Did Abu Talib (a.s.) recite the Shahadatain?
The enemies of the Ahle Bait (a.s.) – also known as Nasibis – have circulated several myths over the years right from the time of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.).
One of these myths is that Abu Talib (a.s.) – the father of Ameerul Momineen Ali Ibn Abi Talib (a.s.) and the uncle of the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.a.) – did not recite the dual testimony of Tauheed and Nobuwwat (Shahadatain) in his lifetime. At least they can’t trace the dual testimony in their books.
Minus the testimony, he is assumed to have died on apostasy and is consigned to Hellfire (Allah forbid) – according to their definition of Islam and faith.
Abu Talib’s (a.s.) unwavering faith is a topic that was settled centuries ago and even the Ahle Tasannun have recorded his merits, sayings and poetic verses that signify his Islam and faith.
However, the Nasibi skeptics as is their wont, do not care for the numerous ways Abu Talib (a.s.) has obliged Islam and the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.).
All they are interested in knowing is whether or not Abu Talib (a.s.) recited the dual testimony.
Since the argument raised by the skeptics has been narrowed down to just this one subject of the verbal testimony of faith, we address this specific point here and will not delve on the numerous occasions on which Abu Talib (a.s.) has given irrevocable proof of his unwavering faith.
Our response on the subject of verbal testimony is in the form of another question.
Was it necessary for Abu Talib (a.s.) to testify verbally in Tauheed and Nobowwat?
There are many answers to this question, all leading to the conclusion that the verbal testimony is not a necessary condition for proving Islam and faith.
The verbal testimony or Shahadatain is important to become a Muslim. It is absolutely necessary for a person who was previously not a Muslim and wishes to convert to Islam. The proof of his faith lies in the verbal testimony. Without the verbal testimony, one can raise questions about his faith, particularly if the person continues to perform actions of yore like idol-worship, drinking, antagonism towards figures of Islam like the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) and so on.
For instance, Abu Bakr, Umar, Usman, Muawiyah and his father Abu Sufyan as also Abbas – uncle of the Prophet (s.a.w.a.) and the vast majority of Muslims belonged to the category of converts – those who embraced Islam after abandoning their previous faith/creed. The verbal testimony was necessary for them to affirm their belief in Islam. Many of them like Abu Sufyan became Muslims only after the conquest of Mecca with the explicit aim to secure their lives and property.
But there were some Muslims – few in number – from the early Islamic era, who were born on Islam. It must be noted over here that everyone is born on God-knowing nature and it is the parents, relatives, society, etc. that convert them to other religions. These Muslims were born on faith and remained on correct faith. Abu Talib (a.s.) belonged to the small minority born on Islam as evidenced by Hadith-e-Noor, which is recorded in the books of both sects.
Abu Talib’s (a.s.) birth in the Islamic creed is acknowledged even by the Ahle Tasannun. Moreover, regardless of whether or not he recited the verbal testimony, there are no actions of paganism like idol-worship, consuming alcohol, adultery, hostility towards the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) (we seek refuge in Allah!) that may lead one to challenge his faith and demand a verbal testimony as an affirmation.
When the Muslims demand a verbal testimony as proof of Abu Talib’s (a.s.) Islam, we demand any act of paganism from Abu Talib’s (a.s.) biography as proof of his apostasy.
There are other Muslims apart from Abu Talib (a.s.) in the early history of Islam like his wife – Fatima bint Asad (s.a.), whose faith is beyond reproach. Is there any report of Fatima bint Asad (s.a.) reciting the verbal testimony? The same is the case with Abu Talib (a.s.).
Even if it is argued that Abu Talib (a.s.) should nonetheless have recited the verbal testimony to affirm his faith, we say – does Allah and the Prophet (s.a.w.a.) insist on the verbal testimony as a sign of faith?
