Tafseer of Surah Falaq and Surah Naas

بِسْمِ اللّٰهِ الرَّحْمٰنِ الرَّحِيْمِ

قُل أَعوذُ بِرَبِّ الفَلَقِ ‎﴿١﴾‏ مِن شَرِّ ما خَلَقَ ‎﴿٢﴾‏ وَمِن شَرِّ غاسِقٍ إِذا وَقَبَ ‎﴿٣﴾‏ وَمِن شَرِّ النَّفّٰثٰتِ فِى العُقَدِ ‎﴿٤﴾‏ وَمِن شَرِّ حاسِدٍ إِذا حَسَدَ ‎﴿٥﴾‏

Say (O Muhammed (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam)): I seek refuge with the Rabb of the daybreak, from the evil of all that He has created, and from the evil of the darkness (of the night) when its darkness spreads out, and from the evil of those who blow into the knots (at the time of practising witchcraft and sorcery), and from the evil of the envier when he envies.

قُل أَعوذُ بِرَبِّ النّاسِ ‎﴿١﴾‏ مَلِكِ النّاسِ ‎﴿٢﴾‏ إِلٰهِ النّاسِ ‎﴿٣﴾‏ مِن شَرِّ الوَسواسِ الخَنّاسِ ‎﴿٤﴾‏ الَّذى يُوَسوِسُ فى صُدورِ النّاسِ ‎﴿٥﴾‏ مِنَ الجِنَّةِ وَالنّاسِ ‎﴿٦﴾‏

Say (O Muhammad (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam)), I seek refuge in the Lord of mankind, the King of mankind, the God of mankind from the evil of the whisperer who retreats (when the name of Allah Ta‘ala is pronounced), the one who whispers in the hearts of mankind, (whether) from Jinn or mankind.

These two surahs, Surah Falaq and Surah Naas, were revealed in Madinah Munawwarah after the hijrah of Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam). Hence, these two surahs are called ‘Madani Surahs’.

The cause for the revelation of these two surahs was that Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) was severely afflicted with sihr (black magic).

Black Magic Being Cast Against Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam)

In the 6th year after hijrah, Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) and the Sahaabah (radhiallahu ‘anhum) travelled to Makkah Mukarramah with the intention of performing Umrah. However, they were refused entry into Makkah Mukarramah by the kuffaar of Makkah. Thereafter, a peace treaty was signed by Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) and the kuffaar stipulating that for ten years, there will be no war or fighting between the two armies. This treaty was called Sulh Hudaybiyyah (the Treaty of Hudaybiyyah).

After the treaty was signed, Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) and the Sahaabah (radhiyallahu ‘anhum) returned to Madinah Munawwarah during the month of Zul Hijjah.

One month later, in the month of Muharram 7 AH, a group of Jews came to Labeed bin Aa’sam who was an expert in black magic and sorcery. These Jews told him that they had relentlessly tried, on many occasions, to bewitch Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) and kill him, but all their black magic and sorcery did not prove effective. Therefore, they decided to approach him, knowing that he was an expert in this field and that there was no person as proficient as him in the art of black magic. They paid him three dinaars (gold coins) to accomplish the task of assassinating Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam).

According to some narrations, Labeed was a Jew, while other narrations indicate that he was a munaafiq (hypocrite), while yet other narrations show that he was from the Ansaar of Madinah Munawwarah.

Hafiz Ibnul Hajar (rahimahullah) reconciles between these narrations by explaining that prior to the hijrah of Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam), the Ansaar had close ties with the Jews. However, after Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) made hijrah to Madinah Munawwarah, the Ansaar embraced Islam and severed ties with the Jews. Among them was Labeed bin Aa’sam. On account of his close relationship with the Jews, some considered him to be a Jew.

Labeed was from the Banu Zuraiq tribe. He pretended to be a believer and would attend the gatherings of Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam), while Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) knew that he was from among the munaafiqeen (hypocrites).

After Labeed accepted the payment of three dinaars from the Jews, he got into contact with a Jewish youngster who used to frequent the house of Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) and would be in his service. He asked the young boy to obtain for him the blessed hair of Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam). In order to make the boy bring the hair to him, he invented a false pretext which he explained to him, convincing him that he wanted the hair for some good purpose. Hence, the youngster got hold of the blessed hair and comb of Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) and handed it over to him.

