111 - Al Lahab (The flame)

7 Tafsir(s) related to verse 111.1


Perish, ruined be, the hands of Abū Lahab, in other words, all of him — the use of ‘hands’ here to denote [all of] him is figurative, and is because most actions are performed by them; the statement is an invocation — and perish he!, may he be ruined! (this [tabba] is a predicate, as where one says, ahlakahu’Llāhu wa-qad halak, ‘God destroyed him and he indeed is destroyed’. When the Prophet threatened him with the chastisement, he said, ‘If what my brother’s son says is true, then I shall ransom [myself] from it with my wealth and sons!’; so the following was revealed:


Perish the hands of Abū Lahab, and may he perish too!He said:That is, may his hands be ruined [lit. lost], and may he perish too! The first loss is the loss of his wealth and the other loss is in the loss of his soul. The meaning of loss is mentioned in what comes after this.He says:

Asbab Al-Nuzul by Al-Wahidi

(The power of Abu Lahab will perish, and he will perish") [111:1-5]. Ahmad ibn al-Hasan al-Hiri informed us> the chamberlain of Ibn Ahmad> Muhammad ibn Hammad> Abu Mu"awiyah> al-A"mash> "Amr ibn Murrah> Sa"id ibn Jubayr> Ibn "Abbas who said: "One day, the Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, climbed al-Safa [hill] and shouted: "Come to me!" And so all the Quraysh gathered around him. They said: "What ails you?" He said: "If I were to tell you that the enemy is going to attack you in the morning or in the evening, would you not have believed me?" They said: "Indeed, we would believe you". He said: "In that case, I am a warner sent to you against a tremendous chastisement". Abu Lahab said in response: "May you perish, is this why you have summoned all of us here?" And so Allah, glorified and majestic is He, revealed (The power of Abu Lahab will perish, and he will perish") up to the end of the Surah". This was narrated by Bukhari from Muhammad ibn Salam from Abu Mu"awiyah. Sa"id ibn Muhammad al-"Adl informed us> Abu "Ali ibn Abu Bakr al-Faqih> "Ali ibn "Abd Allah ibn Mubashshir al-Wasiti> Abu"l-Ash"ath Ahmad ibn al-Miqdam> Yazid ibn Zuray"> al-Kalbi> Abu Salih> Ibn "Abbas who said: "The Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, stood up once and called: "O household of Ghalib! O household of Lu"ayy! O household of Murrah! O household of Kilab! O household of Qusayy! O household of "Abd Manaf! I have nothing in my possession which will spare you from Allah"s chastisement nor can I promise you any share from this world unless you say: there is no deity except Allah". Abu Lahab said to him: "May you perish, is this why you have summoned us?" And so Allah, exalted is He, revealed (The power of Abu Lahab will perish, and he will perish)". Abu Ishaq al-Muqri" informed us> "Abd Allah ibn Hamid> Makki ibn "Abdan> "Abd Allah ibn Hashim> "Abd Allah ibn Numayr> al-A"mash> "Abd Allah ibn Murrah> Sa"id ibn Jubayr> Ibn "Abbas who said: "When the verse (And warn thy tribe of near kindred) [26:214], the Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, went toward al-Safa, climbed it and then called: "It"s morning time, get ready!" people gathered around him (some came in person and some sent their own emissary). He said: "O Banu "Abd al-Muttalib! O Banu Fihr! O Banu Lu"ayy! If I were to inform you that horsemen at the foot of this mountain intend to raid you, would you believe me?" They said: "Yes!" He said: "Then, I am a warner sent to you against an imminent, tremendous chastisement". Abu Lahab said: "May you perish! You summoned us just for this!" And so Allah, exalted is He, revealed (The power of Abu Lahab will perish, and he will perish)".

