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Surah Humaza
Qur'anic Exegesis
Amin Ahsan Islahi
(Tr. by:Dr. Shehzad Saleem)

Central Theme

This sūrah is the dual of Sūrah ‘Asr, the previous sūrah. A first look at both the sūrahs reveals a clear similarity in their themes. In the previous sūrah, the character of persons who shall receive salvation in the Hereafter has been depicted as those who exhort each other to the right path and remain steadfast on this attitude. In the present sūrah, people of the opposite character have been portrayed: They, by nature, are miserly and greedily accumulate wealth. Instead of urging each other to fulfil the rights of Allah and their own fellow beings, if they see someone doing so, they make his life miserable by hurling taunts and jeers at him. They try their utmost to discourage and demoralize him so much that he may surrender to their reproaches and adopt their evil ways. This attitude conceals their own miserliness and saves them from being conscience-stricken when others call them to the right path.

The Qur’ān, at many instances has made references to this miserly character of people who greedily hoard money. To quote Sūrah Taubah:

“Those who censure the believers who give freely and scoff at the poor who give according to their means, Allah will scoff at them, and theirs shall be a torment afflictive.”(9:79)

While explaining the above verse, it has already been said:

“The words mutatawwi’un and muttawi’un are the same words. Muttawi’un is a person who not only fulfils his obligations but also enjoys doing what is over and above them with great enthusiasm and fervour.

Lamz means ‘to censure, to slander, to speak ill’.

In the above verses, it has been stated that the Munaafiqeen (hypocrites) do not spend in the cause of Allah and also cannot bear others doing so. Whenever they see someone spending in such a cause, they start reproaching and ridiculing him. When they see the affluent among the Muslims spending generously and sincerely, they regard it a pretentious display put up by them to bluff others and to give others a false impression of their piety. If they see the poor, who barely save something to spend in this cause, they scorn and sneer at them to discourage them.

We have stated at another instance that it is the psychology of misers that they try to induce others to miserliness to hide their own, just as a person with a cut nose wishes others to be like him so that no one remains to call him ugly. The Munaafiqeen, also, used to satisfy their emotions of rivalry with Islam by doing so. They did not want to spend a penny for its cause nor did they want others to do so. They could not bear people spending generously on the poor. So, when they used to see an ordinary labourer happily giving whatever dates he could save, sacrificing the needs of his wife and children as if buying the wealth of the two worlds in their place, they used to writhe and twist with venom and satisfied their anger by scorning and taunting them.” (“Tadabbur-i-Qur’ān”, Vol 3, Pgs 202-3)

This character of the misers actually portrays their helplessness. They neither have the courage and spirit to outdo others in fulfilling the rights of their fellow beings nor can they stop others who call upon them to do so. The only course left for them to defend themselves is to gibe and mock at those who are actually exposing their weaknesses. Because they were trying to conceal their innerself, the sūrah has brought to light every aspect of both their inner and outer selves.

It should be clear that though in this sūrah the character of the stingy has actually been depicted, yet the character of those having other moral weaknesses is no different. They also try to defend themselves by making fun of those having high moral characters. The people of Lot too, had adopted a similar attitude. When they observed that it was becoming difficult for them to counter the reformatory movement launched by the Prophet Lot and his companions, instead of mending their ways they started scoffing and leering at the Prophet Lot and his companions by saying: ‘These people pretend to be noble’ (27:56). They even started exhorting their nation to banish these ‘nobles’ from the country, lest they will disgrace the whole nation.

Meaning of the Sūrah

Perdition to every slanderer, every person who makes evil gestures at others and who amassed wealth and [remained busy] counting it, thinking that his wealth had rendered him immortal.

By no means! he shall be flung into that which crushes. And what do you imagine what that which crushes is? A fire kindled by Allah; which will rise up to their hearts. Verily, they would be enshrouded in it, fastened to columns very high.

Explanation of the Sūrah

Wailullikulli humaza til lumaza.

(Perdition to every slanderer, every person who makes evil gestures at others.)  (1)

The word hamz means to make evil gestures at others and lamz means ‘to malign and slander someone’. Humaza and lumaza are intensive forms, as is hutama mentioned later in the sūrah. Humaza means someone who makes evil gestures at others while lumaza means one who finds faults in others. Making evil gestures and slandering others are the two aspects of the same character. The first concerns his behavioral expressions and the second one concerns his language. Both are employed to degrade and ridicule others. At times the first can prove the sharper of the two and perhaps this is the reason of placing humaza before lumaza.

In every civilized society, hamz and lamz have always been considered mean habits. All divine religions have forbidden them. The Qur’ān, in Sūrah Hujaraat, clearly prohibits a person to do so:

“And do not defame one another nor revile each other by evil names.” (49:11).

