Let us start with introducing Abu-Lahab and his wife, who are the culprits in Suurat Al-Massad.
 Abu-Lahab and His Wife:
Abu-Lahab was Prophet Mohammad’s uncle. He was the son of Abdulmuttalib. His first name was Abd-Al-’Uzzaa (“the slave of Al-’Uzzaa”). “Al-’Uzzaa” was the name of one of the gods which the pagans used to worship in Makkah. Abd-Al-’Uzzaa was known as “Abu-Lahab” because he had a glowing face; the Arabic word “lahab” means “flame”.
Abu-Lahab’s wife was Arwah Bint-Harb (Arwah daughter of Harb). She was known as “Om-Jameel (mother of Jameel)”. “Jameel” is the Arabic for “beautiful” – feminine: “Jameelah”.
Abu-Lahab belonged to the nobles of the Quraish tribe in Makkah, and so did Om- Jameel. She was the sister of Abu-Sufyaan Ibn-Harb, one of the leaders of Quraish.
Prophet Mohammad’s daughters, Ruqayya and Om-Kulthuum, were married to Abu-Lahab’s sons, ’Utbah and ’Utaibah. When Prophet Mohammad started the call to Allah, the One God, Abu-Lahab, his wife, his in-laws and his friends and allies became extremely hostile to the Prophet and his call. The Quraish hostilities against Muslims took various forms e. g. torturing, killing – particularly of slaves - anti-Islam propaganda, confiscation of property, boycott and siege. Hostility continued till Makkah was eventually conquered.
Abu-Lahab and his wife spared no effort against the call to the One and Only God. Abu-Lahab used to spread false accusations about the Prophet. According to the Hadith, seeing the Prophet invite Makkah visitors to Islam, Abu-Lahab would tell them that his nephew was insane and should not be taken seriously. Also, he would throw stones at the Prophet. He ordered his sons to divorce their wives, the Prophet’s two daughters. His wife took an active part in defamation campaigns about the Prophet. She used to lay thorny plants and branches in the Prophet’s path. The Abu-Lahabs were neighbours of the Prophet.
 To Those Interested in Understanding Arabic Names:
“Ibn-”; “Bint-”; “Abu-”; “Om-”; and “’Abd-”
The following words are used as prefixes in Arabic names, and they are frequently found in Islamic and Arabic literature: “Ibn-”; “Bint-”; “Abu-”; “Om-”; and “’Abd-”.
It means “son”. So, “Mohammad Ibn-Ali” means “Mohammad the son of Ali”. “Ibn” is like the English word “ben”, and both look and sound nearly the same. In Arabic, “Ibn” is usually written like “bn”, which is often pronounced “ben”.
“Bint-” is the feminine of “Ibn-”. It means “daughter” or “girl”. So, “Nora Bint-Mohammad” means “Nora the daughter of Mohammad”.
“Abu-” means “father”. So, “Abu-Hassan” means “the father of Hassan”. Also, “Abu-Nora” means “the father of Nora”. “Abu-Hassan” and “Abu-Nora” can be a person’s real name or nickname. As, a nickname, “Abu-” is followed by a son’s or daughter’s name, which is often the name of the eldest child.
“Abu-” may be followed by the name of a thing or quality. In this case, “Abu-” means “the one with …” or “the one that has …”. So, “Abu-Lahab” means “the one with a glowing (face)”; this is a nickname and a kind of praise. A friend of Abu-Lahab’s was nicknamed “Abu-Jahl”, meaning “the father of ignorance”; this is derogatory.
“Abu-” has two more forms in Arabic: “Aba-” and “Abi-”.
“Aba-” is an object to a transitive verb.
“Abi-” comes after a preposition and in a possessive form (mudhaaf ilaih).
Despite the three forms, the meaning remains the same.
“Om-” means “mother”. So, “Om-Ali” means “the mother of Ali”, and “Om-Nora” means “the mother of Nora”. “Om-Ali” and “Om-Nora” can be a woman’s real name or nickname. In the case of nicknames, “Om-” is often followed by the name of the eldest child.
“Om-” may be followed by the name of a thing or quality. In this case, “Om-” means “the one with …” or “the one that has …” For example, “Om-Khabar” means literally “the mother of news”; metaphorically, it means “the woman with the habit of spreading gossips”.
