Was Abu Talib Muslim or did he die a Kafir (disbeliever)?

ⓘ Supported by Al Medina 313.



Islamic Text

بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَنِ الرَّحِيمِ

In the Name of Allah Most Merciful Most Kind

Short Answer

The scholars of Ahl al-Sunnah state Abu Talib was not Muslim but kafir. Muslims would be deeply elated if the uncle of our beloved Prophet ﷺ had become a Muslim. However, the opinion that he became Muslim seems to be from the Shia. Further, there is an abundance of evidence from Quran and Sunnah to substantiate the fact that Abu Talib did not die as a Muslim.

عَنِ ابْنِ عَبَّاسٍ، أَنَّ رَسُولَ اللهِ صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ قَالَ: أَهْوَنُ أَهْلِ النَّارِ عَذَابًا أَبُو طَالِبٍ، وَهُوَ مُنْتَعِلٌ بِنَعْلَيْنِ يَغْلِي مِنْهُمَا دِمَاغُهُ

(Sayidina) Ibn Abbas (May Allah Most High be pleased with them both) narrated that the Prophet ﷺ said: The least punished of the people of the Fire will be Abu Talib. He will wear sandals (of fire) which will cause his brain to boil. (Sahih Muslim 212 – 362).

Whenever we speak about the issue of Abu Talib dying non-Muslim, we must be very respectful. This is due to the great love he evidently had for the Prophet ﷺ, and the protection he provided to the Prophet ﷺ and Sahabah. Despite these facts, we cannot contradict Quran and Sunnah based upon emotions or personal preferences.

Punishment in the Afterlife

The Hadith narration above makes it clear that Abu Talib will be punished in the afterlife. Normally, this would not be considered compelling proof of someone’s Kufr, since Muslims can be punished too. However, the case of Abu Talib is unique. This is becauuse he was asked to embrace Islam upon his deathbed.

If he was already Muslim, then the Prophet ﷺ would not have asked him to embrace Islam on his deathbed. On the other hand, if he was not Muslim then entering Islam at that time would render punishment in the afterlife impossible. Embracing Islam eradicates all previous sins. If he became Muslim at that point, then there would be no opportunity to sin. So he would not be punished in the Afterlife. Thus, it would contradict the Hadith narrations establishing punishment.

Last words
عَنِ ابْنِ المُسَيِّبِ، عَنْ أَبِيهِ، أَنَّ أَبَا طَالِبٍ لَمَّا حَضَرَتْهُ الوَفَاةُ، دَخَلَ عَلَيْهِ النَّبِيُّ صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ وَعِنْدَهُ أَبُو جَهْلٍ، فَقَالَ: «أَيْ عَمِّ، قُلْ لاَ إِلَهَ إِلَّا اللَّهُ، كَلِمَةً أُحَاجُّ لَكَ بِهَا عِنْدَ اللَّهِ» فَقَالَ أَبُو جَهْلٍ وَعَبْدُ اللَّهِ بْنُ أَبِي أُمَيَّةَ: يَا أَبَا طَالِبٍ، تَرْغَبُ عَنْ مِلَّةِ عَبْدِ المُطَّلِبِ، فَلَمْ يَزَالاَ يُكَلِّمَانِهِ، حَتَّى قَالَ آخِرَ شَيْءٍ كَلَّمَهُمْ بِهِ: عَلَى مِلَّةِ عَبْدِ المُطَّلِبِ، فَقَالَ النَّبِيُّ صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ: «لَأَسْتَغْفِرَنَّ لَكَ، مَا لَمْ أُنْهَ عَنْهُ» فَنَزَلَتْ: {مَا كَانَ لِلنَّبِيِّ وَالَّذِينَ آمَنُوا أَنْ يَسْتَغْفِرُوا لِلْمُشْرِكِينَ وَلَوْ كَانُوا أُولِي قُرْبَى مِنْ بَعْدِ مَا تَبَيَّنَ لَهُمْ أَنَّهُمْ أَصْحَابُ الجَحِيمِ} [التوبة: 113] . وَنَزَلَتْ: {إِنَّكَ لاَ تَهْدِي مَنْ أَحْبَبْتَ} [القصص: 56]

(Sayidina) al-Musayib narrated: When Abu Talib was close to death, the Prophet ﷺ came to him. Abu Jahl was present too. The Prophet ﷺ said, “O uncle, say there is no god except Allah, an expression through which I will defend your case before Allah (Most High).” Abu Jahl and Abdullah bin Abi Umayyah said, “O Abu Talib, will you leave the religion of Abd al-Muttalib?” They kept on addressing him until the last statement he made to them was: “(I am) upon the religion of Abd al-Muttalib.”