Labeed used the blessed hair of Rasulullah (sallallahu alaihi wasallam), the teeth of the comb and the male spadix of the date palm in the spell he had cast on Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam). Other narrations also explain that he had made a wax image of Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) and had inserted eleven needles into it.

Labeed bin Aa’sam’s entire family was involved in sihr, so he used his daughters to assist him in the process of casting the spell upon Rasulullah (sallallahu alaihi wasallam). After completing the sihr, Labeed took these items and placed them under a rock at the bottom of a certain well in Madinah Munawwarah named Bir Zi Arwaan.

Hazrat Aaishah (radhiyallahu ‘anha) explains that after the spell was cast on Rasulullah (sallallahu alaihi wasallam), he fell ill and began to forget many worldly related matters. Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) would forget whose turn it was from his respected wives and would go to the house of another wife. He was also losing his appetite and growing weak. However, as far as deeni matters were concerned, such as conveying deen to the ummah, remembering the wahi that was revealed to him, then the black magic did not affect him in any way. Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) remained in this state of sickness for approximately six months.

When Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) was experiencing this difficulty, he initially felt that it was related to some illness. Hence, Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) underwent cupping to cure himself, but when he saw that there was no improvement in his condition, he realised that there was something else that was affecting him.

A Conversation between Two Angels

Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) once spoke to Hazrat Aaisha (radhiyallahu ‘anha) during his illness and told her, “I have been sick for a long time, and I continuously supplicated to Allah Ta‘ala to reveal to me the reality of the situation.

While I was lying down in a state between sleep and wakefulness, Allah Ta‘ala sent two angels to me (Hazrat Jibra’eel (‘alaihis salaam) and Hazrat Mikaa’eel (‘alaihis salaam). One sat by my head-side and the other by my feet-side.

The angel by the head asked the angel by the feet, “What is the matter with regard to this person? What sickness is he afflicted with?”

The other responded, “He is under the influence of black magic.”

The angel by the head then asked the angel by the feet, “Who is responsible for this?” The other angel responded, “Labeed bin Aa’sam.”

The angel by the head further asked the angel by the feet, “What items were used for casting the black magic upon him?”

The angel responded, “The black magic was done upon his hair, the teeth of his comb and the male spadix of the date palm.”

After hearing this dialogue that transpired between the two angels (which in reality was a medium to inform Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) of his condition from the side of Allah Ta‘ala), Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) awoke from his state and commanded a group of four Sahaabah (Hazrat Ali, Ammaar, Jubair ibn Iyaas and Qais ibn Mihsan (radhiyallahu ‘anhum)) to go to the place where the sihr (black magic) was placed and remove it.

Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) was also informed by Allah Ta’ala in the dream that the black magic was placed in a certain well. It is reported that Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) also went to the well and the items upon which the black magic was done were removed from beneath a boulder at the bottom of the well and brought before Rasulullah (sallallahu alaihi wasallam).

It was at this juncture that Hazrat Jibra’eel (Alaihi Salaam) descended from the heavens and brought with him these two surahs; Surah Falaq and Surah Naas, which were revealed upon Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) at that time. Hazrat Jibreel (alaihis salaam) commanded Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) to recite each verse of the two surahs from the beginning till the end. As Rasulullah (sallallahu alaihi wasallam) recited each verse, a knot from the gut opened up and the needles from the wax image of Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) were removed. As the pins were being removed, Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) felt a little pain, but thereafter he experienced immense relief.

Certain Ahaadeeth mention that after the sihr (black magic) was removed, Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) found such immense relief that it was as though he was finally released from shackles after being tied up for a long period of time.

Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) described the trees and water of the well to Hazrat Aaishah (radhiyallahu ‘anha) saying, “It was as though the water was infused with mendhi making it dark black, and the trees that were growing out of the well resembled the heads of devils (some reports mention that the branches of the trees resembled the heads of snakes).” This was the type of scary and eery place where the black magic was done upon Rasulullah (sallallahu alaihi wasallam).

After Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) recited the mu’awwazatain (Surah Falaq and Surah Naas), Hazrat Jibra’eel (‘alaihis salaam) recited the following dua, in order to treat Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) for the black magic he was afflicted with:

بِاسْمِ اللهِ أَرْقِيْكَ مِنْ كُلِّ شَيْءٍ يُؤْذِيْكَ مِنْ شَرِّ كُلِّ نَفْسٍ أَوْ عَيْنٍ حَاسِدٍ اللهُ يَشْفِيْكَ بِاسْمِ اللهِ أَرْقِيْكَ

In the name of Allah Ta‘ala I recite these words upon you (and treat you seeking cure from Allah Ta‘ala) from everything which is harming you – from the evil of every soul or jealous eye. May Allah Ta‘ala grant you cure. In the name of Allah Ta‘ala I recite these words upon you (and treat you seeking cure from Allah Ta‘ala).

