The Argument about Abu Lahab

A new argument for the divine origin of the Qur'an has recently come to be presented by increasing numbers of Muslims. For our response we will quote from the end of the article Qur'an: Is it the Truth? at the Khalifornia web site[1] where it is formulated in the following way:

The Quran also made many statements, which would have been foolish for Muhammad to make as they could have undermined his entire message. As an example, in Surah Masad, Allah condemned Abu Lahab and his wife to Jahannam (Hellfire),

"The power of Abu Lahab will perish, and he will perish. His wealth and gains will not exempt him. He will be plunged in flaming Fire, and his wife, the wood carrier, will have upon her neck a halter of palm-fibre" (111:1-5).

Here, the Quran makes a promise that Abu Lahab and his wife will never accept Islam. How would Muhammad know this. How would he know that Abu Lahab would not declare his belief in the Islamic doctrine hypocritically such that all the people would think the Quran was wrong. In addition, if Muhammad were to produce such an ayah he would have been expected to produce them about other enemies just as staunch in their hatred during the Meccan period, such as Abu Jahl and Abu Sufyan. However, Allah did not reveal such ayahs because Allah knows that Abu Sufyan would become Muslims and perhaps because Abu Jahl may have taken the shahadah hypocritically. Only Allah could have known for sure that Abu Lahab would be too arrogant to do this.

We do know that Abu Lahab was a relative of Muhammad who was making Muhammad's life miserable, trying to work against his message in many ways.

It is understandable that Muhammad would compose a sura condemning him to hell for his enmity towards Islam. It is natural that the anger of Muhammad about Abu Lahab's resistence and mockery would formulate itself in such a condemnation.

The punishment of hellfire is stated in the Qur'an in general for lots of people many times over. It is here only made specific for Abu Lahab. It is a threat more than a prophecy, since a prophecy needs to be specific and needs to be testable. We cannot test in any way whether Abu Lahab is indeed in hell. The judgement of God at that last day has not yet taken place. As such this statement has very little value in testing whether the Qur'an is of divine origin.

Note: The text only says that Abu Lahab will go to hell. It does not say what the above article claims it says. It does not say that "Abu Lahab will never become a Muslim", whether truly or hypocritically. That might have been a testable prediction (even though of very limited value), but this is not even what the sura actually says.

Since there is no testable prediction this sura has no (positive) value for the determination of divine origin.

In case you think that "going to hell" is equivalent to "never become a Muslim" you might ponder that the Qur'an even says that most or all Muslims will go to hell.

So, even if Abu Lahab had professed faith, according to Sura 19:71 he would still have gone to hellfire.

Under the assumption that Sura 19:71 is true, Sura 111 becomes an absolutely trivial statement since everyone goes to hell anyway.

In Summary: We fail to see any evidence in this sura that would support the divine origin of the Qur'an. On the contrary, it is evidence that Muhammad's personal feelings of anger against Abu Lahab have found their way into what is claimed to be the eternal word of God.

Update: A more detailed discussion of this issue is now found in Sam Shamoun's rebuttal to Zakir Naik (*) and in the discussion of a similar "prophecy" about Ibn Abi Sarh (*).


Khalifornia is long dead, and this particular article disappeared together with the website, but copies of it are still found at these locations: 1, 2.

Other prophecies in the Qur'an?
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