Why the Hands of Abu Lahab? Why does the chapter begin with reference to Abū Lahab’s hands? Based on historical narrations, it would be based on the fact

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1 Tafs r – Masad By Shaykh H aidar Hobbollah Transcribed and translated by Ali Jabbar (UK) – Masad given by Shaykh Haider Hobbollah over four lessons. Introductory Points The chapter has been referred to as: 1. Al – Lahab by a number of scholars and this name is taken from the word Lahab which is mentioned twice in the chapter – Masad, due to the last word mentioned in the chapter . This is the famous name 3. – Masad early narrations – There is a consensus that the chapter was revealed in Makkah, and it is estimated that it was the 4 th year after the proclamation of Prophethood based on some historical narrations . That would make it one of the earliest chapters of the Makkan period. It is very important to know when the chapter was revealed, because it is considered a s one of the miracles of the Qur n since it gives information about the future . Hence, determining when the chapter was revealed is important to see whether it really informs of the future or not. Consensus ought to not scare us we need to analyse these based on the evidence available , as it will be discussed later.

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2 As for the merits of the chapter, there is a famous tradition from the Prophet (p) and as well as al – Whoever recites it, I hope that Allah will not gather him and Abu La hab in the same abode. T he narration regarding the reason for its revelation say that the Prophet (p) had 3 years of secret propagation – assuming this is true, there is dispute on this said: [26:214] And warn, [O Muhammad], your closest kindred . The Prophet came out early in the morning at the edges of Mecca and said and in and g athered around him. When they asked him what had happened, he (p) sa you were about to be attacked, or that an event will take place, will you believe me? They replied es. He (p) warned them o f a great punishment and then he announced his prophecy. The who was a prominent person – said to the Prophet perish ( tabban lak ), is this what you have gathered us for? In another report it says Abu Lahab gathered some stones with his hands and this is important in relation to the Qur nic S rah and threw th em at the Prophet (p) causing him to bleed . This second report is a later narration and does not exist in the earliest accounts that narrate the initial event. Based on this event, the chapter came down as a response to what he said to the Prophet and what he did. This is the description that has been reported. Being absolutely certain of this description is very difficult some of t understand the chapter. All of the above is of course based on the hypothesis of secrecy of prophecy and then an announcement. On this account, there is no peculiarity to what Abu Lahab did, because this is the first time he hears of the matter. This kind of reaction might even be considered natural to some extent, becaus e there was no miracle presented. But the throwing of stones might be strange considering the Prophet (p) was his nephew. The idea that the Qur n responded in such a harsh manner to what he said, considering this backdrop, may also seem strange. All this r equires contemplation. The story unfortunately does not give us enough details for us to deliberate too much in fact we will later show why this narrative was given. The st ory most definitely cannot be authenticated in a proper manner. Who was Abu Lahab and his Wife Abu Lahab was the direct uncle of the Prophet and his name was disputed. The famous opinion was that his name Abd al – – Mu alib, and that Ab Lahab was his – – Mu al which was unique in an environment where most were brown – skinned, and that due to the

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3 heat his face would turn red as though it was a flame of fire. Hen ce, he came to be known as He was a staunch enemy of the Prophet for a very long time. As per historical reports, when people would come to ask about the Prophet, Ab Lahab wou ld answer, given his prominence, and tell them to not visit him (p) as he is crazy and a magician. The famous opinion is that he died a few days after the battle of Badr this would make it after the migration of the Prophet (p). This information is relev ant for us as when we want to date As for his wife U , arb bt. Umayya and there is a consensus on this matter. I t is also said that she was called – She is historically known for gathering logs, especially thorns from palm trees and for placing them in the path of the Prophet (p) where he would walk. She would place the logs on her head or h er back and tie them with a rope. Though s he would feel pain from the gathering of these logs , she would still do it, as per the narrations. – atab in Arabic can also have another meaning which we will detail later. It can refer to a person who slanders, because a slanderer is like someone who lights a fire. The Arabs call a person who causes conflict ( fitnah ) between people with that term. She would engage in this with regards to the Prophet, going to others and speaking very bad about the Prophet to cause problems as reported in a number of narrations. Thus , we have t w o pictures of her. It is also very possible that these narrat ions are actual fabrications in order to give a reasonable exegesis for this chapter. In a report it is mentioned that when this chapter was revealed, she came to the Prophet to hurt him, but she did not find him and instead composed a critical poem of hi m. In any case, both husband and wife were prominent members of the Quraysh and very wealthy. Believing these historical narrations, companions, who were exegetes themselves, is very difficult. It is possible t hat these reports and narrations are a kind of exegesis based on how they understood the story and subsequently they were treated as narrations. This is a very real possibility we need to consider. The Message of the Chapter The explicit and clear message of this chapter is that he who has wealth and status will not benefit from it. All of it will perish and bring misery on him. The implicit message is generally doe s not mention names of contemporaries of the Prophet, not his supporters, or d etractors. This is very different to