The Outstanding Character of Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam)

After the black magic was removed and Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) felt a great sense of relief, Hazrat Aaishah (radhiyallahu ‘anha) suggested to him that he call the people, expose the person who cast the black magic upon him and burn the sihr in full view of the public. Some narrations mention that she suggested to Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) to banish this person (Labeed bin Aa’sam) from Madinah Munawwarah.

However, Rasulullah’s (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) immediate response was, “O Aaishah! Allah Ta‘ala has cured me, hence there is no need for me to do this. The punishment that Allah Ta‘ala will mete out to him is sufficient for him.” Nevertheless, Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) commanded that the well be buried and completely sealed.

It was the blessed habit of Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) and an exhibition of his lofty character that he never took revenge for any action carried out against his personal self. Instead, he always forgave those who ill-treated him or even oppressed him. Labeed bin Aa’sam used to attend the majaalis (gatherings) of Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam), as he was from the hypocrites, yet it is recorded that even after this incident transpired, Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) never addressed him regarding it, nor treated him any differently.

*The Purpose for the Revelation of these Two Surahs*

These two Surahs, as explained previously, were revealed at the time when black magic was cast on Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam). They were sent down by Allah Ta‘ala for the cure and protection of Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) in particular, and for the protection of the Ummah of Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) in general.

The Ulama explain that the first Surah (Surah Falaq) was revealed to save one from all physical harms and dangers in particular, and the second Surah (Surah Naas) was revealed particularly to save one from all spiritual harms and dangers.

قُل أَعوذُ بِرَبِّ الفَلَقِ

Say (O Muhammad (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam)). I seek refuge with the Rabb of the daybreak

In this verse, Allah Ta‘ala specifically mentioned the word ‘daybreak’, indicating towards the time of dawn when light is seen after darkness.

In this there is a message for Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) and the Ummah, informing them that just as the darkness of night is followed by the brightness of dawn, in the same way, after the period of hardship and difficulty, the assistance of Allah Ta‘ala is sure to come.

Once the divine assistance of Allah Ta‘ala comes, it dispels all layers of darkness and cause light to spread everywhere. Hence, in the face of problems, hardships and difficulties, one should turn to Allah Ta‘ala and he should not lose hope of His mercy at any time.

Some Mufassireen explain that the word “Falaq” refers to a valley in Jahannam. The intensity and ferocity of this valley is such that Jahannam itself seeks refuge in Allah Ta‘ala from it everyday. One can well imagine the serious plight of those who will be thrown in such a place in Jahannam.

Therefore, through Allah Ta‘ala mentioning this valley in Jahannum and mentioning that He is the Lord of this valley, there is an indication to this aspect that when Allah Ta‘ala is the Creator of the source of such misery, pain and hardship beyond which one cannot imagine any problem and difficulty to be worse than it; then man should realize that there is no place of refuge and sanctuary for him besides turning to Allah Ta‘ala. He alone has the solution to all problems, the answers to all questions and the exit from all difficulties.

مِن شَرِّ ما خَلَقَ

from the evil of all that He created

This verse includes and encompasses every type of difficulty or evil that could possibly be imagined, as well as that which cannot be humanly conceived. Refuge is sought in Allah Ta‘ala from every type of harm or evil.

In this verse, Allah Ta‘ala directs our attention to Him being the Creator of evil. Hence, when he is the Creator of evil, then we should seek refuge in Him to remove the evil. So when we seek refuge, we should seek refuge in the Rabb of the daybreak from the evil of His creation.

In this, Allah Ta‘ala impresses upon us that when everything is His creation, then no matter how insignificant or how destructive the evil may seem to be in our sight, we should remember that all are His creation and He has full control over them.

Therefore, one should not be overwhelmed by the problem and circumstance that one is in, but rather he should look at the Being who has created everything and has control over everything.

In essence, the believer should realise that the One who has the power to create a thing also has the power to destroy it and bring it into total oblivion. Sometimes a person becomes so consumed with the problem he is in that he forgets that there is a Creator who is in total, supreme control over everything.

