What is the most important message of Surah al-Masadd?

What is the moral and mystical message we can learn from Sura al-Masadd? It is a direct curse of Allah to Abu Lahab and his wife. What lesson can we draw for ourselves?

Concise answer

The most important message of this Surah (chapter) can be explain in such a way that wealthy, position and family relationship with prophets cannot protect an individual from God’s wrath or fury. Abu Lahab is an example in this chapter of the Quran. He is one of the chiefs of the clan of Quraish, the Holy Prophet’s uncle and a wealthy man among his people but none of these things were of any use to him.  Neither his position as a tribal leader nor his wealth or family relationship to the Prophet helped him attain proximity to God.  This is the divine promise: “The best of you to God is the most pious of you.”

Detailed Answer

Chapter al-Masadd consists of five verses and it is one of the chapters revealed in Mecca.[1] The verses of this chapter are the only verse which explicitly mention Abul Lahab’s name reproaching him and considering him as being absolutely worthy of going to Hell. One of the instances where the Quran speaks of the unseen (ghayb) is to be found in this Surah in which God promises to punish Abu Lahab in the flaming fire of Hell.[2]  The promise shows that he and his wife will not believe in Islam and in the Prophet (pbuh) until the end of their lives; otherwise if they would accept Islam, the divine promise to punish them would have been inappropriate. As the time passed, not only they did not convert to Islam but they further increased their enmity and left no stone unturned to hurt and harass the Prophet of Islam (pbuh).

The exegetes of the Holy Quran are of the view that this verse was revealed in the early period of the prophethood. It is related that Ibn ‘Abbas said, “The Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, went out to the valley, climbed the mountain and called, ‘O companions!’ Quraysh gathered to him and he said, ‘If I were to tell you that the enemy is coming against you in the morning or evening, would you believe me?’ They answered, ‘Yes.’ He said, ‘I am a warner to you coming before a severe punishment.’ Abu Lahab said, ‘Is this what you gathered us for? May you perish!’ Then Allah Almighty revealed, ‘Perish to the hands of Abu Lahab…’. (111:1)[3]

Also, the word “tabbat” (perish) in this verse [4]has been in response to Abu Lahab’s saying with which he addressed the Prophet (pbuh). Abu Lahab’s wife who was with him demonstrating enmity to Islam has been reproached and promised to be punished.[5]

The terms used in the verses indicate that these two people have been cursed. In these verses, God clearly curses Abu Lahab and promises to burn him in fire. In addition to this chapter, there are curses in other verses which have other addressees.[6]

The most important messages of this Surah can be explained as under:

1. He who relies only on the material means available in this world and does not trust in God has been at loss but if he works hard to obtain these means or objects and at the same time he consigns his matters to God, he will be able to follow the right path and no evil will befall him.[7]

2. Wealth and worldly profit are means with which one may attain eternal happiness. This Surah shows that a well-to-do and wealthy person is not necessarily dear and close to Allah. In fact, they are among the first ones who are abandoned and rejected by God. Abu Lahab is one of such people who, politically speaking, enjoyed a good position. He also had a lot of wealth but none of these were useful at the end of the day[8] since he did not use his wealth to gain proximity to God. Instead his wealth and position earned him Hell fire.  This is the divine promise: “The best of you to God is the most pious of you.”[9]

3. Family relationship with prophets and noble religious leaders [Awlia] cannot protect a person from God’s wrath. Abu Lahab was Abdul Muttalib’s son[10]  and the Holy Prophet’s uncle but this relationship was of no avail to him since it did not help protect him from going astray. Therefore, we cannot respect someone or consider him immune to error simply because of his blood relationship or lineage; rather we must look at the individual’s conducts and then pass judgment about him

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