Friday, January 23, 2015 at 12:57 PM

Johan Ishak
Acrylic and Ink on Canvas
90cm X 90cm
23 January 2015
12:00 a.m.
Buanaseni Studio Shah Alam


This surah is a profound surah. In many Muslim's life, it acts as an opener to many things be it for prayers or other daily deeds. Hence, the referral to "of My World" in the title of the art piece. I will explain in detail the background information on this surah in the later paragraphs as I would like to start by telling you the inspiration behind the creation of this art piece. Why Al-Fatihah and why Planet Earth? Well, as mentioned earlier, this surah is profound to any Muslim's life, including myself. I feel compelled to express (artistically) something as significant as this that I use in my daily life.

Since this surah is quite pervasive in the Muslim world, I have chosen Planet Earth as the object of representing the profound essence of the surah. As you can see, I have chosen Antarctica and its clouds as the home for the surah in this piece of art - simply because it provides the space for the surah as well as preserving other parts of the canvas for effective showcasing of the Planet Earth. Philosophically, it works out well because the nature of clouds is in itself enveloping (the Earth) suggesting that the Earth is wrapped in an ozone layer that contains air, oxygen, whatever, you name it, that is the source of the livelihood of living things on Earth. In short, it highlights the greatness of God, that is the very essence of Al-Fatihah.

Sūrah al-Fātiḥah, "The Opener", also called “The Exordium”, has many names. This Surah is named Al-Fatihah because of its subject-matter. Fatihah is that which opens a subject or a book or any other thing - it opens the Holy Quran. In other words, Al-Fatihah is a sort of preface. It is also called, Umm Al-Kitab (the Mother of the Book), and Sab'a al Mathani (Seven repeated verses) according to the majority of the scholars, who refer it to a hadith and an ayah. Al-Fatihah was also called Ash-Shifa' (the Cure). It is also called Ar-Ruqyah (remedy). This surah is probably the most recited surah as the 1.6 billion Muslims in the world repeat this surah in their daily prayers at least 17 times a day.

The English translation of the surah is as follows:

  1. In the name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.
  2. Praise be to Allah, the Cherisher and Sustainer of the worlds;
  3. Most Gracious, Most Merciful;
  4. Master of the Day of Judgment.
  5. Thee do we worship, and Thine aid we seek.
  6. Show us the straight way,
  7. The way of those on whom Thou hast bestowed Thy Grace, those whose (portion) is not wrath, and who go not astray.

The flow of this Surah has another very logical explanation, which can be summarized as the philosophical background of the Surah. As per the Quran, human beings are born with a combination of two things: soul and body. According to this view, a soul is a command of Allah, and therefore naturally recognizes the existence of its Lord and also has the love of its creator. It is the nature on which every child is born as Allah says: "and be steadfast on the Nature whereupon Allah has created mankind" (30:30). Under this view, if the soul has not been perverted (e.g. by repeatedly ignoring its calls - or the calls of the conscience), it is a pure soul.

When a person gets to age of maturity and begets a sound mind, then the combination of a pure soul, a pure heart and sound mind result in Wisdom (Hikmah) which discovers certain facts about the existence of the universe. It is this wisdom which determines that "All praise and thankfulness is to Allah, [The] Creator, Owner, Sustainer of the Worlds", who must be " the All-Compassionate, the All-Merciful" and also must have "no equal", who must be "almighty", "all-knowing", "free of flaws", "just", etc. (most of Allah's names are his qualities as well). Some Muslims believe that these qualities of Allah were recognized by people such as Confucius and Luqman who were not Prophets (i.e. did not receive revelations from Allah), but who acquired this knowledge by reason and wisdom.

Islam also holds that that wisdom demands to be true is that there must be an after-life, where actions of human beings are rewarded or punished for (which is a corollary of the quality of Allah being "Just"). Thus the next ayah calls Allah "Owner of the Day of Recompense." Once the wisdom of a man brings him to these conclusions, he is then left with no choice but to ask this deity, who possesses all the above qualities (i.e. Allah), that "You alone do we worship and You alone we seek for help." The help required in this case is the guidance regarding the purpose of this life (i.e. how should the life be spent). To look for these answers, the wise person, who has already recognized the qualities of his Lord, turns to the Lord and asks Him to "Guide us to the Straight Path. The path of those whom Your blessings are upon, not of those who You have cursed nor of those who have gone astray."



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