Ibn Al Kathir

The Reason for the Revelation of this Surah and the Arrogance of Abu Lahab toward the Messenger of Allah

Al-Bukhari recorded from Ibn `Abbas that the Prophet went out to the valley of Al-Batha and he ascended the mountain. Then he cried out,

«يَا صَبَاحَاه»

(O people, come at once!) So the Quraysh gathered around him. Then he said,

«أَرَأَيْتُمْ إِنْ حَدَّثْتُكُمْ أَنَّ الْعَدُوَّ مُصَبِّحُكُمْ، أَوْ مُمَسِّيكُمْ أَكُنْتُمْ تُصَدِّقُونِّي»

؟ (If I told you all that the enemy was going to attack you in the morning, or in the evening, would you all believe me) They replied, "Yes.'' Then he said,

«فَإِنِّي نَذِيرٌ لَكُمْ بَيْنَ يَدَيْ عَذَابٍ شَدِيد»

(Verily, I am a warner (sent) to you all before the coming of a severe torment.) Then Abu Lahab said, "Have you gathered us for this May you perish!'' Thus, Allah revealed,

تَبَّتْ يَدَآ أَبِى لَهَبٍ وَتَبَّ

(Perish the two hands of Abu Lahab and perish he!) to the end of the Surah. In another narration it states that he stood up dusting of his hands and said, "Perish you for the rest of this day! Have you gathered us for this'' Then Allah revealed,

تَبَّتْ يَدَآ أَبِى لَهَبٍ وَتَبَّ

(Perish the two hands of Abu Lahab and perish he!) The first part is a supplication against him and the second is information about him. This man Abu Lahab was one of the uncles of the Messenger of Allah.His name was `Abdul-`Uzza bin Abdul-Muttalib. His surname was Abu `Utaybah and he was only called Abu Lahab because of the brightness of his face. He used to often cause harm to the Messenger of Allah. He hated and scorned him and his religion. Imam Ahmad recorded from Abu Az-Zinad that a man called Rabi`ah bin `Abbad from the tribe of Bani Ad-Dil, who was a man of pre-Islamic ignorance who accepted Islam, said to him, "I saw the Prophet in the time of pre-Islamic ignorance in the market of Dhul-Majaz and he was saying,

«يَا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ، قُولُوا: لَا إِلهَ إِلَّا اللهُ تُفْلِحُوا»

(O people! Say there is no god worthy of worship except Allah and you will be successful.) The people were gathered around him and behind him there was a man with a bright face, squint (or cross) eyes and two braids in his hair. He was saying, "Verily, he is an apostate (from our religion) and a liar!'' This man was following him (the Prophet ) around wherever he went. So, I asked who was he and they (the people) said, "This is his uncle, Abu Lahab.'' Ahmad also recorded this narration from Surayj, who reported it from Ibn Abu Az-Zinad, who reported it from his father (Abu Zinad) who mentioned this same narration. However in this report, Abu Zinad said, "I said to Rabi`ah, `Were you a child at that time' He replied, `No. By Allah, that day I was most intelligent, and I was the strongest blower of the flute (for music).''' Ahmad was alone in recording this Hadith. Concerning Allah's statement,

مَآ أَغْنَى عَنْهُ مَالُهُ وَمَا كَسَبَ

(His wealth and his children (Kasab) will not benefit him!) Ibn `Abbas and others have said,

وَمَا كَسَبَ

(and his children (Kasab) will not benefit him!) "Kasab means his children.'' A similar statement has been reported from `A'ishah, Mujahid, `Ata', Al-Hasan and Ibn Sirin. It has been mentioned from Ibn Mas`ud that when the Messenger of Allah called his people to faith, Abu Lahab said, "Even if what my nephew says is true, I will ransom myself (i.e., save myself) from the painful torment on the Day of Judgement with my wealth and my children.'' Thus, Allah revealed,

مَآ أَغْنَى عَنْهُ مَالُهُ وَمَا كَسَبَ

(His wealth and his children will not benefit him!) Then Allah says,

سَيَصْلَى نَاراً ذَاتَ لَهَبٍ

(He will enter a Fire full of flames!) meaning, it has flames, evil and severe burning.

