Researcher of Political Science & Classical Islam. Initiated by the Khwajagan i-Naqshband.
Q. What is the true position regarding the religion of Abu Talib, the uncle of the Messenger of Allah and the father of ‘Ali?
A. The author of the well renowned book Sirat-An-Nabi, Allamah Shibli Nu’mani believed that Hadrat Abu Talib was a Believer and he recited the Kalima at the time of his death in presence of the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) into the ears of Al Abbas.
He also disregarded the narrations of Muslim and Bukhari as being unreliable because their narrator was not only a Kafir himself at the time when he allegedly witnessed this event, but states that he was actually not even present in the room with the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), Hadrat Abu Talib and the Prophet’s uncles and therefore, this tradition is “not worth taking as reliable”.
Here is the excerpt from Allamah Shibli Nu’mani’s book Sirat-An-Nabi, from Vol 1. “Death of Khadija and Abu Talib” P. 223-224:
“The Prophet asked Abu Talib to recite the credo of Islam La illa ha illallah Muhammadur Rasulullah, so that he might bear witness to his faith in the presence of Allah (SWT). Abu Jahil and Ibn Umayya expostulated with Abu Talib and asked if he was going to turn away from the religion of Abd al-Muttalib. In the end, Abu Talib said he was dying with his belief in the religion of Abd al Muttalib. Then he turned to the Prophet (S) and said that he would have recited that creed, but he feared lest the Quraish should accuse him of the fear of death. The Prophet (S) said that he would be praying to Allah for him till He forbade. This is the version of Al Bukhari and Muslim. Ibn Ishaq says that while dying Abu Talib’s lips were in motion. Abbas, (the Prophet’s uncle)…put his ears to his lips and said to the Prophet (S) that he was reciting the KALIMA the Prophet (S) had wanted of him. It is on account of these conflicting reports that there is such a difference of opinion regarding the Islam of Abu Talib. But as the version of Al Bukhari is generally considered to be more trustworthy, the traditionalists hold him to have died an unbeliever.
But from a traditionalist point of view, this report of Al Bukhari is not worth taking as reliable because the last narrator is Musaiyyab who embraced Islam after the fall of Mecca and was not himself present at the time of Abu Talib’s death. It is on this account that Al Aini, in his commentary has remarked that this tradition is mursal.” (Nu’mani, Sirat-An-Nabi, Vol.1 p.224)
Hadrat Abu Talib is the grandfather of the most illuminated spiritual individuals of this Ummah, including all of the Twelve Imams, and all of the major Cardinal Poles (Aqtaab); in specific Ghawth al-Adham Shaykh ‘Abd al-Qadir al-Jilani, Hadrat Khwaja Bahauddin Shah Naqshband, Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti, Sayyid Ahmad Bedawi, Abul Hasan ash-Shadhali, Sayyid Ahmad Kabir al-Rifai, and our beloved Master al-Ghawth Mawlana Shaykh Nazim Adil al-Haqqani, al-Qubrusi (qad). As such, it is my personal belief that the correct position is that Hadrat Abu Talib was a believer.
And Allah Knows Best!
Sirat-An-Nabi (The Life of the Prophet), by Allamah Shibli Nu’mani, rendered into English by M. Tayyib Budayuni. Rightway Publications, New Delhi, India. From Vol 1. “Death of Khadija and Abu Talib” P. 223-224.