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Faith of Abu Talib

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The faith of Abu Talib (Arabic: (إیمان أبی طالب(ع) is one of the theological arguments between Shi'a and Sunni scholars. According to narrations from Ahl al-Bayt (a), Shi'as have ijma' (consensus) on that Abu Talib, the uncle of the Prophet (s) and the father of Imam 'Ali (a), had faith in the Prophet (s). But, Sunnis deny the faith of Abu Talib and refer to some narrations in some hadith and historical books which show that Abu Talib didn't believe in Islam and insisted on the belief of his ancestors until his death and died as a polytheist. Shi'a scholars, in addition to rejecting the reasons of deniers, stated their reasons on the faith of Abu Talib.

Abu Talib describing the Prophet (s):

الم تعلموا انّ ابننا لا مکذب    لدینا ولا یعنی بقول الاباطل
و ابیض یستسقی الغمام بوجهه    ثمال الیتامی عصمة للارامل
الم تعلموا ان النبی محمداً    رسول امین خط فی سالف الکتب

"Don't they know that our son is not a liar in our opinion?

And he does not consider the word of the evil people.

A protector of the orphans, a supporter of the widows.

And a whiteface by whose face the rain is asked from the cloud.

Don't they know that indeed the Prophet Muhammad,

is the trustworthy prophet whose name is written in the previous books?"

Al-Mufid, al-Fusul al-mukhtara, PP.283-4

Reasons of Deniers

Verse of Prohibition of Asking Forgiveness for Polytheists

The narration is:

"Sa'id b. Musayyib narrates from his father that Abu Talib didn't accept the word of the Prophet (s) about saying "la ilah illa Allah" (there's no god except Allah) (the profession of faith) and died on the faith of his father and ancestors, and the Prophet (s) said: "I swear to God, I ask forgiveness for you until I become prohibited". Then the verse 113 of Sura al-Tawba revealed: "The Prophet (s) and the faithful may not plead for the forgiveness of the polytheists, even if they should be [their] relatives, after it has become clear to them that they will be the inmates of hell."[1]


  1. In the chain of the transmitters of this narration, there is somebody called Sa'id b. Musayyib. It is said that he had a deviant and hostile behavior towards Imam 'Ali (a) even in public.[2].
  2. 'Allama Amini considers this narration in conflict with a sahih (true) narration which many Sunni scholars transmitted in their books: it's narrated from 'Ali (a): "I heard someone asking forgiveness for his polytheist parents, I informed the the Prophet (s) and the verse was revealed."[3]

Al-Na'y (Avoidance) Verse

Some consider the verse 26 of Sura al-An'am (al-Na'y verse), "They dissuade [others] from him, and [themselves] avoid him", is about Abu Talib, referring to this narration:

Someone heard Ibn al-'Abbas saying: "Abu Talib was dissuading people from 'harassment' of the Prophet (s) but didn't himself become a Muslim."[4]


  1. The narration is mursal because the identity of the one who had heard from Ibn al-'Abbas is not clear.
  2. Habib b. Abi Thabit who transmitted this narration, is considered da'if (weak) even among Sunni scholars.[5]
  3. Tafsir al-Tabari interprets the verse differently: the verse is about the polytheists who were dissuading others from 'following' the Prophet (s) and themselves were avoiding him.[6] Next and previous verses confirm this meaning.

Al-Dahdah Hadith

Also a hadith named "Dahdah" is cited:

Someone mentioned Abu Talib before the Prophet (s), and the Prophet (s) said: "hopefully my shafa'a (intercession) will be beneficial for him in the Day of Judgment, he will be placed between two waters boiling by fire, which reaches his ankle and from there boils his brain."[7]


  1. Mughira b. Abi Shu'ba narrated this hadith and he -as stated by al-'Allama al-Majlisi- was famous for his animosity and hatred of Banu Hashim and especially 'Ali b. Abi Talib (a) and his fisq (lewdness) is obvious.[8]
  2. Assuming that Abu Talib was a polytheist, hoping shafa'a for him doesn't have any meaning, because it's clear that shafa'a doesn't include polytheists.[9]

Reasons of the Supporters

Shi'a scholars in addition to answering the reasons of the deniers, stated their reasons for the faith of Abu Talib:

Activities of Abu Talib

Abu Talib had invited his wife Fatima bt. Asad, his children, and the king of Abyssinia to Islam.[10] When he saw his son, 'Ali (a), was praying with the Prophet (s), ordered his other son Ja'far to pray with them.[11]

He bore all of suffers, supporting the Prophet (s), and didn't give up supporting and following the Prophet (s) until his death. His last word was: "O, you group of Banu Hashim, if you want salvation and guidance, confirm and obey Muhammad (s)."[12] It was because of him that Banu Hashim supported the Prophet (s) in Mecca and tolerated the blockade in Shi'b Abi Talib (the valley of Abi Talib).

