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SURAT AL-FALAQ & SURAT AL-NASS: THE FINAL PAIR

By Sister W.H. (e-mail: intellibrain@hotmail.com)

That the Qur'an is a monumentally well-integrated Book must be borne in


mind when attempting tafseer (explanation), and this becomes amazingly
evident in examination of the last two Suras of the Qur'an, Al-Falaq and Al-
Nass. The Qur'an's dynamic symmetry bears the stamp of the Creator: the
never-ending dynamics of symmetry which is both clarifying and stupefying.
Analysis of Qur'anic structural patterns is also probably one of the most
revealing techniques one can use in gaining a more profound understanding
of the Qur'an. So the first structural pattern evident in Surat Al-Fatiha, the
dynamic symmetry/interaction of the complementary/opposite names Al-
Rahman, Al-Raheem in the initial invocation, as well as the fact that those
were pairs, is matched again in these two final Suras, clearly forming a
"pair", and exhibiting the same kind of dynamics between the same
complementary/ opposite pairs.

The two Suras have always traditionally been considered as a pair, to be read
together, and there are many hadeeths to this effect. But we like to examine
the Qur'an itself, and draw our conclusions from the Qur'an with no outside
references as much as possible. What specifically makes these two Suras a
pair, and what significance does this fact bear on the meaning of the
content? And are there pairs within each Sura, and do they bear any
relationship or resemblance to the pairs found in, for example, Al-Fatiha, and
how would this affect our interpretation? As we shall show, these connections
are invaluable in helping to understand the meaning of expressions and the
significance of usage of words in these Suras.

Both Suras begin with the exact phrase "Qul (say) aaoothu (I seek
refuge/protection) birubb (in the Lord) al- (of the) ..." Both Suras, after
"filling in the blank" following that exact phrase, continue with the expression
"min sharr (from the harm of) ..." followed by "filling in the blank" following
that phrase. So essentially the two Suras follow the same sentence structure.
They are also, in content, Suras of supplication to Allah for protection from
various specified types of danger/ harm. Generally speaking, Surat al-Falaq
seeks refuge from external danger/harm, and Surat Al-Nass seeks protection
from internal danger/harm, in the form of Satan the whisperer.

However, in Surat Al-Falaq, the first "blank" is filled in with one word: falaq
or "the dividing line" or "the split/cut zone" dividing two sides of something.
Creation is the total and definite transformation of one thing into an entirely
different thing. So the area/time between transformations (i.e., the two sides
in the transformation, the "before" and "after" as it were), are called in
Arabic "falaq". "Rabb al-Falaq" therefore refers to the Lord of the Divide
between different things, a "realm" over which Allah alone has authority,
since this is the most "central" element of creation - that is, the division
between totally different things, and the transformation of one into another.
[Al-Imran 3:27] "You merge the night into the day, and merge the day into
the night. You produce the living from the dead, and produce the dead from
the living, and You provide for whomever You choose, without limits." He
transforms, even between "being" and "nothingness", but we creatures only
participate in the processes and events of those transformations, with no real
control, except within the scope of limited choices we must make.

The differences between the two Suras also form a matching symmetry with
ayat in Al-Fatiha. In Surat Al-Fatiha, each aya contains either matched or
unmatched pairs, the "matched" pairs being diametrical opposites and the
"unmatched" pairs being exactly that: having no particular symmetrical
relationship but only a logical or linguistic relationship. We explained in our
tafseer (explanation) of that Sura that the "matched" pairs represented the
"left" or "intuitive" or responsive side (of the self or even of the brain), and
the "unmatched" pairs represented the "right" or "active/logical/decision-
making" side (of the self or the brain), and the content of the corresponding
ayat perfectly correlates to this hypothesis. Now with the last two Suras of
the Qur'an, we have a pair of Suras: the first, Surat Al-Falaq, consists of five
ayat (an odd number) whose content progresses logically from the first to
the last aya to form a complete concept without symmetrical repetition or
matching elements; and the second, Surat Al-Nass, consists of six ayat (an
even number) whose content forms matched pairs. Consistent with this
observation, Surat Al-Falaq, whose structure is logical and progressive,
concerns outer/external dangers, those things which are best protected by
proper use of the logical/ analytical part of the mind; while, on the other
hand, Surat Al-Nass, whose structure is based on repetition and the
opposition of matched pairs, concerns inner/internal dangers, those things
within the mind/soul of the person which are best protected by use of the
intuitive/clairvoyant part of the brain.

