What do the scholars say about Abu Talib?

Answered according to Hanafi Fiqh by

Q.What do the scholars and Muftis of the Islamic Shariah say regarding Hazrat Abu Talib? Few people call him kafir and they also claim that the kuffar of Abu Talib is proved from clear Quranic ayaat and sahih authentic ahadith. Anyone who considers Abu Talib a momin is munkir-e-Quran and munkir-e-ahadith and is extremely deviated/gumraah and is a rafizi shiite.

But I have heard that many of the legendary islamic scholars of the past believed that Hazrat Abu Talib was a momin. I have heard that even today, majority of the ahlus sunnat wal jamaat scholars hold this view that Hazrat Abu Talib was a momin. I have also heard that almost all of the syed scholars and syed mashaikh-e-uzzam believe that Hazrat Abu Talib was a momin.

What is the true position of ahlus sunnat wal jamaat regarding Hazrat Abu Talib?

A. With respect to this issue, Hafiz Ibn Katheer has written at length on this subject and has clearly indicated from the traditions recorded by Imams Bukhari, Muslim, Tirmizi, and Ahmad that the following verse was revealed about Abu Talib when he died as an unbeliever. The verse was addressed to the Prophet (SAS) which stated:- ‘Verily, you (O Muhammad (SAS) ) guide not whom you like, but Allah guides whom He wills. And He knows best those who are guided’. (Sura Al Qasas (28) verse 56). (Tafseer Ibn Katheer vol. 3 pg. 394-395 (Arabic)  ).

The tradition recorded by Imam Bukhari is as follows:- Al Musaiyab narrates, ‘When Abu Talib was on his death bed, the Prophet (SAS) went to him while Abu Jahl was sitting beside him. The Prophet (SAS) said, ‘O my uncle! Say ‘La ilaha illalla (none has the right to be worshipped but Allah) , an expression with which I will defend your case before Allah’. Abu Jahl and Abdullalh bin Umaiyah said, ‘O Abu Talib! Will you leave the religion of Abdul Mutalib?’ So they kept on saying this to him so that the last statement he said to them (before he died) was, ‘I am on the religion of Abdul Mutalib’. Then the Prophet (SAS) said, ‘I will keep on asking for Allah’s forgiveness for you unless I am forbidden form doing so’. Then the following verse was revealed, ‘it is not proper for the Prophet and those who believe to ask Allah’s forgiveness for the Mushrikeen even though they be of kin, after it has become clear to them that they are dwellers of the Fire’.(9:113). The other verse was also revealed, ‘Verily, you (O Muhammad (SAS) guide not whom you like, but Allah guides whom He wills’ (28:67) (Sahih Al Bukhari).

Hafiz Ibn Katheer further discussed this matter in his authentic work, ‘As Seeratun Nabawiyah (The life of Prophet Muhammad (SAS). In this book (in part 1 pages 210-212) he writes,

When Abu Talib fell ill, the Quraysh decided to meet him that he might bring about an agreement between them and his nephew, particularly that Hamzah (RA) and Umar (RA) and most of many tribes had become Muslim. They feared that Muslims might overwhelm them.

So, they met him and impressed upon him the urgency to bring them and his nephew closer to each other. He should not criticise them and they would refrain from criticising him. He should not ridicule their religion and they would not ridicule him and his religion.

Abu Talib summoned Allah’s Messenger and told him of the offer of the Quraysh to agree on a give and take basis. He said, “I only demand of you one Kalimah which will let you rule over all Arabs and non-Arabs.” Abu Jahl interjected, “Not one, but ten kalimahs! We are willing to oblige you for that.’ He said, “Right, say: There is no god but Allah and give up all other gods.” They began to clap and say, ‘0 Muhammad! Have you made one God equal to many? Your words are strange indeed.” Then they departed, lamenting, “He is not one to listen to you. Follow your own religion till Allah decides between him and you”.

He said, “My nephew! I don’t think you were unreasonable with them.” These words. gave hope to Allah’s Messenger that Abu Talib would believe, so he said, “Dear uncle, do say that and because of that, I will be able to intercede for you on the Day of Resurrection.