The Prophet said, “I will continue to seek forgiveness for you until I am forbidden to do so.” Then (the following) was revealed: It is not fitting for the Prophet and the believers to seek forgiveness for the pagans, even if they were their close relatives, after it has become clear to them that they are the people of the Fire. (Quran: 9, 113). (The following) was also revealed: Indeed, you do not guide whom you like. (Quran: 28, 56). (Sahih al-Bukhari, 3884).

In the narration above, we see the Prophet ﷺ calling Abu Talib to embrace Islam. However, he states that he is upon the religion of his father. Some brothers argue that the statement made him Muslim, since his father was not an idol worshipper. This is a very strange argument. When the Prophet ﷺ asks one to articulate the Shahadah then a believer will articulate it. He will not state that he believes in the religion of his ancestor.

If the argument that the above statement made Abu Talib Muslim is true then why did the Quran refer to him as a pagan? Why did the Quran prohibit the Prophet ﷺ and other believers from making Dua for him? It is a bizarre argument propagated by some people. The following narration is even clearer:

حَتَّى قَالَ أَبُو طَالِبٍ آخِرَ مَا كَلَّمَهُمْ: هُوَ عَلَى مِلَّةِ عَبْدِ المُطَّلِبِ، وَأَبَى أَنْ يَقُولَ: لاَ إِلَهَ إِلَّا اللَّهُ

Until the last thing Abu Talib said to them was that he follows the religion of Abdul Muttalib. And he refused to say: There is no god but Allah. (Sahih al-Bukhari, 1360).

Legal status

After the passing of Abu Talib, the laws of a non-Muslim were applied to him. There was no Janazah Salah. Dua (supplication) was prohibited. His Muslim relatives did not inherit from him. Rather, only those who were not Muslim at the time inherited from him. These are all legal rulings applicable to disbelievers. The rulings for a deceased Muslim are the opposite. Thus, this provides further proof that Abu Talib died not Muslim but Kafir.

عَنْ أُسَامَةَ بْنِ زَيْدٍ رَضِيَ اللَّهُ عَنْهُمَا، أَنَّهُ قَالَ: يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ، أَيْنَ تَنْزِلُ فِي دَارِكَ بِمَكَّةَ؟ فَقَالَ: وَهَلْ تَرَكَ عَقِيلٌ مِنْ رِبَاعٍ أَوْ دُورٍ. وَكَانَ عَقِيلٌ وَرِثَ أَبَا طَالِبٍ هُوَ وَطَالِبٌ، وَلَمْ يَرِثْهُ جَعْفَرٌ وَلاَ عَلِيٌّ رَضِيَ اللَّهُ عَنْهُمَا، شَيْئًا لِأَنَّهُمَا كَانَا مُسْلِمَيْنِ، وَكَانَ عَقِيلٌ وَطَالِبٌ كَافِرَيْنِ. فَكَانَ عُمَرُ بْنُ الخَطَّابِ رَضِيَ اللَّهُ عَنْهُ يَقُولُ: لاَ يَرِثُ المُؤْمِنُ الكَافِرَ

Usama bin Zaid (May Allah Most High be pleased with them both) said: I asked, O Messenger of Allah ﷺ, will you stay in your house in Mecca? He ﷺ replied, “Has Aqil left any property or house?” Aqil along with Talib had inherited the property of Abu Talib. Jafar and Ali (May Allah Most High be pleased with them both) did not inherit anything as they were Muslims. Whereas Aqil and Talib were non-believers. Umar bin Al-Khattab (May Allah Most High be pleased with him) used to say, “A believer cannot inherit from a disbeliever.” (Sahih al-Bukhari, 1588).

Scholars of Ahl al-Sunnah

It is due to the abundance of evidence from Quran and Sunnah that the scholars of Ahl al-Sunnah referred to Abu Talib as a Kafir. Many scholars claimed an agreement of Sunnis upon this issue. Additionally, some scholars expressed that the other opinion is from the Shia.

وَالْمُصِرُّ عَلَى عَدَمِ الْإِقْرَارِ مَعَ الْمُطَالَبَةِ بِهِ كَافِرٌ وِفَاقًا لِكَوْنِ ذَلِكَ مِنْ أَمَارَاتِ عَدَمِ التَّصْدِيقِ وَلِهَذَا أَطْبَقُوا عَلَى كُفْرِ أَبِي طَالِبٍ. (رد المحتار على الدر المختار)

And the person that persists upon refusing to declare (faith) despite the request to do so, is a disbeliever. Since that is necessarily a sign of the absence of belief. This is why they agreed upon the Kufr of Abu Talib. (Imam Ibn Abideen, Radd al-Muhtaar).

