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Neeraj Atri doesn't understand Quran: Surah Lahab - Meaning and Background

By Ghulam Ghaus Siddiqi, New Age Islam

21 April 2021

Most Of The People Overwhelmed By Envious Character And Deprived Of Enlightenment, Fail To Address The Self-Purification Of Hearts And Sincerity Of Intentions

Main Points:

1.    Neeraj Atri has doubts and questions about Islam.

2.    Despite the knowledge of the reality, people pretend to be unfamiliar with that reality.

3.    Deprived of the spiritual significance of Nature and beauty of knowledge.

4.    God Almighty Alone has taught the world what are actual ‘moral values’

A fellow citizen of our homeland called ‘Neeraj Atri’ has been repeatedly making video conversation on YouTube. From his videos, it appears that he has doubts and questions about Islam that we must answer politely if we can. He is using to study the several translations of the Quran. The kind of passion he has about knowing Islam, though with whatever intention, has made me write this article exclusively. In one of his videos (link given below), he has quoted the Hindi translation of Surah Al-Masad to support his conclusion that this Surah is an example of proving Islam to be bereft of moral values.

Most of the people, when overwhelmed by envious character and deprived of enlightenment, fail to address the self-purification of hearts and sincerity of intentions. Overloaded with the corruption of numerous whimsical ideas emanating from completely irrational arguments, their mentality then starts working just the opposite of nature. Cunning and deception become their business, never to meditate about the broad spectrum of human ethos, let alone talking about the claim over attaining the gnosis of God Almighty. Sometimes it happens to them that, despite the knowledge of the reality, they pretend to be unfamiliar with that reality, as a result of the worst tricks they play in company with their envious character that has brutally corrupted their mind and soul. Such people are always deprived of the spiritual significance of Nature and beauty of knowledge. I don’t mean by these words those who truly lack knowledge and confront with doubts and questions as the honest students do during their learning process, as the Quran has suggested those who do not know to ask those who know, in its divine words which translates as; “…Ask the people of Reminder if you do not know” (16:43)

I can’t write here what revolved around the mind of Mr Neeraj Atri but leave the matter up to your judgment, dear readers, when this fellow opined that “This Surah Al-Masad is an example of proving Islam to be bereft of moral values”. His opinion can’t stand before the divine speech revealed by the Creator of the World, Allah accepted as God Almighty among the followers of the Revealed Books, such as the Old Testaments, New Testaments and the Quran – the God Almighty Who Alone has taught the world what are actually ‘moral values’. After a short while, I will quote some of the divine words from the Quran that teach moral values.  

Before understanding the Surah Al-Masad, it should be known that moral values are the worthy principles that one follows to distinguish right from wrong. Anything right and distinguished from the wrong can be counted among moral values. Good against bad, truthfulness against falsehood, honesty against dishonesty, justice against injustice, mercy against cruelty, boycotting or eliminating oppression against supporting oppression over a religious minority, spreading truth against spreading a lie, supporting Truth (Haqq) against False (Baatil) are some examples among which the Right comes against the Wrong.

Now let us read the following translation of Surah Al-Masad and its background and distinguish the right from the wrong to check moral values.

“Ruined be the two hands of Abu Lahab, and be he ruined himself. Neither His (inherited) wealth nor his earned riches will give him any benefit. Soon he will [enter to] burn in the Flaming Fire, And his wife [as well] – who carries (on her head) the burden of (thorny) twigs. Around her neck is a rope of [twisted] fibre.”  (111:1-5)

Surah Al-Masad is believed to be one of the earliest Surahs revealed in Makkah. Abu Lahab was one of the ten uncles of the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him). His real name was Abdul Uzza. When the Holy Prophet announced his Prophethood, Abu Lahab and his wife were among his staunchest opponents. When the Quranic verse, “Warn your tribe of near kindred (26:214)” was revealed, Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) mounted the hill of Safa and invited several tribes of the Quraish, such as Banu Fahar, Banu Adi, etc by name. When they gathered, the Prophet asked them, “Will you people believe me if I told you that an army of horsemen was advancing to attack you from behind this mountain?”. They replied, “We shall certainly believe you. We have never known you to be untruthful”. The beloved Prophet then took the names of many relatives present and warned them about the life after death. He said, “I am warning you of a severe punishment (if you don’t believe in what I preach to you)”. Thereupon Abu Lahab said, “May you be ruined forever. Have you gathered us for this?”. It was then that Surah Masad also known as Surah Lahab was revealed, in which Allah says, “Ruined be the two hands of Abu Lahab, and be he ruined himself. Neither His (inherited) wealth nor his earned riches will give him any benefit”. (See, Sahih Bukhari, Kitab al-Tafsir, Surah Lahab/Masad).