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4 instances , [33:37] in the story of Za y d b . It is possible that the to point out that being a relative of the Prophet (p) is not a means of salvation. Here is uncle, who is a person very close to the Prophet, will end up in hellfire. For Arabs, this would come as a big surprise , given how they would generally treat their relatives and tribe members . This chapter helps breaks the idea that being close to someone will bring salvation. The opposite of this was also seen in the case of Salman al – Farsi and Bilal al – relatives nor even Arabs, yet their deeds and character allowed them to be from amongst the noble ones. and relationships. Unfortunately , this culture which pri oritizes connections and relationships over rules and regulation still exists . For example, there is this insistence amongst some t hat the story of Imam usayn (a) was a type of battle between two families and some narrations helped deepen this picture. There is a lso a letter attributed by Imam Al to w and from us is the greatest of women and from you is – atab If we are to accept such narrations, then w e should read these reports as the Imams (a) trying to use the log ic of the opponent , by bringing themselves down to their way of communication, or else this logic is faulty. There are two important topics worth highlighting delving into this chapter : 1) Is this chapter an example of a miracle foretelling the unseen? 2 abuse. Two groups are united in this view, one of them P rophet was affected by the Makkan society , a society which was rough and low in civility and its language was uncivilised, compared to the Medinan society , which was civilised and polite. The verses in M ecca use this type of language. Whereas t he verses that came down in Me dina use different language because the P rophet was affected by the M edina n society. Furthermore, so me Muslims who apostat ized also f ocus on this element of the Q ur n , and since they claim to be against insults and abuse, they well. established this method and that it is civilised method , one of its instances being this chapter. Thus , these two conflicting groups are united on this view. This is an important topic that we must address to see whether this chapter is even relevant to this issue or not. This will come later in detail .

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5 Verse 1 What Does Tab b Mean? L inguistically is means loss and destruction . Some say it is losing continuously until reaching the end point of destruction while others say it is continuous loss. Others say it is despondency, but this seems to be the result of continuous loss. The A rabs also say for a woman: b b ah – is she young or nearly perishing ? [40:37] [11:101] And they did not increase them in other than Hence, the initial meaning of the verse becomes, the hands of he is in such a loss that will perish him, and he will end up despondent. Why the Hands of Abu Lahab? Based on historical narrations, it would be based on the fact that he threw stone s at the Prophet (p) . But let us look only at the Q ur n to see what it means for the hands to be in loss. We do not need such narrations to understand it. Yadd in t he Arabic language is the means by which we attain and obtain things and power. Given that a lot of the time s what we obtain is through our hands, it is often used to symbolise what we obtained and did. Hence yadd here is representative of the actions of a person. Tabbat Y adda means thus the actions of A b L ahab are in loss. What is the evidence for this? In Arabic when we want to lament a person, we say to them, this is what your hands brought you , metaphorically speaking to say that this is the result of your own actions, i.e . you are blameworthy. In the [3:73] Indeed, [all] bounty is in the hand of Allah [5:64] And the Jews say, “The hand of Allah is chained.” [17:29] And do not make your h and [as] chained to your neck. He re the word hand is a reference to actions of man. Do not make your actions that of a stingy person and not that of someone who is wasteful. [22:10] That is for what your hands have put forth.