After seeking refuge in Allah Ta‘ala from all harm in a general manner, Allah Ta‘ala thereafter teaches us to seek refuge in Him from three specific harms in the following three verses:

وَمِن شَرِّ غاسِقٍ إِذا وَقَبَ ‎﴿٣﴾‏ وَمِن شَرِّ النَّفّٰثٰتِ فِى العُقَدِ ‎﴿٤﴾‏ وَمِن شَرِّ حاسِدٍ إِذا حَسَدَ ‎﴿٥﴾‏

From the evil of the darkness (of the night) when its darkness spreads out, and from the evil of those who blow in the knots (at the time of practising witchcraft and sorcery), and from the evil of the envier when he envies.

The Ulama explain that one possible reason for these three evils being mentioned and highlighted in particular is that these three evils were found in the incident which was the cause for these two surahs being revealed (i.e. the witchcraft which was done on Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam).

  • The evil of the dark night is mentioned as the witchcraft was done at night.
  • The evil of those who blow onto knots is mentioned as those involved in casting the spell were the daughters of Labeed bin Aa’sam, who blew in the knots at the time when they had done the witchcraft.
  • The evil of jealousy is mentioned as the root cause for the Jews carrying out the witchcraft was the jealousy they had in their hearts for Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) and them not wanting his cause and mission (of Islam) to spread.

Hence, protection is sought in specific from these three types of harms:

  1. The night when its darkness spreads out.
  2. The evil of those women/souls who blow in knots.
  3. The evil of the envier when he envies.

From these three harms, we notice that the first and third harm have been attached with a clause. In the case of the first harm, the evil of the night is mentioned with the clause of its darkness spreading out, and in the case of the third harm, the evil of the envier is mentioned with the clause of him expressing his envy.

As far as the second harm is concerned, then we notice that it is not attached with any condition. The reason is that the evil of the night is confined to its darkness. When the darkness disappears through the coming of daybreak, then the evil of the night comes to an end. The attack of thieves and sorcerers, and the harm caused by various creatures and animals, are commonly found at night. Hence, when protection is sought in Allah Ta‘ala from the evil of the night, all these harms are included in it.

Similarly, the evil of the envier is only perceived when he vents his jealousy, otherwise his jealousy will merely cause him to burn from within and will not affect the one whom he is jealous of. Hence, safety and security are sought from the jealous one at the time he wishes to express and vent his jealousy, as this is the time when he causes harm to others.

As far as witchcraft and sorcery is concerned, it affects a person throughout the day and night. Hence, there is no clause or condition attached to this evil.

Commentating on these verses, Hafiz Ibn Qayyim (rahmatullahi alaih) mentioned that the cause of all harms, whether physical or spiritual, can be encapsulated into two causes:

1) The actual physical pain, calamity or misfortune that the person experiences.

2) The cause that brings about the pain. In the case of physical pain, it is the physical cause, and in the case of spiritual pain, it is the spiritual cause. For example, kufr, shirk, disobedience of Allah Ta‘ala etc. are the causes of spiritual retrogression and harm.

This surah, through the verse  مِنۡ شَرِّ مَا خَلَقَ , includes both types of causes and teaches us to seek protection from both causes of evil and harm.

قُل أَعوذُ بِرَبِّ النّاسِ ‎﴿١﴾‏ مَلِكِ النّاسِ ‎﴿٢﴾‏ إِلٰهِ النّاسِ ‎﴿٣﴾‏ مِن شَرِّ الوَسواسِ الخَنّاسِ ‎﴿٤﴾‏ الَّذى يُوَسوِسُ فى صُدورِ النّاسِ ‎﴿٥﴾‏ مِنَ الجِنَّةِ وَالنّاسِ ‎﴿٦﴾‏

Say (O Muhammad (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam)), I seek refuge in the Lord of mankind, the King of mankind, the God of mankind from the evil of the whisperer who retreats (when the name of Allah Ta‘ala is pronounced), the one who whispers in the hearts of mankind, (whether) from Jinn or mankind. 

In the previous surah (Surah Falaq), refuge was sought mainly and primarily from physical harms (even though spiritual harms were also included in the generality of the verse مِنۡ شَرِّ مَا خَلَقَ – the evil of all things that Allah Ta‘ala has created). In this surah, refuge is sought from spiritual harms and evils i.e. the harms of Shaytaan.

