Taut Smiles

The one of the left was not yet torched. The one on the right had been torched but not quite completely yet.

I envy my children for having the opportunity to witness such an incredible phenomenon at such an age. For the first time in my life, I witnessed the scorching and searing of goat heads yesterday. We were at a ranch, slaughtering some goats,and while my husband and the brother were cleaning out the slaughtered goats, the rancher’s son scorched three goat heads perched on a slab of wood which also turned as black as the three goat heads, and even started to smoke soon after.

As the goat heads were scorched with a torch, the skin and hair began to blacken. I watched this with my oldest daughter in fascination and disgust. The smell of burned hair and skin made their way to us. Alhamdulillah for the niqab.

“Ooh Ummi! Did you see its eyes?” exclaimed my daughter.

I didn’t. I was still watching it intently that I didn’t even reply. Then it happened. I opened my mouth. But I don’t remember what I said. All I remember was recalling this ayah as I witnessed receding lips revealing bared teeth.

Sahih International
The Fire will sear their faces, and they therein will have taut smiles.

I knew we had covered this ayah recently, but I wasn’t sure what surah it was in. But since we had recently covered Al Muminoon and An Noor, and I was sure this wasn’t in An Noor, I figured it must be in AlMuminoon. I went to the van and got the little Quran we always have stored in the van’s front compartment. I found it. I found the ayah. Subhanallah.
تَلفَحُ, the first word, comes from the root ل ف ح.  لَفَحَ is when fires scorches, sears, burns something such that its appearance becomes completely disfigured. For example, Meat shrinks, changes color and texture.
The last word, كَالِحُون, comes from the root ك ل ح . It’s a plural of كَالِح, one who is disfigured. كَلَحَه applies to the mouth and its surrounding area, including the chin, lips, area above and below it, and the sides. So from this,كَالِح, is used for someone whose lips can’t join either due to teeth position or size or very small lips.  When Abdullah Ibn mas’ood was asked about the meaning of كَالِح, he replied,
“Have you not seen the head of a goat that has been burnt, scorched, cooked?”
Because it’s not easy to remove the skin off a goat’s head, it’s usually scorched with very high heat until the skin is completely blackened to the point that it can simply be scraped off.Before it is though, it changes in texture and color. It’s full of wrinkles and it’s completely black. The lips shrink as they burn, and reveal the teeth. It’s as if the two corners of the lips are pulled back so much so that the lips become so taut that the teeth can’t help but be bared for all to see.
كَلَحَه also means to frown. So كَالِح is used for someone who frowns so much that the skin of his entire face is wrinkled and even the lips taken on a shrunken appearance.
In the context of this ayah, Allah is describing one scene of the people in hellfire. From the two possible meanings of كَلَحَه,there are two possible meanings of this ayah.
  1. These inhabitants of the hellfire will either have their faces burned so much so that it will disfigure them. Allah gives a very explicit and detailed description of it.
  2. Or, the inhabitants of hellfire will be frowning so much due to their sorrow, grief, and distress of having such an end.
The ayah before it talks about those whose scales will be light. These, they have lost themselves in the hellfire and in it they will abide eternally.
Sahih International

But those whose scales are light – those are the ones who have lost their souls, [being] in Hell, abiding eternally.

Then comes this ayah, describing one of the many scenes of the inhabitants of hellfire. After this ayah, Allah says,
Sahih International
[It will be said]. “Were not My verses recited to you and you used to deny them?”

After having been torched for quite some time. It took quite a while to scorch it such that the skin can be scraped off. Notice the bared teeth.

May Allah protect us from having such an end. Ameen.


7 thoughts on “Taut Smiles

  1. Masha-Allah Juli you are a brilliant writer, I didnt know this before. This article is really touching, I felt goose bumps on myself while reading it Subhanallah.
    I read your profile, Masha-Allah you are homeschooling your kids.How you do all these work? Subhanallah, May Allah help you and make your work easy for you.Ameen!!!!!!!!!!!
    May Allah save us from his punishment and make us the inheritors of Al-firdaws Ameen
    Keep it up!!!!!!!

  2. rafia,
    i am struggling and overwhelmed right now 😛 ameeeeeen!
    hmmm…..interesting….that makes some sense

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