We start our Ramadhan article on a poignant note. It is the 7th(16 July) of this blessed month, the day on which Prophet Mohammad (SAWA) lost to the cold hands of death, his loving uncle and guardian, Abu Taleb, within a year of being deprived of the companionship of his loyal wife of 25 long years, the Mother of all True Believers Omm al-Momineen Hazrat Khadija (SA), on the 10th of previous Ramadhan.
Let us first listen to the special prayer for the 7th of Ramadhan:
“O Allah, assist me this day to carry out its fasting and devotions; keep me away therein from lapses and sins; and grant me therein Your perpetual remembrance, with success from You; O Guide of those who go astray!”
Today we remember with sadness a great man of history, to whom monotheism and Islam will always remain indebted. He was not a Prophet, but to him goes the credit for guarding and grooming for the benefit of humanity 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, his son, the Imam of the Pious, the Commander of the Faithful, the Epitome of Faith, and the Symbol of Justice, Imam Ali (AS). Who was he, what was his mission, and what was the source of his authority?
The answers could only be provided either by the holy Qur’an which is the undisputable source of authority, or by those whom he had brought up to be the pride of the entire creation. He was none other than the Prophet’s uncle, Abu Taleb, the primordial Muslim, who like his ancestors adhered to the pure monotheistic message of his forefather, Prophet Abraham (PBUH). To quote his nephew, the future Prophet of Islam, whom he had taken under his care as an orphan of hardly eight years and guarded him for the next 44 years until his own death in the state of the 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.”
Because of the towering personality of Abu Taleb, the infidels could never think of doing bodily harm to the Prophet. His passing away of was thus a deep shock. It happened within a year of the passing away of the Prophet’s beloved wife, Hazrat Khadija (SA), which meant that he had lost two of his greatest supporters. That is why the year is known in Islamic history is Aam ol-Hozn or the Year of Grief. Emboldened by the death of the 72-year Abu Taleb, the pagan Arabs feeling relieved at the removal of a great obstacle from their way, ganged up for an attempt against the Prophet’s life. The assassination plot, however, 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 firstborn son Prophet Ishmael and after accumulating the blessed insignias entrusted to the line of Prophet Abraham’s second son Prophet Isaac that ended with Prophet Jesus, came to the safe custody of Abu Taleb. To corroborate this fact, when Imam Ali (AS) was asked as to who was the last Testamentary Legatee before Prophet Mohammad (SAWA), he replied: “My father Abu Taleb.”
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 Kazem (AS), whether Abu Taleb had divine authority over Prophet Mohammad (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 Mohammad (SAWA), whose prophethood and divine mission he acknowledged.”
Some persons, who know little about Islam and nothing about Abu Taleb, accuse him of disbelief. This is not the case. If Abu Taleb had openly announced his belief in Islam he would not have been able to protect the Prophet since in such a case all pagans would have become not only his deadly enemies, but it would have been easier for them to deal a fatal blow to Islam without any consideration and reverence for anyone. Thus it was better for him to conceal his beliefs from the unbelievers and help Islam and Muslims in the name of humanitarian values. Moreover, it is not cowardice to conceal faith. On the contrary this is a kind of shield in the struggle against oppressors and the ignorant. This particular act is called taqaiyyah or dissimulation since Islam required such a sacrifice and was in need of this expediency during its crucial formative years, without which it was impossible to know of the plans of the unsuspecting infidels in order to neutralize them. Taqaiyyais thus an Islamic principle mentioned by God Almighty in the Holy Qur’an while relating the account of the Mo’min-e Aal-e Fir’oun or the True believer of Pharaoh’s clan, who by concealing his faith at the Egyptian court was instrumental in saving the life of Prophet Moses. In ayah 28 of Surah Ghaffer, God says:
“Said a man of faith from Pharaoh’s clan, who concealed his faith: Will you kill a man for saying “My Lord is Allah”, while he certainly brings manifest proofs to you from your Lord? Should he be lying, on him will be his lie but if he is truthful, there shall afflict you some of what he promises you. Indeed Allah does not guide someone who is a profligate, a liar.
In view of these facts, isn’t it rather strange that while God praises the Mo’min-e Ala-e Fir’oun for his concealment of faith in order to save the life of Prophet Moses at several critical junctures, some Muslims despite their claim of acquaintance with the Qur’an have such a blighted vision that they blasphemously express doubts on the faith in Islam of Abu Taleb, the Primordial Muslim? Time does time allow us to dwell more on the other merits of Abu Taleb, 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 and Imam Husain (peace upon them), were hailed by the Prophet as Leaders of the Youth of Paradise. In other words, to the dismay of the malicious offspring of the pagans that had opposed him and his nephew, it is Abu Taleb, whose real name was Imran, and whose progeny are the Aal-e Imran (a term used by the holy Qur’an), is the paternal progenitor of the 12 Infallible Imams of Prophet’s progeny – and subsequently of all Saadats or descendants of Prophet Mohammad (SAWA).