If Hadrat Abu Talib (a.s.) and his son (Ali (a.s.)) had not been there, Islam would not have been established and would never have gained so much popularity and acceptance among the people. Without doubt, Abu Talib (a.s.) was the refuge of Islam. He supported it and his son (Ali (a.s.)) fought in the wars of Medina, endangering his own life to rescue Islam and the Muslims from certain destruction. (Tahzeebul Mateen vol. 1 pg. 13)
Before he passed away, Hadrat Abdul Mutalib (a.s.) handed over the responsibilities of building of Mecca, safekeeping of the Holy Kaaba, all family affairs, lineage responsibilities, along with the scared task of the upbringing the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.) to his son Abu Talib (a.s.), who was elder to Hadrat Abdullah (a.s.). He had a unique remarkable honor which none of his other 2 brothers could have. It was because of Abu Talib's (a.s.) good fortune, that apart from his ancestral services and prestige, he also inherited from sons of Ismail (a.s.) high status and courage. This great service (of raising the Prophet (s.a.w.s.)) was not less critical than taking care of the pilgrims. Supervising the Kaaba was also added to his responsibilities. Another fact that highlights Abu Talib's (a.s.) superiority is that he and Hadrat Abdullah (a.s.) were born to the same mother Janabe Fatema b. Umru b. Aaez b. Imran b. Makhzum (s.a.).
Abu Talib (a.s.) was very fond of his younger brother Hadrat Abduallah (a.s.). At the time when the draw was taken for sacrificing Hadrat Abdullah (a.s.) and Hadrat Abdul Mutalib (a.s.) was obliged to fulfill his pledge to Allah, it was Hadrat Abu Talib (a.s.) who along with his brothers went to Hadrat Abdul Muttalib (a.s.) and pleaded with him to release Hadrat Abdullah (a.s.). Lots were drawn thrice and the name of Hadrat Abdullah (a.s.) appeared on all three occasions and Hadrat Abu Talib (a.s.) pleaded for Hadrat Abdullah's (a.s.) life and rescued him from the knife every time.(Tarikh-e-Tabari vol. 4 pg. 303)
According to some historians, Hadrat Abu Talib's (a.s.) name was Abdul Manaf, while some others have recorded it as - Imran. But it is a custom among the Arabs to refer a person by his agnomen, rather than his real name. In Seeratul Nabuwwah by Allamah Sayyed Ahmed he relates-
'Abu Talib (a.s.) was amongst those who regarded wine as prohibited even in the period of ignorance just like his father Abdul Muttalib (a.s.).'
Hadrat Abu Talib (a.s.) was born in (approximately) 526 A. D. - 35 years prior to Aamul Feel (Year of Elephant). At the age of 43 years, he gained his ancestral power and status. In Arabia he was remembered with the esteemed title - Bayzatul Balad (Light of City), Shaikh-ul- Qoreish and Raeesul Makkah (Chief of Mecca). Raising the divine trust (i.e. Prophet (s.a.w.s.)) under his guardianship was undoubtedly a thing of prestige and joy for Hadrat Abu Talib (a.s.). However discharging this responsibility was a very critical task, which required ethics, beliefs and faith of the highest order. A normal person could never fulfill this responsibility. Hadrat Abu Talib (a.s.) undertook this responsibility of safeguarding the Prophet (s.a.w.s.) He not only brought into service his honesty, affection and forbearance to fulfill the responsibility, but apart from these qualities he also put his precious life in danger.
Ibn Hajar in his book writes 'When Abdul Muttalib (a.s.) expired he wrote in his last will to Abu Talib (a.s.) to raise the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.). Hence Abu Talib (a.s.) nurtured him (s.a.w.s.) with a lot of love and affection, not even raising his own son Ali (a.s.) in the same manner. Thus Abu Talib (a.s.) fulfilled the will of his father by upbringing the Prophet (s.a.w.s.). He took the Prophet (s.a.w.s.) in his journey to Syria. By this time the Prophet (s.a.w.s.) had matured into a youth. When he (s.a.w.s.) proclaimed prophethood, Hadrat Abu Talib (a.s.) stood up to help and support him. And the infidels who turned against the Prophet (s.a.w.s.) also turned against him. He praised the Prophet (s.a.w.s.) excessively. Among these odes is his complete poetry, which he recited when there was a famine and raindrops fell by the blessings of the Prophet (s.a.w.s.).