بل قيل إِنَّه صنف فِي إِسْلَام أبي طَالب جُزْءا كَمَا هُوَ مَذْهَب بعض الرافضة. (الضوء اللامع لأهل القرن التاسع).

Rather, it was said that he (Muhammad bin Abdillah al-Maghribi al-Maliki) authored a work regarding the Islam of Abu Talib, as is the doctrine of some of the Shia. (Imam al-Sakhaawi, al-Dow al-Lami).

Abu Talib dying non-Muslim was such an established fact that it was often mentioned in passing or as evidence, without going into a discussion of whether it is indeed the case or not. In the Nass (text) below, we find Imam al-Ghazali making a passing reference to it.

فإنها كرامة حرص خليله ابراهيم صلوات الله وسلامه عليه أن يمن بها على أبيه فلم يفعل. وحرص حبيبه المصطفى صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ أن يمن بها على عمه فلم يفعل. (منهاج العابدين إلى جنة رب العالمين).

It (religion) is a blessing that His Khaleel Ibrahim, may Allah’s blessings and peace be upon him, was keen to have Him (Most High) bestow upon his father, but He did not do so. His beloved Chosen One ﷺ was keen to have Him (Most High) bestow it upon his uncle, but He did not do so. (Imam al-Ghazali, Minhaj al-Abideen p208).

The other narration

Some brothers quote a narration in which Sayidina Abbas said Abu Talib declared Shahadah before passing away. The chains for this narration are weak. Even if the chain had been strong, then we would have to consider it Shadh (rejected due to contradiction) due to the contradiction in it. Further, how could this narration be correct when the Holy Quran prohibited Dua, and the Sunnah repeatedly established Kufr?

وَوَقَفْتُ عَلَى جُزْءٍ جَمَعَهُ بَعْضُ أَهْلِ الرَّفْضِ أَكْثَرَ فِيهِ مِنَ الْأَحَادِيثِ الْوَاهِيَةِ الدَّالَّةِ عَلَى إِسْلَامِ أَبِي طَالِبٍ وَلَا يَثْبُتُ مِنْ ذَلِكَ شَيْءٌ وَبِاللَّهِ التَّوْفِيقُ وَقَدْ لَخَّصْتُ ذَلِكَ فِي تَرْجَمَةِ أَبِي طَالِبٍ مِنْ كِتَابِ الْإِصَابَةِ. (فتح الباري شرح صحيح البخاري).

I came across a collection compiled by one of the Rafidah (Shia). He gathered numerous feeble narrations alluding to Abu Talib accepting Islam. They do not establish anything (due to extreme weakness). Success is by Allah. Indeed, I have summarised the issue in Abu Talib’s biography in the book al-Isabah. (Imam Ahmad bin Ali Ibn Hajr al-Asqalani, Fath al-Bari Sharh Sahih al-Bukhari).

Another objection to the narration is found in the following Hadith. In it the very same (Sayidina) al-Abbas says to the Prophet ﷺ, ‘What have you benefited your uncle (Abu Talib)?’ If he knew that Abu Talib had made Shahadah, then he would not make such a statement. Rather, he would say the opposite.

حَدَّثَنَا العَبَّاسُ بْنُ عَبْدِ المُطَّلِبِ رَضِيَ اللَّهُ عَنْهُ، قَالَ لِلنَّبِيِّ صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ: مَا أَغْنَيْتَ عَنْ عَمِّكَ، فَإِنَّهُ كَانَ يَحُوطُكَ وَيَغْضَبُ لَكَ؟ قَالَ: هُوَ فِي ضَحْضَاحٍ مِنْ نَارٍ، وَلَوْلاَ أَنَا لَكَانَ فِي الدَّرَكِ الأَسْفَلِ مِنَ النَّارِ

(Sayidina) al-Abbas bin Abd al-Muttalib said to the Prophet ﷺ, “What have you benefited your uncle (Abu Talib)? Indeed he used to protect you and anger for your sake.” He ﷺ said: He is in shallow fire. Had it not been for me, he would have been in the depths of the Fire. (Sahih al-Bukhari, 3883).


The Muslim must always remain respectful when it comes to Abu Talib. However, we must also assert that which is evident in the Quran and Sunnah. We do not have the right to say Abu Talib was a Muslim when the evidence proves otherwise.

And Allah Most High Knows Best.

Answered by Shaykh Noorud-deen Rashid (14.12.23)