Abu Talib said, ‘Nephew! If I did not fear that the Quraysh would mock you and your relatives after me and say that I had believed only out of fear of death then I would have spoken those words. That,  only to please you!” When the last moments were before Abu Talib, Abbas (RA) observed him move his lips. He put his ear close to hear and exclaimed, “0 nephew! Abu Talib has spoken those very words you asked him to say.” Allah’s Messenger (SAS) said: I did not hear. Allah revealed concerning the Quraysh chiefs:

[Say By the Qur’an full of admonition. Nay, those who disbelieve are in vain glory and schism.] (38:1-2)

Some extremist shias interpret Sayyidina Abbas’ words to mean that Abu Talib had become a Muslim by repeating the Kalimah. However, one of the narrators is unidentified in the line of transmission of the Hadith.

Ahmad, Nasa’i and ibn Jarir have reported a similar narration from Sa’eed (RA) ibn Jubair though it lacks the words of Abbas (RA) referred to above. It also reported by ibn Abbas(RA), but again lacks those words. Bayhaqi has also transmitted the report of Ibn Abbas, the Quaysh paid Abu Talib a sick visit and Allah’s Messenger also came there. At the side of his head, there was space for one man to sit down and before Allah’s Messenger could sit there, Abu Jahl rushed there. They complained to, him about his nephew, and he asked him what he said that he desired that they should say. The Quraysh began to say:

[What! Has he made the gods One God? Surely this is an astounding thing.] (38:5)

Seven verses of surah Sad (38:1-7) were revealed about this affair.

There is a most authentic Hadith in Bukhari that contradicts this weak report we are discussing. The narrators are Mahmud, Abdur Razzaq, Mu’mar, Zuhri and ibn Musayyib. It states ‘Abu Talib was dying. Allah’s Messenger (SAS) visited him, but Abu Jahl was there already. Allah’s Messenger (SAS) said, ‘Uncle, say There is no God but Allah,  and I shall intercede for you before Allah.” Abu Jahl  and Abdullah ibn Abu Umayyah said, “Abu Talib, would you give up the religion Of your forefathers?” They did not cease to speak to him till he spoke his last words  (on the religion of Abdul Muttalib). So, Allah’s Messenger (SAS) said, “Unless I am disallowed, I will go on seekmg forgiveness for you.” Then, this verse was revealed:

[It is not for the Prophet, and those who believe to ask forgiveness for the associators, even though they may be near relatives, after that it has become clear to them that they will be the companions of the Hell-Fire.] (9:113)

and the verse:

Surely you (O Prophet) cannot guide (anyone) whom you love.] (28:56)

There is a similar Hadith in Muslim.

Ahmad and Muslim have reported on the authority of Abu Hurayrah (RA) that when Allah’s Messenger (SAS) requested Abu Talib, who was on his death bed, to recite the kalimah that he might intercede for him, he said that if he had not feared that the Quraysh would mock and taunt, he would have spoken the words and cooled the Prophet’s (SAS) eyes. “But, that, only for your comfort and ease.” Then this verse (28:56, above) was revealed. Ibn Abbas (RA), Ibn Umar, Mujahid, Shabi and Qatadah have said the same thing that the verse was revealed when Abu Talib refused to recite the kalimah saying that he was firm on his ancestors’ religion.

There is affirmation of our contention from the Hadith of Bukhari as narrated by Abbas (RA). He said, “I asked Allah’s Messenger (SAS) ‘How did your uncle benefit from you for he had protected you and tackled your enemies.’ He is in Hell-Fire only up to his ankles other­wise he would have been in the lowest depth of Hell.” This Hadith has many lines of transmissjon.

Another Hadith in Bukhari and Muslim is narrated by Abdullah ibn Khabbab from Abu Sa’eed. He heard Allah’s Messenger (SAS) say, ‘Perhaps my intercession might help Abu Talib on the Day of Resurrection and his punishment might be limited to his ankles because of which his brain would boil.”

