AL-FALAQ (THE RISING DAWN)
Total Verses: 5
WHEREAS most of the commentators assign this and the next surah to the early part of the Mecca period, some authorities (e.g., Razi, Ibn Kathir) consider them to have been revealed at Medina, while yet others (e.g., Baghawi, Zamakhshari, Baydawi) leave the question open. On the basis of the scant evidence available to us it appears probable that both these surahs are of early Meccan origin.
IN THE NAME OF GOD, THE MOST GRACIOUS, THE DISPENSER OF GRACE:
(1) SAY: "I seek refuge with the Sustainer of the rising dawn, 1
(2) "from the evil of aught that He has created,
(3) "and from the evil of the black darkness whenever it descends, 2
(4) "and from the evil of all human beings bent on occult endeavours, 3
(5) "and from the evil of the envious when he envies." 4
1 The term al-falaq ("the light of dawn" or "the rising dawn") is often used tropically to describe "the emergence of the truth after [a period of] uncertainty" (Taj al-Arus): hence, the appellation "Sustainer of the rising dawn" implies that God is the source of all cognition of truth, and that one's "seeking refuge" with Him is synonymous with striving after truth.
2 I.e., the darkness of despair, or of approaching death. In all these four verses (2-5), the term "evil" (sharr) has not only an objective but also a subjective connotation - namely, fear of evil.
3 Lit., "of those that blow (an-naffathat) upon knots": an idiomatic phrase current in pre-Islamic Arabia and, hence, employed in classical Arabic to designate all supposedly occult endeavours; it was probably derived from the practice of "witches" and "sorcerers" who used to tie a string into a number of knots while blowing upon them and murmuring magic incantations. The feminine gender of naffathat does not, as Zamakhshari and Razi point out, necessarily indicate "women", but may well relate to "human beings" (anfus, sing. nafs, a noun that is grammatically feminine). In his explanation of the above verse, Zamakhshari categorically rejects all belief in the reality and effectiveness of such practices, as well as of the concept of "magic" as such. Similar views have been expressed - albeit in a much more elaborate manner, on the basis of established psychological findings - by Muhammad Abduh and Rashid Rida (see Manar I, 398 ff.). The reason why the believer is enjoined to "seek refuge with God" from such practices despite their palpable irrationality is - according to Zamakhshari- to be found in the inherent sinfulness of such endeavours (see surah 2, note 84), and in the mental danger in which they may involve their author.
4 I.e., from the effects - moral and social- which another person's envy may have on one's life, as well as from succumbing oneself to the evil of envy. In this connection, Zamakhshari quotes a saying of the Caliph Umar ibn Abd al-Aziz (called "the Second Umar" on account of his piety and integrity): "I cannot think of any wrongdoer (zalim) who is more likely to be the wronged one (mazlum) than he who envies another."