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Who was Abu Talib?

Ali Khalfan

I once saw a thread in one of the Islamic Forums on the net titled “Abu Talib” started by a Shi'ah sister and her intent of starting the thread was to confirm if the ahlul-Sunnah do believe that Abu Talib, the uncle of the Prophet (s.a.w.) was a disbeliever and from the discussion that ensued, the Sunnis who posted in the thread confirmed their belief without a doubt.
In short, some very good references and arguments were presented by the Shia'hs to show that Abu Talib was a believer but they were not accepted by the Sunnis. For example, there was this Sunni brother who contended that the Prophet was sent to the polytheists of Arabia and thus he proves that there were no believers at that time. One can counter that argument by saying that only the sick need medicine and not the healthy. So if a doctor is sent to cure the sick in a community it does not prove that everyone in the community is sick. The other flaw in his argument is that he does not realize that our Prophet was sent to mankind and not only to the polytheists of Arabia. His shari’ah is the only one binding for the whole mankind! At one point, this brother claimed that there was no Islam before the prophetic mission of the Prophet. Later, he was kind enough to admit his misquotations. But little does he realize that if he admits that there was Islam, then obviously there were Muslims too!
Since both sides believe in the Qur'an, I thought of producing some verses from the Qur'an to prove that when the Prophet started his call, there were people who used to believe in One God. Therefore, these people don’t need the medicine but need encouragement, good news and further guidance. Such people were called Monotheists. Those who are sick and are ready to accept the medicine will eventually qualify to receive the encouragement. Some historical references were provided to this fact but there were no responses. If we can prove this inference from the Qur'an, then obviously the claim that Abu Talib was not a believer on the grounds that there were no believers present at the time of the Prophetic call is rejected.
So the aim of this article is only to prove that there were some monotheists during the beginning of the Prophet’s call and this will serve to disprove the Sunni arguments.
Mankind was in the beginning one single group; so Allah raised prophets as bearers of good news and as warners… (2:213)
Say: I do not control any benefit or harm for my own soul except as Allah please; and had I known the unseen I would have had much of good and no evil would have touched me; I am nothing but a Warner and the giver of good news to a people who believe. (7:188)
What! Is it a wonder to the people that We revealed to a man from among themselves, saying: Warn the people and give good news to those who believe that theirs is a footing of firmness with their Lord. The unbelievers say: This is most surely a manifest enchanter. (1O:2)
Rightly directing, that he might give warning of severe punishment from Him and give good news to the believers who do good that they shall have a goodly reward, (18:2)
And with truth have We revealed it, and with truth did it come; and We have not sent you but as the giver of good news and as a Warner. (17:105)
So We have only made it easy in your tongue that you may give good news thereby to those who guard (against evil) and warn thereby a vehemently contentious people. (19:97)
O Prophet! surely We have sent you as a witness, and as a bearer of good news and as a Warner, (33:45)
And We do not send messengers but as givers of good news and warning, and those who disbelieve make a false contention that they may render null thereby the truth, and they take My communications and that with which they are warned for a mockery. (18:56)
And We have not sent you but as a giver of good news and as a Warner. (25:56)
And We have not sent you but to all the men as a bearer of good news and as a Warner, but most men do not know. (34:28)
Surely We have sent you with the truth as a bearer of good news and a warner; and there is not a people but a warner has gone among them. (35:24)
These verses clearly show that two aspects are involved in raising or sending prophets and Messengers i.e. the aspect of “good news” and the aspect of “warning”. In other words whenever the Qur’an mentions the reason for raising Prophets and sending Messengers, it always mentions good news first and then the warning next.
Obviously the warning is not for the believing people and the good news or glad tidings is not for the disbelieving people. This is evident by the sentences giver of good news to a people who believe. (7:188) and warn thereby a vehemently contentious people. (19:97) And the reason for mentioning good news first is probably to show that there is always a group of people who are already believers in the One God like for example when the Prophet Nuh (a.s.) is sent to the people obviously there are some of them who were following the message brought by Prophet Adam (a.s.). If there were no believers at the time of sending any prophet then the sequence would have been to warn first and then to give the good news to those who pay heed to the warning. Most of the time a Prophet is sent to warn the transgressors like in the case of Prophet ‘Isa (a.s.). ‘Isa (a.s.) came to lead the transgressors back to the shari’ah given to Prophet Musa (a.s.) and likewise, Muhammad (s.a.) is sent to awaken the majority of the people of Arabia and warn the transgressors of the shari’ah given to ‘Isa (a.s.).
The prophets brought the good news of the Mercy of Allah, and His pleasure and paradise for those who believe in Him and guard themselves against evil. And they gave the warning of the punishment from Allah and His displeasure and Fire, to those who reject the truth and the transgressors.
In conclusion to claim that at the time of the prophetic mission there was not a single believer, is like shooting in the dark. The possibility that there were at least a few believers is more than the possibility that there were none because the prophet himself was a believer and during his orphanage he came under the umbrella of another believer – Abu Talib!!!

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