Dr. Mohammad Najeeb Qasmi
Translation of Surah Humazah (Chapter 104 of the Holy Quran): Woe to every backbiter, and one who is habitual of deriding people on their face who accumulates wealth and counts it. He thinks that his wealth has made him eternal. Never! He will certainly be thrown into the Crushing Fire. And what may let you know what the Crushing Fire is? It is Allah’s ignited fire that will penetrate deep into the hearts. Beware that it will be closed on them, in outstretched columns.
Wayl means destruction, great loss and chastisement. In fact, there is a valley in Hell that is named Wayl. It means that those who indulge in three sins (backbiting, derision, wrongful accumulation of wealth) will be thrown into the valley of Hell named Wayl. It has been mentioned in Surah Ma’oon that those who are neglectful of their Salaat (demonstrate laziness in performing Salaat) will also be thrown in the same valley. May Allah save us all from that. Humazah and Lumazah are to be understood as exaggeration. Hamzun means pointing towards someone (with a negative intention) and Lamz means fault-finding or taunting someone. To mock at someone, finding fault in someone, speaking ill of someone behind his or her back (backbiting), similarly taunting someone or abusing the person, all of these fall under the dictates of this verse and are major sins all of us must abstain from. Those who indulge in these sins (or one of these sins) will be severely punished in the Hell, in case they do not sincerely repent for these before their death. What needs to be understood is that the worst of all the bondsmen are those who indulge themselves in backbiting and create rift between friends and relatives, publicly disgrace good-hearted and noble people, and try to find faults in innocent people. Almighty Allah says in Surah Al-Hujraat, “O you who believe, no men should ever scoff at other men. May be, the latter are better than the former. Nor should women (ever scoff) at other women. May be, the latter women are better than the former ones. And do not find fault with one another, nor call one another with bad nicknames. Bad is the name of sinfulness after embracing Faith. If anyone does not repent, then such people are the wrongdoers” (verse no. 11).
In this verse of the Holy Qur‘an we have been asked to abstain from backbiting. Before anything else, in the light of the sayings of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), we must understand what exactly is backbiting. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) asked his companions, “Do you know what is backbiting?” the companions replied, “Allah and His Prophet (PBUH) know better.” Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said, “To refer to that feature or characteristic of your brother that he does not like.” The companions asked the Prophet (PBUH), “What if the things being referred to about the person are there in him?” Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said, “If the things being referred to about the person are actually there in him, then it is a case of backbiting, if they are not in him then it will be a case of slandering (Bohtaan)” (Muslim). In the light of this saying of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) what we get to understand is that backbiting means mentioning some person’s faults and shortcoming in front of others that the person (who is referred to) does not like. And in case the faults and shortcomings attributed to the person are not there in him or her, then it will be a case of slandering. To speak of the faults of a Muslim brother in front of others (backbiting) is akin to eating one’s dead brother’s flesh. Who amongst us can possibly like eating the flesh of his dead brother? Almighty Allah has commanded us to abstain from backbiting and has made a case of abhorrence towards it. Lord Almighty says, “And do not backbite one another. Does one of you like that he eats the flesh of his dead brother? You would abhor it” (Surah Al-Hujraat, verse no. 12).
In the journey that Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) undertook during the Night of Ascension (Me’raj), alongside seeing Paradise and Hell, he (PBUH) also got to see the condition of various sinners (the severe chastisement they were subjected to for the kind of sins they had committed). I would like to specifically mention the punishment one of the sinners was subjected to so that we, on our own, abstain from that grave sin (backbiting) and, at the same time, ask others to refrain from the same. Hazrat Anas (RZA) narrates that Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said, “On the night I ascended (the night of Me’raj), I happened to pass by people who had copper nails and were scratching their faces and chests. I asked Jibraeel (AS) who were they. He replied that they were people who indulged in eating people’s flesh (implying they used to backbite) and were actively in pursuit of disgracing them” (Abu Dawood).
Alladhee Jama’a Maalan Wa’addadah: One who accumulates wealth by unlawful means and keeps counting it every now and then. In the light of other verses of the Holy Quran and sayings of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) we get to know that it is not an outright sin to accumulate wealth. In fact, wealth is one of the bounties bestowed upon us by Almighty Allah through which a human being tries to attend to his worldly needs as per the commandments of Almighty Allah. However, what needs to be understood is that the Shariah has bound everyone to earn wealth only through permissible and Halaal means because on the Day of Judgement each one of us has to account for his or her wealth before Almighty Allah; from where did the person earn his wealth, meaning what were the means employed by him and where did he or she spend his or her wealth (to ensure that in the course of spending his or her wealth the person did not demonstrate any negligence with respect to his obligations towards Almighty Allah or fellow human beings). So, what we need to understand is that it is not problematic to make attempts at earning wealth and accumulating it for future needs, provided wealth is acquired by fair means and all the obligations wealth entails are properly attended to.
