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FaithHistory

Abu Talib: The uncle of the Prophet [Part 1]

FaithHistory

Abu Talib: The uncle of the Prophet [Part 1]

Abu Talib was filling the honorable role of a father, a mother, a grandfather, and an uncle to the Prophet – the first three of which the Prophet had already lost by that point in his life.

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Islamic history is full of sublime personalities who embodied some of the most virtuous and incredible characteristics, having lived extraordinary lives filled with great sacrifices and events. Such figures are often remembered and venerated in courses and books on Islamic history, works on virtuous people – particularly the Sahaba (companions of the Prophet), and other biographical works within the Muslim tradition. These accounts detail the lives, sacrifices, and services of some of the noblest personalities in history, starting from the earliest generation of the Companions and up until the scholars and pious people of our very day and age.

Often times, while in love with the beauty of the more famous figures and their narrated accounts, most people tend to overlook or forget about some of the less highlighted but equally, if not greater, men of service and sacrifice during the first generation of Companions. One such personality was none other than the very dear uncle of the Prophet Muhammad, famously known as Abu Talib.

Abu Talib embodied some of the most noble characteristics and displayed impeccable love and honor towards the Prophet. Abu Talib’s full name is ‘Imran b. ‘Abd al-Muttalib b. Hashim b. ‘Abd Manaf b. Qusayy b. Kilab b. Murrah b. Ka’b b. Lu’ayy b. Ghalib b. Fihr b. Malik b. al-Nadr b. Kinana b. Khuzaima b. Mudrika b. Ilyas b. Mudar b. Nizar b. Ma’add b. ‘Adnan. He was a descendant of the Prophet Ibrahim through his son Prophet Isma’il, and through their descendant ‘Adnan [just like the Prophet Muhammad was]. Abu Talib was the uncle of the Holy Prophet, as well as his guardian, protector, helper and supporter.

Abu Talib and the Prophet

Abu Talib was born in 535 CE, in the Hejaz of the Arabian Peninsula. He was born to the Hashimi clan of the Quraysh tribe in Mecca, where his father, ‘Abd al-Muttalib, was the clan chief and held the noble duty of providing food and water to pilgrims of the holy precinct [1]. This position would later be inherited by Abu Talib, and despite his meager living and poor financial status, he would be responsible for the provisions of all the pilgrims who came to Mecca and visited the Ka’bah.

Abu Talib was only one of many children to ‘Abd al-Muttalib. His closest brother, whom he shared his mother Fatima bt. ‘Umar with, was none other than ‘Abdullah – the honorable father of the Prophet Muhammad. His other brothers included his second full brother al-Zubair, and his half-brothers al-Harith, Hamza, Abu Lahab, and al-‘Abbas. When he became of age, Abu Talib married his cousin, a Hashimi woman named Fatima bt. Asad, and she bore him seven children named Talib, ‘Aqil, Ja’far, ‘Ali, Fakhita, Jumanah, and Raytah [2].

When Abu Talib’s father passed away, his nephew, the Prophet Muhammad whom, up until then, was under the guardianship of ‘Abd al-Muttalib, was again orphaned and without a guardian. Abu Talib immediately brought Muhammad into his home, where he and his wife raised him like their own son, despite Abu Talib’s poverty. In fact, some sources suggest that ‘Abd al-Muttalib chose Abu Talib and entrusted him with our Master Muhammad, when he was on his deathbed. The Prophet would later return the favor when he, as an adult, helped ease his noble uncle’s burdens and took Abu Talib’s son ‘Ali into his own home, while his other uncle al-‘Abbas took ‘Ali’s brother, Ja’far, into his own home [3].

Growing up from the age of eight, the Prophet received an incredible amount of love, respect, protection, guidance, and education from both his uncle Abu Talib and aunt Fatima. He became so close and beloved to his uncle that they were almost inseparable, with the Prophet accompanying him both inside and outside of the house. Abu Talib was filling the honorable role of a father, a mother, a grandfather, and an uncle to the Prophet – the first three of which the Prophet had already lost by that point in his life.

Abu Talib would take his blessed nephew with him on business expeditions, giving him a first-hand look at the way business and trade was done in that society. This would later help the Prophet when he reached adulthood and pursued work in business and trade, and when working for his future wife Khadija [may Allah be pleased with her and send peace upon her]. Not only did he teach him business, but Abu Talib also raised the Prophet with noble characteristics and honorable and praiseworthy traits, such that he became known as as-Sadiq al-Amin, “the Truthful One” to the people of Mecca [4].

