Social Boycott Against Early Muslims (Story) | About Islam
Home > Shariah > Prophet Muhammad > His Life > Social Boycott Against Early Muslims (Story)

Social Boycott Against Early Muslims (Story)

Social Boycott Against Early Muslims (Story)

During the Makkah period of the Prophet’s message, four events of special significance occurred:

1. the conversion of Hamzah,

2. the conversion of ‘Umar,

3. the Prophet’s refusal to negotiate any sort of compromise with Quraish

4. and then the pact drawn up between the families of Banu Al-Muttalib and Banu Hashim to protect the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) against any treacherous attempt to kill him.

The polytheists were baffled and at a loss as to what course they would follow to stop the Prophet. They had already been aware that if they killed him, civil war would break out and blood would surely flow profusely in the valleys of Makkah.

Taking this dreadful prospect into consideration, they grudgingly resorted to a different wicked course that would not imply murder.

The pagans of Makkah held a meeting in a place called the Al-Muhassab valley and formed a confederation hostile to both Bani Hashim and Bani Al-Muttalib. They decided not to have any business dealings with them nor any sort of inter-marriage.

Social relations, visits and even verbal contacts with Muhammad (Peace and blessings be upon him) and his supporters would discontinue until the Prophet (Peace and blessings be upon him) was given up to them to be killed.

The articles of their proclamation, which had provided for merciless measures against Bani Hashim, were committed to writing by an idolater, Bagheed ibn ‘Amir ibn Hashim and then suspended in Al-Ka`bah. The Prophet (Peace and blessings be upon him) invoked Allah against Bagheed, whose hand was later paralyzed. (Ibn Al-Qayim, Zad Al-Ma`ad)

Abu Talib wisely and quietly took stock of the situation and  decided to withdraw to a valley on the eastern outskirts of Makkah. Families of Banu Hashim and Banu Al-Muttalib, who followed suit, were thus confined within a narrow pass (Shi`b of Abu Talib), from the beginning of Muharram, the seventh year of the Prophet’s mission till the tenth year, that is, a period of three years.

Suffering intensifies

It was a stifling siege. The supply of food was almost stopped and the people in confinement faced great hardships.

The idolaters used to buy whatever food commodities entered Makkah lest they should leak to the people in Ash-Shi`b, who were so over-strained that they had to eat leaves of trees and skins of animals.

Cries of little children suffering from hunger used to be heard clearly. Nothing to eat reached them except of some meager quantities of food that were smuggled by some compassionate Makkans on few occasions.

During ‘the prohibited months’ — when hostilities traditionally ceased, they would leave their confinement and buy food coming from outside Makkah. Even then, the food stuff was unjustly overpriced so that their financial situation would fall short of finding access to it.

Hakeem bin Hizam was once on his way to smuggle some wheat to his aunt Khadijah (may Allah be pleased with her) when Abu Jahl intercepted him and wanted to debar him. Only when Al-Bukhtari intervened, did Hakeem manage to reach his destination.

Unshakable determination

Abu Talib was so much concerned about the personal safety of his nephew. Whenever people retired to sleep, he would ask the Prophet (Peace and blessings be upon him) to lie in his place, but when all the others fell asleep, he would order him to change his place and take another, all of which in an attempt to trick a potential assassin.

Despite all odds, Muhammad (Peace and blessings be upon him) persisted in his line; his determination and courage never weakened. He continued to go to Al-Ka`bah and to pray publicly.

The Prophet used every opportunity to preach to outsiders who visited Makkah for business or on pilgrimage during the sacred months and special seasons of assemblies.

An alliance against injustice

This situation ultimately created dissension amongst the various Makkan factions, who were tied with the besieged people by blood relations. After three years of blockade, in Muharram, the tenth year of the Prophet’s mission, the pact was broken.

Hisham ibn `Amr, who used to smuggle some food to Bani Hashim secretly at night, went to see Zuhair bin Abi Omaiyah Al-Makhzoumy and reproached him for resigning to that intolerable treatment meted out to his uncles in exile. The latter pleaded impotence, but agreed to work with Hisham and form a pressure group that would secure the extrication of the exiles.

So, on the ground of motivation by blood relations, there emerged a group of five people who set out to abrogate the pact and declare its unfair clauses null and void. They were Hisham ibn `Amr, Zuhair ibn Abi Omaiyah, Al-Mut`im ibn `Adi, Abu Al-Bukhtari and Zam`ah ibn Al-Aswad.

The group decided to meet in their assembly place and start their self-charged mission from the very precinct of the Sacred House.

Thus, Zuhair, after circumambulating the Ka`bah seven times, approached the hosts of people there and rebuked them for indulging in the amenities of life whereas their kith and kin of Bani Hashim were perishing on account of starvation and economic boycott. He swore he would never relent until the parchment of boycott was torn to piece and the pact broken at once.

Abu Jahl, standing nearby, retorted that it would never be torn. Zam`ah was infuriated and accused Abu Jahl of telling lies, adding that the pact was established and the parchment was written without seeking their approval.

yAl-Bukhtari intervened and backed Zam`ah. Al-Mut`im ibn `Adi and Hisham ibn `Amr attested to the truthfulness of their two companions.

Abu Jahl, in return, hinted that this objection to the pact was a conspiracy planned somewhere and sometime before.

A sign of Allah

Meanwhile, Abu Talib was sitting in a corner of the Mosque. He came to communicate to them that a Revelation had been sent to his nephew, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), that ants had eaten away all the hostile and unjust clauses of their proclamation except those parts that bore the Name of Allah.

Abu Talib contended that he would be ready to give Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) up to them if his words proved untrue; otherwise, they would have to recant and repeal their boycott.

The Makkans agreed to the soundness of his proposition. Al-Mut`im went to see the parchment and there he did discover that it was eaten away by ants and nothing was left save the part bearing (in the Name of Allah).

The proclamation was thus abrogated, and Muhammad (Peace and blessings be upon him) and the other people were permitted to leave Ash-Shi`b and return home.

In the context of this trial to which the Muslims were subjected, the polytheists had a golden opportunity to experience a striking sign of Muhammad’s Prophethood (the white ants eating away the parchment) but to their miserable lot they desisted and augmented in disbelief:

{But if they see a Sign, they turn away, and say `This is continuous magic.} (Al-Qamar 54:2)


References

Taken, with some modifications, from the author’s The Sealed Nectar.


About Safi-ur-Rahman al-Mubarkpuri

Sheikh Safi-ur-Rahman al-Mubarkpuri was born and received his education in India. He taught jurisprudence and Hadith in the Salafi University and worked as the editor in chief of its magazine Muhaddith. He worked in the Sunnah Center affiliated with the Islamic University in Madinah, Saudi Arabia. He authored a number of books, including Ar-Rahiq Al-Makhtum (The Sealed Nectar) which was honored by the World Muslim League with the first prize in a contest about the Prophet's biography.

Add Comment

find out more!