Sūrah al-Masad

Observations on how Sūrah al-Masad is organized in the Quran

Sūrah al-Masad (The Palm-Fiber) is a unique sūrah in that it is wholly dedicated to the condemnation of two individual disbelievers from the time of the Messenger ﷺ.

It is one of the shorter suwar and appears to be organized in a ring structure.

The sūrah begins with the immediate condemnation of the uncle of the Messenger ﷺ, Abu Lahab (A). On the opposite end of the sūrah (A’) lies the condemnation and punishment for Abu Lahab’s disbelieving wife. In the case of Abu Lahab, Allah ﷻ mentions his "hands” and for the wife, her “neck.”

In Section B, Allah ﷻ tells us that the wealth and actions of Abu Lahab will not protect him from the Fire. In B’, his wife is told the same thing. “The carrier of firewood” actually holds multiple meanings (Arabic source) which describe both her livelihood and her actions. On one hand, it tells of her job wherein she used to transport firewood for people. On the other, it is a reference to how she used to drop wood and kindling in the path of the Messenger ﷺ to obstruct his path. Taken together, neither her wealth nor her actions will benefit her.

The center contains the main thesis of the sūrah. Abu Lahab (and his wife) have been condemned to the Fire for their insolence towards the Messenger ﷺ. Abu Lahab is actually the nickname of the uncle and translates to “the father of the flame,” which is a reference to his handsomeness and reddish skin tone. In an ironic play on words, Allah ﷻ uses the same word, "lahab (flame)” to describe the Flame which Abu Lahab is destined to enter.

In summary, the sūrah appears to be organized as so:

وَاللَّهُ أَعلَمُ - And Allah knows best


Sources

Personal research and reflections