Sunday 22 July 2018

The Holy Quran (Summary): Chapter 111 Sūrat al-Masad - "The Twisted Strands (of Palm Fiber)"

Sūrat al-Masad is the 111th chapter of the Holy Quran and the only sūrah in which the name of the worst enemy of Islam and Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) is taken openly: Abu Lahab. And because of this fact, this sūrah is commonly known as Sūrah Lahab.

Abu Lahab was one of the four paternal uncles of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and was right from day one of his nephew's open call for Islam has been treacherously against Islam and his nephew. The sūrah was revealed soon after one day Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) gave a call to all tribes of the Makkah while standing on the top of Safa, a hill just on the outskirts of Makkah. Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) is said to have called all tribes by name so that no one is missed out for he was about to proclaim Islam openly.

When everyone had gathered, Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) asked them loudly:
"If I tell you that there is a huge enemy army camping at the foot of this mountain, on the other side, will you believe me?" 
The whole assembly unanimously said: "Certainly we will believe, for thou hast never told a lie”.
“Then", Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) gave them an open invitation to join the religion of Islam, "I have come from Allah as a warner to preach the Unity of the Lord".
Hearing this, Abu Lahab is said to have exclaimed: "May you perish! Is it for this that you have gathered us?"

On this, Allah revealed this surah as reply to the disgraceful words uttered by Abu Lahab, with the warning, that later became true: May the hands of Abu Lahab perish, may he (himself) perish.

Read the English translation of Sūrat al-Masad given herein under:
In The Name of Allah, The Beneficent, The Merciful
  • “May the hands of Abu Lahab perish, may he (himself) perish ". 
  • “His wealth avails him not, neither what he had earned". 
  • “Soon will he roast in a flaming fire",
  • “And his wife, the bearer of the firewood,”
  • “Upon her neck a rope of twisted palm-fiber.”

The disgraceful behaviour of Abu Lahab picked an impetus when Abu Talib, the aging uncle of the Prophet, who had all along his life been shielding his nephew against the machinations of the pagans of Makkah, breathed his last and Abu Lahab became the chief of the Bani Hashim tribe. Abu Lahab was so much obsessed by his position and wealth that he felt himself above all. The following narration by Ibn /jarir shows his disgust for Islam for Islam equates rich and poor equally and does not distinguish between the two except who holds a higher pedestal due to his devotion to Allah and taqwa (term used for being highly conscious and cognizant of Allah, of truth, of the rational reality, "piety, fear of God"):
One day Abu Lahab asked Muhammad: "If I were to accept your religion, what would I get?" Muhammad replied: "You would get what the other believers would get." He said: "Is there no preference or distinction for me?" Muhammad replied: "What else do you want?" Thereupon he said: "May this religion perish in which I and all other people should be equal and alike!".
The second verse of the surah: “His wealth avails him not, neither what he had earned". has a similar verse in the Holy Qur'an (Surah Shu'ara, Chapter 29: 88-89), wherein Allah forewarns the pagans and non believers of Islam even of exalted position:
“The Day whereon neither wealth nor sons will avail,""But only he (will prosper) that brings to Allah a sound heart".

While Abu Lahab bitterly opposed Islam, his wife, Umm-i-Jamil; a sister of Abu Sufyan, whose mention is also made in Sūrat al-Masad was no less and was hand in glove with her husband and left no stone unturned to pain Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). The following reference narrated Jundub bin Sufyan shows how much she hated nephew of his husband:
Once Muhammad became sick and could not offer his night prayer (Tahajjud) for two or three nights. Then the wife of Abu Lahab came and said, "O Muhammad! I think that your Satan has forsaken you, for I have not seen him with you for two or three nights!" On that Allah revealed: 'By the fore-noon, and by the night when it darkens, your Lord (O Muhammad) has neither forsaken you, nor hated you.' 
Thus this sūrah also makes a mention of twisted strands of Palm Fiber that in Hellfire shall be twisted around the neck of the wife of Abu Lahab, for the reason that she took great pride in wearing an ostentatious necklace she became known for and would slip by night to strew thorns and prickly plants in the Prophet’s path to injure his feet. 

As for the fate of Abu Lahab, it is said that "He died from a contagious disease and since his body gave off an unbearable, foul smell no one approached it. It was left for three days and at last, some slaves were hired to carry it out of Makkah. They watered it from a distance and then piled stones on top of it until it was buried."

Photo | References: | 1 | 2 | 3 |
An effort has been made to gather explanation of the surahs of the Holy Qur'an from authentic souses and then present a least possible condensed explanation of the surah. However, those wanting detailed explanations and tafsir (exegesis), may refer to sites the references of which are given above.

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