Alḥamdulillāh… All thanks and praise are due to the Almighty Allah. I send blessings and peace upon Ḥabībī Muḥammad, his household, his companions and all those who follow his guided path, till the Day of Judgement.
This article aims to distinguish between Abū Lahab and Abū Jahl, the two men who lived their lives in the highest level of brutality, hostility and detestation against Islam. They did all it took to see the downfall of Islam, but Allāh’s plans have always been that, which can never be changed by any of His servants.
The importance of writing about these bullies is to re-present them, and by doing so, we revisit the struggles of the Prophet and his followers of the early days of Islam in their hands and the hands of other oppressors. We are also able to easily find wise approach in dealing with tyrants of our time.
Abū Lahab’s Relationship to the Prophet
Abū Lahab was a direct paternal uncle to the Prophet, ṣallā Allāhu ʾalaihi wa sallam. The Prophet’s father, Abdullāh and Abū Lahab were from the same father, Abdul-Muṭṭalib but from different mothers. His real name was ʾAbdul-ʾUzzā bin ʾAbdul-Muṭṭalib. His people (before Islam) called him Abū ʾUtbah, as ʾUtbah was his first son’s name. He was also called “Abū Lahab” (the father of flame) for his reddish complexion and hot, fiery temper.
Abū Jahl’s Relationship to the Prophet
Abū Jahl, on the other hand, was a cousin to the Prophet’s father, and he was therefore an indirect paternal uncle. His real name was ʾAmr Ibn Hishām. He used to be known as Abū al-Ḥakam (father of wisdom) until the Prophet ṣallā Allāhu ʾalaihi wa sallam replaced that with Abū Jahl (father of ignorance) for him. He was called so (Abū al-Ḥakam) because he was an intelligent, eloquent, wise and above all influential. But since all those qualities didn’t guide him to overcome his arrogance and to accept the truth of Islam, he deserved being called Abū Jahl. He was significantly influential that the Prophet, ṣallā Allāhu ʾalaihi wa sallam, prayed to Allāh to strengthen and support Islam with (the conversion of) one of the two ʾUmars; ʾUmar ibn al-Khaṭṭāb and ʾAmr ibn Hishām. And ʾUmar ibn al-Khaṭṭāb happened to be the lucky guy. In other words, if Abū Jahl happened to be the lucky guy, he would have had the weight and value of ʾUmar ibn al-Khaṭṭāb in Islam! So, don’t be surprised to see his actions and ideas to be very destructive in the opposite direction, towards Islam.
Who between the Two Got Mentioned in the Qur’an?
Abū Lahab got mentioned (by name) in the Qurʿān, The whole of Sūrah al-Masad was dedicated for (against) him and his wife, Ummu Jamīl. I think he was directly mentioned in the Qurʿān because he was more outgoing and dared to openly carry out wild attacks against the Prophet, ṣallā Allāhu ʾalaihi wa sallam despite their close kinship.
Despite being the influential he used to be, Abū Jahl didn’t get mentioned (by name) in the Qurʿān, not even for the bad reason. Perhaps, this was because he was more a foxlike and would conspire the attacks against the Prophet, rather than carry them out personally. A like of this man is the head of the hypocrites in Madīnah, ʾAbdullāh ibn Ubay ibn Salūl. He had a hand in every major conspiracy that transpired in Madīnah, but he left no physical race in all that. Such was the life of Abū Jahl. However, the last 10 verses of Sūrah al-ʾAlaq all refer to Abī Jahl.
What the Two Have in Common?
The two men had one thing in common; hatred for the Prophet, and thus they went the extra mile they could to tarnish his image or get him killed. To achieve their goals, they ganged up as allies and associates. Together, they organized the three-year economic and social sanction against the Muslims in Makkah. The boycott banned any trade or any contract of marriage between the Muslims and idolaters. This has resulted to the death of some of the elderly and the very young among the followers of the Prophet, ṣallā Allāhu ʾalaihi wa sallam.
The Quraish once planned to kill the Prophet, ṣallā Allāhu ʾalaihi wa sallam. Knowing who Muḥammad was and the status of his clan, they decided to bring one man from every Arab tribe, to collectively kill Muḥammad. That way, Banu Hāshim, the Prophet family can’t fight all the Arabs together, in revenge for the blood of Muḥammad. You guessed right; Abū Lahab and Abū Jahl’s names were among the selected men for that evil mission.
