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5 Moments Prophet Muhammad ﷺ Showed Empathy to Non-Muslims

by Ustaz Vincent Souleymane

Islam’s teachings of kindness were never restricted to Muslims. Prophet Muhammad’s ﷺ many commandments encouraged good treatment of people, regardless of their religion, and can be applied to both Muslims and non-Muslims. It is also affirmed in Prophet Muhammad’s ﷺ sunnah, in the lives of his companions, and in the writings of our great scholars. The following are moments where Prophet Muhammad  showed empathy to non-Muslims.

With His Uncle Abu Talib

At his grandfather’s death (Abdul Muttalib), the Prophet ﷺ was taken in by his uncle Abu Talib, who protected him until his death. At the start of his revelation, the Prophet ﷺ was met with hostility from the Quraysh notables, and it was this uncle, himself a notable, who came between them and his nephew. The bond of love and complicity was very strong between them. But Abû Talib never embraced Islam. 

When Abu Talib passed away, the Messenger of Allah ﷺ was very sad. As his uncle lay on his deathbed, the Prophet ﷺ asked him to make the affirmation of faith of Islam, “There is no God but Allah and Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah”, but Abu Talib died saying, “On the religion of Abdul Muttalib (his idolatrous father)”.

Then Allah Himself testified that the Prophet ﷺ loved his idolatrous uncle by revealing in the Quran: 

“Indeed, [O Muḥammad], you do not guide whom you like, but Allah guides whom He wills. And He is most knowing of the [rightly] guided.” [Al-Qasas 28: 56]

From this verse the scholars deduce that it is permissible to love a non-Muslim who does not fight Islam.

With a Young Jew from Medina

Al-Bukhari reported that in Medina, a young Jew was in the service of the Prophet ﷺ, helping him with his daily chores and staying with the Prophet ﷺ. One day this young man fell ill, the Prophet ﷺ went to visit him and saw him on his bed, about to die and his father was by his side. The Messenger of Allah ﷺ said to the young man, “Say: There is no God but Allah. The young man looked at his father as if to ask his permission. The father said, “Obey Abul Qassim (the Prophet’s ﷺ nickname). Then the young man testified that there is no God but Allah and that Muhammad ﷺ is his messenger, and died.

With the Idolaters of Makkah

Following the Battle of the Coalition, when the war between the Qurayshites in Makkah and the Muslims in Medina was at its height, the chief of the Banu Hanifa tribe, Thumama ibn Uthal, became a Muslim. His tribe was one of the main suppliers of wheat to Mecca. One day he arrived in Makkah and the Meccans said to him, “So you have apostatized?” He said, “I have become a Muslim with Muhammad! And I swear by Allah that not a single grain of wheat from us will reach you, unless the Messenger ﷺ of Allah wants it!”

On his return home, he forbade any grain to be sent to Makkah. As a result, there was a shortage of wheat in the city. Some of the Meccans sent a message to the Messenger of Allah ﷺ to ask Thumama to allow the sale of wheat in Makkah. The Prophet ﷺ could have used this strategy to weaken his enemy in times of war. But he did not do so and wrote to Thumama to tell him to resume wheat exports to Makkah. 

With the Mother of Asma

Asma, the daughter of Abu Bakr r.a., relates that one day in Madinah, her mother who was an idolater, came to her to ask for assistance and to renew ties with her. Asma asked permission from the Messenger of Allah ﷺ, who said: “Reconnect with your mother.”

With the Idolaters of Makkah

When Makkah became Muslim, the Messenger ﷺ of Allah entered it with all the powers in his hands. While the idolatrous Meccans had oppressed him, tortured his companions, and forced him into exile. Instead of taking revenge as a king would have done, he gathered them near the Kaaba and said, “Go! You are free!”

By seeing how Prophet Muhammad ﷺ performed good deeds to everyone, we can strive to emulate his teachings. As a Muslim, we should have basic compassion and empathy with non-Muslims, regardless of their personal religious beliefs, as the Prophet ﷺ commanded us,

“Be merciful to those on the earth and the One in the heavens will have mercy upon you.” [Tirmidhi1924]

Vincent Souleymane, a French imam and shariah advisor at Muslim Pro, has devoted his time to study and enrich others with the knowledge of Islamic sciences ever since he converted to the religion in 1999. During his studies at the Oussoul Eddine Institute in Saint-Denis, he became aware of the importance of devotion to Allah and decided to continue his religious studies at the daroul ouloum achrafiya of the Island La Réunion and at the IESH of Château Chinon. Since then, Vincent Souleymane devotes himself to the Almighty by teaching Islam at the Oussoul Eddine Institute, as well as being an imam at the Fontenay sous Bois Mosque.

Translated by Elyssa Faucher.