Boycott Against Muslims

It was 617 AD, the seventh year of the prophethood.

Until this date, all of the polytheists’ attempts to thwart Islam’s development had failed. Moreover, Islam was developing at a quicker pace. The number of Muslims was increasing daily despite the presence of all kinds of violence and resistance. In fact, the light of Islam was beginning to embrace the tribes outside of Mecca.

Heroes like Hazrat Umar and Hazrat Hamza had joined the ranks of the Muslims. Hazrat Umar completely changed from his prior state by striving in the way of Islam with all of his strength and rigor and as a result became Islam’s right hand man. While this situation provided courage and morale for the Muslims, it greatly rocked the polytheists and caused them to think deeply.

On the other hand, Qurayshi polytheists could not retrieve the Muslims that took refuge in the land of the Negus. Ashama, the King of Abyssinia, did not only refuse to give them back but he also promised that he would protect them.  

This forced and compelled the polytheists to make new plans and decisions.

The polytheists understood that torture and violence would not cause anyone to abandon his/her religion and they could not hinder Islam’s spreading and development. How was it that not one Muslim denounced his/her religion despite all the torture and cruelty they faced!

In that case, they had to implement different policies and that was what they did. They came together immediately. After thinking deeply and consulting with one another for a while, they decided to cut off all of their ties with the Sons of Hashim regardless of whether or not they were Muslims.

They wrote down the conditions of this decision that they had all agreed on together as follows:

1)      They would not wed any women from the Sons of Hashim and Muttalib.

2)      They would not give any women to the Sons of Hashim and Muttalib to wed.

3)      They would not sell anything to the Sons of Hashim and Muttalib.

4)      They would not purchase anything from the Sons of Hashim and Muttalib. (1)

They thought that hanging this agreement, which was written on a sheet of paper, on one of the Kaaba’s walls would attach a tenor of holiness. Furthermore, they swore they would not act against this agreement. (2)

This boycott was aimed at eliminating the Sons of Hashim and Muttalib and excavating their roots. In this situation, the families of the Sons of Hashim and Muttalib could no longer live in separate cities or scattered from one another. With the exception of Abu Lahab, the Sons of Hashim and Muttalib all moved to Shib (District) Abu Talib, which was located in the northern part of Mecca. (3)

The polytheists cut off all of their ties with the residents of this neighborhood. Those who went there by accident were badly scolded.

The polytheists did not allow any food or drink to enter this area. They only allowed the Muslims to leave during the time of Hajj (the pilgrimage) to go shopping, but this was only a façade. It was a façade since they would follow them and attempt to hinder them in all kinds of ways from purchasing anything. In fact, they would occasionally threaten the merchants to prevent them from selling anything to the Muslims. Sometimes, they would apply all sorts of schemes and tricks to seize the merchants’ goods so that nothing would be left for the victims of this cruel boycott to purchase.

Despite the fact that Abu Lahab was from among the Sons of Hashim, he openly wanted his own siblings, kinsfolk, and relatives to die from starvation and did everything he could in this matter. On the outskirts of the city, he would greet the caravans carrying food to Mecca by saying, “Oh merchants! Do not sell anything to the Sons of Hashim! Make your prices high so that they cannot purchase anything from you. You know that I am wealthy. Whenever I make a promise, I will always be sure to fulfill it. Raise the prices of your edible and wearable goods. I will purchase remaining goods!” He caused the Muslims to go home empty-handed to their children who screamed out of hunger.  The polytheists’ ears and hearts were plugged in the face of the heartbreaking and sorrowful screams of the hungry children.  

They derived unparalleled pleasure from hearing these screams that had the potential to shatter stones. This is a lesson-filled example as to how disbelief, denial, and blasphemy can make people merciless and cruel even against their fellow humans.

Those who were subjected to this boycott were left to face a harsh scarcity and endure starvation since they were not able to purchase anything. This situation was so extreme that some began to eat leaves when they were unable to find anything else as well as any dry leather pieces they could find to roast over an open fire.

However, there were still some who felt compassion for the Muslims. One day, the son of Hazrat Khadija’s brother, Hakim bin Hizam, tried to save his aunt, Hazrat Khadija from despair by sending a camel load of flour.

On another occasion, he loaded wheat on the back of his slave to take to his aunt. He set off on the road with his slave and coincidentally bumped into Abu Jahl on the way.

Abu Jahl said to him, “You are taking groceries to the Sons of Hashim, is that right? By God, you cannot go. If you attempt to go then I will disclose this action of yours to all of Meccans and humiliate you.”

