Did Abu Talib Die as a Muslim?

Shaykh Gibril Fouad Haddad

In Response to the Question:

Wa `alaykum as-Salam,

Can one believe that Abu Talib died a Muslim? The reason I a[s]ked regarding Abu Talib is because I read in Allama Shibli Nu`mani’s Sirat un-Nabi that there is a great difference of opinion regarding the Islam of Abu Talib due to conflicting reports.  “As for Abu Talib, the report of his conversion to Islam is inauthentic.” Al-Qari, Sharh al-Fiqh al-Akbar.

One may believe that Abu Talib died a Muslim but this is not the view of the majority of the `ulama. They follow the patent meaning of the sahih reports and confirm their truth without adding anything further. Allah knows best. I did not find a great difference of opinion on this.

We say:

Yet there is a silent committal of the matter to Allah Most High among the highest-adab authorities of the last two centuries and they tend to accept the view of the Mufti of Mecca and Shaykh al-Islam, Sayyid Ahmad Zayni Dahlan in his precious book Asna al-Matalib fi Najat Abi Talib – “The Purest Claims of the Salvation of Abu Talib” (Cairo: Muhammad Effendi Mustafa, 1305/1886).

Their main argument is that Abu Talib’s positions and sayings regarding the Holy Prophet upon him peace, constitute a long string of confirmations of his Prophetic status. He foretold his high status even before nubuwwah, at his wedding with our Mother Khadijat al-Kubra, Allah be well-pleased with her. He helped him like no one else did. He said to him: “By the falling stars! You never once lied to me” and pressured the Quraysh until they rescinded their 3-year embargo of the Muslims in Mecca and annulled their pact. On this occasion Abu Talib is related to have said:

Did the news not reach you that the charter was torn to pieces And that everything Allah dislikes is destined to ruin?

Narrated mursal from al-Zubayr ibn Bakkar (d. 256) by Ibn `Asakir in Tarikh Dimashq (66:320) and without chain by Ibn Ishaq (#209) and, through him, Ibn Hisham (2:222) cf. Isti`ab (2:660), Bidaya (3:97), Khasa’is (1:251), Iktifa’ (1:271). This is one of six verses spoken by Abu Talib at the time. Our teacher Shaykh `Abd al-Hadi al-Kharsa said that a proof for Abu Talib’s salvation is in the words of the Prophet upon him peace – that he interceded for him to be in a shallow level of Hellfire [in al-Bukhari and Muslim] whereas Allah Most High said of the unbelievers {The mediation of no mediators will avail them then} (74:48). However, it can be answered that the verse is excepted (muqayyad) in the first place by the fact that the first, general intercession of the Prophet upon him peace – for mankind at the universal Station (al-Maqam), on the Day of Judgment, includes the disbelievers. So does his ulterior intercession for the lessening of their eternal punishment in the Fire.

It is also related that some of the Ash`ari Imams such as al-Qurtubi, al-Subki, and al-Sha`rani said that Abu Talib was saved, according to Sayyid Ahmad Zayni Dahlan who cites Imam al-Suhaymi and the Hanafi Mufti of Mecca Shaykh Ahmad ibn `Abd Allah al-Mirghani to that effect. They mention, among other evidence, the narration from al-`Abbas ibn `Abd al-Muttalib by Ibn Sa`d in his Tabaqat (1:118):

`Affan ibn Muslim told us: Hammad ibn Salama told us: From Thabit [ibn Aslam al-Bunani]: From Ishaq ibn `Abd Allah ibn al-Harith [ibn Nawfal] who said: al-`Abbas said: “I said: ‘Messenger of Allah, do you hope anything for Abu Talib?’ He replied: ‘I hope for everything good [i.e. for him] from my Lord.'”

The above narrators are all trustworthy and their transmission is sound, except that the meaning of the hadith is unspecific. Further, al-Qurtubi in his Tafsir (for verses 6:26 and 9:53) and Ibn al-Subki in Tabaqat al-Shafi`iyya al-Kubra (1:91-94) hold different positions than those ascribed to them above. Sayyiduna `Ali himself said that Abu Bakr is the only Sahabi to have both parents – Abu Quhafa and Umm al-Khayr – enter Islam. And Allah knows best.

Indeed, even `Abd al-Muttalib has been affiliated with Islam due to other evidence. As for the two noble parents of the Holy Prophet, upon him and his House blessings and peace, they are saved according to a vast number of the accomplished authorities. Yet none of these items form something we are tasked with confirming, nor taken to task for denying.


Hajj Gibril Haddad