Surah Lahab is a Makki (Meccan) surah having five verses. Lahab means The Flame. The Surah takes its name from the word Lahab in the first verse. Surah Lahab is also known as Surah Al-Masadd means the palm-fibre.
Background of Revelation
The exact period of revelation of this Surah is not confirmed but the valid view is that it must have been revealed in the period when Abu Lahab (The uncle of Prophet pbuh) had transgressed all limits in his enmity & hostility to Prophet pbuh, and his attitude was becoming a serious obstruction in the progress of Islam.
Abu Lahab’s extreme enmity
This is the only place in the Quran where a person from among the enemies of Islam has been condemned by name. Why? The reasons are:
In Arabian society, it was tribal system. Breaking off connections with the family was regarded as a great sin. Under, the influence of the same Arabian tradition when the Prophet pbuh began to preach the message of Islam, the other clans of Quraish opposed him, but the Bani Hashim and the Bani al-Muttalib (Prophet pbuh own family) continued to support him openly, except for Abu Lahab who never supported his own nephew. So he did not even care of his cultural values.
When the Prophet pbuh was commanded to present the message of Islam openly, and was instructed to warn his nearest kinsfolk first, he pbuh ascended the Mount Safa one morning and called out aloud to call people to Islam. Thereupon, before anyone else could speak, Abu Lahab said: “May you perish! Did you summon us for this?” He picked up a stone to throw at the Prophet pbuh.
Once Abu Lahab said about Islam, “May this religion perish in which I and all other people should be equal and alike!”
In Makkah Abu Lahab was the next door neighbour of the Prophet pbuh. Their houses were separated by a wall. Abu Lahab family always tortured Prophet pbuh. Sometimes when he pbuh was performing the Prayer, they would place the goat’s stomach on him; sometimes when food was being cooked in the courtyard, they would throw filth at the cooking pot.
Abu Lahab’s wife, Umm Jamil (Abu Sufyan’s sister), had made it a practice to cast thorns at Prophet pbuh door in the night so that when he or his children came out of the house at morning, they should run thorns in the foot.
Before Islam, Prophet pbuh two daughters were married to Abu Lahab’s two sons, who were divorced on order of Abu Lahab after Prophet pbuh started preaching Islam.
Abu Lahab’s wickedness can be judged from the fact that when after the death of the Prophet’s son Qasim, his second son, Abdullah, also died. Abu Lahab instead of joining with his nephew in his bereavement, hastened to the Quraish chiefs joyfully to give them the news that Muhammad had become childless that night.
Abu Lahab always followed wherever Prophet pbuh preached Islam and he kept on negating it and calling out Liar to Prophet pbuh publicly.
In this verse it is mentioned as a prediction that Abu Lahab’s mission will not succeed. His real name was ‘Abd al-‘Uzza, and he was called Abu Lahab on account of his glowing complexion. He had an attractive fair face. Lahab means the flame of fire, and Abu Lahab the one with a flaming, fiery face. He is mentioned here by his nickname (Kunyat), instead of his real name because he was very well known by this name.
“May the hands of Abu Lahab be broken” means “may he perish”. This was not a curse which was invoked on him, but a prophecy in which an event taking place in the future, has been described that Abu Lahab mission will not succeed.
Abu Lahab’s cunning death
Hardly 7-8 years after the revelation of this Surah most of the big chiefs of Quraish, who were a party with Abu Lahab in his hostility to Islam, were killed in the Battle of Badr. When the news of the defeat reached Makkah, he was so shocked that he could not survive for more than seven days. His death occurred in a wretched state. He became afflicted with malignant disease and the people of his house left him to himself, fearing contagion. Since his body gave off an unbearable, foul smell no one approached it. It was left for three days and at last, some slaves were hired to carry it out of Makkah. They got a pit dug out and threw his body into it by pushing it with wood, and covered it up with soil and stones. His utter failure became manifest that the words of Quran were the truth to occur.
Abu Lahab was a stingy, materialistic man. He was one of the four richest men of the Quraish, who owned one qintar (about 260 oz) of gold. His love of wealth can be judged from the fact that when on the occasion of the battle of Badr the fate of his religion was going to be decided for ever, and all the Quraish chiefs had personally gone to fight, he sent Aas bin Hisham to fight on his behalf, telling him that this is in lieu of the debt of 4000 dirhams that you owe to me. So he remained behind in Makkah and sent Aas on his behalf.
When Abu Lahab was afflicted with the malignant disease in which he had pustule (smelly blisters) all over his body, his wealth availed him nothing, and his children also left him alone to die a miserable, wretched death. They did not even bury him honorably. Thus, within a few years the people witnessed how the prophecy which had been made in this Surah about Abu Lahab was literally fulfilled. So his money and children were of no use to him for which he used to be too much proud of! And his punishment in the Hereafter if the firing flames of Hell.
Now Abu Lahab’s wife, Umm Jamil is condemned that she too will have a wretched destiny. She used to strew thorns at the Prophet’s pbuh door in the night; therefore, she has been described as carrier of the wood/fuel for her evil act. Another opinion is that she used to carry evil tales and slander from one person to another in order to create hatred between them; therefore, she has been called the bearer of wood/fuel idiomatically.
Umm Jamil used to wear a valuable necklace and used to say: “By Lat and `Uzza, I will sell away this necklace and use its price to satisfy my enmity against Muhammad.” That is why the verse has been used here ironically, thereby implying that in Hell she would have a rope of palm-fibre round her neck instead of that necklace upon which she used to be so proud and arrogant in dunia, as a punishment.
Copyright 2020. Hayyaallalfalah. Website by MITS