Allama Qastalani has written in his commentary that Abu Lahab’s hands are mentioned here because he used hands to throw stones at the beloved Prophet (peace be upon him), causing his blessed heels to bleed.

Allah Almighty says in this Surah that Abu Lahab will be ruined before entering the flaming fire. This took place in this world when he developed a terrible disease of smallpox. The people were afraid that his disease might be contagious and they forced him to live in an isolated house. Thus Abu Lahab finally died in this state. His corpse lay untouched in the house for three days and eventually when people started taunting his sons, they managed to get someone to place his body against a wall. They then stoned the corpse until it crumbled and was buried beneath the stones. (Al-Bidaya wan Nihaya, v.3, p.309/ Anwarul Bayan, v.5, p.484)

Abu Lahab was extremely wealthy and proud of it. When the Prophet (peace be upon him) warned the Quraysh that they should save themselves from Hell by believing in what he preaches to them, Abu Lahab told the people that if he were ever to suffer punishment on account of his disbelief, he would ransom himself with his wealth. It was in response to that that Allah Almighty revealed the verse, “Neither His (inherited) wealth nor his earned riches will give him any benefit”. (111:2)

Allah Almighty also says, “Soon he will [enter to] burn in the Flaming Fire, And his wife [as well]” (111:3). The name of Abu Lahab’s wife was Arwa, commonly known as Umm Jamil. She used to vehemently oppose the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him). She always thought of harming the Prophet (peace be upon him). One of the worst acts was that she used to collect thorny twigs and spread them in the way of Our Beloved, to injure the holy soles of his feet. This was in response to these harmful acts perpetrated by Abu Lahab’s wife that Allah Almighty described her as a resident of the Hell in company with Abu Lahab, as the Quran says, “Soon he will [enter to] burn in the Flaming Fire, And his wife [as well] – who carries (on her head) the burden of (thorny) twigs, Around her neck is a rope of [twisted] fibre (that she used to bind the bunch of thorny twigs)” (111:3-5).

The verses of Surah Lahab or Surah Masad are the divine speech of God Almighty, which were revealed in response to the harmful deeds, enmity and hatred perpetrated by Abu Lahab and his wife. God Almighty has done justice and distinguished the Right from the wrong, by revealing these verses against these culprits. The point to note is that the Prophet himself did not punish Abu Lahab or his wife, but it was God Almighty Who punished them in this world too.

As for the teachings of moral values in the Quran and Ahadith, they are thousands in numbers. Some of them are as follows;

Be Good To Others

“Worship Allah and associate nothing with Him, and to parents do good, and to relatives, orphans, the needy, the near neighbour, the neighbour farther away, the companion at your side, the traveller, and those whom your right hands possess. Indeed, Allah does not like those who are self-deluding and boastful” (4:36)

Do Not Be Arrogant

“[Allah] said, "Descend from Paradise, for it is not for you to be arrogant therein. So get out; indeed, you are of the debased.” (7:13)

Do Not Ridicule Others

“O People who Believe! Men must not ridicule other men for it could be that the ridiculed are better than the mockers, nor must the women ridicule other women for the ridiculed women maybe better than the mockers; do not insult one another, nor assign evil nicknames; how base it is to be called a sinner after being a Muslim! And whoever does not repent – then it is they who are unjust.” (49:11)

Treat the Parents With Kindness

“And your Lord has ordained that you do not worship anyone except Him and treat your parents with kindness; if either of them or both reach old age in your presence, do not say “Uff”* to them and do not rebuff them and speak to them with the utmost respect. (* Any expression of disgust)” (17:23)

Forgive Others For Their Mistakes

“And adopt forgiveness, and enjoin virtue, and turn away from the ignorant.” (7:199)

Lower Your Voice

“And be moderate in your pace and lower your voice; indeed, the most disagreeable of sounds is the voice of donkeys.” (31:19)

