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Last Updated: 2010/08/01
Summary of question
What are the proofs behind the faith of Abu Talib?
question
You can see the famous book of Imam Ahmad Ridha Qadiri (a famous sunni hanafi), which is about the disbelief of Abu Talib, at this website address: (http://www.razanw.org/data/01-alahazrat_books/01B-alahazrat_books_pdf/193-sharh_al_matalib.pdf). Please download this book (which is from the office of fatwas of a sunni group called ‘Islamic Propagations of Karachi’) from the above given address. When you have downloaded it please use this source and answer the issues which are raised in it.
In this address: (http://www.islamimehfil.info/index.php?showtopic=6107) it has been said that Abu Talib was a disbeliever. In this website article there is also another mention of the disbelief of Abu Talib that has been attributed to the Nasebis: http://64.41.127.165/special/doubts/abu-talib/index.shtml
Concise answer

Abu Talib, the father of Imam Ali (a) is among the many individuals who have been persecuted through distortions and alterations in the books of history. The only reason for this persecution is that he was the father of Imam Ali Ibn Abi Talib (a), who in turn had many enemies amongst the hypocrites and the government of Bani Umayyah. These groups, who were unable to match Imam Ali (a) in terms of virtue and achievement, tried to at least bring him down a few levels towards their own level. They attempted to do this by maligning his father and calling him a disbeliever in Islam and of having died while in this state.

We are of the belief that if a person puts away their prejudice and biases and looks at the pages of history with clear eyes they will come to the same conclusion that Ibn Abil Hadeed did. Ibn Abil Hadeed, who was a major Sunni commentator on the Nahjul Balagha, has said on this matter that: “If Abu Talib and his honorable son were not there, the religion of Islam would not have remained and prospered. Abu Talib assisted the Holy Prophet (s) in Makkah, while his son Imam Ali (a) helped the Prophet (s) in Madineh, and put his life at risk of death in the process.”

Detailed Answer

Abu Talib, the father of Imam Ali (a), is among the many individuals who has been persecuted through distortions and alterations in the books of history. The only reason for this persecution is that he was the father of Imam Ali Ibn Abi Talib (a), who in turn had many enemies amongst the hypocrites and the freed Umayyids by the prophet (pbuh). These groups, who were unable to match Imam Ali (a) in terms of virtue and achievement – because everyone knew that he was the first to embrace Islam and was the closest to the prophet, and moreover, as the verse of Mubahilah puts it, was the ‘nafs’ of the prophet himself - tried to at least bring him down a few levels by attributingdisbelief (Kufr) to his father and saying that he died while in that state. This slanderous statement has no historical basis and is an out and out lie. Our scholars have refuted this statement in a way that leaves no real room for argument or uncertainty in the faith of Abu Talib. Here we will mention a summary of these points. To gain information on the faith of an individual there are several ways to go about doing this. These are as follows:

1- The first method is by researching the scholarly and literary works he has left behind. We have selected several pieces of these which show Abu Talib’s faith. In summary, Abu Talib is quoted as saying the following: “Honorable and learned people should know that Muhammad (s) is a Prophet like Musa (a) and Isa (a). The same divine light which they possessed is also possessed by him. God has ordered his Prophets (a) to guide people and divert them from sin. Oh Leaders of Quraish! Do you really think you can get a hold of him while you have plans in your minds that are no less than confused dreams?! He is a Prophet (s) who receives revelation from God.”[1] In another section of his sayings, he has said: “Oh Quraish, do you not know that we have found him (Muhammad (s)) similar to Musa (a) and his name has been mentioned in other divine books. The servants of God have a special love and affection towards him and we must not oppress one whose love God has put in the hearts as a trust.”[2]

Likewise, in another place he has said that: “Oh my nephew, till the time that Abu Talib is hasn’t been laid in his grave and hasn’t made his tomb his resting place, the enemies will never touch you. Make evident what you have been commissioned with, do not fear anyone and give glad tidings. I know that you are a trustworthy advisor to me and that the religion of Muhammad (s) is the best of religions.”[3]

These historical pieces clearly prove the faith of Abu Talib and cannot readily be refuted.

2- His way of behaving in the society: Abu Talib was a personality who, throughout his life, was not ready for an instant to see his nephew harassed and tormented. He bore all the expenses of taking him to Syria himself. His belief in his nephew was so deep that he took him to the Musalla (place of prayer) and swore an oath to God based on his rank before God asking for rain. His belief in his nephew Muhammad (s) was not of the ordinary kind; it was something extraordinary.