As a result of this other evil conducts, the two men shall be united in hell for the same reason they allied in this life. May Allah protect us from the torment of hell.
Their Honest Opinions About the Qur’an and the Prophet
As much as Abū Lahab and Abū Jahl developed hatred against the Prophet for being the chosen Prophet, they admitted to his honesty, trustworthiness and social good conduct. This tells us both tyrants did not reject Muhammad and his message because they had issues with his integrity or didn’t have the caliber of a prophet. In fact, they rejected him because the message he came with was not descended through them or any of their children. In other words, if Muhammad was a direct son to Abū Lahab or Abū Jahl, he would have not been treated the way they did. Unfortunately, because Allāh did what He willed, they staged unbearable evil against him, even more than outsiders could do.
Abu Lahab ordered two of his sons, ʾUtbah, and ʾUtaibah, who were marrying two daughters of the Prophet, ṣallā Allāhu ʾalaihi wa sallam, to divorce them. This action was one of those that had great emotional impact on the Prophet, the Father. But later 3 of his 7 children, ʾUtbah (son), Muʾtab (son) and Durah (daughter), embraced Islam. His wife, Ummu Jamīl collected and carried thorns, scrub and pieces of wood to scatter and make fire on the ways that the Prophet was likely to take. In those days, carrying firewood was a type of work done only by servants and slaves. But the hatred and enmity this lady developed towards the Prophet didn’t stop her to disregard her pride in her high rank and do that. In the process of doing that, Ummu Jamīl took the delight in putting the rope of twisted palm fibre around her neck with which she carried thorns and wood on her back to use against the Prophet. As a reward, she shall be worn with a rope of twisted fibre around her neck, in the hellfire.
Abu Jahl on the other hand admired the Qur’an because it touched his high taste of the Arabic eloquence, to the extent that, despite the enmity he staged against the Prophet, he went, under the cover of darkness, to overhear the Prophet’s recitation of the Qurʿān. Two of his children, Ikrimah (son) and Juwairiyyah (daueghter) accepted Islam.
How Abū Lahab Died
Abu Lahab died a week after the battle of Badr due to a struck in the head, which he received from Umm al-Faḍl. How and why?
Abu Lahab was absent from the Battle of Badr. He was sitting in a large tent near the Kaʾbah when the news of the battle was brought to him. He was told how “men in white with turbans on multicolored horses between heaven and earth” had helped the Muslims and fought against the unbelievers. Upon hearing that, he was greatly shaken. Ummu al-Faḍl, Al-ʾAbbās’ wife, and Abū Rafiʾ, Al-ʾAbbās’ slave, were among those who listened to the same news in the corner of the tent. They were both Muslims who had kept their Islam secret from all but a few. Al-ʾAbbās and Abū Lahab were brothers, therefore he was the Prophet’s uncle and Ummu al-Faḍl was an aunty to the Prophet and a sister in-law to Abū Lahab. The news was too exciting for Abu Rafi’ not to celebrate, so he couldn’t contain himself for joy at the news of the Prophet’s victory. He shouted: By Allāh, those were the angels! An impulse of insanity seized Abū Lahab who struck Abu Rafi’ in the face, bore him to the ground, knelt over him and struck him repeatedly.
Ummu al-Faḍl couldn’t stand it! She took up a wooden pole used to reinforce the tent posts, and brought it down with all her strength on Abū Lahab’s head, heavily wounding him. She then said in tears: Will you treat him as of no account, because his master is away and cannot protect him? Since she was his sister-in-law, Abū Lahab did not say anything to her and went home directly. His wound did not heal, but instead continued to rot. As a result of this blow and psychological impact of Muḥammad’s victory, he was infected with a disease called ʾadasa (black measles), at that time considered to be more deadly than plague. His wealth, his position, or his children were of no avail. Even his own wife and the children, of whom he had always boasted, abandoned him. His whole body was covered with rotten boils. After struggling in pain for a week, he died with no one to attend his deathbed. No one came to remove his dead body from the house until, eventually, his embarrassed relatives hired some Bedouins from the desert, and had them take the rotten corpse out, throw it to a pit and pile some stones on it. That was how Abū Lahab ended. What about his good friend?
