The following is from a work-in-progress called The Qur'an: a Book Report, in which I read each surah of the Qur'an and write about what I learn.
This surah is recited as an invocation against evil—both material and spiritual: “I seek refuge with the Lord of daybreak against the harm of what He has created, the harm of the night when darkness gathers, the harm of witches when they blow on knots [a means of casting spells], the harm of the envier when he envies.”
This surah reminds me of my upbringing in a Christian church, where there was often talk of “spiritual warfare,” and certain types of prayers invoked against demons and evil spirits. It’s strange that in the 21st century, lots of people still attribute bad things to invisible evil spirits. To me, this seems a rather primitive worldview. I tend to attribute bad things to chance, individual choice, human desperation, ignorance, and other non-supernatural causes—as opposed to witches and demons.