In the name of God, Most Gracious, Most Merciful. Praise be to God, the Cherisher and Sustainer of the world; Most Gracious, Most Merciful; Master of the Day of Judgment. Thee do we worship, and Thine aid we seek. Show us the straight way, The way of those on whom Thou hast bestowed Thy Grace, those whose (portion) is not wrath, and who go not astray. (Al-Fatiha, Yusuf Ali Translation)
Al-Fatiha, or “The Opening,” contain the first seven verses in the Qur’an, and is repeated at least seventeen times per day by Muslims who perform five or more daily prayers. Depending upon which scholar you ask, it may even be the most important prayer in Islam. It speaks of God’s grace and mercy, and asks for guidance and support for believers to follow the “straight path.” The real question, for Muslims and non-Muslims alike, is what is the straight path. (For more background on the English translation of Al-Fatiha, see this explanation.)
Interpretations of religious texts, sporting events, art, and so on often vary. In fact, it would be hard to argue that a definitive, “objectivity” for most things in life actually exists. Which leads to the question of One Truth: Is this a reality or a mere illusion that philosophers, theologians, and others fixate their life’s fulfillment upon?
Putting the philosophical aside, I think that most people accept a set of natural human tendencies that provide an innate human desire for love, compassion, and companionship–whether from a parent, a lover, or a friend. And I would argue that whether one views religious texts as human-created documents or as the Word of God, there is a recognition that they provide a core framework for humans embracing their humanity and optimizing their time in this life (regardless of whether one believes in another stage, process, or place thereafter).
In Islam, Al-Fatiha encourages humans to follow the straight path, which from my perspective is practiced by the overwhelming majority of religious traditions and even many non-religious philosophies. To say that all religions are the same is objectively, factually inaccurate. They are not. However, the primary emphases of each are strikingly similar. How could this possibly be a coincidence? There is a wisdom in these texts, and the majority of people who embrace them live remarkably different lives from religious extremists and others who stray far from the path of humanity.
Regardless if one identifies as atheist, agnostic, or a person of a particular faith tradition, Al-Fatiha is a recognition and celebration of being human, in all of its forms, all over the world.
What does Al-Fatiha mean to you, as a religious or non-religious person? Do you think that the foundational principles of most religious traditions are similar?