Explanation (Tafsir) of Chapter Humaza


The Surah’s Name

The 104th chapter of the Qur’an is called Humaza as well as in most of the books of tafsir. Imam al-Bukhari in his Sahih, as well as some other scholars of tafsir, referred to this chapter with the title, “Woe to every slanderer and backbiter” – the first ayat. The great scholar of the Arabic Language, al-Fayruzabadi, wrote in his book that its name is Al-Hutama [the Constant Crusher].

Period of Revelation, Number of Verses and Chronology

Scholars agree that Surat al-Humaza was revealed in Mecca. They also agree that it consists of 9 verses. It was the 32nd chapter sent to the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ (Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him), after the revelation of Surat al-Qiyamah and before Surat al-Mursalat.

Why Was It Sent?

It is narrated that Surat al-Humaza was sent due to a group of the Meccan polytheists who insulted the fledging community of the Prophet ﷺ by spreading lies about them. This vile group consisted of Walid bin al-Mughirah al-Makhzumi, Umyah the son of Khalaf, al-’As the son of Wail, who we discussed in great detail earlier [see the explanation of Surah Al-Kawthar], and Jamil the son of M’amar from the tribe of Jum’a. Jamil would later be guided to Islam, accepting it on the day Mecca was conquered. These men were considered the leaders of the Qur’aish and the greatest enemies of Islam.

Objectives

  1. This chapter is a strong warning from Allah to the polytheists of Mecca who slandered Muslims, seeking to weaken their resolve, and shaking their commitment to Islam.
  2. While the chapter was directed to this group of people, it presents itself in a way that acts as a warning to anyone who engages in mocking, backbiting and lying about others.
  3. The truth will always have its enemies; that is the nature of the higher struggle. Allah uses these stern words as a reminder to the enemies, while this use of harsh words is something that the people of truth should expect and prepare for.

Verse 1

104:1

“Woe to every scorner and mocker.” (Qur’an, 104:1)

The word “woe” in Arabic implies destruction or evil for its object, carrying with it the feeling of a supplication being made against a person or group of people. However, Sibaway, the great Arabist, noted that this is not always the case. For example, “Woe to those who alter measures,” in Surah Mutaffifin is not a supplication but an account of the actual words people said about those who cheat. Imam Ibn ‘Ashur states that in this surah the word “woe” carries the meaning of a supplication directed at someone.

“Every”

This implies that there was more than one person involved in insulting the Prophet’s ﷺ community, making the threat of this chapter relevant to anyone who acquires these evil habits.

“Scorner and mocker”

Both “humaza” and “lumaza” are in the fu`al (فعل) form. This implies that the verb’s subject engaged in the act so much, it became a habit (sigh al-mubalagh). For example, if a person laughs a lot, the Arabs would say duhak, and for a hard-hearted person who abuses his riding animal hutam, signifying his lack of mercy and constant abuse.

Appreciating the Early Muslims

As noted above, the form fu`ala is used to show excessiveness. However, if one wanted to show even greater excess in describing a person, he could add the letter “ha” ة to the end of the noun. Thus, “Humaz” becomes “Humaza!” This is important in learning to appreciate the struggles and sacrifices of the early Muslims. When we are in school or at work and people say things about us as Muslims, let us reflect on this chapter and the struggles of the early Muslims, using their example as a source of strength.

“Scorner”

This word “humaza” comes from a word which means to insult another by using non-verbal communication. Here, and with the next word “lumaza”, it is an adjective whose noun is omitted, “Woe to every person who scorns others.” One may ask: why was the noun left out? In Arabic language, and this is something amazing, if the noun is omitted and its adjective is left, it is a sign that the adjective takes the place of the noun – meaning it can stand on its own as a descriptive because the person has mastered it (scorning) so well, that it is by this description that they are known. This technique is used to praise or dress down a person depending on the context. Ponder on that!

“Mocker”

Lumaza” means to insult others in a way that causes them grief, and its form carries the same meaning as “humaza” above.

An Important Principle

There is an important principle related to the Qur’an: “Any bad quality that is associated with the polytheists of Mecca, believers should avoid and eradicate within themselves if it exists.” Meaning, if a person engages in these types of actions, he declares himself eligible for the same threat directed to the polytheists of Mecca!

