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A Few Thoughts On the Death of Non-Muslims

SOME MUSLIMS LABOUR under the mistaken notion that given the enormity of disbelief in Allah’s final Prophet and Revelation, one must not speak well of a non-Muslim (kafir) when they pass away on disbelief. Islamic teachings do not, however, require or insist upon such an uncharitable approach.

Many non-Muslims died during the lifetime of our Prophet . About some he  spoke more about their virtues than he did their actual disbelief. Mut‘im b. ‘Adi, a respected Makkan idolater, was one such person. The Prophet  was ever grateful for the support and protection Mut‘im offered him during the trying years of early Islam in Makkah. When his son Jubayr came to the Prophet asking him to release some of those taken prisoners during the Battle of Badr, the Prophet said about his non-Muslim father: ‘Had Mut‘im b. ‘Adi been alive and spoken to me about the captives, I would have released them all to him.’1

The Prophet would, occasionally, reveal how certain non-Muslims – known for their virtuous behaviour, but rejection of iman and tawhid, or Abrahamic monotheism – would perish in the Afterlife. The Lady ‘A’ishah once asked the Prophet about ‘Abd Allah b. Jud‘an, saying: ‘O Messenger of Allah, in the time of pre-Islamic Ignorance, Ibn Jud‘an would keep ties of kinship and feed the poor. Will any of this benefit him? The Prophet  said: ‘It will not! For he never ever said: My Lord, forgive me my sins on the Day of Judgement.’2

Of course, no one receive Revelation today to know with certainty what specific individual does or does not perish; other than the general Islamic maxim stated in the rigorously authentic hadith: ‘No one will enter Paradise except a Muslim.’3 Who is blessed to be included among the saved and the sanctified, or what truth-seekers will be given an amnesty for not uttering the shahadah in this world, must be left to the Highest and Most Just Judgement.

As for most non-Muslims who died, the Prophet generally remained silent about them: They are a people who have passed away; theirs is what they earned and yours is what you earn. And you will not be asked about what they did. [Q.2:141]

So given that prophetic silence was the usual precedence in such matters, surely it befits us to do the same if we have nothing good to say. There is no need to cuss or curse, as there is no need for false flattery. And there is no need to imagine that such a life lived in kufr was anywhere as significant in Allah’s sight than the passing away of his awliya and ‘ulama. (Regrettably, most of us Muslims have chosen to live our lives uninterested in who the awliya or ‘ulama of Allah are and how we might be inspired by them, let alone care about when or how they passed away.)

Islam recognises hubb tib’i – ‘natural love’ or ‘instinctive affection’ – so whoever feels a loss at the passing away of a non-Muslim (famous or otherwise) feels it; whoever doesn’t, doesn’t.

Moreover, the lives of non-Muslims, just like Muslims, are not all alike. Some have lived a principled and moral life, others have not. Some have been sympathetic to Muslims and to Islam as a whole, others have not. Some have worked for bringing justice to Muslim causes, others have done the opposite. Some have brought benefit to wider society in ways they thought best, others have not.

The shari’ah of course sees that condolences can be in order, and that true and consoling words may indeed be offered to friends and family of the non-Muslim deceased, wherever or whenever occasioned.

Beyond that, it is unbefitting for a believer to get caught up in any collective hysteria, or media manipulation of emotions – especially if the non-Muslim was a person of social or cultural prominence; for: They are a people who have passed away; theirs is what they earned and yours is what you earn. [Q.2:141]

If anything, we might wish to invest more energy in praying for right guidance, sound judgement and wise counsel for the living among the non-Muslims, especially if they have an influential role in society. Seeking to invite, or hoping for allies, is surely better than making enemies.


1. Al-Bukhari, no.4024.

2. Muslim, no.365.

3. Al-Bukhari, no.4203; Muslim, no.111.

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16 thoughts on “A Few Thoughts On the Death of Non-Muslims

  1. Ray khan on said:

    Amazing article MashaAllah dear Sheikh. Jazakum allahu khairan.

  2. Ahmed Saad al-Azhari on said:

    Balanced as usual Shaykh. It might have been befitting to also reflect on the “respect” and “love” shown by masses to a non-Muslim famous figure who lived a life of service and dedication as opposed to situations where some Muslim figures serve their own interests and greed and lose the respect of their people. People are generally remembered for what they did here in this world; as for their destiny, we are told it is not our own business. Of course we believe that iman is conditional for Jannah but judgment is not in our hands.

    • Surkheel Abu Aaliyah on said:

      Allah increase you in goodness, Shaykh Ahmad. Yes you’re right, some non-Muslims live a largely selfless life, dedicated to the khidmah of others. We Muslims could certainly do with being reminded of making our Islam selfless and not selfish.

