(2) الْحَمْدُ لِلّهِ رَبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ
” (All) praise is (only) Allah’s, the Lord of the Worlds ”
The World is Full of His Mercy
After reciting the phrase / bism-il-lah-ir-Rahman-ir-Rahim /, to begin the Sura, our first duty is to bring to mind the Great Creator and Cherisher of the world of being, and His endless bounties which have surrounded us thoroughly. In doing so, it is both ‘ a guide ‘ for us to observe the existence of Providence and ‘ a motive ‘ for showing our servitude and worship to Him.
It is ‘a motive’ because any man, after receiving a gift, wishes to know its giver at once, in order to show his gratitude and thankfulness to him. This quality is in man’s innate disposition prompting him to manifest his acknowledgment of Him.
This same quality in man, in discussing the theological motives of ‘ the necessity of expressing thankfulness to the Bestower ‘, according to what man’s nature and rationale leads him to, is considered one of those motives.
And it is ‘a guide’ to knowing the Lord and His bounties, because the best and the most direct way towards the acknowledgment of the Origin is the study of the secrets of creation, especially, the existence of the bounties of life as related to human beings.
Therefore, perhaps, it is for these two reasons that Sura Al-Fatihah, alongside /bism-il-lah/, begins thus: ” (All) praise is (only) Allah’s, the Lord of the Worlds “.
Or, in other words, the verse ” (All) praise is (only) Allah’s, the Lord of the Worlds ” points to both the Unity of Divine Essence, and the Unity of Divine Attributes and Acts.
Originally, qualifying Allah (s.w.t.), here, with the phrase /rabb-il-‘alamin/ (the Lord of the Worlds) is, in fact, mentioning the reason after stating the claim. It seems that someone has asked why all praise is (only) Allah’s, and the response is that it is for the reason that He is ‘ the Lord of the Worlds’.
This is one of the characteristics of Allah. In another occurrence, the Holy Qur’an says: ” He Who has made every thing which He has created most good …,” (Sura As-Sajdah, No. 32, verse 7).
And again, in Sura Hud, No. 11, verse 6, it says: ” There is no moving creature on the earth but its sustenance depends on Allah… “.
It is, also, clearly understood from the word /al-hamd/, ‘ praise ‘, used in this verse, that Allah has created all these bounties and benefits, basically, by His Choice and His Will.
It is interesting to note that by stating the phrase, ‘ (All) praise is (only) Allah’s ‘, it is not only helpful to use it for the commencement of affairs, but, as the Qur’an teaches us, it is also used as a conclusion, like in Sura Yunus, No. 10, verse 10, about the good-doers in Heaven, it says: “(This will be) their cry therein: ‘ Glory to Thee, O God! ‘ And ‘peace’ will be their greeting therein! And the close of their cry will be: ‘Surely, the Praise is Allah’s, the Lord of the Worlds! ‘ “.
Virtue of the Verse
Concerning the virtue of this Holy verse, there is a narration from Imam Sadiq (a.s.) which says that in a tradition from the Prophet (p.b.u.h.), he has said: ” When a believing servant says ‘ The Praise is (only) Allah’s, the Lord of the Worlds ‘, such a praise that befits Him and His Rank, the angels are unable to record it. They will be asked by Allah why they did not record the reward of the phrase which the believing servant stated. Then, in response to their not recording the reward, they will ask how it is that they could even understand and estimate the high standard of saying such a phrase which contains the praise befitting and deserving only to Him. Allah, the Exalted, will tell them that they should record the phrase and it would be for Him to endow the servant with the reward of the praise as befitting Him “. (1)
The word /rabb/ originally means ‘ the owner of something who proceeds to train and improve it ‘.
This word is absolutely applied to Allah, alone, and if it is applied, in Arabic, for other than Him, it is certainly used in a possessive form, as / rabb-ud-dar / ‘ the owner of the house ‘, or / rabb-us-safinah / ‘the owner of the ship ‘. In any case, the word, itself, conveys the meaning of ‘ training ‘.
There is another idea mentioned in Majma’-ul-Bayan that says: ” /rabb/ means: ‘ an important person whose orders are obeyed ‘.” However, it is probable that both meanings refer to the same origin.
The term /’alamin/ is the plural form of /’alam/ ‘the world’ and we cite it, here, with the meaning of ‘a collection of different creatures with common characteristics or a common time and place’.For example, we say: the world of Man, the world of animals, and the world of plants, or,we say:the world of the East and the world of the West, or: the world of today and the world of yesterday. Therefore, when /’alam/, which has a plural sense by itself, is used in a plural form, it refers to the ‘universe’.
The writer of the Al-Manar Commentary says that it is narrated from Imam Sadiq (a.s.) that he has said /’alamin/ means ‘peoples’, only. Then, the writer adds that the term is used in the Qur’an with the same meaning; for example: “…That it may be an admonition to all peoples “, (Sura Al-Furqan, No. 25, verse 1).(2)
It is true that the term /’alamin/ in many occurrences, in the Qur’an, is used with the meaning of ‘peoples’, but, sometimes, it is also used with a broader scope of meaning which envelops other creatures; for instance:” Then Praise be to Allah, Lord of the heavens and Lord of the earth, öLord and Cherisher of all the worlds! “, (Sura Al-Jathiyah, No. 45, verse 36). And, also,like: ” Pharaoh said: ‘ And what is the Lord and Cherisher of the Worlds ? ‘ (Moses) said: ‘ The Lord and Cherisher of the heavens and the earth, and all between them …”, (Sura Ash-Shu’ara, No. 26, verses 23,24).
It is interesting that in a narration from Hadrat Ali (a.s.), Saduq has cited in the book ‘ ‘Uyun-ul-Akhbar’, that he (a.s.), commenting on the verse, has said: ” (The phrase) /rabb-il-‘alamin/ refers to all creatures whether they are inanimate or living “. (3)
There is, of course, no contradiction between these traditions, because, although the meaning of the term /’alamin/ is very vast, Man is the most significant being among all creatures of the world, so, he is sometimes especially considered the central point of them, and other creatures are dependent upon him and in his shadow. Therefore, when, in the tradition of the Imam (a.s.), the term is rendered into ‘ peoples ‘, the reason is that the main purpose of creation, in this great gathering of beings, is Man.
This point is, also, interesting that some have introduced two forms of /’alam/ ‘the world’: ‘the great world’ (macrocosm) and ‘the lesser world’ (microcosm) by which they refer to Man as ‘the lesser world’, because the entity of a person alone, is a collection of different powers which govern ‘the great world’. In fact,’man’ is a sample of the whole world. So Amir-ul-Mu’mineen Ali (a.s.) in one of his poems, addressing Man, says: ” You think that you are a small body, while (you should know that) you contain ‘the great world’ (macrocosm) inside you.” (4)
One of the factors that causes us to emphasize the vast meaning of / ‘alam / ‘the world’, is that the term has occurred after the phrase /al-hamd-u-lil-lah/, in which we devote all the praise to Allah, only, and, then, we reason our statement with /rabb-il-‘alamin/ ‘ The Lord of the Worlds ‘. We say the praise is only Allah’s, because all perfections, all bounties and all blessings, in this world, belong to Him, the Lord, the Cherisher.
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(1) Ma’ani-ul-Akhbar,p. 32, tradition 8; and, Tafsir Furat-ul-Kufi, vol. 1,p. 52
(2) Al-Manar Commentary, vol. 1, p. 51
(3) Nur-uth-Thaqalayn Commentary, vol. 1, p. 17
(4) From the collection of Poems of Amir-ul-Mu’mineen Ali-ibn Abitalib (a.s.),p. 175