In the Shade of the Quran (part 30)


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  • In the Shade of the Quran (part 30)


  • Surah 113 The Day Break - al Falaq

    In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful!

     

    Say: I seek refuge in the Lord of the Day break, from the evil of what He has created; from the evil of darkness when it gathers; from the evil of the conjuring witches; from the evil of the envier when he envies.

     

    Commentary:

    This surah, along with the following one, "Men" contains a directive from Allah primarily to His Prophet and secondly to the believers at large, to take refuge in Him and seek His protection in the face of any source of fear, hidden or visible, known or unknown. It is as if Allah, the Exalted, is unfolding His world of care, and embracing the believers in His guard, and is kindly and affectionately calling on them to resort to His care where in they will feel safe and peaceful: I know that you are helpless and surrounded by foes and fears ... Come on here for safety, contentment and peace ...

    Thus the two surahs start off with,

    Say: I seek refuge in the Lord of the Daybreak, and, Say: I seek refuge in the Lord of men.

    Several accounts have been handed down concerning the revelation and popularity of this surah and they all fit in neatly with the above interpretation, that is, of Merciful Allah unfolding His care and offering shelter to His faithful servants. The Messenger of Allah himself loved this surah deeply, as is clearly apparent in his traditions.

    According to Uqba ibn 'Amir, the Prophet's companion, the Messenger of Allah once said

    Have you not heard the unique verses that were revealed last night, 'Say: I seek refuge in the Lord of the Daybreak' and 'Say: I seek refuge in the Lord of men.'(Transmitted on the authority of Malik, Muslim, At-Tirmithi, Abu Dawood and An-Nissai).

    Jabir, the Prophet's companion, said

    The Messenger of Allah said to me once, 'Jabir recite!' and I asked, 'What shall I recite?' He replied, 'Recite "Say: I seek refuge in the Lord of the Daybreak,' and "Say: I seek refuge in Lord of men." So I recited them and he commented, 'Recite them (as often as you can) for you shall never recite anything equivalent to them.' (Transmitted by An-Nissai)

    Tharr ibn Hubaish said that he had inquired from Ubay ibn Ka'ab, the Prophet's companion, about Al-Mu'awwathatain (as the two surahs are called) saying, "Abu Al-Munthir,' your brother, Ibn Masoud says so and so. (For some time Ibn Masoud was under the false impression that these two surahs were not part of the Qur'an, but he later admitted his mistake). What do you think of that?" He replied,

    I asked Allah's Messenger about this and he told me that he had been instructed to say the context of the surahs and he had carried out the instruction. We surely say the same as Allah's Messenger has said. (Transmitted by Al-Bukhari).

    All these reports throw powerful light on that underlying factor of Allah's kindness and love to which the two surahs draw attention. Allah, the Exalted, refers to Himself in this surah by His attribute, The Lord of the Day break.

    The Arabic term "falaq" simply means "daybreak" and yet it could be taken to mean "the whole phenomenon of creation" with reference to everything breaking out into life. This interpretation is supported by Allah's saying in Surah 6. "The Cattle": Allah it is who splits (faliq) the seed and the fruit-stone (for sprouting). He brings forth the living from the dead ... He is the cleaver (faliq) of the daybreak, and He has ordained the night for rest, and the sun and the moon for reckoning. (Al-Qur'an 6:96-97)

    If the meaning "daybreak" is adopted, refuge is being sought from the unseen and the mysterious with the Lord of the daybreak, Who bestows safety as He kindles the light of day. If, however, "faliq" is taken to mean "creation", then refuge from the evil of some creature is being sought with the Lord of all creation. In both cases, harmony with the theme of the surah is maintained.

    From the evil of what He has created. The phrase contains no exceptions or specifications. Mutual contact between various creatures, though no doubt advantageous, brings about some evil. Refuge from it is sought with Allah by the believer in order to encourage the goodness such a contact produces. For He who created those creatures is surely able to provide the right circumstances that lead them on a course where only the bright side of their contacts prevails.