Abu Talib protected his nephew, clothed him, fed him, and honored him more than his own children, out of love and awe for what he saw in him. What Abu Talib was seeing, even during those younger years of the Prophet, was the light of Prophecy that was glimmering in his nephew’s blessed heart and radiating from his illuminated face. When Allah revealed the Message of Islam to His Beloved Prophet, honoring him with revelation and the advent of the Prophetic mission, Abu Talib believed him, supported him, aided him, and defended him from the elite members and leaders of Quraysh who wanted to silence the Prophet’s message. Even as the leader and chief of Banu Hashim, Abu Talib bore all of the hardships that were inflicted on the Prophet and Muslims, just as the rest of the Prophet’s family endured – but at a greater cost due to his position in the society.

Abu Talib and the message of Islam

Unfortunately, much of what Abu Talib sacrificed for the cause of Islam and the many selfless services he provided for the Prophet are overlooked and cast aside when the alleged account of his death is narrated. It is alleged that Abu Talib rejected the proclamation of faith on his deathbed in the presence of the Prophet, who was supposedly urging his uncle to utter the shahadah (testament of faith) before his death. According to the narration, upon Abu Talib’s refusal of making such a declaration, the Prophet apparently stated that he would not stop praying for his uncle’s forgiveness unless Allah forbade him to do so. Whereupon, it is alleged that the following verse of the Qur’an was revealed, “It is not for the Prophet and those who have believed to ask forgiveness for the polytheists, even if they were relatives, after it has become clear to them that they are companions of Hellfire” [al-Tawba: 113].

Hence, the spiritual state upon which Abu Talib passed away, and his subsequent fate in the Hereafter, has been a matter of dispute and polemics between various schools of thought and scholars. The purpose of this article is not to delve too deeply into the arguments of either side, but considering that a majority of Muslims adhere to the narration of his death and accept that his fate is doomed to Hellfire [even if just ‘temporarily’] – I will present a brief case, in the following series of articles, for his salvation and attempt to explain the position of those who believe him to have lived and died upon Islam.

Although the mainstream Sunni position has traditionally been to simply accept that Abu Talib died as a non-believing polytheist [5], there has been a good amount of scholarship from Ahlul Sunnah arguing otherwise. Statements, treatises, and books have been written in defence of both the honorable parents of the Prophet, as well as his noble uncle Abu Talib – most times, in a combined effort and work.

Some of the Sunni scholars who have argued for the salvation of Abu Talib include the well-known Shafi’i historian and Ayyubid prince, Abu’l Fida Isma’il b. ‘Ali, the Shafi’i scholar Ahmad b. Jalal al-Din al-Husayni al-Iji, the Maliki jurist Ahmad b. Yunus b. Sa’id, the Hanafi Muhammad b. Tulun, and the Shafi’i jurists ‘Abd al-Wahhab al-Sha’rani, Shams al-Din Muhammad b. ‘Abd al-Rahman al-Sajini, and Ahmad b. Muhammad al-Suhaymi. Other prominent Sunni thinkers and scholars who have argued in favor of Abu Talib’s salvation and spiritual eminence include al-Sayyid Muhammad al-Barzanji, al-Sayyid Sulayman al-Azhari al-Ladhiqi, al-Sayyid Ahmad Zayni Dahlan al-Hasani, al-Sayyid Hasan b. ‘Ali al-Saqqaf, Shaykh Mahmud Sa’id Mamduh, and Saudi writer Hasan b. Farhan al-Maliki [6]. One of the evidences all of the above scholars and thinkers cite to prove Abu Talib’s faith in Allah and belief in the Prophet Muhammad, are the many verses of poetry he wrote in praise of the Prophet and in testifying to the belief in Allah, as well as the religion of Islam.

To get a glimpse at the faith of Abu Talib in Allah and His Prophet, the following are some lines and verses of poetry of his in regards to the Messenger of Allah:

Here, Abu Talib states that he is not only loyal to the Beloved Prophet, but to the extent that he is willing to sacrifice his life, fighting to death, protecting him. There was no way that the polytheists could put a finger on the Prophet while Abu Talib was in their midst: 

By the Lord of the temple we will not give up Ahmad,
To harsh misfortunes and times’ troubles,
Before hands and necks, yours and ours,
Are cut by the gleaming blades of Qusas…” [7]

In this line of poetry, Abu Talib expresses his belief that Islam is the best religion and way of life:

And I have found that the religion of Muḥammad
Is the best religion for mankind…” [8]

Abu Talib praising both Allah and His Prophet in the following lines of poetry:

