How would you react if your community was under a total economic embargo for three years?
This is exactly what happened to the early Muslims in Makkah between the seventh and tenth year of the Prophet’s mission. They were subject to a full social and economic siege by the Quraish. This siege forced them to leave their homes and settle in a narrow valley on the hills of Makkah.
Because they chose to leave the religion of their ancestors and become Muslim.
Does this sound familiar in a modern context?
Do New Converts Have to Change Their Names?
In some Western countries, Muslims and new converts can find it difficult to get a job because of their Islam.
For example, statistics in Europe show that those with a Muslim name are less likely to get a job offer compared to other citizens.
A Muslim woman with hijab is often denied employment in some public and private institutions.
These are some of the tests and trials new Muslims sometimes face when they declare their Islam.
So what can new converts do to overcome this?
Here is one example.
These days, a new convert to Islam will sometime insist on changing their name to a Muslim name. A name is a matter of identity, but a Muslim identity is not about a person’s name. A convert from the West should keep his/her name and integrate Islam smoothly into their life. So be wise, and don’t create unnecessary problems for yourself and your family.
Why the Boycott?
After the conversion of Hamza and Umar, the leaders of the Quraish made one final attempt to negotiate with Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).
Their representative, ‘Utbah, offered him wealth, power, and leadership in return for him ceasing to preach his faith.
The Prophet (peace be upon him) responded by reciting the first verses of Surah Fussilat, Chapter 41 of the Qur’an. When he reached verse 16, where Allah (SWT) says:
So We sent upon them a screaming wind during days of misfortune to make them taste the punishment of disgrace in the worldly life; but the punishment of the Hereafter is more disgracing, and they will not be helped. (41:16)
‘Utbah said to the Prophet (peace be upon him):
“I beg you in the Name of Allah and uterine ties to stop lest the calamity should befall the people of Quraish.” He then hurriedly returned to his compatriots and informed them of what he had heard. (The Sealed Nectar)
When this final attempt failed, the leaders of Makkah held a meeting to discuss their next move. They approved a new boycott plot to pressure Prophet Muhammad’s tribe and close relatives, Bani Hashim and Bani Abdel Muttalib.
Total Economic & Social Embargo
The terms of the boycott, which they wrote down and hung inside the Ka’bah, included a total economic embargo. This meant no trade or business transactions with Bani Hashem and Bani Abdel Muttalib. The social embargo meant they would not marry or interact with Muhammad’s supporters till his tribe surrendered him for them to kill.
Abu Talib reacted wisely to this unjust and aggressive pact. He withdrew to a valley on the outskirts of Makkah called Shi’b Abi Talib. The Banu Hashim and Banu Abdel Muttalib, Muslims and non-Muslims alike, all joined their leader in that valley. The only exception was the Prophet’s other uncle, Abu Lahab.
This cruel embargo lasted for approximately three years. Their only food supply was sent by a few non-Muslims in Makkah who felt sorry for them. These included Hakeem ibn Khuzam, Lady Khadijah’s nephew, and Al-Mot’am ibn ‘Adi. Every few weeks or so, they would discreetly send them a camel with supplies. However, it was so inadequate that the Muslims ate tree leaves due to starvation.
The Prophet (peace be upon him) and his companions would tie rocks on their bellies to relieve their hunger pains. Their health worsened and their bodies weakened as each day went by. Surviving all that time under such conditions was nearly impossible, but there was light at the end of the tunnel.
Relief After Hardship
The Muslims in the valley with Abu Talib persevered for nearly three years under these conditions. But Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) did not give up. Despite the situation, he went out to meet the delegations coming from different parts of Arabia for pilgrimage or business. Then, he (peace be upon him) would invite them to Islam.
When matters worsened and the health of the Muslims seriously deteriorated, the Prophet (peace be upon him) made a prayer against the aggressors. Following this prayer, Makkah suffered from a severe drought. Many people there felt that this was a divine punishment for their cruel embargo.
Then, in the month of Muharram of the tenth year, five non-Muslims in Makkah who opposed the embargo came together. They decided to do something to help end the siege. So they started by trying to change public opinion about the pact. They went to Abu Jahl at their meeting place near the Ka’bah. One by one, they publicly voiced their opposition to the boycott.
A Miracle Happened
It seems they succeeded, as public support for the boycott started to shift. At the same time, an amazing event took place. Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) told his uncle Abu Talib that Angel Gabriel had informed him that ants had eaten the treaty which was locked inside the Ka’abah. They had eaten everything except the name of Allah.
Trusting that his nephew would never lie, Abu Talib challenged the leaders of Makkah to check if this was true. He told them if they opened the Ka’bah and found the treaty intact, he would hand over his nephew to them. But if it was true, they must end the boycott. They agreed and opened the Ka’bah to verify the story.
To their amazement, the whole treaty had in fact been eaten up by ants. Only the name of Allah (bismika Allahum) was left untouched.
So the siege ended and the Muslims returned to their homes in Makkah. After this long and challenging ordeal, some returned in very poor health. These included the Prophet’s wife, Lady Khadijah, and his uncle, Abu Talib, who was by then around 80 years old.
They both passed away shortly after the end of the siege, as we will see in the next part of this series, in sha’Allah.
Please stay tuned…
Suggested Activities for New Converts Following this Series
1- Should New Converts Change Their Names After Conversion?
This is one of the questions some new Muslims ask. The following resources will help address this issue, so please check them:
- Do I Have to Change My Name Now That I’m Muslim?
- A New Muslim Asks: Should I Change My Name?
- Should My Friend Change Their Surname After Converting?
- What Changes Would Islam Bring to My Life?
2- Learn More About Zakah: The Third Pillar of Islam
Helping those in need and feeding the poor is one of the five pillars of Islam.
Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: “He is not a believer whose stomach is filled while the neighbor to his side goes hungry.”
Please check the following resources for more details and a general background on charity and Zakah in Islam:
- Feeding the Hungry: A Blessed Act of Worship
- Zakah and Purifying Wealth
- Three Things Happen When You Give Zakah
- Zakah and the Economic System in Islam
- Can Zakah Be Given to Construct Mosques and Islamic Centers?
3- Smile: You Are Muslim
Some people think that to be a good Muslim, you must be serious all the time. This is not the example of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), who was often seen smiling.
Meeting other people with a smile is highly encouraged in Islam. Please check these links for more details:
- How to Smile Like Prophet Muhammad
- Even a Smile is Charity: A Life Example
- The Genuine Power of a Smile
- Teach and Learn Islam with a Smile
4- Send us your questions on this series to: [email protected]
As this is a special series for new converts to learn about Islam in a comprehensive way through learning the Seerah (Biography of Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him) in a gradual chronological way, we will add a few more resources of other areas of Islamic knowledge in each part of the Seerah at the end of each article as extra learning resources.
We will add new videos to this series as we progress from Year 1 to Year 23 in sha’ Allah.
The references we use in each article are given for further details, so please feel free to send us any questions you may have to this e-mail: [email protected]
You may also wish to join our Facebook Group, Islam 101, for further learning and also to interact with fellow new converts and those who are new to Islam here.
The Sealed Nectar – Sheikh Safi-ur-Rahman al-Mubarkpuri
Seerah of Prophet Muhammad – 18: Conversion of Omar & Hamza and Boycott (Dr. Yasir Qadhi)