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Sūrah Naas
Qur'anic Exegesis
Amin Ahsan Islahi
(Tr. by:Dr. Shehzad Saleem)

Central Theme

This sūrah is the dual of Sūrah Falaq, the previous sūrah and there is no essential difference between the central themes of the two. Both are a means through which a man seeks the Almighty’s protection from various evils. However, there are certain aspects which distinguish this sūrah from the previous one:

Firstly, in this sūrah, refuge has been saught with Allah through His attributes which are directly related to man. As a result, the appeal of the sūrah is more effective. The previous sūrah also carries an effective appeal, yet an element of reasoning dominates its style. In this sūrah, on the other hand, this element, though present, is overshadowed by an earnest call which invokes Allah’s mercy.

Secondly, in the previous sūrah, refuge has been saught from various evils, while this sūrah seeks protection against Satan, the root of all evils and, as indicated in the previous sūrah, the eternal enemy of Tawhīd.

Thirdly, in the previous sūrah, Satan has been referred to with regard to one of his characteristics---jealousy. In this sūrah, his method and technique, accomplices and colleagues, and the sphere of his incursions and onslaughts have been brought to light so that people have a clear recognition of their shrewd enemy and are in a position to defend themselves.

Meaning of the Sūrah

Say: I seek refuge with the Cherisher of mankind, the Emperor of mankind, the God of mankind from the mischief of the Prompter [of evil] who withdraws [after his prompts], who implants evil suggestions in the hearts of men, [and is] from among the jinns and men.

Explanation of the Sūrah

Qul aa’oozu birabbinnaas. Malikinnaas. Iilaahinnaas.

(Say: I seek refuge with the Cherisher of mankind, the Emperor of mankind, the God of mankind.)  (1-3)

The above verses seek the refuge of Allah through three attributes, which, in fact, also determine the basic rights imposed on man. They guide us, moreover, that help should only be solicited from someone who possess such attributes.

How the attributes stated above ascertain the basic rights can be understood if one appreciates that it is only befitting for someone who is the Cherisher of mankind to be their real Emperor and it is only befitting for someone who is the real Emperor of mankind to have the right to be worshipped. It is certainly against all norms of sense and reason to worship and regard someone who is not the real cherisher of mankind their real emperor and, therefore, such a practice has been totally forbidden.

In Sūrah Faatihah, it had been stated that the real emperor since the Almighty is the Cherisher of His creation, therefore, all thanksgivings must return to Him and He alone should be worshipped and saught help from. What the opening three verses of this sūrah imply is no different.

An acceptance of the above three attributes closes all doors which lead to polytheism, and an acknowledgement of one of them necessitates the acknowledgement of the others.

Min sharril waswaasil khannaas.

(From the mischief of the Prompter [of evil] who withdraws [after his prompts].)  (4)

This verse states the real being from which refuge has been saught in the above verses. Though it has not been stated in words yet it is quite evident from the attributes mentioned and the specification made later that it is Satan who has been referred to.

The verse describes Satan’s technique and his line of attack: he allures people through propaganda, deceptive promises and by initiating wicked suggestions in their minds. After entraping them, he acquits himself of all the consequences and enjoys watching the ill-fated foolish who get caught by his sinister schemes.

There is no conjunction between waswaas (prompter of evil) and khannaas (one who withdraws) which means, as has been indicated many times, that these two characteristics exist simultaneously in the noun they qualify.

It is quite evident from this verse that Satan’s only weapon is prompting evil suggestions. Apart from this, he has no other powers through which he might necessarily lead a person astray. He tries to frighten as well as to cajole people through threatening admonitions and sugar-coated promises, but he cannot harm people who are not over-awed by him. Therefore, when he had threatened the Almighty that he would lead mankind astray, the Almighty had clearly replied: ‘[Do whatever you can], you will have no power over my people [who intend to remain on the right path]’ (17:65). He had also assured His creation that He would certainly help those who would repose all their confidence in Him and counteract the assaults of Satan: ‘Your Lord sufficeth as [your] Guardian’ (17:65).

