Answered by Sidi Abdullah Anik Misra
Question: I have a question regarding the situation of my grandma. I am a recent convert and my grandma is ill. I have recited the Fatiha to her and listened to recitation of the Koran (Surat Al-Bakarah) with her and it seems to bring her comfort, but I want to know how I can best pray for her and what I should ask Allah for.
So my questions are as follows: What is the best dua to make for an elderly person who is ill and who might be nearing their end? Can I make the same dua for a non-Muslim relative? Also, what is the best verse from the Koran to recite for someone in this situation? I learned that when praying for non-Muslims we should always ask for the Prophet’s intercession. Is this correct?
Answer: Wa alaikum salam wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh,
Thank you for your question. Firstly, I want to congratulate you on your being guided to Islam. Truly, Allah Most High lovingly chose you out of millions to accept His guidance. We pray that Allah makes you a light and a means for others to enter into Islam also.
I am sorry to hear about the health of your grandmother.
Allah Most High has given your grandmother a tremendous opportunity in that He has given her a granddaughter who is a Muslim, who can advise her towards Islam in her last days.
The most important thing for any human being is that they end their life in a state of submission to their Creator, commensurate to the amount of knowledge of the Truth that reached them in their lifetime.
The best prayer you can make for your grandmother is to ask Allah Most High to create faith (iman) in her heart before she dies. The greatest gift is to believe with conviction that that there is no god except Allah and that Muhammad (peace be upon him) is His final messenger, so naturally, you should want that for her.
This can be done in your own words and sincere entreaties. You can always, in any prayer, approach and ask Allah for something for the sake of the love and station of His beloved Prophet (peace and blessing be upon him), because Allah is the only One who can guide others and answer prayers.
Since a Muslim relative would already have faith, the nature of the prayer you make for them would be different than what you would ask for a non-Muslim relative.
Also, difficulty or pain at the time of death is something that can occur to all people, and it in itself is not bad or evil, or a punishment. Rather, it is a natural part of the exit from this world that even the best of mankind, the prophets of God (peace be upon them all), went through.
Temporary comfort from the pangs of death in this world pales in comparison to everlasting comfort in the Hereafter, so the real concern should be for the person’s Hereafter.
The Duty to Call Others to the Truth
The best and most dutiful thing that you can do is to speak to your grandmother about Allah. Use gentle reasoning why she should believe in only One God, how He is above having any son or partner, and how He alone should be worshiped because our eventual return is to Him. If she agrees, you can speak to her about the prophethood.
This can be done in your own language, in loving and simple words- this is not time for complex reasoning nor proofs. It may be awkward to open a conversation about this, but try to do it in private. This could be your last chance with her, so throw off all inhibitions for her sake.
If she differs with any of this, at last resort, you can also tell her that this is what you believe, and that those who believe it will one day enter Heaven with God’s pleasure. You can gently ask her to believe this also, so she can be with you in Heaven, if she loves you the way you love her.
Once you have tried your best given the situation, you have done your duty of giving the Message. If she does not or cannot accept it, do not feel to blame.
It is not clear to me, when you said she can no longer speak, whether she can still hear and understand, and nod her head. If she cannot, then I would personally advise still talking through the Message with her gently, because she may still be able to understand without showing signs of it.
Surah Yasin from the Qur’an is something you can listen to, or read, perhaps in translation as well, both for yourself and in her presence because it speaks about life and death.
The Fate of a Non-Muslim After Death
Finally, if she passes away in a state where it was not clear to you if she understood and accepted what you invited her to, although you cannot say she died with faith nor can you pray for her after death, it is permissible to hope that Allah created faith in her heart before she died, because this is not difficult for Allah to do. This is what my teacher and spiritual guide taught me to do in this situation.
If a non-Muslim dies without having heard or understood the message at all, according to the Ash’ari school (one of the two main schools of Sunni belief), they are not held accountable for their faith or their actions. This is a general amnesty due to ignorance of the message however, rather than a confirmation of their religion’s validity. [Nuh Keller, Knowing: The Validity of One’s Faith]
In the end, we can never conclusively say what a person’s fate in the Hereafter will be, rather we leave this up to Allah, but this does not excuse us from inviting others to the message of Islam and believing that the deliberate rejection of the truth leads one to eternal perdition. For more information on the fate of non-Muslims in the afterlife, please see the links below.
Allah Guides Whom He Wills
While we are concerned for the dying person, we cannot forget our own hearts and our relationship with our Lord.
A most relevant verse at this time is not necessarily directed at the dying person, but rather, at ourselves. It is the verse that Allah Most High revealed to His Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him) when his own beloved uncle, Abu Talib, died without accepting Islam at his hands. Allah Most High said:
“Truly, you do not guide whom you love, but rather Allah guides whom He wills. And He knows best about who is upon guidance.” [Qur’an 28:56]
Times like this are a trial, especially in the life of a convert. It reminds us of the great bounty of faith that Allah gave to us, yet at the same time, it is a time of concern and pain to see a family member leave the world without this bounty for themselves.
It also challenges us to realize the reality of this life, and tests whether we will hold fast to Allah Most High and the truth, or allow our lower selves to dictate what should be and should’ve been. So the best thing is to keep your relationship with Allah strong through prayer, dhikr, supplication and submission to His wisdom.
I ask that Allah Most High guides your grandmother, and keeps you strong and close to Him at this time and thereafter.
Abdullah Anik Misra
Related answers on the fate of non-Muslims in the afterlife:
What is the Fate of Non-Muslims in the Afterlife?