Since spiritual harms are far worse and greater than physical harms, the Qur’aan Majeed terminates with this surah. In the case of physical harms that affect a person, the harm is confined to his life. No sooner does he pass away, the difficult ordeal he was going through terminates. As far as spiritual harm is concerned, it continues and transcends this worldly life into the life of the Hereafter. Hence, we understand that spiritual harm is more serious compared to the physical harms of this world.

In this surah, the word “An-Naas” has been repeated five times. Generally, in speech, if reference is made to something that has already been clearly mentioned previously, then one suffices upon a mere indication. However, in this verse, the word (An-Naas) is repeated.

Some Ulama explain that the reason for An-Naas being repeated five times is to allude to the five different stages and phases that man passes through during his life.

In the beginning, he is a child and in need of Allah Ta‘ala the most. Hence, Allah Ta‘ala teaches us that we seek protection and refuge in Him. Allah Ta‘ala says,

قُلْ اَعُوۡذُ بِرَبِّ النَّاسِ  –    Say, I seek refuge in the Rabb of mankind (Allah Ta‘ala)

Rabb refers to that Being who oversees and administers the affairs of every creation, assisting and helping them as they develop and progress from stage to stage, and seeing to their interests and needs at every moment. Hence, at the beginning, when the child is in its developing stages, the word Rabb was most suitable to be used in explaining the human being’s need towards Allah Ta‘ala.

As the human being progresses, he becomes a young man. It is in this stage that he develops fear for the ruler and authorities. Thus, through the word مَلِکِ النَّاسِ , Allah Ta‘ala infers and indicates that we should seek protection in the real king and supreme authority of man i.e. Allah Ta‘ala.

The third stage of a human being’s life is when he reaches old age. Generally, a person nearing the end of life realizes that he needs to turn more to Allah Ta‘ala in worship and obedience, and thus exerts himself more in righteousness and the worship of Allah Ta‘ala. Hence, concerning this stage, the word اِله النَّاسِ was used. In other words, man should turn more to Allah Ta‘ala and seek refuge in Him, for He is theاِله   of the people, the one and only deity.

These three qualities and attributes of Allah Ta‘ala i.e. Rabb, Malik and Ilaah, all indicate towards the ability to protect.

As far as the word Rabb is concerned, in Arabic when it is attributed to something, then it gives the meaning of ownership e.g.  رب الدار- the owner of the house and رب العبد – the owner of the slave. Therefore, the word “rabb” indicates to protecting as the owner is generally concerned about his possessions and he is concerned about looking after them and protecting them.

The word malik (king) indicates to protecting as the king is generally concerned about the welfare and protection of his subjects.

In the same way the word Ilaah (the Deity/God) indicates to protecting as Ilaah (the Deity/God) is concerned about His creation. Hence, when Allah Ta‘ala possesses all these three qualities, then it demands that Allah Ta‘ala will protect His creation, and there will be no protection greater than the protection of Allah Ta‘ala.

The fourth time the word An-Naas is mentioned, it refers to the condition that man undergoes throughout his life, where Shaytaan perpetually tries to mislead and misguide him by instilling evil thoughts and whispers into his heart. Hence, man is taught that he should continuously seek Allah Ta‘ala’s protection and security against Shaytaan.

The fifth time An-Naas is repeated, it refers to the agents of Shaytaan who help and assist Shaytaan in his mission of misleading the creation. Among his agents are the other shayateen as well as evil people. As is generally seen, the company a person keeps has a great influence upon his thinking, mindset and behavior, and subtle messages are passed across from heart to heart, which cause a man’s very outlook and mindset towards life to change.

Shaytaan, the Whisperer

In this surah, Allah Ta‘ala refers to Shaytaan as الْوَسْوَاسِ. The word الْوَسْوَاسِ literally means ‘to whisper’, (which in the Arabic language, refers to the root word from which all verbs emanate). Hence, Allah Ta‘ala calls Shaytaan by this name, using the root word, indicating towards the great ability he possesses in misleading man through his evil whisper.

The Ulama explain that in the spiritual heart of man there are two compartments. In one compartment, there is an angel which motivates man towards good. This is on the right side of man’s heart. On the left side of man’s heart, there is another compartment in which there is a Shaytaan which encourages and entices man towards evil.

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