Surah al-Humazah (No. 104: 'The Scandal-Monger')

Verses 1-9

بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ

In the Name of Allah, the All-beneficent, the All-merciful.

وَيْلٌ لِكُلِّ هُمَزَةٍ لُمَزَةٍ

Woe to every scandal-monger (104:1).

الَّذِي جَمَعَ مَالًا وَعَدَّدَهُ

who amasses wealth and layeth it by (104:2).

يَحْسَبُ أَنَّ مَالَهُ أَخْلَدَهُ

He supposes his wealth will render him immortal (104:3).

كَلَّا لَيُنْبَذَنَّ فِي الْحُطَمَةِ

No indeed! He will surely be cast into the Crusher (104:4).

وَمَا أَدْرَاكَ مَا الْحُطَمَةُ

And what will show you what is the Crusher (104:5).

نَارُ اللَّهِ الْمُوقَدَةُ

(It is] the fire of Allah, kindled (104:6).

الَّتِي تَطَّلِعُ عَلَى الْأَفْئِدَةِ

which will overspread the heart (104:7).

إِنَّهَا عَلَيْهِمْ مُؤْصَدَةٌ

Indeed, it will closed in upon them (104:8).

فِي عَمَدٍ مُمَدَّدَةٍ

in outstretched columns (104:9).

1. The Word “Wayl” (Woe)

The Qur’an uses the word ‘woe’ (wayl) many times as an indefinite noun; this is to magnify the force of the threat and rebuke it contains in seventeen different places in the Qur’an. However, what unites all of the objects of woe found in these seventeen places is associating partners with Allah (shirk) and disbelief (kufr) – for instance, Allah says:
“ ...and woe to the disbelievers for a severe punishment …” (Ibrahim, 14:2).

or moral degradation, such as lying, scandal-mongering and slandering, as we find in this surah. The lesson in this is that Allah uses the word 'woe' (wayl) - which denounces the foulest inner vices such as disbelief - for outer vices, represented by the sins mentioned in this surah, which sinners find easy to commit because they consist of nothing more than uttering words; scandals and lies!

This shows that we should not feel at ease with ourselves just because we have avoided inner vices when such outer vices persist. In short: Adopting the morals of the Shari'ah is as fundamental a part of it as adhering to its doctrines, and that is why the threat of 'woe' is applied to both!

2. Scandal-Monger And Slanderer 1

Several explanations are offered for distinguishing the scandal­monger (humazah) from the slanderer (lumazah), but both generally involve mentioning the faults of others; so, this applies to all instances thereof, whether done in earnest or in jest, whether in religious affairs or worldly ones, whether in word or deed, whether the object of such derision is present or absent.

What is generally understood from this verse and the verse of backbiting1 is that the intent of the Lord is to condemn those who mention the faults of others without good reason; because it causes others to weaken, build animosity in a person's soul and diverts him from setting right its affairs.

3. Scandal-Monger And Slanderer 2

There is no external and physical sin except that it emanates from the root inside the person. An arrogant person is not arrogant - as we read in a tradition - save for a weakness he finds in himself; and the one who defrauds others, who is also, rebuked with ‘woe’ in the Qur'an, does not consume the wealth of others save for the fact he loves to amass wealth and enjoy pleasures. The same is true of the scandal-monger and the slanderer, who do not besmirch the honour of others save for a baseness and lowness in their own selves; for even if neither they or the backbiter benefit from their actions in this world, the still expose themselves to the retribution of the Lord of the Worlds.

And perhaps we can deduce that the punishment of the backbiter will also, be that of the slanderer and the scandal-monger, and vice versa; because their sins are all of the same type, namely pursuing the faults of others and mentioning them. There is no doubt that mentioning Hellfire and its terrors should cause people to desist from such behaviour, assuming they are accustomed to desisting from other sins, and it is with a description of such horrors that this surah ends.

4. Slandering Prophet Muhammad (S)

In addition to the censure of all slanderers - as we find in this surah - Allah also, condemns those who slander the personality of the most noble of mankind (S), particularly in his quality best-known to people, namely trustworthiness; for some dared to slander the Prophet (S) and thus about them Allah said:

“There are some of them who slander you regarding the alms: if they are given thereof, they are pleased, but if they are not given thereof, behold, they are displeased.” (at-Tawbah, 9:58).

In fact, the Lord also, defends those who believe and volunteer charities, saying:

“Those who blame the voluntary donors from among the faithful concerning the charities” (al-Tawbah, 9:79).

And let it be known that this quality - clearly visible in the hypocrites - when it is found in other people amongst the faithful, it is the exactly the same moral iniquity, especially because the verse explicitly makes its rebuke general with the words:

“Woe to every scandal-monger and slanderer.” (al-Humazah, 104:1).

And how terrible it is to think that a believer could possess the quality of a hypocrite such as mentioning the faults of others, or getting up for prayer lazily!

5. Amassing Wealth

Amassing wealth without using it and spending it in the proper way is immoral in itself. And although this is not necessarily prohibited in the jurisprudential sense, it does mean it could lead to other sins, and it suffices to demonstrate this that it is mentioned in the context of slandering and scandal mongering! It is obvious that if a person's heart is polluted with the love of this world, he will forget his Creator or his Creator will cause him to forget His remembrance:

“And do not be like those who forget Allah, so, He makes them forget their own souls” (al-Hashr, 59:19).

whereby it becomes easy for a person to drown in all manner of falsehoods, as he sees himself higher than others so, it is easy for him to disparage them. Indeed, 'the love of this world is the source of every iniquity.'2

And it has been narrated from Imam al-Ridha (‘a): 'Wealth is not gathered except with five qualities: Extreme stinginess, farfetched hopes, overwhelming greed, severing family ties and preferring this world over the Hereafter.'3

6. Wealth Earned After Remembering Allah

Wealth that is earned after remembering Allah is full of goodness and blessings. In fact, the Qur'an encourages people to gather it:

“And when the prayer is finished disperse through the land and seek Allah's grace, and remember Allah greatly so, that you may be felicitous.” (al-Jumu'ah, 62:10).