The Destiny of Umm Jamil, the Wife of Abu Lahab

وَامْرَأَتُهُ حَمَّالَةَ الْحَطَبِ

(And his wife too, who carries wood.) His wife was among the leading women of the Quraysh and she was known as Umm Jamil. Her name was `Arwah bint Harb bin Umayyah and she was the sister of Abu Sufyan. She was supportive of her husband in his disbelief, rejection and obstinacy. Therefore, she will be helping to administer his punishment in the fire of Hell on the Day of Judgement. Thus, Allah says,

وَامْرَأَتُهُ حَمَّالَةَ الْحَطَبِ - فِى جِيدِهَا حَبْلٌ مِّن مَّسَدٍ

(Who carries wood. In her neck is a twisted rope of Masad.) meaning, she will carry the firewood and throw it upon her husband to increase that which he is in (of torment), and she will be ready and prepared to do so.

فِى جِيدِهَا حَبْلٌ مِّن مَّسَدٍ

(In her neck is a twisted rope of Masad.) Mujahid and `Urwah both said, "From the palm fiber of the Fire.'' Al-`Awfi narrated from Ibn `Abbas, `Atiyah Al-Jadali, Ad-Dahhak and Ibn Zayd that she used to place thorns in the path of the Messenger of Allah. Al-Jawhari said, "Al-Masad refers to fibers, it is also a rope made from fibers or palm leaves. It is also made from the skins of camels or their furs. It is said (in Arabic) Masadtul-Habla and Amsaduhu Masadan, when you tightly fasten its twine.'' Mujahid said,

فِى جِيدِهَا حَبْلٌ مِّن مَّسَدٍ

(In her neck is a twisted rope of Masad.) "This means a collar of iron.'' Don't you see that the Arabs call a pulley cable a Masad

A Story of Abu Lahab's Wife harming the Messenger of Allah

Ibn Abi Hatim said that his father and Abu Zur`ah both said that `Abdullah bin Az-Zubayr Al-Humaydi told them that Sufyan informed them that Al-Walid bin Kathir related from Ibn Tadrus who reported that Asma' bint Abi Bakr said, "When

تَبَّتْ يَدَآ أَبِى لَهَبٍ

(Perish the two hands of Abu Lahab and perish he)!) was revealed, the one-eyed Umm Jamil bint Harb came out wailing, and she had a stone in her hand. She was saying, `He criticizes our father, and his religion is our scorn, and his command is to disobey us.' The Messenger of Allah was sitting in the Masjid (of the Ka`bah) and Abu Bakr was with him. When Abu Bakr saw her he said, `O Messenger of Allah! She is coming and I fear that she will see you.' The Messenger of Allah replied,

«إِنَّهَا لَنْ تَرَانِي»

(Verily, she will not see me.) Then he recited some of the Qur'an as a protection for himself. This is as Allah says,

وَإِذَا قَرَأْتَ الْقُرءَانَ جَعَلْنَا بَيْنَكَ وَبَيْنَ الَّذِينَ لاَ يُؤْمِنُونَ بِالاٌّخِرَةِ حِجَابًا مَّسْتُورًا

(And when you recite the Qur'an, We put between you and those who believe not in the Hereafter, an invisible veil.) (17:45) So she advanced until she was standing in front of Abu Bakr and she did not see the Messenger of Allah. She then said, `O Abu Bakr! Verily, I have been informed that your friend is making defamatory poetry about me.' Abu Bakr replied, `Nay! By the Lord of this House (the Ka`bah) he is not defaming you.' So she turned away saying, `Indeed the Quraysh know that I am the daughter of their leader.''' Al-Walid or another person said in a different version of this Hadith, "So Umm Jamil stumbled over her waist gown while she was making circuits (Tawaf) around the House (the Ka`bah) and she said, `Cursed be the reviler.' Then Umm Hakim bint `Abdul-Muttalib said, `I am a chaste woman so I will not speak abusively and I am refined so I do not know. Both of us are children of the same uncle. And after all the Quraysh know best.'' This is the end of the Tafsir of this Surah, and all praise and blessings are due to Allah.

Kashf Al-Asrar

Perish the hands of Abū Lahab, and perish he!