But this art has been patronized and promoted not only in ‘ancient’ uncultured societies but also in ‘modern’ uncultured societies. Today, humourous columns and cartoons published in newspapers and magazines do the job which was done by the mimics, imitators and jesters of yester years. In Sūrah Qalam, a comprehensive analysis of the leaders of Quraish as well as their hoodlums has been made. It shows that they also wanted to thwart the attempts of the Muslims in spreading the Islamic Message of fulfilling the rights of each other, by adopting tactics similar to those employed by the professional leaders of today to get the better of their opponents. The Prophet (pbuh), therefore, has been advised to remain aware of this foulplay in the following words by the Qur’ān:

“Pay no heed to any ignominous oath-monger, who makes evil gestures and who sows seeds of dissension, forbidder of good, transgressor and usurper of rights, cruel and moreover a flatterer---only because he has been blessed with wealth and children.” (68:10-14)

Allazee jama’a maalannwa ‘addadah.

(Who greedily amassed wealth and [remained busy] counting it.)  (2)

The verse vividly portrays the life of stingy people. On the one hand, they do all they can to silence those who call upon them to fulfil the rights of Allah and their own fellow beings and on the other are busy amassing riches and greedily hoarding them. They remain deeply engrossed in computing and calculating their wealth. Speculating about the prospects of success in business is their only food for thought. Questions like how much profit could be obtained from various business undertakings, how much would they gain from the money they have invested, how would they compensate the loss in one of their economic enterprises and what would be the grand total of their money next year, possess their minds. If someone mentions before them that a person has spent his money on orphans and poor, they make fun of him by saying that he is only showing off his wealth and assert: ‘Look at us, we have spent thousands and no one has the slightest knowledge of it’.

Yahsabu anna maalahoo akhladah.

(Thinking that his wealth has rendered him immortal.) (3)

This verse highlights their inner character. They reckon that their wealth shall also buy for them eternal life. Their complete involvement with wealth shows that they seek all pleasures of life in wealth. If they knew that both their wealth and life were mortal, they would have expended them in a way which would have been profitable for them in the Hereafter. In fact, they would have tried to outdo one another in this dash.

In Sūrah Shu’araa, this mentality has been depicted in the following words:

“ Will you build monuments of no use on every high place and build grand palaces as if you have to live here forever?” (26:128-29)

It is a person’s attitude towards his life and not what he says which gives an indication of his innerself. The life of a person who considers this world as his final destination is totally different from that of a person for whom the next world is the ultimate destination, towards which this life leads. It is not possible that a person who believes in the Hereafter should greedily hoard his wealth. Such a person, as the Prophet Christ had said, keeps his account with Allah:

“Keep your wealth with Allah, because your heart is wherever your wealth is.” (Matt, 6:21-22)

Kallaa layumbazanna fil hutamah

(By no means, he shall be flung into that which crushes.)  (4)

The word kallaa (By no means) is meant to negate the false notion of a miser stated in the previous verse : ‘thinking that his wealth has rendered him immortal’. The Qur’ān says that such a person and whatever he has gathered shall be hurled into the raging fire of hell which shall crush them to pieces.

The word hutamah is from the root HTM which means ‘to crush to pieces’. Like humazah and lumazah it is also an intensive form.

Wa maa adraaka mal hutamah.

(And what do you imagine what that which crushes to pieces is?)  (5)

The question in this verse is meant to express the dreadfulness of the fire; a fire kindled by the Almighty should not be considered something ordinary.

Hutamah (that which crushes to pieces) seems a very apt word to depict the total annihilation of wealth amassed in the form of bricks of gold and silver, jewellery, and invaluable utensils. This is precisely how the rich of that period used to accumulate their wealth. All such people would see this fate of their wealth  which they reckoned would render them immortal.

Naarulaahil mooqada tullatee tattali’u ‘alal afidah.

(A fire kindled by Allah, which will rise up to their hearts.) (6-7)

This verse explains the word hutamah stated in the previous one. The characteristic of this fire would be that it shall first of all seek those hearts that had remained so possessed by the love of wealth that the rememberance of Allah and the Final Day could find no space in them. We all know of certain devices which have been invented to track down specific targets. As soon as they sense their prey they automatically follow and destroy it. The fire of Allah mentioned in this verse, it seems, shall behave similarly and shall grip all those hearts which were absorbed with the love of wealth and had remained indifferent to the needs of the poor.

Innahaa ‘alaihim mu’sadah.

(Verily, they shall be enshrouded in it.) (8)

The fire shall completely enwrap them, so that no part of its heat is wasted. The phrase ausadal baab means ‘he closed the door’. The fire shall close over them as in a brick kiln, destroying them with all its force.

Fee ‘amadim mumaddadah.

(Fastened to columns very high.) (9)

This verse depicts the helplessness of these criminals. Even within the fire they shall be fastened to high columns with heavy chains. Here only columns have been mentioned; Sūrah Haaqah mentions the chaining of such criminals as well:

“Seize him, and chain him with an iron collar and cast him into hell, and then fasten him with a chain seventy cubits long. Verily, he did not believe in Allah, most high nor did he urge others to feed thepoor.” (69:30-34)

Translated from Islahi’s “Tadabbur-i-Qur’ān”

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