Was Abu Talib a Disbeliever?
By: Sayyid Imdad Imam
From his book "Misbah-uz-Zulam", Roots of the Karbala’ Tragedy
Ahlul Sunnat say that Abu Talib was a disbeliever! The writer wishes to state that Abdullah had two brothers, one of them was Zubair and other, Abu Talib. Regarding Zubair, it is said that he brought up the Prophet in his childhood, but in Tarikh Khamis1 it is seen that Abu Talib and Zubair had cast lots for this purpose and the lot fell in favor of Abu Talib and the Holy Prophet (S) had himself preferred Abu Talib, because he was more attached to him.
The fact was that Abu Talib loved the Prophet even more than his own children. He always slept besides him. Wherever the Prophet went, he went with him to protect him. When the Holy Prophet (S) reached maturity, Abu Talib told him: “I have many children and I am poor and Lady Khadija is going to appoint someone for Syria. If you approach her, she will definitely select you.”
When Khadija learnt of this, she sent her own messenger to the Holy Prophet (S) and requested that he accept her offer to trade her goods in Syria and that she was prepared to pay him twice the normal remuneration. The Prophet served her with great honesty and integrity and she realized that he was an extraordinary person and decided to marry him. Abu Talib also approved the proposal and the marriage was performed. Tarikh Khamis, Seeratul Muhammadiya and Seeratul Halabiyah show that the sermon of this marriage was recited by Abu Talib himself. He said in that sermon: “Praise of the Lord who made us inheritors of the progeny of Ibrahim (a.s.) and entrusted us with the caretaking of Kaaba and pilgrims. And we became the ones to establish Divine laws and the Sanctuary of the Kaaba became our home and we became rulers of men. And though my cousin is without parents, in his lineage and family, in intellect and knowledge, he is the most superior. And wealth and position is temporary, while the wealth of the faith is forever. And soon that wealth will be become apparent.”
The last sentence is worth attention. This clearly shows that Abu Talib had recognized the spiritual qualities of the Prophet and had faith that he had the appointment of Allah. The sentences before this show that Abu Talib had not considered the material progress of the Holy Prophet (S). If it had been so, he would not have said: “Wealth and position are temporary, but the wealth of the faith is forever.”
Glory be to Allah! What pure thoughts Abu Talib had. What else is religiosity? O opponents of Abu Talib, would you still consider this uncle of the Prophet an infidel? It was impossible that the successor of the Prophet and his rightful Caliph should be the son of some infidel. Anyway! The incident connected with the marriage of the Prophet is as follows: When as per the desire of Lady Khadija, the Holy Prophet (S) came to her, she held his hand, and said: “My parents be sacrificed for you. Accept my spousehood, I hope that you would be a Prophet, you must acknowledge my favor.”
The Prophet said that if he is ever given prophethood, he would do as she says. Thus, the marriage of the Prophet was performed after the trip to Syria. After his marriage, the infidels of Quraish decided to kill him. Abu Talib collected all the Bani Hashim whether infidel or Muslim and said: “Go to my house and stop the infidels of Quraish from this action. Then all the Bani Hashim did as they were advised.”
Those who call Abu Talib infidel, please tell us whether this action of his was of a Muslim or an infidel? The person who saved his life is called an infidel and those who left him surrounded with infidels and escaped to save their own skins (like the three Caliphs ran from Uhud and Hunayn), or sometimes excused themselves saying the infidels were their relatives; like Umar said Abu Jahl was his maternal uncle, so he could not kill him in Badr, and sometimes they refused to take up the challenge of the opponents due to their power; like Umar said regarding Amr Ibn Abde Wudd in the Battle of Khandaq; such people are considered perfect Muslims. They are Caliphs of the Prophet and Imams of the Muslim world! If this is the way Muslims judge truth and falsehood, then their religion is the strangest of things.
After this, if we see Sirul Muhammadiya2 we see that when the Quraish saw that Abu Talib refused to expose and destroy the Prophet, they brought Ammara the Quraishite to Abu Talib and said: “This lad is handsome and rich. You take him; and in return give us Muhammad (S).” Then they said: “What type of a person you are that you support one who has opposed your religion and insulted your people and the elders of the community?”
Abu Talib replied: “Your evil view has been very much painful to me. How good an advice you give me! That I rear your son and give my son to you so that you can kill him? By Allah, this is not possible.” After this, the Quraish began to trouble the Messenger of Allah (S). The Holy Prophet (S) told Abu Talib: “O Uncle! Find out a way to dispel the mischief of Quraish.”
Upon this, Abu Talib collected the whole Bani Hashim clan and said to them: “You all protect Muhammad and save him from the mischief of the enemies.” Except for Abu Lahab, all Bani Hashim accepted this request of Abu Talib.
Now, those who call Abu Talib a disbeliever, was it any kind of wrong behavior that Abu Talib indulged in against the founder of Islam? Fear Allah, my friends! A person who is so much supportive and helpful to the founder of Islam; should he be considered a disbeliever according to Muslim belief?
If this is Muslim behavior, then a million salutes to such an attitude! What a way to thank for the favors of Abu Talib! In Tarikh Abul Fida3 we see that the Holy Prophet (S) told Abu Talib: “O my uncle! The Almighty has sent prophethood in the world through the Quran and there is name of Allah in the Quran and it refrains from evil acts.”
