This article addresses the fourth ayah of Al-Fatihah namely مالك يوم الدين“Maalik yawm al-deen”.The ayah consists of three words only but is of tremendous significance, because it speaks about the day of requital in the hereafter. Believing in that day is one of the six pillars of iman إيمان i.e. faith as we read in part of a hadith in Musnad Ahmed:
..الإيمانأن تؤمنباللهوملائكتهوكتبهورسله واليوم الآخر والقدر كله خيره وشره..(مسند أحمد)
i.e. : (1) Belief in Allah, (2) His angels, (3) His books, (4) His messengers, (5) the Hereafter, (6) and all Fate and Destiny, good and bad.
In fact the ayah has two authentic acceptable forms:
(1)مالك يوم الدين “Maalik yawm al- deen” i.e. the Owner of the day of requital, and
(2) ملك يوم الدين“Malik yawm al- deen” i.e. the Sovereign of the day of requital.
We will hereunder discuss these three words and their various meanings in detail.
The first of the three words of the ayah is مالك maalik or ملك malik. Both forms are acceptable and authentic readings. Asem, Al Kisaey and Yaqoob read it as Maalik (with the extra Alif, which is the first letter of the Arabic alphabet),whilst Nafee, Ibn Katheer, Hamzah, Abu Amr and Ibn Amer read it as Malik. Both words are derived from the Arabic past tense verb Malaka i.e. owned or possessed. Arabic is a language in which a large family of words are derived from a root word. For instance, from the verb كتبَ kataba i.e. wrote we derive words such as كتابة kitabaton writing, كتابKitab book, مكتب maktab bureau or desk, مكتبة maktabah library or bookshop,كاتب kateb writer or clerck, إكتتاب iktitab subscription, كاتبة katibah typewriter, مكتوب maktoob letter, مكاتبة mukatabah correspondence, and many other words.
Maalik means owner, possessor, lord, or master, whereas Malik meansking or sovereign. We have reviewed 36 different published English translations of Al-Fatihah and found that the translations of the words Maalik or Malik have been translated into the following: (a) (The) Master – 19 translations; (b) (The) King – 5 translations; (c) Ruler – 3 translations; (d) Owner – 2 translations; (e) The Only Owner & Only Ruling Judge – 1 translation; (f) Possessor – 1 translation; (g) Lord – 1 translation; (h) Sovereign – 1 translation.
In fact, the Glorious Qur’ān refers to Allah (SWT) in one ayah as Maalik and in another ayah as Malik. This is another reason that supports the acceptability of both readings. These two ayas are:
قُلِ اللَّهُمَّمَالِكَالْمُلْكِ تُؤْتِي الْمُلْكَ مَنْ تَشَاءُوَتَنْـزِعُ الْمُلْكَ مِمَّنْ تَشَاءُ وَتُعِزُّ مَنْ تَشَاءُ وَتُذِلُّ مَنْتَشَاءُ بِيَدِكَ الْخَيْرُ إِنَّكَ عَلَى كُلِّ شَيْءٍ قَدِيرٌ)آل عمران26(
Ayah 26:3 Surat Al Umran: “Say: O God, Master2 of all Dominion! You give dominion to whom You will, and take away dominion from whom You will, and You exalt whom You will, and abase whom You will; in Your hand is all good; surely You have full power over everything.”
In this ayah Master or Sovereign of all dominion is a translation of Maalik al-Mulk.
The other ayah however says:
Ayah 2:114 Surat Al-Nas: “Sovereign of all human beings”. Here Malik is used.
The different scholars and interpreters of the Qur’ān have differed in their preference of choice between the two words maalik and malik. Al Zamakshari (467-538 H) in his classical Qur’ān interpretation (Al-Kashaf) said that “Malik” is more correct as it is the reading of the people of Al Harameen in Al Hijaz i.e. the two most important centres of Islam: Makkah and Al Madinah.
Al Shawkani (died in 1255 H) in his classical Qur’ān interpretation (Fath Al-Qadeer) said that some interpreters preferred Malik as it is more encompassing than Maalik because all kings are owners and yet not all owners are kings, and here Allah owns all and has control overall, but others preferred Maalik, as the owner has full control of all what he personally owns. He mentions that Abu Hatem said that Maalik is more glorifying in describing Allah, whereas Malik is more glorifying in describing humans.
Abu Hamed Al Ghazali (1058-1111) in his book (Al-Maqsad Al-Asna fi Sharh Asma Allah Al-Husna) speaks about the beautiful names of Allah. The book is translated with notes by David B. Burnell and Nazih Daher (first published in 1992 by the Islamic Texts Society). They quote Al Gazhali saying: “Al Malik or the King is the one who in His essence and attributes has no need of any existing thing, while every existing thing needs Him. There is nothing among things which can dispense with Him concerning anything – whether in the essence or its attributes, its existence or survival; but rather each thing’s existence is for Him or for something that is from Him. Everything, other than Him, is subject to Him in its existence and its attributes, while He is independent of everything – and this is what it is to be king absolutely.”