“’Abd-” means “slave”. So, “Abd-Allaah” or “Abdullah” means “the salve of Allah”, and “Abd-Alrahman” or “Abdurrahman” means “the slave of the Beneficent God”. In Islam, “’Abd-” is to be followed by any of Allah’s names or Attributes. It must not be followed by names of humans, such as Mohammad, Jesus or Ali.
Having introduced Abu-Lahab and his wife, let us see the occasion of Suurat Al-Massad. Knowing the occasion or context is necessary for understanding the suurah properly.
 Suurat Al-Massad: Occasion and Comprehension Questions
Prophet Mohammad received a revelation from Allah. Allah commanded him to warn his relatives of the consequences of denying Him. “(26/214) And warn, [O Muhammad], your closest kindred.” To carry out the command, the Prophet went up Mount Assafaa and shouted, “Waa Sabaahaah!” This phrase was used as an alarm shout to alert the Meccans to incoming raids; one would go up a mountain and loudly shout that warning phrase. The concerned would rush to the caller to see what was wrong.
1- What did Prophet Mohamed receive from Allah?
a- Qur’anic prayers. b- Qur’anic verses.
2- What were the verses about?
a- Warning relatives. b- Climbing Mount Assafaa.
3- What was the warning against?
a- Against disbelieving in Allah. b- Against enemy raids.
4- Did the Prophet go up Mount Assafaa?
a- Yes, he did. b- No, he didn’t.
5- Why did the Prophet go up there?
a- To call Meccans from there. b- To have a better view of Makkah.
6- What was the warning phrase?
a- “Your closest kindred!” b- “Waa Sabaahaah!”
7- What would the Meccans do whenever they heard a warning?
a- They would shout loudly. b- They would rush to the warner.
In response to the Prophet’s shouting, the Meccans rushed out to Mount Assafaa. When they got there, he addressed them. He said, “Were I to tell you that an army is going to attack you in the morning or in the evening, wouldn’t you believe me?” “Yes. We have never seen you tell lies,” said they. He said, “Well then, I am telling you that I am a warner to you (from Allah) to warn you of a painful doom (if you deny Him). So, testify that there is no God but Allah. If you do, it will be your means to gaining the leadership of the Arabs and the loyalty of non-Arabs.” Angered by the Prophet’s words, Abu-Lahab said, “Is this why you have summoned us here? Tabban lak!”
8- When the Prophet called the Meccans, they____________________________
a- answered the call. b- ignored the call.
9- When the Meccans got to the Prophet, he _____________________________
a- attacked them. b- spoke to them.
10- Did the Prophet ask them if they trusted him?
11- Did they think he was a liar?
a- Yes, they did. b- No, they didn’t.
12- Did he tell them he was a warner from Allah to them?
13- Against what did he warn them?
a- Against enemy raids. b- Against denying Allah.
14- Did he tell them to be Muslims?
15- What did the Prophet promise them if they became Muslims?
a- Promised them gains in Arabia.
b- Promised them gains outside Arabia.
c- Promised them both of the above (a and b).
16- Was Abu-Lahab pleased at what the Prophet said?
a- Yes, he was. b- No, he wasn’t.
The phrase “Tabban lak” expresses a curse wishing great loss, destruction and failure. Literally, it means “Destruction be unto you!” or “May you be destroyed / May you be a loser/ May you perish!” In response to Abu-Lahab’s arrogant and insulting behaviour towards the Prophet, the suurah was revealed. It condemned Abu-Lahab and his wife and affirmed that it was they who would be destroyed, they were going to Hell, and their wealth would not save them.
17- Did Abu-Lahab curse the Prophet?
18- What cursing words did Abu-Lahab use?
a- May you be ruined! b- Stupid idiot!
19- What, do you think, made Abu-Lahab insult the Prophet?
a- Being his uncle. b- Being arrogant. C- Being smart.
20- Allah revealed Suurat Al-Massad to affirm that ________________________________________.
a- it was Abu-Lahab and his wife who would be ruined.
b- He condemned Abu-Lahab for insulting the Prophet.
c- nothing would save Abu-Lahab from the Hellfire.
d- All the above (a, b and c) are true.