    From the evil of darkness (ghasiq) when it gathers (waqab). From the linguistic point of view, "ghasiq" means "substantially pouring out" and "waqb" is the name given to a little hole in a mountain through which water issues forth, "waqab" is the verb denoting such an action. What is probably meant here is the night, with all that accompanies it when it rapidly engulfs the world. That is horrifying in itself; in addition it fills hearts-with the possibility of an unknown, unexpected discomfort caused by a savage beast, an unscrupulous villain, a striking enemy or a hissing poisonous creature, as well as anxieties and worries (which entail depression and uneasiness) and evil thoughts and passions that are liable to revive in the dark during one's state of solitude at night. This is the evil against which the believer needs the protection of Allah.

    From the evil of conjuring witches refers to the various types of magic, whether by deceiving physical human senses or by influencing people's will power and projecting ideas onto their emotions and minds. (The verse specially refers to a form of witch craft carried out by women in Arabia at the time who tied knots in cords and blew upon them with an imprecation.)

    Magic is the production of illusions, subject to a magician's designs, and it does not offer any kind of new facts or alter the nature of things. This is how the Qur'an describes magic when relating the story of Moses in surah 20, "Ta Ha": They (the magicians of Pharaoh) said, 'Moses, Will you throw down your gear first or shall we be the first to throw?' He said: 'Throw down yours. ' And by the power of their magic, their cords and staffs appeared to him as though they were running. Moses conceived a secret fear within him. But We said: "Fear not! You shall have the upper hand. Throw that which is in your right hand! It will swallow up that which they have made. That which they have made is but the deceitful show of witchcraft. Come where he may a magician shall never be successful. (Al-Qur'an 20:65-9).

    Thus, their cords and staffs did not actually turn into snakes but it seemed so to the on lookers Moses included, to the point where he felt uneasy inside. He was restrained by the transformation of his stick into a real snake, by Allah's own doing, to destroy the phoney ones.

    This is the nature of magic as we ought to conceive it, that through it one is capable of influencing other people's minds, causing them to think and act according to one's suggestions. We refrain from going any further with this. It is indeed an evil from which Allah's protection needs to be sought.

    A few unsupported narratives, some of which have been quoted by authentic sources, allege that Labid ibn 'Assam, a Jew, hypnotized the Prophet for several days or months in Medina so that, as some relate he felt he was having a marital relationship with his wives when he was not; or, according to others, thought of having done something when he did not do so. This surah and the next one "Men", according to these narration's, were revealed to release him from that state by reciting them.

    But surely these stories contradict the idea of the infallibility of the Prophet in word and deed and do not agree with the belief that all his actions are exponent of the Islamic way of life for all Muslims. Above all, they conflict with the Qur'anic emphatic denial of his being influenced by any kind of magic whatsoever, as claimed by some opponents of Islam. Hence, we dismiss such stories, on the grounds that the Qur'an is the ultimate arbiter, and that singularly narrated traditions are left out in matters concerning the faith. These stories have not had proper backing and such backing is an essential qualification for a tradition to be rated as authentic. What weakens the stories most, however, is that the two surahs were revealed in Makka while these stories relate the incident as having taken place in Medina!

    And from the evil of the envier when he envies. Envy is the evil, be grudging reaction one feels towards another who has received some favours from Allah. It is also accompanied by a very strong desire for the annihilation of such favours. Some harm to the envied may result from such a baseless grudge. Now, this may either be the outcome of some direct physical action of the envier or may result from the suppressed feelings alone.

    We should try not to feel uneasy on learning that there is a countless number of inexplicable mysteries in life. There are several phenomena for which no account has been offered up till now. Telepathy and hypnosis are examples of such phenomena.

    Very little is known about the mysteries of envy and the little that is known has often been uncovered by chance and coincidence. In any case, there is in envy an evil from which the refuge and protection of Allah must be sought. For He, the Most Generous, Most Merciful and the One who knows all has directed His Messenger and his followers to seek His refuge from this evil. It is unanimously agreed by the Islamic schools of thought that Allah will always protect His servants from such evils, should they seek His protection as He has directed them to do.

    Al-Bukhari related that Aisha said that the Prophet would blow into both hands when getting into bed to sleep, and recite:

     

    Say: He is Allah, the One ..." and, "Say: I seek refuge in the Lord of the Day break ..." and, "Say: I seek refuge in the Lord of men", and starting with his head, face and front part of his body, he would then run his palms all over the rest of his body. He did that three times. (Also transmitted by the other major traditionists).

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