Verse 2

104:2

“Who collects wealth and [continuously] counts it.” (Qur’an, 104:2)

Collecting wealth is mentioned here to insult those mentioned in the previous verse. Allah is saying here that not only do they scorn and insult others, but they are also miserly and love wealth. This also strengthens the argument that these verses were sent regarding the Quraysh leader mentioned above, because they were rich and miserly. For that reason, “Who” is an adjective to “scorner” and “mocker.”

“Continuously counts it”

The last word in verse two is “`addadah.” Its form is f’aal with a shadda. This implies that person does not count it once or twice, but constantly, beyond the norm. The same form is applied to the word “jama`a” (جمع)  “collects” in other authentic readings of the Qur’an: Ibn ‘Amir, Hamza, al-Kisai and Abu J’afar. Thus, “collects” becomes “constantly collects.” It is also possible that the meaning is, and Allah knows best, that this person has many different kinds of wealth.

Verse 3

104:3

“He thinks that his wealth will make him immortal.” (Qur’an, 104:3)

It is possible that this is a phrase that represents his state while continuously counting his wealth. With that in mind, this sentence represents one of the most difficult means of expression in the Arabic language. This is an example of Arabic speech that showed the Qur’an’s miraculous nature and caused the Arabs to surrender to its greatness. While the sentence is a conditional one that reflects the “scorner’s” state of mind, it also reflects a greater meaning which is not as apparent, by using an example.

It is also possible that this is an independent sentence that is the predicate of “أ” which, as we discussed before, carries the meaning of “Can you believe?” Meaning, “[Can you believe] he thinks that his wealth will make him immortal!?” Here, this proposition is hidden because it is actually obvious, and also to keep the flow of the chapter.

“Make him immortal”

Perhaps a better translation is, “Made him immortal” since the form is in the past tense. Scholars noted that past tense is used here to show that the idea is so certain in this person’s mind, that it is though in his mind it has already occurred!

Summary

This person’s harboring of wealth is such that he is like a person who counts his money, thinking that each penny will save him from death, making him immortal. This is because this person does not believe in the Hereafter, so his ultimate pleasure is to live forever in this life.

Verse 4

104:4

“No! He will surely be thrown into the Crusher.” (Qur’an, 104:4)

The opening word “kalla,” translated as “no” above, carries with it the meaning of negation but with an added twist: negation with an insult. This expanded means, “No – there is no way his wealth will immortalize him!” Perhaps to really taste it is to phrase it in modern language, “He’s trippin’! His money is not going to do that!”

“Surely be thrown into the Crusher”

The third letter “la” ل is used for “surely” and it carries with it the meaning of “I swear.” That is, “I swear – he will be thrown into the Crusher.”

“Thrown”

The word “nabadh” means to throw someone with force into something they hate. That is why it is used in another verse, “Thus, we seized him, his army and caste them into the sea” (Qur’an, 28:40) when talking about Pharaoh and his soldiers.

Verse 5

104:5

“And what can make you know what is the Crusher?” (Qur’an, 104:5)

“Crusher”

The word “Hutam” means to crush over and over again. It is one of the names for Hell given by the Qur’an, and it was not used this way before by the Arabs. A question arises again – why was the ة added to its ending? How does this change the meaning? See verse one above and recall fu`al and fu`alah!

This ayat asks, “What, or who, could express to you the reality of the Crusher “Hutamah”?” The name Crusher is used again instead of the pronoun “it.” This is called “Idhar fi Maqaam al-Idmaar” (إظهار في مقام الإضمار) and is used for emphasizing. The same usage is found in the beginnings of Surah al-Qari`ah and Surah al-Haqqah. It means that the noun is used in place of its pronoun for emphasis so it draws the listeners’ attention. Thus, instead of “And what can make you know what it is,” we have, “And what can make you know what is the Crusher?”

Verse 6

104:6

“It is the fire of Allah, [eternally] fueled.” (Qur’an, 104:6)

This is the answer to the question above, “And what is the Hutama?” The answer: “The fire of Allah!”

“Fire of Allah”

This expression signifies that this fire was created by the One Who is the All Powerful, the Mighty.

“Eternally fueled”

The active participle is used, carrying the meaning of an imperfect tense, meaning it will not stop. This is important because it is a response to the one who thought his property would immortalize him. In fact, the only thing that he will spend eternity in is the fire of God!

