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Abu Talib

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Abu Talib
Father of Imam Ali (a)
Hajun Cemetery-1.jpg
Al-Hajun Cemetery, Mecca, also known as Abu Talib Cemetery, where Abu Talib is buried
Full Name Abd Manaf b. 'Abd al-Muttalib b. Hashim
Teknonym Abu Talib
Religious Affiliation Islam
Lineage Banu Hashim
Well-known Relatives The Prophet (s) (nephew), Imam Ali (a) (son), Fatima bt. Asad (wife)
Birth 35 years before 'Am al-Fil/~535
Place of Birth Mecca
Place of Residence Mecca
Death/Martyrdom 10 years after Bi'tha/620
Burial Place Al-Hajun Cemetery, Mecca
Era Early Islam
Notable roles Head of Quraysh, guardian and supporter of the Prophet (a), Siqayat al-Haj

ʿAbd Manāf b. ʿAbd al-Muṭṭalib b. Ḥāshim (Arabic: عَبد مَناف بن عَبدالمُطَّلِب بن هاشِم) known as Abū Ṭālib (Arabic: اَبوطالِب), the father of 'Ali b. Abi Talib (a) and the uncle of Muhammad b. 'Abd Allah (s), was among the noblemen of Mecca and the Tribe of Banu Hashim. After 'Abd al-Muttalib (a), his father, passed away, he took the guardianship of Muhammad (s), his nephew, and greatly supported him during his mission.

The faith of Abu Talib has been a subject of controversy between Shi'a and some Sunni scholars. There is historical and hadith evidence supporting that Abu Talib was a Muslim. In the poems of Abu Talib, there are many verses which show his belief in Islam and the prophethood of the Prophet (s).

He passed away in Rajab 26, 10 years after Bi'tha/March 10, 620 and was buried in Mecca beside the grave of his father 'Abd al-Muttalib (a) in al-Hajun Cemetery.

Birth and Lineage

He was better known by his teknonym, Abu Talib[1] although his actual name was 'Abd Manaf. Ibn 'Inaba considers the reports that name him 'Imran unreliable.[citation needed]

Abu Talib was born 35 years before the Prophet (s) (around 536). His father 'Abd al-Muttalib (a) was the grandfather of the Prophet (s), he was regarded by all Arab tribes as a nobleman and the preacher of Prophet Ibrahim's (a) monotheism. His mother was Fatima daughter of 'Amr b. 'A'idh al-Makhzumi[2] who was also the mother of 'Abd Allah, the father of the Prophet (s).[3]

Family tree of the Prophet (s)
400 CE
'Abd al-'Uzza
'Abd Manaf
430 CE
'Abd al-Dar
464 CE
'Abd Shams
'Abd al-Muttalib
497 CE
Khadija (a)
'Abd Allah
b. 545 CE
Abu Talib
Muhammad (s)
b. 571 CE
'Ali (a)
b. 599 CE
Fatima (a)
'Abd Allah
Al-Hasan (a)
b. 625 CE
Al-Husayn (a)
b. 626 CE

Wife and Children

Abu Talib had four sons. His sons in the order of age were Talib, 'Aqil, Ja'far and 'Ali (a). He also had two daughters, Umm Hani (Fakhita), Jumana.[4] Some sources mention an additional daughter named Rybta. The mother of all of his children was Fatima bt. Asad. It is also reported that he had another child called Tulayq whose mother was named 'Alla.[5]

Social Position, Occupation, and Traits

Abu Talib had two jobs which included serving hajj pilgrims and giving water to them in Mecca.[6] His occupation was business related where he traded perfume and wheat.[7]

According to a narration from Imam 'Ali (a) and the reports of historians, although Abu Talib was a needy person, he was a nobleman of Quraysh and dear to them. He was known for his sheer grandeur and wisdom.[8] Regarding his generosity, it is said that, on the day he gave food to the needy, no one else in Quraysh gave food.[9] He was the first person who initiated the rule of swearing the guardians of the murdered in pre-Islam Jahiliyya era and later Islam confirmed this. (see: qusama)[10] Following his father's conduct, he also had forbidden wine to himself.[11]

Guardianship of the Prophet (s)

Early Islam
Hira cave-entrance.jpg

Following the order of his father, Abu Talib took the guardianship of Muhammad (s), his eight-year-old nephew.[12] Accordingly, Ibn Shahrashub says, "On his deathbed, 'Abd al-Muttalib (a) called Abu Talib and told him, "O my son! You know about my love for Muhammad (s) well; now, how will you observe my will about him?" Abu Talib answered, "Do not advise me about Muhammad (s) since he is my nephew and my son!" When 'Abd al-Muttalib (a) passed away, Abu Talib always gave priority to Muhammad (s) over himself and his own family."[13]

Moreover, Ibn Sa'd wrote that Abu Talib paid special attention to Muhammad (s) and showed more love to him than his own children, he provided him the best of food and laid him in a bed next to his and always tried to take him along with himself.[14] Whenever Abu Talib wanted to give food to his children, he told them, "Wait for my son (Muhammad (s)) to come!".[15]

Supporting the Prophet (s)

Historical reports explain Abu Talib's unreserved support for the Prophet (s) against the pressures and threats of Quraysh. Although Abu Talib was 75 years old at the beginning of the Prophet's (s) mission, he expressed his support for the Prophet (s) from the initial stage. During his meetings and talks with chiefs of Quraysh, he formally announced his support for the Prophet (s).[16]

