The Istiʿādhah

The term الستعاذة is used to refer to the statement أعوذ بالله من الشيطان الرجيم

Although the wording of this statement is not an actual part or verse of the Qurʾān, the command to mention it before beginning the recitation is mentioned in the Qurʾān

Allah says in the Qurʾān, ﴾فإذا قرأت القران فاستعذ بالله من الشيطان الرجيم﴿

“So when you recite the Qur’an, seek refuge in Allah from Shayṭān, the expelled.” [al-Naḥl: 98]

Allah says in in the Qurʾān  ﴾وَاِمَّا يَنۡزَغَنَّكَ مِنَ الشَّيۡطٰنِ نَزۡغٌ فَاسۡتَعِذۡ بِاللّٰهِ​ؕ اِنَّهٗ هُوَ السَّمِيۡعُ الۡعَلِيۡمُ‏ ﴿

And if there comes to you from Shayṭān an evil suggestion, then seek refuge in Allāh. Indeed, He is the Hearing, the Knowing. [Fuṣṣilat: 36]

Allah says, Indeed, Shayṭān is an enemy to you; so take him as an enemy [Fatir: 6] ﴾ اِنَّ الشَّيۡطٰنَ لَـكُمۡ عَدُوٌّ فَاتَّخِذُوۡهُ عَدُوًّا ﴿

This is why the Istiʿādhah is not only confined to the recitation of the Qurʾān but also repeated throughout the daily life of a Muslim. Ibn Kathīr mentions that from the benefits of the Istiʿādhah is that it purifies the tongue, heart and actions as one is about to embark on the recitation of the Qurʾān. It does this because of two things:

  1. Seeking Allāh’s help, the Lord of all that exists, our Creator, Provider, Sustainer the source of all goodness, all blessing, from:
  2. The polar opposite to all that is good and pure, which is Shayṭān, Iblīs, the source of all misery, wretchedness and the epitome of evil. Everything that is harmful to you in life, distances you from Allāh or tempts you to sin, is from Shayṭān

This is the power of this statement – we ask Allah for every good and protection from epitome of all evil

Istiʿādhah is hence not just limited to recitation of the Qurʾān

There are a number of wordings mentioned in the Sunnah, the most common/famous of which are three:

أعوذ بالله من الشيطان الرجيم

أعوذ بالله السميع العليم من الشيطان الرجيم

This was also the opinion of Al-Ḥasan al-Baṣri and Muḥammad ibn Sīrīn; it was also reported from Imām al-Shafiʿī and Imām Aḥmad (who used both wordings). Abu ʿAmr al-Dāni mentions that the vast majority of Qurrāʾ (reciters of the Qurʾān) chose above wording of the Istiʿādhah.

أعوذ بالله السميع العليم من الشيطان الرجيم من همزه ونفخه ونفثه

This wording is narrated by Abu Saʿīd al-Khudri # in the same Ḥadīth mentioned above; the additional words carry the following meanings:
● همز :the craziness and possession of Shayṭān which overtakes a person (such as when he is angry and not thinking clearly)
● نفخ :his ability to make you arrogant, inflate you, make you haughty (this is similar to what happened to the man who became angry in front of the Prophet ! and was told to pronounce the Istiʿādhah)
● نفث :poetry that is evil and tempts you to disobey Allāh; i.e., this refers to anything that distances you from Allāh

There are few more wordings reported from the prophet SAW

“I seek refuge in Allāh from the accursed Devil and from his همز and his نفخ and his نفث “.He (Ibn Masʿūd) said, “His همز is a type of insanity, his نفث is poetry, and his نفخ is arrogance
This is also known as one of the supplications for entering the Masjid
I seek refuge in Almighty Allāh, by His Noble Face, by His Primordial Power, from Satan the
outcast

Other types of wording which are allowed for the Istiʿādhah:

  • Using other names of Allāh, as can be observed by the different wordings mentioned above.
  • Using only Allāh’s name without mentioning the name “Allāh”, as Maryam did ﴾ قَالَتْ إِنِّي أَعُوذُ بِالرَّحْمَن مِنكَ إِن كُنتَ تَقِيًّا ﴿ [Maryam : 18]
  • Using the attributes of Allāh; for example, His perfect Speech

from the evil that He has created – أَعـوذُبِكَلِمـاتِ اللّهِ التّـامّـاتِ مِنْ شَـرِّ ما خَلَـق

أَعُوذُ بِكَلِمَاتِ اللَّهِ التَّامَّةِ مِنْ كُلِّ شَيْطَانٍ وَهَامَّةٍ وَمِنْ كُلِّ عَيْنٍ لَامَّةٍ

Prophet ! used to seek refuge with Allāh for al-Ḥasan and al-Ḥusayn and say, “Your forefather (i.e. Ibrāhīm) used to seek refuge with Allāh for Ismā’īl and Is-hāq by reciting the following: ‘O Allāh! I seek refuge with Your Perfect Speech from every devil and poisonous pest and from every evil, harmful, envious eye

Another common supplication seeks protection against self

اللهم فاطر السماوات والأرض عالم الغيب والشهادة، أشهد أن لا إله إلا أنت رب كل شيء ومليكه، أعوذ بك من شر نفسي ومن شر الشيطان وشركه وأن أقترف على نفسي سوءا أو أجره إلى مسلم

O Allāh, Knower of the unseen and the evident, Maker of the heavens and the earth, Lord of everything and its Possessor, I bear witness that there is none worthy of worship but You. I seek refuge in You from the evil of my soul and from the evil of Satan and his helpers, and (I seek refuge in You) from bringing evil upon my soul and from harming any Muslim

In summary Istiʿādhah can be used to

  • Gain Allah’s protection from evil and harm
  • Protection from all devils, human and jinn
  • It is an act of worship and part of our belief to seek Allah’s protection
  • Acknowledging Allah’s greatness and our own weakness
  • Purifying our mouth before embarking on reading Allah’s pure words in the Qur’an
  • Purifies the heart from Shayṭān’s whispers

When Else Should the Istiʿādhah be Read?

  • Before reading Qur’an
  • When Shayṭān whispers to us or tempts us to do evil
  • When Shayṭān distracts us in prayer
  • At times of anger
  • When seeing a nightmare
  • When entering the masjid
  • When hearing a donkey braying
  • When descending into a place
  • When entering the bathroom
  • In the mornings and evenings
  • When waking up suddenly at night
  • Protection for children

Other Issues Related to the Istiʿādhah

  • Should it be read before or after Qurʾān reading?
    • Both opinions are mentioned, but the majority of scholars state before recitation.
  • Is it obligatory to recite the istiʿādhah before reciting the Qurʾān?
    • The majority of scholars hold it to be recommended whilst some scholars state that it is obligatory.
  • Is it only recited at the beginning of a chapter or midway through too?
    • It should be recited for both.
  • Do we need to recite the istiʿādhah in the prayer?
    • It is recommended in the opinion of most scholars.
  • If so, is it just in the first rakʿah or in every rakʿah?
    • Both positions have been mentioned by scholars. It comes back to whether or not the prayer’s recitation is a single reading or multiple readings.
  • Do we recite the istiʿādhah aloud or silently in the prayer and outside of the prayer?
    • Silently in the view of the majority of scholars.

This is my study notes of the tafsir class of Shaykh Ahsan Hanif from quranicprogression.com

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