Hadrat Abu Talib: The Foremost Among Muslims
Sulaiman: The ways of you Shias are strange. As far as the companions are concerned you exercise utmost caution with regard to their reliability. On the other hand we see that you support a Kafir, defend his faith and praise him.
Ja'far: As far as the first part of your question is concerned, there is nothing wrong with it. The history is before you to study and derive your conclusions. So that you are free of blame. But tell me who is that Kafir whom Shias venerate?
Sulaiman: You people respect Abu Talib, who remained firm on disbelief in spite of his nearness to the Messenger of Allah (S.A.W.). His proximity to the Holy Prophet (S.A.W.) cannot exempt him from accepting Islam, even though he had defended the Prophet. (S.A.W.).
Ja'far: We seek refuge in Allah! You accuse Abu Talib of disbelief while he was the foremost among Muslims and the first among the defenders of Islam. He was never a Kafir that he needed to publicly declare his belief. It is not something strange. There were some people in the Arabian Gulf who followed the monotheistic religion of Ibrahim (a.s.) (Deen-e-Hanifiah=the upright religion). The best among them were the legatees of Ibrahim (a.s.) and Ismail (a.s.), like Hashim, Abdul Muttalib, Abu Talib and Abdullah the father of Prophet (S.A.W.). The well-known words of Abdul Muttalib are clear as regards his belief, when the forces of Abraha surrounded the Holy Ka'aba. It proves that he was on the upright faith.
Similarly when the Holy Prophet (S.A.W.) declared his prophethood, Hazrat Abu Talib accepted Islam. He also underwent many difficulties for him. He was the supporter of the Holy Prophet (S.A.W.) and was with him throughout the initial stages of Islam. Till the time when Quraish forced them to take refuge in the valley of Abu Talib. This can be summed up in the words of Prophet (S.A.W.),
"Quraish were not able to harm me a bit till Abu Talib was alive."
Sulaiman: If what you say is correct, why is Abu Talib falsely accused of infidelity?
Ja'far: The reason behind it is malice. Some narrators and historians are under the impression that Abu Talib died in the state of disbelief-in spite of there being no proof to support such an assertion. Some of the traditions have been forged to discredit Imam Ali ibne Ali Talib (a.s.) and taunt him saying his father died a Kafir.
Sulaiman: But there are so many authentic traditions that mention Hell as the everlasting abode of Abu Talib?
Ja'far: According to the Shiite belief all such traditions are fabricated. Certainly, the Holy Prophet (S.A.W.) was present at the funeral of Abu Talib (may Allah be pleased with him). The Messenger of Allah (S.A.W.) remained with the bier of Abu Talib till he was entrusted to the grave. Then he said:
"You have done Sile Rahem (that fulfilled the rights of relationship), o my uncle, you will be given a good compensation for this. I was brought up under your care and when I grew up, you supported me. By Allah! I will do such Isteghfar (seek repentance) for you and do intercession for you, that the Jinns and men will be astounded."
(Sibte Ibne Jauzi, Tadkeraku Khawaas, Asnaul Matalib Pg. 15)
Apart from the books of history and biographies of the Prophet (S.A.W.), many other proofs can be given for the faith of Abu Talib. For example: the following couplets of Abu Talib are self-explanatory:
"By Allah, these people with all their power cannot do anything to you. Till I am buried (under the ground).
Declare your faith without fear I give you the good news and your eyes may become cool and illuminated.
You called me and I know that you wish good for me. Certainly you said the truth though before too, you were Ameen (Trustworthy).
Verily I came to know that the faith of Muhammad is the best of all the religions on the face of the earth.
Certainly Allah honoured the Holy Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.).
Then among the people the most honourable is Ahmed. His name is one of the names of Allah. He is honoured.
Then the One of the heavens is Mahmood and he is Muhammad."
(Behaarul Anwaar Vol. 35, Pg. 165)
Let Us Understand Each Other (Shia-Sunni Dialogue)