How could I have read the story of his (PBUH) life so many times and yet the year of grief never registered in my mind, nor did I remember it as an important milestone in the Seerah of our Prophet Muhammad PBUH.
Now as grief has struck me, I am surprised to open his Seerah and the chapter that commands my attention is: THE YEAR OF GRIEF.
He is at the bedside of his beloved uncle and patron Abu Talib. His (PBUH) uncle is dying and he can see him in The Fire …………………he asks him again and again to take shahada, to save himself from The Fire, ……………all this compounded with the pain of losing someone you love, whom you can see being immersed in The Fire as he is still a pagan and has not accepted and declared his acceptance of tawheed.
And thus at the bedside of his (PBUH) uncle the drama of the tussle for his uncle’s Maghfirah begins: a tussle that is reminiscent in the lives of many of us whose loved one is dying and decisions have to be made and yet we don’t make those decisions.
I am at my mother’s bedside; she is critically ill. The chaplain is explaining the Medical durable power of attorney to her. If she becomes unconscious or seriously ill and is no longer able to make decisions she has to designate, who will make the medical decisions for her…………..she hesitates and then asks the chaplain “am I dying?” he flounders and makes a non committal sound.
In the end he leaves, and she never makes a decision. The tussle by her bedside begins and it is primarily based on what to do regarding the particulars of her medical care and what is best for her body.
A very different tussle than what he (PBUH) was going through with his uncles, one dying (Abu Talib) and the other (Abu Lahab) standing by his bedside forbidding his brother to leave the beliefs of his ancestors and clan.
I am reading between the lines: He (PBUH) stands by his uncle’s bedside, knowing surely that he is dying and feeling the thread of love and life between them stretching to breaking point. Knowing that once it breaks Abu Talib “who had been a friend, a prop of his childhood, the guardian in his youth, and later a tower of defense against all who opposed him because of his message”, would be cast in The Fire if he does not take shahada and declare Allah Subhanawataala as his only and supreme Lord and Creator.
At Abu Talib’s bedside what is he (PBUH) thinking? From what the historians say he was not thinking of his uncles medical care, or his inheritance, or anything else, but of his maghfirah, and his life in the Hereafter.
He could see The Fire that would swallow him if he stepped out of this life as a pagan. Love and anguish searing his (PBUH) heart, him asking his (PBUH) uncle to take shahada and his other uncle (Abu Lahab) forbidding Abu Talib to do so and reminding him of the Gods of his ancestors. His (PBUH) anguish and frustration perhaps changing to dua.
Al Abbas bin Abdul Muttalib narrated that he said to the Prophet (PBUH) “you have not been of any avail to your Uncle Abu Talib though by Allah! He used to protect you and get angry on your behalf”
He (PBUH) replied, “ He is in shallow fire, and had it not been for me, he would have been at the bottom of the Fire. (Ibid)
How does one respond, when you see your loved one dying and are being taunted or blamed by another family member? What does one do when you advise the dying one about something that will help him or her in the Hereafter and the others are only concerned with issues of this world and the reputation of the family?
I wish somewhere in the books of Seerah one could glean his (PBUH) feelings as he struggled for his uncles salvation by his bedside, for the Maghfirah of his life in the Hereafter and asked him again and again:
“My uncle, you must profess there is no true God but Allah, and I will bear testimony before Allah (of your being a believer).”
But Abu Talib at the instigation of his brother Abu Lahab did not and died without taking shahada.
What anguish he (PBUH) must have experienced as he said: “ By Allah, I will persistently beg pardon for you till I am forbidden to do so (by Allah) “
Knowing that when Noah had asked for his kafir son to be saved Allah SWT had said (and I paraphrase) “Relationships are those of faith, not of blood”
And then Allah Subhanawataala revealed the verse:
009.113: 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 then Allah Subhanawataala in His infinite wisdom sent this as a balm for his (PBUH) grief and perhaps also for his Ummah:
028.056 YUSUFALI: It is true thou wilt not be able to guide every one, whom thou lovest; but Allah guides those whom He will and He knows best those who receive guidance.
Abu Sa’d Al Khudri narrated that he heard the Prophet say when the mention of his uncle was made “ I hope my intercession may avail him and he be placed in a shallow fire that rises up to his heels” (ibid)
This was only the beginning of the year of grief and yet more was waiting in the wings………