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