After stating that the Day of Doom will be very horrible for all the disbelievers, a particular arrogant and conceited disbeliever has been described. He was a great mischief-maker and the gravity of his punishment will befit the enormity and gravity of his sins.
But before we study the meaning of these ayaat, let us first understand the background of their revelation.
This disbeliever was Waleed ibn Mugheerah who was specially favored by Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala in terms of wealth and children. According to ibn ‘Abbas radhiAllahu ‘anhu his land, property and gardens stretched from Makkah to Ta’if. He was recognized as the Arab leader but he was ungrateful to Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala for His favors. Despite accepting Qur’an as the Word of Allah, he imputed a lie to the Qur’an, calling it sorcery and calling the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam a sorcerer. Tafseer of Qurtubi recounts the story thus:
The Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam was reciting the first three ayaat of Surah Ghaffir, “Ha-Meem. The revelation of the Book is from Allah the All-Mighty, the All-Knower. The Forgiver of sin, the Acceptor of repentance, the Severe in punishment, the Bestower (of favors), none has the right to be worshipped but He, to Him is the final return,” (40: 1-3) which Waleed ibn Mugheerah heard. He spontaneously exclaimed, “By Allah! I have heard such a speech from him (Muhammad) as can neither be the speech of a mortal, nor of Jinn. It has sweetness and elegance. Its upper part is fruit-bearing, and its lower part causes water to flow. Its beauty, no doubt, surpasses the beauty of all speeches, and cannot be superseded. It is not the speech of any human being.”
When the Quraysh heard this, it created a great convulsion among them because Waleed ibn Mugheerah was their leader, and if he had something praiseworthy to say about the Message that Muhammad (salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) brought then the crowd was sure to follow. This became a great concern for other Quraysh leaders hence Abu Jahl took the lead and had a meeting with him.
Dialogue between Abu Jahl and Waleed ibn Mugheerah
Abu Jahl went to Waleed and sat next to him, pretending to be very sad. Waleed enquired what the matter was and why he looked sad. Abu Jahl replied, “The Quraysh decided to collect money for you and help you in your old age. Now they have learned that you visit Muhammad and son of Abu Quhafah (Abu Bakr Siddeeq radhiAllahu ‘anhu) so that you may have some eatables from them, and to this end you flatter them. You praise their speech.” This was a lie that Abu Jahl had crafted to make him angry. Waleed was highly enraged and said in arrogance and conceit, “How can the Quraysh think this? I swear by Lat and ‘Uzza, I am not in need of their food. Do they not know that I am superior to them in abundance of wealth? However, when you say that Muhammad salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam is insane, nobody would believe it. Did you ever see him perform any act of insanity?”
Abu Jahl replied, “Never, by God!” He said, “You claim that Muhammad is a soothsayer. Did you hear him speak like a soothsayer?” Abu Jahl’s reply was again in the negative. Then Waleed said, “You say that he is a poet. Did you hear him recite poetry?” When Abu Jah; declared that he had not, Waleed added, “You say that he is a liar. Did you ever hear him tell a lie?” Abu Jahl was forced to concede that they had never heard him tell a lie. The Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam was known as the as-Sadiq (the truthful) and al-Amin (the honest). Then Waleed said, “You say that he is a soothsayer. Have you then seen him uttering such words or doing such acts as the soothsayers are accustomed to? We know well the utterings of the soothsayers. Muhammad’s discourse cannot be held as the utterance of a soothsayer.” Abu Jahl again had to admit, “No, by God!”
Now Abu Jahl had to withdraw from all such false allegations, but he was wondering what he should say to the people about the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam to stop them from following him. So, he said to Waleed, “Then, you tell me what we should say about him?” Upon thinking Waleed replied, “I think he is certainly a magician.” He knew well that the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam was not a magician. But in order to stop people from following him they devised a plan. He argued, “Do you not see how his speech separates husband from wife, brother from brother and father from son? This is the magical effect of faith. As soon as a person embraces the faith, he begins to hate his unbelieving mother, father and other relatives.”
They all agreed on what Waleed had proposed. Then, according to their scheme the men of Quraysh spread among the pilgrims in the Hajj season and warned everyone they met of the sorcery of Muhammad (salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) and of his stirring up divisions in the families by it. But the result was that by their this plan the Quraysh chiefs themselves made the name of the Messenger known throughout Arabia.