According to Muslim, Ibn Abbas(RA) reported that Allah’s Messenger(SAS) said, “Abu Talib will receive the lightest of punishment. He will be made to wear shoes of fire by which his brain would boil.” It is stated in Maghazi, Yunus ibn Bukayr said that his brain would boil and pour out on his feet. Bazzar has cited a similar Hadith from Jabir

Suhayli said that Allah’s Messenger (SAS) did not accept Abbas’ words that Abu Talib had spoken the kalimah because Abbas had not believed till then. I say that the Hadith that Abu Talib became a Muslim is not authentic because of the weak line of transmission. Our evidence is the subsequent question of Abbas (RA) on how Abu Talib would profit from Allah’s Messenger (SAS), and he said that Abu Talib would get a very light punishment. Further, even if the Hadith of Abbas were to be accepted then it would mean that he recited the kalimah while suffering pangs of death when the angel of death was visible at which time such a profession is meaningless.(As Seeratun Nabawiyah Part1 pgs. 210-212)

Hafiz Ibn Jareer At Tabari has also given the authentic traditions of Abu Huraira (R.A), Ibn Umar (R.A), Saeed bin Musayyab from his father, Mujahid, Qatada and Amir that the verse 56 of Sura Qasas (28) was revealed about Abu Talib when he died as an unbeliever, and he did not accept the message of the Prophet (S.A). (Tafseer Ibn Jareer At Tabari vol.20 pg.107-109)

While writing on this matter, the great scholar Allama Muhammad Idrees Kandlawi has mentioned the following in his famous work Seeratul Mustapha. He writes, ‘It is the unanimous and well established Aqeedah of the Ahlus Sunnah Wal Jamaah that Abu Talib died upon disbelief, as it is clearly established from the Quranic verses and Ahadith. Hafiz Turbashti has written that the traditions which speak about the disbelief of Abu Talib has reached the limit of Tawatur, and this is the Maslak (path) of the Salaf (pious predecessors) and that of the Imams of Islam. The Maslak (path) of the Rawafiz (Shiites) is that Abu Talib died upon Imaan (faith) and Abu Bakr (R.A) died upon kufr (disbelief). It should be known that for Imaan, love and sacrifice is not sufficient. But along with these, testifying to the truth of Prophethood is essential to be a believer. (Seeratul Mustafa vol.1 pg.274)

Allama Muhammad Idrees (A.R) has also mentioned that Allama Suhaili, Hafiz Ibn Sayyid An Nas and Hafiz Ibn Hajar Asqalani have stated that the tradition of Abbas (which spoke about the Imaan of Abu Talib) is not correct. The Prophet (S.A) clearly told his uncle Abbas that he did not hear anything. Even if this tradition was sound then it is in opposition to the verses of the Holy Quran and the authentic traditions recorded by Imams Bukhari, Muslim and other scholars of Hadith. This tradition cannot stand as an evidence in front of the well established, famous traditions. In fact, the tradition of Abbas is weak’. (Seeratul Mustafa vol.1 pg.272)

From among the names you have listed, you will realize that none of these are from the Sahabahs, Tabieen, Tab’ut Tabieen and the early generations of the Muslims. Individual opinions of scholars cannot become a proof against the established Aqeedah (belief) of the Ahlus Sunnah Wal Jamaah. In fact, Allama Idrees has refuted the statement of some scholars who say that there is a difference of opinion regarding the kufr (disbelief) of Abu Talib. He writes, ‘To say that there are differences regarding this, is a clear deception. There is absolutely no difference of opinion among the Ahlus Sunnah Wal Jamaah regarding the kufr of Abu Talib. It is only the Shiites who believe that Abu Talib died as a believer, and no consideration is given to their statements. When this same group believes that Abu Bakr, Umar and other Sahabahs are unbelievers and hypocrites, how can their statements be accepted as ‘a difference of opinion?’ (Seeratul Mustafa vol.1 pg.274)

It is also written in the famous book on the Aqeedah of the Ahlus Sunnah wal Jamaah, Fiqhul Akbar (one of the most authentic book of Aqeedah written by Imam Abu Hanifa) that Abu Talib died as an unbeliever. Imam Abu Hanifa writes (giving the Aqeedah of Ahlus Sunnnah wal Janaah), ‘And Abu Talib, the uncle of the Prophet (SAS) and the father of Ali (RA) died as a kafir (unbeliever)’. (Fiqhul Akbar pg.108)

In conclusion, I say that it is the clear and well established position of the Ahlus Sunnah Wal Jamaah that Abu Talib died as an unbeliever. The Quran has ruled on this issue, and it is supported by many authentic and sound traditions of the Prophet (S.A) as given by the scholars of the early generations of Islam.

And Allah knows best.

Mufti Waseem Khan


This answer was collected from, which is operated under the supervision of Mufti Waseem Khan from Darul Uloom Trinidad and Tobago.

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