Was Abu Talib a Muslim

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Assalaamu’alaikum dear Mufti sahib, this is Muhammad Danish from India. I want to know if Prophet (S)’s uncle Abu Talib was a Muslim or non-muslim. If he was a non-muslim, do you have any proof in the light of Qur’an and Sahih hadith? Thank you.

In the name of Allah, the most Beneficent, the most Merciful.


Imam Bukhari relates a hadith in his Sahih:

Sa’eed ibn al-Musayyib narrates from his father: “When the time of the death of Abu Talib approached, Allah’s messenger (S) went to him and found Abu Jahl ibn Hisham and ‘Abdullah ibn Abi Umayyah ibn al-Mughira by his side. Allah’s messenger (S) said to Abu Talib: “O uncle! Say: There is none worthy of worship besides Allah, a sentence with which I shall be a witness for you before Allah” Abu Jahl and ‘Abdullah ibn Abi Umayyah said, “O Abu Talib! Are you going to denounce the religion of Abdul Muttalib?” Allah’s messenger (S) kept on inviting Abu Talib to say it (i.e. There is none worthy of worship besides Allah) while they (Abu Jahl and Abdullah) kept on repeating their statement untill Abu Talib said as his last statement that he was on the religion of Abdul Muttalib and refused to say, There is none worthy of worship besides Allah.’ Then Allah’s messenger (S) said, “I will keep on asking Allah’s forgiveness for you unless I am forbidden (by Allah) to do so.”

(Sahih al-Bukhari no:4399 and Sahih Muslim no:35)

Thereafter the verse of the Holy Qur’an was revealed:

“It is not fitting for the Prophet and those who believe that they should invoke (Allah) for forgiveness for pagans even though they be of kin, after it has become clear to them that they are companions of the fire.”

(Al-Qur’an 9:113 Surah al-Tawbah)

And in relation to Abu Talib the following verse was also revealed:

“Indeed you will not be able to guide whom you wish, but Allah guides those whom He will and He knows best those who receive guidance.”

(Al-Qur’an 28:.56 Surah al-Qasas)

Sahih Muslim reports that this verse was revealed regarding Abu Talib. It was Prophet (S)’s great desire that Abu Talib should accept the faith. It was for this desire that he (S) was advised that it was not within his control to put faith in anybody’s heart.

Hadhrat Ibn Abbas relates a hadith which is also recorded in Sahih Muslim. He says:

Allah’s messenger (S) said: “Among the inhabitants of the fire AbuTalib would have the least suffering, and he would be wearing two shoes (of Fire) which would boil his brain.”

(Sahih Muslim no:312,  Kanz al-‘Ummal no:39512,  Musnad Ahmed ibn al-Hanbal no:2636)

From this hadith we can understand that Abu Talib will be entered into the hell fire for not having brought faith in Allah and his messenger. However, he will receive the smallest of all punishments due to the love and support he gave to Rasulullah (S) during his lifetime.

With regards to Abu Talib being a Muslim or not, the muhadditheen (commentators of hadith) are of two opinions. The vast majority are of the opinion that he did not accept Islam. The above-mentioned hadiths and verses of the Holy Quran in relation to them suggest and support this opinion. However, the remaining muhadditheen argue that at the time of his death he was found to be murmuring something which was not audible. ‘Allamah Shibli No’mani states on the authority of Ibn Ishaq that at the time of Abu Talibs death his lips were moving. Hadhrat Abbas (R) (who was a non-believer at that time) put his ear next to Abu Talib and informed the Prophet (S) that he was saying the words which he, Prophet (S) had instructed Abu Talib to say, i.e. the shahadah.

(Seerat al-Nabi vol:1 pg:157)

Consequently, there is a difference of opinion between the muhadditheen concerning the issue. However, as it has been mentioned before that predominantly the muahdditheen have agreed upon the fact that Abu Talib did not accept Islam before his death; hence it is best that the matter be left as neutral.’Allamah Aalusi states that: “One should abstain from discussing or passing judgment unnecessarily on the subject of acceptance of faith or otherwise by Abu Talib, because this may hurt the Holy Prophet (S)’s feelings for his natural love towards his uncle.”

(Ruhul al-Ma’aani vol:20 pg:144)

Only Allah Knows Best

Written by Mufti Abdullah al-Ma’mun

Checked and approved by Mufti Mohammed Tosir Miah

Darul Ifta Birmingham

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