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A Colorful Recital

towards an English redaction of the Koran

©  Wim van den Dungen

1 - The Opening (Al-Fâtihah)

1. In the Name of ALLAH 1,
the Merciful 2, the Compassionate 3.
2. All praise be to ALLAH,
the Lord 4 of the worlds 5,
the All-Merciful, the All-Compassionate. 6
4. Master 7 of the day of justice. 8

5. You only do we serve 9 and
You alone do we ask for help.

6. Guide us on the straight path. 10
7. The path of those whom You have blessed, 11
no wrath rests upon them
and they do not go astray.12 


Table of Contents

General Remarks :

The Opening - Al-Fâtihah

This is the only sûra which consists of a prayer or act of worship. It is used daily by Muslims in the formal worship of ALLAH (the Salât) and on many other occasions. So it is called "Sab'an minal Masani" or "The Seven Oft-repeated Verses", said to contain the quintessence of the whole Koran. Early Muslims thought it was an individual prayer of Muhammad and it was omitted in the codices of Ibn-'Abbâs and Ibn-Mas'ûd. Different versions are recorded. It is difficult to date, but it is probably fairly early, perhaps around the fourth year of Muhammad's mission, ca.613 CE. According to Ibn'Arabî, the first three verses refer to ALLAH. The middle to ALLAH and the believer and the last three to the believer.

Notes :


The Absolute Divine Being (who exists necessarily by Himself) is called "ALLAH", expressing all attributes of perfection. This word is often translated as "God". But, "God" is a translation of the Latin "Deus" and the Greek "Theos". In the Torah however, the name of the Absolute Being is "YHVH ALHYM" (Jahweh Elohîm). The first word "YHVH" reflecting the ineffable transcendent essence of the Absolute Being and "ALHYM" the various Divine energies, manifestations or the Presences of the Divine (cf. the "shekinah" in the qabalah). In the Alexandrian Septuagint, the plural "Elohîm" was translated as the singular "Theos" (Deus, God). Because of this confusion, "ALLAH" is better not rendered as "God", for this diminshes the radical theological departure from the biblical tradition heralded by this all-comprehensive Divine Name. In this redaction, this supreme word is left untouched. A good approximation would have been the literal, i.e. "The God" (however, the "al" before "ilah" is inseparable from it). Before the Koran, the tribal Arabs adhered to a henotheism in which 360 deities (one for each day) were worshipped, headed by a supreme deity allowing the others next to it (cf. the Ancient Egyptian system). But, there was no idol with the name "ALLAH". The Koran showed that ALLAH can have no other next to Him and this declaration of unity ("shahadah") is the essence of the Islamic doctrine.

The phrase "in the Name of ALLAH" (the "bismillah") is placed before all sûras except one (sûra 9). Only in the Opening is it counted as a verse. It is used by Muslims before all important actions.

2 the Merciful :

Mercy (rahmân) is the Divine Name expressing the manifestation of everything. It is associated with the command : "Be !". The Name "Ar-Rahman" is also used as a proper name applicable only to the Absolute Divine Being, and used in the Koran as an alternative for ALLAH (cf. sûra 17). One should realize that the generative command encompasses every thing (good as well as evil).

3 the Compassionate :

Compassion (rahîm) is the Divine Name expressing the Mercy that comes after its manifestation in the creation of the world, i.e. in the consequences of the deeds of the human being. So, Mercy is manifested before the human being comes into existence, namely in the creation of things necessary for his life here and so they exist without any human being having deserved them. Compassion however, manifests when he has done something to deserve Divine favour. Divine generosity is witnessed in Mercy. His Compassion is evidenced as constant favour for the good done. Mercy is cosmological. Compassion is anthropological. The connection suggests that the human being is essential to make the cosmos aware of itself. Compassion is associated with the prescriptive command, i.e. the Divine Wish that humans should walk the straight path. This is not implied in the Divine Will, which engenders both the straight and the crooked. In Sufism, Mercy is the Divine Will engendering the cosmos, whereas Compassion is the response of the human being, i.e. the ability to "return" to the origin of all by doing good. Without the perfected human, the cosmos would come to an end, for only the human being can stop praising his Creator and defile himself. Indeed, the other creatures are always in the natural state of praise the Creator fashioned them in and hence can never deviate from the straight path.

