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Dawah (Outreach) FAQs & Fatwas Non-Muslims

Can I Pray for My Co-Worker's Guidance if He is a Christian?

The Question

I work in an IT company here in California and we have pods where in 2 of us sit in one pod. The other guy who sits with me is a white American guy (basically a Christian). Whenever he sneezes someone from one of the other pods say ‘Bless You!’ and I do not want to say that, thinking that if I say bless you to him, I’d probably be sinning because of saying ‘Bless You’ to a person who is committing shirk, a greatest sin. Please advice what should I do/say in such circumstances.

The Answer

Imam al-Bukhāri narrates on behalf of Abd al-Rahmān bin al-̓Araj from Abū Hurairah who said, “At-Tufayl ibn ‘Amrū came to the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, and said, ‘Messenger of Allah, Daws is destroyed, has disobeyed and refused, so invoke Allah against them!’ People thought that he would invoke against them and he said, ‘O Allah, guide Daws and bring them (to us).'”

From the Genius of Imam al-Bukhārī

It is interesting to note that this is found in al-Bukhārī’s Sahih under the title “Supplications for the polytheists.” Al-Bukh̄arī in his genius placed that chapter after the chapter, “Supplications against the Polytheists.” Commenting on this Imam al-̓Aiynī mentioned that the wisdom behind al-Bukhāri’s organization was that the Prophet’s supplications for the non believers were two:

  • For their guidance if he had hope for them and was not threatened by them
  • Against them if they were harming him, threatening him and he lost hope in their returning to Islam. [̓Umdāt al-Qarī 14 /207]

Ibn Hajar mentions that some held that supplications for non-Muslims were abrogated by the verse, “You having nothing to do with this affair.” He responds by saying that most scholars did not concur with that opinion. Ibn Hajar wrote, “Supplications for them are permissible.” [Fath al-Bārī 11/196]

In Most Cases Our Supplications for Non-Muslims Should be For Their Guidance and Well Being

Dr. ̓Abdullah al-Sa’idī wrote, “There is no supplication against those [non-Muslims] who do not oppress and tyrannize from amongst them. In fact, there is nothing wrong with asking for their guidance; whether done in a general fashion like the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, did for Daws, or for a specific person like he did for the mother of Abū Hurairah.”

Saying bless you is a duā for goodness. Perhaps if you follow up your duā with getting to know him your duā, if Allah accepts it, will be a source of guidance. Let us not swerve from the Prophetic example. After all, it was the Prophet who asked Allah the most high to guide Umar or Abū Jahl. Before I became Muslim, a brother made duā for me for three years. After that time I became Muslim declaring my faith on his hands.

A Few Points to Ponder:

  • We should pray for our non-Muslim friends and co-workers. The best gift we could give anyone is the gift of Islam
  • Khatibs should make dua for the general guidance and well being of non-Muslims
  • Khatibs should make dua for converts non-Muslim friends and family that Allah may guide them
  • There is nothing wrong with supplicating against those who commit acts of aggression and oppression

Allah knows best

About the author

Suhaib Webb

Suhaib Webb is a contemporary American-Muslim educator, activist, and lecturer. His work bridges classical and contemporary Islamic thought, addressing issues of cultural, social and political relevance to Muslims in the West. After converting to Islam in 1992, Webb left his career in the music industry to pursue his passion in education. He earned a Bachelor’s in Education from the University of Central Oklahoma and received intensive private training in the Islamic Sciences under a renowned Muslim Scholar of Senegalese descent. Webb was hired as the Imam at the Islamic Society of Greater Oklahoma City, where he gave khutbas (sermons), taught religious classes, and provided counselling to families and young people; he also served as an Imam and resident scholar in communities across the U.S.

From 2004-2010, Suhaib Webb studied at the world’s preeminent Islamic institution of learning, Al-Azhar University, in the College of Shari`ah. During this time, after several years of studying the Arabic Language and the Islamic legal tradition, he also served as the head of the English Translation Department at Dar al-Ifta al-Misriyyah.

Outside of his studies at Al-Azhar, Suhaib Webb completed the memorization of the Quran in the city of Makkah, Saudi Arabia. He has been granted numerous traditional teaching licenses (ijazat), adhering to centuries-old Islamic scholarly practice of ensuring the highest standards of scholarship.

Webb was named one of the 500 Most Influential Muslims in the World by the Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Center in 2010 and his website, www.SuhaibWebb.com, was voted the best “Blog of the Year” by the 2009 Brass Crescent awards.

Suhaib Webb has lectured extensively around the world including in the Middle East, East Asia, Europe, North Africa and North America. Upon returning from his studies in Egypt, Webb lived in the Bay Area, California, where he worked with the Muslim American Society from Fall 2010 to Winter 2011. He currently serves as the Imam of the Islamic Society of Boston’s Cultural Center (ISBCC).

Add Comment

  • Thanks for addressing this Shaykh. Here has been my approach that I've adopted in the work place and with relatives with issue of “bless you” after a sneeze. I don't go out of my way to chase every sneeze with “bless you” like some. However, if I sense that someone is really looking for reciprocation or may be hurt by me not saying it, I say it with the intention of guidance. My reasoning for this approach is a desire to balance between two goals:

    1) I don't want to give the impression that I approve all religions and risk watering down the importance of the message that I carry. I think rushing to say bless you after every sneeze can give this impression, depending on your personality and how you do it.

    2) At the same time, if I sense that this is going to push someone away from me, who otherwise likes me and seems to be a friend, I don't want to break that relationship or create a needless barrier.

    Hope this approach is acceptable. Barakallaahufik for covering this.