Ibn Abi l-Hadid says: "every Muslim owes Abu Talib until the Day of Judgment, because if there wasn't him, Islam was not going to be around for long. It is narrated within many chains of narration from Ibn 'Abbas and others that he didn't die until he said shahadatayn (profession of faith)." In another place he says: "if Abu Talib disclosed his faith he would lose his respect and credit among polytheists and could not support Islam as a head of Tribe."[13]


Poems of Abu Talib are famous and reach to 1000 lines. What came in these poems are all about verification and acknowledgement of the Prophet (s):

His most famous poem is named "'Qasida al-Lamia"' which begins with:

"O, my friends, I never hear the blame of the reprover, and I have no tendency to evil."

'Allama Amini says: "I ask if the profession and admittance of the apostleship of the Prophet Muhammad (s), with all these different expressions in the poems of Abu Talib, is not considered as a confession of faith! If one of these descriptions was in poems or words of someone else, everyone would say that he is a Muslim. But in the opinion of the deniers, given all these verbal and written descriptions, doesn't mean that Abu Talib is a Muslim. This denial is a matter of wonder!"[14]

Ibn Abi l-Hadid says: "Although these poems don't reach the extent of certainty but they are mutawatir (frequent) as a whole and all have one thing in common: Abu Talib acknowledges the prophecy of the Prophet of Islam (s)".[15]

In one of these poems Abu Talib says:

"O, you witness of Allah to me, testify that I'm on the religion of the Prophet, Ahmad (s). If someone has a deviation from the religion, [I don't care because] I'm guided."[16]

He also says: "The best of Banu Hashim is Ahmad (s), the Prophet of God after a time (without any prophet)."[17]

Also: "I supported the Prophet (s), the Prophet of the Lord, with a sword shining like the flash of lightning. I will support and help him like a person cares for him."[18]

Hadiths of Ahl al-Bayt (a)

On the virtues of Abu Talib, the Prophet (s), Imam 'Ali (a), and other Imams are all confirming that Abu Talib was a believer and died as a Muslim based on a related series of narrations. In a Qudsi hadith (Divine hadith) it's said that Gabriel came to the Prophet (s) and said:

"O, Muhammad, Allah greets you and says: I prohibited the fire from the loin and the womb which gave birth to you, and the arms embraced you." The Prophet (s) said: "O, Gabriel, explain that to me." Gabriel said: "the loin means your father, 'Abd Allah b. 'Abd al-Muttalib, the womb is your mother Amina bt. Wahb, and the arms is Abu Talib b. 'Abd al-Muttalib."[19]

Hadiths of the Prophet (s)

As the Prophet (s) enjoyed the backing of Abu Talib in the most challenging periods of Islam, he was always mentioning him with respect and regard. The Prophet said to Jabir b. 'Abd Allah al-Ansari:

"In the journey of Mi'raj, I saw 4 lights. Allah said: 'this is 'Abd al-Muttalib, this is your uncle Abu Talib, this is your father 'Abd Allah, and this is your mother Amina"[20].

He also said:

"In the Day of Judgement, Abu Talib will come as a king and with a face like a prophet."[21]

The Prophet further said:

"Indeed Allah promised me about the intercession (shafa'a) for four, one of them is Abu Talib".[22]

Hadiths of Imam 'Ali (a)

All the words of Imam 'Ali (a), describing his father, are about his virtues and greatness. Imam 'Ali (a) said:

"The light of Abu Talib will dominate all lights except the light of The Five (a). The light of Abu Talib is from our light which Allah created it two thousand years before Adam."[23]

Also he said:

"When my father was at his last moments, the Prophet (s) came to his bed and gave me glad tidings (promises) about him which seemed more appealing to me than the world and what is in it."[24]

