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Letter Exchange 15: Islam of Abu Talib Re-Visited

The following Queries were mailed to us by a fellow visitor, student and seeker of truth. Below is an article-version of the email exchange.

  1. I do not believe Abu Talib was a Muslim or a Mushrik or a Kaafir. Neither you were there, Nor I.  Why are Shias so sensitive about the matter? Why not leave the matter to Allah? There were some things Allah wanted to keep a secret. Why is it wrong to say that Allah knows better about Abu Talib? Is it a part of faith in order to become a Muslim, to believe that Abu Talib was a Muslim?
  2. What Concrete Proof do you have that Abu Talib was a Muslim? I believe Allah knows better.
  3. By your Works, I get the impression that you do not believe the utterance of Kalimah to be necessary and basic part of Faith. Is this so? Because failure of Abu Talib to utter the Kalimah has been recorded in Sahih Muslim.
  4. You have quoted the Ayah in his support of Abu Talib  which is too strange and shows the knowledge level of the author. Here ALLAH is referring to people who were weak and have the faith  hidden in them, how can it be imposed on Abu Talib, He was the chief of Quraysh, what was stopping him proclaiming the shahadah.
  5. However I still have the same comment for you, if I agree with your theory about Kalimah then no one should have proclaimed his religion, may be even the prophet himself, Naoozobillah.
  6. You say that Allah will ask from Abu Talib who to give paradise and who not to? Now see where the things start to go from defending Abu Talib, he has been given the powers that ALLAH has not even given to HIS Messengers, brother if we start supporting your idea then we will have to believe that Both Firoun and Aazar were also believer because one protected a prophet and the other was a father of a Prophet.
  7. Allah is the shelter not a person, how beautifully you said that Abu Talib is the shelter here, the shelter is Allah.
  8. We also know that idols were worshipped in Kaabah at that time and Abu Talib never tried to stop that as well, he didn't stopped our Prophet Muhammad (SAW) from criticizing the pagan idols but never openly criticized those pagan as well.


I am not sensitive about the matter. You can believe what ever you want to. But when you speak about knowledge and intellect, then the ignorance and biasness of people does irritate.

If you believe that he was not a mushrik or a kaafir, then there is no point in discussing the issue further. If you believe that it is not possible to tell whether he was a Muslim or a kaafir because none of us was present at that time, then I am sorry to say that then we are not sure about anything at all. Did people like Ali (AS) and Hussain (AS) even exist? Is Quran real? I am sure you have neither seen Allah, nor the Angel bringing the revelation, not even the Prophet (SAW) himself.

There is nothing at all wrong in believing anything, saying anything about Abu Talib (AS) because that wont change the facts.

To make it short, fire burns, and it is a fact. Our opinions about fire is insignificant because it is haqq. If we have faith that fire cools down, and we go near fire with this opinion, we will burn ourselves,  because our faith did not coincide with the actual Haqq.. Fire will burn no matter what we say.

If Abu Talib was indeed a Muslim, a beloved of Allah and his rasool (SAW), then those who call him a kaafir transgress.

Allah has given humans the power to think. Man always makes opinions about everything he comes across. Hitler is a bad man. why? Because intellect dictates that what he did was wrong. We judge based on the resources we have.

If you have insufficient resources about a matter, insufficient insight and intellect to judge on a matter, insufficient faith to be sure about your views, it is safe to say that Allah knows better about Abu Talib, as he knows better about each and every creation of his.

If I know something is haqq, I cannot tolerate it being mutilated. If someone blames a pious woman to be an adulteress, then that is a sin, as a Muslim it is my faith which will force me to defend her piety if I know she is pious. Ignorance is bliss. If you do not know you are not responsible. Once you know or have sufficient reason to believe in something, yet you don’t because of arrogance, or biasness, then you are accountable for your faith and actions.

Would Prophet Muhammad (SAW) eat of a kaafir, live with a kaafir, under a kaafirs protection, for at least 10 years, while Allah clearly reprimands it and tells us not to take disbelievers for friends?

We do not know more than Allah. That is an obvious. But because we have been given Aql and the power to think by Allah himself,  we make opinions for ourselves. These opinions we call faith.

 Was Abu Bakr a Muslim? Yes!! Was Umer a Muslim? Yes!! Were Abu Sufyan and Mawya (the cursed) Muslims? Yes. Was Abu Talib a Muslim!! Only Allah knows better. Is this not the attitude? If it is then it should be with everyone, without any biases.