How Abu Jahl Died
As a sign of humiliation in this life before the hereafter, Abū Jahl was killed in the battle of Badr, by two kids of al-Anṣār called Muʾādh ibn Afrā and Muʾādh ibn ʾAmr ibn Jamūḥ. Both kids were from farming families. This profession was looked down upon by Quraish.
Just as Allāh got a lame mosquito to cause the destruction of Namrood, so too did He got two little boys to cause the destruction of Abū Jahl. The duo Muʾādh attacked him making him fall onto the ground, and cut his legs. He was unable to move but still he was conscious enough to see and feel his disgrace. Abū Jahl was eventually beheaded by ʾAbdullah ibn Masʾūd who was poor and weak and belonged to an inferior tribe.
When the battle of Badr came to an end, Sayyidunā ʾAbdullah ibn Masʾūd, raḍiya Allāhu ʾanhu saw Abū Jahl taking his last breath and started to strike his head with his blunt sword, which made him loosen his hold on his sword, so he took it from him. As he was dying, Abū Jahl moved his head up and asked ibn Masʾūd, “Who won the battle?” Ibn Masʾūd answered, “Allāh and His Messenger.” Then ibn Masʾūd shook his beard and said, “Praise be to Allāh who disgraced you, O enemy of Allāh!” He then removed his helmet and swung a heavy blow to his neck with his own sword separating his head from his body.
Ibn Masʾūd then removed his weapons and armour, and took his head to the Prophet, ṣallā Allāhu ʾalaihi wa sallam, and said: “Yā Rasūlallā! Here is the head of Abū Jahl”. The Prophet, ṣallā Allāhu ʾalaihi wa sallam said three times, “Alḥadulillāh who has glorified Islam and the Muslims.” Then he prostrated to thank Allāh and said, “Every Ummah has a Firʾaun (Pharaoh), and the Firʾaun of this Ummah is Abū Jahl.”
With that Abū Jahl was the worst enemy of Islam and the Prophet. Even after his legs had been cut, his whole body was bleeding, and he was on the edge of his death, he could still stare at ʾAbdullah ibn Masʾūd and say, “Tell your Prophet that I have hated him all my life, and even now, the fire of hatred is burning fiercely in my heart.” When ʾAbdullāh ibn Masʾūd told the Prophet, what Abū Jahl said, the Prophet said, “I am the most honourable and glorious of all the Prophets, my Ummah is the greatest of all the Ummahs, and the Firʾaun of my Ummah is also the most stone-hearted and cruel of all other Firʾauns.
When the Firʾaun of Mūsā, ʾalaihi al-Salām was surrounded by the tall waves of the red sea, he said, “I believed, that there is no true deity except He in whom the children of Israel believed, and I am among the Muslims” [See Sūrah Yūnus, 10:90]. But the enmity and hatred of Abū Jahl further strengthened instead of coming to an end at the time of his death.
The story of personal issues between Abū Jahl and ʾAbdullāh ibn Masʾūd started when the latter embraced Islam. Abū Jahl used to swear at him, grab him by his hair and slap his face but he was not able to react. Therefore, the day of Badr, was just the perfect opportunity, which Allāh gave to Ibn Masʾūd take revenge. Thus, he mounted the chest of Firʾaun, kicked his head, trampled him beneath his feet, withdrew his sword from him and slew his head with it.
Both Abū Lahab and Abū Jahl had blood kinship with the Prophet, ṣallā Allāhu ʾalaihi wa sallam, yet they staged that amount of enmity and harm against Islam and the Prophet. Thus, they were mentioned in the Qurʿān, for us to learn and take note; that we don’t go to God with our kinship. We rather meet Him with our righteous heed. Among other lessons we also learn is that, no matter how hard conspirers conspire against Islam, the chosen religion of God, they can’t stop its light from spreading. And they shall end up in the same fate as Abū Lahab and Abū Jahl.
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Allāh knows best.
Allāhu Ḥāfiẓ 🙂