Treatises on the Salvation of Abū Ṭālib

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The following article surveys a few treatises regarding the salvation of the Prophet Muḥammad’s uncle, Abū Ṭālib b. ʿAbd al-Muṭṭalib (d. circa 619 ce). The controversy concerning Abū Ṭālib’s place in the hereafter stems from a wealth of reports condemning him to hell due to his refusal to convert to Islam and others which testify to his lifelong belief in God and the prophethood of Muḥammad. The first group of reports was canonized in the collections of Bukhārī and Muslim, while the second group largely appeared in sīra and Shīʿī ḥadīth literature. Although Shīʿī thinkers have upheld the faith and salvation of Abū Ṭālib from the earliest periods of Islamic history, very few Sunnīs shared this opinion despite transmitting some of the same proof-texts cited in Shīʿī works. According to most Sunnīs, these proof-texts were either inconclusive or insufficient in proving Abū Ṭālib’s conversion to Islam or his salvation. However, there is a remarkable shift in the sensibilities of some Sunnīs after the ninth century hijrī (fifteenth century ce). In contrast to early Sunnīs who considered such a possibility to be unlikely or flatly denied it, a few Sunnīs over the past five centuries have joined their Shīʿī co-religionists in their commitment to the salvation of Abū Ṭālib. This article introduces the relevant proof-texts and theological arguments that classical Shīʿī and modern Sunnī writers have utilized to advocate the belief in Abū Ṭālib’s salvation.

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References

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29

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34

Al-Qarāfī, Sharḥ, p. 163. In his view, Abū Ṭālib was not a Muslim because he rejected the legal commandments of the Prophet.

36

Ibn Ṭāwūs, Faraj, p. 126. On the other hand, “al-Subkī and Ibn Taghrībardī follow al-Dhahabī in seeing him only as a Muʿtazilī,” see ei2, s.v. “al-Masʿūdī” (Ch. Pellat).

55

Al-Ṣadūq, al-Amālī, p. 712.

59

Al-Mufīd, Ḥikāyāt, p. 85.

99

Al-Mufīd, Īmān, p. 20.

102

Al-Mufīd, Īmān, p. 26.

143

Al-Suyūṭī, Masālik, pp. 145-58. Since no prophet came to ʿAbd al-Muṭṭalib, Ibn Ḥajar hopes for his salvation, even if it appears he was not a monotheist, see Ibn Ḥajar al-ʿAsqalānī, Iṣāba, vol. 7, p. 201.

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