بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
:الحمد لله، والصلاة والسلام على رسول الله، وبعد
Some Ayaat (Quranic verses) and Surahs (Chapters) have more merit than others. And Surat al-Fatihah (the Opening Chapter) is certainly one with many virtues, and among the greatest surahs of the Quran - if not the single greatest one! Imam Ahmad (RA) recorded that the Prophet (SAW) said to Abdullah bin Jabir (RAA): “Shall I inform you of the best Surah in the Qur'an?” He said: ‘Yes, O Messenger of Allah!' He (SAW) said: "Recite ‘All praise be to Allah, the Lord of the existence,' (Surat al-Fatihah) until the end.''
Also, Muslim (RA) recorded in his Sahih, and al-Nasa'i (RA) in his Sunan that Ibn Abbas (RAA) said:
"While Jibril (Gabriel, AS) was with the Messenger of Allah (SAW), he heard a noise from above. Jibril lifted his sight to the sky and said: ‘This is a door in heaven being opened, and it has never been opened before now.'
An angel descended from that door and came to the Prophet (SAW) and said: ‘Receive the glad tidings of two lights that you have been given, which no other Prophet before you was given: the Opening of the Book (Surat al-Fatihah) and the last (two or three) Ayaat (verses) of Surat Al-Baqarah. You will not read a single letter of them, but will surely gain its benefit.'''
Furthermore, in the chapter on “The Virtues of the Qur'an”, Imam al-Bukhari (RA) recorded that Abu Sa'eed al-Khudri (RAA) said:
"Once, we were on a journey when a female servant came and said, `The leader of this area has been poisoned and our people are away. Is there a healer among you?' A man, whose healing expertise did not interest us, answered her. He read a Ruqyah (Remedy) for him, and he was healed. The chief gave him thirty sheep as a gift, and some milk.
When he came back to us, we said to him:`You know of a (new) Ruqyah, or did you do this before?' He said: “I only used Umm Al-Kitab (Surat al-Fatihah) as Ruqyah.' We said: ‘Do not do anything further until we ask the Messenger of Allah (SAW).'
When we went back to al-Madinah we mentioned to the Prophet (SAW) what had happened. He said:
وَمَا كَانَ يُدْرِيهِ أَنَّهَا رُقْيَةٌ اقْسِمُوا وَاضْرِبُوا لِي بِسَهْمٍ
Who told him that it is a Ruqyah. Divide (the sheep) and reserve a share for me.''
Imam Muslim (RA), moreover, recorded that Abu Hurayrah (RAA) reported that the Prophet (SAW) said:
مَنْ صَلَى صَلَاةً لَمْ يَقْرَأْ فِيهَا أُمَّ الْقُرْآنِ فَهِيَ خِدَاجٌ ثَلَاثًا غَيْرُ تَمَامٍ
Whoever performs any prayer in which he did not read Umm Al-Qur'an, then his prayer is incomplete. He said it three times.
Abu Hurayrah was asked, ‘And what if we are standing behind the Imam!'’ He replied: ‘Read it to yourself, for I heard the Messenger of Allah (SAW) say:
قَالَ اللَّهُ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ: قَسَمْتُ الصّلَاةَ بَيْنِي وَبَيْنَ عَبْدِي نِصْفَيْنِ وَلِعَبْدِي مَا سَأَلَ
Allah, the Exalted, said, `I have divided the prayer (Al-Fatihah) into two halves between Myself and My servant, and My servant shall have what he/she asks for.'
If he/she says: الْحَمْدُ للَّهِ رَبِّ الْعَـلَمِين (All praise and thanks be to Allah, the Lord of existence,
قَالَ اللهُ: حَمِدَنِي عَبْدِي
Allah says: ‘My servant has praised Me.'
When the servant says: الرَّحْمَـنِ الرَّحِيمِ (The Most Gracious, the Most Merciful),
قَالَ اللهُ: أَثْنى عَلَيَّ عَبْدِي،
Allah says, ‘My servant has glorified Me.'
When he/she says: مَـلِكِ يَوْمِ الدِّينِ (The Owner of the Day of Recompense),
قَالَ اللهُ: مَجَّدَنِي عَبْدِي وَقَالَ مَرَّةً: فَوَّضَ إِلَيَّ عَبْدِي
Allah says: ‘My servant has glorified Me,' or ‘My servant has referred all matters to Me.'
When he/she says: إِيَّاكَ نَعْبُدُ وَإِيَّاكَ نَسْتَعِينُ (You alone we worship, and You alone we ask for help),
قَالَ: هذَا بَيْنِي وَبَيْنَ عَبْدِي وَلِعَبْدِي مَا سَأَلَ
Allah says: ‘This is between Me and My servant, and My servant shall acquire what he sought.'
When he/she says: اهْدِنَا الصِّرَاطَ الْمُسْتَقِيمَ (Guide us to the straight path). صِرَاطَ الَّذِينَ أَنْعَمْتَ عَلَيْهِمْ غَيْرِ الْمَغْضُوبِ عَلَيْهِمْ وَلاَ الضَّآلِّينَ (The way of those on whom You have granted Your grace, not (the way) of those who earned Your anger, nor of those who went astray),
قَالَ اللهُ: هذَا لِعَبْدِي وَلِعَبْدِي مَا سَأَلَ
Allah says, `This is for My servant, and My servant shall have what he/she asked for.'''
And in another version: "A half of it is for Me and a half for My servant, and My servant shall have what he/she asked for.''
In the above Hadith the word “Salah”, or prayer, is used in reference to reciting the Qur'an, (al-Fatihah, in this case) just as Allah (SWT) said in another ayah:
وَلاَ تَجْهَرْ بِصَلاتِكَ وَلاَ تُخَافِتْ بِهَا وَابْتَغِ بَيْنَ ذَلِكَ سَبِيلاً
And offer your Salah (prayer) neither aloud nor in a low voice, but follow a way between. (Qur’an 17:110)
That is: in your recitation of the Qur'an, as reported from Ibn Abbas (RAA).
Also, in this Hadith, Allah Almighty said:
"I have divided the prayer between Myself and My servant into two halves, a half for Me and a half for My servant. My servant shall have what he/she asked for.''
This shows the value of reciting deliberately and reflecting deeply on Surat al-Fatihah during every salah; it is one of the prayer's greatest pillars, and a requirement for its completion and acceptance. Hence, the word “prayer” (that is, all of it) was used here although only a part of it is actually being referred to - more specifically: reciting the Qur'an.
Note that elsewhere, the word “recite” is used where (the whole) prayer is meant, as in Almighty Allah's statement:
وَقُرْءَانَ الْفَجْرِ إِنَّ قُرْءَانَ الْفَجْرِ كَانَ مَشْهُودًا
And recite the Qur'an in the early dawn (Fajr). Verily, the recitation of the Qur'an in the early dawn is ever witnessed. (Qur’an 17:78)
This is in reference to the Fajr Salah, which, according to an authentic hadith, is attended by both the angels of the night and the angels of the day. Allahu Akbar - how Great is Allah!
May Allah (AWJ), the Most Exalted and Most Sublime, bless our efforts to understand the virtues and meaning of Surat al-Fatihah, and to gain the benefits of its recitation. Ameen, Allahumma Ameen.