A simple question. Based on your Aql, faith and reverence you have for Rasool (SAW) as a true Muslim, will a real true Muslim leave rasool (SAW) in a battle field to die in order to save his own life??

If Allah knows it better, and you his faithful, then you will not dare comment on something which he knows and you do not. If this is the case, then from now on, you should stop commenting on this topic everywhere and observe silence on this issue, because that is the right which “allah knows it better” dictates.

And they have no knowledge of it; they do not follow anything but conjecture, and surely conjecture does not avail against the truth at all.
Quran [53:28]

I know that if my son speaks against my religion, curses my Allah, abuses my prophets and imams, and tells me to shun them all and follow a new religion, and if I protect my son, promote my son , financially aid my son, then I love and believe in my son more than my God , prophet and imam.

Those  who host the party are different from those who were invited to the party (feast of Banu Hashim)! In my house, I will only allow majalis to be held, or milads. I will not allow Hanukkah or a concert to be hosted at my place. I hope same goes for you. You will not allow an extremist party to be organized at your place where every one abuses the Sahabas you revere!! Will you allow it?

If Abu Lahab showed a reaction, Abu jahl showed a reaction, Abu sufyan showed a reaction and Abu Talib (AS) showed a reaction, it is all very clear.

Something not in Sahih Muslim or Bukhari does not mean it does not exist.

Quoting from Ibn Ishaq’s Seerah Rasul Allah, the first known and published seerah of Rasool (SAW). translation by A Guillaume;

With respect to the document hung in kaaba by the Quraysh, during the ex-communication, Abu Talib (AS) wrote the following letter to the Quraysh.
Tell Lu'ayy, specially Lu'ayy of the Banu Ka'b, News of our condition. Did you not know that we have found Muhammad, a Prophet like Moses described in the oldest books, And that Love is bestowed on him (alone) of mankind, and that none is batter than he whom God has singled out in love, and that the writing you have fixed, will be a calamity like the cry of the hamstrung camel!
The life of Muhammad, Translation of Ibn Ishaq's Sirat Rasul Allah, by A Guillaume, page 160

This could not have been said by any Muslim but a Muslim of the caliber of Abu Talib (AS). Did Abu Talib (AS) not accept that he found Muhammad, like Prophet Moses? Not only did Abu Talib show his faith in the last prophet (SAW), but also on previous prophets.

Similarly, Ibn Ishaq, adds in  his book, the episode of the death of Abu Talib.

You must say there is no God but Allah and you must repudiate what you worship beside him. They clapped their hands and said, "Do you want to make all the gods into One God, Muhammad? That would be an extraordinary thing". Then they said to one another, "This fellow is not going to give you anything you want, so go and continue with the religion of your fathers until God judge between us". So saying they departed.
Abu Talib said, "Nephew, I do not think that you asked them anything extraordinary." On hearing this, the apostle had hopes that he would accept Islam and said at once, "You say it uncle, and then I shall be able to intercede for you on the day of resurrection". Seeing the apostle's eagerness he replied, "were it not that i fear that you and your father's sons would be abused after my death and that the Quraysh would think that I had only said it in fear of death, I would say it. I should only say it to give you pleasure. As his death was near, al-Abbas looked at him as he was moving his lips and put his ear close to him and said, "Nephew, by God, my brother has spoken the word you gave him to say". The apostle replied, I did not hear it.
The life of Muhammad, Translation of Ibn Ishaq's Sirat Rasul Allah, by A Guillaume, page 192

 Is this proof enough for you? In the end you have your say your faith your opinions and I will respect that.

But it is better to use one’s sense of understanding rather than falling to a Syrian propaganda started by Banu ummayads to abuse Ali ibn Abu Talib, his father and his sons, as they called Ali (AS), a faasiq ibn faasiq or wretched son of wretced.

Seerat ul Nabi, Volume 1, pages 66 to 67 states; Shibli Numani says the same thing, that the caliphs of Banu Ummaya defamed the children of Fatima (AS) throughout the Islamic empire in every Masjid, for ninety years, and abused Ali (AS) from the pulpit during friday prayers.....

... Shah Shaheed asked from Subhan Khan, "Did Tabbara take place on Ameer Muawiya in the court of Ali (AS)"? He replied in negative and that the court of Ali was pure from every abuse. He again asked, "Did Tabbara on Ali (AS) take place in the court of Mawiya?" Subhan replied, without any doubt it did happen. On this, Mawlana Shah Shaheed praised Allah and said that the Ahle Sunnah follow the practices of Hazrat Ali while the Rafidhis follow the practices of Hazrat Mawiya....