Now by analyzing the structural elements of these suras and their


relationship to the content, meanings of terms contained within these suras
can be determined on the Qur'an's own terms, rather than relying upon
outside sources such as dictionaries, hadeeths or traditional tafseer
(explanation) literature. One such example in this case is the expression
"annafathati fee al-'uqad" , literally "those who blow on knots". This
expression is most commonly explained to mean "sorcery", referring to a
traditional interpretation that in the period of Prophet Mohammad, sorcerers
used to blow on knots as a method of performing their sorcery. More recent
interpreters have disputed this view and interpreted the expression to have a
more general meaning such as "troublemakers" (Rashad Khalifa), taking it to
be more of an idiomatic expression than a definitive reference to sorcery .
But how would our interpretation of this expression be affected by the
structural analysis of these two suras?

The answer to this question must begin by analysis of the Sura in which this
disputed expression occurs, namely, Surat Al-Falaq. As we said, this Sura
contains unmatched pairs in logical progression. What, then, is this "logical
progression"? The first aya, consistent with the structural similarity in the
two suras, is an imperative command to "say" or "declare" seeking protection
from the Lord - in this case, "of the divide", as explained above, referring to
the central element in the Creator's control over creation: His sole and
exclusive ability to transform one thing to a totally different thing and to
cause anything to "pass through" the "divide" that separates and
distinguishes different things. The first "sharr" or "harm" from which we
should seek protection is the general harm of "ma khalaq" or "that which is
created". This category is not only general, but is inclusive of everything
except Allah, glory to Him in the highest. The first "divide" or distinction,
then, is between Creator and creation, and the first possible "harm" to the
creation or part of it is from the creation itself or another part of it. Thus, it is
made clear that all harm or danger comes from creation, but not from the
Creator.

The first subcategory under "creation" is "ghasiqin itha waqab" or "darkness


as it spreads". This is significant in that "darkness" refers to that which
prevents visibility or perception. Darkness is the opposite of light, which
illuminates and makes visible and perceptible. Allah is the light of the
heavens and the earth, and in this expression (from Surat al-Nur), we are
thus informed that it is the Creator who makes things clear and visible. The
correlary would logically be that darkness must be from the creation, not the
Creator. And this sura confirms this fact, making darkness the first "harm"
specified under the category of creation.

The fact that the darkness "spreads" is also significant in that the time of day
of least visibility is not night, when lights can illuminate (such as the light of
fire or artificial light, or even moonlight), but rather dusk, when darkness is
"spreading", and the time is neither fully light nor fully dark, and cannot be
properly illuminated. This further relates to the expression "falaq" or "divide",
in that this is the transitional time dividing day and night, over which Allah
alone presides (as Transformer).

Darkness and lack of visibility/perception are obviously harmful in that they


can cause accidents and mistakes due to lack of control on the one hand, and
can encourage crimes and harmful acts by people with bad intentions whose
bad deeds can be more easily accomplished in the dark, which covers and
protects them from detection both by their victims and by those who seek to
protect others from being victimized, or who could catch and punish those
criminals. This shows both the danger and moral significance of the change
between light and darkness. As mentioned above, logic and use of the mind
can assist in protecting against this harm, for example, by inventing ways to
illuminate and enhance visibility. In a sense, the development of telescopes
and mathematical means of calculating the distance of stars helped enhance
our visibility of the universe and hence, our understanding of it, thus making
it both more impressive a marvel in scope and design, and at the same time
more "accessible" to our control and understanding, and making us less
vulnerable to erroneous beliefs and mythologies regarding creation and the
universe. These are merely two of many examples of ways Allah has given
humankind to combat the harm of impaired visibility.

