It is one of the very earliest Revelations to the Holy
Prophet. As a matter of fact, we learn from authentic Traditions
that it was the first complete Surah which was revealed
to Muhammed (Allah's peace be upon him). Before this, only
a few miscellaneous verses were revealed which form parts
of `ALAQ, MUZ-ZAMMIL, MUD-DATH-THIR, etc.
This Surah is in fact a prayer which Allah has taught
to all those who want to make a study of His book. It has
been placed at the very beginning of the book to teach
this lesson to the reader: if you sincerely want to benefit
from the Quran, you should offer this prayer to the Lord
of the Universe.
This preface is meant to create a strong desire in the
heart of the reader to seek guidance from the Lord of the
Universe, Who alone can grant it. Thus AL-FATIHAH indirectly
teaches that the best thing for a man is to pray for guidance
to the straight path, to study the Quran with the mental
attitude of a seeker- after-truth and to recognize the
fact that the Lord of the Universe is the source of all
knowledge. He should, therefore, begin the study of the
Quran with a prayer to him for guidance.
From this theme, it becomes clear that the real relation
between AL-FATIHAH and the Quran is not that of an introduction
to a book but that of a prayer and its answer. AL-FATIHAH
is the prayer from the servant and the Quran is the answer
from the Master to his prayer. The servant prays to Allah
to show him guidance and the Master places the whole of
the Quran before him in answer to his prayer, as if to
say, "This is the Guidance you begged from Me."