Who is 'Abi Lahab' in 111:1

Sura 111
[1] Doomed are the hands of Abi Lahab, and doomed is he.
[2] His wealth will not avail him, nor what he has earned.
[3] He will roast in a flaming fire.
[4] And his wife, the firewood carrier,
[5] around her neck is a rope of twisted fibre.

Traditional interpreters explain that Abi Lahab (111:1) was the paternal uncle of prophet Muhammad. The literal meaning of Abi/Abu Lahab is 'Father of Flame'. It is told that Abi Lahab was an ardent enemy of the prophet and took an active part in the persecution and ill treatment of Muhammad.

The research into this Sura was initially started in an attempt to understand why would God dedicate the name of a Sura to such a vile and ardent enemy of God. Other Suras were named after messengers of God, such as Suras: Muhammad, Abraham, Joseph, Hud, Jonah, or after believers such as Luqman and
Sheba (who submitted to God with Solomon), so why would God honour such a disbeliever by having a Sura bearing his name? Initially, it was necessary to determine who exactly was Abi Lahab.

The first piece of information that we need to know is that the assumed man (uncle of the prophet) was not called Abi Lahab at all, but was called Abd Al-Uzza by birth. It is said that his father nick-named him
Abi Lahab (Father of Flame) due to his red inflamed cheeks. With this knowledge, we are entitled to enquire: would God call any person by his nick-name?
Whether his father truly gave him this nick name, or rather, that the followers of Muhammad at the time, or shortly after his death, gave him the name Abi Lahab merely to associate the degrading words of this Sura to him; that is open to question.

Apart from names and nick-names, our effort should be directed at attaining the correct understanding of the words of this Sura and the relevance of every word. It is necessary to determine if the words in Sura 111 speak about one particular person or that the words speak of a whole category of people.
By consulting a number of Quranic verses, it emerges that the words of the Sura are not personalised at all, but can apply to any disbelieving couple. The reasons are as follows:

The words "his wealth will not avail him" do not necessarily speak about one person, but is a phrase told in the Quran with regards to all disbelievers, such as:

The Day when neither wealth nor children can be of any benefit.

The words "he will roast in a flaming fire" are once again spoken in the Quran about any disbeliever and not just one person:

Those who disbelieved in Our revelations, We will roast them in a fire. 4:56

The words "firewood carrier" are also spoken about a whole group of people who are destined to Hell. They are along the same lines as:

As for the deviators, they will be firewood for Hell. 72:15

The words "around her neck is a rope of twisted fibre" are once again words that have been told about all disbelievers in Hell:

Those are the ones who disbelieved in their Lord. Those will have chains around their necks, and those are the companions of the Fire; therein they shall permanently remain.


1- The descriptive words in Sura 111 can apply to any disbelieving couple and not just one specific man and his wife.
2- The uncle of the prophet whom this Sura is claimed to be about had a totally different name. This alleged nick-name may have been made up to match this man with this Sura.
3- We do not see any Sura in the Quran which God named after any single disbeliever or wicked person.