The next subcategory under "harm" from "creation" is the controversial


"innafathati fee al-'uqud" whose meaning we are trying to determine. Given
the logical progression of the first two categories, this must be the next
specific category in line. But why "blowing on knots"? There is so much
danger in the universe - why limit this to sorcery? Note that the key word
here is "falaq" or "divide". "Knots" are the "connection" or, more accurately,
"re-connection" of something divided or cut off. One can also make knots in a
whole rope or string, not only in cut ones, but the knots then form a "divide"
of their own, preventing the rope or string from being passed through a hole
that it could have passed through were there no knot. So knots both connect
that which is divided and divide that which is connected! This is significant
because a knot here, then, clearly represents "crossing over" or "passing
through" a divide or "falaq" - either by creating a distinction or impasse or by
forming a bond where there was previously impasse and disconnect.

Now that we have determined the significance of the knots, what is meant by
blowing on them? Blowing also has significance in the Qur'an. When Adam
was created, Allah "blew into him from" His "spirit", and immediately
thereafter the angels prostrated before Adam, a sign of Adam's high status
resulting from this "blowing". "Blowing" is also associated with "breath",
which is the first essential requirement of life - the means of obtaining
oxygen, air. It is a "spiritual" act, in that it forces "air", the element that
most closely symbolizes "spirit" due to its invisibility (note this: its
"invisibility"!), onto the recipient of the "blowing". Sorcery could be described
as "spiritual", in that it is a means of affecting physical reality with means
that are not fully perceived. Note this: not fully perceived - and recall the
discussion above regarding lack of perception, and you have the sense of
"logical progression" we were looking for. The concept of spirituality in the
Qur'an is not entirely the same as the Western concept, in that the Qur'an
generally treats the soul as being a separate but actively combined element
with the physical reality in life, which separates from the body at death, but
continues to live in "suspended animation" until Judgment Day, when it is
revived in another physical reality, one that has been totally transformed
from the previous one. The soul is also the morally active and directive part,
that with which one's self is identified, the body being also active but only
insofar as the soul activates it and thus stimulates an interactive dynamic
relationship called "life".

For something to be "spiritual" in this case means that it transcends physical


limitations but still has physical interactions and effects. It is to the realm of
this divide, between the spiritual and the physical, that this aya refers. Those
who "blow on knots" are those who cause a spiritually activated effect on the
physical reality of "falaq" or the distinctions between things, and thus can
create havoc with life. For example, it could refer to sorcery as a means of
spiritually affecting the "knot" between husband and wife, creating discord. It
could refer to the "blowing" by too much talk (words are associated with
"blowing" and creation - as Allah says "be" and it is as a means of creation -
and also with spirit in that it is words that Allah taught Adam and thereby
impressed the angels with Adam's worthiness for his high status) on the
knots connecting family or friends (such as in backbiting and gossip), or the
knots securing a person's reputation and status from slipping into disrepute,
or the knots connecting one's logic with certain beliefs (e.g., talking someone
out of faith or talking them into an irrational fear).

Thus, the sorcery interpretation fits the expression, but is too limited and
only one small example of the larger category delineated beautifully by this
very distinct and well-placed expression. This expression refers, rather, to
the entire scope of actions that interfere or seek to interfere with the
sensitive areas of relationships and the distinction between things by using
spiritual power over physical existence in a harmful way. It is a further
progression of how limited visibility - in this case, the physical realm's limited
visibility of the spiritual realm - can be used specifically to harm others in a
wide range of venues. It is also one more "subdivision" in the progression of
such subdivisions, each dividing the previous category into more specific
subcategories.

