We Should Pray for the Non-Muslims

بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ

Despite what many Muslims would have us believe, there is nothing in the Qur’an that forbids us from praying for our deceased non-Muslim family, friends, or even strangers.  Anyone who says that, especially the Wahhabi sect, have limited Allah’s (s.w.t.) Mercy and Generosity.  This is the sort of close-minded, exceptionalist thinking we should not entertain, or even tolerate.  Would anyone of us, many of us converts to Islam, accept it if we were told we cannot make du’a for our deceased nearest and dearest because they passed away wearing the label of the wrong faith tradition?  And yet, it is acceptable to pray for murders, rapists, terrorists, and worse, who all happened to die “Muslim”?

They cite verses of the Qur’an to justify their lack of compassion, and their obvious tribalism, racism, and exceptionalism.  Some would state we can pray for them while they live, but we cannot ask pardon for them when they have passed away, as if the Gates of Mercy stops.  For example, they cite this:

سُوۡرَةُ التّوبَة
مَا كَانَ لِلنَّبِىِّ وَٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُوٓاْ أَن يَسۡتَغۡفِرُواْ لِلۡمُشۡرِڪِينَ وَلَوۡ ڪَانُوٓاْ أُوْلِى قُرۡبَىٰ مِنۢ بَعۡدِ مَا تَبَيَّنَ لَهُمۡ أَنَّہُمۡ أَصۡحَـٰبُ ٱلۡجَحِيمِ (١١٣) وَمَا كَانَ ٱسۡتِغۡفَارُ إِبۡرَٲهِيمَ لِأَبِيهِ إِلَّا عَن مَّوۡعِدَةٍ۬ وَعَدَهَآ إِيَّاهُ فَلَمَّا تَبَيَّنَ لَهُ ۥۤ أَنَّهُ ۥ عَدُوٌّ۬ لِّلَّهِ تَبَرَّأَ مِنۡهُ‌ۚ إِنَّ إِبۡرَٲهِيمَ لَأَوَّٲهٌ حَلِيمٌ۬ (١١٤)

It is not fitting, for the prophet and those who believe, that they should pray for forgiveness for pagans, even though they be of kin, after it is clear to them that they are companions of the Fire.  And Abraham prayed for his father's forgiveness only because of a promise he had made to him. But when it became clear to him that he was an enemy to Allah, he dissociated himself from him: for Abraham was most tender-hearted forbearing. (Surah at-Tawbah:113-114)

We have to understand that this verse is about people who lived in the time of the Prophet (s.a.w.).  They were witnesses to his perfect character, and numerous signs and miracles.  Despite this, they refused to believe.  Many of them actively opposed the Prophet (s.a.w.) and took up arms against the believers.  Such was the case with the uncle of Abraham (a.s.), his adopted father, in the verse.  He stood with the kuffar against Abraham (a.s.).

Some would cite, for example, verses such as this:

سُوۡرَةُ هُود
وَهِىَ تَجۡرِى بِهِمۡ فِى مَوۡجٍ۬ كَٱلۡجِبَالِ وَنَادَىٰ نُوحٌ ٱبۡنَهُ ۥ وَڪَانَ فِى مَعۡزِلٍ۬ يَـٰبُنَىَّ ٱرۡڪَب مَّعَنَا وَلَا تَكُن مَّعَ ٱلۡكَـٰفِرِينَ (٤٢) قَالَ سَـَٔاوِىٓ إِلَىٰ جَبَلٍ۬ يَعۡصِمُنِى مِنَ ٱلۡمَآءِ‌ۚ قَالَ لَا عَاصِمَ ٱلۡيَوۡمَ مِنۡ أَمۡرِ ٱللَّهِ إِلَّا مَن رَّحِمَ‌ۚ وَحَالَ بَيۡنَہُمَا ٱلۡمَوۡجُ فَكَانَ مِنَ ٱلۡمُغۡرَقِينَ (٤٣) وَقِيلَ يَـٰٓأَرۡضُ ٱبۡلَعِى مَآءَكِ وَيَـٰسَمَآءُ أَقۡلِعِى وَغِيضَ ٱلۡمَآءُ وَقُضِىَ ٱلۡأَمۡرُ وَٱسۡتَوَتۡ عَلَى ٱلۡجُودِىِّ‌ۖ وَقِيلَ بُعۡدً۬ا لِّلۡقَوۡمِ ٱلظَّـٰلِمِينَ (٤٤) وَنَادَىٰ نُوحٌ۬ رَّبَّهُ ۥ فَقَالَ رَبِّ إِنَّ ٱبۡنِى مِنۡ أَهۡلِى وَإِنَّ وَعۡدَكَ ٱلۡحَقُّ وَأَنتَ أَحۡكَمُ ٱلۡحَـٰكِمِينَ (٤٥) قَالَ يَـٰنُوحُ إِنَّهُ ۥ لَيۡسَ مِنۡ أَهۡلِكَ‌ۖ إِنَّهُ ۥ عَمَلٌ غَيۡرُ صَـٰلِحٍ۬‌ۖ فَلَا تَسۡـَٔلۡنِ مَا لَيۡسَ لَكَ بِهِۦ عِلۡمٌ‌ۖ إِنِّىٓ أَعِظُكَ أَن تَكُونَ مِنَ ٱلۡجَـٰهِلِينَ (٤٦) قَالَ رَبِّ إِنِّىٓ أَعُوذُ بِكَ أَنۡ أَسۡـَٔلَكَ مَا لَيۡسَ لِى بِهِۦ عِلۡمٌ۬‌ۖ وَإِلَّا تَغۡفِرۡ لِى وَتَرۡحَمۡنِىٓ أَڪُن مِّنَ ٱلۡخَـٰسِرِينَ (٤٧)

