In the Shade of the Qur'an - Surah # 111
In the Shade of the Qur'an - Surah # 111
Sura # 111
In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the
May the hands of Abu Lahab
perish; doomed he is.
and his gains shall not avail him.
He shall be plunged in a flaming fire,
and his wife the carrier of firewood,
have a rope of palm fibre rounder her neck.
In the Shade of the Qur'an
Abu Lahab, whose real name was Abduluzza ibn Abdulmuttalib, was an uncle
of the Prophet. He was so nicknamed because of the radiant look he had on
his face. With his wife Abu Lahab was
one of the most unbending foes of
the Messenger and the ideas he was propagating.
Ibn Ishaq related
the report made by Rabiah ibn 'Abbad Ad-Daili who said,
When I was a youngster I once watched
with my father Allah's Messenger
preaching Islam to the Arab tribes saying 'O sons of ... (calling
respective names), I am Allah's Messenger sent to order you to submit to
and worship Him and nothing else beside Him, and to believe in me and
protect me until I carry out
what Allah has entrusted me with.' A cross
eyed, bright-faced man was behind him, who used to say,
after he had
finished, 'O sons of ... this man wants you to forsake Al-Lat and Al
Uzza (two prominent idols worshipped by the pagan Arabs) and your allies
of the jinn, the children
of Malik ibn Aqmas and to substitute for them
these innovations and nonsense he has brought. Do not
harken to him, nor
follow what he preaches.' I asked my father who that man was and he told
me that it was Abu Lahab, the Prophet's uncle.' (Imam Ahmad and Tabarani
also had the same version.)
This is but one incident of Abu Lahab's intimidation and ill-will towards
the Messenger and his call. His wife
Arwa, the daughter of Harb Ibn Ummya,
a sister of Abu Sufyan, gave him unfailing support in his virulent,
Such was the attitude of Abu Lahab towards the Prophet from the very start
of his Divine mission. Al-Bukhari related, on the authority of 'Ibn Abbas,
that the Prophet went out to Batha'
(a large square in Makka) one day,
mounted a hill and summoned the people of Quraish. When they came to him
he addressed them and said,
Were I to tell you that an enemy is drawing near and will attack
tomorrow morning or evening, would you believe me? 'Yes,' they replied.
'So listen to me,' he went on, 'I am warning you of gruesome torment
(from Allah).' Abu Lahab was there
and snapped at him, 'Damn you!' For
this you have called us?' (Another version goes: 'Abu Lahab stood
shaking the dust off his hands and saying, 'Damn you all day long ...')
this surah was revealed.
Another instance was when the Hashimi clan (the Prophet's own clan) decided
on grounds of tribal loyalties, under the leadership of Abu Talib to
protect the Prophet despite their rejection
of the religion he was
preaching. Abu Lahab was the only one to take a different stand. He
the Quraish instead, and was with them in signing the document
to boycott the Hashimi clan completely and starve
them till they gave up
the Prophet to them.
Abu Lahab also ordered his two sons to renounce the
daughters of Muhammad,
to whom they had been engaged before Muhammad's prophetic assignment, so
burden him with the expenses of their maintenance and welfare.
Thus, Abu Lahab and his wife, Arwa, who was also
called Umm Jamil,
continued to launch their persistent onslaught against the Prophet and
The fact that they were close neighbours of the Prophet
made the situation worse still. We are told that Umm Jamil
carry thorns and sharp wood and place them in the Prophet's path (though
it is thought that
the phrase 'the carrier of firewood' in the surah is
used only metaphorically to indicate her lies and malice about
This surah was revealed as a counter-attack against their hostile
compaigns, Allah had taken
over the command of the battle.
May the hands
of Abu Lahab perish, doomed he is.
The Arabic term rendered here as 'perish ' also signifies
cutting off. The term is used twice in two different senses. It is used
first as an appeal,
while in the second occurence it implies the granting
of the appeal and its fulfillment. So, in one short verse,
an action is
realised which draws the curtains upon a scene of a completed battle.
What later follows
is merely a description of what took place with the
remark that 'his wealth and his gains shall not avail him.'