The final category is "hasidin itha hassad" or "the envier when he envies".
This aya needs to be re-examined as well, since envy is not considered much
of a power in Western thought, and the idea of its being given much
consideration is even viewed in the West as "backward", relegated to
irrational fears by third world cultures of the "evil eye" in the camera, etc.
Upon analysis, however, the profound significance of this final aya in this
sura will be shown to break through such misconceptions. The question is,
what is "hassad" or "envy"? It is the strong feeling or emotion of desire on
the part of one party to have or even to be what another different party has
or is. It simultaneously also implies dissatisfaction with what the original
"envying" party has or is. That dissatisfaction is usually the direct result,
rather than the cause, of wanting what the other party has or is. The envier
first perceives that another person has something he/she does not, or is
something that he/she is not, and then becomes overwhelmed by an
inordinate desire to possess or become that perceived "something", causing
the envier to look upon himself/herself as somehow lacking and deficient.
The envier becomes unstable, discontent and possessed by a powerful
motivating force to act upon others in a destabilizing way. Persons content
with themselves and their lot are stable, and do not disturb others, having no
need or desire to do so. Envy, on the other hand, leads to disruptive actions
and thoughts that affect the object(s) of envy in a powerful and harmful way.
Envy is also an emotion, a desire, but one that has serves no positive
purpose, that has no "good side". It could even be descibed as the "bad side"
of desire and emotion: love becomes unstable and destructive when tinged
with envy, and the same holds true for anger and even fear (fear can cause
one to take beneficial safety precautions, but when tainted with envy, the
primary goal becomes destruction of the object of one's fear).
The "first world war" between Qabeel (Cain) and Habeel (Abel) was sparked
by nothing other than envy. Even more telling, the "fall" of Satan and his
disobedience to Allah was triggered solely by his envy of Adam, to whom
Allah gave a higher status than Iblees (satan's name before the fall). So this,
the final "category" of "harms" discussed in this Sura, is also the specific
"harm" which led to all human misery. All satanic whisperings and
misleadings are the result of satanic envy of human exaltation (when
obedient to Allah). One could almost say that envy is the root of all evil, or at
least the ultimate motivating force. People do wrong things that are not
envy-based, such as people lying about Allah, worshipping Jesus as an idol.
But although the person's motive for this idolatry may not be envy per se,
envy was the ultimate motive for the invention of this lie in the first place,
and followers of this envy-based "cult" are following an unstable path that
cannot be "straight" or "direct" (requires stability). The worship of any
human being could even imply one "envies" Allah himself and His authority
and power, then falsely attributes such authority or power to a human being
like himself.

Thus, the first "division" is the distinction between Creator and creation; the
second "division" is the distinction between darkness and light, and
specifically asks for protection against the "twilight zone" where one changes
into the other and visibility is least; the third "division" is the distinction
between body and soul, the physical and the spiritual, and asks for protection
against those who perform acts in the "gray area" between the two, where
spirit affects physical bonds and unseen "spiritual" forces act upon the very
knots with which we cement or conduct our physical existence; and the final
"division" is the distinction between the stable and the unstable, specifically
asking for protection from those whose instability, "radiating" from them as
an active force which is envy, causes them to cause harm to those around
them.

Going down to another level of examination, we can also see that a


description or even definition of al-shaytan or "satan" emerges from the
logical progression of this Sura. First, harm must come from "creation", not
Creator. Second, the greatest dangers come from the area of least visibility,
acting in cover of darkness and never in the light, using the disability of
perception to cause harm. Third, even greater dangers come from the
situation where lack of perception creates a "spiritual" realm that transcends
normal physical limitations and thus can amplify the harm or extend its reach
or power. Fourth, and finally, the greatest danger comes from instability, in
the form of envy, which is a non-physical (hence, "spiritual" in some sense)
force that causes harmful action to be taken, both deliberately and as an
uncontrolled energy that "radiates" "bad vibrations". Satan is described as a
spiritual creation outside the range of our perception, hence invisible, and
most distinctively, eminently envious of humankind, prominently and
primarily acting out of this envy as the motivating force behind satanic
action. All of the "harms" mentioned in this sura apply to satan, and even fit
perfectly the definition of satan derived from the Qur'an directly.
This analysis further shows that the "harms" from which we seek protection
in this Sura are not random, or simply selected because people tend to fear
these specific dangers, but for a profound reason, directly relating to the
design and message of the Qur'an. They show the most potent danger from
which we need Allah's direct and powerful protection is the danger of satanic
influence/control. In each case, logic and thoughtful reasoning, combined
with faith in Allah as One (the ultimate Logic), can assist in protecting
against these dangers. Knowledge of the creation by observation and logical
interpretation helps us to overcome irrational fears of the creation, and to
have better control over it. Knowledge is a light that can overcome the lack
of perception which darkness or a "twilight zone" can produce. Knowledge
and logical use of the mind break through "occult" powers when they are
used in combination with the light of faith in Allah alone, rendering such
"powers" ineffectual. And it is the mind's logic that leads us to understand
the inherent weakness of instability, the greater power of stability against the
destabilizing force of envy, and can assist us in taking measures to avoid
increasing the envy or contact with the envier. But ultimately in all cases, we
truly cannot protect ourselves and need Allah's transcendent protection from
all these "harms".