His belief in his nephew was so great that he was willing to undergo 3 years of exile and siege in the mountains and valleys of Makkah. These three years were very difficult for him and he died just several days after the exile was lifted.

Further evidence of his strong faith was that he was willing to sacrifice all of his children in order that the Prophet (s) remain alive. When the verses of the Holy Quran were revealed which said: (و انذر عشیرتک الاقربین), the Prophet (s) gathered all of his relatives and near ones around himself and invited them towards Islam. At this gathering, Abu Talib said to him: “Oh my dear nephew, rise up! You have a high rank amongst us! Your group is of the greatest groups and you are the son of a great man! Whenever any tongues set out to harass you, sharper tongues will defend you from them and keen swords will pursue them. I swear by God that the Arabs will become humbled before you, much like a child in front of their mothers.”[4]

3- The opinion of impartial friends and relatives regarding him:

A - When Imam Ali (a) gave the news of the death of Abu Talib to the Prophet (s), he cried greatly and told Imam Ali (a) to give him ghusl, kafan, and to prepare him for burial. He also asked God for his forgiveness.[5] As it is well known, ghusl is only required for Muslims and a non-Muslim is not given these rites.[6] In addition, no Muslim is allowed to ask God for the forgiveness of a disbeliever (Kafir).[7]

B - Imam Baqir (a) has said: “The faith of Abu Talib is preferential over the faith of many of the people and Amirul Mumineen (a) commissioned a hajj on behalf of his father.”[8]

C – Imam Sadiq (a) has said: “Abu Talib is much like the People of the Cave, who had faith inwardly but showed disbelief outwardly; due to this they will be rewarded twice over.”[9]

This tradition shows that Abu Talib was forced to hide his faith in order to protect Islam and secure the life of the Prophet (s). This hidden faith does not entail a lesser faith, and in fact, shows a higher level of faith and corresponding reward from Allah (swt).

D – The Imami scholars, as well as the Zaidis, have a consensus that Abu Talib was one of the prominent members of the Muslim community and that on the day that he died, he left this world with faith in God as a Muslim. There has also been a multitude of books and articles written on this matter.[10]

E – Many famous Sunni scholars, as well as all Shia scholars have testified to the faith of Abu Talib. Amongst the Sunni scholars, certain names worthy of mention are as follows: Allamah Barzanji, Sheikh Ibrahim Hanbali, and Ibn Jawzi. Among the Shia scholars, there is Sheikh Rawandi, Sheikh Sadouq, Allamah Kerajakee, Seyed Bin Tawus, Seyed Murtadha, Aminal Islam Tabarsi, Muhamad Baqir Majlesi, Allamah Sheikh Abu Jafar, Ibn Fatal Neyshaboori, and Seyed Abdullah Shabar.[11],[12]


[1] Sobhani, Jafar, Faraz’hayi as Tarikhe Payambare Eslam, pg. 163, quoted from the Divan of Abu Taleb, pg. 32, and the Sirah of Ibn Hisham, vol. 1, pg. 373.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid, quoted from Tarikh Ibn Athir, vol. 2, pg. 42; Tafsir Nemouneh, vol. 5, pg. 195.

[4] Ibid, quoted from Seyyed ibn Tawus, Al-Tara’if, pg. 85.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Makki Ameli, Muhammad ibn Jamaluddin, Al-Lum’atul-Dameshqiyyah, pg. 20; Imam Khomeini, Tahrirul-Wasilah, vol. 1, pg. 65; Tawdihul-Masa’el of 13 marja’s, vol. 1, pg. 313, issue 542.

[7] Tawbah:113, The Prophet and the faithful may not plead for the forgiveness of the polytheists, even if they should be [their] relatives, after it has become clear to them that they will be the inmates of hell.

[8] Ibn Abil-Hadid, Sharh Nahjil-Balaghah, vol. 14, pg. 76.

[9] Sobhani, Jafar, Furughe Abadiyyat, vol. 1, pg. 377, quoted from Usul Kafi, pg. 244.

[10] Mardani, Kheyrullah, Partovi az Simaye Tabnake Abu Taleb, pg. 136, quoted from Wasa’elul-Shia, vol. 11, pg. 480.

[11] Author: Tabatabai, Mohammad Hosein, Interpretor: Musavi Hamedani, Mohammad Baqir, Tafsir Al-Mizan, vol. 2, pg. 308; Makarem Shirazi, Naser, Tafsir Nemouneh, vol. 24, pg. 35.

[12] Adopted from Question 3414 (website: 4087)

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