English Translation and Commentary of the Holy Quran (2010)

by Maulana Muhammad Ali

Chapter 111: Al-Lahab — The Flame (Revealed at Makkah: 5 verses)

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Introduction:

This chapter is entitled Lahab in reference to the fact that it shows that the opponents of Truth led their lives in heart-burning, or it may refer to the name of the Holy Prophet’s uncle, Abdul Uzza, who was bitterly opposed to him, Abu Lahab being a title given to him, which occurs in the first verse. The chapter thus deals with the end of opposition to Truth. It is a revelation of the early period at Makkah.

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Translation:

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

111:1 Abu Lahab’s hands will perish and he will perish.1
111:2 His wealth and what he earns will not avail him.
111:3 He will burn in fire giving rise to flames2
111:4 and his wife — the bearer of slander;3
111:5 upon her neck a halter of twisted rope!4

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Commentary:

  1. A man of a fiery temper may be called abū-lahab or father of flame. Abdul Uzza, a paternal uncle of the Holy Prophet, was known by this name, because of his ruddy complexion or his fiery temper. It is related that he followed the Prophet when he went out to preach, saying to 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. It is said that he himself will perish. He is repor­ted to have died seven days after hearing of the defeat of the Quraish at Badr.
  2. He burned in fire in this very life because 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 v. 4. There is also a reference to the palpable shape which this fire will take in the Hereafter.
  3. The flames that sprang from the fire in which Abu Lahab lived enveloped his own wife, so that she also took part in the opposition to the Prophet. Her part in opposition is here described as being ḥammālat al-ḥaṭab, generally transla­ted as bearer of fuel. It is thought that this refers to the thorny bushes which she brought from the wood to spread in the Prophet’s way. But the words also mean bearer of slander, as she used to spread false reports against the Prophet (Bukhari, 65.111: 3).
  4. She is said to have died by being strangled by the very rope in which she used to bring thorns. 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.

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