What did Abū Lahab do in the Beginningless that his portion was the brand of deprivation? What did Abū Bakr bring forth in the Beginningless that the crown of felicity and generosity was placed on the head of his passing days? You say that Abū Lahab came to be wretched because he was an unbeliever and that Abū Bakr came to be felicitous because he was a submitter. The reality is the opposite. Know that unbelief lies in wretchedness, not wretchedness in unbelief, and submis- sion lies in felicity, not felicity in submission. This is a work that was over and done with in the Beginningless.

The Pir of the Tariqah said, "Alas for the decree that has gone before me! Alack for the words spoken by the Self-Seer! I do not know if I should live happy or distraught. I fear what the Power- ful said in the Beginningless."

The dog of the Companions of the Cave had the color of unbelief, and the garment of Balaam Beor had the embroidery of the religion. But beginningless wretchedness and felicity were waiting in ambush from both directions. Hence, when good fortune showed its face, the form of that dog's skin was placed on Balaam: So his likeness is the likeness of a dog [7:176]. And Balaam's cloak was put on that dog, for it was said, "They were three, and the fourth of them was their dog" [18:22].

Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi - Tafhim al-Qur'an

His real name was 'Abd al-'Uzza, and he was called Abu Lahab on account of his glowing, ruddy complexion. Lahab means the flame of fire, and Abu Lahab the one with a flaming, fiery face. His being mentioned here by his nickname (Kunyat), instead of his real name, has several reasons. First, that he was better known by his nickname than by his real name; second, that the Qur'an did not approve that he should be mentioned by his polytheistic name `Abd al 'Uzza (slave of 'Uzza); third, that his kunyat goes well with the fate that has been described of him in this Surah.

Some commentators have translated tabbat yada Abi Lahab to mean: "May the hands of Abu Lahab be broken", and tabby to mean: “may he perish" or "he perished". But this, in fact, was not a curse which was invoked on him, but a prophecy in which an event taking place in the future, has been described in the past tense, to suggest that its occurrence in the future is certain and inevitable.

In actual fact, at last the same thing happened as had been foretold in this Surah a few years earlier. Breaking of the hands obviously does not imply breaking of the physical hands, but a person's utterly failing in his aim and object for which he has exerted his utmost. And Abu Lahab indeed had exerted his utmost to defeat and frustrate the message of Islam presented by the Holy Prophet (upon whom be peace). But hardly seven or eight 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 pitiable state. He became afflicted with malignant pustule and the people of his house left him to himself, fearing contagion. No one came near his body for three days after his death, until the body decomposed and began to stink. At last, when the people began to taunt his sons, according to one tradition, they hired some Africans, who lifted his body and buried it.

According to another tradition, they got a pit dug out and threw his body into it by pushing it with wood, and covered it up with earth and stones. His utter failure became manifest when the religion which he had tried his utmost to impede and thwart, was accepted by his own children. First of all, his daughter, Darrah, migrated from Makkah to Madinah and embraced Islam; then on the conquest of Makkah, both his sons, `Utabh and Mu`attab, came before the Holy Prophet (upon whom be peace) through the mediation of Hadrat `Abbas, believed and took oath of allegiance to him.

Abu Lahab was a stingy, materialistic man. Ibn Jarir has stated that once in the pre-Islamic days he was accused of having stolen two golden deer from the treasury of the Ka'bah. Though later the deer were recovered from another person, the fact that he was accused of stealing indicates the opinion the people of Makkah held of him. About his riches Qadi Rashid bin Zubair writes in his Adh-Dhakha'ir wat-Tuhaf. He was one of the four richest men of the Quraish, who owned one qintar (about 260 oz) of gold each. 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 `As bin Hisham to fight on his own behalf, telling him: This is in lieu of the debt of four thousand dirhams that you owe to me. Thus. he contrived a plan to realize his debt, for 'As had become bankrupt and there was no hope of the recovery of the debt from him.