He can have
no escape. He is defeated, vanquished and damned. That was his fate in
this world, but in
the Hereafter 'he shall be plunged in a flaming fire.'
And his wife, the wood-carrier, will reside there with him
her neck a rope of palm-fibre with which, as it were, she is being dragged
or which she used for fastening wood bundles together, according
to whether a literal or metaphorical interpretation
of the text is adopted.
The language of this surah achieves a remarkable degree of beautiful
between the subject matter and the atmosphere built around it. Abu
Lahab will be plunged into a fire with 'Lahab',
which is the Arabic word
for flames of fire; and his wife who carries the wood, a fuel, will be met
with the same fire with a palm-fibre rope around her neck. 'Jahannam' or
Jehanna with fiercely burning 'Lahab'
will be inhabited by Abu Lahab. And
his wife, who wraps up thorns and sharp woods, materials which,
significantly, can increase the blaze of a fire, and puts them in the
Prophet's way, will be subsequently dragged
to Hell with a rope tied to
her neck, bundled like firewood. How perfect is the matching between the
words and the pictures; the punishment is presented as of the same nature
as the deed - wood, ropes, fire and Lahab!
Phonetically, the words are arranged in a way which provides a wonderful
harmony between the sounds
made by the pulling of the wood and the neck by
ropes. Read in Arabic, the verse, ' Tabbat yada abi Lahabin watab,
one feel a kind of hard sharp pull, analogous to that of bundles of wood
or of dragging an unwilling
person by the neck into a wild fire; all is in
phase with the fury and the violent, bellicose tone that goes with
theme of the surah. Thus, in five short verses of one of the shortest
surahs of the Qur'an, the
vocal melodies click neatly with the actual
movements of the scene portrayed.
This extremely rich
and brilliant style led Umm Jamil to claim that the
Prophet was in fact 'satirizing' her and her husband. The arrogant
vain Arab woman could not get over being referred to with such a
humiliating phrase as 'the carrier
of firewood,' who 'shall have a rope
of palm-,fibre round her neck. ' Her rage grew wilder when the surah
became popular among the Arab tribes who esteemed such a literary style!
Ibn Ishaq related:
'Umm Jamil, I was told, having heard what the Qur'an said about her
and her husband, came to the Prophet
who was with Abu Bakr at the
Ka'aba. She was carrying a handful of stones. Allah took her sight
away from the Prophet and she saw only Abu Bakr to whom she said,
'Where is your comrade? I have heard
that he has been satirizing
me. Were I to find him, I would throw these stones right into his
face. 1, too, am gifted in poetry.' Then she said before leaving:
'The contemptible we obey not! Nor
what he says shall we accept!'
'Abu Bakr turned around to the Prophet and said, 'Do you think that
she saw you?' 'No,' replied the Prophet, 'Allah made her unable
to see me.'
Al-Hafiz Abu Bakr Al-Bazar also related, on the authority of Ibn Abbas,
that when this surah was revealed Abu Lahab's
wife sought the Prophet.
While he was with Abu Bakr she appeared and Abu Bakr suggested, 'She will
harm you if you hide yourself away!' 'Don't worry,' said the Prophet
in a soothing manner. 'She will not see me.'
She came to Abu Bakr and
said, 'Your friend has lampooned us!' 'By the Lord of this Ka'aba, he
Abu Bakr assured her. 'He is no poet and what he says is not
poetry,' he added. She said, 'I believe you,' and
then left. Abu Bakr
then enquired from the Prophet whether she had seen him and he said, 'No,
was shielding me all the time she was here.' So much was her
fury and her indignation at what she thought was poetry
and which Abu
Bakr rightly refuted.
Thus, the humiliating picture of Abu Lahab and his wife
has been recorded
to last forever in this eternal book, the Qur'an, to show Allah's anger
for their animosity to His Messenger and the ideas he was
advocating. All those who choose to take a similar attitude
Islam, therefore, shall meet with the same disgrace calamity and
frustration, both in this life
and in the Hereafter, as fitting punishment