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Commentary on Surat Al-Humazah

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A COMMENTARY ON THE LAST SECTION QUR`AN 
Chapter 104: Surat Al-Humazah
The Slanderer

By: Shaykh Fadhlalla Haeri

In the name of Allah,
the Beneficent, the Merciful

These particular verses were addressed specifically to the people, several of whose names have been suggested, who were actively against the Prophet. They were all very wealthy, supposedly possessed great strength and constantly bragged about their might and wealth while mocking the Muslims.

  1. Woe to every slanderer and backbiter!

Wayl means 'great misfortune or distress', and is translated as the exclamation 'Woe!' It evokes one of the rivers of the Fire. There exists in human nature the need to seek reassurance of others, and therefore we seek only those companions who reinforce the validity of our own actions.

Humazah is a 'slanderer' or 'backbiter'. In the Arabic language the hamzah is a glottal stop, and the hamazāt al-shayātīn are the evil suggestions of the devil, the subtle whispers we hear within ourselves.

Lumazah means 'fault-finder', and comes from the verb lamaza, which means 'to give someone a wink, to speak ill of someone, criticize, censure, backbite, defame'. Whoever defames another reveals his own weakness and announces his insecurity in the same way that haughtiness declares deep uncertainty about oneself. If a person was totally certain that he was on the right path, if he acknowledged his dependence on Allah and realized that everyone would come to know the truth fully and absolutely, he would not give in to these enticements to slander others. The truth of it is that his slander and arrogance reveal his sickness and disease: hence the warning that woe will befall, and he will be destroyed.

  1. Who amasses wealth and counts it [as a provision];

This verse refers to those who collect wealth and find refuge and reinforcement in constantly counting it. Persistent accumulation and examining what one has is another form of looking for security. The men of Allah say, 'He who loves wealth is a hypocrite, and he who hoards wealth is ignorant.' The proof of hypocrisy (nifaq) and ignorance (jahl) is to be found in the collection and retention of wealth (mal).

  1. He thinks that his wealth will make him immortal.

Hasaba means 'to calculate, to reckon'. He imagines that he moves closer to khuld (eternity) by counting and watching over what he wrongly imagines will give him longevity and permanency. His is a perverted worship. The Eternal is another attribute of Allah: al-Khālid. We all want to know the Eternal because only by so doing shall will we be secure in the knowledge that only eternity exists. But whoever believes that what he has accumulated will give him security has completely slipped off the path.

  1. Nay! He will certainly be hurled into the crushing Hell.

Nabadha means 'to hurl, throw away, reject, cast out, abandon'. By casting out what is useless or dangerous, we are protected from the evil in it.

Hutamah, an epithet for Hell, means 'a crushing disaster', and comes from hatama, 'to shatter, crush, destroy'. Most certainly, whoever takes refuge in his wealth, or in anything of the visible world, does not trust that the hand of the Invisible is behind the visible. He will be cast out into that which causes nothing but destruction.

  1. And what will make you comprehend what the crushing Hell is?

As if to emphasize the magnitude of the hutamah, we are asked again: And what do you know of it? Another meaning of hutamah comes from the verb in its second form, where it signifies 'to break', implying that in order to be broken or crushed, the object involved is solid to begin with. This double emphasis on hutamah is meant to communicate in as tangible a way as possible the painful consequences of looking to other-than-Allah.

  1. The fire of Allah, ignited,

The crushing disaster is the Fire of Allah that is forever lit.

  1. Which rises up to the hearts.

  2. Certainly it will shut tightly around them.

This Fire of Allah is locked within the heart of man. It is the fire which causes him to be in a loss, to try to take refuge in material security, wealth and power. We see this in the present
state of our cultures, in that we have completely taken refuge in our imaginations and calculations. We imagine that what is of greatest importance is what is tangible or visible, but the visible is not the sum of what there is in this world; it is only one aspect thereof, one manifestation of reality. There are other forces or powers behind the scenes.

  1. In outstretched columns.

The Fire will tightly encircle the heart in extended columns and form a burning wall created by the heart itself through its own ignorance. Some men of Allah talk about two types of fire: the fire of ignorance that causes nothing but destruction, and the light of knowledge. However, this chapter is normally interpreted as being addressed to people who are at a loss. Their hearts are locked up in the fire of the final, revealed knowledge.

Just as this chapter is about those who take refuge in the discernable and material world and believe that there is nothing beyond it, the next chapter explains by example the falsity of their beliefs.

End of the Surah

Back Up Next

The Opening - A Commentary on Chapter 1: Surat Al-Fatiha ] The Cow - A Commentary on Chapter 2: Surat Al-Baqarah ] The Family of 'Imrān - A Commentary on Chapter 3: Surat Al-'Imrān ] The Spider - A Commentary on Chapter 29: Surat Al-'Ankabt ] The Heart of the Qur`an - A Commentary on Chapter 36: Surat Ya Sin ] The Beneficent - A Commentary on Chapter 55: Surat Al-Rahmn ] The Event - A Commentary on Chapter 56: Surat Al-Wqi'ah ] The Kingdom - A Commentary on Chapter 67: Surat Al-Mulk ] The Jinn - A Commentary on Chapter 72: Surat Al-Jinn ] The Unwrapped - A Commentary on Chapter 73: Surat Al-Muzzammil ] A Commentary on the Last Section of the Qur`an ]