(It is not for the Prophet, and those who believe, to pray for the forgiveness of idolaters…) [9:113-114].
Abu 'Abd Allah Muhammad ibn 'Abd Allah al-Shirazi informed us> Muhammad ibn 'Abd Allah ibn Khamirawayh al-Harawi> Abu'l-Hasan 'Ali ibn Muhammad al-Khuza'i> Abu'l-Yaman> Shu'ayb> al-Zuhri> Sa'id ibn al-Musayyab> his father who said: “When Abu Talib was about to die, the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, entered in on him while Abu Jahl and 'Abd Allah ibn Abi Umayyah were present. He said: 'O uncle, say with me, there is no god but Allah, so that I can plead with Allah in your favour'. Abu Jahl and Ibn Abi Umayyah said: 'O Abu Talib, will you shun the religion of 'Abd al-Muttalib?' And they kept talking to him such that the last thing he uttered was: 'I follow the religion of 'Abd al-Muttalib'. The Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, then said: 'I will pray for your forgiveness as long as I am not forbidden from doing it'. This verse was then revealed (It is not for the Prophet, and those who believe, to pray for the forgiveness of idolaters even though they may be near of kin (to them) after it hath become clear that they are people of hell-fire)”. This was narrated by Bukhari from Ishaq ibn Ibrahim> 'Abd al-Razzaq> Ma'mar, and also by Muslim from Harmalah> Ibn Wahb> Yunus; both Ma'mar and Yunus related it from al-Zuhri.
Abu Sa'id ibn Abi 'Amr al-Naysaburi informed us> al-Hasan ibn 'Ali ibn Mu'ammil> 'Amr ibn 'Abd Allah al-Basri> Muhammad ibn 'Abd al-Wahhab> Ja'far ibn 'Awn> Musa ibn 'Ubaydah> Muhammad ibn Ka'b al-Qurazi who said: “I heard that when Abu Talib fell ill to the illness that led to his death, the Quraysh said to him: 'O Abu Talib, send for your nephew to send you something to cure you from the Garden he mentions'. The emissary went to find the Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace. He found him sitting with Abu Bakr. He said to him: 'O Muhammad, your uncle says to you that he is old and weak and he wants you to send him some of the food and drink of the Garden you mention so that he regains health'. Abu Bakr replied: 'Allah, exalted is He, has made it forbidden for the unbelievers'. The emissary went back to them and said: 'I conveyed to Muhammad that with which you have sent me. He did not give me any answer, but Abu Bakr told me that Allah has made the Garden forbidden for the unbelievers'. They pressured Abu Talib until he sent his own emissary to the Messenger, Allah bless him and give him peace. He found him sitting in the same place and conveyed to him the same message. The Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, said to him: 'Allah, exalted is He, has made the food and drink of the Garden forbidden for the unbelievers'. He then followed the emissary to the house of Abu Talib. He found it full of men and so he said: 'Could you leave me alone with my uncle?' They replied: 'We will not leave you alone; you do not have a better right to him than us; if you are related to him, we are also related to him!' He sat close to his uncle and said: 'May you be rewarded with good, O uncle; you have adopted me when I was small and looked after me when I grew up. Help me with one sentence by means of which I will intercede to Allah on your behalf on the Day of Judgement'. Abu Talib asked: 'And what is it, son of my brother?' He said: 'Say: there is no god but Allah, alone without any partners'. Abu Talib said: 'You have advised me; by Allah, were it not for the fear that Quraysh will slander me, saying 'Your uncle is afraid of death', I would please you by saying it'. The people around him shouted: 'O Abu Talib, you are the head of the primordial religion (Hanifiyyah), the religion of the elders'. Abu Talib said: 'I do not want the women to relate that your uncle was scared at the moment of death'. The Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, said: 'I will keep praying for your forgiveness until my Lord stops me from doing so'. After Abu Talib died, the Prophet kept praying for his forgiveness, and so the Muslims said: 'What prevents us from praying for the forgiveness of our fathers and relatives? Abraham prayed for the forgiveness of his father, and here is Muhammad, Allah bless him and give him peace, praying for the forgiveness of his uncle'. And so they prayed for the forgiveness of the idolaters until the verse (It is not for the Prophet, and those who believe, to pray for the forgiveness of idolaters)”.
Abu'l-Qasim 'Abd al-Rahman ibn Ahmad al-Harrani informed us> Muhammad ibn 'Abd Allah ibn Nu'aym> Muhammad ibn Ya'qub al-Umawi> Bahr ibn Nasr> Ibn Wahb> Ibn Jurayj> Ayyub ibn Hani'> Masruq ibn al-Ajda'> 'Abd Allah ibn Mas'ud> who said: “The Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, went out one day to look at the graveyards and we went out with him. He ordered us to sit and then proceeded across until he stopped at one particular grave. He spoke to it for a long time and then the Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, wept loudly and we wept for his weeping. After a while, he came toward us and was met by 'Umar ibn al-Khattab who asked him: 'O Messenger of Allah, what has made you cry, for we also cried and we were also scared?' He came toward us, sat with us and then said: 'My weeping made you scared?' We said: 'Yes, O Messenger of Allah!' He said: 'The grave you saw me talking to is the grave of Aminah bint Wahb. I sought permission from my Lord to visit her and He allowed me to do so. Then, I asked His permission to pray for her forgiveness and He did not grant it. The words of Allah, exalted is He (It is not for the Prophet, and those who believe, to pray for the forgiveness of idolaters even though they may be near of kin (to them) after it hath become clear that they are people of hell-fire. The prayer of Abraham for the forgiveness of his father was only because of a promise he had promised him…) were revealed and I was seized by the tenderness which a son has toward his mother. This is the reason why I wept”.
Asbab Al-Nuzul by Al-Wahidi , trans. Mokrane Guezzou