4 Lord :

The Divine Name "Lord" (Rabb) conveys not only the idea of bringing-up or nourishment, but also that of regulating, completing and accomplishing. The evolution of the crudest to the highest perfection is implied. To make things go from one condition after another until completion is realized, is the work of the Lord. In Sufism, the Lord is said to be interdependent with His servant (for a "Lord" without a "servant" is pointless). Each servant has his/her "Lord", i.e. the power of Divine bringing-up limitated by the capacities of the servant to receive (cf. the water of life taking the color of the glass in which it is poured). This Name conveys a Divine activity which allows every creature, but in particular the human, to evolve according to the Divine Wish. So we are not only called to the straight path, but will also be fostered, regulated & completed if our Compassion is at work (i.e. if we return the call of Mercy present in all of creation). Not without surprise, "Rabb" has also been translated as "father", but its connotations are too limited. The "Lord" is far grander and nobler, and also always keeps the distance with His servant. In Sufism, the perfected servant annihilates himself in his Lord who then replaces the servant (or, in other words, the servant is nothing more than what is remembered of him by ALLAH). Without this annihilation, the Lord towers above His servant.

5 Worlds :

The Arab word "âlamin" (root = 'ilm, meaning to know), indicates literally that by means of which one knows a thing. It thus signifies "world" or "creation". Broadly speaking, the plural indicates that the Lordship of ALLAH extends over all possible creations and worlds. In a more restricted use, it refers to any class or division of created beings or of humanity. In this last meaning, it is suggestive of the fact that ALLAH is the Lord of all the prophets of all nations, subverting all narrow (geosentimental) views of the Divine.

6 the All-Merciful, the All-Compassionate :

The process of creation (Mercy) and return (Compassion) is at work in each of these worlds. There is no place were this is absent. Hence, to consider a person, place or situation as "outside" the reach of the Divine Names of Mercy and Compassion is illusionary.

7 Master :

Master (Mâlik) has been translated as "King". However, ALLAH is more than that. He is able to forgive His servants and is not guilty of any injustice when He does that. Furthermore, a king is dependent of his kingdom (a "king" without a "kingdom" is pointless). Hence, "mâlik" will be rendered as "Master", for a master has no need to exert his mastership and can never loose it (a king may loose his kingdom).

8 day of justice :

The word "day" (yaum) may imply a small or a large period of time. The law of requital referred to in this verse is constantly at work and nothing suggests that it will not come into force before a particular day. So the idea that the "day of justice" is far away is illusionary. Of course, on the last day, the final count is made, but this does not abrogate the fact that ALLAH is the Master of justice every day.

9 to serve :

To serve ALLAH is the only spiritual goal to be realized. Various form of service exist, as well as many types of servants. To serve and to worship have to be distinguished. Deities next to ALLAH are worshipped and these are non-entities for there are no deities next to the Merciful. To praise ALLAH and ALLAH alone is the most important act of service. The servant is able to ask for help and does so, but only to the Lord. No creature is able to help the human being. No deities are able to help, for ALLAH alone is Divine.

10 the straight path :

Each human being has the ability to turn away from the straight path, the right way, the Wish of ALLAH for each of His servants. If a crooked path is followed and one repents and returns to ALLAH, the believer will find His Lord forgiving. To follow the straight path is not a horizontal phenomenon (on the plane of the outer, social life) but belongs to the vertical, inner plane of spiritual life reflecting in a life well lived on Earth. Those who seek the straight path outside, conform to the regulations of society. In Sufism, the straight path is visualized above one's head. This implies an erect posture, aware that one's Lord is the true regulator, not words on paper or the changing rules of society.

11 the blessed 

The regulations of the Lord are direct. The good are blessed, the wicked punished. The honesty of ALLAH is without equal. He knows what is in the hearts of men and so judges accordingly. Intent and result are taken into consideration. The blessed receive His Divine protection, whereas the damned go astray and wander around with their incomplete and unfostered spiritual evolution. 

12 the damned :

It is often claimed that here the Jews and Christians respectively are aimed, but this can not be the case if the sûra is early Meccan. Hence, the phrase suits the pagan Arabs, i.e. the polytheists.


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initiated : 23 I 2002 - last update : 25 XI 2005 - version n°1