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The al- Mu'awwidhatayn (Arabic: المعوذتين), sometimes translated as "Verses of Refuge", is an Arabic term referring to the last three suras (chapters) of the Qur'an viz. al-Falaq , ikhlas, and an-Nas which are two consecutive short prayers both beginning with the verse "Say: I seek refuge in the Lord of...". Although these two Surahs are separate entities in the Qur'an and also are written in the Mushaf under separate names, they are so deeply related mutually with their contents closely resembling each other's that they have been designated by a common name Mu'awwidhitayn (the two Surahs in which refuge with Allah has been sought). Imam Baihaqi in 'Dala'il an-Nubuwwat' has written that these Surahs were revealed together, and hence their combined name of Mu'awwidhatayn. There is a Sunnah tradition from Muhammad of reading them over the sick or before sleeping and they are also considered a healing.
Period of Revelation
- Also see: Dua.
Hadrat Hasan Basri, 'Ikrimah, 'Ata' and Jābir ibn Zayd say that these Surahs are Makki. A tradition from Hadrat 'Abdullah bin 'Abbas also supports the same view. However, according to another tradition from him, it is Madani and the same view is held also by Hadrat 'Abdullah bin Zubair and Qatadah. One of the traditions which strengthens this second view is the Hadith which Muslim, Tirmidhi, Nasa'i and Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal have related on the authority of Hadrat 'Uqbah bin 'Amir. He says that the Holy Prophet one day said to him: "Do you know what kind of verses have been revealed to me tonight? — these matchless verses are *A'udhu bi-Rabbi l-falaq* and *A'udhu bi-Rabbi n-nas*. This Hadith is used as an argument for these Surahs to be Madani because Hadrat 'Uqbah bin 'Amir had become a Muslim in Madinah after the hijrah, as related by Abu Da'ud and Nasa'i on the basis of his own statement. Other traditions which have lent strength to this view are those related by Ibn Sa'd, Muhiyy-us-Sunnah Baghawi, Imam Nasafi, Imam Baihaqi, Hafiz Ibn Hajar, Hafiz Badr-uddin 'Ayni, 'Abd bin Humaid and others to the effect that these Surahs were revealed when the Jews had worked magic on the Muhammed in Madinah and he had fallen ill under its effect. Ibn Sa'd has related on the authority of Waqidi that this happened in A.H. 7. On this very basis Sufyan ibn `Uyaynah also has described these Surah as Madani.
But (as explained by Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi in his Tafhim-ul-Quran under the Introduction to Surah Al-Ikhlas), when it is said about a certain Surah or verse that it was revealed on this or that particular occasion, it does not necessarily mean that it was revealed for the first time on that very occasion. Rather it sometimes so happened that a Surah or a verse had previously been revealed, then on the occurrence or appearance of a particular incident or situation, Muhammed's attention was drawn to it by Allah for the second time, or even again and again. In Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi's opinion the same also was the case with the Mu'awwidhatayn. The subject matter of these Surahs is explicit that these were sent down at Makkah in the first instance when opposition to the Holy Prophet there had grown very intense. Later, when at Madinah storms of opposition were raised by the hypocrites, Jews and polytheists, the Holy Prophet was instructed to recite these very Surahs, as has been mentioned in the above cited tradition from Hadrat Uqbah bin Amir. After this, when magic was worked on him, and his illness grew intense, angel Gabriel came and instructed him by Allah's command to recite these very Surahs. Therefore, in the same opinion, the view held by the commentators who describe both these Surahs as Makki is more reliable. Regarding them as connected exclusively with the incident of magic is difficult, for to this incident related only one verse (v.4), the remaining verses of Surah al Falaq and the whole of Surah An-Nas have nothing to do with it directly.
Theme and subject matter
The conditions under which these two Surahs were sent down in Makkah were as follows. As soon as Muhammed began to preach the message of Islam, it seemed as though he had provoked all classes of the people around him. As his message spread the opposition of the disbelieving Quraish also became more and more intense. As long as they had any hope that they would be able to prevent him from preaching his message by throwing some temptation in his way, or striking some bargain with him, their hostility did not become very active. But when the Holy Prophet disappointed them completely that he would not effect any kind of compromise with them in the matter of faith, and in Surah Al-Kafirun they were plainly told: "I do not worship those who you worship nor are you worshipers of Him Whom I worship. For you is your religion and for me is mine", the hostility touched its extreme limits. More particularly, the families whose members (men or women, boys or girls) had accepted Islam, were burning with rage from within against the Holy Prophet. They were cursing him, holding secret consultations to kill him quietly in the dark of the night so that the Banu Hashim could not discover the murderer and take revenge; magic and charms were being worked on him so as to cause his death, or make him fall ill, or become mad; satans from among the men and the jinn spread on every side so as to whisper one or another evil into the hearts of the people against him and the Qur'an brought by him so that they became suspicious of him and fled him. There were many people who were burning with jealousy against him, for they could not tolerate that a man from another family or clan than their own should flourish and become prominent. For instance, the reason why Abu Jahl was crossing every limit in his hostility to him has been explained by himself: "We and the Bani Abdi Manaf (to which the Holy Prophet belonged) were rivals of each other: they fed others, we too fed others; they provided conveyances to the people, we too did the same; they gave donations, we too gave donations, so much so that when they and we have become equal in honor and nobility, they now proclaim that they have a Prophet who is inspired from the heaven; how can we compete with them in this field? By God, we will never acknowledge him, nor affirm faith in him". (Source Ibn Hisham, vol. I, pp. 337–338).
