About Abu Lahab ʿAbd al-ʿUzzā ibn ʿAbd al-Muṭṭalib ibn Hāshim ibn ʿAbd Manāf
Abū Lahab, ʿAbd al-ʿUzzā b. ʿAbd al-Muṭṭalib b. Hāshim b. ʿAbd Manāf
Abū Lahab, ʿAbd al-ʿUzzā b. ʿAbd al-Muṭṭalib b. Hāshim b. ʿAbd Manāf (d. 2/623), was the Prophet Muḥammad's uncle and one of his staunchest opponents. He was originally named Abū ʿUtba, but his father changed his name to Abū Lahab (lit. ‘Father of Flame’) because of his beautiful face and rosy cheeks (al-Kalbī, 28; Ibn Saʿd, 1/93). His mother Lubnā was the daughter of Hājar bint ʿAbd Manāf, who belonged to the tribe of Khuzāʿa (al-Kalbī, 28; Ibn Saʿd, 1/93; Ibn Hishām, 1/115, 118).
There is no precise information about Abū Lahab's life before the advent of Islam. He was probably engaged in commerce, like the majority of Qurayshīs, and as indicated in the second verse of Sūrat al-Masad (111:2, ‘What will his wealth avail him and all that that he has gained?’), he had accumulated a substantial amount of wealth. Abū Lahab was accused of stealing from the treasury of the Kaʿba, and according to some reports the people of Quraysh wanted to punish him by cutting off his hands but were prevented from doing so by his maternal relatives (Ibn Durayd, 121; Ibn Ḥabīb, 60–64; Ibn Qutayba, 125; al-Ṭabarī, 1/1134–1135). His brother Abū Ṭālib (q.v.) was extremely angry because of this incident (Ibn Ḥabīb, 62).
Before the official declaration of Muḥammad's mission (biʿtha), his relations with Abū Lahab seem to have been quite good, since he gave his daughters Umm Kulthūm and Ruqayya in marriage to ¶ Abū Lahab's sons, ʿUtba and ʿUtayba (see Ibn Saʿd, 8/36–37; al-Balādhurī, 1/122–123). Furthermore, Abū Lahab's slave-girl, Thuwayba, had acted as wet-nurse to Muḥammad when he was young, before he was nursed by Ḥalīma al-Saʿdiyya (Ibn Saʿd, 1/108; al-Balādhurī, 1/96; al-Yaʿqūbī, 2/9). After the Prophet was instructed to spread the message openly, Abū Lahab became one of his most implacable enemies, which is why he is such a well-known figure in early Islamic history. The reasons for his antagonism towards Muḥammad are unclear, but his rivalry with Abū Ṭālib, who had become the head of Banū Hāshim and was a staunch supporter of the Prophet, was certainly a contributing factor. According to one report, relations between Abū Ṭalib and Abū Lahab were far from cordial (see al-Balādhurī, 1/130). Abū Lahab's fanatical zeal in defence of the idolatrous beliefs of his forefathers was another reason for his antagonism, and it was believed he undertook responsibility for defending the idol called al-ʿUzzā against the nascent religion of Islam (al-Wāqidī, 2/874).
As the Prophet's neighbours, Abū Lahab and his wife Umm Jamīl threw litter as well as thorns and twigs before him, and made every effort to harm and distress him (Ibn Isḥāq, 144; Ibn Saʿd, 1/200; Ibn al-Hishām, 1/380; al-Balādhurī, 1/131). According to some accounts, however, at times Abū Lahab defended both the Prophet and Abū Ṭālib (Ibn Hishām, 2/10).
When by divine decree the Prophet revealed his mission to his relatives, Abū Lahab declared his opposition and hostility, and told those present to defend the beliefs of their ancestors against the new religion. At the same time he mocked the Prophet, jeering at him. It is reported that Sūrat al-Masad was revealed to the Prophet in denunciation of Abū Lahab and his wife after this incident (Aḥmad b. Ḥanbal, 1/307; Ibn Saʿd, 1/74; al-Balādhurī, 1/119–120; ¶ for other accounts regarding the origins of this sūra, see al-Qurṭubī, 20/234–235). This explains why Abū Lahab, apparently at the instigation of his wife, forced his sons to divorce the Prophet's daughters (Ibn Saʿd, 1/36–37; al-Balādhurī, 1/122–123, 401). Abū Lahab supported the decision of the Quraysh to sever all relations with Muḥammad, the Muslims and the Banū Hāshim, thus compelling Muḥammad to turn to Abū Ṭālib for protection (Ibn Isḥāq, 156; Ibn Saʿd, 1/209). It is reported that he was one of the leaders of the disbelievers who wanted to murder the Prophet while he was asleep in his bed (Ibn Saʿd, 1/228). After Abū Ṭālib and Khadīja died, Abū Lahab, now the head of the Banū Hāshim, appeared to support the Prophet against opposition from the rest of the Quraysh. However, for reasons unknown, he changed his mind (Ibn Saʿd, 1/211; al-Balādhurī, 1/121), and as before cursed and denounced him (Ibn Isḥāq, 232; Ibn Saʿd, 1/261; al-Yaʿqūbī, 2/24).
Abū Lahab was unable to fight in the battle of Badr (2/623) because he was ill (al-Balādhurī, 1/292; cf. Abū al-Faraj, 4/173–174, where a different reason is given for his absence). He sent al-ʿĀṣ b. Hishām b. al-Mughīra, who owed him money, in his stead and in return for this Abū Lahab waived all his debts (al-Wāqidī, 1/33). It is reported that he beat a Muslim convert, Abū Rāfiʿ, after the latter claimed that there were angels fighting alongside the Muslims at Badr; Abū Lahab, in turn, was struck by Umm al-Faḍl, his sister-in-law (the wife of Abū Lahab's brother ʿAbbās), and he died from this wound (Ibn Hishām, 2/302; Abū al-Faraj, 4/205–206; Ibn Saʿd, 4/74; al-Balādhurī, 1/131; see also al-Masʿūdī, 206). Possibly fearing the spread of the disease, which had killed him, the Quraysh took his body outside Mecca and threw a few stones over it (al-Balādhurī, 1/478; Abū al-Faraj, 4/206). Ibn Baṭṭūṭa (p. 143) saw a grave outside ¶ Mecca which was supposed to be that of Abū Lahab.
The stern denunciation of Abū Lahab in the Qurʾān occasionally led to fights and verbal disputes in later times (al-Kashshī, 290; Ibn Abī al-Ḥadīd, 2/172).
Abū Lahab's sons converted to Islam following the conquest of Mecca, and participated in the battles of al-Ṭāʾif and Ḥunayn. Through them Abū Lahab's lineage continued (Ibn Ḥazm, 72; al-Samʿānī, 11/236).
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Citation Bahramian, Ali; Negahban, Farzin. " Abū Lahab." Encyclopaedia Islamica. Editors-in-Chief: Wilferd Madelung and, Farhad Daftary. Brill Online , 2013. Reference. Jim Harlow. 15 January 2013 <http://referenceworks.brillonline.com/entries/encyclopaedia-islamica/abu-lahab-SIM_0168>