About seven years later, after the Prophet received the revelation of Suurat Al-Massad, came the destruction of Abu-Lahab. The Quraish idolaters were defeated by a small number of Muslims in the Battle of Badr. As a result, Abu-Lahab got the shock of his life. Seven days later, he died of some plague. His relatives left him to rot for fear of infection. His end was terrible, and so was his burial. As the suurah had prophesied, he was destroyed, and he became a damned loser. On the Judgment Day, the rest of the prophecy will be realized; Abu-Lahab and his wife will be put in the blazing Hellfire.
21- Suurat Al-Massad was revealed ________________________________________
a- before the Battle of Badr. b- after the Battle of Badr.
22- The Battle of Badr was between the Muslims and the _______________________
a- the Quraish idols. b- the Quraish idol worshippers.
23- Which army was big?
a- The Muslim army. b- The Quraish army.
24- Which side won the battle?
a- The believing army. b- The disbelieving army.
25- What shocked Abu-Lahab?
a- The victory of the Muslims. b- The defeat of the Quraish army.
c- Both of the above (a and b).
26- Abu-Lahab died _______________________________________________ .
a- in the battlefield. b- of an infectious disease.
27- What does Abu-Lahab’s terrible end tell us?
a- Suurat Al-Massad’s prophecy came true.
b- Allah tells nothing but the truth.
c- Insulting Prophet Mohammad has terrible consequences.
d- All the above (a, b and c).
28- What about the rest of the prophecy?
a- Abu-Lahab and his wife will suffer eternal torment in the Hellfire.
b- Abu-Lahab and his wife will be forgiven because he was the Prophet’s uncle.
29- What should we learn from Suurat Al-Massad?
a- If one is related to the Prophet, one will be saved.
b- If one is wealthy, one will be saved.
c- If one belongs to the top class, one will be saved.
d- None of the above (a, b or c).
30- From Suurat Al-Massad, we understand that ___________________________ .
a- The Hellfire is a fact.
b- The Hellfire is fiction.
Suurat Al-Massad: Text and Exercises
The teaching and learning of Suurat Al-Massad should involve:
- listening to the Arabic original
- listening to the English translation of meanings
- reading the Arabic original if possible
- reading the English translation of meanings
- practicing the reciting of the audio Arabic text
- understanding the meanings of verses
- testing the understanding
- drawing lessons from the suurah
- reflecting on the verses by searching for further related information and issues.
All the above-mentioned activities should be selected, adapted - if necessary - and conducted in the light of the learner’s abilities and conditions.
[A] Text: Transliteration and Translation
Video and Audio Recitations of Suurat Al-Massad (Suurah 111):
1- Link to a video of an Arabic-English recitation of Suurat Al-Massad (Suurah 111) as well as the Arabic written text and the English translation of meanings:
2- Link to one of Al-Hussary’s audio Arabic recitation of Suurat Al-Massad:
 Transliteration and Arabic text:
﴾ بسْمِ اللهِ الرّحْمنِ الرّحِيم ﴿
tabbat yadaa abi-lahabiw-watabb
﴾ تَبَّتْ يَدَا أَبِي لَهَبٍ وَتَبَّ ﴿
ma aghnaa ‘anhu maaluhu wamaa kassab
﴾ مَا أَغْنَى عَنْهُ مَالُهُ وَمَا كَسَبَ ﴿
sayaSSlaa naaran thaata lahab
﴾ سَيَصْلَى نَارًا ذَاتَ لَهَبٍ ﴿
﴾ وَامْرَأَتُهُ حَمَّالَة الْحَطَبِ ﴿
fee jeedihaa hablum-mimassad/.
﴾ فِي جِيدِهَا حَبْلٌ مِنْ مَسَدٍ ﴿
 To whom Arabic may concern: Meanings or Arabic words:
Tabba/tabbat (v): past tense; it means “perished” / “was/were destroyed” / “was/were ruined”/ made great loss.
Tabb (n): perishing; destruction; loss.
“Tabban lak!”: Destruction be to you! / May you perish! / May you be destroyed/ruined!
Yad (n): hand.
Yadaan (n): two hands.
Yadaak (n): your (two) hands.
“Tabbat yadaa (of someone)!”: harsh words condemning and wishing him /her destruction and utter loss.