So the Ark floated with them on the waves (towering) like mountains, and Noah called out to his son, who had separated himself (from the rest), “O my son!  Embark with us, and be not with the Unbelievers!”  The son replied, “I will be take myself to some mountain: it will save me from the water.”  Noah said, “This day nothing can save, from the Command of Allah, any but those on whom He hath Mercy!” ― and the waves came between them, and the son was among those overwhelmed in the Flood.  When the Word Went Forth, “O Earth!  Swallow up thy water,” and, “O Sky!  Withhold (thy rain)!” and the water abated, and the matter was ended.  The Ark rested on Mount Judi, and the Word Went Forth, “Away with those who do wrong!”  And Noah called upon his Lord, and said, “O my Lord!  Surely my son is of my family, and Thy Promise is true and Thou art the Most Just of Judges!”  He Said, “O Noah!  He is not of thy family: for his conduct is unrighteous.  So ask not of Me that of which thou hast no knowledge!  I Give thee counsel, lest thou become one of the ignorant!”  Noah said, “O my Lord!  I do seek Refuge with Thee from asking Thee for that of which I have no knowledge.  And unless Thou Forgive me and have Mercy on me, I should indeed be lost!” (Surah Hud:42-47)

We should note that every instance where there was a prohibition to pray for someone, they were not simply non-believers, but people who actively hindered the prophets in their mission and sided with the enemies of God.  We are past the age of Revelation and prophetic miracles.  In this age of fitan, considering the sorry state of the ummah, the spiritual poverty of Muslim nations, and the way Muslims oppress each other, and others, we should be amazed people even convert to Islam, and that they stay.

Every convert to Islam has horror story after horror story in their dealings with Muslims.  Imagine the people who may have been inclined, and were turned away by the behaviour of Muslims they encountered?  What about converts to Islam who had extreme, intolerant interpretations of the religion, and turned away their non-Muslim family from ever having inclination to understand this faith?

In this age, it is incumbent for us to pray for the non-Muslims, living or dead, and to be a better example.  In a time of crisis, of uncertainty, and pain, we must remember that the Qur’an also Says this:

سُوۡرَةُ الاٴنبیَاء
وَمَآ أَرۡسَلۡنَـٰكَ إِلَّا رَحۡمَةً۬ لِّلۡعَـٰلَمِينَ (١٠٧)

We Sent thee not, but as a mercy for all creatures. (Surah Al-Anbiya’:107)

In reality, everyone is the ummah of Muhammad (s.a.w.).  The difference is that Muslims are meant to be an example, ambassadors of peace, and merchants of hope.  When we do not do our role, we are answerable for those we turn away from Islam through bad adab, because we have failed the amanah Given to us.  We must remember the weight of what we carry:

سُوۡرَةُ الحَشر
لَوۡ أَنزَلۡنَا هَـٰذَا ٱلۡقُرۡءَانَ عَلَىٰ جَبَلٍ۬ لَّرَأَيۡتَهُ ۥ خَـٰشِعً۬ا مُّتَصَدِّعً۬ا مِّنۡ خَشۡيَةِ ٱللَّهِ‌ۚ وَتِلۡكَ ٱلۡأَمۡثَـٰلُ نَضۡرِبُہَا لِلنَّاسِ لَعَلَّهُمۡ يَتَفَكَّرُونَ (٢١)

Had We Sent down this Qur’an on a mountain, verily, thou would have seen it humble itself and cleave asunder for fear of Allah, such are the similitudes which We Propound to men, that they may reflect. (Surah al-Hashr:21)


  1. Salam Terence, I shared this in our Brisbane Muslim Fellowship group. One guy asked about a hadith that he quoted as follows. "Abu Hurayrah narrated that the Messenger of Allaah (peace be upon him) said: “I asked my Lord for permission to pray for forgiveness for my mother, and He did not permit me. I asked Him for permission to visit her grave, and He granted me permission.”
    Saheeh Muslim." Sorry I don't have a reference for it. Is it a reliable hadith?

    1. as-Salaamu’Alaykum Imran,

      Sayyidina Abu Hurayrah ‘Abd ar-Rahman ibn Sakhr ad-Dawsi az-Zahrani al-Azdi’s (r.a.) mother, Sayyidatina Maymunah bint Subayh (r.a.) converted to Islam, and died a Muslim. This was as a result of a du’a by the Prophet (s.a.w.).


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