The word khannaas delineates another aspect of Satan’s character. Commentators have generally regarded it to mean someone who prompts evil suggestions while remaining hidden from people. This meaning can only be accepted if Satan and his allies are regarded as jinn-folk, but the last verse clearly points out that these evil creatures exist both in men and in jinns. Someother commentators have understood it to mean ‘someone who comes again and again’, which is totally against linguistic principles.

In our consideration, it means someone who withdraws and retreats. This actually brings out a typical feature of Satan’s mode of attack. Initially, he comes out and entices his prey and when a person succumbs to his wicked suggestions he acquits himself of all the consequences. This character of Satan has been depicted at various instances in the Qur’ān. In Sūrah Furqaan, he has been called Khazool ie. ‘one who deceives his followers’:

“And Satan is the deceiver of men.” (25:29)

To quote Sūrah Bani-Israel:

“All of Satan’s promises are a mere deception.” (17:64)

Sūrah Hashr portrays this aspect of Satan’s character even more clearly:

“They are like Satan, when he says to man: disbelieve. When he disbelieveth, he says to him: I here and now disown you, I fear Allah, the Lord of the Worlds.” (59:16)

The Jews had demonstrated this Satanic character at the time of the battle of Badr. They had induced the Quraish to attack Medina by giving them the assurance that the Muslims would not be able to face them, and if need be, they themselves would come forward and assist them. However, as history bears witness, they never turned up in the battlefield. The Qur’ān has depicted this character as follows:

“And when Satan [Jews] made their [the Quraish’s] deeds seem fair to them and said: Today no man shall overcome you and I shall be with you. But when the two forces faced each other, he took to his heels saying: I am done with you; I see what you do not.” (8:48)

Satan and his followers exhibit this character not only in this world, they shall do so in the next as well. The Qur’ān has, at a number of occasions, drawn a picture of the dialogue that shall take place in Hell between evil leaders and their followers. These adherents would ask the leaders, whom they had so diligently followed, to come forward and help them. The leaders would reply that it was their fault if they had followed them, for they had never forced them to do so; therefore, they should now face the punishment themselves.

The word khannaas is meant to express the above feature of Satan’s character and actually sounds a warning to everyone: People should not be overwhelmed by his sweet talk; rather they should always keep in mind his disloyality and betrayels after a person falls prey to his ‘word of honour’.

Allazee yuwaswisu fee sudoorinnaas. Minal jinnati wannaas.

(Who implants evil suggestions in the hearts of man, [and is] from among the jinns and men.)  (6-7)

The above verses indicate Satan’s mission as well as his brethren so that people can have a clear recognition of their enemy. His modus operandi is to prompt evil suggestions in a person’s bosom (sadr, pl:sudoor). Here, a person’s bosom actually implies his heart which is contained in it. These evil suggestions are, of course, meant to divert a man from the right path. Satan himself has stated this to be his mission as specified by the Qur’ān. He has no other authority or hold on man and cannot forcibly lead him astray, as mentioned earlier.

The words minal jinnati wannaas ([and is] from among the jinns and men) specify Satan’ brethren, indicating that he is not an independent creation of Allah, but every one among the jinns and men who induces evil suggestions in others’ hearts is, in fact, a Satan. The Qur’ān has specified that the Satan who had inveigled Adam was from among the jinns. It is incorrect to regard this particular Satan as an independent or eternal creation. However, his mission shall be carried on till the Day of Judgement through his disciples and followers who are from both the men and jinnfolk.

With these words the exegesis of this sūrah ends, which, ends “Tadabbur-i-Qur’ān” as well. I, as a humble servant, am extremely grateful to the Almighty for being able to be of some service to the cause of truth. I pray to Him to make this work a means of my salvation in the Hereafter, to make every rightly interpretted verse a source of benefit for others and to protect everyone from the evils of an erroneous inference. O Allah! Show us the right path the way it is and make us follow it and O Allah! Show us the wrong path the way it is and keep us away from it. (Amen)

(Translated from Islahi’s “Tadabbur-i-Qur’ān”)


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