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Surah al-Falaq (No. 113: 'The Dawn')

Verses 1-5

بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ

In the Name of Allah, the All-beneficent, the All-merciful.

قُلْ أَعُوذُ بِرَبِّ الْفَلَقِ

Say, 'I seek the protection of the Lord of the dawn (113:1).

مِنْ شَرِّ مَا خَلَقَ

from the evil of what He has created, (113:2).

وَمِنْ شَرِّ غَاسِقٍ إِذَا وَقَبَ

and from the evil of a dark night when it settles, (113:3).

وَمِنْ شَرِّ النَّفَّاثَاتِ فِي الْعُقَدِ

and from the evil of the witches who blow on knots, (113:4).

وَمِنْ شَرِّ حَاسِدٍ إِذَا حَسَدَ

and from the evil of an envious one when he envies. (113:5).

1. Seeking Protection

Every act of seeking protection (isti'adhah) means to seek refuge from any source of harm by taking recourse to another being. This involves three fundamental elements, namely:

a. The one seeking protection, accompanied by a sense of fear towards something that threatens him, or else he would not be seeking protection.

b. The one whose protection is sought accompanied by a sense of trust in his ability to give assistance and protection.

c. The thing from which protection is sought, which is that source of evil a person seeks refuge from out of fear that he might come to harm because of it.

And when these three fundamental elements are present, it is expected that a person will seek refuge in another, and that is assuming that the one seeking protection is serious in his entreaties.

This surah came to establish these three elements, so, the one to whom the command 'Say...!' is addressed is the one seeking refuge. And the Exalted Lord

“ ... the Lord of the Dawn” (al-Falaq, 113:1).

is the one whose refuge is sought and the object of fear from which refuge is being sought are those evil things mentioned below in this surah.

2. Seeking Refuge

The command to seek refuge (by saying 'I seek refuge from Satan, the Outcast') when reciting the Qur’an relies on the Magnificent Name, which signifies the Divine Essence:

“When you recite the Qur'an, seek the protection of Allah against the outcast Satan.” (an-Nahl, 16:98).

But here, the command to seek refuge relies on a name signifying an attribute:

“I seek protection in the Lord of the Dawn.” (al-Falaq, 113:1).

This could be an allusion to the gravity of Satan's whispering when reciting the Qur'an, hence requiring the reciter to invoke his Master with the greatest of His Names; because that situation is nothing less than looking to repel evil in the realm of nearness to Allah, unlike the situation of seeking refuge from the evils of darkness, witchcraft and envy, whose harm could be restricted to this world alone.

3. Seeking Refuge Before A Calamity Occurs

Seeking refuge with Allah is proper before a calamity occurs, in fact it repels calamities, and obviously it is easier to repel a calamity than to alleviate one! So, the Prophet (S) would protect his own self with this surah, and Imams al-Hasan and al-Husayn (a2) would frequently seek protection with this surah and the one after it (Surah al-Falaq and Surah al-Nass).1 This is especially significant considering the belief that the Prophet (S) could not fall victim to witchcraft as this would show a weakness in him that was incompatible with the rank of divine messengership, so, there is no harm in seeking refuge even from evils that will not occur.

4. Doing Good Deeds To Seek Refuge

Seeking refuge accompanies fear, and fear requires one to seek safety from that which he fears. And we can see this in what the Qur'an relates about the Prophet’s (S) Household (‘a) when they gave food as charity and said:

“Indeed, we fear from our Lord a day, frowning and fateful.” (al-Insan, 76:10).

In doing so, they combined:

“We feed you only for the sake of Allah ...” (al-lnsan, 76:9).

With the fear that required them to seek refuge.

Therefore, if someone is truthfully seeking refuge, this means genuinely taking recourse with Allah, and taking genuine recourse to Allah is through doing good deeds that will bring about salvation.