Which brings us to the beginning of this Sura again: we are told to ask Allah
(alone) as "Lord of dividing (separating into two)" for protection from these
dangers or "harms" using these very words. This logical progression, these
specific descriptions, these very words, have a powerful effect on the danger
which culminates in what is described as "satan", the destabilizing and occult
forces of darkness. The power of words, particularly of du'aa or supplication
directly to Allah alone, is frequently mentioned in the Qur'an as being of
great efficacy and help in many situations and dangerous circumstances.
Prophet Yunus was given a specific du'aa to save him from the belly of the
whale or "sea creature". Had he not implored using this du'aa, he would have
stayed in the belly of the sea creature until Judgment Day (10: ). Adam was
given a specific du'aa with which to implore Allah after "the fall" and his sin in
obeying satan and disobeying Allah. This du'aa was answered by forgiveness
from Allah and a chance at redemption, something not possible for satan.
The Qur'an also gives us many du'aa to use in imploring Allah, and
encourages us to use them specifically. These two Suras, Surat al-Falaq and
Surat al-Nass, form a powerful pair of du'aa to protect us from a full range of
danger and harm, and at the same time enlighten us as to what is dangerous
and evil and what is not by defining "satan", the ultimate evil, and showing
us specifically what it is about "satan" that constitutes his evil or danger.

It is therefore even more appropriate that this Sura be followed by Surat al-
Nass, a Sura specifically seeking protection from the "inside", from the
influence of satan, i.e., from our own weakness. In this case, this refers to
spiritual weakness, susceptibility to the "whisperings" (again, note the close
relationship in terms of physical semblance between the idea of whispering
and the idea of blowing as in "blowing on knots") of Satan from within
ourselves or from satanically-motivated people.
The most striking difference between Surat al-Falaq and Surat al-Nass one
notices at the outset is that Surat al-Falaq implores one name for Allah in
seeking protection against four "harms", while Surat al-Nass implores three
names for Allah in seeking protection against one "harm" described at
greater length. Why is this? The four "harms" mentioned in Surat al-Falaq
are "outer" dangers, that is, dangers from outside ourselves, and the realm
of Allah as Creator (the name "Lord of the Divide" relates to His role as
Creator) easily takes care of all outside dangers, including any harm that
coud come from the entire creation. On the other hand, the danger of our
own inner weakness in succumbing to evil influences is an "inner" danger,
coming from within ourselves. It is a matter of our own soul and our own will
and nothing external, except in the sense that Allah has "externalized" Satan
for us by naming this influence as a character whom we can take as an
enemy and fight against, thus "doing battle", as it were, with our own "bad
side". And it is we ourselves who now ask for protection from ourselves, or
the "bad side" of ourselves, our weakness or potential for weakness against
evil influence. Note again: we are imploring and therefore in that very
imploring are doing something to fight against "Satan" or against evil
influences. So in this Sura, the imploring itself is multiplied or strenthened by
the increased usage of names of Allah, and these names are used in the
order and specific meanings of each one with logic and purpose here.

First, we call upon "rabb al nass" or "Lord of the people". The word "Lord", as
we described in tafseer Surat al-Fatiha, is a relationship word, one that can
be used with possessives as in "my Lord" or in Arabic, which is our concern
here as it is the language of the Qur'an, "rabbi". It not only connotes
authority over the people but also a certain closeness, implying the One who
"raises up" or who supervises the "upbringing" of those for whom He is
"Lord". Even the word "lord" as used in old English in reference to the feudal
relationship between lord and servant has a positive emotional content,
where loyalty is a deeper bond between the two that yet also maintains the
distinct class levels of superiority of lord and inferiority of servant without
degradation of the latter (the servant is considered uplifted morally by his
relationship to the lord). So here we call upon the first relationship with Allah
where we feel comfortable, the "natural" first imploring.

The second name, "malik al nass" or "King (ruler) of the people", distances
Allah by emphasizing His authority and power as "ruler", not only on a one-
on-one basis as implied by "Lord" but over all people collectively.