Ibn Jareer At-Tabari (died 310 H) in his detailed classical interpretation Jami Al-Bayan fi Tafseer Al-Qur’ān states that Malik originates from the word “Mulk” which can mean what is within the kingdom, whereas Maalik originates from the word “Milk” which is what is owned.
Al Qurtubi (died 671 H) states that both Malik and Maalik are good and traditionally authentic readings. He also argues that the additional letter in Maalik adds to the benefit of the reader/worshiper an extra “hasanah” i.e. a good deed as per the hadith of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be to him) related by Al-Tirmidhi:
من قرأ حرفا منكتاب الله فله به حسنة والحسنة بعشر أمثالها لاأقولالمحرفولكنألف حرفولامحرفوميمحرف (رواه الترمذي)
i.e. he who reads/recites a letter of the Book of Allah (i.e. the Qur’ān) gains one hasanah, and the hasanah is multiplied to ten hasanahs of its type; I do not say Alef-Lam-Meem a letter, but Alef a letter, Lam a letter and Meem a letter.
In his Al Manar Interpretation of the Qur’ān Sheikh Muhammad Abduh (1849-1905), argued that although Maalik hasan extra letter and that undoubtedly adds more blessings “hasanat” in reading, he argues that Malik has more of an impact on الخشوعAl Khushoo which means Reverence/Veneration in prayer when we talk of Kingship. Sheikh ِAbduh in his book Duroos Mina Al Qur’ān i.e. Lessons from the Qur’ān again reiterates that Malik (King) is more أبلغ ablagh i.e. more eloquent, or better because it refers to Sultanship, Strength and Management (Tadbeer), whereas Maalik may also be considered ablagh because it means He is the Master and Owner and has general and overall control. Thus he explains the advantages of each of the two alternatives.
The second word in the ayah is يوم yawm which means day. This translation of yawm is uncontested. Of course day of requital referred to is not like any other day, and is not necessarily of a duration of 24 hours like the normal days on this planet Earth. In fact various ayas in the Qur’ān speak of days of different lengths. Two ayas say that one day with Allah is equal to a thousand years of what we count. The first ayah is:
وَيَسْتَعْجِلُونَكَ بِالْعَذَابِوَلَنْ يُخْلِفَ اللَّهُ وَعْدَهُ وَإِنَّ يَوْمًا عِنْدَ رَبِّكَ كَأَلْفِسَنَةٍمِمَّا تَعُدُّونَ (الحج 47)
Surat Al Haj 22, ayah 47: “They challenge you to hasten the coming upon them of God’s punishment (with which they are threatened). Let them know that God never fails to fulfil His promise; but a day with your Lord is like a thousand years in your reckoning.”
The second ayah is:
يُدَبِّرُ الأَمْرَمِنَ السَّمَاءِ إِلَى الأَرْضِ ثُمَّ يَعْرُجُ إِلَيْهِ فِي يَوْمٍ كَانَمِقْدَارُهُ أَلْفَسَنَةٍمِمَّا تَعُدُّونَ (السجدة 5)
Surat Al Sajdah 32, ayah 5: “He directs the affair from heaven to the earth; then the affair ascends to Him in a day the measure of which is a thousand years of what you reckon”.
A third ayah speaks of a day which is equivalent to fifty thousand years:
تَعْرُجُالْمَلائِكَةُ وَالرُّوحُ إِلَيْهِ فِي يَوْمٍ كَانَ مِقْدَارُهُ خَمْسِينَ أَلْفَسَنَةٍ (المعارج:4)
Surat Al Maarej 70, ayah 4: “The angels and the Spirit ascend unto Him in a Day the measure whereof is (as) fifty thousand years.”
Ali Unal in his annotated interpretation of the Qur’ān (published by The Light Inc, USA in 2006) page 697 explains this concept of time further in the context of the verses, and also in perspectives of astrophysics and the sociology of history. Attention is drawn to the relativity of time. A long period in the perspective of humans may be very short in the sight of God. God does not consider time in the same way that the human being does, in the sense that He is not constrained by the concepts of time or space.
To this interestingly he adds on page 697: “He is not contained by time or space, and His Wisdom that directs things and events considers each thing and event both as an individual entity in and as an indispensible part of the general fabric of creation and history. As each thing in the universe has an intrinsic relationship not only with every other thing individually, but also with the whole universe at the same time, so too is each event in human history interrelated with every other event individually and with the whole history. Human beings cannot grasp this relationship in its entire web; they cannot know the past perfectly, grasp the present completely, nor guess the future well. Besides, the wheel of both the universe and history does not revolve according to the desires of human beings. Secondly, a day for humanity is the time it takes the earth to make a single rotation around itself. The earth has another day, which consists of its revolution around the sun. This day lasts 365 days according to the reckoning of a day by humanity. So too does every other planet and all systems, like the solar system, have a day that is peculiar to each. This means that the concept of a day differs according to the planets and the systems.”
