Abu Lahab is the only person from the enemies of Islam who has been cursed by name in the Holy Qur’an. Although he was an uncle of the Holy Prophet (S.A.W.), he staunchly opposed Islam from the very beginning. When the Holy Prophet (S.A.W.) climbed Mount Safa and addressed the tribes and his clansmen saying: “O Banu ‘Abd Al-Muttalib, O Banu Fihr, O Banu Lu’ay; would you believe me if I say that there is an enemy at the foot of this mountain behind, ready to launch an attack on you”; will you believe me?” They said: “Yes. You are Al-Ameen (trustworthy) and Al-Sadiq (truthful) and we have never seen you speak lies. Soon, he declared Prophethood. The people dispersed murmuring silently, but Abu Lahab, who always loved his nephew Mohammed (S.A.W.), vehemently opposed him because he saw the message as a challenge to his leadership. He cried: “Perish be you... Did you gather us just for this?”
It was a great shock on the first day of the declaration of Prophethood and invitation to the true religion of Islam. Almighty Allah sealed Abu Lahab’s fate and later revealed Surah 111 in the Holy Quran reading:
“Perished be the hands of Abu Lahab and ruined he be,
Neither his wealth nor what he has earned shall avail him.
He shall shortly roast in a flaming fire.
And his wife — laden with faggots, Shall have a rope of palm fiber round her neck. (Al Qur'an 111:1-5)
Abu Lahab lived for 12 years after the declaration of Islam and saw many leading personalities like his brother (amir) Hamza and (amirul-momineen) Umar bin Khattab embracing Islam, but he never did. It was a good chance for him to embrace Islam and thus challenge the words of the Holy Qur’an. And how could he do that when Almighty Allah had proclaimed it. It is this verse which led a westerner to embrace Islam in our times.
Abu Lahab, son of Abdul Muttalib, was born in Makkah. His original name was Abdul Uzza. In the beginning, he loved his nephew, Prophet Mohammed (S.A.W.) and sent his maid named Thawbiyah to suckle the child. Later, he also contracted Nikaah of two of his sons with the two daughters of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.) named Ruqayya and Umm Kulthum but they were not sent home as they were minors. But after the Qur'anic revelation against him, so furious was he that he instructed his sons to divorce the two daughters.
Later, the Prophet's first daughter was married to Uthman bin Affan, the third caliph of Islam. Uthman married the Prophet's other daughter when one passed away. Once Utaibah, one of his sons, tried to disgrace the Holy Prophet (S.A.W) who prayed: “May Allah set upon you one of His dogs.” So scared was Abu Lahab with the Prophet’s words that while on a journey, he placed his son in the middle of the people out of fear of the Prophet’s words. However, a lion came by midnight, went straight to his son and sank his teeth in his neck killing him on the spot.
When the Holy Prophet (S.A.W.) invited people to Islam by saying: O People, say there is no god but Allah and be prosperous, Abu Lahab would follow him and tell the people not to believe him. He was nicknamed Abu Lahab for his red face but Islam termed him as ‘father of the flames.’ When the Pagans boycotted the Holy Prophet, the whole clan of Banu Hashem, including Muslims and non-Muslims, supported him and suffered in Shoab Bani Talib for a long time. But Abu Lahab was the only member of Banu Hashem who supported the pagans and separated himself from the clan.
His wife, Arwa bint Harb, nicknamed Umm Jameel, was the sister of the then enemy of Islam, Abu Sufyan. Although real aunt, she used to throw thorny bushes in the path of the Prophet (S.A.W.). The Holy Qur’an chastised both Abu Lahab and his wife in Surah Masad and both of them died a miserable death as disbelievers.
He could not join the famous Battle of Badr but sent in his place Abu Jahl’s brother who owed him 4,000 dirhams, and promised to waive the debt. When the news of pagans’ defeat reached Makkah, he fell ill. Later, he developed the contagious disease of smallpox. He died a week later in 02 AH. His family left his decaying body in his home for two or three nights until neighbors rebuked his sons. “It is disgraceful. You should be ashamed of leaving your father to rot in his house.” They hired slaves to remove his body. It was washed from a distance, then pushed with poles into a pit outside Makkah and stones were thrown over it.
Abu Lahab’s elder son, Utba, embraced Islam after the conquest of Makkah. He was well received by the Holy Prophet (S.A.W.). He spent his life as a good Muslim and received the honorable title of Sahabi. Abu Lahab’s daughter Durrah also embraced Islam and became a narrator of Hadith. She narrated a Hadith, which has been reported by Imam Ahmad Hanbal in his Musnad: “A man got up and asked the Prophet (S.A.W), ‘who is the best of the people?’ He answered, ‘The best of the people is the most learned, most God-fearing, most to be enjoining virtue, most to be prohibiting vice and the most to be joining the kin.’”
There were five staunch enemies of Islam — Abu Jehal, Abu Lahab, Hind bint Utba, Wahshi slave and Abu Sufyan of Makkah. The Holy Prophet (S.A.W.) dealt with profound love and mercy with their descendants. Ikrema bin Abu Jehal embraced Islam and fought for Islam. Utba bin Abu Lahab embraced Islam and spent a good life. Hind embraced Islam and his son Ameer Muaviyah founded the Muaviyah ruling dynasty in Islamic history.
Wahshi, the killer of Ameer Hamza, embraced Islam and killed the imposter Musailma Kaddab in Najd. Abu Sufyan embraced Islam and fought for Islam till the Battle of Yarmuk. His daughter, Umm Habiba, was married to the Holy Prophet (S.A.W). Khalid bin Waleed and Amr bin Aas embraced Islam and fought battles for Islam. Their descendants also served for this noble cause. At a later stage, the warrior nations of Tatars and Turks, who fought Muslims for centuries, finally embraced Islam and fought in favor of the religion. They established the powerful ruling dynasties of Mughals and Turkish caliphate.