Enemy of the Prophet (s)
|Full Name||'Abd al-'Uzza b. 'Abd al-Muttalib|
|Well-known Relatives||'Abd al-Muttalib (father), Abu Talib, Hamza (brother)|
|Place of Birth||Mecca|
|Place of Residence||Mecca|
ʿAbd al-ʿUzzā b. ʿAbd al-Muṭṭalib (Arabic: عَبْدالعُزّی بن عَبْدالمُطَّلِب, d. 2/624), known as Abū Lahab (Arabic: أبولَهَب), was a paternal uncle of the Prophet Muhammad (s) and one of his ardent enemies after the Bi'that. He and his wife, Umm Jamil, did everything in their power to persecute the Prophet (s) and obstruct his call to Islam. Sura al-Masad was revealed to reprimand him and his wife.
Because of his pretty, rosy face, his father 'Abd al-Muttalib called him "Abu Lahab" (possessor of flame). Abu Lahab and some other people stole a golden gazelle from the Ka'ba, but he escaped the punishment after the intercession of his maternal uncles from the Khuza'a tribe.
Abu Lahab's bondwoman, Thuwayba, breastfed the Prophet (s) for a while. 'Utba and 'Utayba, Abu Lahab's sons, married Ruqayya and Umm Kulthum, the daughters of the Prophet (s), but after the emergence of Islam and the revelation of Sura al-Masad, Abu Lahab and his wife forced their sons to divorce the Prophet's (s) daughters. Abu Lahab always believed that the Prophet's (s) miracles were merely magic. He tried to damage the Prophet's (s) reputation by mounting a relentless smear campaign thus interuppting the propagation of Islam. When the Quraysh decided to ban the Muslims and the Banu Hashim, he was the only person from Banu Hashim who supported the Quraysh. Abu Lahab was among the heads of the Quraysh who planned to assassinate the Prophet (s) overnight while he was asleep.
After the Prophet's (s) Hijra (migration), Abu Lahab did not attend the Battle of Badr against the Prophet (s), but he sent another person in his stead. Abu Lahab died of a disease, seven days after the Battle of Badr.
Teknonym and Lineage
'Abd al-'Uzza b. 'Abd al-Muttalib's teknonym was Abu 'Utba at first, but his father, 'Abd al-Muttalib, called him "Abu Lahab" because of his pretty, rosy face. His mother, Lubna, was a daughter of Hajar b. 'Abd Manaf from the Khuza'a tribe. Abu Lahab was Lubna's only child. He was considered as a pretty man of the Quraysh although he was cross-eyed.
Before the Bi'that
Very little is known about Abu Lahab's life before the emergence of Islam, but the second verse of Sura al-Masad ('His wealth will not avail him or that which he gained') implies that he was, just like other people of the Quraysh, engaged in business and had gained a wealth.
Abu Lahab and some other people stole a golden gazelle endowed to the Ka'ba by 'Abd al-Muttalib. When the thieves were arrested, the hands of some of them were amputated as a punishment, but Abu Lahab's maternal uncles from the Khuza'a tribe did not let his hands be amputated.
Before Halima al-Sa'diyya, Thuwayba, Abu Lahab's bondwoman, breastfed the Prophet (s) for a while. The Prophet (s) wanted to buy Thuwayba from Abu Lahab in order to emancipate her, but Abu Lahab did not agree. After the Prophet's (s) migration to Medina, Abu Lahab himself emancipated Thuwayba.
Just before his death, 'Abd al-Muttalib gathered his children and recommended them to undertake the custody of Muhammad (s). When Abu Lahab volunteered for the task, 'Abd al-Muttalib told him: "you just do not be wicked to him!" He gave the custody of the Prophet (s) to Abu Talib.
From the Bi'that to Hijra
After the Bi'that of the Prophet (s), Abu Lahab turned into one of the most ardent enemies of the Prophet (s). He is known in the history of the early Islam for his enmity to the Prophet (s). Abu Lahab served the idol, 'Uzza. It is narrated that he said: "if 'Uzza wins, then I am its servant, and if Muhammad wins, which he will not, he is the son of my brother."
Persecution of the Prophet (s) and Obstruction of the Propagation of Islam
When al-Indhar Verse was revealed, the Prophet (s) was commissioned by God to begin his public call to Islam from his own relatives. He invited the children of 'Abd al-Muttalib to his house. Although there was little food there, everyone ate and was fed. Abu Lahab said that this was a magic by Muhammad (s). Thus, the Prophet (s) did not say anything and postponed his public call to another day.
