The name “Al-Fâtihah” is according to its subject matter. The word “Fâtihah” means, opening/key, which opens a subject, a book, or any other thing. In other words, this name has the same meanings as of “preface” or opening of a topic.
Period of Revelation:
This Sűrah is from the very earliest period of the Prophethood of Muhammad sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam. In fact, we learn from authentic traditions that it is the first complete Surah which was revealed to Prophet Muhammad sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam. Before this, only miscellaneous verses were revealed which are included in Sűrah Alaq, Muzzâmmil, and Muddaththir, etc.
In fact this Sűrah is a prayer (supplication) that Allâh subhaana wa ta’aala has taught to all those human beings who are going to study HIS book (Al-Qur’ân). The purpose of placing it at the very beginning of the book is that if you really want to benefit from this book (Al-Qur’ân) then you make this supplication to the Râbb of the Universe.
By nature, human only prays for that thing of which he/she has the most desire in his/her heart and does so only when he/she knows that the thing which he/she wants is in HIS power to whom he/she is making the supplication.
Therefore, by educating about this prayer in the beginning of Al-Qur’ân, human has been advised that one should study this book to seek the Straight Path, should study with the intention of seeking truth, and should know that the source of Knowledge is Râbb of the Universe, for this reason one should begin the study with the supplication of guidance from HIM.
After understanding the subject matter, it itself becomes clear that the true relation between Al-Qur’ân and Sűrah Al-Fâtihah is not that of an introduction to a book, but in fact it is a prayer and answer to that prayer. Sűrah Al-Fâtihah is a prayer from a servant and Al-Qur’ân is its answer from the Râbb. The servant prays that Oh Allâh subhaana wa ta’aala show me the guidance, in response the Râbb places the whole Al-Qur’ân before him/her as if to say, "This is the Guidance and advice that you have requested from ME (Allâh subhaana wa ta’aala)."