“Tabbat yadaak!”: Literally, it means: “May your two hands be destroyed/ruined/cut off!” Metaphorically, it means the same as “Tabban lak!”
Aghnaa (v): benefited.
Maa aghnaa: did not benefit.
Maaluhu: his wealth.
Maa aghnaa ’anhu maaluhu: His wealth did not benefit him.
Kassab(a) (v): gained.
Maa: that which = what; what?
Wa maa kassab: and what he gained (did not benefit him either).
YaSSlaa (v): enter.
Sa-yaSSlaa: will enter.
Naar / naaran: fire.
Thaata: which has … ; with ….
Thaata lahab: which has a blazing flame.
Imra’ah / Imra’at: wife.
Imra’atuhu: his wife.
Wa-mara’atuhu: and his wife.
Hammaal / hammaalat: carrier.
Hammaalat alhaTab: carrier of wood /straw.
Jeedihaa: her neck.
Fee jeedihaa: around her neck.
Min: of / from.
Min massad: from twisted fiber.
Hablun min massad (read as: Hablum-mim-massad): a rope from / made of twisted fiber.
 Translation and Arabic text:
Translation of Meanings
In the name of Allah, the beneficent, the Merciful
May the hands of Abu Lahab be ruined, and ruined is he.
His wealth will not avail him or that which he gained.
He will [enter to] burn in a Fire of [blazing] flame
And his wife [as well] – the carrier of firewood.
Around her neck is a rope of [twisted] fiber.
 Match the transliteration and the translation of meanings:
(1) tabbat yadaa abi-lahabiw-watabb
[ ] And his wife [as well] – the carrier of firewood.
(2) ma aghnaa ‘anhu maaluhu wamaa kassab
[ ] He will [enter to] burn in a Fire of [blazing] flame.
(3) sayaSSlaa naaran thaata lahab
[ ] His wealth will not avail him or that which he gained.
(4) wa-mra’atuhu hammaalatal-haTab
[ ] Around her neck is a rope of [twisted] fiber.
(5) fee jeedihaa hablum-mimassad/.
[ ] May the hands of Abu Lahab be ruined, and ruined is he.
 Match the transliterations and the translations of meanings.
[ ] her neck
[ ] firewood / straw
[ ] his wife
[ ] twisted fibre
[ ] two hands
[ ] what / that which
[ ] fire
[ ] persihed
[ ] benefited
[ ] flame
[ ] rope
[ ] that has … / … with …
[ ] money / wealth
[ ] will enter
[ ] from / made of
[ ] gained / acquired
[ ] carrier
[ ] his wealth
[B] Exercises on Suurah (111)
 Questions on verse (1): /tabbat yadaa abi-lahabiw-watabb/:
1- Who is the speaker?
a- Allah b- Prophet Mohammad c- Abu-Lahab
2- What does Aayah (1) express?
a- A hand problem. b- Condemnation.
3- Who is being condemned?
a- Abu-Lahab. b- Disbelievers.
3- The Aayah tells us that _________________________________________
a- Abu-Lahab’s hands were cut off. b- Abu-Lahab will be ruined.
4- What do you understand from the Aayah?
a- Abu-Lahab was a good person. b- Abu-Lahab was an evil person.
5- What do you think?
a- Allah will punish Abu-Lahab. b- Allah will pardon Abu-Lahab.
6- What wrong, do you think, Abu-Lahab did?
a- He rejected the call to Islam. b- He insulted Prophet Mohammad.
b- He did both of the above (a and b).
7- If a person insults Prophet Mohammad, _______________________________
a- will you tell him/her to stop? [Yes – No]
b- will you tell him/her to apologize? [Yes – No]
8- If he/she does not stop and apologize, __________________________________
a-will you befriend him/her? [Yes – No]
b-will you keep ties with him/her? [Yes – No]
c-will you trade with him/her? [Yes – No]
d-will you game with him/her? [Yes – No]
e-will you beat him/her up? [Yes – No]
 Questions on verse (2): /(2) ma aghnaa ‘anhu maaluhu wamaa kassab/:
1- What does Aayah (2) tell us about Abu-Lahab?
a- Abu-Lahab was a wealthy man. [Yes – No]
b- Abu-Lahab was in big trouble. [Yes – No]
c- His wealth could rescue him from his trouble. [Yes – No]
d- His wealth will save him from punishment. [Yes – No]
2- What does “maa kassab” refer to?
a- Earnings b- Possessions. c- Sons and daughters.
d- All the above (a, b and c) are possible answers.