The Prophet (s) said that his house was located between the worst neighbors: 'Uqba b. Abi Mu'ayt and Abu Lahab, who threw dirt and garbage into his house.
Sometimes when the Prophet (s) was calling a group of people to Islam, Abu Lahab and al-'Abbas went to them and said: "our nephew is a liar; do not let him mislead you from your religion." During the hajj season, the Prophet (s) went to groups of people who had come to visit Mecca and called them to Islam, but people of the Quraysh went to them and tried to defame the Prophet (s). The most serious among them was Abu Lahab. Abu Lahab chased the Prophet (s) and threw stones at him such that his feet bled, and called him a liar. Once the Prophet (s) was in the state of sujud (prostration) when Abu Lahab lifted a stone to hit it on the Prophet's (s) head, but his hands suddenly froze and he failed to move them. He begged the Prophet (s) to help him out of that condition. When the Prophet (s) helped him, Abu Lahab said that this was only a magic.
When the Quraysh boycotted the Prophet (s), the Muslims, and Banu Hashim in Shi'b Abi Talib, Abu Lahab cooperated with the Quraysh, although he was from Banu Hashim. He stamped the Boycott Treaty against Muslims and Banu Hashim.
Cases in which He Supported the Prophet (s)
In one case, the people of the Quraysh objected to Abu Talib's support of a Muslim, but Abu Lahab supported him and threatened that he would accompany Abu Talib. His response pleased Abu Talib and he tried to call him to support Islam by composing some poems. The heads of polytheists made plans to kill the Prophet (s) and they did not share their plan with Abu Lahab in the fear that he would oppose them. On the day when the plan was supposed to be executed, Abu Talib sent Ali (a) to Abu Lahab to inform him about the plan to kill the Prophet (s). Abu Lahab angrily went to the heads of polytheists and prohibited them from doing so. He swore to Lat and 'Uzza that he would convert to Islam. Thus, the heads of polytheists apologized to him and cancelled their plan.
According to Sunni sources, after the death of Abu Talib and Khadija, the Quraysh unprecedently increased their persecution of the Prophet (s), and when Abu Lahab learned about this, he said he had not abandoned 'Abd al-Muttalib's religion, but he nonetheless supported his nephew. However, when he learned about the Prophet's (s) belief that 'Abd al-Muttalib and his fellows were in Fire, he began to persecute the Prophet (s). However, the Shiite scholars reject this story because they believe that the Prophet's (s) ancestors were not polytheists.
The Plot of Assassinating the Prophet (s)
After the death of Abu Talib, Abu Lahab was one of the people who plotted to assassinate the Prophet (s) overnight. When they wanted to choose someone from the Quraysh tribes to collaborate in the assassination of the Prophet (s), Abu Lahab, from Banu Hashim, volunteered. When they intended to raid the Prophet's (s) house overnight, Abu Lahab dissuaded them from doing so, since "if women and children are hurt in the darkness, the shame will be with us forever among Arabs." Thus, the raid was postponed to the morning.
After the Hijra
Abu Lahab did not attend the Battle of Badr against the Prophet (s). According to some sources, this was because of his illness. According to other sources, it was because of a dream dreamt by 'Atika bt. 'Abd al-Muttalib prognosticating the defeat of the Meccan army. He sent 'As b. Hisham b. Mughira in his stead: 'As he had a debt to Abu Lahab; Abu Lahab forgave his debt in exchange for going to the battle in his place. When Abu Sufyan b. Harith gave the news of angels helping the Muslims in the battle to Abu Lahab and other Meccans, Abu Rafi', al-'Abbas b. 'Abd al-Muttalib's slave who was a Muslim, expressed his happiness. Abu Lahab knocked him to the ground and began to beat him. However, Umm al-Fadl, al-'Abbas's wife, defended Abu Rafi' by beating a wooden stick on Aby Lahab's head, leaving a deep wound on his head.
In the Qur'an
When the Prophet (s) began his public call to Islam, he invited the tribes of the Quraysh and warned them to beware of the divine punishment and called them to believe in monotheism, Abu Lahab cursed the Prophet (s) by saying "may you be ruined" (tabban laka). Then Sura al-Masad was revealed: "may the hands of Abu Lahab be ruined, and ruined is he." There are other accounts of the occasion of the revelation of this Sura as well. After the revelation of the Sura, Abu Lahab lived for over 10 years without converting to Islam. He died a polytheist. This is one of the divinations and miracles of the Qur'an.
