Traditions from Sunni sources state that the opening verses of Chapter 80 (“He Frowned”) were revealed about a blind man called Ibn Umm Maktum who came in the presence of the Prophet while he was having a private discussion about Islam with some Quraysh leaders. The Prophet frowned because of his intrusion and as a result, God reproached him with these verses.
According to most Shia accounts, the one who frowned and turned away was a man from the Ummayads when he was approached by the blind man while he was in the company of the Prophet.
So who actually frowned at the blind man?
Allamah Tabatabai in his exegesis of Chapter 80, says that there is no apparent indication in the opening verses of the Chapter that they were revealed about the Prophet. On the contrary there are indications that they were revealed about someone else. Besides, it was not one of the character traits of the Prophet to frown at his archenemies let alone turn away and frown at believers who would come to him to seek guidance, as evident in the Qur’an.
What is the Qur’anic evidence of the above comment?
We find that in the Qur’an, Almighty God venerates the Prophet’s character by saying:
- and indeed you possess a great character (68:4).
This verse was revealed before Chapter 80 as all narrations agree upon. Tabataba’i states that it is highly inconceivable that God would venerate the Prophet’s character and moral behavior in such an unqualified way at the outset of his mission but would later reprimand him for attending to the affluent despite their disbelief and neglecting the poor (and blind) despite their belief and quest for guidance.
Another Qur’anic evidence presented in al-Mizan is:
- …warn the nearest of your kinsfolk and lower your wing to the believers who follow you (26:214-215).
The second verse orders the Prophet to humble himself before the believers. This verse is also one of the earliest verses to be revealed to the Prophet.
Other verses in the Qur’an also prove that it would not make sense that the Prophet would turn away from a believer when he was commanded (by God) to honor the believers for their faith and to be gentle to them. God says:
- Do not strain your eyes after what We have given certain classes of them to enjoy, and do not grieve for them, and make yourself gentle to the believers (15:88);
- Therefore declare openly what you are bidden and turn aside from the polytheists (15:94).
Reference: Al-Mizan, English Volume 40