Let no one be found among you who sacrifices his son or daughter in the fire, who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead. Anyone who does these things is detestable to the LORD, and because of these detestable practices the LORD your God will drive out those nations before you. You must be blameless before the LORD your God. The nations you will dispossess listen to those who practice sorcery or divination. But as for you, the LORD your God has not permitted you to do so. (Deuteronomy 18:10-14)


Suras 113 and 114


Sura 113 - Al-Falaq (The Daybreak, Dawn)

Say: I seek refuge with the Lord of the Dawn
From the mischief of created things;
From the mischief of Darkness as it overspreads;
From the mischief of those who practise secret arts;
And from the mischief of the envious one as he practises envy.

Sura 114 - An-Nas (Mankind)

Say: I seek refuge with the Lord and Cherisher of Mankind,
The King (or Ruler) of Mankind,
The god (or judge) of Mankind,-
From the mischief of the Whisperer (of Evil), who withdraws (after his whisper),-
(The same) who whispers into the hearts of Mankind,-
Among Jinns and among men.


These two Suras are commonly referred to by the name Mu'awwidhatayn (the two Suras in which refuge with Allah has been sought). The themes of these two Suras are closely related and it was believed by some (mainly Imam Baihaqi in Dala'il an-Nubuwwat) that they were "revealed" together to Muhammad. In spite of the fact that these are among the shortest Suras in the Qur'an, they are full of theological and philosophical problems.


Muhammad first preached these Suras in Mecca at a point when his growing popularity, and material wealth, began to provoke the hostility of many of his fellow citizens. Muslim traditionalists tell us that after Muhammad recited the Sura Al-Kafirun (the Sura against the unbelievers), the polytheistic Meccans abandoned any hope of a theological compromise with Muhammad. There were many families whose members accepted Islam, and they were angry with Muhammad and some cursed him publicly. Muhammad believed that some Meccans were holding secret meetings where they hatched conspiracies to kill him quietly in the middle of the night so that his clan could not discover the murder and take revenge.

Muhammad also believed that his enemies were using magic and charms on him in order to kill him, make him ill, or drive him mad. Muhammad also thought that there were Satans from among the men and the jinn that were whispering evil into the hearts of the people against him and the Qur'an, so that the masses would become suspicious of him and ignore him and his message.

A similar incident occurred in Medina after the peace treaty of Hudaibiyah. According to the traditions, a group of the Jews from Khaibar visited Medina where they met a famous magician, named Labid bin Asam. They said to him:

"You know how Muhammad has treated us. We have tried our best to bewitch him but have not succeeded. Now we have come to you because you are a more skilled magician. Here are three gold coins, accept these and cast a powerful magic spell on Muhammad." (as quoted in Syed Maududi's commentary)

While in Medina, Muhammad employed a Jewish boy as his valet who passed along Muhammad's comb with some hair stuck in it. "Magic" was worked on this hair, according to some traditions, by Labid bin Asam while, according to others, his sisters who were more skilled cast the spell. In any case, Labid placed this spell in the spathe of a male date-tree and hid it under a stone at the bottom of Dharwan or Dhi Arwan, the well of Bani Zurayq. In a short time, the spell to affected Muhammad.

According to Muslim tradition recounted by Syed Maududi's commentary, Muhammad said to Aisha:

