Seerah: EP35 – Two Uncles with Different Responses – Abu Talib and Abu Lahab

Feb 5, 2013 | Abdul Nasir Jangda, Podcast, Seerah


Episode 35: Two Uncles with Different Responses – Abu Talib and Abu Lahab

Welcome to Seerah Pearls, which aims to highlight some tantalising learning points from each episode of the Seerah- Life of the Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wasallam).

This episode contrasts two uncles of the Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wasallam): Abu Lahab and Abu Talib.


Abu Lahab

His real name was Abdul Uzza. His complexion was light, but his cheeks were red. He was an intense individual and his face would become red: ‘Lahab’ is a red, burning coal. Abu Lahab was very wealthy, powerful and influential. He was more of a business leader as opposed to a civic leader, as he was not active in the service of his community.


He was married to Umm Jameel, who was the sister of Abu Sufyan. They were a ‘power couple’ at that time. Both individuals made it their life’s mission to oppose Muhammad (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) and his message in the most vile and insulting manner.


Abu Lahab openly demonised the Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) in public. The Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) would speak to people at local fairs and at Hajj about Islam, approaching people from all walks of life: free and slave, weak and powerful, rich and poor. Abu Lahab would tail him and cry out to any listeners that the Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) had abandoned the religion of his forefathers, and made derogatory accusations of him being crazy, a magician, and a liar. He also carried pebbles, which he would distract the Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) with as he spoke to people by throwing them at his head.


Abu Lahab even forced his two sons who were engaged to the two daughters of the Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) to cancel the engagement in a humiliating manner. One son simply announced the separation to the Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wasallam), but the other ripped his shirt and spat on him. Later, the daughters went on to marry Uthman ibn Affan during their lifetimes.


Umm Jameel would throw rubbish on the Prophet’s (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) doorstep, as well as publicly throw dirt over his clothing to make him less presentable as he spread his message. The Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) simply continued his business, ignoring their indecent behaviour.


Allah revealed Surah Al-Masad:

111:1 May the hands of Abu Lahab be ruined, and ruined is he.

111:2 His wealth will not avail him or that which he gained.

111:3 He will [enter to] burn in a Fire of [blazing] flame

111:4 And his wife [as well] – the carrier of firewood.

111:5 Around her neck is a rope of [twisted] fiber.


Abu Talib

Contrary to the vile behaviour of Abu Lahab, Abu Talib was very attached to the Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wasallam). He loved dearly Abdullah, the father of the Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wasallam), and was entrusted by his own father, Abdul-Muttalib, to care for the Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) when he passed away.


Abu Talib showered Muhammad (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) with love and affection, defending him against the Quraysh. He even approved of his son, Ali’s, conversion to Islam. The Quraysh approached Abu Talib to complain of the difficulty and nuisance being created by Muhammad (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) and his message, asking him to stop. Abu Talib called for Muhammad (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) and asked him to stop. The Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) replied that he was no more capable of stopping preaching the message than he was any more capable of going to the sun and bringing back a burning flame. Abu Talib replied that he never knew of Muhammad (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) to lie, and asked the Quraysh to leave.


In another narration, the Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) is reported to have said, ‘Oh my dear Uncle, if the sun was put in my right hand and the moon in my left hand, I would not stop preaching the true message of God until the message had become apparent on the earth or I had died trying.’ The Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) teared up and cried, turning to walk away. He possibly thought that Abu Talib had given up his support, or even felt upset that he had bothered his Uncle despite everything Abu Talib had done for him. Abu Talib encouraged the Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) to continue, reassuring him that he would never leave his side.