There are different accounts of why Abu Lahab is mentioned in the Sura with his teknonym, where using a teknonym to refer to someone implied respect:
- He was usually known with his teknonym, and thus, no respect is implied by referring to him with his teknonym.
- "Abu Lahab" was his name, and not his teknonym.
- Since his name was "'Abd al-'Uzza" (the servant of 'Uzza—the idol), God did not want to refer to him as the servant of 'Uzza, even if it was his name.
- According to another verse of this Sura, "He will [enter to] burn in a Fire of [blazing] flame (lahab)", and the "lahab" in this verse fits the "lahab" in his teknonym. Thus, the use of his teknonym is intended to humiliate him.
Abu Lahab is also mentioned in the exegeses of other verses of the Qur'an. He was one of the people who mocked the Prophet (s), where God promised the Prophet (s) in verse 95 of Sura al-Hijr to help him against them. It is said that the verse 19 of Sura al-Zumar, "is one who has deserved the decree of punishment [to be guided]?", is concerned with Abu Lahab, his son, and other relatives of the Prophet (s) who did not believe in him. In the exegesis of the verse 22 of Sura al-Zumar, it is said that the phrase, "one whose breast Allah has expanded to [accept] Islam and he is upon a light from his Lord", refers to Hamza b. 'Abd al-Muttalib and Ali (a), and the phrase, "woe to those whose hearts are hardened against the remembrance of Allah", refers to Abu Lahab and his sons. It is reported that in a gathering by the heads of polytheists to make a decision for counteracting the Prophet's (s) call, Abu Lahab said: "I will accuse Muhammad of being a poet." It was on this occasion that the verse 41 of Sura al-Haqqa was revealed: "and it is not the word of a poet."
Abu Lahab died seven days after the Battle of Badr with a disease called "'adasa" (a malignant ulcer). For the fear of the transmission of his disease to others, his corpse was left on the ground for a few days until it stank. After that, his corpse was put outside Mecca near a wall, and it was covered by stones thrown from a distance.
Ibn Batuta has referred to Abu Lahab and his wife's graves to which pedestrians threw stones.
Reasons for his Enmity with Islam
There are a number of reasons for Abu Lahab's enmity with the Prophet (s):
- Rivalry with Abu Talib: after the death of 'Abd al-Muttalib, Abu Talib became the head of Banu Hashim and he supported the Prophet (s). According to historical accounts, Abu Lahab and Abu Talib were not on good terms.
- Bias and tribal prejudices: his wife, Umm Jamil the daughter of Harb, was Abu Sufyan's sister from the Banu Umayya. Thus, Abu Lahab supported Banu Umayya. Moreover, his mother was from the Khuza'a tribe which was hostile to the Quraysh.
- Fear from fighting with other Arabs: Abu Lahab believed that the acceptance of Islam amounted to a declaration of a war with all the Arabs.
Wife and Children
Umm Jamil was Abu Lahab's wife. She was the daughter of Harb b. Umayya and the sister of Abu Sufyan. She did everything she could to persecute the Prophet (s).
Abu Lahab had three sons: 'Utba, Mu'attib, and 'Utayba. And he had daughters called "Durra", "'Izza" and "Khalida."
'Utba and 'Utayba married Ruqayya and Umm Kulthum, the daughters of the Prophet (s). After the revelation of Sura al-Masad, Abu Lahab and Umm Jamil forced their sons to divorce the Prophet's (s) daughters.
There is a story about 'Utba according to which he mistreated the Prophet (s) and so, the Prophet (s) cursed him. In a business trip, he was killed by a lion overnight while he was asleep among other people in the caravan, without anybody else being hurt. It is said that the story was about 'Utayba or Lahab b. Abi Lahab. 'Utba and Mu'attib converted to Islam after the Conquest of Mecca and attended the battles of Hunayn and Ta'if. They were among the few people who did not leave the Prophet (s) alone in the Battle of Hunayn.
Durra, the daughter of Abu Lahab, transmitted a hadith from the Prophet (s). When Durra complained to the Prophet (s) about women in Medina who mocked her, the Prophet (s) prohibited them from doing so.
- The material for writing this article has been mainly taken from ابولهب in Farsi wikishia.