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Surah Al- Lahab

47The Review of Religions – April 2006 In the name of Allah the Gracious, the Merciful. Perished be the two hands of Abu Lahab, and so perish he. His wealth and what he has earned shall avail him naught. Soon shall he enter into a blazing fire; (Ch.112:Vs.1-2) Perish the two hands of Abu- Lahab and perish he! The Holy Prophet(saw), right from the time of his commission declared emphatically that he would be victorious. He predicted that despite being opposed to the hilt he would prevail. He faced terrible trials; attempts were made on his life; grand schemes were staged to wipe out his community of followers. But like the cornerstone which shatters any- thing striking against it, he prevailed against all opposition. History stands witness that his claims were entirely vindicated. In circumstances where there could be no hope of survival for him or for his community, he continued to proclaim that he would indeed triumph and that Islam would spread both in the East and in the West; the entire mankind would assemble under his banner; the rule of Islam would spread far and wide. He also talked of the time when followers of his faith would abandon the Qur’an and turn decadent. Their dominion would be abolished and new nations would rise to subjugate them. It would be at that time that Allah would raise the spirit of the Holy Prophet(saw) to make Islam dominant once again. These prophecies can be found in the Qur’an and in the books of Hadith where they have been further explained by the Holy Prophet(saw). All have been literally fulfilled. Surah Al-Lahab Commentary by Hadhrat Mirza Bashir-ud-Din Mahmood Ahmad, Khalifatul Masih lI(ra). (Translation by Asif Omer from Tafsir-e-Kabeer , Vol 10) 48 The Review of Religions – April 2006 Victory foretold from a position of utter powerlessness and prediction of the fall that would follow the eminence of a mighty victory cannot be a creation of the mind. The fulfillment of these prophecies under the most extraordinary circumstances can only mean that the news of the future of Islam was divinely revealed to the Holy Prophet(saw), thereby making it a positive proof of his truth and demonstrating his holy origin. Today the might of Europe stands supreme. Their culture, innovation and technology stand unchal- lenged. The world is in awe of them and looks up to them. They are considered masters and source of all areas of knowledge and wisdom. Where Europe is pointing to its ascendancy and presenting it as a proof of the superiority of its ways, the Muslim nations of today, who until yesterday were the sole bearers of power and prestige, who were the teachers of the occident, whose horses galloped untrammeled on its soil, find themselves restricted and encircled. The lion, in front of which nations of Europe were like insignificant mice, today is lame and enfeebled. The mice prance around its body and take bites off its flesh, yet the lion cannot find it in its power to swat them away. The Muslim of today is despairing and considers Islam to be in its terminal stage. When he visits Europe and sees its material progress, he gives up to hopelessness and returns home carrying the message of defeat. For him, Islam is beyond the point of recovery. On the one hand Islam has been dealt defeat in the political realm, and on the other its own followers have bidden it farewell and have taken the West to be their guide, subservience to which they consider a matter of pride and satisfaction. They have forgotten that their Book contains guidance which is complete and leaves no area of human interest untouched. It obviates the need to search elsewhere. Its light can illumine the soul and by following its teachings one may profit both spiritually and materially. The prophecies made by the Holy Prophet(saw) about the decline of Islam and the progress of the SURAH AL-LAHAB 49The Review of Religions – April 2006 European West serves as a powerful test to the truth of his claim. It is mind-boggling how over l300 years ago these matters were foretold with all the attendant details. He describes these events as if a film is running and the events of the future are playing on a screen. That these events did come to pass is an irrefutable proof that the knowledge thereof was revealed to him from the All- Knowing God. Therefore the current feeble state of Islam should not cause Muslims to despair. The same God Who revealed through His Prophet(saw) that Islam would come to a decline also gave the tidings of its re- emergence and regaining of ascendancy over its foes. Those attempting to destroy it would themselves crumble and its banner would once again fly over this world. This would happen through the agency of God’s own Will and as it happened at the time of the emergence of Islam, the Holy Prophet(saw) would reappear in the end-times, not in person but in spirit and would act as a magnet to attract God’s help and succour manifesting as multitudes of angels and granting once again dominion to the weak and the helpless. Muslims need not lose hope. Instead they should hang