.... Mawlana Shah Moinuddin Ahmad Nadvi states in Tareekh e Islam, Volume 1, Pages 13 and 14 that; During his rule, Ameer Mawiya initiated the tradition of cursing and abusing Hazrat Ali from the pulpit, and all of his actions and people would fulfill this purpose. Mughaira bin Shuibah was an elder with alot of qualities but due to his following of Ameer Mawiya, even he could not save himself from this bidat.

Click below for scanned page:
Khilafat O Malukiyat aur Ulema e AhleSunnat, Abu Khalid Muhammad Aslam, page 120-122

 What is with the misconceptions? First, you blame Shias of Ali to amend the Kalimah to something which takes you out of the boundaries of Islam, next you get the impression and float it that recitation of the Kalimah is not important in Shiaism to become a Muslim.

I apologize if any of the writings gave that impression. To testify that there is no God but Allah and Rasool (SAW) is his last prophet is the basic and most vital part of one becoming a Muslim. However, believing in the Kalimah and Reciting the Kalimah are two different things.

I believe that openly reciting the Kalimah is not a sign of you being a True Muslim. Recitation of the Kalimah is neither a sign of becoming a Muslim, neither is it sufficient.

Technically speaking, I can recite the Kalimah and become a Muslim, but I can say that Jesus is son of god, Muhammad is prophet of god, there is no god but Allah. All statements do not contradict each other, yet will you call me a Muslim because I recited the Kalimah?

This is a self explanatory paragraph. To become a Muslim, you need to believe in Allah, the last day, all of his prophets, the angels, the books, each and every verse of the Quran. This all is not declared by the Kalimah.

I ask you, were you a born Muslim, born in a Muslim family? If so, when was the first time you recited the Kalimah. Were you a Muslim before that event? Recitation of Kalimah is open declaration of one’s faith. If recited with insincerity, does not make you a Muslim but  a hypocrite. That is why I said that Kalimah is not the sign of faith, it is only ones claim to be faithful.. the sign of faith will reflect from one’s actions in everyday life.

Have you seen me recite the Kalimah? Have you any proof that I have proclaimed the Kalimah? I am sure you don’t. Am I  a Muslim in your eyes? To me, a Kalimah is only essential if you want to change your religion and display it on a passport!! Allah knows what is in the heart.

 It does not mean I deny Kalimah being a pillar of faith!! It means that Kalimah itself is insufficient to judge the faith of a person, specially when historians do not record everything one says.

What is the point when you do not know but Allah does? It does not befit you to speak on this topic.  As usual, you will ignore Quran , your own Aql and believe in the traditions of Bukhari? I hope not. If imam Bukhari forgot or failed to include the Kalimah of Abu Talib does not mean he never recited it.

 I am sure you must be aware that in a project, in a team, in a mission, all of the members have different responsibilities, authorities.. each team member uses different strategies to complete his assigned task.. the goal remains the same.

Rasool’s (SAW) own life displays different strategies throughout his mission. He did not disclose his mission before 40 years of age (as shias hold). He did not preach openly for the first three years of his mission.  He did not retaliate in Mecca. He fought when in medina, he signed peace treaty at Hudaibya with the same people he fought with, everything had wisdom behind it.

What Abu Talib did was what only he could do who knew what he was doing. Label of a kaafir is infact good for Abu Talib (AS).  Hussain (AS) was labeled a rebel at KerbalaAli (AS) was called a jester and alcoholic in Syria. Abu Talib was called a Faasiq during the ummayads reign. It is not new for Abu Talib and his sons to be called by such titles.

You do not know me, never met me, isn’t it safe to say that Allah knows better about my knowledge level rather than making fun of me and making an opinion about my knowledge? Is it biasness at your end!?

 You speak about the following Ayahs.

And He (Allah) it is Who held back their (Meccans) hands from you and your hands from them (preventing bloodshed) in the valley of Mecca after He had given you victory (the treaty) over them; and Allah is Seeing what you do. It is they who disbelieved and turned you away from the Sacred Mosque and (turned off) the offering withheld from arriving at its destined place; and were it not for the believing men and the believing women (in Mecca under Taqiya), whom, not having known, you might have trodden down, and thus something hateful might have afflicted you on their account without knowledge-- so that Allah may cause to enter into His mercy whomsoever He pleases; had they been widely separated one from another, We would surely have punished those who disbelieved from among them with a painful punishment.
Quran [48:24-25]

The point to post the above verse was not to prove Abu Talib (AS) was a Muslim. It was to show that people who do not show their faith openly (irrespective of the reason) are still Muslims, and ones who claim to be Muslims openly may not necessarily be one.