Verse 7

104:7

“Which mounts directed at the hearts.” (Qur’an, 104:7)

This is the second description of God’s fire after “eternally fueled.”

There are two meanings here that need to be addressed. First, “mounts” means it will burn so fast that it will “reach” the hearts and the body simultaneously. Based on that, I prefer the meaning “reaches.” The other meaning of “tala`a” is to uncover or witness. This would imply that each person’s heart will be burned according to the level of kufr in his heart! Reflect on such consequences!

Verse 8

104:8

“Indeed, Hellfire will be closed down upon them.” (Qur’an, 104:8)

This is the third description of God’s fire. It is also possible that it is an independent sentence used for emphasis.

“Closed Down”

M’usada,” also read “musada,” is the passive tense for the word “usad” (أوصد) which means to shut completely. This implies their state in Hell is like a person put in a deep, dark prison, who hears the heavy rust of a massive door shut forever! However, the meaning here is even stronger. Not only is it shut, but also it is shut from high above. Therefore there is no hope of reaching the door, and there is no hope of getting out!

Verse 9

104:9

“In extended columns.” (Qur’an, 104:9)

This could be a conditional phrase, reflecting the state of the people in Hell; drawn and chained to pillars by their necks and their ankles. It could also be a conditional phrase to  signify the state of “Hellfire” as described in verse eight. Meaning, the fire was in high pillars. Both images are not comforting – they are terrifying – implying that height of the fire and the degree of punishment is set for these people scorn and mock.

We ask Allah for His protection.

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15 Comments

  1. Amber says:

    SubhanAllah, I always appreciate Imam Suhaib Webb’s tafsir. However, I have a question about this statement:

    “There is an important principle related to the Qur’an: “Any bad quality that is associated with the polytheists of Mecca, believers should avoid and eradicate within themselves if it exists.” Meaning, if a person engages in these types of actions, he declares himself eligible for the same threat directed to the polytheists of Mecca!”

    Is there a post that discusses the difference of say a ‘polytheist of Mecca’ with people who aren’t Muslims or of the people-of-the-book today? This idea that we should avoid doing what the ‘polytheists’ do is something that I find very difficult to deal with or understand. I feel that the Qur’an seems to make a big dichotomy over those who are believers and non-believers, which makes it unappealing to many as it promotes an ‘us vs. them’ perspective. In my understanding the term ‘kaafir’ is supposed to mean something more than infidel, something more along the lines of seeing the Truth, denying it, and then publicly working against it.

    However, with more and more criticism of Islam shedding light, I have become uncertain of my understanding of the meaning of non-believers.

    It reminds me of a recent post by Sam Harris in which he quotes the Qur’an to show the us. vs. them mentality it appears to promote:
    “Yes, the Bible contains its own sadistic lunacy—but the above quotations can be fairly said to convey the central message of the Qur’an—and of Islam at nearly every moment in its history. The Qur’an does not contain anything like a Sermon on the Mount. Nor is it a vast and self-contradictory book like the Old Testament, in which whole sections (like Leviticus and Deuteronomy) can be easily ignored and forgotten. The result is a unified message of triumphalism, otherworldliness, and religious hatred that has become a problem for the entire world. And the world still waits for moderate Muslims to speak honestly about it.”
    http://www.samharris.org/site/full_text/honesty-the-muslim-worlds-scarcest-resource/

  2. Seth says:

    The comprehensive Arabic explanations on the Qur’an verses are so valuable to those of us with no mosque.
    I dream of having a mosque here, and the people to share with.

    • N. says:

      I’ve noticed a few posts by folks (assume converts / reverts) without mosques in their community. May I humbly suggest establishing a Friday jumuah in your community at say a library, public school, place of work, or community hall. It is relatively easy and inexpensive to do. “If you build it, they will come.” I’m reminding myself and other converts that you are the community you’ve been waiting for. Ibrahim (as) was described as a community of one. Allah swt then established him and his family. Once you make the first steps and keep trying and making du’a, Allah swt will shower you with blessings (with some challenges / tests) and the resources you need, including the knowledgeable people. And establishing the community prayers, and a place of prayer, is a great noble deed. May Allah swt purify and accept our efforts.