Unal also mentions in his explanation of the verse in Surat As-Sajdah page 854: “The Qur’ān uses the word day not only in the sense of a normal day, but also as time unit and period. While this verse mentions a day to be equivalent of 1,000 years by our reckoning, another verse mentions a day that measures 50,000 years (70:4). This shows that the concept of day is relative. The world does not consist only in our world or the visible universe. Rather there are worlds or dimensions within one another. Just as time or the length of a day is different in the world of dreams, so too is it also different in the world of spirit and imagination and that of immaterial forms, in other spiritual realms.”
The third word in the ayah is دِين deen. This word has several meanings including religion, law, habit and obedience. It also means recompense and reward. In 33 different published English translations of Qur’ān the translators used for the translation of the word deen in this ayah the following words with the following frequencies: (a) Judgement – 22 times; (b) Doom – 2 times; (c) Repayment – 2 times; (d) Requital – 2 times; (e) Reckoning – 2 times; (f) Recompense– 2 times; (g) Resurrection – 1 time.
Yawm Al Deen is part of الآخرةِِAl-Akhirah i.e. of the Hereafter or Ending. To be accepted by Allah a person needs not only to believe in Allah and live righteously and do good in life, but also must believe in the Hereafter andاليوم الآخر Al-Yawm Al-Akher i.e. the Day of Judgement and Requital. The Qur’ān states:
وَمَنْ أَرَادَالآخِرَةَوَسَعَى لَهَا سَعْيَهَا وَهُوَ مُؤْمِنٌفَأُولَئِكَ كَانَ سَعْيُهُمْ مَشْكُورًا الاسراء 19
Surat Al-Isra 10:19 “Those who do wish for the (things of) the Hereafter, and strive therefor with all due striving, and have Faith, they are the ones whose striving is acceptable (to Allah).”
The Qur’ān also states:
يُؤْمِنُونَبِاللَّهِ وَالْيَوْمِالآخِرِوَيَأْمُرُونَبِالْمَعْرُوفِ وَيَنْهَوْنَ عَنِ الْمُنْكَرِ وَيُسَارِعُونَ فِي الْخَيْرَاتِوَأُولَئِكَ مِنَ الصَّالِحِينَ آل عمران 114
Surat Aal-Imran 3:114 “They believe in Allah and the Last Day; they enjoin what is right, and forbid what is wrong; and they hasten (in emulation) in (all) good works: they are in the ranks of the righteous."
The Day of Judgement has also many other names referred to in the Holy Qur’ān including; الآخرةAl Akhirah (The Ending) – Surat Al Baqarah 4:2 ;الحاقة Al Haqqah (The Righteous Coming) – Surat Al Haqqah 1,2,3:69; الساعة Al Saa-ah (The Hour) - Surat Al An-am 31:6; الصاخةAl Sakhah (The Deafening Wrath) - Surat Abasa; الطامة الكبرىAlTamat-Al-Kubra (The Great Resurrection Event) - Surat Al Nazi-at 34:79;الغاشية Al Ghashiyah (The Enveloper) - Surat Al Ghashiyah 1:88;القارعة Al Qariaah (The Striker/The Pounder) - Surat Al Quariaah 1-3:101 and Surat Al Haqqah 4:69;الميعادAl Miyaad (The Appointment) - Surat Al Qasas 85:28; الواقعةAl Wakiaah (The Event) - Surat Al Wakiaah 1:56; يوم البعثYawm Al Baath (Day of Resurrection) - Surat Al Rum 56:30; يوم التغابنYawm Al Taggabun (Day of Gathering) - Surat Al Taggabun 9:64;يوم التلاقيYawm Al Talak (Day of Mutual Meeting – Resurrection) - Suart Ghafir 15:40; يوم الجمعYawm Al Jaamm (Day of Assembly) - Surat Al Shurra 7:42; يوم الحسرةYawm Al Hassra (Day of Grief- Regrets) - Surat Maryam 39:19;يوم الفصل Yawm Al Fasal (Day of Judgement) - Surat Al Saffat 21:37; يوم القيامةYawm Al Qiyaamah (Day of Resurrection) - Surat Al Qiyaamah 1:75;يوم الوعيدYawm Al Waeed (Day of Whereof Warning) - Surat Qaf 20:50.
Although all the names refer to the same Day, they describe certain highlight events or aspects that occur on that Day. For example, Yawm Al Qiyaamah is “The Day of Resurrection”, which is one of the stages which mankind will go through. Al Wakiaah is “The Event”, but in Al Fatiha Allah (SWT) invokes an important dimension of that Day, which in fact is its climax and which is the ultimate purpose of that Day, which is Judgement, Requital and Recompense!