"Prophet Mustafa (s.a.w.s.) is extremely beautiful has an enlighten face. Because of you (Muhammad (s.a.w.s.)) it rains and you are the one who reaches to the places of orphans and are a supporter for widows."
He used to protect this orphan to such an extent that wherever he would stay, he would keep Prophet (s.a.w.s.) also, wherever he used to eat, he offered the same to Prophet (s.a.w.s.), wherever he slept he made him (Prophet (s.a.w.s.)) also sleep there. Wherever he went, he took the Prophet (s.a.w.s.) along.
Ali b. Burhanuddeen Shafei in his book 'Insanul Oyoon' has described the benevolence of Hadrat Abu Talib (a.s.) towards the Prophet (s.a.w.s.) in this manner:
'Every night Hadrat Abu Talib (a.s.) would ask the Prophet (s.a.w.s.) to go off to bed, and when everybody was asleep, Hadrat Abu Talib(a.s.) would make any one of his sons or brothers or cousins to sleep on his (s.a.w.s.) bed so that people who intended to attack the Prophet (s.a.w.s.) could not do so.'
It was during this period that the unbelievers of Mecca tried to trouble the Prophet (s.a.w.s.) in various ways. All sorts of difficulties and tortures were inflicted upon him. The infidels hatched plots to prevent propagation and spread of Islam. Thinking Abu Talib (a.s.) to be old, they threatened him with their plots, but this could neither stop his endeavors nor did it affect his steadfastness.
We have mentioned two incidents to highlight this fact:
It is indeed an indication of ignorance and thoughtlessness to search for a motive behind the love and affection of Hazrat Abu Talib (a.s.) for the orphan of Hadrat Abdullah (a.s.). Hadrat Abdullah (a.s.) had expired, Janabe Aamena (s.a.) had also passed away and Hadrat Abdul Muttalib (a.s.) was also no more. Who else were there with the Prophet (s.a.w.s.)? Indeed his father was Abu Talib (a.s.), mother Janabe Fatema binte Asad (a.s.) - mother of Ali (a.s.). In addition to his relation with the Prophet (s.a.w.s.), Abu Talib (a.s.) was even more determined to protect him (s.a.w.s.) after the numerous prophecies about his (s.a.w.s.) advent. When the Quraish were sure that Hazrat Abu Talib (a.s.) would continue to support the Prophet (s.a.w.s.) and would never give up, they brought a young poet, who was very wealthy and beautiful and presented him to Hadrat Abu Talib (a.s.). They told him to take the poet as his son as he would be a good support for him in his old age. In exchange they wanted Hadrat Abu Talib (a.s.) to surrender the Prophet (s.a.w.s.), for he had created discord among the Quraish and had rendered their intellectuals as unworthy and foolish.
Hadrat Abu Talib (a.s.) replied, 'has it occurred to you that anybody would surrender his dear one so that he may be killed and take up the young one of another'? (Tabari vol. 4 pg. 584)
Once the Prophet (s.a.w.s.) was in the presence of Abu Talib (a.s.) preaching to his followers. The apostates of Quraish who determined to destroy the divine message of Islam approached Hadrat Abu Talib (a.s.) and started teasing him. When they could not disturb his determination, they demanded from him, 'Surrender Muhammed (s.a.w.s.) to us right now!' Abu Talib (a.s.) gave a reply that touched even the stone-hearted Quraish. He said, 'If a she-camel could surrender its young one to somebody else, then I also will hand over Muhammed(s.a.w.s.) to you.' (Minhajun Nabuwwah Muhaddise Dehalvi vol. 2 pg. 77)
Abu Talib's (a.s.) steadfastness and dedication in the upbringing of the Prophet (s.a.w.s.) is indeed matchless. The Quraish were hostile towards the Prophet (s.a.w.s.), and Hadrat Abu Talib (a.s.) was the leader of the Quraish. His own tribe (i.e. Quraish) had turned against him and had framed such rules and regulations that did not even allow him access to buy basic necessities like bread. In such a situation if Abu Talib (a.s.) had revealed his intentions, the corrupt Quraish wouldn't have allowed him to move out of Mecca.
