Surah Al-Naas (114)

The Meaning and Explanation of Surah Al-Naas

Syeda Tasneem Rumy
Syeda Tasneem Rumy
Nov 14, 2009
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Surah Naas (Mankind): Holy Quran 114:1-6
Bismillahir Rahmanir Rahim In the name of Allah, the Most Beneficent, the Most Merciful
Qul 'a-'uuzu bi Rabbin Naas, Say: I seek refuge in the Lord of mankind,
Malikin-Naas, The King of mankind,
'Illahin-Naas, The God of mankind,
Min-sharril Waswaasil khan Nass, -- From the evil of the sneaking whisperer,
'Allazii yuwas-wisu fii suduurin Naasi, -- Who whispereth in the hearts of mankind,
Minal-Jinnati wan Naas. Of the jinn and of mankind.


Surah 114. An-Nas 

قُلْ أَعُوذُ بِرَبِّ النَّاسِï´¿114:1ï´¾ 
(114:1) Say: "I seek refuge with the Lord of mankind,

مَلِكِ النَّاسِï´¿114:2ï´¾ 
(114:2) the King of mankind,

إِلَهِ النَّاسِï´¿114:3ï´¾ 
(114:3) the real God of mankind, *1
*1 Here also, as in Surah Al-Falaq, instead of saying A'udhu-billahi (I seek Allah's refuge), a prayer has beat taught to seek Allah's refuge by reference to His throe attributes: first, that He is Rabb-un nas, i.e. Sustainer, Providence and Master of all mankind; third, that He is Ilah-un-nas, i.e. real Deity of all mankind, (Here, one should clearly understand that the word ilah has been used in two meanings in the Qur'an: first for the thing or person who is practically being worshipped although it or he is not entitled to worship; second, for Him Who is ' entitled to worship, Who is in fact the Deity whether the people worship Him or not, wherever this word is used for Allah; it has been used in the second meaning). Seeking refuge by means of these throe attributes means: "I seek refuge with that God, Who being the Sustainer, King and Deity of men, has full power over them, can fully protect them and can really save them from the evil, to save myself and others from which 1 am seeking His refuge. Not only this: since He alone is Sustainer, King and Deity, therefore, there is no one beside Him with Whom I may seek refuge and he may give real refuge."
مِن شَرِّ الْوَسْوَاسِ الْخَنَّاسِï´¿114:4ï´¾ 
(114:4) from the evil of the whisperer, who returns over and over again, *2
*2 The word waswas in waswas-il-khannas means the one who whispers over and over again, and waswasa means to whisper into someone's heart an evil suggestion over and over again in such a way or ways that the one who is being inspired may not feel that the whisperer is whispering an evil suggestion into his heart. Waswasah by itself suggests repetition just as zalzalah contains the meaning of repetitive movement. Since man is not tempted by just one attempt but effort has to be made over and over again to seduce and tempt him, such aII attempt is called waswasah and the tempter waswas. As for the word khannas, it is derived from khunus, which means to hide after appearing and to retreat after coming into view. Since khannas is the intensive form, it would imply the one who behaves thus very frequently. Now, obviously the whisperer has to approach man for whispering again and again, and besides, when he is also described as khannas, the combination of the two words by 'itself gives the meaning that after whispering once he retreats and then again returns over and over again to repeat the act of whispering. In other words, when once he fails in his attempt to whisper evil, he withdraws, then he again returns to make the second and the third and the next attempt over and over again.

After understanding the meaning of waswas-il-khannas, let us consider what is meant by seeking refuge from its evil. Its one meaning is that the seeker after refuge himself seeks God's refuge from its evil, i.e. from the evil lest it should whisper some evil suggestion into his own heart. The second meaning is that the caller to Truth seeks God's refuge from the evil of the one who whispers evil suggestions into the hearts of the people against himself. It is not in his own power to approach aII the people in whose hearts evil suggestions are being whispered against himself individually and remove the misunderstandings of every person. It is also not right and proper for him that he should give up his mission of inviting others to AIlah and should devote aII his tune and energy to removing the misunderstanding created by the whisperer and to answering their accusations. It is also below his dignity that he should stoop to the level of his opponents. Therefore, Allah has instructed the caller to Truth to seek only His refuge from the evil of the wicked people, and then to attend single-mindedly to his work of invitation and mission. For it is not for him to deal with them but for Allah, who is Sustainer of men, King of,men, God of men.

Here, one should also understand that an evil suggestion is the starting , point of evil act. When it affects a careless or heedless person, it creates in him a desire for evil. Then, further whisperings change the evil desire into an evil intention and evil purpose. When the evil suggestion grows in intensity, the intention becomes a resolution, which then culminates in the evil act. Therefore, the meaning of seeking God's refuge from the evil of the whisperer is that Allah should nip the evil in the bud.