5. Seeking Refuge At Dawn

There is a clear oppositeness between using the expression 'the Lord of the Dawn' and seeking refuge from the various kinds of evil mentioned in this surah. After all, what could prevent Allah from removing the darkness of evil with the light of relief when someone seeks refuge with Him, while each and every day He is the one who splits the darkness of the night with the light of the dawn?

This appositeness could be those intimate moments of mercy which accompany the hours of dawn, at which time we witness those

“ .... pleading forgiveness at dawns” (Ale 'Imran, 3:17).

at which time the angels of the night are met by those of the day – and whereat the recitation of the Qur'an at fajr is witnessed by both sets of angels –

“Indeed, the dawn recital is attended [by angels].” (al-Isra', 17:78).

So, seeking refuge with the Lord connected to this blessed time is more likely to receive a favourable response!

6. The Word ‘Al-Falaq’ (Dawn)

The word ‘al-Falaq’ ('dawn') here is like ‘al-Kawthar’ ('abundance')2 and al-Fajr ('the Daybreak')3 and other terms whose meanings the commentators disagree, because they are multifaceted and can be subject to multiple interpretations. At the same time, these serve to reveal the depth of the scripture and demonstrate the need for someone to specify which of these meanings is correct. Here, a number of possible meanings are suggested:

a. It is the dawn that splits the darkness.4

b. It is the bringing forth of every being into existence by splitting its seed5 whether a plant or animal, as Allah says:

“Indeed, Allah is the splitter of the grain and the pit.” ( al-An'am, 6:95).

c. It is the bringing forth of everything from the darkness of non-existence into the light of existence; for He splits the veil of non-existence as well.

7. Evil From Creation

Some people express amazement at how we seek refuge with Allah from the

“...the evil of what He has created” (al-Falaq, 113:2).

while He is its creator, as if we are seeking refuge with Him from Himself!

The answer to this is that sometimes evil comes from someone who deliberately intends evil, like the evil of human beings, and sometimes evil comes from non-thinking beings, like the evil of natural disasters. In both cases, Allah created the being itself and endowed it with the power to enact whatever good or evil it does. Whereat, we say that whatever comes forth from that being, whether because of a character flaw - as with human beings - or rather as some consequence of its nature - like animals - it is proper for a person to seek refuge in His Lord who looks after all the affairs of this universe, good and evil, to remove from the flaw in the character of that person or the results of the harmful nature in that animal.

8. Darkness

“And from the evil of a dark night when it settles” (al-Falaq, 113:3).

“a dark night when it settles” is a night without light when it descends and sets in.6 It is as though this night facilitates evil deeds by spreading darkness; the sinner can sin therein without being discovered or subject to disgrace. And an assailant can take his opponent by surprise without leaving him any chance to escape. This is in addition to the fact that some people are afraid of the darkness itself, especially when this darkness of the night is combined with the darkness of the ocean, and this is the reason it is singled out for mention after evil itself. And perhaps the ease with which certain sins can be committed under the cover of darkness is one of the most important sources of the evil it contains. What a difference there is between a night in which evil deed is done, and the night described by the Qur'an:

“...they recite Allah's signs in the watches of the night...” (Ale 'Imran, 3:113).

9. The Unseen Evils

This universe is composed of things both visible and unseen. So, just as there is visible evil, which can be seen with the eye - such as a harmful animal - or by using specialized equipment - such as microscopic germs - there are also, invisible evils. These are represented by those things not directly connected to the senses, such as the effects of witchcraft;

“.... the witches who blow on knots' (al-Falaq, 113:4).

and the ‘evil eye’;

“....the evil of an envious one when he envies” (al-Falaq, 113:5).

The Qur'an affirms that such things do exist in other verses; for example, it mentions magic:

“... it was the devils who disbelieved - teaching the people magic...” (al-Baqarah, 2:102).

And it mentions the evil eye:

“Indeed, the disbelievers almost devour you with their eyes when they hear the Reminder” (al-Qalam, 68:51).

And the Jinn:

“Indeed, some persons from the humans would seek the protection of some persons from the jinn…” (al-Jinn, 72:6).

