Surah Al-Masad

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The Palm Fibre


Name of Chapter and Reason for its Name

The two names that are mentioned for this chapter are: ‘tabbat’ (perish) and ‘masad’ (palm fibre). Both of these names have been cited in the chapter itself. The chapter threatens and reprimands Abu Lahab (the uncle of the Prophet) and his wife for the fierce enmity that they had for the Prophet of Islam. [1]

Chapter Number

Surah Al-Masad is the 111th chapter of the Quran, and it comes after Surah Al-Nasr.

Number of Verses

This chapter contains 5 verses.

Place of Revelation

This chapter was revealed in Mecca. [2]


About Abu Lahab and his wife Abu Lahab was one of the uncles of the Messenger of Allah. His name was Abd al-Uzza ibn Abd al-Muttalib and his title was Abu Utaybah. He was called Abu Lahab because of the brightness of his face, and it is said that his cheeks would glow like the flames of a bright fire. He would often cause harm to the Prophet of Islam, and he hated and scorned him and his religion. [3] Abu Lahab’s wife was Umm Jameel - who was the daughter of Harb and the sister of Abu Sufyaan. [4]

Central Theme of this Chapter

This chapter has been revealed about Abu Lahab and his wife. It reprimands them for their enmity towards the Prophet, their refusal to accept his message and Prophethood, and their constant efforts to persecute him. Moreover, this chapter promises eternal damnation for the two of them.

Important Concepts in this Chapter

Verses 1 – 3

Cursing Abu Lahab, the infidel uncle of the Prophet, the futility of his wealth and his end.

Verse 1: “Perish the two hands of Abu Lahab and perish he!”

تَبَّتْ يَدَا أَبِي لَهَبٍ وَتَبَّ١

Abu Lahab has been cursed in the beginning of this chapter and the Quran considers him worthy of loss and ruin, and his actions against the Prophet of God will be fruitless and will bring eternal damnation for him. [5]

Verse 2: “Neither his wealth availed him, nor what he had earned.”

مَا أَغْنَى عَنْهُ مَالُهُ وَمَا كَسَبَ٢

Abu Lahab’s wealth and actions were of no benefit to him, and Allah’s mercy did not embrace him which resulted in his ruin and devastation. [5] [4]

Verse 3 “He shall roast in a flaming fire.”

سَيَصْلَى نَارًا ذَاتَ لَهَبٍ٣

His end will be to burn in the eternally blazing Hell-fire.

Verses 4 – 5

Explain the end of Abu Lahab’s wife and her chastisement

وَامْرَأَتُهُ حَمَّالَةَ الْحَطَبِ٤ فِي جِيدِهَا حَبْلٌ مِنْ مَسَدٍ٥

In verses 4 and 5, Abu Lahab’s wife is addressed as someone who deserves eternal punishment in the flaming fire just like her husband.

Verse 4: “And his wife (too, shall roast in the flaming fire), the firewood carrier.” [4]

وَامْرَأَتُهُ حَمَّالَةَ الْحَطَبِ٤

She is introduced as the firewood carrier of the hell-fire. It appears that the Quran wants to convey that Abu Lahab’s wife will soon appear in the same shape on the Day of Judgement that she had adopted in this world. Just like she used to collect thorns and fire-wood, tie them with a rope and then carry them on her shoulders in order to spread these in the darkness of the night in the Prophet’s way to hurt him, she will be raised on the Day of Judgement in a similar state having a rope around her neck and carrying fire-wood on her back.

Verse 5: “With a rope of palm fibre around her neck.” [6] فِي جِيدِهَا حَبْلٌ مِنْ مَسَدٍ٥

The fact that Abu Lahab’s wife has been introduced with this attribute is to debase and humiliate her. [7]

Discussions on this Chapter

According to the Sunni Traditions

Benefits of Reciting this Surah

عن رسول اللّه صلی اللّه علیه و آله سلم: «من قرأ سورة تبت رجوت أن لا یجمع اللّه بینه و بین أبی لهب فی دار واحدة».