But if wealth is earned before remembering Allah, then it remains ill-gotten, as in His saying:

“When they sight a deal or a diversion, they scatter off towards it and leave you standing! Say, 'What is with Allah is better than diversion and dealing, and Allah is the best of providers.” (al-Jumu'ah, 62:11).

The amassing of wealth that censured in this surah is, of course, of the latter category, as no one gathers wealth and counts it over and over again except someone who loves the wealth itself, rather than someone who aims to spend it in on those things Allah has recommended for His servant.

7. Derision From Comrades

In the Qur'an, one of the factors that causes a person to revert from falsehood is the derision of his comrades. In this surah we read - In addition to the invocation of woe which itself is a kind of derision and censure:

…… He will surely be cast into the Crusher” (al-Humazah, 104:4).

To cast means to throw something away, as if he is something useless that one wants to dispose of. The ‘Crusher’ is the Fire that crushes and tears apart whatever is thrown into it.

Add to all of the above the lowliness of their own souls which seem unable to grasp the simplest of truths; they actually believe that their money can buy them immortality, which is perhaps the most foolish thought a person can e322ntertain!

8. Hellfire

The expression ‘And what will show you ...’ is usually used in descriptions of the Resurrection and its horrors, such as the Beseiger (al-Haqqah)4 and the Catastrophe (al-Qari'ah).5 The fact that it appears in this surah with its description of Hellfire as the Crusher:

“which will overspread the hearts” (al-Humazah, 104:7).

is a severe warning against this sin, which is a common habit of many people!

This shows us that we must avoid all kinds of forbidden acts, whose true spiritual form is hidden until we enter that realm;

“but what will the admonition avail him?” (al-Fajr, 89:23).

And we should note how appropriate this crushing fire in the Hereafter is as a punishment for the sins of those consigned to it, because their words have crushed the hearts of others in this world.

9. Slandering And Scandal-Mongering

If we define a major sin (kabirah) as 'something for which Allah has decreed Hellfire as a recompense in the Qur'an' then in its most plain sense this includes the sins of slandering and scandal mongering. The problem with most verbal sins such as these is that people find them easy to commit because nothing visibly disgraceful happens on account of their claims, unlike for example fornication, theft and murder.

In fact, verbal sins are the source for many of these other sins; one person might become enraged and kill someone because of such utterances, while as another might be aroused to commit fornication because of those words.

10. Burning To The Core

The punishment mentioned in Allah's words

“which will overspread the hearts” (al-Humazah, 104:7).

even if some take it to mean that a person will burn not just from the outside but from within - can be explained as follows: This punishment will reach a person's true core, meaning his soul, and not just the inside of his body, for it is this core that is the source of all evil. And we can see the burning of sinners' hearts in the Hereafter reflected in this world, for they are burnt by these fires even now, and this is what causes them to become vexed and annoyed, just as the Qur'an describes them:

“whomever He desires to lead astray, He makes his breast narrow and straitened as if he were climbing to a height.” (al-An'am, 6:125).

And it is this that explains their attachment to various types of enjoyment and pleasure to relieve this vexation and angst they feel.

11. Hell Closing

In this world, the greatest hope for someone imprisoned is to escape his prison, but the Qur'an deprives the inmates of the Hellfire of this fanciful wish in various verses, saying that the gates of Hellfire are firmly shut and sealed upon its inmates. For example, Allah says:

“upon them will be a closed Fire.” (al-Balad, 90:20).

Elsewhere, He says:

“Whenever they seek to leave it, they will be turned back into it, and they will be told: “Taste the punishment of the Fire:...” (as-Sajdah, 32:20).

And in this surah, we read:

“Indeed, it will close in upon them.” (al-Humazah, 104:8).

Obviously, being punished and feeling that there is no escape or relief from punishment will inflict upon a person psychological torment in addition to their physical torment, which is why the word 'distress' (ghamm) is used to describe the punishment of one in Hellfire in Allah's words:

“Whenever they desire to leave it out of anguish, they will be turned back into it...” (al-Hajj, 22:22).

12. Wealth

who imagines that his wealth will eternalize him
In this surah a it is interesting to note the juxtaposition of a wealthy person - who imagines that his wealth will eternalize him in the verse:

“He supposes his wealth will make him immortal!” (al-Humazah, 104:3).

is juxtapositioned with the one who is cast into 'the Crusher.' How this must dash the hopes of one who sees his wealth - which he fancies will give him eternal life - become a cause for him to be cast headlong into Hellfire!

It is also, interesting to note the wealth which he 'counts it over' is juxtapositioned with the column of flame that looms 'outstretched' over him, as it was by his obsessive counting of wealth that he extended this column of flame for himself in Hellfire!

  • 1. See Surah Al-Hujarat:
    ‘Will any of you love to eat the flesh of his dead brother? You would hate it.' (49:12).
  • 2. Al-Kafi 2/130.
  • 3. Al-Khisal 1/282.
  • 4. See Surah al-Haqqah:
    “And what would make you realize what the sure calamity is!” (69:3).
  • 5. See Surah al-Qari'ah:
    ” And what will make you comprehend what the terrible calamity is?” (101:3).