Abu Talib: A Believer of Quraish

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Abu Talib ibn Abd al-Muttalib ibn Hashim ibn Abd Manaf was the father of Imam Ali (AS) and the uncle of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). He was one of the notable figures of Mecca and a leader among both the Quraish and the Banu Hashim.

Before the prophethood of Muhammad (PBUH), Abu Talib briefly held the position of “siqayat al-hajj” (the provider of water for the pilgrims). After the death of his father, Abd al-Muttalib, he took care of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) as a child, protected him when he was grown, and prevented him from harm by the Meccan polytheists. Abu Talib passed away on the 26th of Rajab in the year of sadness and was buried in the cemetery of Hajun.

Abu Talib’s Lineage

His name was Abd Manaf, but he became famous as Abu Talib.[1] According to Ibn Anba, he was also referred to in a weak narration as Imran.[2] Abu Talib was born thirty-five years before the birth of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). His father, Abd al-Muttalib, was the leader of his people, a prominent figure among the leaders of the Quraish tribe who were referred to in matters of their affairs, disputes, inheritances, water, and blood. Abd al-Muttalib adhered to the pure religion of Prophet Ibrahim (Abraham). His mother was Fatima bint Amr ibn A’idh, from the Makhzum clan.[3]

Abu Talib’s Wife and Children

Abu Talib had several children, including:

  1. Talib
  2. Aqil
  3. Jafar
  4. Ali ibn Abi Talib
  5. Um Hani’ bint Abi Talib, also known as Fakhita or Hind
  6. Jumanah and Rayta

Some sources also mention a daughter named Asma’ bint Abi Talib. Their mother was Fatima bint Asad ibn Hashim ibn Abd Manaf ibn Qusay. According to some sources, he also had a son named Taliq ibn Abi Talib, whose mother was `Ala.[4]

Abu Talib’s Position

As mentioned by historians, Abu Talib was a noble, respected, and dignified leader with a commanding presence. Ali ibn Abi Talib (AS) is reported to have said that his father “ruled over the people while he was poor, and no poor person had ruled before him.”[5]

It is said of his generosity and benevolence that if the people of Quraysh were to feed, Abu Talib would feed everyone on that day, and no one could feed beside himself.[6] He was the first to observe the custom of “al-Qasamah” in the pre-Islamic era by demanding blood money for the killing of ‘Amr ibn ‘Alikamah, a practice that was later validated by Islamic law.[7]

According to al-Halabi, Abu Talib was one of those who abstained from alcohol in the pre-Islamic era, just like his father, Abd al-Muttalib.[8]

Before and during his stay in Mecca, Abu Talib held the positions of “Rifadah” (providing hospitality to pilgrims) and “Siqayah” (supplying water to pilgrims).[9] He was also a skilled trader who would buy and sell perfumes and wheat.[10]

The Care and Guardianship of the Prophet (PBUH)

Abu Talib took on the responsibility of caring for Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) by the will of his father, Abd al-Muttalib, when the Prophet was only eight years old.[11] Ibn Shahrashub pointed to this issue by saying: “When Abd al-Muttalib was on his deathbed, he called his son Abu Talib and said to him: ‘My son, you know how much I love Muhammad (PBUH) and how dear he is to me. Take care of him.’ Abu Talib replied, ‘Oh my father, do not entrust me with Muhammad (PBUH), for he is my son and my brother’s son.’ “

After Abd al-Muttalib passed away, Abu Talib took care of the Prophet by providing him with food and clothing for himself and his entire family.[12] Ibn Hisham wrote about this: “Abu Talib was the one who followed the orders of the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) after his grandfather. The Prophet was with him and under his care. When Abu Talib went as a merchant to Syria and prepared to leave, the Prophet followed him and said, ‘By Allah, I will take him with me and never be separated from him.[13]‘ “

Whenever Abu Talib wanted to have dinner or feed his children, he would say: “As you are – meaning hold on – until my son comes, and then the Prophet (PBUH) would come and eat with them.”[14]

Abu Talib: The Protector and Supporter of the Prophet (PBUH)

All historical documents confirm the continuous protection of the Prophet (PBUH) by his uncle, Abu Talib, and his resistance against the Quraish, despite his old age, which had reached about seventy-five years during the fifth and seventieth year of the Prophet’s mission.