tight to the mantle of the Holy Prophet(saw) and should prepare and wait with certitude for the times promised to them. We narrate below certain prophecies from the Holy Qur’an and the books of Ahadith about the present times and to which Surah Al-Lahab is closely related. Reading it and pondering over it strengthens conviction within a believer that with the decline of Islam having come to pass and exactly as foretold, surely its promised progress will also follow in due course. In the Latter Days, among the trials that Islam was to face, two adversaries find particular mention. Their special mention is on account of the profound harm they would inflict to the cause of Islam. One has been given the name of Dajjal, and the other is known as the Appearance of Yajooj-Majooj (Gog-Magog). In Sahih Muslim it is narrated: SURAH AL-LAHAB 50 The Review of Religions – April 2006 ‘Hudhaifa bin Usaid Al- Ghifari(ra) reported: Allah’s Messenger(as) came to us all of a sudden as we were busy in a discussion. He asked: What do you discuss? We said: We are talking about the Last Hour. Thereupon he said: It will not come until you see ten signs and he made a mention of the Smoke; the Dajjal; the rising of the sun from the West; the descent of Jesus son of Mary; Gog and Magog and land- sliding in three places, one in the East, one in the West and one in Arabia at the end of which fire would burn forth from Yemen, and would drive people to the place of their assembly.’ With some reflection one may deduce that Dajjal and Gog- Magog are different aspects of the same turmoil. This is why only one, Gog-Magog, finds mention in the Holy Qur’an without any di- rect reference to the other, whereas we find tremendous importance attached to the Dajjal in the traditions of the Holy Prophet(saw). In one Hadith it is stated: ‘While speaking of the Dajjal, he(saw) said: There has been no Prophet who has not warned his people of the (Dajjal). Noah(as) warned his people about him and likewise I do too.’ A portent of this magnitude could not have been ignored by the Holy Qur’an. Dajjal and Gog-Magog are different names of the same reality; rather they are names given to aspects of what ultimately is a single threat that Islam would face. This is also supported by the common period of their expected appearance. Both would dominate the world, which further points to the commonality of these two entities. The literal translation of Dajjal is: the deceiver; the pretender. The great turmoil of the Latter Days about which the prophets have forewarned their peoples has two defining properties: perversion of the religious beliefs and ideals, and corruption of politics and the breakdown of world peace. The aspect relating to the perversion of religious beliefs has been called the Dajjal: one who falsifies and SURAH AL-LAHAB 51The Review of Religions – April 2006 deceives. Its aspect to do with disturbance in the realm of politics and the shattering of world peace has been personified as Gog and Magog. Gog and Magog, in Arabic Yajooj- Majooj, are derived from the word ajja, which means ‘fanning the flames’. The title Yajooj-Majooj would be applied to such as would have power over fire. They would use fiery weaponry to gain dominance over the world. With this preliminary explanation let us turn to the narration in the Holy Qur’ an relating to Gog and Magog: It shall be so even when Gog and Magog are let loose and they shall hasten forth from every height. (Ch.21:97) For a while Gog and Magog will be kept restricted to the edges of the earth until a time when the barrier confining them would be broken. The breaking down of the barrier means that Islam would lose its political power and the spiritual state of its followers would be greatly diminished. Muslims will have forgotten their faith. With reference to these times in Chapter Al-Sajdah, Allah the Almighty says: He will plan the Divine Ord- nance from the heaven unto the earth, then will it go up to Him in a day the duration of which is a thousand years according to what you reckon. (Ch.32:V.6) This means that in the time of the Holy Prophet(saw), Islam would see great progress. This period of progress, as described in various traditions, would last three hundred years, after which it would begin to decline and would continue to do so for a thousand years. Therefore the period in question in the above mentioned verse extends to thirteen hundred years from the time of the Holy Prophet(saw). From Ch.21:V.97 it can be gathered that the nations which have been referred to as Gog-Magog are distant people living beyond the mountains and separated by the sea. The word used there is hadab, which means elevated land as well as the crest SURAH AL-LAHAB 52 The Review of Religions – April 2006 of a wave. When the events foretold here come to pass, these foreign nations would ride the crests of waves across the ocean, as well as they will descend across elevated lands, onto the lands of Asia. We mention Asia here since it was the birthplace of the Holy Prophet(saw) of Islam, and would be the natural point of reference in this verse. Similarly in Surah Al-Kahf, Allah the Almighty says: …when he reached the place between the two mountains, he found beneath them a people who would scarcely under- stand a word. They said ‘O Dhu’l Qarnain, verily, Gog and Magog are creating disorder in the earth. shall we then pay thee tribute on condition that thou set up a barrier between us and them? He replied: ‘The power with which my Lord has endowed me about this is better, but you may help me with physical strength; I will set up between you and them a rampart. “Bring me blocks of iron”. They did so till, when he had leveled up the space between the two mountain sides, he said: ‘Now blow with your bellows. They blew till, when he had made it red as fire, he said: ‘Bring me molten copper that I may pour it thereon.’ So they (Gog and Magog) were not able to scale it, nor were they able to dig through it. Thereupon he said: ‘This is a mercy from my Lord’ But when the promise of my Lord shall come to pass, He will break it into pieces. And the promise of My Lord is certainlty true.’ And on that day We shall leave some of them to surge against others and the trumpet will be blown. Then shall We gather them all together. And on that day We shall present Hell, face to face, to the disbelievers. Whose eyes were under a veil so as not to heed My Warning, and they could not even hear. Do the disbelievers think that they can take My servants as protectors instead of Me? Surely We have prepared Hell as an entertainment for the disbelievers. SURAH AL-LAHAB 53The Review of Religions – April 2006 Say, ‘Shall We tell you of those who are the greatest losers with regard to their works? Those whose labour is all lost in search after things pertaining to the life of this world, and they think that they are doing good works.’ (Ch.18: 94-105) It can be deduced from these verses that the two nations of Gog and Magog will dominate the entire world in the Latter Days, leading to intense rivalry and friction between them. Eventually they will turn against each other and in fiery battles cause mutual destruction. Furthermore, it says that these would be highly industrialised nations steeped in technology and innovation, but forgetful of their duties towards God. Their grand material works and knowledge will not protect them from ruin. This prophecy clearly applies to the present times. The decline of Islamic political power started in the seventeenth century, which was followed by a struggle for su- premacy among the western nations and was accompanied by tremendous progress in knowledge and sciences. Religion was challenged by philosophy and materialism rendering it an anachronism. New economic and social models were proposed which were anchored in logic and rationality. The world beheld these developments in awe and wonderment. One such model is Communism. If one disregards God and His teachings and uses logic and reason alone, in my opinion, there can be no satisfactory socioeconomic model short of either Communism or Fascism. Without God entering the picture, there are only two available choices for guiding man’s economic direction: Either one accepts that all men are equal so all material wealth should be equally divided among them, by force if necessary; or one believes in the principle of ‘might is right’; power alone would dictate who gets to enjoy the bounties of this world. Logic and reason has nothing more to offer in this regard. It is only religion which brings God and higher moral principles into the picture and prescribes a balanced approach. SURAH AL-LAHAB 54 The Review of Religions – April 2006 The Biblical prophecy about Gog and Magog also speaks of the rivalry that will develop between the two powers leading them into war where they will employ weap- onry of fire. In Ezekiel, Chapter 38 verse 18 to 22 we have: ‘And it shall come to pass at the same time when Gog shall come against the land of Israel, saith the Lord God that My fury shall come up in My face. For in My jealousy and in the fire of My wrath have I spoken, Surely in that day there shall be a great shaking in the land of Israel; So that the fishes of the sea and the fowls of the heaven, and the beasts of the field, and all creeping things that creep upon the earth and all the men that are upon the face of the earth, shall shake at my presence, and the mountains shall be thrown down, and the steep places shall fall, and every wall shall fall to the ground. And I will call for a sword against him throughout all My mountains, said the Lord God: every man’s sword shall be against his brother. And I will plead against him with pestilence and with blood; and I will rain upon him and upon his bands, and upon the many people that are with him, an overflowing rain, and great hailstones, fire, and brimstone.’ It further says in Ezekiel, Chapter 39 verse 4 to 7: ‘Thou shall fall upon the mountains of Israel, thou and all thy bands, and the people that are with thee: I will give thee unto the ravenous birds of every sort, and to the beasts of the field to be devoured. Thou shall fall upon the open field: for I have spoken it, said the Lord God. And I will send a fire on Magog, and among them that dwell carelessly in the isles: and they shall know that I am the Lord. So will I make My Holy Name known in the midst of My people Israel; and I will not let them pollute My Holy Name any more: and the heathen shall know that I am the Lord, the Holy One in Israel.’ From the texts quoted above, taken from the Holy Qur’an and the SURAH AL-LAHAB 55The Review of Religions – April 2006 Bible, we can see that both sources agree on Gog and Magog confronting each other in the battlefield. The Qur’an mentions in addition, that the political systems and ideologies represented by these powers would perish with this war and that neither would be able to sustain itself much longer beyond that. The Ahadith tell us that at the time of the emergence of Dajjal and Gog-Magog, Islam will be weak and defenseless. In its protection Allah will send the Messiah who will make his appearance in the East. After his appearance the Dajjal would be killed. At that time Muslims will be dispossessed of material power, yet the Messiah and his followers will strive in their mission through propagation and power of the prayer. God Himself would bring about the defeat of Gog and Magog. Islam will once again flourish and will regain its lost ascendancy. God’s favor will return to this world such that a little shall suffice and greed and avarice will go away and peo- ple will turn away from mate- rialism and towards spirituality. Chapter Al-Lahab contains the prophecy of these Latter Day turmoils and their final disposition. Allah says: tabbat yada-abi lahab- in wa tab, meaning that God will frustrate and destroy those nations and their confederates that will wage a fiery war upon Islam. Tabba means to be destroyed; to be killed; to fail in one’s objective. It has also been translated as being devoid of all goodness. Yadun means hands as well as prestige, power and sovereignty. Yad also means a confederacy or alliance. Hence tabbat yada-abi lahab would mean the following: 1. Perished be both hands of Abu-Lahab. 2. The two alliances of Abu- Lahab were destroyed and they failed to meet their objectives. 3. The power, prestige and dominion of Abu-Lahab were destroyed. 4. The two groups in alliance with Abu-Lahab were ren- dered devoid of any goodness or advantage. SURAH AL-LAHAB 56 The Review of Religions – April 2006 Abu-Lahab literally translates to Father of the Flame, but idiomatically it would mean creator of such things as produce fire and flame. Commentators have also taken it to mean a fair and ruddy countenance. We have indicated above that Abu- Lahab here does not stand for an individual, but it is a nation that would dominate the world in the Latter Days and would create a grave threat against the mission of the Holy Prophet(saw) of Islam and his faith. It will gain mastery over fire, and will invent instruments of fire. It will form mighty alliances with other nations that will act as its hands. We see today that there are only two such alliances in the world, one comprising of the western powers and the other of the eastern. Abu-Lahab is a collective name given to these groupings, to which a most appropriate title is given that the peoples of these alliances are by and large of fair complexion, and are also the creators of confla- gration causing weapons such as the atomic and hydrogen bombs. Therefore the title of Abu Lahab aptly describes them in literal and metaphorical sense. Their destiny would lead them into the fire of their own wars. Moreover, they have monstrously calumnised the Holy Prophet(saw) of Islam in their literature and have thereby created a fire in the world, thus deserving the title of Abu-Lahab from that angle as well. In tabbat yada-abi lahab, the word tabba has been used in the past tense. In Arabic when an event is certain to occur, it is expressed in the past tense to convey the sense of finality about it. Here tabba means: Take it for granted. Abu- Lahab and his allies will perish and will be frustrated in their objective of destroying Islam. In this verse the destruction of Abu-Lahab’s hands is mentioned before his own destruction, meaning that those nations to which the name Abu-Lahab applies, that is the western and eastern powers, will try to make other countries join them and will succeed in forging these alliances. These satellite countries will act as the hands of their masters and will be a source of pride for them and contributing to their hegemony. SURAH AL-LAHAB 57The Review of Religions – April 2006 But Allah will first create circumstances that will result in the destruction of the satellites and which will culminate in the destruction of their focal point, the entity described as Abu-Lahab. In the Ahadith wherever we find the discussion of the future threats against Islam, there we also find that Allah will cause the Messiah to descend who will fight these threats through his prayers. It is clear from the Ahadith that no one has been granted the power to fight these foes: la yada-ni la- ahadin liqitalihim. (Mishkat Kitab-ul-Fitan) Muslims will be in a state of weakness, yet Allah will hear the