Seeking forgiveness for non-believers
مَا كَانَ لِلنَّبِيِّ وَالَّذِينَ آمَنُوا أَن يَسْتَغْفِرُوا لِلْمُشْرِكِينَ
وَلَوْ كَانُوا أُولِي قُرْبَىٰ مِن بَعْدِ مَا تَبَيَّنَ لَهُمْ أَنَّهُمْ أَصْحَابُ الْجَحِيمِ
It is not fitting, for the Prophet and those who believe, that they should pray for forgiveness for Pagans, even though they be of kin, after it is clear to them that they are companions of the Fire.
What does this mean?
Imam Nawawi (Allah have mercy on him) stated in his al-Adhkar that it is permitted to pray for guidance for non-Muslims, good health well-being, and the like, because of the hadith of Anas (Allah be pleased with him) that, “The Prophet (Allah bless him & give him peace) asked for water and a Jew gave him some, so the Prophet (Allah bless him & give him peace) said to him, ‘May Allah make you beautiful,’ so the man did not see grey hair till he died.”
Imam Qurtuby mentions in his commentary of this verse;
That seeking forgiveness for them while they are alive is permissible as it is hoped that they will embrace faith before death and it’s possible that using kind words (like seeking forgiveness for them) will bring their hearts closer and encouraging to embrace the Deen. Many scholars have said that there is no issue in a person praying for his non Muslim parents and seeking forgiveness for them whilst they are alive.
وهو أن الاستغفار للأحياء جائز ; لأنه مرجو إيمانهم ، ويمكن تألفهم بالقول الجميل وترغيبهم في الدين . وقد قال كثير من العلماء : لا بأس أن يدعو الرجل لأبويه الكافرين ويستغفر لهما ما داما حيين
As for after their death, it is impermissible (haram) to make dua for forgiveness and the like for a non-Muslim, for Allah Most High said, “It is not for the Prophet and those who believe to pray for the forgiveness of unbelievers even though they may be near of kin after it has become clear that they are people of hell-fire.” [Qur’an, 9: 113]
There are many hadiths that mention this, and there is scholarly consensus (ijma`) on this matter. [al-Mawsu`a al-Fiqhiyya, Kuwait]
As for making dua that Allah give them that which is best for them, or that which they deserve, even after death, while consigning their affairs to Allah, there is nothing wrong with this.
And Allah knows best.
Shaykh Mohammed Shakeeb.