"My Lord has told me what I had asked of Him." Hadrat Aishah asked what it was. He replied: "Two men (i.e. two angels in human guise) came to me. One sat near my head and the other near my feet. The first asked: what has happened to him? The other replied: Magic has been worked on him. The first asked: who has worked it? He replied: Labid bin Asam. He asked: In what is it contained? He replied: In the comb and hair covered in the spathe of a male date-tree. He asked: where is it? He replied: under a stone at the bottom of Dhi Arwan (or Dharwan), the well of Bani Zurayq. He asked: what should be done about it? He replied: the well should be emptied and it should be taken out from under the stone. The Holy Prophet then sent Hadrat Ali, Hadrat Ammar bin Yasir and Hadrat Zubair: They were also joined by Jubair bin Iyas az-Zurqi (two men from Bani Zurayq). Later the Holy Prophet also arrived at the well along with some Companions. The water was taken out and the spathe recovered. There they found that beside the comb and hair there was a cord with eleven knots on it and a wax image with needles pricked into it. Gabriel (peace be on him) came and told him to repeat the Mu'awwidhatayn. As he repeated verse after verse, a know was loosened and a needle taken out every time, till on finishing the last words all the knots were loosened and all the needles removed, and he was entirely freed from the charm." (Compare also Sahih Bukhari, Vol. 7, Book 71, Number 658)

Issue 1: Period of Revelation

The Argument for Meccan Origins

Hasan Basri, Ikrimah, Ata and Jabir bin Zaid believed that these Suras were Meccan. A tradition from Abdullah bin Abbas also supports the same view.

The Argument for Medinan Origins

However, another tradition from Abdullah bin Abbas, suggests that it is Medinan. 'Abdullah bin Zubair and Qatadah also believed that these Suras are Medinan. There are Hadith in which Muslim, Tirmidhi, Nasa'i and Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal related (on the authority of Uqbah bin Amir) that Muhammad said: "Do you know what kind of verses have been revealed to me tonight? - these matchless verses are A'udhu bi-Rabbil-falaq and A'udhu bi-Rabbin-nas." This Hadith is used as an argument for these Suras to be Medinan because 'Uqbah bin Amir became a Muslim in Medina according to Abu Da'ud and Nasa'i.

Other traditions that support the Medinan origins include: Ibn Sa'd, Muhiyy-us-Sunnah Baghawi, Imam Nasafi, Imam Baihaqi, Hafiz Ibn Hajar, Hafiz Badr-uddin 'Ayni, and 'Abd bin Humaid who claim that these Suras were revealed after the Jews of Medina had placed magic spells on Muhammad who had fallen ill.

Possible harmonization

The subject matter of these Suras explicitly says that they were first recited in Mecca after opposition to Muhammad, and his message, became more intense. Later, when a similar situation occurred in Medina, Muhammad recited these Suras once again.


Issue 1: Are these Suras Qur'anic?

According to Syed Maududi's commentary, one of Muhammad's most trusted Companions, Abdullah bin Mas'ud, said that these two Suras do not belong in the Qur'an and he eliminated these Suras from his copy of the Mushaf. In fact, Abdullah bin Mas'ud not only eliminated these Suras from the Mushaf, he often said:

"Do not mix up with the Qur'an that which is not of the Qur'an. These two Suras are not included in the Qur'an. This was only a command enjoined on the Holy Prophet for seeking God's refuge." In some traditions there is also the addition that he did not recite these Suras in the Prayer.

The other companions defended these Suras and Uthman included them in the Qur'an and Muslims believe that Abdullah bin Mas'ud was in error.

The most important question is: if such an "error", assuming that it was an error, could be committed by a close Companion, could other errors of omissions and insertions have been made during the compilation of the Qur'an?

Issue 2: Can a "Prophet" be affected by magical spells and what are the implications?

If we accept that Muhammad was affected by magic, or at least believed that he was affected by magic, the entire Qur'an becomes highly suspect. I believe, based on historical evidence, that Muhammad actually thought that a spell had been cast on him. There are numerous traditions (according to Syed Maududi) including: Bukhari, Muslim, Nasai, Ibn Majah, Imam Ahmad, Abdur Razzaq, Humaidi, Baihaqi, Tabarani, Ibn Sad, Ibn Mardayah, Ibn AbiShaibah, Hakim, Abd bin Humaid and other traditions on the authority of Aisha that clearly say that Muhammad believed that he could be affected by spells and magic.

