Quranic Reflection No 659. Āyat 16:98 -100, Seeking refuge from Satan


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فَإِذَا قَرَأْتَ الْقُرْآنَ فَاسْتَعِذْ بِاللَّهِ مِنَ الشَّيْطَانِ الرَّجِيمِ. إِنَّهُ لَيْسَ لَهُ سُلْطَانٌ عَلَى الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَعَلَىٰ رَبِّهِمْ يَتَوَكَّلُونَ. إِنَّمَا سُلْطَانُهُ عَلَى الَّذِينَ يَتَوَلَّوْنَهُ وَالَّذِينَ هُم بِهِ مُشْرِكُونَ

When you recite the Quran, seek the protection of Allah against the outcast Satan. Indeed, he does not have any authority over those who have faith and put their trust in their Lord. His authority is only over those who befriend him and those who make him a partner [of Allah].  

(Sūrat Al-Nahl, No. 16, Āyāt 98-100)

Often, we think of Shaytān (Satan) as an entity over which we have no control. A being who can come and wreak havoc in our lives as he pleases. However, the above three verses from Sūrat Al-Nahl offer the believer a different paradigm of understanding how Satan interacts with them and influences their lives.

Verse 98 first tells us that when we wish to seek guidance from the Holy Quran, we should seek refuge in Allah ‘azza wajall from the outcast Satan. Two points we can extract from this verse are:

 1.     Seeking refuge is only done when the need to do so is felt. When someone feels a sort of dependence on another being, he will seek refuge in that being. Hence, seeking refuge in Allah is something that must be preceded by a recognition and attention toward the utter dependence we have on Allah.

2.     We must believe that the being we seek refuge in can save us from that which we are seeking protection from. We must first appreciate that Allah is a powerful and worthy being for us to then go and seek refuge in Him.

These two points follow from the intellectual and philosophical understanding that everything other than Allah subhānahu wata‘ālā is a dependent being and the only independent existence is Allah. As mentioned in another verse:  

يَا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ أَنتُمُ الْفُقَرَآءُ إِلَى اللَّهِ ۖ وَاللَّهُ هُوَ الْغَنِيُّ الْحَمِيدُ

O mankind! You are the ones who stand in need of Allah, and Allah—He is the All-sufficient, the All-laudable. (Q 35:15)

The only true and worthy refuge is Allah the Exalted. To seek refuge from a being other than Him, with the view that this being is independent of Him, would be contrary to this intellectual understanding. Thus, it is no surprise that the Holy Ahl al-Bayt have emphasized seeking refuge in Allah. In one narration from Imām Ja‘far al-Sādiq (a), he was asked whether believers should seek refuge from Satan prior to reciting any chapter of the Quran. He replied: Yes! Seek refuge in Allah from the outcast (rajīm) Satan. The Imām then explained the word rajīm refers to the most wretched of all devils.

Another important and related point in verse No. 100 above is that Satan only gains authority when it is given to him. So those who seek refuge in Allah, are in a sense stoning and rejecting Satan and his whispers. The word rajīm while translated above as ‘outcast’ also means someone who has been hit by stones. 

Those who seek refuge in Allah have recognized that there is no authority save Allah. Verse No. 99 emphasizes this exclusivity by bringing the words ‘alā rabbihim forward, before the verb yatawakkalūn, although in Arabic the verb normally precedesLike the verse iyyāka na’budu in Sūrat Al-Fātihah, this changing of order indicates exclusivity, meaning that they only have tawakkul on their Lord. Not that they see others and then choose their Lord to rely on.

We ask Allah (swt) to allow us to attain high levels of understanding and experience by actively seeking refuge in Him in all our actions, especially when we are reciting and seeking guidance from the Holy Quran. We implore Him by the sake of Sayyidah Fātimah al-Zahrā (a) who we are remembering in these days, to rectify the situation of all the Muslims around the world especially in the oppressed people of Palestine.

Sources : ‘Allāmah Tabātabā’ī, Tafsir al-Mīzān.