The psychology of a peoples, a culture or a faith, must to a large extent rely on its daily practices and rituals, whether these include their daily ablutions, personal and family interactions, work ethics, meal times or acts and expressions of faith such as prayer, meditation or service to others. The prayer that is common to all Muslims, irrespective of their sectarian or doctrinal formation, is the opening verse of the Holy Quran. Al-Fatiha, or “The Opening,” has been described as the Umm al-Kitab, the Mother of the Holy Book and contains for many Muslims the very essence of the entire revelation.
According to al-Bukhari, one of the most trusted recorders of the Prophetic tradition, the designation Umm al-Kitab was given to it by the Prophet Muhammad himself. The thinking has been that it contains, in a condensed form, all the fundamental principles laid down in the Holy Qur'an: the principle of Allah's oneness and uniqueness, of His being the Creator and Sustainer of the universe, the fount of all life-giving grace, the One to whom each human soul is ultimately responsible, the source of all guidance and succor; the call to righteous and enlightened action in the life of this world, the principle of life hereafter and of the spiritual consequences of human actions and behaviors; the principle of guidance through God's messengers and anointed ones and, flowing from it, the principle of the continuity of all true religions. Implied is the allusion to people who have lived - and erred, and still others who may have received divine retribution or experienced the sacred shadow, in the past. Finally, the need for voluntary self-surrender to the will of the Supreme Being and, thus, for worshipping the One alone. It is for this reason that this surah has been formulated as a prayer, to be constantly repeated and reflected upon by the believer.
"The Opening" was one of the earliest revelations bestowed upon the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him. Some authorities (for instance, `Ali ibn Abi Talib) were even of the opinion that it was the very first revelation; but this view is challenged by authentic Traditions quoted by both Bukhari and Muslim, who claim that the first five verses of surah 96 ("The Germ-Cell") constituted the beginning of the Qur’anic revelation. It is probable, however, that whereas the earlier revelations consisted of only a few verses each, "The Opening" was the first complete surah revealed to the Prophet in its entirety at one time: and this would explain the view held by all Muslims.
It would be wise, then, to invite a conversation amongst Muslim women and men of letters and learning, amongst the imams and sheikhs, mystics and philosophers, the culturally habituated and the inspired, professionals and entrepreneurs, soldiers and the constabulary, judges and prison inmates, the infirm and the impoverished, the children and the adults of this great world wisdom tradition for the purpose of illuminating and uncovering a psychology of Islam. By examining what a Muslim understands, experiences and “imagines” in the devotional recitation of this prayer, which is very often intoned or whispered by the faithful up to seventeen times a day, one can begin to approach the psychology of over one fifth of all humanity. A final selection of submissions from this conversation will result in a literary anthology. This anthology seeks to penetrate that fundamental kernel of the psychology of Islam through the images, stories, meditations, contemplations, emotions and transpersonal experiences invoked and inspired by its most sacred and treasured activity – the salat, du'a or prayer and supplication.