If seen from another aspect, the order of the evil of the whisperers seems to be this: first. they incite one to open unbelief, polytheism, or rebellion against AIIah and His Messenger, and enmity of the righteous (godly) people. If they fail in this and a person dces enter Allah's religion, they misguide him to some innovation. If they fail in this too, they tempt him to sin. If they do not succeed even in this, they inspire the tnan with the suggestion that there is no haran in indulging in minor sins, so that if he starts committing these freely, he is over burdened with sin. If one escapes from this too, in the last resort they try that one should keep the true religion confined to oneself, and should do nothing to make it prevail, but if a person defeats all these plans, the whole party of the devils froth among men and jinn makes a common front against him incites and stirs up the people and makes them shower him with invective and accusation and slander, and defames him as widely as it can. Then, Satan comes to the believer and excites hisn to anger, saying: "It is cowardly of you to have borne aII this insult: arise and clash with your opponents." This is the last and final device with Satan by which he tries to thwart the struggle of the caller to Truth and entangle him in difficulties and obstructions. If he succeeds in escaping from this too, Satan becomes powerless before him. About this same thing it has been said in the Qur'an: "If Satan ever excites you to anger, seek refuge with Allah." (Al-A`raf: 200, Ha Mim As-Sajdah: 36); "Say: Lord, I seek refuge with You from the promptings of satans." (Al-Mu'minun: 97); "The fact is that if ever an evil suggestion from Satan so much as touches those, who are God-fearing people, they immediately get alerted and clearly see the right course they should adopt." (AI-A`raf: 201). And on this very basis about the people who escape from this last attack of Satan Allah says: "None can attain to this rank except those who are men of great good fortune." (Ha Mim As-Sajdah: 35).

In this connection, another thing also should be kept in mind, and it is this: EviL suggestion is not whispered into the heart of man only from outside by the satans from among men and jinn, but also by the self of man from within. His own wrong theories misguide his intellect, his own unlawful motives and desires lead his power of discrimination, will and power of judgement astray, and it is not only the satans from outside but within tnan his satan of the self also beguiles him. This same thing has been expressed in the Qur'an, thus: "and We know the evil suggestions arising from his self." (Qaf : 16). On this very basis, the Holy Prophet (upon whom be peace) in his well-known Sermon said: "We seek Allah's refuge from the evils of our self."
الَّذِي يُوَسْوِسُ فِي صُدُورِ النَّاسِï´¿114:5ï´¾ 
(114:5) who whispers (evil) into the hearts of men,

مِنَ الْجِنَّةِ وَ النَّاسِï´¿114:6ï´¾ 
(114:6) whether he be from among the jinn or mankind." *3
*3 According to some scholars, these words mean that the whisperer whispers evil into the hearts of two kinds of people: the jinn and the men. If this meaning is admitted, the word nas would apply to both jinn and men. They say that this can be so, for when the word rijali (men) in the Qur'an has been used for the jinn, as in Al-Jinn: 6, and when nafar can be used for the group of jinn, as in A1-Ahqaf: 29, men and jinn both can be included metaphorically in the word nas also. But this view is wrong because the words nas, ins and ihsan are even lexically contrary in meaning to the word jinn. The actual meaning of jinn is hidden creation and jinn is called jinn because he is hidden from man's eye. On the contrary, the words nas and ins are spoken for insan (man) only on the basis that he is manifest and visible and perceptible. In Surah Al-Qasas: 29, the word anasa has been used in the meaning of ra a, i.e. "the Prophet Moses saw a fire in the direction of Tur. " In Surah An-Nisa': 6, the word anastum has been used in the meaning of ahsastum or ra aytum (i.e. if you perceive or see that the orphans have become capable). Therefore, nas canot apply to jinn lexically, and the correct meaning of the verse is: "from the evil of the whisperer who whispers evil into the hearts of men, whether he be from among the jinn or from the men themselves." In other words, whispering of evil is done by devils from among jinn as well as by devils from among rnen and the prayer in this Surah has been taught to seek refuge from the evil of both. This meaning is supported by the Qur'an as well as by the Hadith. The Qur'an says: "And so it has always been that We set against every Prophet enemies from among devils of men and devils of jinn, who have been inspiring one another with charming things to delude the minds." (Al-An'am :112)

And in the Hadith, lmam Ahmad, Nasa'i, and Ibn Hibban have related on the authority of Hadrat Abu Dharr a tradition, saying: "I sat before the Holy Prophet (upon whom be peace), who was in the Mosque. He said: Abu Dharr, have you performed the Prayer? I replied in the negative. He said: Arise and perform the Prayer. So, I performed the Prayer. The Holy Prophet said: O Abu Dharr, seek Allah's refuge from the devils of men and the devils of jinn. I asked. are there devils among rnen also? O Messenger of Allah! He replied: Yes."



