Tafseer of Surah al-Faatihah: Ayah 4


The saying of the Exalted, “Master of the Day of Judgement”:

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The reciters have two different ways of reciting the first word of this verse, both of which have been reported via continuous (mutawaatir) transmission from the Prophet ﷺ as well as Abu Bakr and Umar[1]:

1. Reciting it as Malik, or the King.

So the meaning of the verse would be that on that Day, Kingship belongs to Allah Alone and not to any of the creation who before then used to be kings on earth, vying with each other for power and dominion, exulting in what they had, pompously boasting about their grandeur and trying their best to outdo their competitors. However on that day they will come to know with certainty that in reality they are powerless and humiliated and that Grandeur, Power and Authority belongs in its entirety to Him Alone. Allah says,

  “That Day when they will all come out, nothing of them will be hidden from Allah. Whose is the kingdom this Day? It belongs to Allah, the One, the Irresistible!” [Ghaafir (40): 16]

2. Reciting it as Maalik, or the Owner.

So the meaning of the verse would be that on that Day, everything would belong to Him and no one else. No one will be able to voice an opinion or enforce a ruling as they used to do in this world. Allah says,

  “That Day on which the Spirit and the Angels will stand forth in rows, none shall speak except he whom the Most Beneficent allows and he will speak only that which is correct and true.” [An-Naba`a (78): 38]

  “All voices will be humbled for the Most Beneficent and nothing shall you hear but the low sound of their footsteps.” [Taa Haa (20): 108]

  “They cannot intercede except for one with whom He is pleased.” [Al-Anbiyaa (21): 28]

Both recitations, of course, carry sound and good meanings however it is possible to argue that the first reading has the most comprehensive meaning as it is not possible to have sovereignty and kingship without possession, whereas there can be ownership without kingship. Similarly it is the king who will enjoin laws upon the owner as to how he should regulate his possession. Allah also says,

  “His will be the kingdom on the Day that the trumpet is blown.” [Al-An`aam (6): 73]

If it is asked: why did Allah specify his Kingship or Ownership to the Last Day when it is known that these qualities always have and always will apply to Him?

The answer lies in the fact that on that Day, it will become totally and utterly clear to mankind the completeness and perfection of His Kingship, Justice and Wisdom, just as it will become totally clear that the sovereignty of the creation has been severed to the extent that the kings, ministers, the slaves and free-born will all be made the same. All of them yielding to His Greatness, rendered in complete submission to His Magnificence, expectant of His recompense, hoping for His reward and fearing His punishment. This is why His Kingship was fortified by mentioning it in this context, otherwise He is Master of the Day of Judgement and all other days.

Al-Qurtobee and ash-Shawkaanee both stated that with respect to Allah, Malik is an Attribute of the Essence whereas Maalik is an Attribute of Action.

The word yawm refers to a period of time. In common usage it refers to the time between the onset of dawn and sunset. It can also refer to a particular portion of time or hour in a day as in His saying,

  “This day have I perfected your religion for you, completed my favour upon you and chosen for you Islaam as your religion.” [Al-Maa`idah (5): 3]

It can also refer to periods of time greater than one day as in His sayings,

  “He arranges each matter from the heaven to the earth; then it will ascend to Him in a Day the extent of which is a thousand years of those which you count.” [As-Sajdah (32): 5]

  “The Angels and the Spirit ascend to Him during a day the extent of which is fifty thousand years.” [al-Ma`aarij (70): 4]

The word deen here means reckoning or recompense and it is in this sense that the word is employed in His saying,

  “On that Day Allah will pay them their deen in truth.” [An-Nur (24): 25]

meaning: the recompense of their actions with complete justice. Allah also said,

  “Then when we have died and become dust and bones, we will indeed be recompensed.” [As-Saaffaat (37): 53]

Ibn Abbaas said in explanation to the words yawmid deen,

The Day on which the creations are judged – the Day of Resurrection. He will recompense them for their actions, if they were good then it will be good, if they were bad then it will be bad except for that which He Forgives for indeed the only order [on that Day] will be His order,

  “Unquestionably to Him belongs the creation and the Command.” [Al-A`raaf (7): 54]

There is no further explanation in this verse of al-Faatihah as to what the Day of Deen is, but this is explained in His saying,

  “And what will make you comprehend what the Day of Deen is? Again what will make you comprehend what the Day of Deen is? It is the Day when no person shall have power [to do] anything for another.” [Al-Infitar (82): 17-19]

It is important to note that it is unlawful to call anyone by the name of al-Maalik or al-Malik. Bukhari and Muslim report from Abu Hurayrah that the Messenger of Allah ﷺ said,

 “ On the Day of Resurrection Allah will hold the earth and fold the heaven with His Right Hand. Then He will say: I am the King, where are the kings [who reigned] on the earth? [2]

Bukhari also reports from Abu Hurayrah that the Prophet ﷺ said,

 “ Indeed the most disloyal and treacherous name in the Sight of Allah is that of a person named the king of Kings (malikul amlaak).

Muslim adds in his report,

 “ For there is no Maalik except for Allah, the Mighty and Magnificent. [3]

Ahmad reports that the Messenger of Allah ﷺ said,

 “ The person towards whom Allah displays the most Wrath, and the most despicable on the Day of Resurrection is one who was named king of kings (malikul amlaak) for there is no Malik except for Allah. [4]

As for describing someone as Malik or Maalik then this is permissible for one who fulfils the requirements of the description. In this sense is His saying,

  “Indeed Allah has sent you Saul as a king.” [Al-Baqarah (2): 247]

  “Moses said to his people: O my people! Remember the favour of Allah upon you when He appointed amongst you prophets and made you kings.” [Al-Maa`idah (5): 20]

In this verse following the verse concerning the Mercy of Allah lies a reminder that Allah is also the Judge. Therefore not only should we love Him for His nourishing and sustaining us and for His compassion and mercy to us but we should also hold Him in awe knowing that our ultimate happiness or misery rests with Him Alone.


{1} As mentioned by at-Tirmidhee

{2} Saheeh Bukhari [Eng. Trans. 9/355 no. 479], Saheeh Muslim [Eng. Trans. 4/1462 no. 6703]

{3} Saheeh Bukhari [Eng. Trans. 8/144 no.’s 224, 225], Saheeh Muslim [Eng. Trans. 3/1171 no. 5339]

{4} Ahmad [2/315]. It is saheeh as in ‘as-Saheehah’ [no. 915]

(NOTE: If you want to build a strong and powerful relationship with Allah, check out Islamia TV, where you can watch Islamic speakers from across the globe deliver inspiring and motivational courses. Learn more at www.islamia.tv.)

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