Therefore, rushing to deny those things not subject to the senses makes no sense, so, long as the intellect deems it possible and there is some evidence for it.

10. Witchcraft

As to the ascription of witchcraft to women who blow on knots, if we do not treat it as a reference to specific witches in the time of the Prophet (S), then this could allude to some women in every time:

a. Either with regards to their weakness when confronted by adversaries, which causes them to take recourse to plots that do not involve direct confrontations because of the strength it requires.

b. Or with regards to their emotional power in ensnaring the hearts of men; so, they resort to means of kindling affection even if through means forbidden because they cause harm to others.

11. Alternative Meaning For Witchcraft

It could be said that the subject of this verse is not actually witchcraft practiced by women by blowing on knots tied in threads or the like. Rather it is their natural efforts to win the hearts of men; by using their God-given physical and emotional qualities, they take hold of men's hearts, as if they are blowing into their hearts things that sap their willpower and discipline!

This meaning is plain to see in intimate moments of seclusion, in which men will often act against their principles and common sense as if they have been truly bewitched. So, it is appropriate to warn against such women as one would warn against a witch, for the danger is one and the same. This is supported by what Allah has said about women, even if this is about a person’s own wife:

“Indeed, among your spouses and children you have enemies; so, beware of them.” (at-Taghabun, 64:14).

12. Use Of Indefinite Article

The use of the indefinite for 'a dark night' and 'an envious one' could be used to:

a. Magnify their evil compared to that of the witches who blow on knots, and that is because the evil of those witches is something coincidental that only happens rarely, unlike the night that descends upon us every day or the problems of human relations, which we suffer in every group!

b. Or to diminish their evil compared to the witches who blow on knots from the perspective that evil does not necessarily result from the night or from human envy; how many a night is free from evil! And how many an envious person does nothing evil! So, it is appropriate to use the indefinite for them in this sense in contrast to the witches, because evil necessarily results from practicing witchcraft.

13. Not Acting On Envy

When an envious person conceals his envy and does not display it, and actually is troubled by his feelings, this could place him in the compass of divine mercy; for just as the Lord turns night to day, he can change this person’s state too! Evil is only kindled when an envious person acts upon his envy, which is why refuge is sought from his evil with the proviso, that he enacts his envy:

“and from the evil of the envious one when he envies.” (al-Falaq, 113:5).

And this is either through the evil eye, for it has been narrated from the Prophet (S): 'Envy almost outstrips destiny!'7 Or through his actions when he plots against the object of his envy and does things that displease his Lord, in which case the words of the Prophet (S) apply to him: 'Beware of envy! For envy devours good deeds as fire devours kindling!'8

14. Repugnance Of Envy

The fact that the envious person is singled out for mention after the witch, out of all the evil things in existence, shows the repugnance of his condition because:

a. He is miserly to the utmost, as he does not seek goodness for himself but rather hopes that someone else will be deprived of it.

b. He is ignorant to the utmost, for he does not seek good from Him in whose hand are the treasuries of the heavens and the earth, and who tells His servants to ask for His grace:

“ …... And ask Allah for His grace…...” (an-Nisa', 4:32).

c. He is audacious to the utmost, even if he does not realise it, as he is practically objecting to Allah's actions, while Allah is the One who says:

“Or do they envy the people for what Allah has given them out of His grace?” (an-Nisa', 4:54).

  • 1. Majma' al-Bayan, 10/686.
  • 2. In reference to the Verse:
    “Surely We have given you Kawthar” (108:1).
  • 3. In reference to the Verse:
    “I swear by the daybreak” (89:1)
  • 4. Mu'jam Miqayis Al-Lughah, 4/452.
  • 5. Tahqiq fi Kalimat Al-Qur'an, 9/136.
  • 6. Tahdhib al-Lughah, 8/31.
  • 7. Wasa'i al-Shi'a, 15/365.
  • 8. Al-Kafi 2/306.