Do Not Be Rude In Speech

Allah Almighty says, “So by mercy from Allah, [O Muhammad], you were lenient with them. And if you had been rude [in speech] and harsh in heart, they would have disbanded from about you. So pardon them and ask forgiveness for them and consult them in the matter. And when you have decided, then rely upon Allah. Indeed, Allah loves those who rely on [Him]” (3:159)

Do Not Engage In Bribery

“And do not consume one another's wealth unjustly or send it [in bribery] to the rulers so that [they might aid] you [to] consume a portion of the wealth of the people in sin, while you know [it is unlawful]” (2:188)

Do Not Mix the Truth with Falsehood

“And do not mix the truth with falsehood or conceal the truth while you know [it].” (2:42)

Stand Out Firmly For Justice

“O you who have believed, be persistently standing firm in justice, witnesses for Allah, even if it be against yourselves or parents and relatives. Whether one is rich or poor, Allah is more worthy of both. So follow not [personal] inclination, lest you not be just. And if you distort [your testimony] or refuse [to give it], then indeed Allah is ever, with what you do, Acquainted.” (4:135)

Do Not Devour The Property Of Orphans

“Indeed, those who devour the property of orphans unjustly are only consuming into their bellies fire. And they will be burned in a Blaze.” (4:10)

Do Not Consume One Another’s Wealth Unjustly

“O People who Believe! Do not unjustly devour the property of each other, except through trade by mutual agreement; and do not kill one another; indeed Allah is Most Merciful upon you.” (4:29)

Avoid Suspicion

“O People who Believe! Avoid excessive assumptions; indeed assumption sometimes becomes a sin, and do not seek faults, and do not slander one another; would anyone among you like to eat the flesh of his dead brother? So you will hate that! And fear Allah; indeed Allah is Most Acceptor of Repentance, Most Merciful.” (49:12)

Do Not Spy Or Backbite

“O you who have believed, avoid much [negative] assumption. Indeed, some assumption is sin. And do not spy or backbite each other. Would one of you like to eat the flesh of his brother when dead? You would detest it. And fear Allah; indeed, Allah is Accepting of repentance and Merciful.” (49:12)

Spend Wealth In Charity

“Believe in Allah and His Messenger and spend out of that in which He has made you successors. For those who have believed among you and spent, there will be a great reward.” (57:7)

Encourage Feeding Poor

“Just look at him, who belies the religion! So it is he, who pushes away the orphan And does not urge to feed the needy." (107:1-3)

Help Those In Need By Finding Them

“(Spend) For the poor who are restricted while in Allah's cause, who cannot travel in the land (for earning) – the unwise think they are wealthy because of their restraint; you will recognize them by their faces; they do not seek from people to avoid grovelling, and Allah knows whatever you spend in charity.” (2:273)

Do Not Commit Abuse on the Earth

“And [recall] when Moses prayed for water for his people, so We said, "Strike with your staff the stone." And there gushed forth from it twelve springs, and every people knew its watering place. "Eat and drink from the provision of Allah, and do not commit abuse on the earth, spreading corruption.”  (2:60)

Treat Non-Muslims in a Kind and Fair Manner

“Allah does not forbid you from those who did not fight against you because of religion and did not drive you out from your homes, that you should be kind towards them and deal with them fairly; indeed the equitable are the beloved of Allah.” (60:8)

Do Not Force Non-Muslims to Accept Islam

“There is no compulsion at all in religion; undoubtedly the right path has become very distinct from error, and whoever rejects faith in the devil (false deities) and believes in Allah has grasped a very firm handhold; it will never loosen, and Allah is All-Hearing, All-Knowing.” (2:256)

Respect The Humanity

Faith or disbelief will be rewarded on the Day of Judgment. However in this world where people of several religions exist to believe or disbelieve one another’s religion. They can live on the principle of Lakum deenukum waliya deen (meaning, “For you, Your Religion and For me, My Religion” (The Quran). In such an environment, all human beings deserve respect from one another. The Quran encourages this point of view;

“Certainly, We have honoured the Children of Adam. We carry them on the land and the sea, and have made provision of good things for them, and have conferred upon them appropriate excellence over most of those whom We have created” (Quran: 17:70)

There are certainly war-related rulings in the Quran and Ahadith, but they are contextual and relevant only for preventing oppression, curbing religious persecutions and gaining religious rights. It will be an injustice for anyone to apply them to a pluralistic country, especially India, where people of different religions coexist with all their respective religious freedom and civil rights. Moreover, the Indian Constitution also guarantees security from religious persecutions; it will be unfair for anyone to take the law into their own hands to punish even the religious persecutors.