He stood up, defending and protecting him without the slightest hesitation, and even openly declared this in front of the Quraish.[15] When the Quraish knew that Abu Talib had refused to abandon the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) and that he was in consensus with him about separating from them, they went to him with Amr bin Al-Waleed bin Al-Mughira and said to him, “O Abu Talib! This is Amr, a young man from the Quraish, take him as your son, and we will give you his intellect and support. And give us your nephew so we can kill him.” Abu Talib replied, “By Allah! How wretched you are! You ask me to give you my son to kill him while you offer me your son to care for him? This will never happen!”[16]

The Prophet (PBUH) spoke about the kindness and tenderness he received in his uncle’s home. When Fatima bint Asad died, he said, “Today my mother has died.” He shrouded her with his shirt, and lay down in her grave. When he was asked, “O Messenger of Allah! You are grieving so much for Fatima.” He replied, “She was my mother. She used to starve her children and feed me. She would comb my hair and anoint me with oil.”[17]

After the death of his uncle, Abu Talib, the Prophet (PBUH) said, “Quraish did not harm me with anything I hate until Abu Talib died.”[18] The Prophet (PBUH) continued to be cherished, protected from harm, and immune to any attack until Abu Talib died. Then, a call came from his Lord, carried by Jibril, “Leave Mecca. Your protector has died.”[19]

The Faith of Abu Talib (RA)

Historians did not hesitate to defend Abu Talib for he protected the Prophet (PBUH), took care of him, and defended him throughout his life. In fact, he was certainly one of the strongest defenders of him (PBUH), if not the only one, in the toughest situations from the early days of the message until his departure from this world. However, the question arises about his faith and whether or not he uttered the testimony of faith.

Sunni scholars claimed that he died as a disbeliever, based on a narration that indicates his insistence until the last moments to remain on the religion of his ancestors. While Shia scholars, with a consensus among them, claimed that he was a believer and died as such. They based their claim on narrations from the Ahlul Bait (AS) and a set of evidence that prove his faith beyond doubt, refuting the claim that he died as a polytheist.”[20]

Scholars’ Views on the Faith of Abu Talib: Sunni Perspectives

In confirmation of the truth of the faith of Abu Talib, we mention the statements of some scholars, among whom are:

  1. Ibn Athir said in his book “Jami’ al-Usul”: “None of the Prophet’s uncles embraced Islam except Hamza, Abbas, and Abu Talib according to the people of the Prophet’s household.”[21]
  2. Al-Barzakhī said: “Whoever is aware of what the scholars have mentioned in his biography knows with certainty that he was upon monotheism, as well as the rest of his fathers up to Adam. Thus, it is known that Abu Talib’s statement, ‘he is on the religion of ‘Abd al-Muttalib,’ indicates that he was upon monotheism and had noble ethics. Even if no clear indication of his monotheism had come from Abu Talib except his statement ‘he is on the religion of ‘Abd al-Muttalib,’ that would be sufficient.”[22]
  3. Al-Tilmisani said in his commentary on the book “Al-Shifa”: “Abu Talib should not be mentioned except in the context of his protection of the Prophet (peace be upon him) because he protected and supported him with his words and deeds. To mention him negatively is harmful to the Prophet (peace be upon him), and whoever harms the Prophet (peace be upon him) is a disbeliever. A disbeliever must be killed.”[23]
  4. Abu Tahir said: “Whoever hates Abu Talib is a disbeliever.”[24]

And for those who wish to learn more about these statements should refer to Part 7 of Al-Ghadir, the book “Maniyat al-Raghib fi Iman Abi Talib,” and the book “Al-Hujjah ‘ala al-Dhahib ila Takfir Abi Talib.”

In conclusion, the faith of Abu Talib is a well-established truth that is only doubted by those with weak faith and hearts.

Furthermore, we must emphasize that those who are certain of the path of the Prophet (peace be upon him and his family) and his household understand that they did not show favoritism towards anyone over religion. It is evident that they denounced every polytheist who refused to believe in Allah and the Prophet, regardless of their relationship, as exemplified by Abu Lahab. In fact, a verse from the Quran was revealed about him, “May the hands of Abu Lahab be ruined, and ruined is he!” This is Allah’s proclamation that Abu Lahab will never believe, and his fate is a scorching fire. On the other hand, the Prophet (peace be upon him and his family) and the Imams (peace be upon them) bore witness to Abu Talib’s faith, and Allah rewarded him twice for his unwavering efforts in serving the Prophet of Islam and inviting people to Islam.