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6 That is to say, it was yo ur deeds that did this. Hence in Arabic yadd is not limited just to the [18:57] and forgets what his hands have put forth? cal hands did. [78:40] We have warned you of a near punishment on the Day when a man will observe what his hands have put forth. [30:41] Corruption has appeared throughout the land and sea by [reason of] what the hands of people have earned. Hence , this verse relates to all of the actions of this is a very natural expression and we ought not to focus specifically on something his hands performed. Thus , this composition itself does not provide any support to that historical narration whi ch comes in late r sources that says he threw stones at the Prophet (p) . The Qur nic picture is thus much wider than this. Repetition of Tabb Why is there a repetition with the verb tabb ? The first use of it seems enough and is very understandable. There are various answers given to this: 1) This relates to the composition of the chapter . If it was deleted, the first verse would end on L ahab akin to the third verse and this is ineloquent in the Arabic language and would not accord with the musical c omposition of the verse and hence tabb was placed. This is possible but we do not propose it as we shall see. 2) A universal condemnation is mentioned after a particular one. The first mentions a particular his hands – and then the entirety of him is mentioned, given that they understood his physical hands from the verse. This is a form of advancement in condemnation , to say not only his hands lost, but he also lost too. 3) The interpretation perhaps closest to the tru th is that the first part is that his actions are in loss and in addition to that, he himself is in loss and going to perish. Sometimes we can say that a person s actions are in loss with no benefit without the person himself being in loss or perishing. Ho wever, this verse is saying not only are his actions without value, but he himself is also at loss.

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8 2) The second view is that this is not a kunya rather it is his similar to kunyas, like people are called – – Fa l and so on . As such, is not for respect, rather it is simply his name, and thus the objection does no t exist. This is also p ossible, but based on historical sources al – 3) Some later e xeget es have questioned whether kunya even implies respect . In Islam, kunyas are for respect, based on Islamic narrations and Islamic education , but this is not s omething in the Arabic culture. When this chapter was revealed, the kunya did not have any suc h connotation of respect, and hence the objection doe s not have a basis. Once again, this response is possible but based on historical evidence, it seems that the kunya was for respect even in the pre – Islamic Arab culture. In traditions, what exists is th e recommendation of giving children a kunya so that they are not given a bad nickname by someone and they become well known for th eir kunya. Mu ammad Ri ts history among the Arabs.[/note] Moreover, even if we grant this third point validity, why would the Q ur n use the kunya when in an Islamic culture it is considered a sign of respect? As such, this response is inadequate. 4) Histor ical sources tell us h is name – . If the Qur n used his name, then there would be an unwanted mentioning of the fact there is servitude and servanthood to something other than Allah. Allah in the Qur n wants to establish that servanthood is only to him. The thus does not want to mention his name, lest it remains established through time. In other words, it does not want to mention a name that ideologically conflicts with the intention of the Qur n , since names have real importance. Therefore, in narrations we have been recommended to name our children after the saints and friends of Allah, and to avoid using names of enemies. Although, once again, there is no real evidence for this view , it does offer a reasonable explanation and if conjoined to the fifth response, we might have a complete answer. 5) was not known by any other name or kunya. He was known by this and thus the Qur n wanted to refer to him so had to use his kunya. In history, there are many personalities whose names are hea vily disputed, but their kunyas are very well known. For example, there are twenty opinions on the real name of Ab urayrah. One scholar says that there is no person whose name has been disputed more in Islam than Ab when we refer to hi urayrah, it is not because of respect, but rather simply because this is the only way we can refer to him. If we combine the fourth and fifth response together, we may be able to come up with a plausible and reasonable justification for why the Verse 2 His wealth will not avail him or that which he gained. conjunctive ( maw ) meaning , o r else it would grant the exact opposite meaning of what is intended.

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9 Further more, it is not a word to indicate a rhetorical question – as some exegetes have said which would mean in this instance cond emnatory rhetorical question. ecause the sentence is declarative preceded and succeeded by a sentence that is also declarative. Hence, there is no need to suppose something else and this is the majority opinion. Meaning of Aghna The verb aghna implies someone or something did not benefit a person in such a way that it removed their needs. If I say it means my knowledge has made be needless of you and that I am self – sufficient. Thus , Ab reaching the blazing fire. He remain s in need and requires saving from the fire. I t is negating his self – sufficiency and the idea that he lacks need. Al – means all kinds of possessions that a person owns. If that is the case, then why does the verse subsequently mention what he gains ( kasab ) ? A person gains wealth, so wh at is the need in addition to that has already been ment ioned? Everything a person gains, in the Arabic language, is a form of wealth. Is this not a form of repetition? Over here, there are two views: 1) They are of the same meaning. What a person gains i s h is wealth and his wealth is what he gains. The repet ition is either for emphasis or a meaning akin to His wealth will not avail him , conjunction ( – ). 2) T here is a distinction between wealth and what he gains. What is it that he gains that is different? a) The kasb refers to his children they will not help him from the hellfire. because he (p) was poor and had no children so the chapter be of no benefit. This view is weak because the Arabic language, nor the composition of the sentence itself, use such a term to refer to children. Perhaps one reason for w hy this view was held is because – used the term repeatedly. T he verse means that neither his wealth nor any deed that he performs will save him from fire. S ome verses which use it to mean actions are : [52:21] Every person, for what he earned, is retained [5:38] [2:134 and 141] It will have what it earned This view accords perfectly with the verse and with the language.