      • Seth says:

        @ N.

        Thanks for the positive reply and advice. You’ve given me motivation. I’ve considered contacting a mosque north of here for assistance. I don’t know how many muslims, if any, live in my small town. Any further advice on getting things started will be greatly appreciated.
        Thanks again,
        Seth

        Thanks Much,
        Seth

  3. MSB says:

    Salamualaikum,
    I am scared of the explanation, basically out of fear of Allaah if what I understand to be what you tried to explain the meaning of the verse is right. The verse about those who save money. Its the first time of my life, for past six months or seven probably, I did never touch most of my earnings. First I feared if it was even halal earning, but after multiple scholars adviced to take it easy and accept it from Allaah as He put me in that situation. Now that saved money has become a big fitna for an equally challenged financially immature person like me. Should I just donate everything, because honestly I don’t feel like having EARNED it. I just don’t have that feeling. Or should I follow the hadith that speaks of thus, at most one can spend is 1/3rd of own wealth in the cause of Allaah. The rest two parts of one thirds being family and self.
    Subahan Allaah one of most scary punishments warned in this surah. Jazak Allaah khayr for posting this abu Malik.

    • Suhaib Webb says:

      As,

      Bro,

      This is not talking about saving money. This is talking about people who save their money, focusing on that instead of balancing between the din and dunya. These verses were about people like al-As, the son of Wail and others who rejected the Prophet, saved their money and spent it to harm him (sa). Being stable on the $$$ end is very important. We cannot build healthy families broke.

      SDW

  4. Suhaib Webb says:

    Asalamu alaykum,

    Amber, this is talking about those qualities that are explicitly mentioned as being forbidden-leading a person towards God’s displeasure. This is not in reference to the everyday cultural practices that are not censured by Islam.

    Suhaib

  5. aliya says:

    “The last word in verse two is “`addadah.” Its form is f’aal with a shadda. This implies that person does not count it once or twice, but constantly, beyond the norm. The same form is applied to the word “jama`a” (جمع) “collects” in other authentic readings of the Qur’an: Ibn ‘Amir, Hamza, al-Kisai and Abu J’afar. Thus, “collects” becomes “constantly collects.” It is also possible that the meaning is, and Allah knows best, that this person has many different kinds of wealth.”

    Asalaam wa’alaikum,

    I have a quick grammatical question. For ayah number two, you say that both “عدد” and “جمع”take form II for emphasis. I may have misunderstood, but if that is the case, why does “جمع” not have a shadda written in the Arabic above?

  6. Suhaib Webb says:

    As,

    Because it is not written in reading that does. The above is the riwaya of Hafs from Imam ‘Asim.

  7. Saniya says:

    Assalamu alaikum,
    May Allah bless you with infinite reward. Ameen
    I think that you referred to jumla haalia as conditional sentence, which according to my limited knowledge is jumla shartia and halia is referred to as circumstantial sentence. Please keep on posting these tafseer videos, highlighting the linguistic gems from Quran. May Allah protect you and grant you jannatul firdaus. Ameen

  8. Suhaib Webb says:

    Saniya,

    Thank you for that. I get caught up in the mix and tend to forget what goes where.

  9. Noman says:

    I am sorry my previous request was quite inconsiderate, please allow me to rephrase:

    If anyone has the Imam’s lecture on Maryam (A) I would greatly appreciate listening to it. If someone could please upload it I would be very grateful of him/her.

    Jzk

  10. Sagal says:

    For anyone who would like the mp3 for the above lecture, a brother has sorted it out:

    http://www.4shared.com/audio/eTGSQauc/Tafseer_of_Surah_Al_Humaza.html

  11. Said Azhar says:

    The word Al Hutama has also been equated, by some exegisists, with Atom or Atomos to indicate Atomic Fire of Hell! The qualifying words, ‘fire eternally enkindled by Allah, ‘allati tattaleo alal afeda’, ‘alaihim musada’ and ‘amadin mumaddada’ could refer to all embracing high mushroom fire affecting minds and hearts, typical effects of atomic explosion, radiation, blast and devstating effects on heart and soul!
    Although Quran is not a book of science, medicine, asronomy or history, but when it does make a refernce to any such fact, it is irrefutable, sure as a prediction unknown to man at the time.

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