Why is it that a Muslim cannot dua for a deceased non-Muslim? For example, I don’t understand why a Muslim would not be able to offer dua for his/her deceased non-Muslim parents, especially when we are encouraged to pray for our parents after their death for their sake.
Muslim scholars are generally of the opinion that it is not allowed for Muslims to pray for the salvation and forgiveness of non-Muslims. This opinion is based on the fact that the Qur’an has prohibited the Muslims to pray for the salvation of polytheists. The Qur’an says:
It is not right for the Prophet and for the believers to pray for the forgiveness of the polytheists, even if they are closely related to them, after it has become apparent that they are people of hell. (Al-Taubah 9: 113)
At another place, the Qur’an has also stopped the Prophet (pbuh) from praying for the salvation and forgiveness of those whose hypocrisy had become evident. The Qur’an says:
(O Prophet,) do not ever pray for anyone of these (hypocrites) after his death, do not even stand by his grave. Indeed these are people who disbelieve in God and His prophet and have died in disobedience. (Al-Taubah 9: 84)
Although, the second verse relates primarily to those, whose hypocrisy had become completely evident, however, as should be obvious from the latter part of this verse, the reason from stopping the Prophet (pbuh) from praying for their salvation and forgiveness is that they ‘are people who disbelieve in God and His prophet and have died in disobedience‘. Thus, it may be derived from this verse that it is not right for the prophet (and, therefore, not for other Muslims) to pray for the salvation of all such people, who do not believe in God and His Prophet, and die in disobedience.
In my opinion, however, in case of both the referred verses, it was not merely the crime of the individuals which rendered them undeserving of the Muslims’ prayers of forgiveness for them, on the contrary, it was the particular circumstances under which this crime was committed, which had become the decisive factor. It should be remembered that the individuals under consideration, in both the verses cited above are people who refused to accept the true guidance of God and the Prophet (pbuh) even after it had become absolutely clear to them that Mohammed (pbuh) was a true prophet and messenger of God and his guidance (toward the path of Tawheed) was the true guidance of God. These were the people, like all such others among whom a messenger (Rasu’l) of God was sent, who refused to accept faith even when truth and falsehood had become distinct from each other at the ultimate level1. It was this particular position (of being the direct addressees of a messenger – Rasu’l – of God) of these people, due to which the decision regarding their eternal success and/or eternal failure in the hereafter was not deferred till the Day of Judgment and also due to which, they had been rendered undeserving of the Prophet’s (as well as the Muslims’) prayers of salvation and forgiveness for them.
The position of the non-Muslims (as well as the Muslims) of today is quite different from those, who were the direct addressees of the Messenger – Rasu’l – of God. The non-Muslims of today, in contrast to the direct addressees of the Messenger of God, may have a genuine excuse of not accepting Islam to be the true guidance of God or of not believing in Mohammed (pbuh) to be a true prophet of God2. Their fate, as well as that of the Muslims of today, shall be decided by God, on the Day of Judgment. It may be hoped, on the basis of the all encompassing mercy of God, that whoever has a real and a genuine excuse of not accepting Islam or believing in Mohammed (pbuh) to be a true prophet of God, provided he had honestly searched for the truth and had accepted and submitted to whatever he had honestly understood to be the truth, shall be forgiven for his mistakes.
Thus, in view of the difference in the positions of the ‘non-Muslims‘ of today and the ‘rejecters‘ (Kaafir) of the times of the Prophet (pbuh), it is my opinion that praying for the salvation and forgiveness of the non-Muslims of today shall not be against the cited verses of the Qur’an, and should, therefore, not be considered as prohibited.
18th April 2000
- For more details on this particular position of the direct addressees of the messengers of God, please refer to one of my earlier responses titled “Is there a Difference Between Nabi (Prophets) and Rasu’l (Messengers)?” and “Some Clarifications Regarding the Position and the Mission of Rasu’l“. [↩]
- For instance, the mere fact that they were truly and honestly not convinced of the prophethood of Mohammed (pbuh) may be accepted as a genuine excuse for not accepting the prophethood of Muhammad (pbuh). [↩]