prayers of the Promised Messiah(aas) and will create circumstance which will cause the enemies of Islam to crumble and dissolve like salt in water. They will fight amongst themselves through wars. The Holy Qur’an uses the term yada, which means hands, to describe the allies of Abu-Lahab, while the Hadith uses the same term to describe the Latter Day turmoil, which shows that the Holy Prophet(saw), was given detailed knowledge of these events and was shown that it would not be possible to vanquish them in the battlefield through any material means. In conclusion: tabbat yada- abi lahab-in wa tab contains the prophecy that the world powers and their satellites which will wage war on the Muslims will face destruction and will be unable to wipe out Islam. His wealth and what he has earned shall avail him naught. The word ma in ma aghna can act both as a negative or an interrogative. As negative it would mean that the wealth of Abu- Lahab will not avail him, and as interrogative it would mean: of what use would be his wealth when it fails to protect him from destruction? This verse purports to say that these nations would generate great wealth through industrialisation and innovation. Furthermore they would invest their capital in other countries and on the pretext of engaging in trade would occupy SURAH AL-LAHAB 58 The Review of Religions – April 2006 them and appropriate their wealth. The expression used to describe wealth is maluhu, which signifies an abundance of wealth, meaning that even the enormity of their wealth will not save them. Ma- luhu is followed by ma kasaba which is wealth that is acquired. Hence their wealth would be divided into two parts: that generated through their own industry and the other acquired from other countries. This aptly describes the western nations of today which on the one hand have amassed enormous fortunes through industrialization, and on the other have invested heavily in other countries and through it have usurped their wealth and despoiled them of their resources or even occupied them in many cases. This verse also disproves the notion that Surah Al-Lahab is about Abd al’Uzza, the Holy Prophet’s(saw) uncle and his inveterate enemy and persecutor. As discussed Ma-louhu wa ma- kasaba implies enormous wealth, which Abd al’ Uzza did not possess. He was not considered among the wealthy of his times. Owning a few camels does not make one rich. These terms most appropriately describe the western nations of today whose claim to wealth is universally accepted. Some commentators have taken ma-kasaba to mean works, effort and offspring. In that sense these nations would boast of their innovation, industry and alliances, none of which would avail them at the time of disaster, instead these would be its very cause. Soon shall he burn in a flaming fire; In Arabic the word naar, literally meaning fire, can also be used for war. For example, in Ch.5:V.65 naar has been used together with war: Whenever the enemies of the Holy Prophet(saw) kindle a fire for war, Allah extinguishes it. Hence this verse would mean that the nations described as Abu-Lahab would get embroiled in a catastrophic war in which fire would be the primary agent of devastation and would be on a scale not seen before in history. This indicates the usage of nuclear weapons, which release enor- SURAH AL-LAHAB 59The Review of Religions – April 2006 mous heat and have the ability to scorch large areas. The Arabic letter seen on a verb indicates its proximity in time, whereas saufa indicates its remoteness. Here the seen in the verb sayasla signifying nearness in time, tells us that once the machinations of the enemies of Islam reach their high point it would not be long before they are thrust into the fire of war. We see that the western machinations against the Islamic world reached their zenith in 1914, which was quickly followed by war that lasted until 1918. The next war, which was related to the first, started in 1938 and extended until 1945. 1945 saw the use of the first atomic bomb, followed by the testing of the Hydrogen bomb bringing the world to the threshold of disaster. And his woman too who goes about carrying firewood. Imra’tun literally means a wife, but it can also be used for someone subordinate or submissive. In Ch.2:V36 Allah addresses Adam and says: Dwell thou and thy wife in the garden. There wife means not just his consort, but also his followers who were submissive to his wishes. Hence this verse tells us that the nations to whom the title of Abu-Lahab applies will have satellite countries acting as its hands and in addition they will have agents in other states which will coax and egg on their leaders to work against Muslims and break its power. They will help in propaganda and will incite them to war, in other words they will provide fuel for the fire. Round her neck will be a halter of twisted palm-fibre. Though apparently free, these nations will be enslaved to their respective political ideologies and systems that they will not be able to break away from them. Until God sets them free their state of bondage will continue. SURAH AL-LAHAB