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Chapter 111:
Al-Lahab — The Flame:

Revealed at Makkah: 5 verses

English Translation and Commentary of the Holy Quran by Maulana Muhammad Ali


Introduction:

The chapter shows that the fiery-tempered opponents of Truth led their lives in heart-burning, which assumes the palpable shape of flames of fire in another life (v. 3). The chapter is entitled Lahab in reference to this, or in reference to the name of the Prophet’s uncle, ‘Abd al-‘Uzza, who was in deadly opposition to the Prophet, Abu Lahab being his kunyah, occurring in the first verse. This chapter thus deals with the end of opposition to Truth — heart-burning in this life and palpable fire in the Hereafter. It is an early Makkan revelation.

Translation:

In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful.

111:1 Abu Lahab’s hands will perish and he will perish.a

111:2 His wealth and that which he earns will not avail him.

111:3 He will burn in fire giving rise to flamesa

111:4 And his wife — the bearer of slander;a

111:5 Upon her neck a halter of twisted rope!a

Commentary:

1a. A man of a fiery temper may be called abu-lahab or father of flame, as abu-l-khair (father of goodness) means a good man. ‘Abd al-‘Uzza, an uncle of the Holy Prophet, being a son of his grandfather ‘Abd al-Muttalib, was known by this name, because of his ruddy complexion or because of his fiery temper. It is related that the Holy Prophet, being commanded to warn his near relatives, called them together and delivered the Divine message, at which ‘Abd al-‘Uzza cried out: "Mayest thou perish! Was it for this that thou didst summon us?" (B. 65:cxi). It is also related that he followed the Prophet when he went out to preach, saying to the people that the Prophet was a mad relative of his. His hands will perish means that all that he did in opposition to the Prophet will end in naught. And it is added that he himself will perish. He is reported to have died seven days after hearing of the defeat of the Quraish at Badr.

3a. He burned in fire in this very life owing to the fact that his life was a life of heart-burning, on account of his failure to check the advance of Truth. This fire gave rise to flames which burned others as well, including his own wife, who is spoken of in the next verse. There is also a reference to the palpable shape which this fire will take in the Hereafter.

4a. The flames that sprang from the fire in which Abu Lahab lived enveloped his own wife, so that even she took part in the opposition to the Prophet. Her part in opposition is here described as being hammalat al-hatab, which is generally translated as meaning bearer of fuel. It is thought that the reference here is to the thorny bushes which she brought from the wood to spread in the Prophet’s way. But according to Mjd, the words mean bearer of slander, as she used to spread false reports against the Prophet (B. 65:cxi, 3). The same explanation is given by lexicologists who say that hatab means fuel as well as calumny or slander, yahmilu al-hataba means he goes about with slander or calumny (LL). A similar explanation is given by Qatadah, who adds that she used to spread false reports about the Prophet (Rz).

5a. It is said that Abu Lahab’s wife died by being strangled by the very rope in which she used to bring thorns. But jid is explained by LL as meaning the part of the neck on which the necklace is borne, and it is related that she was a wealthy woman who possessed a necklace of jewellery. Maybe the twisted rope is a reference to her jewellery, as a jewelled necklace is as worthless in the eye of God as a rope. It is to the inner worth that God looks and not to the outward ornaments. Being a bearer of slander and calumny, she was morally as low as a woman with a halter or palm-fibre on her neck.

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