  3. Abdullah Talukder on said:

    How can we recognise who the awliya are?

  4. Lubna Ul-Hasan on said:

    SubhanAllah well explained and easy to understand. As a British born Muslim I’ve grown up with the Queen being the Monarch of this country in which we live in and I’ve always had a great affection for her and her family. I’ve followed them throughout my life with great interest, but I’ve not followed them in a wrong way nor used them as role models. That would be wrong of me as a Muslim. I have merely followed them with interest as a British citizen and yes I am saddened with her passing and did utter the words “Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi raajioon” when she passed as we all do come from Allah and to Allah we will all return. So it was befitting to say. Other than that, there’s nothing left for us to say for her, other than leaving her in Allah’s hands to judge her as He will inevitably judge us all.
    As a British citizen and keen follower of the Monarchy I’ve been following the news footage and programmes about the Queen and have signed book of condolences respectfully.
    I quote what you wrote:
    “Beyond that, it is unbefitting for a believer to get caught up in any collective hysteria, or media manipulation of emotions – especially if the non-Muslim was a person of social or cultural prominence; for: They are a people who have passed away; theirs is what they earned and yours is what you earn. [Q.2:141]”
    SubhanAllah that is adequate.

    • Surkheel Abu Aaliyah on said:

      Jazakallahu khayran for your comment. We ask Allah to guide and protect us, and guide us to His good pleasure.

  5. Ali Rafiq on said:

    JazakAllah khayr Sheikh for putting things into perspective and balance for many of us confused Muslims in the west. May Allah SWT preserve you for the benefit of the Ummah and reward you immensely for your guiding words in these dark and stormy days. Ameen.

  6. Muhammed Idriss on said:

    Salaam Alaykum Ustaad For the most part I have had to bury my relatives who were none Muslims when asked why I didn’t pray for them it was simply that they didn’t have or share my faith ..

    it caused a ruckus as they see themselves as Christian so I had to rationalise the argument for them “why one would pray for a people who openly denied and rejected faith …. ?”
    Which my father did openly even at that he cursed me not to bring no priest to his funeral .

    When that was understood it was said of me “”George’s son is a paki now” at which I replied that I’m a Muslim this is my creed Islam giving them a short discourse at my fathers grave side how I knew none of them till this day, I didn’t know any of you ..? till this day, I asked them where was the Christian virtue ..? I was a child of a man who had a family who abandoned me .!

    However Allah did not abandon me , I gave my salaam & left .

    Deaf Dumb & Blind

    People say things like blood is thicker than water meaning family ties are closer however there is a further explanation to that saying in a rabbinic text which says the blood of the covenant is more than blood of kin for those who strive in the cause of Allah are closer than family ties and the Quran affirms that believers are indeed brothers to each other, my conscience was clear regarding my father although sad at his response for I reasoned with him had they done also they would have understood without embarrassing me .

    My younger brother also followed the way of his father until the inevitable overcame him I do not celebrate nor boast their demise my own situation is just as precarious for no one knows how or by who or where he will die then in what condition..?

    Sometimes silence is better

    people do things of worth even without knowledge of their Lord they sacrifice their life in the service of family however I fear it will be a witness against myself to choose silence .

    Dawah is an obligatory act to call people to
    لا إله إلا الله محمدر رسول الله

    My mother has more right than the Queen she holds much more regret about her life so we are equal in this sense.

    life hasn’t been easy Alhamdulilah I mention death to her almost every conversation now in the hope that she will ask a Question that may lead her to the answer .

    May Allah guide us All Allahuma Ameen

    يَا مُقَلِّبَ الْقُلُوبِ ثَبِّتْ قَلْبِي عَلَى دِينِكَ

    A thoughtful post Ustaad JazakAllah’khair

    • Surkheel Abu Aaliyah on said:

      May Allah bless you immensely, and increase you in goodness, and cause you to be a means of your family accepting Islam – especially your mother. May Allah open her heart to iman.

  7. Adil Patel on said:

    Salaams shaykh. JazakAllah khairaan for the timely reminder. I was hoping you could write an article on something deeper with regards to this outpouring of grief for the late queen.

    I feel it demonstrates the clear human need for more. The need for faith, belonging, purpose. I find it incredible, incredibly strange how the masses have queued for hours to show their final gestures of love and respect, yet all in their weird and wonderful ways. Surely in that is a sign of deep reflection. A desire to express grief, yet not knowing truly how? Reading the thousands of comments by those who have attended and watched clearly points to the fact that life has more to offer, than what this material consumer society dictates. Surely, in that is a sign for those who reflect!

    Could you maybe write something on this. As you can articulate and delve far deeper than I!

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