The Meccans of that period had not only forsaken Hadrat Abu Talib(a.s.) but had also forsaken Allah completely and worshipped idols.
The God of Bani Kulaib was Dudd, whereas Bani Huzail worshipped Sawaa, Bani Mazhaj worshipped Yaghoos, Zul Kala worshipped Nasr and Hamdaan worshipped Ya'ooq. Every tribe had its independent deity. These gods were worshipped in all the houses. Among these tribes, Bani Hashim stood out as it did not worship any man-made deity. Ironically the destroyer of all these false gods was the one being raised by Hadrat Abu Talib (a.s.). Then how could they live in harmony with Hadrat Abu Talib (a.s.)? For this reason they threatened Abu Talib (a.s.) and tried to disturb his determination and dedication.
Hadrat Abu Talib (a.s.) was threatened with swords and pelted with stones but he kept Allah's trust close to himself and did not part with it. Indeed we should give Hadrat Abu Talib (a.s.) his rightful due by acknowledging his untiring effort, resolve, devotion and selflessness in protecting the Prophet (s.a.w.s.). Indeed his effort is not lesser than any other helper of Islam. He was dealing with the Quraish for whom taking a life was very easy. At that time, what was the obstacle that prevented the Quraish from assassinating the Prophet (s.a.w.s.)? There were neither any Mohajir nor Ansar to protect the Prophet (s.a.w.s.). There was only Hazrat Abu Talib (a.s.) and a few members of Bani Hashim. Even amongst the Bani Hashim there was Abu Lahab who was dead against the Prophet (s.a.w.s.) till his final breath. There was Hadrat Abu Talib (a.s.) who used to console the Prophet (s.a.w.s.) in his loneliness and caressed him with his affectionate hand. It was only his invaluable existence, steadfastness and forbearance that prevented the infidels of Mecca from succeeding in their evil intentions. Whenever he faced any affliction he was found to be the pinnacle of patience and reposed his hope only in Allah and awaited His blessings only. Indeed without him the Prophet's (s.a.w.s.) safety and security was impossible.
Once the Quraish came up to Hadrat Abu Talib (a.s.) and started complaining about the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.). However, Hadrat Abu Talib (a.s.) did not respond to their criticism and after they departed, he narrated everything to the Prophet (s.a.w.s.). The Prophet (s.a.w.s.) thought that his uncle Hadrat Abu Talib (a.s.) was fearful of the Quraish and wants to stop him (the Prophet) from guiding them. Looking at the grief of his nephew (s.a.w.s.), Hadrat Abu Talib (a.s.) himself became sorrowful. He held the hand of his beloved nephew (s.a.w.s.) for a while and finally said, 'I do not wish to stop you from continuing your mission of guidance. You can continue propagation and complete what you have been delegated by Allah to complete and until such a time that I am alive, no enemy can dare touch you or scare you with his threats.' Hadrat Abu Talib (a.s.) recited a couplet, the translation of which is given below. 'I swear by the Almighty, your enemy cannot even glance at you until I am buried beneath the soil. You reveal your message and don't fear, may your eyes be soothed with your works.' (Tabari, Vol. 4, p. 301)
On the same lines an incident has been narrated by Allamah Qartabi in his book 'Aa'laam' describing the devotion and dedication of Hadrat Abu Talib (a.s.). He states, 'One day the Prophet (s.a.w.s.) proceeded towards the Kaaba and began praying there. Abu Jahl (l.a.) exclaimed, 'Is there anyone who can render his (s.a.w.s.) namaz useless?' At this invitation Abdullah b. Zabari rose and applied horse dung and blood on the Prophet's (s.a.w.s.) blessed face. The Prophet (s.a.w.s.) abandoned his prayers, went to Abu Talib (a.s.) and said, 'O uncle, don't you see what treatment is being meted out to me?' Abu Talib(a.s.) asked, 'Who was the one who has insulted you in this manner?'
