111. Lahab

Syed Abu-Ala' Maududi's Chapter Introductions to the Quran


The Sura takes its name from thc word Lahab in the first verse.

Period of Revelation

Although the commentators have not disputed its being a Makki Sura yet it is difficult to determine in which phase of the life at Makkah precisely it was revealed. However in view of Abu Lahab's role and conduct against the Holy Prophet's message of Truth it can be assumed that it must have been revealed in the period when he had transgressed all limits in his mad hostility to him and his attitude was becoming a serious obstruction in the progress of Islam. It may well have been revealed in the period when the Quraishhad boycotted the Holy Prophet (upon whom be peace) together with the people of his clan and besieged them in Shi'b Abi Talib and Abu Lahab was the only person to join with the enemies against his own relatives. The basis of this assumption is that Abu Lahab was the Holy Prophet's uncle and public condemnation of the uncle by the tongue of the nephew could not be proper until the extreme excesses committed by the uncle had become visible to everyone. If the Sura had been revealed before this in the very beginning the people would have regarded it as morally discourteous that the nephew should so condemn the uncle.


This is the only place in the Quran where a person from among the enemies of Islam has been condemned by name whereas in Makkah as well as in Madinah after the migration there were many people who were in no way less inimical to Islam and the Prophet Muhammad (upon whom be Allah's peace and blessings) than Abu Lahab. The question is what was the special trait of the character of this person which became the basis of this condemnation by name?To understand that it is necessary that one should understand the Arabian society of that time and the role that Abu Lahab played in it. In ancient days since there prevailed chaos and confusion bloodshed and plunder throughout Arabia and the condition since centuries was that a person could have no guarantee of the protection of life honour and property except with the help and support of his clansmen and blood relations therefore silah rehmi (good treatment of the kindred) was esteemed most highly among the moral values of the Arabian society and breaking off of connections with the kindred was regarded as a great sin. Under the influence of the same Arabian tradition when the Holy Prophet (upon whom be peace) began to preach the message of Islam the other clans of Quraishand their chiefs resisted and opposed him tooth and nail but the Bani Hashim and the Bani al-Muttalib (children of al-Muttalib brother of Hashim) not only did not oppose him but continued to support him openly although most of them had not yet believed in his Prophethood. The other clans of Quraishthemselves regarded this support by the blood relations of the Holy Prophet as perfectly in accordance with the moral traditions of Arabia. That is why they never taunted the Bani Hashim and the Bani al-Muttalib in that they had abandoned their ancestral faith by supporting a person who was preaching a new faith. They knew and believed that they could in no case hand over an individual of their clan to his enemies and their support and aid of a clansman was perfectly natural in the sight of the Quraishand the people of Arabia. This moral principle which the Arabs even in the pre-Islamic days of ignorance regarded as worthy of respect and inviolable was broken only by one man in his enmity of Islam and that was Abu Lahab son of Abdul Muttalib. He was an uncle of the Holy Prophet whose father and he were sons of the same father. In Arabia an uncle represented the father especially when the nephew was fatherless. The uncle was expected to look after the nephew as one of his own children. But this man in his hostility to Islam and love of kufr trampled all the Arab traditions under foot. The traditionists have related from Ibn Abbas with several chains of transmitters the tradition that when the Holy Prophet was commanded to present the message of Islam openly and he was instructed in the Quran to warn first of all his nearest kinsfolk of the punishment of God he ascended the Mount Safa one morning and called out aloud: Ya sabahah (O the calamity of the morning!). This alarm in Arabia was raised by the person who noticed early at dawn an enemy tribe advancing against his tribe. When the Holy Messenger made this call the people enquired as to who had made the cail. They were told that it was Muhammad (upon whom be Allah's peace). Thereat the people of all the clans of Quraishrushed out. Everyone who could came; he who could not sent another one for himself. When the People had assembled the Holy Messenger calling out each clan by name viz. O Bani Hashim O Bani Abdul Muttalib O Bani Fihr O Bani so and so said: "If I were to tell you that behind the hill there was an enemy host ready to fall upon you would you believe me?"The people responded with one voice saying that they never had so far experienced a lie from him. The Holy Prophet said: "Then I warn you that you are heading for a torment." Thereupon before anyone else could speak Abu Lahab the Holy Prophet's uncle said: "May you perish!Di

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