Allama Nasir Hunzai's commentary inspired a response from Maheroon Pradhan, who is of Scottish-Hispanic background. She embraced the faith in 1975 and says she experiences "peace" in the recitation of al-Fatiha.
Ikhlas (Purity, Sincerity):
In the fourth verse of the Fatihah, first is mentioned ikhlas or sincerity, that is, to purify one’s belief regarding the unity of God from all things other than Him. Ikhlas literally means to purify something from adulteration and mixture. Therefore, everything which can possibly be adulterated and alloyed, but is found pure in a true sense is called khalis (pure), such as gold, silver, etc. Nonetheless, in religious terms ikhlas means that state of the heart in which its attention is towards God alone and in this state, there is not the slightest mixture of the other imaginations and thoughts. Regarding this state of the heart, an example from the wise Qur’an is presented here, which is: “And when they mount upon the ships they pray to Allah, making their faith pure for Him only, but when He brings them safe to land, behold they ascribe partners (unto Him)” (29:65). The purport or meaning of this verse depends purely on wisdom. That is, most of the believers in God do not apparently start to pray to Him purifying their faith for Him when they embark on a ship, nor do they unusually ascribe partners to Him instantly upon coming ashore. However, it is true that due to the fear in their hearts when embarking on a ship they become attentive to God, in such a way that no worldly thing can divert their attention from Him, but after landing, this state of the heart, which according to God is called ikhlas or ‘pure faith’, vanishes and worldly imaginations and thoughts start to enter their hearts. This state of the heart, according to God, is called shirk or ‘ascribing partners to God’. Thus, ikhlas is the name of that state of heart in which attention is directed towards God alone, just as the people of a ship in a dangerous sea are attentive to God alone.
Memory of Beach Excursions with Abuelo
Upon setting foot on sand, abuelo (grandfather) would head for one of the piers with four-year-old grandson in tow. From the safety of the shore, I anxiously watched and prayed as Jaime screamed, his skinny arms releasing the strangle hold of abuelo’s neck when he reached the safety of the pier. During my turn at crossing the ocean between piers, abuelo got tangled in ropes (which cordoned off the beach) and we both went under. Years later, Jaime and I sailed alongside the beach watching distant bathers and recalled abuelo’s insistence we confidently engage the mysterious depths of the ocean. In that perfect moment as if on cue, the sky turned gray and a quick moving tropical storm overtook us. Jaime gave me instructions on how to position the sails; but after struggling for a while and sickened by the incessant rocking of the boat, I dove for the safety of the cabin. In prayer, I found relief for the familiar fear. Focused sincerity, gets us past agonizing moments in which self must surrender to the most merciful, generous One. Graced with access, we find the assistance we seek and as self struggles to understand the experience, the most hazardous leg of the journey begins.
In the midst of the tempest, gripped by confusion
SOS sent, self surrenders the ship’s wheel
To a loving, peaceful response and the feared
Boogey man disappears upon the first rays of dawn.
Navigating unpredictable waters, the Captain sails
Past treacherous, rocky shores of duality anchored
In the fathomless single Reality of being.
~ Maheroon Pradhan, Stafford, VA