It’s been several months since I’ve written about praying for non-Muslims which is still a hotly contested debate throughout the Muslim world. Many say you can’t do it under any circumstances, others say you can pray for their guidance and general health and well-being while they are alive but not after their deaths, and others also say that you can also pray for their after their deaths under certain circumstances. What do you make of all of this?
I was motivated to write about this a second time after reading this post by a Muslim sister who was also having an internal conflict about this issue. The question I would like to ask those who say they can’t pray for their dead Christian or Jewish friends for example is what if you married a Christian or a Jew? Islam allows interfaith marriage with those they call the “People of the Book” so that obviously means that they aren’t considered as being one of the evil groups, the hypocrites etc. How would you respond if you can’t pray for your People of the Book wife/husband just because they aren’t Muslim?
Now I’m not implying that each Jew or Christian will enter paradise because no Muslim will know if they are going to heaven or hell either and ultimately only God knows our true destiny, but isn’t it a valid question? It’s also one that I haven’t been able to find a detailed answer to. And not just one answer from one person, but many answers from various perspectives because looking at an issue from all sides was an attribute of our beloved prophet. And not just that, but an answer that can hold up to common sense and proper context instead of a “well that’s what the Quran says so be it” type of answer that isn’t much of an answer at all.
Some Muslim groups hate having their opinions challenged but honestly I think it’s the only way we can progress as a community and go deeper into our faith. In response to sister Ify wondering whether or not there are other valid opinions out there, yes there are. Firstly, you are allowed to pay your respects to non-Muslims in an answer by Abdul Shakur. Sure, there are other opinions out there stating otherwise, but as I’ve mentioned before this post is in response to seeking alternate rulings. Ultimately you’ll have to side with the one that you feel is right according to your understanding of Islam.
Much like sister Ify I too often prefer to stay silent in the face of such situations because I too am often at a loss of words. Are my words cheap? Are they appropriate? Do they actually help? I most often don’t know. Anyway… there is another post written by Mohammad Omar Farooq that I’ve posted on my Tumblr:
Now I know that there’s still lingering doubt, there is some for me too, but like I’ve mentioned the first time I wrote about this, there is also the opinion of Shaykh Ali Gomaa the former Grand Mufti of Egypt that I had used as the foundation of my previous post on this topic since he is incredibly respected everywhere in the Muslim world and I consider his opinions to be reliable. This is in part what he had to say regarding the specific question:
Rulings pertaining to this worldly life differ from those pertaining to the Hereafter. A person may be deemed a disbeliever simply because he is not a Muslim though he may not have denied Islam in the first place. It does not necessarily mean that a person who is deemed a disbeliever based on his outwards actions will be a dweller of Hellfire, especially one who will remain therein for eternity. God the Almighty may pardon such a person either because he has not heard about Islam or because he did not discover compelling evidence on the soundness of Islam. Consequently, he will be from amongst those who will be tested on the Day of Judgment.
God the Almighty says: “It is not for the Prophet and those who have believed to ask forgiveness for the polytheists, even if they were relatives, after it has become clear to them that they are companions of Hellfire” [9: 113]. It is only prohibited to ask God to forgive a non-Muslim if it is evident to the supplicant that the person he is praying for is among the companions of hellfire. However, it is permissible to supplicate with what may be said is allowed for such a person such as reducing his torture if he is among the inhabitants of Hellfire. It was reported that God will reduce the torture of some of the dwellers of Hellfire by virtue of the blessings of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him). Consequently, we are not to delimit our aspirations for God’s mercy since this is a sanctioned matter. There is therefore no objection to supplicating God for the sake of your deceased mother for He may accept your intercession on her behalf and forgive her.
In Islam interfaith relations are very important but so many seem to forget this nowadays. I started thinking about all of this again at the end of February because it would’ve been my best friend Richard’s birthday on the 29th (there was no February 29th this year but whatever) and he died in 2013. Even four years later it hurts almost just as much as it did the day I heard of the news. Back then I wasn’t religious and in fact I don’t think I’d ever asked myself whether or not God was real. I didn’t grow up in a religious household of any kind, my closest “religious” relative was/is my biological maternal grandmother who was raised a Catholic but hasn’t gone to church in probably 60+ years (she’s in her 80s by the way) and who never told me a single word about religion. I’ve never seen her read the Bible or say a prayer and I’ve lived with her since I was about 13 or 14.
Back to Richard though, I have no idea what he believed, or if he had ever thought about the idea of God either. What I do know is that he wasn’t hateful towards religious people; in our time spent together we’ve crossed many priests, rabbis and more and he never once made a bad comment about them or their beliefs. In fact we never discussed it. Had he hated religion I knew he would’ve said something because he wasn’t shy at voicing his displeasure or any other thoughts on a matter. I have no reason to believe that Richard was one of the oppressors or haters of the Muslim community, why should I be prohibited from praying for him? Ultimately he’ll have to answer to God and there’s nothing I can do when that day comes but until then I don’t see how praying for him can be so bad.
As for my grandma, she had no reaction when I converted to Islam. I’m not sure she really understands the implications my faith has. Her brain also definitely isn’t as sharp as it was before, she often doesn’t remember where the bathroom is so I’m not going to try to talk to her about deeply theological matters plus she doesn’t take well to people who try to tell her how she should live her life (remember that there should be no compulsion in religion). I’ll keep being a good person to her and pray that she may open her heart to Islam (to the best of her capacity to understand at least) and when she’s gone I’ll keep praying for her because I know that she is a person with a good heart who doesn’t hate God or any religion.
What do you think? Does this make sense? The last thing I’m going to add on the matter is that if we aren’t kind to non-Muslims you can most certainly be sure that they won’t open their hearts to Islam so it’s very important to be inclusive if we are going to remain true to our own religion. I would appreciate your thoughts on the matter because this is a subject that I’m very much still looking into.