It has been narrated from the Holy Prophet that: “A person who recites Surah al-Tabbat, I am positive that Allah will not unite him and Abu Lahab in one abode.” (Meaning that this person will be taken to Paradise, whereas Abu Lahab will be doomed in the Hell-fire.) [8]

Revelation of this Surah

حدثنا محمد بن سلام، حدثنا أبو معاویة، حدثنا الأعمش عن عمرو بن مرة عن سعید بن جبیر عن ابن عباس: «أن النبی صلّی اللّه علیه و سلّم خرج إلی البطحاء فصعد الجبل فنادی: «یا صباحاه» فاجتمعت إلیه قریش فقال: «أرأیتم إن حدثتکم أن العدو مصبحکم أو ممسیکم أ کنتم تصدقونی؟- قالوا: نعم، قال:- فإنی نذیر لکم بین یدی عذاب شدید فقال أبو لهب: أ لهذا جمعتنا؟ تبّا لک فأنزل اللّه: تَبَّتْ یدا أَبِی لَهَبٍ وَ تَبَّ إلی آخرها.»

It has been narrated from Ibn Abbas that the Prophet of Islam went to the valley of Batha, and after climbing a mountain he called out: ‘Ya Sabahah!’ (‘O Morning!’) (This sentence is uttered by the Arabs when they are the subject of an unexpected attack. In order to mount an effective resistance and inform all of those around them, they would shout ‘O Sabahah!’ which literally means ‘O Morning!’ The word morning was probably chosen to signify that unexpected attacks would usually take place in the early morning.’) As a result the Quraysh gathered around him. He said: “If I told you all that the enemy was going to attack you in the morning, or in the evening, would you believe me?” They replied in the affirmative. Upon hearing this the Prophet continued: “Verily, I am a warner (sent) to you all before the coming of a severe torment.” Then Abu Lahab said, “Have you gathered us only for this. May you perish!” (تبّا لک) Thus, Allah revealed the verses: “Perish the two hands of Abu Lahab and perish he!” («تَبَّتْ یدا أَبِی لَهَبٍ وَ تَبَّ») to the end of this chapter. [9]

Abu Lahab’s slander against the Prophet

حدثنا إبراهیم بن أبی العباس، حدثنا عبد الرّحمن بن أبی الزناد عن أبیه قال: «أخبرنی رجل یقال له ربیعة بن عباد من بنی الدیل و کان جاهلیا فأسلم قال: رأیت النبی صلّی اللّه علیه و سلّم فی الجاهلیة فی سوق ذی المجاز و هو یقول: «یا أیها الناس قولوا لا إله إلا اللّه تفلحوا» و الناس مجتمعون علیه و وراءه رجل وضی‌ء الوجه أحول ذو غدیرتین یقول: إنه صابئ کاذب، یتبعه حیث ذهب، فسألت عنه فقالوا هذا عمه أبو لهب.»

It has been narrated to us by Ibrahim ibn Abu al-Abbas who recorded it from Abd al-Rahman ibn Abu al-Zinad who narrated from his father that: “A man called Rabiah ibn Abbad from the tribe of Bani al-Dil, who was a man of pre-Islamic ignorance who accepted Islam, told me, ‘I saw the Prophet in the time of pre-Islamic ignorance in the market of Dhu al-Majaz and he was saying: ‘O people! Say there is no god worthy of worship except Allah and you will be successful.’ The people were gathered around him and behind him there was a man with a bright face, squint eyes and two braids in his hair. He was saying, ‘Verily, he is an apostate (from our religion) and a liar!’ This man was following him (the Prophet) around wherever he went. Thus I asked about him and the people said, ‘This is his uncle, Abu Lahab.’’” [10]

According to the Shia Traditions

Persecution of the Prophet by the wife of Abu Lahab

وَ فی روایة الضحاک قَالَ الربیع بْن أَنَس : «کانت تبث وَ تَنْشُرُ الشوک علی طریق الرَّسُولِ فیطأه کما یطأ أحدکم الحریر.»

