Is it permissible to pray for non-Muslims?
Answered by the Grand Mufti of Egypt, Shaykh ‘Ali Juma
I am a German Muslim and my father died recently but he was not a Muslim. He was a kind man who loved charity and always intended to do nothing but goodness to an extent that I can easily say that he spent all his life living as a Muslim in his behavior but never actually embraced Islam. Therefore I really want to pray for him seeking God’s forgiveness and mercy on him but some people told me that it is impermissible to pray for non-Muslims, is this true?
God al Mighty is more merciful on those He created than they are on themselves and God described his beloved Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) as a mercy to all the worlds and that he has the finest manners.
Also the Prophet always admired those who have good manners and praised those who have high moral standards and enjoy excellent ethics regardless of their religious affiliation. For example, a woman fell captive and she was the daughter of Abu Hatem al Tai who was known for his generosity and high ethics so the Prophet said “release her, her father used to love high ethics and God loves high ethics” so one of the Prophet’s companions stood up and said “O Messenger of God, does God love high ethics” so the Prophet said in reply, “I swear by whom who owns my soul, no one enters paradise without having good manners”.
More importantly, the rulings of this world differ from the rulings of the next one because in this world one can be judged to be a non-Muslim according to his outer state of not embracing Islam yet maybe he never showed any disbelief in Islam. Therefore this outer ruling of not being a Muslim in this world does not necessitate for him to go to hell fire or stay in it for eternity. He could be excused and pardoned in the sight of God for not receiving the message of Islam in a way which could attract his attention. Therefore he could be among those who will be subjected to tests in the Day of Judgment.
God says in the Quran “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.” 9:113
As for this verse, God placed the prohibition of forgiveness only on those who turns out to belong to hellfire. This means that if the state of the one who we ask forgiveness for is not determined, then there is no reason for refraining from asking for forgiveness for him. Also those whose state is in hellfire could be elevated and the torment is lessened due to prayers. It was reported that some of those in hell fire will have lesser punishment because of the blessings of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). Therefore there is no limit to God’s mercy and generosity and there is no impediment which holds you back from praying for your deceased father seeking God’s forgiveness and hoping for God’s acceptance of your intercession for your father.
And Allah knows best.