Some commentators have taken ma kasaba in the meaning of the earning, i.r. the benefits that accrued to him from his wealth were his kasab(earning), and some other commentators have taken it to imply children, for the Holy Prophet (upon whom be peace) has said that a man's son also is his kasab (earning). (Abu Da'ud, Ibn Abi Hatim). Both these meanings fully correspond to the fate met by Abu Lahab. For when he was afflicted with the malignant pustule, 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.

Her name was Arwa' and her nickname (kunyat) Umm Jamil. She was sister of Abu Sufyan and was no less bitter than her husband, Abu Lahab, in her enmity to the Holy Messenger (upon whom be peace) Hadrat Abu Bakr's daughter, Hadrat Asma', has related that when this Surah was revealed, and Umm Jamil heard it, she was filled with rage and went out in search of the Holy Prophet (upon whom be peace). She carried a handful of stones and she was crying some verses of her own, satirizing the Holy Prophet. She came to the Ka`bah, where the Holy Prophet was sitting with Hadrat Abu Bakr. The latter said: "O Messenger of Allah, there she comes and I fear lest she should utter something derogatory to you." The Holy Prophet replied: "She will not see me." The same thing happened. She could not see the Holy Prophet although he was there. She said to Hadrat Abu Bakr: "I hear that your Companion has satirized me." Hadrat Abu Bakr replied: "No, by the Lord of this house, he has not satirized you." Hearing this she went off. (lbn Abi Hatim, Ibn Hisham; Bazzar has related an incident on the authority of Hadrat 'Abdullah bin `Abbas also, which closely resembles this). What Hadrat Abu Bakr meant was that she had not been satirized by the Holy Prophet (upon whom be peace), but by Allah Himself.

The words in the original are hammalat al-hatab, which literally mean: "carrier of the wood". The commentators have given several meanings of it. Hadrat `Abdullah bin `Abbas, Ibn Zaid, Dahhak and Rabi` bin Anas say: She used to strew thorns at the Holy Prophet's door in the night; therefore, she has been described as carrier of the wood. Qatadah, Ikrimah Hasan Bari, Mujahid and Sufyan Thauri say: 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 idiomatically. Sa`id bin Jubair says: The one who is loading himself with the burden of sin, is described idiomatically in Arabic as: Fulan-un Yahtatibu ala zahri bi (so and so is loading wood on his back); therefore, hummalat al-hatab means: “The one who carries the burden of sin.” Another meaning also which the commentators have given is: she will do this in the Hereafter, i.e. she will bring and supply wood to the fire in which Abu Lahab would be burning.

The word used for her neck is jid, which in Arabic means a neck decorated with an ornament. Sa`id bin al-Musayyab, Hasan Basri and Qatadah say that she wore a valuable necklace and used to say: "By Lat and `Uzza, I will sell away this necklace and expend the price to satisfy my enmity against Muhammad (Allah's peace and blessings be upon him)." That is why the word jid 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 prides herself so arrogantly. Another example of this ironical style is found at several places in the Qur'an in the sentence: Bashshir-hum bi-`adhab-in alima "Give them the good news of a painful torment."

The words babl-um min-masad have been used for the rope which will be put round her neck, i e. it will be a rope of the masad kind. Different meanings of this have been given by the lexicographers and commentators. According to some, masad means a tightly twisted rope; others say that: masad is the rope made from palm-fibre; still others say that it means the rope made from rush, or camel-skin, or camel-hair. Still another view is that it implies a cable made by twisted iron strands together.

Tanwîr al-Miqbâs min Tafsîr Ibn ‘Abbâs

And from his narration on the authority of Ibn 'Abbas that he said regarding the interpretation of Allah's saying (The power of Abu Lahab will perish): '(The power of Abu Lahab will perish) this is because when Allah said to His Prophet (pbuh) (And warn your tribe of near kindred [26: 214]) he called them and said: "Say: there is no god but Allah" and his uncle-the brother of his father from their mother's side-'Abd al-'Uzza whose agnomen was Abu Lahab said: "May you perish! Is this why you summoned us?" Allah then revealed His saying (The power of Abu Lahab will perish) He says: the hand of Abu Lahab is deprived of all good (and he will perish) he lost himself by rejecting belief in Allah's divine Oneness.