A Brief Exegesis on the Muʿawwidhatayn
By Bint Danish (4th Year ʿĀlimah Student, DarusSalam Seminary)
The Qurʾān’s last two sūrahs offer one protection from evil. They are referred to as the “Muʿawwidhatayn” because of the protection that they provide. When one recites them, Allāh grants him safety and security.
On ʿĀʾishah’s authority, Imām Bukhārī narrated the incident that led to the revelation of these sūrahs:
“Black magic was cast on Allāh’s Messenger. And because of it, he began imaging that he had done something although he had not. One day, while he was with me, he prayed to Allāh at length. Then, he said: ‘O ʿĀʾishah! Do you know what Allāh instructed me regarding what I prayed about?’ I asked him: ‘What is that, O Messenger of Allāh?’ He said: ‘Two men came to me; one sat near my head and the other near my feet. Then, one of them asked the other: What is this man’s ailment? To which he replied: He was bewitched. The first then asked: Who cast magic on him? The other replied: Labīd b. al-Aʿṣam, a Jew from the Tribe of Zurayq. The other replied: What was used for it? It was said: A comb, hair that was stuck to it, and a date palm. The other asked: Where is it? To which he replied: It is in the Well of Dharwān.
Then, the Prophet (upon him be peace) went there with some of his Companions to look for it. There were date palms nearby. He returned to me and said: ‘By Allāh! The well water was stained red like it had been infused with henna and its date palms were like the heads of devils.’ I said: O Allāh’s Messenger! Did you undo the spell’s components? He replied: ‘No. Allāh healed and cured me. I was afraid that through showing that to the people, evil may spread among them. I ordered that the well be filled in and sealed, and that was done.’”
The Muʿawwidhatayn were the means to the Prophet (upon him be peace) being cured. This event is when Jibrīl came to him with them. And they were used to lift the spell.
What gives so much power to these sūrahs?
Sūrat al-Falaq seeks Allāh’s protection from the evils of His creation. In its second verse, the word “khalaq” encompasses all the creation, both animate and inanimate. Therefore, protection is sought from the harms of the entire universe and anything in it. The third verse discusses protection from the darkness. The commentators hold various opinions as to what the darkness refers to. One opinion is based on a ḥadīth that Imām Tirmidhī related:
“The Prophet looked at the moon and said: ‘O ʿĀʾishah! Do you seek refuge with Allāh from its evil? For indeed this is: ‘al-ghāsiqu idhā waqab.’”
According to the above narration, the word ghāsiq refers to the moon. Thus, when one is reciting the Sūrah, he seeks protection from its evils. Others opined that it means the night’s darkness because that is when devils run free and mankind is more prone to sinning.
The Sūrah’s fourth verse seeks protection from the blowers of knots. Again, this refers to the incident that took place during the Prophet’s time as it was Labīd and his daughters who blew on the knots tied from the Prophet’s hair to cast black magic upon him.
The Sūrah then concludes. And its final verse seeks protection from jealousy. There are countless narrations regarding jealousy and its harms. The Prophet (upon him be peace) described it to be a despicable trait. Jealousy is a quality that can drive an individual to do things that are unimaginable and irrational.
Some disbelievers from the People of the Book in the Prophet’s time had this trait. They were besotted by the notion that the Final Messenger must be from among their people, and that led them to turning a blind eye to the Prophet’s call. Their jealousy of the Arabs for receiving this honor was a hinderance for them. It stopped them from accepting the truth. Not only did they ignore the Prophet’s message, they tried on multiple occasions to take his life. And this was a result of their jealousy. Ibn Mājah narrated:
“Envy consumes good deeds just like fire consumes wood. And charity extinguishes bad deeds just like water extinguishes fire. Prayer is the light of the believer, and fasting is his shield against the Fire.”
Sūrat al-Nās offers protection from the Devil’s evil whisperings. Its first three verses glorify Allāh and exalt Him by describing Him in ways that we use to seek protection. The remaining three verses discuss evil whisperings. Evil thoughts are a thruway to one losing his direction. The Devil counts on mankind’s evil thoughts in order to ruin him. Imām Bukhārī narrated:
“Ṣafīyah, the Prophet’s wife, told me that she visited Allāh’s Messenger at the mosque while he was in ritual seclusion during Ramaḍān. She talked with him for a while, and then got up to return home. The Prophet accompanied her. When they reached the mosque’s gate, two men were passing by. They greeted him. He said them: ‘This is my wife Ṣafīyah.’ Both said: ‘Subḥān Allāh! O Allāh’s Messenger, how dare we think of any evil!’ The Prophet said to them: ‘Satan reaches everywhere in the human body just as blood reaches in it. I was afraid lest Satan might suggest an evil thought to you.’”
This shows the extent of the Devil’s capabilities. The Prophet (upon him be peace), by saying that he runs through the body, shows how ready the Devil is to whisper evil assumptions to man even at the slightest prompting. The Prophet (upon him be peace) also informed us regarding how to seek protection. In a narration, one of his wives said:
“When Allāh’s Messenger became sick, he would recite the Muʿawwidhatayn and blow over his body. When he became seriously ill, I would recite them and rub his hands over his body hoping for their blessings.”
These sūrahs are highly effective in seeking protection. They outline the harms that one may face in life and offer protection from it all. The Prophet (upon him be peace) praised them by saying:
“Some verses were revealed to me, the likes of which have not been seen. They are: ‘Qul aʿūdhu bi Rabb al-Nās…’ and ‘Qul aʿūdhu bi Rabb al-Falaq…’”
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 Ṣafwat al-Tafāsīr, 1567.
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 al-Jāmiʿ al-Kabīr, #3366
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 Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī, #5016.
 al-Jāmiʿ al-Kabīr, #3367.