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Story of Makkah’s Brutal Embargo against Early Muslims

An alliance against injustice

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

Hisham ibn Amr, who used to smuggle some food to Bani Hashim secretly at night, went to see Zuhair bin Abi Omaiyah Al-Makhzoumy. He 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. They agreed to 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 Kabah seven times, approached the hosts of people there. He rebuked them for indulging in the amenities of life whereas their kith and kin of Bani Hashim were starving. He swore he would never relent until the parchment of boycott was torn to piece and the pact broken at once.

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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.

Al-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 (PBUH), 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 the ants had eaten it away and nothing remained save the part bearing (in the Name of Allah).

The proclamation was thus abrogated, and Muhammad (PBUH) 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)

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

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