Maybe, what was stopping Abu Talib from openly proclaiming the shahadah was his wisdom and far sightedness, the need at that time. If the Quraysh believed Abu Talib was on their side, they would approach Abu Talib before harming rasool (SAW) directly and that was a better protection strategy. If the Quraysh found out Abu Talib (AS) was infact a Muslim and approaching him will not stop Muhammad (SAW) at all, they would take direct actions themselves.. human psychology dictates this no?

Firstly, none of the above protected the prophets,  but infact were their open disbelievers who offered no protection to either of the prophets.

Firaun gave shelter to his adopted son Musa, but showed open hatred and opposition against the Prophet of Allah, Musa (AS). Same is the story with Azar (Shia imams have taught us that Azar was the uncle of Ibrahim (AS) and not father. There are even traditions in Sunnis that rasool (SAW) said that none of his ancestors from Adam (AS) upto his father were impure.)

Abu Talib (AS) on the other hand loved his nephew Muhammad, and protected the Rasool of Allah, Muhammad (SAW) when he declared his message openly.

About giving powers to Abu Talib, you must be referring to the following reference:

Imam Jafer al-Sadiq (AS) said: While Imam Ali (AS) was sitting with Ruhbah in Kufa, surrounded by a group, a man stood up and said : ' Commander of the Believers, you are in this great position at which God has placed you while your father is suffering in hell. ' The Imam replied, saying : Be silent. May God disfigure your mouth. By the One Who sent Mohammed (PBUH&HF) with the truth, if my father intercedes for every sinner on the face of the earth, God would accept his intercession.
al-Ihtijaj, by al-Tabarsi, v1, p341

No one believes the authorities to be independent. If Abu Talib is given the power to intercede for someone, it is because Allah will have willed so.

On that day (Qayamah) shall no intercession avail except of him whom the Beneficent Allah allows and whose word He is pleased with.
Quran [20:109]

Do not take the literal approach brother. it is not what Islam teaches.

Allah takes the souls at the time of their death, and those that die not during their sleep; then He withholds those on whom He has passed the decree of death and sends the others back till an appointed term; most surely there are signs in this for a people who reflect.
Quran [39:42]

 Allah takes the souls at the time of the death. But what is the Quran saying here?

Surely (as for) those whom the angels cause to die while they are unjust to their souls, they shall say: In what state were you? They shall say: We were weak in the earth. They shall say: Was not Allah's earth spacious, so that you should have migrated therein? So these it is whose abode is hell, and it is an evil resort
Quran [4:97]  

Allah causes people to die or do the angels cause people to die? By your logic, one of the verse is faulty or angels are infact Allah himself.

Did He not find you an orphan and give you shelter?
Quran [93:6] 

Allah was verily the shelter of rasool (SAW) and he sheltered rasool (SAW) through Abu Talib for 10 Meccan years, and after Abu Talib, through his son Ali (AS).

If you both turn to Allah, then indeed your hearts are already inclined (to this); and if you back up each other against him, then surely Allah it is Who is his Guardian, and Jibreel and -the believers that do good, and the angels after that are the aiders.
Quran [66:4]

The above verse is not related to Abu Talib (AS), but it discloses the philosophy of Allah, that the protectors and guardians of Rasool (SAW) cannot be any one other than Allah himself, or the angels including Jibrael (AS) or the believers that do good. To which category will Abu Talib fall for his 10 year service to Rasool (SAW)?

How strange it is that before the revelation of this ayah, Allah used a Nijs kaafir to support and protect rasool (SAW) but after Abu Talib's death, Allah declared that no more kaafirs should protect Allah's prophet? I ask you, were not Allah, Jibrail and the believers who did good always the guardians of rasool (SAW)? Or was it only for the last three years of the prophet’s life because that is when the Surah was revealed.

The same goes for rasool (SAW) for the first forty years of his life!! Does that make him an idol worshipper for the first forty years god forbid??

So you believe in tabarra or criticism of paganism or anything which is wrong to be a part of faith?

I believe in the faith of Abu Talib because Allah gave me Aql and showed me the way of the Ahlulbayt to be the true way of rasool (SAW). Based on Quranic events and orders, man’s natural behavior, the actions of Abu Talib speak for themselves, backed with strong narrations in Sunni books too which I already showed to you.

Was it not for Ali (AS), his merits, his enemies, jealousy for him, neither would his father be called a kaafir, nor would his sons be slain in desert heat.

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