3- What can we learn from Aayah (2)?
a- If you are rich, God will pardon you. [Yes – No]
b- God will rescue only the poor. [Yes – No]
c- The more you own, the more likely you will be saved. [Yes – No]
d- The less you own, the less likely you will be saved. [Yes – No]
4- What is it that can really save you on the Judgement Day?
a- Wealth, health and offspring. [Yes – No]
b- Only doing good deeds. [Yes – No]
c- Believing in Allah and doing good. [Yes – No]
d- Your fame and profession. [Yes – No]
 Questions on verse (3): /(3) sayaSSlaa naaran thaata lahab/
1- What is Aayah (3) about?
a- A punishment. [Yes – No]
b- A punishment on the Judgment Day. [Yes – No]
c- A punishment on earth. [Yes – No]
2- Who has passed the sentence in verse (3)?
a- Angels in charge of Hell. b- Allah. c- Prophets and saints.
3- Who is the culprit? ___________________________ .
4- What is the culprit’s sentence?
a- Torment in a blazing fire. b- Death by firing.
 Questions on verse (4): /(4) wa-mra’atuhu hammaalatal-haTab /
1- Does Aayah (4) condemn Abu-Lahab’s wife? [Yes – No]
2- Does Aayah (4) praise her? [Yes – No]
3- What does the Aayah say about Abu-Lahab’s wife?
a- She will join her husband.
b- She will be put in the Hellfire.
c- Both (a and b) will happen to her.
4- How is she described in Aayah (4)?
a- As a carrier of fire. b- As a carrier of wood.
5- Is her description an insult to her? [Yes – No]
6- Why has Allah decided to put her in the Hellfire?
a- Because she was Abu-Lahab’s wife. [Yes – No]
b- Because she spread lies about Islam. [Yes – No]
c- Because she wronged Muslims. [Yes – No]
d- Because she rejected the message of Islam. [Yes – No]
 Questions on verse (5): (5) fee jeedihaa hablum-mimassad/
1- What will Abu-Lahab’s wife have around her neck?
a- A rope. b- A necklace.
2- The rope around her neck is a mark of ______________________________ .
a- honour. [Yes – No]
b- humiliation. [Yes – No]
c- condemnation. [Yes – No]
d- goodness. [Yes – No]
 Lessons and Reflections: What can we understand from Suurah (111) and the occasion of its revelation?
1- The Prophet delivered Allah’s message to his relatives. [Yes – No]
2- Being a blood relative of the Prophet is a pass to Al-Jannah. [Yes – No]
3- Allah does not mind if His Messenger is insulted. [Yes – No]
4- A part of the Suurah’s prophecy about Abu-Lahab was fulfilled. [Yes – No]
5- The other part will be fulfilled on the Judgment Day. [Yes – No]
6- Whoever fights Islam is a big loser. [Yes – No]
7- One’s clan can save one from Allah’s wrath. [Yes – No]
8- One’s wealth can save one from Allah’s anger. [Yes – No]
9- What matters to Allah is not your colour, race, wealth or status. [Yes – No]
10- What matters to Allah is your faith and good deeds. [Yes – No]
11- The Muslim should not take the insults to Islam or the Prophet lightly. [Yes – No]
12- If Allah judges a specific person as a loser, the Muslims believe it. [Yes – No]
13- Can you think of Islamic means to dealing with such insults?
14- Relatives of disbelievers go to Hell. [Certainly – Not necessarily]
15- Relatives of Prophets are assured a place in Heaven. [Yes - No]
16- Who can judge if someone is going to Hell or Heaven?
a-Muslim scholars. b- Allah. c- Prophets and Saints.
17- Can you locate Qur’anic verses and Hadiths setting the criteria for judging people?
18- Can you search the NET for personalities hostile to Islam? What happened to them?
19- Can you locate Hadiths mentioning relatives of prophets? What happened to them?
20- Can you locate verses that speak about relatives of prophets? What happened to them?
21- Abu-Lahab’s wife is described as “the carrier of (fire) wood”? Can you search for views on that description?
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