In the Holy Quran, we see that Allah disregards apparent signs like the verbal testimony in favor of more concrete and tangible signs of Islam and faithfulness to Allah the High and the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.). This is because many Muslims had recited the verbal testimony and went on to spread mischief in the land.
It is for this reason we see verses like these in the Noble Quran:
And there are some people who say: We believe in Allah and the last day; and they are not at all believers. (Surah Baqarah (2): Verse 8)
And when they meet those who believe, they say: We believe; and when they are alone with their Satans, they say: Surely we are with you, we were only mocking. (Surah Baqarah (2): Verse 14)
When the hypocrites come to you, they say: We bear witness that you are most surely Allah’s Apostle; and Allah knows that you are most surely His Apostle, and Allah bears witness that the hypocrites are surely liars. (Surah Munafiqoon (63): Verse 1)
Were others faithful to the verbal testimony?
It is not difficult to understand the skepticism behind the verbal testimony – very few Muslims had stayed true to it. There are many examples in Islamic history when the Muslims failed to live up to the most basic Islamic values and principles. Clearly, reciting the verbal testimony did not make any difference to them.
Their faith was soiled with grievous actions like disobeying the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.), raising their voices in his presence and having their deeds nullified as a result, abandoning the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) in the battles of Uhad and Hunain, attempting to assassinate the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) in the Aqabah incident, etc.
Each action was sufficient to push them out of the realm of Islam into apostasy (Irtedaad).
In spite of this, the Muslims showed no remorse for their actions; on the contrary they maintained that they were obliging Allah and religion with their verbal testimony.
They think that they oblige you by becoming Muslims… (Surah Hujuraat (49): Verse 17)
In fact, ‘Muslims’ like Abu Sufyan and Muawiyah after having accepted Islam with a verbal testimony in 8th A.H., went on to participate in the Battle of Hunain only a few days later AGAINST the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) and Muslims! (Al-Ehtejaaj v 1 p 274)
Then there is Marwan Ibn Hakam, who along with his father was exiled by the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) from Hijaz and yet, went on to rule the Muslims after being rolled out the red carpet by Usman! Thus, he made a complete mockery of the verbal testimony! No wonder Ameerul Momineen Ali Ibn Abi Talib (a.s.) was not interested in the allegiance of a person like Marwan who was captured in the Battle of Jamal. Ali (a.s.) likens him (and other ‘Muslim’ traitors) to a Jew who would deceive even after paying allegiance twenty times! (Ansaab al-Ashraaf p. 263, Shar Nahj al-Balaghah vol. 6 p. 146)
Question: Why did Ali (a.s.) consider a ‘Muslim’ who had recited the verbal testimony as a Jew?
Answer: Because Marwan’s actions were no better (or probably even worse) than a Jew.
There were many such Muslims who took recourse in the verbal testimony only to secure their life and property and not out of love for Islam and the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.a.).
Now on the other hand, you have Abu Talib (a.s.) with no known record of worshipping idols, consuming alcohol, collaborating with the apostates or Jews against the Prophet (s.a.w.a.), harming the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) or even reprimanding him for bringing distress and duress on Bani Hashim over Islam and divine monotheism.
On the contrary, we find in the books of the hardcore skeptics, examples of Abu Talib’s (a.s.) extreme altruism, defense of Islam and the Noble Prophet (s.a.w.a.), sheltering him (s.a.w.a.) from all types of disasters and attacks, spending three excruciating years in an isolated valley with him (s.a.w.a.) during the social boycott and letting no harm reach him (s.a.w.a.) despite many attempts by the infidels.
If we were to take the case of Abu Talib (a.s.) to any court of this world, they would rule him to be a model Muslim.
This also the judgment of the intellect.
And the Holy Quran, as we have seen, places little importance to mere lip service to Islam through the verbal testimony.
Therefore, the demand of the skeptics that Abu Talib (a.s.) is not a Muslim because he failed to recite the verbal testimony has no backing from the Book of Allah, the Sunnah of the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.a.) or the pure intellect.