Central Theme
    This surah is the dual of Surah Falaq, the previous surah and there is no essential difference between the central themes of the two. Both are a means through which a person seeks the Almighty’s protection from various evils. However, there are certain aspects which distinguish this surah from the previous one:
    Firstly, in this surah, refuge is sought with Allah through His attributes which are directly related to man. As a result, the appeal of the surah is more effective. The previous surah also carries an effective appeal, yet it is more argumentative in style. In this surah, on the other hand, this style, though present, is overshadowed by repeated earnest calls which invoke Allah’s mercy.
    Secondly, in the previous surah, refuge is sought from various evils, while this surah seeks protection against Satan, the root of all evils and, as indicated in the previous surah, the eternal enemy of Tawhid.
    Thirdly, in the previous surah, Satan is referred to with regard to one of his characteristics -- jealousy. In this surah, his method and technique, his clan and accomplices, the sphere of his incursions and onslaughts, all are brought to light so that people have a clear perception of their shrewd enemy and are in a position to defend themselves.

    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 jinn and men.
    (Say: I seek refuge with the Cherisher of mankind, the Emperor of mankind, the God of mankind.)  (1-3) 
    These opening verses seek refuge with Allah through three attributes, which, in fact, also determine the basic rights of Allah imposed on man. They guide us moreover that help should only be solicited from someone who possesses such attributes.
    How the attributes stated above ascertain these 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 to worship and regard someone who is not the real cherisher of mankind their real emperor and, therefore, such practice has been totally forbidden.
    In Surah Fatihah, it is stated that since it is the Almighty Who is the Cherisher of His creation, all thanksgivings must return to Him, and He alone should be worshipped and sought help from. What the opening three verses of this surah 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.

    (From the mischief of the Prompter [of evil] who withdraws [after his prompts]).  (4)
    This verse states the real entity from which refuge is sought in the above verses. Though it is not stated in words, yet it is quite evident from the attributes mentioned and the specification made later that it is Satan who is referred to.
    The verse describes Satan’s technique and his line of attack: he allures people through propaganda and deceptive promises and by initiating wicked suggestions in their minds. After entrapping 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 Waswas (prompter of evil) and Khannas (one who withdraws) which means 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 may 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 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 suffices as [your] Guardian. (17:65)

    The adjective Khannas 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, but the last verse clearly points out that these evil creatures exist both in men and in the jinn-folk. Some other commentators have understood it to mean ‘someone who comes again and again’, which has no basis in the Arabic language.
    In the opinion of this writer, 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 very character of Satan is also depicted at various instances in the Qur’an. In Surah Furqan, he is called Khadhul, that is ‘one who deceives his followers’:

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

    To quote Surah Bani Isra’il:

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

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

    They are like Satan, when he says to man: disbelieve. When he disbelieves, 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 Quraysh to attack Madinah 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’an has depicted this character as follows:

    And when Satan [Jews] made their [the Quraysh’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)

    Not only Satan and his followers exhibit this very character in this world, they will also do so in the next. The Qur’an, on a number of occasions, has drawn a picture of the dialogue that will take place in Hell between evil leaders and their followers. These adherents will ask the leaders, whom they had so diligently followed, to come forward and help them. The leaders will reply that it was their fault that they had followed them, for they had never forced them to do so; therefore, they should now face the punishment themselves.
    The word Khannas is meant to express the above mentioned 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 disloyalty and betrayals when a person falls prey to his ‘word of honour’.
    (Who implants evil suggestions in the hearts of man, [and is] from among the jinn and the men.)  (5-6)

    The above stated verses indicate Satan’s mission as well as his brethren’s so that people can have a clear perception of their enemy. His modus operandi is to prompt evil suggestions in a person’s bosom. Here, the word Sudur (chests) actually implies a person’s heart which is contained in his chest. 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’an at various places. He has no other authority or hold on man and cannot forcibly lead him astray, as mentioned earlier.
    The words min al-Jinnati wa al-Nas ([and is] from among the jinn and men) specify Satan' brethren, indicating that he is not an independent creation of Allah, but every one among the jinn and men who induces evil suggestions in others' hearts is, in fact, a Satan. The Qur’an has specified that the Satan who had inveigled Adam was from among the jinn. It is incorrect to regard this particular Satan as an independent or eternal creation. However, his mission will be carried on till the Day of Judgement through his disciples and followers who are from both men and the jinn folk.
    With these words the exegesis of this surah ends, which ends "Tadabbur-i-Qur’an" 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 interpreted 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)


Keywords: The Meaning and Explanation, Surah Al-Falaq (113) and Surah Al-Naas (114), Quran, Dua, Supplication, Naas, Falaq

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