The Prophet (s.a.w.s.) replied, 'Abdullah b. Zabari' Abu Talib (a.s.) stood up enraged, slung his sword across his shoulder and went to the Quraysh. When they saw him they all got up to run away. Abu Talib(a.s.) said, 'By Allah, if anybody dares to get up, I will kill him with my sword.' Then he turned to the Prophet (s.a.w.s.) and asked him, 'O my son who has insulted you?' He (s.a.w.s.) pointed towards Abdullah b. Zabari. Abu Talib (a.s.) applied horse dung and blood on his face, beard and clothes.
The Quraish finally realized they could not halt the Prophet's (s.a.w.s.) progress regardless of their efforts and they could not end Hadrat Abu Talib's (a.s.) affection and devotion towards the Prophet (s.a.w.s.), as Hadrat Abu Talib (a.s.) did not care for their threats.
So they planned a new strategy. They gathered the chieftains and well- wishers of Quraish and began devising new ways of tormenting both Hadrat Abu Talib (a.s.) and Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.). Finally they arrived at these measures:
1. Bani Hashim should be made to leave Mecca.
2. All relations and connections (social and financial) should be severed from them. Nothing should be sold to them neither should any commodity be purchased from them.
3. They should not be allowed to meet anybody neither should anyone go to them.
4. Nobody should give a marriage proposal to Bani Hashim, nor should they accept any proposal from them.
5. Nobody should talk to any member of Bani Hashim.
A charter incorporating the above measures was prepared and it was signed by all the renowned and prominent personalities of Mecca. It was hung on the wall of Kaaba so that it would not escape the sight of the people and even travellers passing through would read it and refrain from maintaining any contacts with Bani Hashim. The firm determination of Abu Talib (a.s.) and his steadfastness in protecting and nurturing the Prophet (s.a.w.s.) made him bear even the toughest and most difficult afflictions with contentment and satisfaction.
Finally Abu Talib (a.s.) decided that the Quraishi persecution was too much and decided to leave Mecca. He collected all members of Bani Hashim excepting Abu Lahab. They decided to dwell in a new place away from Mecca, which happened to be a valley. Later this place became famous as Sheb-e-Abi Talib (a.s.), which is present to this day outside Mecca. This place of exile was a very constricted place with a narrow exit from where only one person could pass at a time. The place resembled a prison where only a small window exists for sunlight and air. In such a miserable condition, Abu Talib (a.s.) and his dear ones lived in loneliness for 3 years, wherein Abu Talib (a.s.) couldn't go to anybody nor could anybody meet him. He did not have anything to eat or drink nor did he have anyone to comfort him in his distress. The only encouragement that the residents of the valley had was divine motivation and support, which helped them withstand the most difficult of circumstances. The merciless Quraish not only banished Abu Talib(a.s.) but his entire family from their surroundings. This stone- hearted tribe, which previously considered Abu Talib (a.s.) to be their leader and chieftain turned against him just because he assisted the prophet (s.a.w.s.) in his (s.a.w.s.) mission. In the light of these tortures, if the Quraysh were like Firaun, then Bani Hashim were like Bani Israel or if the Quraish are considered to be like Bakhtun Nasr then Bani Hashim are like the inhabitants of Baitul Muqaddas.(Tabari, Vol. 4, p. 382)
By these incidents we wish to highlight the point that despite such unbearable afflictions and persecution, Hadrat Abu Talib (a.s.) did not turn his face away from protecting Islam and the Prophet (s.a.w.s.) and never flinched from assisting them. There was no decrease in his mercy and affection. The attacks of the Quraish on the Prophet (s.a.w.s.) were also targeted at Hadrat Abu Talib (a.s.). The harassment that the Prophet of Islam (s.a.w.s.) had to undergo, were also heaped on Hadrat Abu Talib (a.s.). But this did not affect his forbearance nor did it make any dent in his determination. Undoubtedly Abu Talib (a.s.) through his beneficial services fulfilled the will of Abdul Muttalib (a.s.) in the best possible manner. He ensured that his sons looked after the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.) and helped him in his mission. In those trying times, the task of protecting the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.) was considered impossible for anybody except Hadrat Abu Talib (a.s.) as nobody had the willpower and determination like that of Abu Talib (a.s.).
