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As long as man continues to live, he will have a story of sorrow to share, stories of doors that have closed after they were open, or doors that simply will not open in their lives. During those inevitable moments of weakness, there can be no better way of rekindling the flame of hope within one’s heart other than by retreating to Allāh’s Names, and in the specific case described above, His Majestic Name Al-Fattāḥ.
This name of Allāh has appeared only once in the Qur’ān, where He said:
قُلْ يَجْمَعُ بَيْنَنَا رَبُّنَا ثُمَّ يَفْتَحُ بَيْنَنَا بِالْحَقِّ وَهُوَ الْفَتَّاحُ الْعَلِيمُ
“Say, ‘Our Lord will bring us together; then He will judge between us in truth. And He is Al-Fattāḥ, the All-Knowing.’”
The linguistic meanings of the concept of Al-Fatḥ
Al-Fatḥ: نقيض الإغلاق /The opposite of closure. A key in Arabic is a miftāḥ, for it is the apparatus by which closed doors are opened.
“Al-Fatḥ is the removal of closure and problems, and this takes two forms. The first: one which is observable by sight, like the opening of a door, as Allāh said: “And when they opened (fataḥu) their luggage…”
The second: one that is observable by insight, such as the opening of relief from grief. This also takes forms:
(a) In matters of life, such as the removal of grief or alleviation of poverty. Allāh said: “We would have opened up (fatāḥna) for them blessing from the heavens and the earth…”
(b) In matters of knowledge, such as the removal of barriers from one’s understanding.”
It is therefore apparent that in order to engage in the fatḥ of something, logic dictates that it must be closed. Al-Rāghib mentions that those elements that need unlocking are both inward and outward as well as material and immaterial.
With this understanding, it can now be asked: who is Allāh, Al-Fattāḥ?
Taking a look at what the scholars have said, one can summarise the answer by saying that Al-Fattāḥ is:
- هو الحاكم الذي يحكم بين عباده/ The One who judges between His creation
- وهو الذي يفتح أبواب الرزق والرحمة لعباده / The One who opens the doors of provisions and mercy for them
- ويفتح قلوبهم وعيون بصائرهم ليبصروا الحق / The One who opens their eyes and insights to enable them to see the truth.
- وهو الناصر الذي ينصر عباده المؤمنين / The giver of victory to His righteous servants. 
In all of these explanations, the concept of unlocking something that was previously locked applies; a judge who unlocks the truth of a case that was locked; the unlocking of provisions after it was locked; the unlocking of blind eyes to the truth; and the unlocking of victory from the claws of defeat. In short, He is The One who opens up every difficulty previously thought of as impossible to be unlocked.
Examples of Fatḥ/openings in the life of man
Some find that their hearts have been opened towards acts of worship. How is it that some are far more inclined than others to pray, fast, recite the Qur’ān, pray in congregation, and plan for their Islam? It is because the degree to which Allāh has opened hearts to do this varies from person to person.
‘Abdullah b. ‘Abd al-’Azīz al-‘Umari wrote a letter to Imām Mālik encouraging him to distance himself and to free up his time for worship. Imām Mālik responded:
إنَّ اللَّهَ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ قَسَّمَ الْأَعْمَالَ كَمَا قَسَّمَ الْأَرْزَاقَ فَرُبَّ رَجُلٍ فُتِحَ لَهُ فِي الصَّلَاةِ وَلَمْ يُفْتَحْ لَهُ فِي الصَّوْمِ وَآخَرَ فُتِحَ لَهُ فِي الصَّدَقَةِ وَلَمْ يُفْتَحْ لَهُ فِي الصِّيَامِ وَآخَرَ فُتِحَ لَهُ فِي الْجِهَادِ وَلَمْ يُفْتَحْ لَهُ فِي الصَّلَاةِ وَنَشْرُ الْعِلْمِ وَتَعْلِيمُهُ مِنْ أَفْضَلِ أَعْمَالِ الْبِرِّ وَقَدْ رَضِيتُ بِمَا فَتَحَ اللَّهُ لِي فِيهِ مِنْ ذَلِكَ وَمَا أَظُنُّ مَا أَنَا فِيهِ بِدُونِ مَا أَنْتَ فِيهِ وَأَرْجُو أَنْ يَكُونَ كِلَانَا عَلَى خَيْرٍ وَيَجِبُ عَلَى كُلِّ وَاحِدٍ مِنَّا أَنْ يَرْضَى بِمَا قُسِّمَ لَهُ وَالسَّلَام
“Allāh has distributed the actions of good deeds between people the same way He has distributed the provisions between them, and so a person’s heart may be opened towards prayer but has not been [opened] towards fasting, whilst a second person’s heart may be opened towards charity but not towards fasting, whilst another’s may be opened towards Jihad but is not towards prayer. The teaching of knowledge is one of the most rewarding good deeds and I am satisfied with what Allāh has opened for me, and I do not believe that what I am occupied with is any lesser than what you are occupied with. My hopes are that we are both upon goodness and it is incumbent upon both of us to be satisfied with what Allāh has blessed us with. Peace be on you.”