And He derived his name from His Own to exalt him,
For the Possessor of the Throne is Al-Maḥmud and this is Muḥammad…” [9]

More couplets in which Abu Talib expresses his belief in the prophecy of his honorable nephew, and states that the Prophet is in fact the best and most beloved of Allah’s creation:

Did you not know that we have found Muhammad?
A prophet like Moses described in the oldest books,
And that love is bestowed on him [alone] of mankind,
And that none is better than he whom God has singled out in love…” [10]

These are only a few examples of the high praise Abu Talib gave his nephew, the Prophet Muhammad, in his poetry. There aren’t any poems attributed to Abu Talib in which he praises his own sons, but there is a handful of his poetry in which he expresses some of the most exalting words of honor for the Prophet. These words also include statements of affirmation to the Prophet’s nubuwwa (prophecy), expressing explicit belief in the Prophet and Islam. Such statements naturally cause one to seriously question the claims that the Prophet’s noble uncle disbelieved in him and never accepted Islam. His poetry, actions, and upmost loyalty testify for his faith, and can very well be evidences for it. A more detailed explanation of Abu Talib’s beliefs and actions in support of the Prophet will be presented in the next part of this series of articles.


Sources:

[1] Ahmad Zayni, Asna’l Matalib

[2] Ibn Sa’d, Tabaqat al-Kubra

[3] Sirah Ibn Ishaq

[4] Sirah Ibn Ishaq

[5] Sahih al-Bukhari

[6] Nebil Husayn, A Treatise on Abu Talib

[7] Guillame, Sirah Ibn Ishaq

[8] Guillame, Sirah Ibn Ishaq

[9] Guillame, Sirah Ibn Ishaq

[10] Guillame Sirah Ibn Ishaq

Whilst you’re here…

The Muslim Vibe is a non-profit media platform aiming to inspire, inform and empower Muslims like you. Our goal is to provide a space for young Muslims to learn about their faith as well as news stories affecting them, so we can reclaim the Muslim narrative from the mainstream.

Your support will help us achieve this goal, and enable us to produce more original content. Your support can help us in the fight against Islamophobia, by building a powerful platform for young Muslims who can share their ideas, experiences and opinions for a better future.

Please consider supporting The Muslim Vibe, from as little as £1 – it will only take a minute. Thank you and Jazakallah.

Keep Reading

Abu Talib was filling the honorable role of a father, a mother, a grandfather, and an uncle to the Prophet – the first three of which the Prophet had already lost by that point in his life.

Islamic history is full of sublime personalities who embodied some of the most virtuous and incredible characteristics, having lived extraordinary lives filled with great sacrifices and events. Such figures are often remembered and venerated in courses and books on Islamic history, works on virtuous people – particularly the Sahaba (companions of the Prophet), and other biographical works within the Muslim tradition. These accounts detail the lives, sacrifices, and services of some of the noblest personalities in history, starting from the earliest generation of the Companions and up until the scholars and pious people of our very day and age.

Often times, while in love with the beauty of the more famous figures and their narrated accounts, most people tend to overlook or forget about some of the less highlighted but equally, if not greater, men of service and sacrifice during the first generation of Companions. One such personality was none other than the very dear uncle of the Prophet Muhammad, famously known as Abu Talib.

Abu Talib embodied some of the most noble characteristics and displayed impeccable love and honor towards the Prophet. Abu Talib’s full name is ‘Imran b. ‘Abd al-Muttalib b. Hashim b. ‘Abd Manaf b. Qusayy b. Kilab b. Murrah b. Ka’b b. Lu’ayy b. Ghalib b. Fihr b. Malik b. al-Nadr b. Kinana b. Khuzaima b. Mudrika b. Ilyas b. Mudar b. Nizar b. Ma’add b. ‘Adnan. He was a descendant of the Prophet Ibrahim through his son Prophet Isma’il, and through their descendant ‘Adnan [just like the Prophet Muhammad was]. Abu Talib was the uncle of the Holy Prophet, as well as his guardian, protector, helper and supporter.

Abu Talib and the Prophet

Abu Talib was born in 535 CE, in the Hejaz of the Arabian Peninsula. He was born to the Hashimi clan of the Quraysh tribe in Mecca, where his father, ‘Abd al-Muttalib, was the clan chief and held the noble duty of providing food and water to pilgrims of the holy precinct [1]. This position would later be inherited by Abu Talib, and despite his meager living and poor financial status, he would be responsible for the provisions of all the pilgrims who came to Mecca and visited the Ka’bah.