Heads of Quraysh offered Abu Talib to exchange the Prophet (s) with Ammara b. al-Walid al-Makhzumi, who was a handsome, powerful young man, he criticized and rejected them.[17] His support for the Prophet (s) was to the extent that he and his wife became like real parents of the Prophet (s).[18] It is quoted from the Prophet (s), "Quraysh feared me until Abu Talib was alive."[19] Al-Shaykh al-Mufid narrated that when Abu Talib passed away, Jabra'il came to the Prophet (s) and told him, "Leave Mecca since you have no support in this city."[20]


His poems exceed 1000 verses, known as Diwan Abu Talib. His poems confirm his support and acknowledgment of the prophethood of the Prophet Muhammad (s). His most famous poem is an ode called Qasidat al-Lamiyya praising the Prophet (s).[21]


Main article: Faith of Abu Talib

There are many disputes between Shi'a and Sunnis over Abu Talib's (a) faith. The Shi'a school of thought believes that Abu Talib was a Muslim according to hadiths narrated from the Ahl al-Bayt (a),[22] while Sunni historians say that Abu Talib did not formally accept Islam and died as a polytheist.


There are different reports on the day and month Abu Talib passed away, but according to Shi'a sources, he passed away on the Rajab 26, 10 years after the Prophet's (s) initialization of his mission (March 10, 620) and three days later Lady Khadija (a) passed away at the age of 86 or 90.[23] Some have mentioned his demise happened on the 1st of Dhu l-Qa'da (June 11) or Shawwal (May 13).[24] The Prophet (s) called that year "'Am al-Huzn" (Year of Sadness).[25] On the day Abu Talib passed away, the Prophet (s) asked 'Ali (a) to do the ritual ablution for Abu Talib and shroud him while he (s) was very sorrowful and cried and prayed to God for Abu Talib's (a) forgiveness.[26] When they arrived at the burial place of Abu Talib, the Prophet (s) said, "I ask God for your forgiveness in the manner that all Jinns and people wonder."[27] He was buried in Mecca beside the grave of his father 'Abd al-Muttalib (a) in al-Hajun cemetery.[28]

See also


  1. Balādhurī, Ansāb al-ashrāf, vol. 2, p. 288; Ibn Saʿd, al-Ṭabaqāt al-kubrā, vol. 1, p. 121.
  2. Ṭabarī, Tārīkh al-umam wa l-mulūk, vol. 2, p. 2; Yaʿqūbī, Tārīkh al-Yaʿqūbī, vol. 2, p. 111.
  3. Ibn Saʿd, al-Ṭabaqāt al-kubrā, vol. 1, p. 93
  4. Ibn al-Jawzī, Tadhkirat al-khawāṣṣ, p. 158-167.
  5. Ibn Saʿd, al-Ṭabaqāt al-kubrā, vol. 1, p. 121-122.
  6. Yaʿqūbī, Tārīkh al-Yaʿqūbī, vol. 2, p. 13.
  7. Ibn Qutayba, al-Maʿārif, p. 575.
  8. Yaʿqūbī, Tārīkh al-Yaʿqūbī, vol. 2, p. 111; Qummī, al-Kinā wa l-alqāb, vol. 1, p. 108-109.
  9. Balādhurī, Ansāb al-ashrāf, vol. 2, p. 288.
  10. Nasāʾī, Sunan al-Nasāʾī, vol. 8, p. 2-4.
  11. Ḥalabī, al-Sīra al-ḥalabīyya, vol. 1, p. 184.
  12. Ibn Hishām, al-Sīra al-nabawīyya, vol. 1, p. 116; Bayhaqī, Dalāʾil al-nubuwwa, vol. 2, p. 22.
  13. Ibn Shahrāshūb, Manāqib, vol. 1, p. 36.
  14. Ibn Saʿd, al-Ṭabaqāt al-kubrā, vol. 1, p. 119.
  15. Ibn Shahrāshūb, Manāqib, vol. 1, p. 37.
  16. Ibn Hishām, al-Sīra al-nabawīyya, vol. 1, p. 172-173.
  17. Ṭabarī, Tārīkh al-umam wa l-mulūk, vol. 2, p. 327; Ibn Hishām, al-Sīra al-nabawīyya, vol. 1, p. 267.
  18. Yaʿqūbī, Tārīkh al-Yaʿqūbī, vol. 2, p. 14.
  19. Ibn kathīr, al-Bidāya wa l-nihāya, vol. 3, p. 164.
  20. Mufīd, Īmān Abī Ṭālib, p. 24.
  21. Mufīd, Īmān Abī Ṭālib, p. 18.
  22. Ṭabrisī, Majmaʿ al-bayān, vol. 4, p. 31; Ṭūsī, al-Tibyān, vol. 8, p. 164.
  23. Yaʿqūbī, Tārīkh al-Yaʿqūbī, vol. 1, p. 354.
  24. Maqrīzī, Imtāʿ al-asmāʾ, vol. 1, p. 45.
  25. Maqrīzī, Imtāʿ al-asmāʾ, vol. 1, p. 45.
  26. Majlisī, Biḥār al-anwār, vol. 35, p. 163.
  27. Ibn Abī l-Ḥadīd, Sharḥ Nahj al-balāgha, vol. 14, p. 76.
  28. Balādhurī, Ansāb al-ashrāf, vol. 1, p. 29.


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