Yahsabu Anna Maalahu Akhladah: He indulged in his love for wealth to the extent that he forgot his Hereafter and his deeds imply his conviction that he is going to live in this world forever, though the fact is that everything is to perish except Almighty Allah. Verily the kingdom is of Allah and to Him all of us are going to return. Regardless of where a human being is, there will come a day when death will nab him, even if he is living inside strong and well-built forts. It is certain that each and every individual will die but it is only Almighty Allah who knows exactly when and where a person will die. This is the reason why some of us respond to the call of Angel of Death in our childhood, some during the peak of our youth, some when we are aged and the remaining in old age. Some absolutely healthy adults when set out on their vehicles do not know that they are actually embarking upon the ride of death. Therefore, we must seek repentance and push ourselves towards doing good deeds. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said, “Five things must be benefitted from before the arrival of five things: making use of youth before the arrival of old age, making use of life before the arrival of death, making use of free and spare time before work (getting busy), making use of wealth before the arrival of poverty, and making use of health before the arrival of sickness”.
Kalla Laumbadhanna fil Hutamah: Never! He will be thrown into a Fire that will be crushing. Al-Hutamah too is to be understood as an exaggeration implying a thing that is crushing. What is this thing that will crush the person? This question is to describe the dreadfulness of the situation that it is no ordinary thing but a Fire that is created by the Creator of this entire universe.
What is Hell? Almighty Allah says, “O you who believe, save yourselves and your families from a fire, the fuel of which are human beings and stones” (Surah Tahreem, verse no. 6). Similarly, Allah says, “neither they will be sentenced to death, so that they could die, nor will its torment be lightened for them” (Surah Faatir, verse no. 36). It means that in Hell neither will the person die nor will the torment be lightened. In various verses of the Holy Quran it has been mentioned that the diet of inhabitants of Hell is boiling water, food full of thorns, food that gets stuck in the throat, filth from the washing of wounds and puss, molten copper etc. What it informs us is that exceptionally painful things will be given to inhabitants of Hell as food. Almighty Allah says, “Whenever their skins are burnt out, We shall give them other skins in their place, so that they may taste the punishment” (Surah Al-Nisaa‘, verse no. 56). Similarly, Lord Almighty says, “And for them (inhabitants of Hell) there are hooked rods of iron (a kind of weapon). Whenever, in their anguish, they will intend to come out of it (the fire), they will be turned back to it, and they will be told to taste the punishment of burning” (Surah Al-Hajj, verse nos. 21 & 22).
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said, “Hell had been lit for one thousand years until its fire became red. Then it was lit for another thousand years until its fire turned white. Then it was lit for another one thousand years and its fire became black. Therefore, as of now, Hell is a dark valley” (Tirmidhi, Ibne Maajah). Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said, “The person who will receive the mildest punishment in Hell will be made to wear shoes and laces of fire due to which his brain will boil the way a pot on fire does. That person will be under the impression that he is subjected to the severest punishment though his would be the mildest” (Bukhari and Muslim). Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said, “This fire of yours (one that you use in this world) is one seventieth of the fire of Hell. The companions of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said, “This too is enough to burn someone”. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said, “Yet, when it comes to burning, the fire of Hell is 69 times stronger than the fire of this world” (Bukhari and Muslim).
The subject of Hell is so wide that hundreds of books have been written on it. I have only written few things in the light of the verses of the Holy Quran and sayings of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). There is only one way in which we can save ourselves from Hell, the place that remains peerless in tormenting and torturing its inhabitants. We need to live our worldly life in accordance with the commandments of Almighty Allah and as per the way Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) lived his life, as mentioned by “Poet of the East” Allamah Iqbal:
Amal se zindagi banti hai jannat bhi jahannam bhi
Ye khaki apni fitrat mein na noori hai na naari hai
It is by action that one’s life may become both paradise and hell;
By its nature, this creature of dust is neither of light nor of fire.
Allatee Tattali’u ’alal ‘af’idah: People who are found indulgent in the aforementioned sins will be thrown in a fire that will reach their hearts. Although it is a basic feature of fire that it burns body parts of the human being thrown into it but the fire of the Hell that Almighty Allah is referring to will be of a different kind in the sense that it will firstly burn their hearts, the hearts that had altogether forgotten the Hereafter because of their affection towards wealth. As a result of technological creations of human being, specific tools are used for doing specific works. The Creator of the universe has created such an exclusive fire in Hell that will, before anything else, directly attack at those hearts that are filled with malice and rivalry for others and such a love for wealth that it became an impediment to love for Allah and His Prophet (PBUH). There are few commentators who have explained this verse by saying that when the worldly fire catches a human body, the person dies before the fire could reach his or heart. However, since in the Hereafter there is no death, the fire reaches the heart of the person.
Innaha ’Alaihim M‘usadatun Fee ’Amadim Mumaddadah: Outstretched columns implies that the flames of the fire will be so long that it will appear as columns, and the inhabitant of Hell will be locked in them. O Allah! Please decide for us absolute relief from the Hell.
The lesson in this Surah of the Holy Quran is that in addition to other sins we must abstain from three sins; Hamz, Lamz and accumulation of wealth through unlawful means. Hamz and Lamz have different meanings; backbiting, fault finding, taunting, using abusive language, insulting someone etc. Since these sins, apparently, come under our obligations towards fellow human beings, we must completely abstain from these, repent for the sins that we have committed so far, make sincere resolution of not committing those sins ever in life again and seek forgiveness from Almighty Allah. In settling or sorting out things with the concerned person (related to whom we have done backbiting, taunting etc.) at the earliest lies hidden our well-being, honour and success of both the worlds