Was Abu Talib (as) a Kafir?
Hazrat Abu Talib (as) was the son of Hazrat Abdul-Muttalib (as); the father of Imam Ali (as) & the paternal uncle of the Holy Prophet (saww).
According to historians, his real name was ‘Imraan. Ayatullah Shaykh Ja’ffar Sub-hani in his book ‘The Message’ writes that: Sometimes it is said that the real name of Abu Talib was ‘Imraan. Some scholars are of the view that Abu Talib was his real name and not his kunniyyah.
WAS ABU TALIB (AS) A KAFIR?
One of the greatest accusations levelled against Abu Talib (as) by the non-Shia’h is that he died as a Kafir meaning as ‘a pagan’. They have based their opinion on this narration that:
[When Abu Talib was on his deathbed, the Holy Prophet (saww) went to him while Abu Jahl was sitting beside him. The Holy Prophet (saww) said to him:
“O Uncle! Say LAA ILAAHA ILLALLAH – an expression with which I will defend your case before Allah (SWT)”. Abu Jahl and Abdullah bin Umayyah said, “O Abu Talib! Will you leave the religion of Abdul-Muttalib?” They kept saying this till Abu Talib’s last statement was, “I am on the religion of Abdul-Muttalib”. So the Holy Prophet (saww) said, “I will keep asking Allah for your forgiveness unless I am forbidden to do so”. Thereupon, verse 113 of Surah al-Tawbah was revealed, in which Allah (SWT) says, “It does not befit the Prophet and the believers to ask Allah’s forgiveness for the pagans, even if they were their near relatives, after it has become clear to them that they are the dwellers of Hellfire”.]
The non-Shia’h Muslims also have this false narration recorded in their books that:
[Abbas bin Abdul-Muttalib said to the Prophet, “You have not been of any benefit to your uncle Abu Talib (though) by Allah, he protected you and used to become angry for your sake”. The Holy Prophet (saww) said, “He is in shallow fire, and had it not been for me, he would have been in the bottom of Hellfire”. ]
PROOFS OF ABU TALIB’S IMAAN
There are many points – historical as well as logical – that prove that Abu Talib (as) was NOT a pagan. He was a Muslim and also died as a Muslim! The verse:
“It does not befit the Prophet and the believers to ask Allah’s forgiveness for the pagans, even if they were their near relatives, after it has become clear to them that they are the dwellers of Hellfire”. (9:113)
This verse was not revealed for Abu Talib (as). How can this be established?
1. Hazrat Abu Talib (as) had passed away in Makkah before Hijrah whereas this verse is of Surah al-Tawbah and it was revealed in the 9th year of Hijrah. The long gap between the two shows that there is no connection between them.
2. Only one person has reported the narration, which states that this Ayah was revealed for Abu Talib, and that is Sa’eed bin Musayyab. This man is such that he cannot be relied upon. One account of his life in which Sa’eed himself has declared his affiliation to the worst people is:
[Imam Zaynul-‘Aabideen (as) had passed away. Sa’eed bin Musayyab happened to be alive and he also passed by the place where the funeral of Imam (as) was being attended. Sa’eed did not participate in Imam (as)’s funeral prayer. When people asked him in sarcasm, “Do you pray behind Hajjaj (the most evil and cruel ruler)?” Sa’eed boastfully replied, “We even pray behind worst people then Hajjaj”.] (Tafseer-e-Namoona)
Therefore, how can we rely on the authenticity of such a person?
3. Even if Abu Talib (as) said that, “I am on the religion of Abdul-Muttalib”, the question is whose religion was Abdul-Muttalib following?
There is no doubt that Abdul-Muttalib (as) followed the religion of Ibrahim (as) and the biggest testimony is the event of the elephants, which Abraha had brought to destroy the Ka’bah. Abdul-Muttalib (as) prayed to Allah (SWT) to protect the Holy Ka’bah from being destroyed and when he (as) confronted Abraha – he (as) simply asked him to release his livestock. Abraha was shocked. He said, “You are the chief of this tribe and I expected you to plead to me NOT to destroy the Ka’bah”. Abdul-Muttalib (as) said, “I am the owner of these animals and have therefore come to ask for them. As for the Ka’bah, its Master is there to protect it”. So if Abu Talib had said that he (as) followed the religion of
Abdul-Muttalib (as) – how can he (as) become a pagan?
4. Last but not least, the verse under discussion was NOT revealed for Abu Talib (as). According to narrations, some Muslims came to the Holy Prophet (saww) and said, “Why don’t you pray to Allah to forgive our fathers and forefathers who died during the days of paganism?” This verse was revealed and the Muslims were informed that they had no right to pray for the forgiveness of such pagans. (Majma’ al-Bayaan)
Abu Talib (as) was not an ordinary person in the history of Islam. He (as) rendered great sacrifices during his lifetime to protect the Holy Prophet (saww) and his mission. Ibn Abil-Hadeed, the Sunni Scholar and commentator of Nahjul-Balaghah writes: “If Abu Talib and his son Ali were not there, the religion of Islam would not have been successful. Abu Talib supported and protected the Holy Prophet (saww) in Makkah and his son Ali (as) dived in the whirlpools of death in Yathrib for him”. Hazrat Abu Talib (as) and
Sayyida Khadeeja (as) both passed away in the same year and it is a well known fact that the Holy Prophet (saww) declared that year as ‘Aamul-Huzn meaning ‘the year of grief’.