In a pluralistic society where non-violent people of different faiths coexist enjoying their respective rights under the constitutional laws, it will be sheer injustice, from an Islamic perspective, to encourage war or unfair retaliation. In such a society of pluralism, the primary goal of Muslims and non-Muslims should be to raise echoes of peace, tranquillity, tolerance, kindness and compassion. These are the demanding needs of moral values.

The faithful Muslims who want to devote their lives to the cause of God Almighty must develop it with the sense of general command of mercy, kindness and compassion towards all creations of Allah Almighty, regardless of religion, caste, race, culture and colour.

Several Ahadith (sayings of the Prophet peace be upon him) teach Muslims to adopt an approach of general mercy, kindness and compassion towards all creations. Some of them are  mentioned below;

The Prophet (peace be upon him) is reported to have said, “Almighty Allah does bestow His Mercy upon a person who is not merciful upon the people” (narrated by Jareer bin Abdullah, Sahih Bukhari and Sahih Muslim)

Hazrat Abu Hurairah said that he heard Abul Qasim, the Truthful and the Deliverer of the Truth (peace be upon him) saying, “Mercy is not removed but from a wretched person” (Musnad Ahmad, Tirmidhi)

The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “Rahmaan (Allah) has Mercy on those who have mercy. Be compassionate to those on the earth and He Whose Divine Authority is over the skies will be Merciful towards you”. (Abu Dawud and Tirmidhi reported from Abdullah Ibn ‘Amr)

The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “He who shows no mercy upon our children and shows no respect to our elders, and he who does not command righteous deeds and he who does not forbid evil is not from amongst us”. (Tirmidhi reported it from Ibn ‘Abbas)

It is reported from Anas (may Allah be pleased with him) that if a young person respects an elderly person due to his old age, then Allah will appoint for him, one who respects his old-age.

The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “A believer (Mumin) is a sanctuary of affection, and there is no good in that person who neither shows any affection nor receives any affection” (Imam Ahmad and Baihaqi reported it on the authority of Abu Hurairah)

The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “Whosoever fulfils the need of someone in my Ummah to make him happy, he has pleased me and whosoever pleases me has pleased Allah, and whosoever pleases Allah, Allah will enter him into Heaven (Jannat)” (Baihaqi reported it on the authority of Hazrat Anas)

The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “Whosoever redresses the grievances of an aggrieved person, Allah will have seventy-three blessings and absolutions recorded for him. Through one of them, all of his issues will be set aright and with the remaining seventy-two, his status will be elevated on the Day of Judgment” (Baihaqi reported it on the authority of Hazrat Anas) 

The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “Assist your brother, be he the oppressor or the oppressed!’ Someone asked, “O Messenger of Allah! If he is oppressed then I will (surely) assist him, but if he is the oppressor, how should I assist him? He  said, Stop him from committing oppression. In this way you will be helping him”. (Sahih Bukhari and Sahih Mulsim on the authority of Hazrat Anas)

The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “A good person amongst you is one from whom there is an expectation of good and from whose mischief others are spared. A bad person amongst you is one from whom there is no expectation of any good and from whose mischief others are not spared”. (Tirmidhi and Baihaqi reported this hadith on the authority of Abu Hurairah)

Narrated 'Abdullah bin 'Amr that A man asked the Prophet (peace be upon him), "What sort of deeds or (what qualities of) Islam are good?" The Prophet (peace be upon him) replied, 'To feed (the poor) and greet those whom you know and those whom you do not Know (See Sahih Bukhari).

Now I hope and pray that Mr Neeraj Atri will understand the background of Surah Masad and be away from his misunderstanding. 

Video Link of Mr. Neeraj Atri:


A regular Columnist with, Ghulam Ghaus Siddiqi Dehlvi is an Alim and Fazil (Classical Islamic scholar) with a Sufi background and English-Arabic-Urdu Translator.


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