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10 Verse 3 Saya He will burn in a Fire of [blazing] flame This verse dem onstrates to us perfectly how Ab wealth and actions will not help him. Ya la can come from a root which can have two different meanings and perhaps they can both bought to a single meaning. One meaning is that of praying and c omes from which is worship. T he second meaning is related to fire. We say , al l ayto al – – ( ) which ng the notion of the stick being next to the fire. Thus, to use ya la here means Ab such that he and the fire will be together . In the story of M sa, when he (p) sees the fire , he wants to go near it either to get some news or bring some burning wood back so [28:29] that you may warm yourselves . It is as though he (p) was lost while traveling and it was cold, so he was searching for his route, and if he was unable to find the route he (p) would bring back some burning wood to keep his family warm. In this verse, the verb ta the fire and be connected w ith it. The opposite of legal sense it means to be distant from a state of purity. This opposite between – Layl very clearly: [92:14] So I have warned you of a Fire which is blazing. [92:15] None will burn (ya therein except the most wretched one. [92:16] Who had denied and turned away. [92:17] But the righteous one will avoid it ( yujannibu ) The nouns fire ( ) and flame ( lahab ) are made indefinite to magnify them. Keeping nouns indefinite as we have mentioned elsewhere allows the imagination go far and thus makes the matter more grand and more intimidating. All fires naturally have a flame (lahab), so mentioning it in this verse so explicitly is also either to make the ending of the verse in accord with the rest of the verses or to further the intimidating picture that the verse is trying to paint. Or it could eve just be for both these reasons. Verse 4 lah al – a ab And his wife – the carrier of firewood taste the fire and so will his wife. This is not disputed .

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11 Why Is Her Name Not Mentioned? Some have sai d because the Arab culture does not mention names of females, her name has also therefore not been mentioned. Perhaps this was indeed a custom, but to say that is the reason why her name has not been mentioned is just a supposition when attributed to the Q ur n , because the Q ur n mentioned the nam e of Maryam many times. Furthermore, we have endless narrations mentioning the names of females. Instead we can say that her name was not mentioned because as noted previously, it is the general custom of the Q ur n to not mention the names of those contemporary to it. Meaning of – a ab There are two possibilities of what this phrase means: 1) It is being used in its literal meaning, carrier of wood, as per the historical report. Also, since is o n the pattern of , it implies that she was doing this action repeatedly. 2) Some fession While the Arabs did have a culture where they would call lowly professions as Arabs did have a culture where they would call lowly professions mihan which comes from that is . Therefore the Arabic language has this word to refer to lowly professions, and such a culture exists today in the world, amongst different cultures. However, Islam doe s not hold such a worldview. The re is no embarrassment to any lawful profession On the contrary, t he [49:11] and do not call each other by [offensive] nicknames. Yes, according some narrations, there are some jobs which are disliked, but those traditions also provide reasons. For example, selling coffins is disliked as a profession because one would come to love the death of Muslims just so they can sell coffins. Or for example, it is mentioned in the traditions that people of dignity and nobility have an agent (wakil) to carry out certain duties and tasks, but once again this was for the reason that a respected person does not end up in ethically questionable posi tions . In any case, there is no historical evidence whatsoever that she had this job. She was the sister of Ab She was one of the nobles of her tribe and her husband ha d a lot of wea lth as mentioned in the chapter itself. Historical narrations only mentioned she gathered wood to place them on the path of the Prophet (p), and not that this was her profession. 3) The Arabs call those who gossip and slander as the carrier of wood. This i s because gossip creates fire between people, which leads to conflicts and problems. Hence, they coined this term as a metaphorical description for one who engages in gossip. This is a critical description of her and

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