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Milestones of Humanity (Part 2)-An Example of Disbelief: Wife of Abu Lahab

June 20, 2009 by Guest Authors  
Filed under Featured, Personal Development



An Example of Disbelief: Wife of Abu Lahab

We discussed in our first post that we will cover both believing and disbelieving women in the Qur’an to learn lessons from both. Allah ta’ala discusses the ultimate end of one woman in the Qur’an: the wife of Abu Lahab.

Umm Jamil, also known as Arwa bint Harb, who was the sister of Abu Sufyan (radi Allahu anhu) was known for her staunch disbelief and persecution to the Messenger of Allah sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam and the Muslims.

Allah ta’ala tells us her defining characteristic in surah Masad,


وَامْرَأَتُهُ حَمَّالَةَ الْحَطَبِ
and his wife, the carrier of wood. (111:4)


Allah ta’ala uses the word “imr’aha” to describe the wife of Abu Lahab, and not the word we are more familiar with which is zawj. Br Nouman Ali Khan from Bayyinah Institute discussed with us the differences.

There are 2 main purposes for a marriage:
1)To have protection from evil and to help increase each other in good
2)To have children correctly in the halal manner.

When both of the above purposes are fulfilled, the spouse is referred to as Zawj, also meaning a pair that goes together to serve a purpose. When either one or both of the elements are missing, the spouse is referred to as Imr’ah. This is why we find in many of Prophet’s sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam duas, zawj, not imraa’ata, is mentioned to refer to spouse because zawj exemplifies a successful and complete marriage.

We find examples of this in the Qur’an:

-In Surah Yusuf, the wife of the minister is referred to as Imraa’atul Azeez because she did not fulfill either of the purposes of marriage.

-The wife of Nuh alayhi salaam is refered to as Imraa’atul Nuh because she was not pious and did not help him increase in good.

-In the example above regarding Umm Jamil. Both of them were happy with each other but they both were not pious and did not help one another to increase in good.

The word used for carrier, حَمَّالَةَ Hammaalatah, contains mubaalaghah which means intensification. Hammaalah not only means someone who carries wood but can have three intensified meanings:

1-     she carries a lot of wood
2-    she carries the wood with a lot of effort
3-    she carries the wood repeatedly

From this we learn that she was not only against Islam, but she repeatedly worked and strove to hurt the Prophet of Allah, sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam.

Hammalatal hatab
can refer to:

1-    The dry twigs and thorns she carried and put on the path of Rasul Allah sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam
2-    Figurative, meaning she spreads fuel (lies and slander) to spread the fire.

The scholars say this ayah is of mockery - this woman used to carry wood (fuel) in the dunya to support her husband against this Deen and in the aakhirah she will also be helping her husband by fueling his punishment.

Allah ta’ala then tells us her fate:


فِى جِيدِهَا حَبْلٌ مِّن مَّسَدٍ


“In her neck is a twisted rope of palm-fiber” (111:5)



Allah azza wa jal describes her neck as a jeed. When I think of Umm Jamil, I would think of an old hag looking woman but when I read this ayah, I was amazed.Jeed is not an old wrinkly neck, rather it is a neck that is slender, long and very beautiful. This beautiful neck of hers that wore gold and jewelry will have a twisted rope of palm fiber.

A Story of Abu Lahab’s Wife harming the Messenger of Allah (from Tafseer ibn Katheer)

Ibn Abi Hatim said that his father and Abu Zur`ah both said that `Abdullah bin Az-Zubayr Al-Humaydi told them that Sufyan informed them that Al-Walid bin Kathir related from Ibn Tadrus who reported that Asma’ bint Abi Bakr said, “When


[تَبَّتْ يَدَآ أَبِى لَهَبٍ]


 (Perish the two hands of Abu Lahab and perish he)!) was revealed, the one-eyed Umm Jamil bint Harb came out wailing, and she had a stone in her hand. She was saying, `He criticizes our father, and his religion is our scorn, and his command is to disobey us.’ The Messenger of Allah was sitting in the Masjid (of the Ka`bah) and Abu Bakr was with him. When Abu Bakr saw her he said, `O Messenger of Allah! She is coming and I fear that she will see you.’ The Messenger of Allah replied,

«إِنَّهَا لَنْ تَرَانِي»


(Verily, she will not see me.) Then he recited some of the Qur’an as a protection for himself. This is as Allah says,


[وَإِذَا قَرَأْتَ الْقُرءَانَ جَعَلْنَا بَيْنَكَ وَبَيْنَ الَّذِينَ لاَ يُؤْمِنُونَ بِالاٌّخِرَةِ حِجَابًا مَّسْتُورًا ]

 (And when you recite the Qur’an, We put between you and those who believe not in the Hereafter, an invisible veil.) (17:45) So she advanced until she was standing in front of Abu Bakr and she did not see the Messenger of Allah . She then said, `O Abu Bakr! Verily, I have been informed that your friend is making defamatory poetry about me.’ Abu Bakr replied, `Nay! By the Lord of this House (the Ka`bah) he is not defaming you.’ So she turned away saying, `Indeed the Quraysh know that I am the daughter of their leader.”’ Al-Walid or another person said in a different version of this Hadith, “So Umm Jamil stumbled over her waist gown while she was making circuits (Tawaf) around the House (the Ka`bah) and she said, `Cursed be the reviler.’ Then Umm Hakim bint `Abdul-Muttalib said, `I am a chaste woman so I will not speak abusively and I am refined so I do not know. Both of us are children of the same uncle. And after all the Quraysh know best.’

Lessons to learn from the life of Umm Jamil:

1- Being related to a pious person does not automatically make you righteous. She was the aunt of the Prophet sal Alahu alayhi wa sallam yet that did not save her from her fate.

2- The importance of companionship. Here we see a husband and wife uniting upon disbelief and causing harm upon the people. Umm Jamil was doing these things to support her husband against the Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam and so in the aakhirah, she will still remain in his company.

3- Selecting a righteous spouse that will help you in khayr. Although Abu Lahab and Umm Jamil were pleased with eachother, they were not considered realspouses because they were disbelievers. When Allah ta’ala mentions the punishment of Abu Lahab, He connects his wife to him as well which shows that evil men are for evil women, as Allah says in surah Nur.

4- Wealth or children did not save her or her husband from the punishment of this life and the next.



and Allah azza wa jal is Most Knowing.

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