It has been narrated by Dahhak that Rabi ibn Anas said: “She would disperse thorns on the path of the Prophet. As a result, the Prophet would step on these thorns the way one of you steps on silk.” [4]

عَن ابْنِ عَبَّاسٍ : «أَنَّهَا کانت تمشی بالنمیمة بین النَّاسِ فتلقی بینهم الْعَدَاوَةَ وَ تُوقَدُ نارها بالتهییج کما تُوقَدُ النَّارُ الْحَطَبَ فسمی النمیمة حطبا.»

It has been narrated from Ibn Abbas that: “She would act as a talebearer and light the fire of hatred and enmity among people in the same way that fire lights wood. Thus, talebearers (al-namimah) were called wood (hatab).” [4]

The end of Abu Lahab’s wife

وَ عَنِ ابْنِ عَبَّاسٍ «فِی عُنُقِهَا سِلْسِلَةٌ مِنْ حَدِیدٍ طولها سَبْعُونَ ذِراعاً تَدْخُلُ مِنْ فیها وَ تَخْرُجُ مِنْ دُبُرِهَا وَ تُدَارُ عَلَی عُنُقِهَا فِی النَّارِ.»

It has been narrated from Ibn Abbas and Urwah ibn Zubayr that: “There will be an iron chain in the neck of Umm Jameel whose length will be 70 cubits. It will enter through her mouth and come out from behind her and will be wrapped around her neck in fire.’ [4] The efforts of Umm Jameel against the Prophet

و فی تفسیر القمی: "فی قوله تعالی: «وَ امْرَأَتُهُ حَمَّالَةَ الْحَطَبِ» قَالَ: کانَتْ أُمُّ جَمِیلٍ بِنْتُ صَخْرٍ، وَ کانَتْ تَنِمُ عَلَی رَسُولِ اللَّهِ ص وَ تَنْقُلُ أَحَادِیثَهُ إِلَی الْکفَّار."

In the exegesis of verse 4 of this surah: ‘And his wife (too), the firewood carrier’, Tafseer al-Qummi mentions that the Imam said: “Umm Jameel was the daughter of Sakhr, who acted as a talebearer against the Prophet, and would narrate his sayings for the unbelievers.” [11]


  1. Fadhl ibn Hasan Tabrisi, Majma al-Bayan fi Tafsir al-Quran, Volume 10 (Tehran: Nasir Khusrow Publications, 1993 C.E.), Page 852
  2. Ismail ibn Umar Ibn Kathir Damishqi, Tafsir al-Quran al-Azim, Volume 8 (Beirut: Dar al-Kutub al-Ilmiyyah, Muhammad Ali Baydoun Publications, 1998 C.E.), Page 485
  3. Ibid., Page 471
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 Tabrisi, Majma al-Bayan fi Tafsir al-Quran, Volume 10, Page 852
  5. 5.0 5.1 Sayyid Muhammad Husayn Tabatabai, Al-Mizan fi Tafsir al-Quran, Volume 20 (Qum: Daftar-i Intisharat-i Islami Jamiah-yi Mudarrisin-i Hawzah-yi Ilmiyyah-yi Qum, 1996 C.E.), Page 384
  6. Tabatabai, Al-Mizan fi Tafsir al-Quran, incomplete
  7. Tabrisi, Majma al-Bayan fi Tafsir al-Quran, incomplete
  8. Mahmud Zamakhshari, Al-Kashshaf an Haqaiq Ghawamid al-Tanzil, Volume 4 (Beirut: Dar al-Kitab al-Arabi, 1987 C.E.), Page 817
  9. Ibn Kathir Damishqi, Tafsir al-Quran al-Azim, Volume 8, Page 485
  10. Ibid., Volume 8, Page 486
  11. Tabatabai, Al-Mizan fi Tafsir al-Quran, Volume 20, Page 387