Part of an email I was having with a woman interested in Islam (may Allah guide her to the truth, Ameen).
I have meanwhile learnt the fatiha by heart. Is it a sacrilege to practice without having the intention of being a Muslim just now?
I thought about this for a few minutes, and then started laughing. Why? Because when you recite Faitha, you are asking Allah to guide you to be a muslim. 'Guide us to the straight path'. You recite this in Fatiha, what does it mean? It means 'Guide us to the path of those you have blessed; who have accepted the correct faith; who try and follow obedience to their Creator; who follow the way of the Prophets; who truly submit themselves'. And this is the very defintion of being a muslim. So it's not sacrilege at all, and if you are sincere in reciting it, there can only be one final result, God willing.
Let me share a few thoughts with you regarding Fatiha. Let's go thru it verse by verse.
'In the name of Allah, the Most Kind the Most Merciful'.
Every action should start with the name of Allah, to always remember the importance of sincerity to Him. And the most common attributes which Allah wants to be remembered by are Al Rahman, the Most Kind, and Al Rahim, the Most Merciful. Al Rahman refers to the mercy and kindess of Allah when He provides for all of his creation. The things that we have around us to enable us to live our lives to the fullest... every single thing comes from the mercy and kindness of Allah. As for Al Rahim, this refers to his mercy when it comes to forgiving sins. For someone who truly is remorseful and repentant, there is no limit at all to the mercy and forgiveness of Allah.
'Praise be to Allah, Lord of the Worlds'.
Praise and thanks to Allah. A muslim should always be grateful to Allah, in all circumstances, good or bad. As Allah says elsewhere in the Quran, if you were to try and count the favors of Allah, you would be unable to number them. Allah is the Lord of the Worlds. 'Lord' here means the Creator, Sustainer, the actual Cause of every action that happens in all the 'Worlds', the whole universe (or maybe universes) of creation.
'The Most Kind, the Most Merciful'.
To emphasise the mercy of Allah, His attributes of kindness, generosity, mercy and forgiveness are again repeated here.
'Master of the Day of Judgement'
Compared with Allah's mercy, this verse brings to mind Allah's power. A muslim is balanced, always hopeful in the mercy of Allah, but always remembering that he/she will be accountable for all his actions one day. And on that day, there will be no power whatsoever except that of Allah. The Masters in this world, the kings, leaders, power brokers, etc. they will have no say whatsoever on that day. Allah, and Allah alone, will be the Master that day.
'You alone we worship, and You alone we ask for help'
The message of all the Prophets, and the message which is inside the nature of every human being... that Allah alone is worthy of worship. No ifs, buts or anything else... worship Allah, who because of his Lordship, is the only being that worship can be of benefit to. And when we are in need, we ask Allah and Allah alone, because Allah is the cause of everything. Even if someone is helping us, Allah is the ultimate cause of that help, the 'someone' is merely the means thru which Allah helps.
'Guide us to the straight path, the path of those whom you blessed'.
One of the attributes of Allah is 'Al Hadi', The Guide. Only Allah can guide to the straight path, the path of believing in Allah alone, and obedience to Him. Without being guided by Allah, we would be totally lost, grasping for light in the utter darkness in this world. If you ask Allah to guide you, He will; if you do not ask Allah to guide you, you will fall off the path. And to be on that path, there is no greater blessing than that.
'Not the path of those who earned Your anger, nor the path of those who went astray'.
Allah has given the message to people before; some were blessed and accepted the message correctly, acting on it correctly. Others accepted the message, and knew what the message was, but did no act on it accordingly; these are the ones who have earned the displeasure of Allah. Others accepted the message, but accepted it in a way that was not correct; these are the ones who have gone astray. So when we pray for guidance, we pray that we understand the guidance and knowledge that Allah bestows on us, and that we do our best to act according to that knowledge.