The third name, "ileh al nass" or "God of the people", invokes Allah's true
and ultimate authority as God, that is, as the Omnipotent, the Almighty, the
Creator and Sustainer of all that exists, as the One to be worshipped.
Worship, of course, is the exclusive proprietary expression of submission to a
god, not a king or lord, even in the vernacular of interhuman expression.
Therefore, this is the final and ultimate culmination of our understanding of
Allah and our calling upon Him. Note that I said "our" understanding - for we
are fighting ourselves here, and so the imploring itself is what is important,
and it is what can effectively help "win" the battle of good vs. evil within
ourselves. "Imploring" means, in Arabic, du'aa - and as we described above,
in du'aa, the words are what counts, are of greatest significance. The
progression from one on one "closeness" to the ultimate distinction of
Creator also helps support our intuitive understanding of Allah in a thorough
and complete way which further supports our "good side", the side that calls
upon whom we know to be Allah and in so imploring do not deny, but affirm.
So the change in words, i.e., change in names, forms the complete du'aa
that the Omniscient chose for us to implore Him with effectively against this
most potent and insidious danger.

That danger is further elaborated for our own understanding of what's


involved. First is "al wiswas al khanass" , the "whispering" of the "sneaky
whisperer" - the act of influence itself is here described as verbal, since
whisperings are usually voiceless words, but only air (remember "spirit" and
"blowing" described earlier) and nearly silent, in lower tones, as if to "cover"
themselves with the "darkness" of inaudibility or near-inaudibility and limit
perception of them by any but the intended victim - also reminiscent of the
covering of perception alluded to in Surat al-Falaq). The words also imply
"sneaky" or deviousness on the part of the "whisperer". This makes total
sense, since the effort described here is an effort of a person to deceive
himself, "externalized" by giving a personality to the person's "bad side",
against whose influence the person's "good side" can resist and stand firm.
By clearly distinguishing ("falaq") the "bad side" from the "good side" of a
person's internal makeup, it is possible for such resistance to take place, and
this itself helps overcome efforts at self-deception.

Thus the "whisperer" is further described as "ilethi yuwaswisu fee sudur


alnass" or "who whispers into the chest of the people". "Chest" or "sudr" here
refers to the area of the body containing the heart, the "seat" of influence
and emotion, from which can arise desire and motivation. It is also the "seat"
of the "self". So it is the most vulnerable part of the human being, and has
influence on that less vulnerable part, the mind. It is through the heart that a
bad influence can wear away at logic or understanding, even causing a
motivation that goes against one's own intuition or what "feels" right. This
aya shows us where our vulnerability lies. From there we can deduce that the
less-vulnerable mind could be a starting place to help conquer this bad
influence. But first we must re-establish self-trust and reliance on our basic
intuition. First we must "cure" the "disease" of bad influence in the heart.
(Note the Qur'an frequently warns against "those in whose heart is a
disease".)

One last description completes the image of this influence: "min al jinnati wa
alnass" or "of the jinn or of the humans", that is, this influence could be from
unseen "jinn" or spiritual sources both residing in ourselves and outside
ourselves or could be from human beings themselves whose bad influence
can also affect us profoundly, should we allow it to. We are thus warned
against both jinn and humans as sources of this influence against which we
must be strong and alert. Knowing that Allah is "Lord, King and God" over all
"people", including the "people" called "jinn" whom we cannot see but
nonetheless exist, supports our standing firm against bad influences knowing
that good is always in authority over evil, always the stronger, always the
superior, always more powerful and always victorious.

Just as these two suras are a "pair", defending us against outer and inner
danger to our selves, so the opposite pair of good and evil is the one we
must ultimately learn to distinguish to save ourselves from damnation.
Knowing this is the act of a mind, but also is intuitive God-given knowledge.
It is enough knowledge and faith to stand against any internal onslaught,
against the tendency to be deceived, because what is weak, inferior,
powerless and a loser can only appear but not actually be successful or
powerful - can only influence by creating a false illusion. It is our
responsibility not to be "taken" by such deception, to stand firm and not be
weak against something that is in fact even weaker and more vulnerable
than we are, against something that in fact is already doomed with no hope
for redemption. And yet the Qur'an informs us that most people doom
themselves by the incredibly mindless act of allowing evil influences to affect
them with "free reign", without even the simple but powerful act of calling
upon their own Creator to protect them from themselves. And with this, the
Qur'an leaves us to decide our fate.