends in forgiveness. Thus instructors have to behave affectionately if they want to be successful.