His Death

Historians have disputed the exact day and month of Abu Talib’s passing. Some Shia sources claim that he died on the 26th of Rajab in the tenth year of prophethood, just three days after the passing of Khadija, the Prophet’s wife, at the age of 85. Others suggest that he passed away on the first of Dhu al-Qadah or the middle of Shawwal. The Prophet dubbed the year of his death (peace be upon him) as the “Year of Sorrow.”[25] When Ali, the son of Abu Talib, informed the Prophet (peace be upon him) of his uncle’s death, the Prophet was overcome with grief and deep sadness. He instructed Ali to take care of Abu Talib’s washing and requested to be informed when the task was completed. When Ali was carrying the body of Abu Talib,[26] The Prophet intercepted him and said, “May mercy be upon you, my uncle! May Allah reward you with the best rewards, for you brought me up, provided for me when I was young, and supported me when I grew up.” He then followed the funeral procession to the burial site and stood by the grave, and said, “Verily, I swear by God that I will earnestly seek forgiveness for you, and I will intercede on your behalf with a profound intercession that will impress and astonish the jinn and humans.”[27] Abu Talib was buried in Mecca in the Hajun alongside his father, Abdul Muttalib.[28]

[1] Al-Baladhuri, Ansab Al-Ashraf, Vol. 2, pg. 288. Ibn Saad, Tabaqat, Vol. 1, pg. 121.

[2] Ibn Inaba, Umdat al-Talib, pg. 20.

[3] Al-Tabari, The History of Al-Tabari, Part 2, Pg.

[4] Ibn Saad, Al-Tabaqat, Part 1, pp. 121-122.

[5] Al-Yaqoubi, The History of Al-Yaqoubi, Vol. 2, pg. 14. Al-Qummi, Nicknames and Titles, Vol. 1, pp. 108-109.

[6] Al-Baladhuri, Ansab Al-Ashraf, Vol. 2, p. 288.

[7] Al-Nasa’i, Sunan al-Nasa’i, vol. 8, pp. 2-4.

[8] Al-Halabi, Biography of Al-Halabi, Part 1, p. 184.

[9] Al-Yaqoubi, Tarikh Al-Yaqoubi, vol. 2, p. 13.

[10] Ibn Qutayba, Al-Ma’arif, pg. 575.

[11] Ibn Hisham, Biography of the Prophet, Part 1, pg. 116. Al-Bayhaqi, Evidence of Prophecy, Part 2, pg.

[12] Ibn Shahr Ashub, Manaqib of the Abi Talib family, vol. 1, pg. 36.

[13] Ibn Saad, Al-Tabaqat, Part 1, p. 119.

[14] Ibn Shahr Ashub, Manaqib of the Abi Talib family, vol. 1, pg. 37.

[15] Ibn Hisham, Biography of the Prophet, Part 1, pp. 172-173.

[16] Ibn Hisham, Biography of the Prophet, Vol. 1, pg. 173. Al-Baladhuri, Ansab al-Ashraf, Vol. 1, pg. 31.

[17] Al-Yaqoubi, Al-Yaqoubi’s History, Part 2, pg. 14.

[18] Ibn Asaker, History of the City of Damascus, Vol. 66, p. 339. Ibn Katheer, The Beginning and the End, Vol. 3, p. 164.

[19] Al-Mufid, Iman Abi Talib, p. 24.

[20] Al-Ghafari, the chief companion of Abu Talib (PBUH), p. 166; Hassan, Abu Talib, Tod Al-Iman Al-Rasih, p. 166.

[21] Monia Al-Ragheb in the faith of Abi Talib: 62, second edition

[22] Monia Al-Ragheb in the faith of Abi Talib: 64, second edition.

[23] Monia Al-Ragheb in the faith of Abi Talib: 65, second edition.

[24] Monia Al-Ragheb in the faith of Abi Talib: 66, second edition.

[25] Al-Maqrizi, Ima`a Al-Asma’, Part 1, pg. 45.

[26] Al-Majlisi, Bihar Al-Anwar, vol. 35, p. 163. Ibn Jawzi, Tadhkirat al-Khawas, Part 1, p. 145.

[27] Ibn Abi Al-Hadid, Explanation of Nahj Al-Balaghah, Vol. 7, pg. 76.

[28] Al-Baladhuri, Ansab Al-Ashraf, Part 1, pg. 29.

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