Allāh has opened hearts for different matters, making them more inclined to it. Man’s duty, therefore, is to pinpoint it urgently and then redirect it for the cause of Allāh and the Hereafter.
Some find their joy in life in fasting, doing so every other day and finding it easy. Others find their joy in Du’ā, where hours may pass without realising.
Imām Mālik said:
ربما انصرف عامر بن عبد الله (بن الزبير) من العتمة، فيعرض له الدعاء – يعني بعد العشاء – يخطر بباله، فلا يزال يدعو إلى الفجر
“It has happened before where ‘Āmir b. ‘Abdillāh would make Du’ā after the ‘Ishā prayer and would continue to do so until Fajr.”
– Others find that Allāh has opened their hearts towards the establishing of family ties. They are on good terms with every family member and their efforts towards them are consistent.
– Others find that Allāh has created an opening for them in the field of Dhikr/remembrance. Abu Huraira’s daily portion of Tasbīh (saying “SubḥānAllāh”) was 12,000 times. Khalid b. Ma’dān’s portion was 40,000 times a day, excluding his recitation of the Qur’ān. He was seen moving his finger in remembrance after his soul had left him. Ibn Hāni’s portion was 100,000 times a day. In fact, Ibn Taymiyya would perform the Fajr prayer then would remain sat down remembering Allāh until around just before noon time, when he would say: “This is my lunch. If I don’t have it, my strength forsakes me.”
– Others find that their opening in life is through helping the needy, feeding the hungry, sponsoring orphans, supporting widows, visiting the ill, and alleviating people’s burdens.
Ibn Qayyim said:
كان شيخ الإسلام ابن تيمية يسعى في حوائج الناس سعياً شديداً؛ لأنه يعلم أنه كلما أعان غيره أعانه الله؛ ولذا تجد الكسالى أكثر الناس هماً وغماً وحزناً، ليس لهم فرح ولا سرور، بخلاف أرباب النشاط والجد في العمل – أي عمل كان
“The service by Shaykh al-Islam (Ibn Taymiyya) of others was enormous, as he knew that the more he helped others, the more Allāh will help him. This is why you will find that lazy people are the most grieved, burdened, and saddened. They have no real happiness or joy, as opposed to the energetic ones and people of hard work, regardless of the nature of that work.”
Others find their openings in life in amassing of knowledge and teaching it to others, as some find their hearts within the Quranic sciences, legal sciences, Hadīth sciences, Tajwīd, or the Arabic language. These are openings from Allāh, hence why many of the scholars of the past would title their books as a “Fatḥ/opening from Allāh (or one of His other names)”:
فتح الباري /“Fatḥ al-Bāri” فتح رب البرية /“Fatḥ Rabb al-Bariyya”
الفتح الرباني /“Al-Fatḥ al-Rabbāni” فتح المنعم /“Fatḥ al-Mun’im”
فتح المغيث /“Fatḥ al-Mughīth” فتح المجيد /“Fatḥ al-Majīd”
فتح المعين /“Fatḥ al-Mu’īn” فتح القدير /“Fatḥ al-Qadīr”
فتح العزيز /“Fatḥ al-‘Azīz” فتح الوهاب /“Fatḥ al-Wahhāb”
Others find that openings in their lives culminate in their opinions; Allāh allows the truth to flow from their mouths, constantly guiding them to choose the best of options.
The Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) said:
لَقَدْ كَانَ فِيمَا قَبْلَكُمْ مِنْ الْأُمَمِ مُحَدَّثُونَ فَإِنْ يَكُ فِي أُمَّتِي أَحَدٌ فَإِنَّهُ عُمَرُ
“Among the nations who came before you there were people who were spoken to (i.e. by angels or inspired). If there are any such men among my Ummah, then ʿUmar ibn al-Khaṭṭāb is one of them.”
The Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) would say about him:
إِنَّ اللَّهَ جَعَلَ الْحَقَّ عَلَى لِسَانِ عُمَرَ وَقَلْبِهِ
“Allāh has placed the truth on the tongue of ʿUmar and his heart.”
This is why Umar’s rulings were so frequently in line with those of Allāh, as Ibn Hajar said:
وقفنا منها على خمسة عشر موضعاً
“We have come across 15 such circumstances.”
Others find that their openings in life culminate in the enjoining of good and forbidding of evil, not fearing the repercussions of their mission and displaying patience and wisdom. Allāh allows much goodness to appear on the land through this work.
The signs of Al-Fattāḥ are not exclusive to the world of Islam and worship. They extend to every avenue of life.
In 1928, Alexander Fleming, a professor of bacteriology, returned to his lab after a vacation. While sorting through his Petri dishes of colonies of the bacteria Staphylococcus, he noticed that mould had started to grow on these dishes. Looking for what colonies he could salvage from those infected with the mould, he noticed something intriguing. Bacteria were not growing around the mould. The mould in fact turned transpired to be a rare strain of Penicillium notatum that secreted a substance inhibiting bacterial growth. Penicillin was introduced in the 1940s, commencing the era of antibiotics.
Who was the one who guided him to this? It was Al-Fattāḥ.
In 1895, a German physicist named Wilhelm Roentgen was working with a cathode ray tube. Despite the fact that the tube was covered, he noticed that a nearby fluorescent screen would glow when the tube was on in the dark. The rays were somehow illuminating the screen. Roentgen tried to block the rays, but most things he placed in front of them did not seem to make a difference. When he placed his hand in front of the tube, he noticed that he could see his bones in the image that was projected on the screen. He replaced the tube with a photographic plate to capture the images, creating the first x-ray images. The technology was soon adopted by medical institutions and research departments.
Who was the one who guided him to this? It was Al-Fattāḥ.
In fact, statistics show that 50% of all discoveries happen accidentally. Perhaps this is one of the secrets of why the name Al-Fattāḥ comes side by side with the Al-‘Alīm (the All-Knowing).
The signs of Al-Fattāḥ also appear in Muslims who find themselves advancing the causes of justice. We have seen this in the past, where Al-Fattāḥ assisted the Prophet Muhammad (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) and his companions until the entirety of the Arabian Peninsula made its way to the fold of Islam. Again, Al-Fattāḥ was with them during their conquests of Persia, Rome, Egypt, and other places. Until this day, Al-Fattāḥ continues to support His allies, whether we realise it or not, and till the end of time.
The opportunities for repentance
If one were to survey the reasons that inspired repentance in people, many will share an experience where an opportunity was made to open for them without any prior preparation. A young contemporary Egyptian man said that he once embarked on a train journey from Cairo to Alexandria with the intention of perpetrating one of the most heinous sins. He found himself sat next to a young man who was reciting the Qur’ān. He said, “Allāh made me hear one of those verses which he was reciting:
يَسْتَخْفُونَ مِنَ النَّاسِ وَلاَ يَسْتَخْفُونَ مِنَ اللّهِ وَهُوَ مَعَهُمْ إِذْ يُبَيِّتُونَ مَا لاَ يَرْضَى مِنَ الْقَوْلِ
“They may hide from men, but they cannot hide from Allāh, for He is with them when they plot by night in words that which He does not approve…”
He continued to cry until he arrived at Alexandria. He got off the train and the first thing he did was book a ticket back home, and this was the beginning of his repentance. Who was the One who opened this opportunity for this young man? It was Al-Fattāḥ.
