Islam for Muslims

AL-FATIHA (سورة الفاتحة‎)

Al-Fatiha, also known as "The Opening" is the first Surah in the Al-Quran.  It summarises the elements of faith in Islam, with the Muslim giving praises to God, surrendering to him and seeking guidance from Him.  It is recited in all sholat and is thus a means of communication with Allah.

If there is one surah that you should know the transliteration (meaning or translation) to, this will be the one because you will be reciting this so frequently, it only makes sense to know what you're reciting.  Furthermore, if you were to read and understand truly the content, you'll realise the Greatness of Allah and how small you are and needy of Him.  This sense of submission and surrender to Allah, in fact, is the essence of Islam (الإسلام‎).

It has 7 verses:

بِسْمِ اللّهِ الرَّحْمـَنِ الرَّحِيم
Bismillaah ar-Rahman ar-Raheem
In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful

الْحَمْدُ للّهِ رَبِّ الْعَالَمِي
Al hamdu lillaahi rabbil 'alameen
All appreciation, gratefulness and thankfulness are to Allah alone, Lord of the worlds

الرَّحمـنِ الرَّحِيم
Ar-Rahman ar-Raheem
The Beneficent, the Merciful

مَـالِكِ يَوْمِ الدِّين
Maaliki yaumid Deen
The Possessor of the day of recompense (i.e., on the last day of judgment)

إِيَّاك نَعْبُدُ وإِيَّاكَ نَسْتَعِي
Iyyaaka na'abudu wa iyyaaka nasta'een
To You alone do we worship, and to You alone we seek help

اهدِنَــــا الصِّرَاطَ المُستَقِيمَ
Ihdinas siraatal mustaqeem
Direct all of us to the straight path (i.e., to the way of Islam)

صِرَاطَ الَّذِينَ أَنعَمتَ عَلَيهِمْ غَيرِ المَغضُوبِ عَلَيهِمْ وَلاَ الضَّالِّي
Siraatal ladheena an 'amta' alaihim, Ghairil maghduubi' alaihim waladaaleen
The way of those on whom You have bestowed Your grace, not the way of those who have earned Your anger, nor of those who have lost their way and are astray

So be it, truly

Some do not consider the 1st verse - بِسْمِ اللّهِ الرَّحْمـَنِ الرَّحِيم - as a verse on its own.  However, Imam Asy-Syafi'i has treated as such and being a Sunni following the teachings of Asy-Syafi'i, I too treat the verse بِسْمِ اللّهِ الرَّحْمـَنِ الرَّحِيم  as the first verse.  I've brought this up because you may go to some places where they do not recite the verse بِسْمِ اللّهِ الرَّحْمـَنِ الرَّحِيم so do not be alarmed.

Pragmatically speaking, to recite the verse بِسْمِ اللّهِ الرَّحْمـَنِ الرَّحِيم makes more sense.  If it were part of the Surah, then we would not have committed an error.  If it were not, then reciting a beautiful verse such as the above does no harm and may in fact be a mustahab or sunnat.