The means adopted by Hadrat Abu Talib (a.s.) for the protection and safety of Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.) were very successful. We can attribute this achievement to the blessings of the Prophet of Allah (s.a.w.s.). Of course, Abu Talib's (a.s.) leadership qualities also helped in spreading Islam. Right from the very beginning, Islam was under the care and supervision of a sympathizer who nourished it and raised it without any feeling of fear and greed. His devotion was not tainted by selfish motives or personal benefits. Hazrat Abu Talib(a.s.) devoted his entire life in protecting and serving the Prophet of Islam (s.a.w.s.). The words of Hadrat Abu Talib (a.s.) - 'Till the time I breath from my nostrils, nobody can dare to harm you' was justified from all aspects. Speaking evil of the Prophet (God Forbid) was a common practice in Mecca. Vulgar poems were recited openly in markets and common gatherings in Mecca. The oppressed Prophet (s.a.w.s.) did not have anyone on his side to punish these offenders.
Abu Talib (a.s.) undertook this responsibility all by himself and composed couplets and poetries in praise of the Prophet (s.a.w.s.) and gave a fitting reply to the Quraish. From these gems of poetic verses, we have mentioned below an excerpt.
'You are so prominent and preferred that Allah, the Almighty, has derived your blessed name from His own name. He is praised in the heavens, whereas you are the praiseworthy one on this earth.'
During the Islamic era when this couplet reached Hassan b. Thabit, he was excited by its reflective thinking and elegant content. He then added his own verses to the existing couplet: 'Have you not seen that the Glorified Almighty has raised his creature (s.a.w.s.) for making him (s.a.w.s.) high and exalted and gave him (s.a.w.s.) this sign. He derived his (s.a.w.s.) name from His own name. He was praised in the sky and he (s.a.w.s.) was praiseworthy on the earth.'
Another renowned poetry of Hazrat Abu Talib (a.s.) recorded by Muhammad b. Ishaaq (author of Seeratun Nabuwwat) is more than 80 couplets long. This was composed when Mecca was under a severe famine.
The traders were hopeless of their businesses and farmers were also hopeless of their agricultural output. So the Meccans came to Hadrat Abu Talib (a.s.) for invoking rain. Hadrat Abu Talib (a.s.) brought the Prophet (s.a.w.s.) along with him to the Kaaba. The Prophet (s.a.w.s.) invoked Allah and with his (s.a.w.s.) invocation it rained heavily. Parched fields turned green with vegetation. We have given below an excerpt from the poetry highlighting this incident:
'There is none for the remembrance of Allah and circumbulation of Kaaba except Bani Hashim and they were in all circumstances benefiting from this greatness. By Allah! We will neither abandon Muhammad (s.a.w.s.) nor will we hand him over to anybody. We will not leave our children and women and spears have not clashed and nor have arrows rained down and we are not covered in dust.'
'O Muhammad! Looking at your luminous face, raindrops fall. Your merciful existence is a refuge for the helpless orphan and a protection for the modesty and chastity of widows.'
Apart from this, there is another poetry of Abu Talib (a.s.) praising the Prophet (s.a.w.s.), describing the virtues and excellence of Islam and proclaiming it to be the best religion. The following are the excerpts of this poetry:
'O Muhammad! You invited me towards Islam and I came to know that you are honest in your claim and whatever you said was the truth and I was the trust for that and I also came to know that the religion of Muhammad (s.a.w.s.) was better than all religious of the world.'