Abu Talib was only one of many children to ‘Abd al-Muttalib. His closest brother, whom he shared his mother Fatima bt. ‘Umar with, was none other than ‘Abdullah – the honorable father of the Prophet Muhammad. His other brothers included his second full brother al-Zubair, and his half-brothers al-Harith, Hamza, Abu Lahab, and al-‘Abbas. When he became of age, Abu Talib married his cousin, a Hashimi woman named Fatima bt. Asad, and she bore him seven children named Talib, ‘Aqil, Ja’far, ‘Ali, Fakhita, Jumanah, and Raytah [2].

When Abu Talib’s father passed away, his nephew, the Prophet Muhammad whom, up until then, was under the guardianship of ‘Abd al-Muttalib, was again orphaned and without a guardian. Abu Talib immediately brought Muhammad into his home, where he and his wife raised him like their own son, despite Abu Talib’s poverty. In fact, some sources suggest that ‘Abd al-Muttalib chose Abu Talib and entrusted him with our Master Muhammad, when he was on his deathbed. The Prophet would later return the favor when he, as an adult, helped ease his noble uncle’s burdens and took Abu Talib’s son ‘Ali into his own home, while his other uncle al-‘Abbas took ‘Ali’s brother, Ja’far, into his own home [3].

Growing up from the age of eight, the Prophet received an incredible amount of love, respect, protection, guidance, and education from both his uncle Abu Talib and aunt Fatima. He became so close and beloved to his uncle that they were almost inseparable, with the Prophet accompanying him both inside and outside of the house. Abu Talib was filling the honorable role of a father, a mother, a grandfather, and an uncle to the Prophet – the first three of which the Prophet had already lost by that point in his life.

Abu Talib would take his blessed nephew with him on business expeditions, giving him a first-hand look at the way business and trade was done in that society. This would later help the Prophet when he reached adulthood and pursued work in business and trade, and when working for his future wife Khadija [may Allah be pleased with her and send peace upon her]. Not only did he teach him business, but Abu Talib also raised the Prophet with noble characteristics and honorable and praiseworthy traits, such that he became known as as-Sadiq al-Amin, “the Truthful One” to the people of Mecca [4].

Abu Talib protected his nephew, clothed him, fed him, and honored him more than his own children, out of love and awe for what he saw in him. What Abu Talib was seeing, even during those younger years of the Prophet, was the light of Prophecy that was glimmering in his nephew’s blessed heart and radiating from his illuminated face. When Allah revealed the Message of Islam to His Beloved Prophet, honoring him with revelation and the advent of the Prophetic mission, Abu Talib believed him, supported him, aided him, and defended him from the elite members and leaders of Quraysh who wanted to silence the Prophet’s message. Even as the leader and chief of Banu Hashim, Abu Talib bore all of the hardships that were inflicted on the Prophet and Muslims, just as the rest of the Prophet’s family endured – but at a greater cost due to his position in the society.

Abu Talib and the message of Islam

Unfortunately, much of what Abu Talib sacrificed for the cause of Islam and the many selfless services he provided for the Prophet are overlooked and cast aside when the alleged account of his death is narrated. It is alleged that Abu Talib rejected the proclamation of faith on his deathbed in the presence of the Prophet, who was supposedly urging his uncle to utter the shahadah (testament of faith) before his death. According to the narration, upon Abu Talib’s refusal of making such a declaration, the Prophet apparently stated that he would not stop praying for his uncle’s forgiveness unless Allah forbade him to do so. Whereupon, it is alleged that the following verse of the Qur’an was revealed, “It is not for the Prophet and those who have believed to ask forgiveness for the polytheists, even if they were relatives, after it has become clear to them that they are companions of Hellfire” [al-Tawba: 113].

Hence, the spiritual state upon which Abu Talib passed away, and his subsequent fate in the Hereafter, has been a matter of dispute and polemics between various schools of thought and scholars. The purpose of this article is not to delve too deeply into the arguments of either side, but considering that a majority of Muslims adhere to the narration of his death and accept that his fate is doomed to Hellfire [even if just ‘temporarily’] – I will present a brief case, in the following series of articles, for his salvation and attempt to explain the position of those who believe him to have lived and died upon Islam.

Although the mainstream Sunni position has traditionally been to simply accept that Abu Talib died as a non-believing polytheist [5], there has been a good amount of scholarship from Ahlul Sunnah arguing otherwise. Statements, treatises, and books have been written in defence of both the honorable parents of the Prophet, as well as his noble uncle Abu Talib – most times, in a combined effort and work.