Hadiths of other Imams

Imam al-Sajjad (a) was asked about the faith of Abu Talib, he answered:

"I wonder at your question! God proscribes his Prophet (s) over a Muslim woman staying in the marriage of a polytheist. But Fatima bt. Asad was among the first Muslims who stayed in the marriage of Abu Talib until his demise. (So Abu Talib was not a polytheist)".[25]

Imam al-Baqir (a) says:

"If the faith of Abu Talib is put in one side of a scale and the faith of these people on the other, the faith of Abu Talib will be preferred."[26]

Imam al-Sadiq (a) says:

"Abu Talib is like the Seven Sleepers (Ashab al-Kahf) who hid their faith and declared themselves as polytheists and God gave them their reward twice."[27]

In another hadith he tells Yunus b. Nubata:

"The enemies of Allah are lying. He is a companion of the prophets, and the truthful, and the martyrs, and the righteous, and the excellent companions are they."[28]

Someone wrote to Imam al-Rida (a) that he had doubt in the faith of Abu Talib. Imam al-Rida (a) wrote to him the verse 115 of the Sura al-Nisa':

"But whoever defies the Apostle, after the guidance has become manifest to him, and follows a way other than that of the faithful, We shall abandon him to his devices and We shall make him enter hell, and it is an evil destination." (Quran 4:115)[29] And continued: "Then if you do not confess to the faith of Abu Talib, your destination is the hell."[30]

Imam al-Hasan al-'Askari (a) says:

Allah told his Prophet (s):"I helped you with two group of followers: First the followers who helped you secretly, and second the followers who helped you openly. As for who helped you secretly, their eminent and the most virtuous is your uncle, Abu Talib, and as for who helped you openly, their eminent and the most virtuous is his son, 'Ali b. Abi Talib (a)." Imam Hasan al-'Askari continues: "indeed, Abu Talib was like Mu'min Al Fir'awn (the faithful of the family of Pharaoh) who had hidden his faith."[31]

Words of Religious Scholars

Al-Shaykh al-Tusi: "Shi'as have ijma' (consensus) that Abu Talib was a Muslim and they have no disagreement on this."[32]

Al-Shaykh al-Tabrisi: "Ijma' of Ahl al-Bayt (a) is on the faith of Abu Talib."[33].

Al-Fattal al-Naysaburi: "The rightful Shi'a have ijma' that Abu Talib, 'Abd Allah b. 'Abd al-Muttalib, and Amina bt. Wahb were all faithful and their ijma' is a proof."[34]

Ibn Ma'add: "In the matter of the faith of Abu Talib, ijma' of Ahl al-Bayt (a) and ijma' of Shi'a scholars is enough for us and it could be trusted."[35]

Al-Sayyid b. Tawus: "Ahl al-Bayt (a) have consensus that Abu Talib was faithful." He also says: "it's obvious that Ahl al-Bayt (a) are more aware than foreigners about the inside of Abu Talib and also followers of Ahl al-Bayt (a) (Shi'as) have ijma' on it and they wrote books on it."[36]

Iman Abi Talib, written by Al-Shaykh al-Mufid

Al-'Allama al-Majlisi: "Shi'as have ijma' that Abu Talib was a Muslim and he had faith on the Prophet (s) from his bi'tha and that he never worshiped an idol. Rather he was one of the successors of Ibrahim (a) (Abraham). This is famous among Shi'a to the extent that even their deniers attribute this belief to Shi'a. Mutawatir hadiths exists from both Sunnis and Shi'as about his faith and many of scholars have written books on this issue so it would not remain hidden."[37]

Bibliography of the faith of Abu Talib

Agha Buzurg Tihrani mentions 9 books titled "Iman Abi Talib" (The faith of Abu Talib).[38] Some other books are as follows:

  1. Iman Abi Talib (The faith of Abu Talib), by al-Shaykh al-Mufid (d. 413/1022).
  2. Al-Hujja 'ala l-dhahib ila takfir Abi Talib (The proof for the believers of paganism of Abu Talib), by al-Sayyid Fakhkhar b. Ma'add (d. 630/1232).
  3. Munyat al-talib fi iman Abi Talib (The desired of the wishful about the faith of Abu Talib), by Sayyid Husayn Tabataba'i Yazdi Ha'iri (d. 1306/1888).
  4. Bughyat al-talib fi iman Abi Talib (The ambition of the wishful about the faith of Abu Talib), by Sayyid Muhammad 'Abbas Tustari Hindi (d. 1306/1888).
  5. Maqsad al-talib fi iman aba' al-Nabi wa 'ammihi Abi Talib (The destination of the wishful about the faith of ancestors of the Prophet and his uncle Abu Talib), by Mirza Husayn Gurgani.
  6. Al-Qawl al-wajib fi iman Abi Talib (The necessary word about the faith of Abu Talib), by Shaykh Muhammad 'Ali Fasih Hindi.

