Hazrat Abu Talib, the Bulwark of Faith
By: Seyyed Ali Shahbaz
He was not a Prophet, but to him goes the credit for guarding and grooming for the benefit of humanity (in those days of life-and-death persecution) the Almighty's Last Messenger to mankind whose universal message continues to win more and more adherents worldwide every passing day.
He was neither an Imam, but to him the faithful will forever remain indebted for raising up for their salvation the Commander of the Faithful (Amir al-Momineen), the Epitome of Faith (Kull-e Iman), and the Leader of the Pious (Imam al-Muttaqeen), whose appointment by God as the Prophet's vicegerent would perfect faith, complete divine favours on mankind, and approve Islam as religion, to the despair of the faithless (Holy Qur'an 5:3)
Who was he, what was his mission, and what was the source of his authority?
The answers could only be provided by those whom he had brought up to be the pride of the entire creation, or by the Book of God, which is the undisputable source of authority.
For instance, to quote his nephew, whom he had taken under his care as an orphan of hardly eight years and guarded him literally with "tooth and nail" for the next 44 years until his own death shortly after end of the 3-year socio-economic siege imposed by the infidels of Mecca for refusing to renounce Islam and monotheism: "The Quraysh could not raise a hand against me until (my uncle) Abu Taleb died.”
So deeply was Prophet Muhammad (SAWA) shocked at the passing away of his uncle on the 7th of Ramadhan that historians have unanimously dubbed that particular year as Aam al-Hozn (Year of Grief), since on the 10th of the previous Ramadhan (within a year), he had lost to the cold hands of death that other benefactor of Islam, his loving and loyal wife, Hazrat Khadija (SA).
As a matter of fact, it was the death of Abu Taleb at the age of over 72 years that emboldened the infidels of Mecca to plot the assassination of the Prophet – a plot that failed, as God ordered the Prophet to migrate undetected to Medina, leaving on his bed his dear young cousin, Ali (AS), the valiant son of his beloved uncle, to frustrate the devilish hordes that hovered around the abode of divine revelation.
It was thus Divine Will that as the Hanif or the Primordial Muslim of the monotheist legacy of his ancestors, Abu Taleb should be the vital link between Abraham the Iconoclast and his Grand Descendent and Heir, Prophet Muhammad (SAWA).
A narration in this regard says that the Trust of God, descending through Prophet Abraham's (AS) firstborn son Prophet Ishmael (AS) and after accumulating the blessed insignias entrusted to the line of Prophet Abraham’s (AS) second son Prophet Isaac (AS) that ended with Prophet Jesus (AS) the son of Mary (SA), came to the safe custody of Abu Taleb (AS), the uncle and guardian of the Almighty’s Last and Greatest Messenger, Prophet Muhammad (SAWA).
To corroborate this fact, when Imam Ali (AS) was asked who was the last Testamentary Legatee (wasi) before Prophet Muhammad (SAWA), he replied: “My father Abu Taleb (AS).”
This does not mean that Abu Taleb (AS) was a Prophet. In the book Usoul Kafi it is recorded in this regard that when a person asked the Prophet’s 7th Infallible Successor, Imam Musa al-Kazem (AS), whether Abu Taleb had divine authority over Prophet Muhammad (SAWA), he said: "No, that was not the case. But it means Abu Taleb was the repository of the trust given to the past prophets and he was the medium for their transfer to Prophet Muhammad (SAWA), whose prophethood and divine mission he acknowledged."
It would repetitive to refer to the ayahs 28 and 29 of Surah Ghaffer pertaining to the Momin Aal-e Firoun or the True Believer of Pharaoh's clan who concealed his faith in the One and Only God in order to save Prophet Moses (AS).
Nor does time and space allow me to dwell more on the other merits of the Shaikh al-Bat-ha (Senior Statesman of Mecca), who through the marriage of his son, Imam Ali (AS), with the Prophet's immaculate daughter, Hazrat Fatema Zahra (SA), built such an unbreakable bond with his nephew that his grandsons, Imam Hasan (AS) and Imam Husain (AS), were hailed by the Prophet as Leaders of the Youth of Paradise.
In other words, to the chagrin of the malicious offspring of the pagans (who later reluctantly became Muslims) that had opposed him and his nephew, it is Abu Taleb who is the paternal progenitor of the 12 Infallible Imams or Divinely-Decreed Heirs of Prophet Muhammad (SAWA) – and subsequently of all Saadats (plural of Seyyed or a descendant of the Prophet).
To end this brief column, I would like to point out that Abu Taleb's real name was Imran, a name that instantly takes our thoughts to Surah Aal-e Imran (Family of Imran) of the holy Qur'an, which derives its title from its 33rd ayah that reads: "Indeed Allah chose Adam and Noah and the progeny of Abraham and the progeny of Imran above all the nations."
As exegetes note, of the three important persons in history named Imran, the first was the father of Prophet Moses (AS), the second was the father of the Virgin Mary (SA) – the mother of Prophet Jesus (AS) – and the third was Abu Taleb.
Since the first two Imrans did not leave any lasting lineage there is no doubt that the most famous family, whose blessings continue to grow is that of Abu Taleb.
Incidentally, ayah 61 of Surah Aal-e Imran refers to God's decision to chose the Ahl al-Bayt (the actual Aal-e Imran) to step into the field of Mubahela to defeat in debate the challenge of the Christians of Najran that had come to Medina to illogically argue with Prophet Muhammad (SAWA) about the alleged divinity of Prophet Jesus (AS) – the issueless maternal grandson of the second prominent Imran.