He frowned and turned away [Abasa 80:1]

عَبَسَ وَتَوَلَّىٰ

Abasa wa ta-wal-laa

(The Prophet) frowned and turned away

أَن جَاءَهُ الْأَعْمَىٰ

An jaa’ahu al-a’maa
Because there came to him the blind man, [interrupting].

(Surah Abasa 80: 1-2)

What context was this aayah/verse revealed in?

One day the Messenger of Allah was addressing one of the great leaders of the Quraysh while hoping that he would accept Islam. While he was speaking in direct conversation with him, Ibn Umm Maktum [the blind man] came to him, and he was of those who had accepted Islam in its earliest days.

He (Ibn Umm Maktum) then began asking the Messenger of Allah about something, urgently beseeching him [repeatedly]. The Prophet hoped that the [rich noble Qurayshi] man would be guided, so he asked Ibn Umm Maktum to wait for a moment so he could complete his conversation…

Tafsir Ibn Katheer – Surah Abasa

However, the blind man kept repeating his question to the Messenger of Allah and – unintentionally – disturbing the conversation of Allah’s Messenger. So he asked Ibn Umm Maktum to wait for a moment so he could complete his conversation with the other man.

Due to the persistence of the blind mans demands; He frowned in the face of the blind man and turned away from him in order to continue his discussion with the other man.

So Allah revealed these aayaat/verses:

(He frowned and turned away. Because there came to him the blind man. And how can you know that he might become pure) (Or he might receive admonition, and the admonition might profit him.) (As for him who thinks himself self-sufficient. To him you attend… ) [Surah Abasa 80: 1-5]

Now looking at the situation in context, we see that none of this is can really be blamed on Allah’s Messenger.

Why? Let’s see;

1) The blind man interrupted the conversation of Allah’s Messenger and persisted in that. So really, it would be his error.

2) Allah’s Messenger wanted to give dawah [invitation to Islam] to a noble from the Quraysh [elite] because they would hardly listen to his call beforehand, and now that someone’s listening – they might accept Islam and influence many others to Islam too (since when an elite member of society accepts a truth, the masses look into that truth and more willingly accept it.)

3) The blind man persisted in asking when he had other times to ask too, which causes the listener – who is involved in an important project – to become annoyed when they’re in a chance for huge success.

4) This leads to the ‘frown’ and turning away, which really – a blind person can’t even notice. So is this really an insult to them?

5) Yet Allah would reveal aayaat/verses – which would be recited for many centuries by all people – about this scenario, to show the high level of expectations He has for His Messenger, and his followers. So that he should not even frown and turn away from a blind man (since Allah is still watching us), and that he should call the rich aswell as poor to Islam equally without biased precedence.

Now there are many words in Arabic to describe an angry face in the Arabic language. These are as follows:

Uboos عبوس [noun] -Abasa عبس [verb]. (Frown: Bulging of forehead only due to annoyance.)

Qalaha قله – Grinding Teeth due to anger.

Basar بسر – When the face becomes ugly due to Anger. [also see Surah Muddathir 74:22]

Basal بسل – The face made during extreme anger in war and fighting.

We see that the least minimum of just a frown [uboos] of slight frustration was just shown on the face of Allah’s Messenger, yet Allah revealed aayaat/verses about it to forbid it and to raise the – already great – character of His Messenger to the next level.

Afterwards, whenever he [the blind man Ibn Um Maktum] came to him, the Prophet would say to him, (مرحبا بمن عاتبني فيه ربي ) ‘Greetings to him on whose account God reproached me!’, and would lay down his cloak for him. (Tafseer Jalalayn 80:2)

So we learn from this aayah/verse that Allah is watching even the smallest of things that we do, He is aware of the subtleties in our actions. And He will take us to account for them.