Another interesting tradition is found in Bukhari Volume 4, Book 54, Number 490 where Aisha tells us:

Magic was worked on the Prophet so that he began to fancy that he was doing a thing which he was not actually doing. One day he invoked (Allah) for a long period and then said, "I feel that Allah has inspired me as how to cure myself. Two persons came to me (in my dream) and sat, one by my head and the other by my feet. One of them asked the other, "What is the ailment of this man?" The other replied, 'He has been bewitched" The first asked, 'Who has bewitched him?' The other replied, 'Lubaid bin Al-A'sam.' The first one asked, 'What material has he used?' The other replied, 'A comb, the hair gathered on it, and the outer skin of the pollen of the male date-palm.' The first asked, 'Where is that?' The other replied, 'It is in the well of Dharwan.'" So, the Prophet went out towards the well and then returned and said to me on his return, "Its date-palms (the date-palms near the well) are like the heads of the devils." I asked, "Did you take out those things with which the magic was worked?" He said, "No, for I have been cured by Allah and I am afraid that this action may spread evil amongst the people." Later on the well was filled up with earth.

A similar Habith tells us something even more bizarre:

Hadith Bukhari Volume 7, Book 71, Number 660:

Narrated Aisha:

Magic was worked on Allah's Apostle so that he used to think that he had sexual relations with his wives while he actually had not (Sufyan said: That is the hardest kind of magic as it has such an effect)........

Apparently, Muhammad believed that he was having sex with his wives, while he actually did not have sex with them, for nearly one year! ("The Life of Muhammad", by A. Guillaume, Oxford University Press).

How easy was it to bewitch Muhammad with magic?

Bukhari Volume 7, Book 71, Number 662:

Narrated Abdullah bin Umar:

Two men came from the East and addressed the people who wondered at their eloquent speeches On that Allah's Apostle said. Some eloquent speech is as effective as magic.'

Muhammad's problems with the occult became very serious in the case of the "Satanic Verses" (omitted from Sura 53:19-20) At one point in time, Muhammad admitted that Satan put words in his mouth to compromise with idol worship. Later Muhammad said that God showed him he was wrong, and the Quranic recital was changed.

In "The Life of Muhammad" by A. Guillaume, pp. 165-166, we find this quotation from at-Tabari:

Now the apostle was anxious for the welfare of his people, wishing to attract them as far as he could. It has been mentioned that he longed for a way to attract them and the method he adopted is ... : When the apostle saw that his people turned their backs on him and he was pained by their estrangement from what he brought them from God he longed that there should come to him from God a message that would reconcile his people to him. Because of his love for his people and his anxiety over them it would delight him if the obstacle that made his task so difficult could be removed; so that he meditated on the project and longed for it and it was dear to him. Then God sent down, `By the star when it sets your comrade errs not and is not deceived, he speaks not from his own desire,' and when he reached His words, `Have you thought of al-Lat and al-`Uzza and Manat the third, the other',[1] Satan, when he was meditating upon it, and desiring to bring it (sc. reconciliation)) to his people put upon his tongue `these are the exalted Gharaniq[2] whose intercession is approved.'[3] When Quraysh heard that they were delighted and greatly pleased at the way in which he spoke of their gods and they listened to him; while the believers were holding that what their prophet brought them from their Lord was true, not suspecting a mistake or a vain desire or a slip, and when he reached the prostration[4] and the end of the Sura in which he prostrated himself the Muslims prostrated themselves when their prophet prostrated confirming what he brought and obeying his command, and the polytheists of Quraysh and other who were in the mosque prostrated when they heard the mention of their gods, so that everyone in the mosque believer and unbeliever prostrated ... Then the people dispersed and Quraysh went out, delighted at what had been said about their gods, saying `Muhammad has spoken of our gods in splendid fashion. He alleged in what he read that they are the exalted Gharaniq who's intercession is approved.'
... Then Gabriel came to the apostle and said, `What have you done, Muhammad? You have read to these people something I did not bring you from God and you have said what He did not say to you.' The apostle was bitterly grieved and was greatly in fear of God. So God sent down (a revelation), for He was merciful to him, comforting him and making light of the affair and telling him that every prophet and apostle before him desired as he desired and wanted what he wanted and Satan interjected something into his desires as he had on his tongue.

