Should we make du’a for non-believers?
There’s some debate as to whether we are allowed to make du’a for the non-believers. The ayat which is often referenced is:
“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. And the request of forgiveness of Abraham for his father was only because of a promise he had made to him. But when it became apparent to Abraham that his father was an enemy to Allah, he disassociated himself from him. Indeed was Abraham compassionate and patient.” (Surah Taubah 113-114)
Just reading this verse alone, without any context can give the impression that it is not befitting for any Muslim to make du’a for the non-believer, even if they were close relatives.
At the time Rasulullah (ﷺ) had been preaching for over a decade in Mecca but eventually, Allah (swt) closed the door for the Prophet (ﷺ) to make du’a for these people because they were declared companions of Hellfire. The verdict was made by Allah (swt) and any du’a made afterward would be pointless since their fate had been sealed. This was also the case for Abu Lahab and Prophet Ibrahim’s father.
But we do not know the fate of other non-believing people, we can continue to make du’a for their forgiveness and for their guidance just as all the other Prophets did for their respective communities. That is up until they pass away having committed shirk, then their case is with Allah.
From Prophet Nuh (as):
At the end of Surah Nuh, we learn this beautiful du’a Prophet Nuh (as) used to recite asking for the forgiveness of his parents.
رَبِّ اغْفِرْ لِي وَلِوَالِدَيَّ وَلِمَنْ دَخَلَ بَيْتِيَ مُؤْمِنًا وَلِلْمُؤْمِنِينَ وَالْمُؤْمِنَاتِ وَلَا تَزِدِ الظَّالِمِينَ إِلَّا تَبَارًا
Rabbigh fir lee wa liwaa lidaiya wa liman dakhala baitiya mu’minanw wa lil mu’mineena wal mu’minaati wa laa tazidiz zaalimeena illaa tabaaraa
“My Lord, forgive me and my parents and whoever enters my house a believer and the believing men and believing women. And do not increase the wrongdoers except in destruction.”
Surah Nuh Ayat 28
The last part of the du’a says, “And do not increase the wrongdoers except in destruction”.
Student meeting a Sheikh
A student came to see a sheikh and started to complain about the bad he saw some people doing and the terrible ways they were behaving.
The student was visibly passionate, and he meant well, but he would get carried away. His anger would come out and he began to pray that Allah would curse these people and ruin them.
The sheikh remained silent and just listened to this whole rant, when the student was done unwinding, he suggested, “don’t you think it would be better that you ask for Allah to guide them to the truth rather than wishing for them destruction?”
The student had a rebuttal, “Yeah sure, I guess that would be best, but there’s only so much we can do, even Nuh (as) got fed up and cursed his people”
The Sheikh agreed, “yes you are correct, Nuh did pray to Allah for the destruction of his people… but you do realize this was only after he had called them to Allah? We know from Qur’an he did this nonstop, day in and day out, privately and publicly, individually and in groups. He was calm, argued with reason, not emotion, and slaved away for 950 years to guide them. Only after all this personal sacrifice did he ask Allah for their destruction.”
You could see the student clearly begin to reflect on his behavior, the sheikh then continued, “Look, my promise to you is if you give dawah your entire life, I’ll join you at the age of 85 and we can make du’a together against these people.”
It’s only with a complete understanding of the story of Nuh (as) do we see the beautiful message for us to follow.
Without this understanding, a person may read this supplication for the first time and get a negative view of Islam or fill their hearts with hatred towards others.
We must be careful about not getting the wrong information as it can lead us to form incorrect conclusions. In the end, it is we that will have to live with the consequences of the information we acquired.