During testing times
At times, Allāh closes certain doors in order to open up others, which, without that trial, would never have opened. Health deteriorates, a loved one passes away, finances plummet, reputation is tarnished – all of which cause one to make a retreat to Allāh in desperation. This boosts īmān in ways that could not have been achieved in normal circumstances. During testing times when doors shut, Al-Fattāḥ opens doors that are far greater.
Ibn Taymiyya sent a letter to his students from his prison in Alexandria. In his letter, he wrote:
فإني -والله العظيم الذي لا إله إلا هو- في نعم من الله ما رأيت مثلها قط في عمري كله، وقد فتح الله سبحانه وتعالى من أبواب فضله ونعمته وخزائن جوده ورحمته ما لم يكن بالبال ولا يدور في الخيال.
“I am – by Allāh The Mighty, besides whom none has the right to be worshipped – indulging in blessings from Allāh, the likes of which I have never seen before in my entire life. Allāh has opened for me from the doors of his bounty, favours, and stores of His generosity and mercy which my mind and imagination could never have expected.”
Whether one is struggling to find a job despite his many financial responsibilities, or a spouse despite his loneliness, or a marital relationship that he is desperate to mend, or an enemy that is on his back, or liars who are threatening to tarnish his pure track record, or any other door that seems permanently locked – who does one have in life other than Al-Fattāḥ?
When the narrative of others is one of despair, that “there is no solution” or “there is nothing we can do about it”, the narrative of the Muslim should be “O Allāh, you are Al-Fattāḥ, so open up those matters in my life that people are claiming cannot be opened.”
In fact, man has no idea of how many doors have been opened by Allah, without being asked, after they were vaulted shut, so how would it be had one asked?
“Ya Fattāḥ, open up the heart of my child to īmān.”
“Ya Fattāḥ, open up the opportunity for marriage for such and such.”
“Ya Fattāḥ, open up the truth between me and my enemy.”
“Ya Fattāḥ, open up my mind to the correct understanding of this Dīn.”
“Ya Fattāḥ, open up my heart to live for Islam and to prepare a project of a good deed that will please You of me on the Day of Reckoning.”
One ought to think about all what he requires in this world and the next. Then, one ought to realise that Allāh has the key to that door. Excessive thinking and stressing over matters is not what opens doors; rather it is persistent Du’ā by His name, Al-Fattāḥ.
Finally, when the opportunities to do good open up in one’s life, every effort should be made to act upon them, as they could be tests from Allāh. If such tests are not passed, such opportunities may never come about again.
Hakīm b. ‘Umair said:
من فتح له باب خير فلينتهزه، فإنه لا يدري متى يغلق عنه
“Whoever has a door of goodness opened for him, then let him make best use of it, for he does not know when that door shall be closed.”
 Al-Qur’ān, 34:26
 Al-Qur’ān, 12:65
 Al-Qur’ān, 7:96
 Sha’n al-Du’ā
 Siyar A’lām al-Nubalā
 Rawdat al-Muhibbīn
 Narrated by Al-Bukhārī and Muslim, on the authority of Abū Huraira
 Narrated by Imām Aḥmad in his Musnad and Al-Tirmidhi in his Sunan, on the authority of ʿAbdullāh b. ʿUmar
 Al-Qur’ān. 4:108
Shaykh Ali Ihsan Hammuda is Islam21c’s Tarbiya Editor. A UK national of Palestinian origin, he gained bachelors and masters’ degrees in Architecture & Planning from the University of the West of England, before achieving a BA in Shari’ah from al-Azhar University in Egypt. He is currently based in Wales and is a visiting Imām at Al-Manar Centre in Cardiff, and also a senior researcher and lecturer for the Muslim Research & Development Foundation in London. Shaykh Ali is the author of several books including ‘The Daily Revivals’, ‘The Ten Lanterns’ and ‘The Friday Reminder’. He delivers sermons, lectures and regular classes across the country.