1. Sura 36:78.
2. The word is said to mean `Numidian cranes' which fly at a great height.
3. Another reading is turtaja `to be hoped for'.
4. Mentioned in the last verse of the Sura.

Ibn Sa'd also records the compromise:

The point is this, Muhammad admitted to being deceived by Satan to engage in idol worship. Although Muhammad later realized the ramifications of what he had done, and changed his mind, this does not mitigate the fact that he was indeed tricked by Satan, and could not distinguish between words from God and words from Satan. (Volume 1, page 237)

The problem is: if Muhammad could be charmed, or made to believe that he had been charmed, who knows what he could have said under the influence of the "magic" used by his opponents - especially when he imagined himself doing something that he was not doing - even having sex with his wives! Which of his teachings are from God (assuming for a moment that any are from God) and which are the result of these magic spells?

Also, Ibn Sa'd raises a very serious question. If Muhammad could not distinguish between the words of God and the words of Satan, how can we trust anything that he said? In fact, the entire story of Muhammad's "prophethood" and his "revelations" are very suspect when viewed in the light of these suras. Incidentally, the Qur'an mentions an accusation made against Muhammad that he was bewitched (Sura 17:47) and, to make matters worse, these two Suras give evidence that Muhammad had actually been, or believed that he had been, charmed and bewitched. Worst of all, the most serious problem is that Muhammad could be tricked by Satan.

Issue 3: Question of Reciting Charms and Amulets in Islam

The third issue that arises when we read these two Suras is whether recitation of charms and amulets has any place among people who claim to believe in a sovereign, all powerful God. During Muhammad's last illness (prior to his death), Aisha recited these Suras on his command and blew on his hands, since she believed that they were blessed, and rubbed them on his body. In spite of Muhammad's many superstitions, he, according to the traditions, opposed charms and amulets: according to Syed Maududi, Abdullah bin Abbas reports that Muhammad said:

"The people of my Ummah to enter Paradise without reckoning will be those who neither turn to treatment by branding, nor to enchanting, nor take omens, but have trust in their Lord."

Latter Hadith show that, unlike the earlier traditions where Muhammad said that the recitation of charms and amulets was forbidden, he allowed it on the condition that is should not smack of polytheism, but one should recite and blow by means of the holy names of Allah, or the words of the Qur'an. This view was a compromise between Muhammad's new religion and earlier pre-Islamic superstitions. There are many examples of Muhammad's belief in charms, amulets, and other superstitions including: Sahih Muslim, Book 25, Number 5448: Narrated Anas ibn Malik:

In connection with incantation Anas reported that he had been granted sanction (to use incantation as a remedy) for the sting of the scorpion and for curing small pustules and dispelling the influence of an evil eye.

Sahih Bukhari, Volume 7, Book 65, Number 356, claims that Sad said:

Allah's Apostle said, "He who eats seven 'Ajwa dates every morning, will not be affected by poison or magic on the day he eats them."

Also, Sahih Muslim, Book 25, Number 5531: Narrated Jabir ibn Abdullah:

Allah's Messenger (peace_be_upon_him) said: If bad luck were to be in anything, it is found in the land, in the servant and in the horse.

The philosphical problem with these beliefs in amulets, charms, and other superstitions, is that they conflict with the idea of a sovereign, all-powerful God. If one believes in God and in the power of God's will, what is the purpose of amulets and charms? Can any of these things alter or over-ride the will of an all-powerful God? Muhammad's faith in amulets and charms, as well as his belief in superstitions, seriously undermines the theological ideas that he preached and casts doubt on the validity of all of his purported "revelations".

For more on Muhammad and the occult please read Muhammad and the Demons.

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