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(ENGLISH) COMMENTARY BY MUHAMMED ESED
( BY MUHAMMED ESED )
111 - AL-MASAD
In the name of god, the most gracious, The dispenser of grace: (1)

1 - According to most of the authorities, this invocation (which occurs at the beginning of every surah with the exception of surah 9) constitutes an integral part of "The Opening" and is, therefore, numbered as verse I. In all other instances, the invocation "in the name of God" precedes the surah as such, and is not counted among its verses. - Both the divine epithets rahman and rahrm are derived from the noun rahmah, which signifies "mercy", "compassion", "loving tenderness" and, more comprehensively, "grace". From the very earliest times, Islamic scholars have endeavoured to define the exact shades of meaning which differentiate the two terms. The best and simplest of these explanations is undoubtedly the one advanced by Ibn al-Qayyim (as quoted in Mandr I, 48): the term rahman circumscribes the quality of abounding grace inherent in, and inseparable from, the concept of God's Being, whereas rahrm expresses the manifestation of that grace in, and its effect upon, His creation-in other words, an aspect of His activity.

        
THIS very early suruh - the sixth in the order of revelation - derives its name from its last word. It relates to the bitter hostility always shown to the Prophet's message by his uncle Abu Lahab: a hostility rooted in his inborn arrogance, pride in his great wealth, and a dislike of the idea, propounded by Muhammad, that all human beings are equal before God and will be judged by Him on their merits alone (Ibn Zayd, as quoted by Tabari in his commentary on the first verse of this surah). As reported by several unimpeachable authorities - Bukhari and Muslim among them - the Prophet ascended one day the hillock of As-Safa in Mecca and called together all who could hear him from among his tribe, the Quraysh, When they had assembled, he asked them: "O sons of Abd al-Muttalib! O sons of Fihr! If I were to inform you that enemy warriors are about to fall upon you from behind that hill, would you believe me?" They answered: "Yes, we would." Thereupon he said: "Behold, then, I am here to warn you of the coming of the Last Hour!" At that, Abu Lahab exclaimed: "Was it for this purpose that thou hast summoned us? May thou be doomed!" And shortly afterwards this surah was revealed.
1. DOOMED are the hands of him of the glowing countennce: (1) and doomed is he!

1 - The real name of this uncle of the Prophet was Abd al-Uzza. He was popularly nicknamed Abu Lahab (lit., "He of the Flame") on account of his beauty, which was most notably expressed in his glowing countenance (Baghawi, on the authority of Muqatil; Zamakhshari and Razi passsim in their comments on the above verse; Fath al-Bari VIII, 599), Since this nickname, or kunyah appears to have been applied to him even before the advent of Islam, there is no reason to suppose that it had a pejorative significance. - The expression "hands" in the above clause is, in accordance with classical Arabic usage, a metonym for "power", alluding to the great influence which Abu Lahab wielded.

2. What will his wealth avail him, and all that he has gained?
3. [In the life to come] he shall have to endure a fire fiercely glowing; (2)

2 - The expression nar dhat lahab is a subtle play upon the meaning of the nickname Abu Lahab.

4. together with his wife, that carrier of evil tales, (3)

3 - Lit., "carrier of firewood", a well-known idiomatic expression denoting one who surreptitiously carries evil tales and slander from one person to another "so as to kindle the flames of hatred between them" (Zamakhshari; see also Ikrimah, Mujahid and Qatadah, as quoted by Tabari). The woman's name was Arwa umm Jamil bint Harb ibn Umayyah; she was a sister of Abu Sufyan and, hence, a paternal aunt of Muawiyah, the founder of the Umayyad dynasty. Her hatred of Muhammad and his followers was so intense that she would often, under the cover of darkness, scatter thorns before the Prophet's house with a view to causing him hurt; and she employed her great eloquence in persistently slandering him and his message,

5. [who bears] around her neck a rope of twisted strands! (4)

4 - The term masad signifies anything that consists of twisted strands, irrespective of the material (Qamus, Mughni, Lisan al-Arab). In the abstract sense in which it is evidently used here, the above phrase seems to have a double connotation: it alludes to the woman's twisted, warped nature, as well as to the spiritual truth that "every human being's destiny is tied to his neck" (see 17:13 and, in particular, the corresponding note 17) - which, together with verse 2, reveals the general, timeless purport of this surah.