In the Name of Allah, The Most Merciful, The Especially Merciful.
We often recite the verses of refuge (Al-Mu`awwidhatayn – Surah Falaq and Surah Nās). Let us articulate how both the Surah’s can be understood and conceptualised by observing nature and the emergence, growth and maturity of a single seed.
It has been observed that when a farmer plants a seed, he will endeavor to do as much as is possible to allow the seed to grow and flourish. Consequently, the farmer will endeavor to protect that seed from any harm that may come and destroy it, and he will remain restless until the seed has reached its full maturity.
What are the threats, then, that could possibly prevent this seed from growing and as such, ransoms the farmer in a state of anxiety?
Upon reflection, it becomes clear that there are four particular factors that require the farmer to be aware of, lest his attempt is to be in vain. Put another way, he is required to facilitate the role of a sustainer, as he is in a sense both a protector and a facilitator.
Firstly, he needs to protect the seed from creatures that habitually eat them. Secondly, he is to ensure the supply of water (by means of a well, river, irrigation or abundant rain), wind and sunlight. Thirdly, to protect it from extreme weather such as snow or extreme heat which could severely restrict its growth. Fourthly, seeking protection from anyone who may harbor jealousy or enmity towards the farmer and thus wish to destroy the plant.
If the farmer is able to prepare his seed for the four factors mentioned above then there is hope and every possibility that this seed will grow and bear fruit, and, thus become a source of benefit for others.
Now reflect how in a very similar fashion we are in need of The Creator of the heavens and the earth (The one who is the Lord of the daybreak, is the One who splits the seed grains and date seeds and who is The Real Sustainer). Similarly, for the emergence, growth and fulfilment of our Īmān, we ought to seek refuge in Allāh Almighty from the above four mentioned factors. So, how does the four factors relate to you and me?
Firstly, in Ṣūrah Falaq, Allāh Almighty mentions four harms we are to seek protection from:
1) The evil of creation
2) The evil of darkness when it settles
3) The evil of the blowers in knots
4) The evil of an envier when he envies.
So let us analyse how we can marry the four harms just mentioned in the Ṣūrah with the four factors required for the seed.
Firstly, just as protection is sought from creatures that may wish to eat the seed, we are to seek protection in Allāh Almighty from all creatures that may want to destroy us. Hence, Allāh Almighty states that we are to seek protection in Him from the evil of creation:
“From the evil of that which He created” (113:2)
Having conviction and belief that it is only Allāh Almighty who can protect and save us. If the entire mankind were to gather all its resources in an attempt to deflect any harm from you it would not be possible except what Allāh Almighty permits. After all, who can be a more fitting protector than Allāh Almighty?
Secondly, Allāh Almighty mentions in the same Ṣūrah:
“And from the evil of darkness when it settles” (113:4)
As the supply of water, wind and sunlight is essential for the plant, we are also in need of certain essentials without which we cannot live. Generally when it is dark, we are no longer able to avail of opportunities and sustenance that we could do during daylight. Moreover, without spiritual light and sustenance we become hollow and are left to wither away in darkness. In essence, we are asking Allāh Almighty to protect us from being covered in darkness and so conversely, we are asking Him to provide everything we need to survive. It is this spiritual light that enters our heart that will set us free.
Thirdly, there is the verse:
“And from the evil of the blowers in knots” (113:4)
So what has the effect of magic to do with restricting growth? We learn from the tradition that The Messenger of Allāh (PBUH) was affected by black magic, which caused him to fall ill. Just as severe heat or coldness can affect a plant and halt its growth, we are asking Allāh Almighty to protect us from the ill effects of black magic and the effect of being harmed or feeling constrained in our lives.
So often in our lives we want to excel and perform better. Here, we are asking Allāh Almighty to enable us to do just that and not let us be impeded.
Fourthly, even if a person was to pass through the first three challenges unscathed, there is still the very real threat all the hard work could lead to destruction by being uprooted as a consequence of jealousy. Hence, we seek protection:
“And from the evil of an envier when he envies.” (113:5)
What you should have noticed from the above is that the four factors and the four evils are to do with external factors. What we mean by this is that they originate from other than you. But what about the evil within? The evil that is not apparent?
In other words, what is actually in the seed. If the seed is compromised inside, then there is absolutely no chance of its survival irrespective of how favourable the external environment may be.
Perhaps this is why this evil is specifically referred to in the second Ṣūrah of the Mu`awwidhatayn, in Ṣūrah Nās:
“From the evil of the retreating whisperer” (114:4)
Since ṣatānic whispers are aimed at your centre; the heart, we seek protection in Allāh Almighty from Ṣatān destroying our core. In fact, just like the seed being corrupted from within is terminal, being infected by whispers will destroy our success in both worlds . We ask Allāh Almighty to safeguard our īmān and to protect us from evil in all its manifestations.
Hāroon Ibn Ebrāhīm Sīdat.
 Adapted from a speech rendered by Maulāna Qāsim Nanotwi (May Allah Almighty shower mercy upon him)