See also


  1. Al-Bukhari, Sahih al-Bukhari, Vol.4, P.247
  2. Amini, al-Ghadir, Vol.8, P.56
  3. Amini, al-Ghadir, Vol.8, P.12
  4. Al-Tabari, Jami' al-bayan, Vol.7, P.228
  5. Ibn Hibban, Al-Thiqat, Vol.4, P.137
  6. Al-Tabari, Jami' al-bayan, Vol.7, P.229
  7. Al-Bukhari, Sahih al-Bukhari, Vol.4, P.247
  8. Al-Majlisi, Bihar al-anwar, Vol.35, P.112
  9. Al-Tusi, al-Tibyan, Vol.10, P.187
  10. Murtada al-'Amili, Al-Sahih min sirat al-Nabi al-a'zam, Vol.3,P.230; Ibn Abi l-Hadid, Sharh nahj al-balagha, Vol.13, P.272
  11. Al-Halabi, Al-Sira al-Halabiyya, Vol.1, P.433; Ibn Athir, Usd al-ghaba, Vol.1, P.287
  12. Amini, al-Ghadir, Vol.7, P.367
  13. Ibn Abi l-Hadid, Sharh nahj al-balagha, Vol.14, PP.71-83
  14. Amini, al-Ghadir, Vol.7, P.341
  15. Ibn Abi l-Hadid, Sharh nahj al-balagha, Vol.14, P.78
  16. Ibn Abi l-Hadid, Sharh nahj al-balagha, Vol.14, P.78
  17. Ibn Abi l-Hadid, Sharh nahj al-balagha, Vol.14, P.78
  18. Ibn Abi l-Hadid, Sharh nahj al-balagha, Vol.14, P.78
  19. Al-Saduq, Ma'ani al-akhbar, P.137
  20. Al-Naysaburi, Rawdat al-wa'izin, P.81
  21. Ibn Babawayh, Al-Imama wa al-tabsira, P.34
  22. Al-Ya'qubi, Tarikh al-Ya'qubi, Vol.2, P.29
  23. Al-Majlisi, Bihar al-anwar, Vol.35, P.110
  24. Al-Majlisi, Bihar al-anwar, Vol.35, P.113
  25. Al-Majlisi, Bihar al-anwar, Vol.35, P.157; Ibn Abi l-Hadid, Sharh nahj al-balagha, Vol.14, P.69
  26. Amini, al-Ghadir, Vol.7, P.380
  27. Al-Kulayni, Usul al-Kafi, Vol.1, P.448
  28. Al-Karajaki, Kanz al-fawa'id, P.80
  29. وَمَن يُشاقِقِ الرَّسولَ مِن بَعدِ ما تَبَيَّنَ لَهُ الهُدىٰ وَيَتَّبِع غَيرَ سَبيلِ المُؤمِنينَ نُوَلِّهِ ما تَوَلّىٰ وَنُصلِهِ جَهَنَّمَ وَساءَت مَصيرًا
  30. Ibn Abi l-Hadid, Sharh nahj al-balagha, Vol.14, P.68; Al-Majlisi, Bihar al-anwar, Vol.35, P.110
  31. Ibn Ma'add, al-Hujja, P.362
  32. Al-Tusi, al-Tibyan, Vol.8, P.164
  33. Al-Tabrisi, Majma' al-bayan, Vol.4, P.31
  34. Al-Naysaburi, Rawdat al-wa'izin, P.138
  35. Ibn Ma'add, al-Hujja, P.64
  36. Al-Sayyid b. Tawus, al-Tara'if, P. 398
  37. Al-Majlisi, Bihar al-anwar, Vol.35, P.138
  38. Tihrani, al-Dhari'a, Vol.2, PP.512-3


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