Abu Talib went to the Quraish and related the matter to them and said: “Do not break off relations. If Muhammad proves to be false in his claim, I will hand him over to you myself; but if he is true, you all must come to the path of truth.” The Quraish agreed. This shows that Abu Talib always acted in the interest of Islam and the founder of Islam. Yet the opponents of Abu Talib do not feel ashamed of calling him a disbeliever. The fact is that if Abu Talib had not been so protective and defending for the Prophet, he would not have survived the machinations of Quraish.
Please note how beautifully Abu Talib has conveyed the message of Islam to Quraish and at the same time prevented them from violence. O people who love justice! Please compare this statement of Abu Talib with that of Abu Bakr when he said: “Indeed! Muhammad is killed. You all turn back to your religion of ignorance!” Or Umar’s words: “I had never doubted prophethood so much before, as I doubted it today.” Then we shall realize which of the statement conveys acceptance of Islam and which one conveys denial.
Even Muslim and Bukhari have related that Abu Talib died a disbeliever and is being punished in Hell. Indeed, this report is concocted by Bani Umayyah and that is why it is against logic and rules of traditional science.
Thus, Ibn Abil Hadid writes in Sharhe Nahjul Balagha: “If Abu Talib had been a disbeliever, the Messenger of Allah (S) would not have loved a disbeliever, because the Almighty Allah has prohibited loving the infidels.”
Please note that one of the captioned forged traditions are related by Mughaira, whose friendship of Bani Umayyah and enmity to Ali (a.s.) is proved beyond any doubt. In addition to this, Mughaira was a terrible transgressor. The narrator of the second concocted report is Shaibah regarding whom Darqutni has argued and said: “This person is like a wheat seller. Apparently, he is trustworthy but inside he is a terrible Satan. He was also a terrible transgressor.”
It is a pity that opponents have taken such fabricated traditions as the basis and labeled Abu Talib as a disbeliever. And all this was carried out so that Ali (a.s.) is not proved superior to Abu Bakr and Umar! Apparently, the fathers of Abu Bakr and Umar had never accepted Islam. Thus, if Abu Talib is considered a Muslim, he would be considered superior by way of paternity. Thus, the best thing was to consider all their fathers disbelievers. To save the honor of the three, the religion may be put to humiliation!
There is another hidden cause in this. It is that from the aspect of Imamiyah religion, the father of Prophet and Imam must be steadfast on the religion of Allah. Thus, if the father of Ali (a.s.) is accepted as a Muslim, Ali (a.s.) would have to be considered at the position of an Imam to whom people refer in all their problems.
Thus, there was no other way except to fabricate traditions alleging Abu Talib to be a disbeliever. The fabrication of traditional reports was common during the time of Muawiyah. As mentioned above, 24000 traditions were fabricated in praise of Abu Bakr and against that numerous traditions were concocted to degrade Ali (a.s.) that make people shun and curse him. The curse of Allah be on the unjust people!
Seeratul Halabiyah4 says that the people of Quraish complained to Abu Talib regarding the Holy Prophet (S), Abu Talib said to the Holy Prophet (S): “My nephew! As far as I know, no action of yours is despicable.” The Messenger of Allah (S) said: “O uncle! Recite the confession formula (Kalima) so that my intercession will be in your favor on Judgment Day, even though you might have committed any sort of sin.”
Abu Talib said: “Son! If I had not been worried of the increase of the atrocities of Quraish, increase in their animosity and weakness of Muslims, I would have obliged you. But I will die only on the religion of my forefathers.” At the time of his death, Abu Talib made bequest to all Bani Hashim that they should obey Muhammad (S) and testify to his prophethood “so that you may be guided to truth.” At that time, the Holy Prophet (S) told him: “O uncle! You preach to others, what you yourself do not practice?” In reply to this Abu Talib said: “I know that you are true in your claim, but I am ashamed of the fact that Quraish will say I confessed to your prophethood due to the fear of death.”
The above tradition shows that Abu Talib sincerely supported Islam and secretly tried to make it popular. This is sufficient to qualify him to be called a Muslim. His refusal for public acceptance of Islam was not against reason. If he had openly announced his Islam before Quraish and Bani Hashim, his influence on them would have become nil.
Having confessed to Islam, he could not have saved the Messenger of Allah (S) from the enemies of Islam. If he had publicly become a Muslim, the Quraish and the infidels of his clan would not have paid any heed to his words.
In order to maintain proper influence, he remained as he was apparently. The ending of this influence would have been poison to the Holy Prophet (S). The Quraish would have killed him and due to this, Islam would have been finished before it could begin. Abu Talib was a very astute person and well understood the prevailing circumstances. He knew that by accepting Islam openly, he would not be able to serve Islam and the founder of Islam more. That is why apparently he remained on his previous condition. Although actually he had complete submission to Islam and well understood the merits of that faith. May Allah bestow him with the best of recompense.
1. Vol. 1, Pg. 253.
2. Pg. 88
3. Vol. I, Pg. 121.
4. Vol. 1, Pg. 366.