Some of the Sunni scholars who have argued for the salvation of Abu Talib include the well-known Shafi’i historian and Ayyubid prince, Abu’l Fida Isma’il b. ‘Ali, the Shafi’i scholar Ahmad b. Jalal al-Din al-Husayni al-Iji, the Maliki jurist Ahmad b. Yunus b. Sa’id, the Hanafi Muhammad b. Tulun, and the Shafi’i jurists ‘Abd al-Wahhab al-Sha’rani, Shams al-Din Muhammad b. ‘Abd al-Rahman al-Sajini, and Ahmad b. Muhammad al-Suhaymi. Other prominent Sunni thinkers and scholars who have argued in favor of Abu Talib’s salvation and spiritual eminence include al-Sayyid Muhammad al-Barzanji, al-Sayyid Sulayman al-Azhari al-Ladhiqi, al-Sayyid Ahmad Zayni Dahlan al-Hasani, al-Sayyid Hasan b. ‘Ali al-Saqqaf, Shaykh Mahmud Sa’id Mamduh, and Saudi writer Hasan b. Farhan al-Maliki [6]. One of the evidences all of the above scholars and thinkers cite to prove Abu Talib’s faith in Allah and belief in the Prophet Muhammad, are the many verses of poetry he wrote in praise of the Prophet and in testifying to the belief in Allah, as well as the religion of Islam.

To get a glimpse at the faith of Abu Talib in Allah and His Prophet, the following are some lines and verses of poetry of his in regards to the Messenger of Allah:

Here, Abu Talib states that he is not only loyal to the Beloved Prophet, but to the extent that he is willing to sacrifice his life, fighting to death, protecting him. There was no way that the polytheists could put a finger on the Prophet while Abu Talib was in their midst: 

By the Lord of the temple we will not give up Ahmad,
To harsh misfortunes and times’ troubles,
Before hands and necks, yours and ours,
Are cut by the gleaming blades of Qusas…” [7]

In this line of poetry, Abu Talib expresses his belief that Islam is the best religion and way of life:

And I have found that the religion of Muḥammad
Is the best religion for mankind…” [8]

Abu Talib praising both Allah and His Prophet in the following lines of poetry:

And He derived his name from His Own to exalt him,
For the Possessor of the Throne is Al-Maḥmud and this is Muḥammad…” [9]

More couplets in which Abu Talib expresses his belief in the prophecy of his honorable nephew, and states that the Prophet is in fact the best and most beloved of Allah’s creation:

Did you not know that we have found Muhammad?
A prophet like Moses described in the oldest books,
And that love is bestowed on him [alone] of mankind,
And that none is better than he whom God has singled out in love…” [10]

These are only a few examples of the high praise Abu Talib gave his nephew, the Prophet Muhammad, in his poetry. There aren’t any poems attributed to Abu Talib in which he praises his own sons, but there is a handful of his poetry in which he expresses some of the most exalting words of honor for the Prophet. These words also include statements of affirmation to the Prophet’s nubuwwa (prophecy), expressing explicit belief in the Prophet and Islam. Such statements naturally cause one to seriously question the claims that the Prophet’s noble uncle disbelieved in him and never accepted Islam. His poetry, actions, and upmost loyalty testify for his faith, and can very well be evidences for it. A more detailed explanation of Abu Talib’s beliefs and actions in support of the Prophet will be presented in the next part of this series of articles.


Sources:

[1] Ahmad Zayni, Asna’l Matalib

[2] Ibn Sa’d, Tabaqat al-Kubra

[3] Sirah Ibn Ishaq

[4] Sirah Ibn Ishaq

[5] Sahih al-Bukhari

[6] Nebil Husayn, A Treatise on Abu Talib

[7] Guillame, Sirah Ibn Ishaq

[8] Guillame, Sirah Ibn Ishaq

[9] Guillame, Sirah Ibn Ishaq

[10] Guillame Sirah Ibn Ishaq

Whilst you’re here…

The Muslim Vibe is a non-profit media platform aiming to inspire, inform and empower Muslims like you. Our goal is to provide a space for young Muslims to learn about their faith as well as news stories affecting them, so we can reclaim the Muslim narrative from the mainstream.

Your support will help us achieve this goal, and enable us to produce more original content. Your support can help us in the fight against Islamophobia, by building a powerful platform for young Muslims who can share their ideas, experiences and opinions for a better future.

Please consider supporting The Muslim Vibe, from as little as £1 – it will only take a minute. Thank you and Jazakallah.

Keep Reading

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