In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.
1. Say: "I seek refuge with the Lord of the daybreak"
Jabir says that Falaq means morning. The Qur'an itself says "cleaver of the daybreak" [Al-Qur'an 6:96]. Ibn 'Abbas says that Falaq means creation. Ka'ab al-Ahbar says that Falaq is a place in the Hell. When its gate is opened all the inmates of Hell cry out because of the intensity of its heat. Ibn Jarir and Imam Bukhari say that it means morning and this view seems reasonable. Allah directs believers to seek refuge in the Lord of the Falaq.
2. "From the evil of what He has created"
And to seek refuge from the evil of what He created. His creation includes Hell, Iblis (Satan) and his offspring.
3. "And from the evil of the darkening as it comes with its darkness,
One should seek refuge from the evil of nightfall. According to Ibn Zayd the Arabs called the setting of the star Pleiad as Ghasiq and believed that after its setting and at its rising, disease increases and spreads. Some commentators say that the word Ghasiq means moon. They base their argument on a Hadith that the Prophet a once held the hand of 'A'ishah and pointing to the moon, said, "Seek refuge from the evil of this Ghasiq." [Imam Ahmad]. However, the rising of the moon and the appearance of the stars are things that happen at night.
4. "And from the evil of those who practise witchcraft when they blow in the knots,
5. "And from the evil of the envier when he envies."
" ... witchcrafts when they blow in the knots" refers to sorceresses. Mujahid says that such incantations are nearest to polytheism as are made to blow on a snake bite or magic stricken man. A Hadith says that Gabriel came to the Prophet and said, "O Muhammad! Are you sick?" When the Prophet said yes, he said, "Invoke the Name of Allah against every disease that pains you, against the evil of every envier and against any evil eye. May Allah heal you." The disease referred to in this Hadith was probably a magic spell. Allah healed His Messenger and repelled that magic.
Ahmad ibn Hanbal reported that a Jew bewitched the Prophet and then he remained under its spell for several days. Then Gabriel came to him and informed him that such and such Jew had enchanted him and has hidden a knoted rope in such and such well. He asked him to send somebody to get it. The Prophet sent someone to bring them back, untied them, and the spell was broken. The Prophet never mentioned it to that Jew nor showed him any anger.
Bukhari reported a Hadith from 'A'ishah. She narrated that when the Prophet was bewitched under a magic spell, he thought that he came to his wives while he had not done so. Once he said to me, "I asked my Lord and He showed me. Two persons came and one sat near my head and the other near my legs. The man sitting near my head asked the other, 'What has happened to this man.' He said, 'He is under the a spell.' He asked, 'Who bewitched him?' He answered, 'Labid ibn A'sim from the Bani Zurayq tribe. They are allies of the Jews.' The man asked, 'What has charmed?' The other answered, 'The comb and the hair.' He asked, 'Where are those things?' 'In the well of Dharwan, under a rock.' " The Prophet sent 'Ali to the well and had the things dug out. I ('A'ishah) suggested that the magician should be punished. The Prophet said, "Praise is for Allah. He healed me. Now I do not like to incite people for me."
From Tafsir Ibn Kathir (abridged). Translation by Habib Badr.