At that moment, Abu’l Bahtari came and chided Abu Jahl, “What’s happening to you? It is not right to hinder a person from taking some flour to his aunt.”

However, Abu Jahil did not forgo his stubbornness and persistence. Upon this, he engaged in a physical fight with Abu’l Bahtari. Abu’l Bahtari wounded his head with the bone of a camel’s chin and then later pounced on Abu Jahil while punching him.

Hisham bin Amr bin Harith was someone else who did not withhold his help from the Sons of Hashim and the Muslims out of his feelings of kinship. He had taken food with his camels to Shib a few times without the polytheists knowing.

They Spend their Wealth

Followed by Abu Talib and Hazrat Khadijah, our Holy Prophet (PBUH) was the first to spend his belongings to fulfill the needs of those who were subjected to this boycott. Nonetheless, they still could not save them from starvation.

A frightening state of hunger reigned in Shib.

Why was this all being done?

For only one thing: to make our Holy Prophet (PBUH) surrender.

The polytheists thought they could reach their goal in this way; however, the situation turned out to be different from what they had expected and hoped. The Muslims and the Sons of Hashim were immensely careful in guarding our Holy Prophet (PBUH) against any possible dangers. In fact, Abu Talib took our Holy Prophet (PBUH) by his side at nighttime or had others guard him by virtue of the possibility that our Holy Prophet (PBUH) could be assassinated.

This boycott that began in 617, the seventh year of the prophethood, at the beginning of the month of Muharram went on for three years. The starvation, despair, and famine the polytheists put the Muslims through could not hinder Islam’s development. Our Holy Prophet (PBUH) continued to duly deliver the message he had been appointed with and did not stop teaching Islam to his relatives and the Sons of Hashim for the slightest moment.

The Boycott was Lifted

It was the third year of the boycott.

Allah set a worm to go eat the sheet that the polytheists had hung on the Kaaba’s wall and notified His Messenger (PBUH) of this situation through a revelation. Only the writing, “Bismika Allahuma” (Allah, I begin with your name) remained on the sheet.

Our Holy Prophet (PBUH) explained the situation to his uncle, Abu Talib. Upon this, Abu Talib went to the polytheists and made the following offer:

“According to the news that my brother’s son has brought, Allah set a worm on the paper that you had hung on the Kaaba’s wall and this worm ate everything on this paper-your terms of cruelty, cutting ties with relatives, and slander, except for the expression regarding Allah’s name. Go to the Kaaba and look at the sheet. If what I am saying is true, then forgo your cruelty and bad treatment of the Muslims. If he has, may Allah forgive me for saying this, lied, then I will surrender him to you. You are free to kill or keep him alive.” (4)

The polytheists went to the Kaaba and saw the situation exactly as Abu Talib described. Despite being amazed, they did not accept our Holy Prophet’s (PBUH) miracle and turned their eyes away from the light.

This circumstance slightly lessened the intensity of this boycott. In 619 AD, when a few reputable people came forth, this practice, which stemmed from disbelief and a boundless level of stubbornness, was lifted. The community heard that this agreement had now been abolished; thus, they ripped and threw away the sheet containing the boycott’s terms.

In this way, the polytheists were turning away from the heresy and cruelty they had characterized as “an irrevocable decision.” This openly declared the victory of faith over disbelief once more.

The three-year blockade was so harsh and grueling that our Holy Prophet (PBUH) never forgot this situation even after the passing of many years. When the time came for Muslims to conquer Mecca and as they were going toward the city from Mina, our Holy Prophet (PBUH) reminded his companions of those difficult days by saying, “InshAllah (By Allah), the place that we are going tomorrow, the homeland of the Sons of Kinana, that is Muhassab, where the Qurayshis and sons of Kinana had agreed on unbelief and denial" (5)

[1] Ibn Hisham, Sirah, V. 1, p. 375; Ibn Sa’d, Tabaqat, V. 1, p. 208-209; Balazuri, Ansab, V. 1, p. 229-230; Tabari, Tarikh, V. 2, p. 225.
[2] Ibn Hisham, ibid, V. 1, p. 375; Ibn Sa’d, ibid, V. 1, p. 209; Balazuri, ibid, V. 1, p. 230.
[3] Ibn Hisham, ibid, V. 1, p. 376; Ibn Sa’d, ibid, V. 1, p. 209; Tabari, Tarikh, V. 2, p. 225.
[4] Ibn Hisham, Sirah, V. 2, p. 16-17, Ibn Sa’d, ibid, V. 1, p. 209-210.
[5] Bukhari, Sahih, V. 3, p. 62.