Such were the conditions when the Holy Prophet was commanded to tell the people: "I seek refuge with the Lord of the dawn, from the evil of everything that He has created, and from the evil of the darkness of night and from the evil of magicians, men and women, and from the evil of the envious", and to tell them: "I seek refuge with the Lord of mankind, the King of mankind, and the Deity of mankind, from the evil of the whisperer, who returns over and over again, who whispers (evil) into the hearts of men, whether he be from among the jinn or men." This is similar to what the Prophet Moses had been told to say when Pharaoh had expressed his design before his full court to kill him: "I have taken refuge with my Lord and your Lord against every arrogant person who does not believe in the Day of Reckoning." (Quran 40:27–27). And: "I have taken refuge with my Lord and your Lord lest you should assail me." (Quran 44:20–20)
On both occasions these illustrious Prophets of Allah were confronted with well-equipped, resourceful and powerful enemies. On both occasions they stood firm on their message of Truth against their strong opponents, whereas they had no material power on the strength of which they could fight them, and on both occasions they utterly disregarded the threats and dangerous plans and hostile devices of the enemy, saying: "We have taken refuge with the Lord of the universe against you." Obviously, such firmness and steadfastness can be shown only by the person who has the conviction that the power of His Lord is the supreme power, that all powers of the world are insignificant against Him, and that no one can harm the one who has taken His refuge. Only such a one can say: "I will not give up preaching the Word of Truth. I care the least for what you may say or do, for I have taken refuge with my Lord and your Lord and Lord of all universe."
The position of Ibn Mas`ud concerning Al-Mu`awwidhatayn
Imam Ahmad recorded from Zirr bin Hubaysh that Ubayy bin Ka`b told him that Ibn Mas`ud did not record the Mu`awwidhatayn in his Mushaf (copy of the Qur'an). So Ubayy said, "I testify that the Messenger of Allah informed me that Jibril said to him,
قُلْ أَعُوذُ بِرَبِّ الْفَلَقِ (Arabic)
So he said it. And Jibril said to him,
قُلْ أَعُوذُ بِرَبِّ النَّاس (Arabic)
So he said it. Therefore, we say what the Prophet said."
The virtues of the Al-Mu`awwidhatayn
- In his Sahih, Imam Muslim recorded on the authority of ‘Uqbah bin ‘Amir that the Muhammad said, "Do you not see that there have been Ayaat revealed to me tonight the like of which has not been seen before?" They are Say: “I seek refuge with, the Lord of Al-Falaq.” (Surah Al-Falaq 113:1) and; Say: “I seek refuge with the Lord of mankind.” (Surah An Naas 114:1)  This Hadith was recorded by Ahmad, At-Tirmidhi and An-Nasa'i. At-Tirmidhi said, “Hasan Sahih.” 
- According to Tafsir ibn Kathir, it has been reported from Abu Sa'id that Muhammad used to seek protection from the evil eyes of the jinn and mankind. But when the Muawwidhatayn were revealed, he used them (for protection) and abandoned all else besides them. At-Tirmidhi, An-Nisai and ibn Majah recorded this.
- Narrated ‘Aisha: “Whenever Allah’s Apostle became sick, he would recite Al-Mu'awwidhatayn (Surah al-Falaq and Surah an-Nas) and then blow his breath over his body. When he became seriously ill, I used to recite (these two suras) and rub his hands over his body hoping for its blessings.
Relation between Surah Al-Fatihah and the Al Mu'awwidhatayn
- Also see: al-Fatiha
The last thing which is noteworthy with regard to the Al Mu'awwidhatayn is the relation between the beginning and the end of the Qur'an. Although the Qur'an has not been arranged chronologically, Muhammed arranged in the present order the verses and Surahs revealed during 23 years on different occasions to meet different needs and situations, not by himself but by the command of Allah who revealed them. According to this order, the Qur'an opens with the Surah Al-Fatihah and ends with the Al Mu'awwidhatayn.
In the beginning, after praising and glorifying Allah as Lord of the worlds, Kind, Merciful and Master of the Judgment Day, the believer submits: "Lord, You alone I worship and to You alone I turn for help, and the most urgent help that I need from You is to be guided to the Straight Way." In answer, he is given by Allah the whole Qur'an to show him the Straight Way, which is concluded thus: Man prays to Allah, Who is Lord of dawn, Lord of men, King of men, Deity of men, saying: "I seek refuge only with You for protection from every evil and mischief of every creature, and in particular, from the evil whisperings of devils, be they from among men or jinn, for they are the greatest obstacle in following the Straight Way." Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi thus says in his Tafheemul Quran The relation that the beginning bears with the end, cannot remain hidden from anyone who has understanding and insight.