Efforts of Hadrat Abu Talib (a.s.) in the propagation of Islam and its establishment were not silent and discreet. Rather it was evident to all. He wished from the depth of his heart that everybody should follow Islam and accept it sincerely. Once Hazrat Abu Talib (a.s.) saw the Prophet (s.a.w.s.) and Hadrat Ali (a.s.) praying in the confinement of the valley. At that time Islam had not become so popular that the Prophet (s.a.w.s.) could openly announce the commencement of prayer. Hadrat Abu Talib (a.s.) was observing them.
When they had finished he called his son - Ali-Al-Murtuda (a.s.) and told him (a.s.), 'Be even more active and vigorous in protecting your brother (Muhammad (s.a.w.s.)). He is your well-wisher and does not wish you harm. Go, may Allah protect both of you.'
Similarly once Hadrat Abu Talib (a.s.) went to meet the Prophet (s.a.w.s.) along with his son - Jafar (a.s.). They witnessed both the Prophet (s.a.w.s.) and Ali (a.s.) engaged in namaz. Hazrat Abu Talib(a.s.) turned towards Jafar (a.s.) and said, 'Why don't you join the Prophet (s.a.w.s.) also and protect him (s.a.w.s.) from the other side just like Ali (a.s.)?' (Kamil - Ibne Asir, pg. 43)
In this way Hadrat Abu Talib (a.s.) tried his best to strengthen the arms of the Prophet (s.a.w.s.) in every possible manner and did not compromise on this aspect. In this manner he fulfilled the will of his father Hadrat Abdul Muttalib (a.s.). He attached himself to the Wilayat of the Prophet (s.a.w.s.) and lived up to his claim - Till there is breath in my nostrils no one can harm you. In fact in his effort to safeguard the Prophet of Allah (s.a.w.s.) he gave up his life. In his life, we only witness the service of Islam and nothing else. Initially he was involved in trading. But later with the oppression of the Quraish, he did not want to leave the Prophet (s.a.w.s.) at their mercy and he stopped visiting Syria for trading.
On a couple of occasions he did take the Prophet (s.a.w.s.) with him, but stopped even that later. On one of these trips he encountered the priest Bahira who saw the Prophet (s.a.w.s.) and gave glad tidings of his prophethood. After this, Hadrat Abu Talib (a.s.) was even more determined to protect the Prophet (s.a.w.s.) and considered him (s.a.w.s.) to be his most important trust. He stopped visiting Syria after that and remained busy in safeguarding the Prophet's (s.a.w.s.) life.
Three years before Hijrat, in the 49th year of Aamul Feel (Year of Elephant), Islam's sun of loyalty and faithfulness - Hadrat Abu Talib(a.s.) had reached its twilight. Gradually signs of death became evident for him. By this time, the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.) was nearly 50 years old. The Quraish no longer posed a threat, as in the early days of Islam. A group of Muslims were secretly fulfilling their religious duties and obligations. Bait-e-Aqabah (final allegiance) was made. The days of Islam's progress had dawned and the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.) himself began feeling a little satisfaction about it. The affairs of Islam were slowly moving towards progress and perfection.
Although the state of affairs were heartening, yet Hadrat Abu Talib (a.s.), who was on his deathbed, was very concerned about his duty towards helping Islam and protecting the Prophet's (s.a.w.s.) life. He was not concerned about his family or their economic well-being, rather he was only concerned about the well-being of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.). He feared that after him the Quraish would once again plan to harm the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.) just as they had before in Sheb-e- Abi Talib. This fear was not baseless, rather it stemmed from prevailing hostile conditions of the society, the opposition and differences towards the Prophet (s.a.w.s.), hostility of the Quraish in acceptance of Islam and other sensitive issues. Hadrat Abu Talib (a.s.) was trying to fulfill his duties till his last breath. While on his deathbed the first thing he did was that he collected all the people of his tribe and made a will to them.