Al-Humazah

Surah 104
The Slanderer – al Humazah

In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful!

 Woe to every taunting slanderer and backbiter, who piles up wealth and keeps it counting again and again, thinking that his wealth will make him immortal. By no means! He will indeed be flung into the crushing one. Would that you know what the crushing one is! It is Allah’s own kindled fire, which rages over men’s hearts. It is closed on them from everyside, in towering columns.

Commentary:

 

 

This surah portrays one of the actual scenes in the early days of the Islamic call. Yet this scene is a pattern which is repeated in every environment and society. It is the scene of the vile, mean one who is given wealth and uses it to tyrannise over others – until even he cannot bear himself. He thinks that wealth is the supreme value in life, the value before which all values and all standards come toppling down. He feels that since he possesses wealth, he controls other people’s destiny without being accountable for anything he does. He imagines that his money and his wealth is a god, capable of everything without exception, even of resisting death, making him immortal and stopping the judgement of Allah and His retribution.

Deluded as he is by the power of his wealth, he counts it and takes pleasure in counting it again and again. A wicked vanity is let loose in his being which drives him on to mock other people’s positions and dignity, to taunt and slander them. He criticises others with his tongue, mocks them with his movements, either by imitating their movements and voices or by ridiculing their looks and features – by words and mimicry, by taunts and slander.

It is a vile and debased picture, one of the pictures of human beings devoid of the ideals of manhood and generosity and stripped of faith. Islam despises this abject sort of people because of its own high standards of morality. Islam emphatically forbids mockery and ridicule and fault-finding in others. But in this case the Qur’an describes these actions as sordid and ugly and adds warnings and threats to anyone who indulges in them. This suggests that it is referring to an actual case of some polytheists who have subjected the Prophet and the believers to their taunts and slander. The reply to these actions comes in the form of strong prohibition and fearful warning. There are some reports which name certain people as being the traducers meant here, but they are not authentic, so I will not discuss them, but shall be content with what I have just stated.

The warning comes in the form of a scene of the hereafter portraying the mental and physical sufferings and giving an image of Hell which is both palpable and telling. It takes care to relate the crime to the punishment inflicted and to its effect on the culprit. On the one side there is the image of the taunting slanderer and backbiter who is given to mocking other people and ridiculing them while he gathers wealth thinking that he is guaranteed immortality in this way. This image of the cynical calumniator who seeks power through wealth is contrasted with the image of the slighted, neglected one flung into a crushing instrument which destroys all that comes in its way and thus crushes his structure and his pride.

The crushing instrument is “Allah’s own kindled fire”. Its identification as the fire of Allah suggests that it is an exceptional, unfamiliar sort of fire and makes it sound full of terrors. This fire “rages” over his heart and mind from which spring mockery and ridicule and in which lie his vanity and conceit. To complete the image of the slighted, neglected and crushed, this fire closes in on him from all directions and locks him in. None can save him and none asks about him. Inside he is tied to a column, as animals are tied, without respect.

The tone of the vocabulary used in this surah is very strong “Keeps counting it again and again; by no means! he will indeed be flung; rages, towering. ” In the meaning of the expressions, forcefulness is conveyed by various forms of emphasis: “He will indeed be flung into the crushing one. Would that you knew what the crushing one is! It is Allah’s own kindled, fire”. The generalisation and cryptic expression first, then the exclamation suggesting great horrors, and then the clear answer – all these are forms of forceful expression. The style also conveys warnings: “Woe; he will be flung into, the crushing one; Allah’s kindled fire; which rages over men’s hearts, it is closed on them; in towering columns.” In all this there is a kind of harmony between imagery and feelings and the actions of the “taunting slanderer and backbiter”.

At the time of its revelation, the Qur’an was following up the incidents faced by the Islamic call and leading it simultaneously along its road. The Qur’an is the infallible weapon which destroys the cunning of the conspirators, shakes the hearts of enemies, and fills the believers with courage and steadfastness. Indeed we recognise two significant facts in Allah’s care here as He denounces this sordid example: firstly, we are shown the ugliness of moral decline and how people are rendered so abject. Secondly, we realise that He defends the believers, preserves their souls against their enemies’ insults, shows them that Allah knows and hates what is inflicted on them, and that He will punish the wrong doers. This is enough to elevate their souls and to make them feel their position high above any wicked designs.

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