113 - AL-FALAQ
In the name of god, the most gracious, The dispenser of grace: (1)

1 - According to most of the authorities, this invocation (which occurs at the beginning of every surah with the exception of surah 9) constitutes an integral part of "The Opening" and is, therefore, numbered as verse I. In all other instances, the invocation "in the name of God" precedes the surah as such, and is not counted among its verses. - Both the divine epithets rahman and rahrm are derived from the noun rahmah, which signifies "mercy", "compassion", "loving tenderness" and, more comprehensively, "grace". From the very earliest times, Islamic scholars have endeavoured to define the exact shades of meaning which differentiate the two terms. The best and simplest of these explanations is undoubtedly the one advanced by Ibn al-Qayyim (as quoted in Mandr I, 48): the term rahman circumscribes the quality of abounding grace inherent in, and inseparable from, the concept of God's Being, whereas rahrm expresses the manifestation of that grace in, and its effect upon, His creation-in other words, an aspect of His activity.

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.
1. SAY: "I seek refuge with the Sustainer of the rising dawn, (1)

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. "from the evil of aught that He has created,
3. "and from the evil of the black darkness whenever it descends, (2)

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.

4. "and from the evil of all human beings bent on occult endeavours, (3)

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.

5. "and from the evil of the envious when he envies." (4)

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."