THE YEARS SEVEN TO NINE OF PROPHETHOOD: THE BOYCOTT YEARS

A ThreeYear-Long Isolation Policy of Idolaters towards Muslims

Despite all preventative measures, Islam was growing by the day and this only fuelled the idolaters’ hatred. They made an evil pact to take aim at the sacred existence of the Noble Prophet (pbuh) and thereby hurl the universe into darkness.

“Openly or in secret, we will kill him!” they vowed.

Seeing the idolaters were determined to commit this horrendous act, Abu Talib began fearing for the Messenger of Allah (pbuh). He gathered the clan of Hashim and Muttalib, urging them to protect the Prophet (pbuh) at all times and at all costs. The night in which the crescent of the month of Muharram appeared in the skies, led by Abu Talib, the clans of Hashim and Muttalib, including the Prophet (pbuh), met at Abu Talib’s quarters. Missing from the assembly was only Abu Lahab, who chose to continue remaining in the pagan ranks.

The idolaters resorted to yet another vicious plan to put an end to Islam before it spread and grew even more in strength: to try and drive the budding believers away of their faith by enforcing a social and economic boycott.

For this purpose, a group of dark souls headed by Abu Jahl gathered at the quarters of Banu Qinanah, where they announced they had severed all ties with the Muslims and their protectors the Hashim clan, ranging from trade of all kinds to marriage. They penned down the pact and posted it on a wall inside the Kaabah.

By the prayer of the Blessed Prophet (pbuh), the hand of Mansur ibn Ikrimah, who wrote the pact, became paralyzed, causing a whisper to go around among idolaters that Mansur’s misfortune was because of what they had done to the Hashim clan. (Ibn Hisham, I, 372-373; Ibn Saad, I, 208-209; Bukhari, Hajj, 45)

The embargo forced the Muslims, who until then were disseminated in various parts of Mecca, to relocate one and all into Abu Talib’s quarters in order to consolidate their mutual support. The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) also moved there, leaving the house of Arqam.

Prepared for the worst, Abu Talib was taking all precautions against a possible assassination. For instance, after everybody went to sleep, Abu Talib would send one of his sons or cousins to sleep in disguise in the place of the Prophet (pbuh), and have the Prophet (pbuh) take his place.[1]

A period of enormous hardship had begun. Abu Jahl and his men were having the Muslim quarters monitored day and night, not allowing even a crumb of provisions to enter. All the roads that led the Muslims to marketplaces were blocked, and the goods that entered wholesale into Mecca were being monopolized by the idolaters before the Muslims could ever get their hands on them. Believers could only leave their quarters during the season of pilgrimage. Whenever a Muslim would go to a salesman in order to purchase some food for his family, it had become common for Abu Lahab, standing by the goods, to shout:

“Salesmen! Raise the prices for Muhammad and his followers so that they are unable to buy anything from you! Do not worry! I am a rich man of his word! I shall compensate your losses!”

Thus Muslims would return empty handed, without any food to calm their crying children. As for the salesmen, they would go to Abu Lahab the next morning, and he would purchase their goods for no less than the raised price.[2]

Amid this crisis, the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) and his wife Khadijah (r.ha) ended up spending all their wealth for relieving the Muslims.[3]

Despite all the measures taken by the idolaters to block the roads leading to Muslim quarters, some Meccans nonetheless were able to aid their Muslim relatives. Hakim ibn Hizam had brought a caravan of wheat from Damascus. He loaded a camel with wheat and, secretly steering it onto the beginning of the road that led to the Muslim quarters, he nudged and chased the camel. The camel fled right towards the quarters, whereupon the Muslims seized its load. On another night, in similar fashion, he sent a camel loaded with flour.

Another figure helping the Muslims was Hisham ibn Amr. Once the idolaters became aware that Hisham had sent a few camel loads of food into the quarters, they threatened him aggressively. As Hisham took little notice and continued aiding his relatives regardless, the idolaters turned to violence. He was only saved from death by the intervention of Abu Sufyan:

“Leave the man alone! He is only helping his relatives…If only we could do the same!”

Throughout this period, the Muslims had to endure great pains, forced at times to eat even the leaves of trees. Children were perishing from hunger. Their crying could easily be heard from outside of the neighborhood.

With this boycott, the idolaters aimed to starve the Muslims until they surrendered the Prophet (pbuh), which would then have given them opportunity to kill him. But having joined forces with the Abu Talib lead Hashim clan, the Muslims were determined to safeguard the Light of Being (pbuh), even if it meant shedding their last drop of blood.

Once the boycott became unbearable, the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) lifted his hands to the sky and prayed, “Allah…! Help us by bewildering these ruthless people with a seven-year famine like the famine of Yusuf!”

Not long after, the rains stopped, making way for a destructive drought that hit the idolaters of Quraysh hard. Many starved to death. Others, without anything to eat, began consuming the meat and skin of dead animals. From the severity of hunger, the sky had even begun to look hazy, as if it was covered in smoke.

According to Ibn Mas’ud (r.a), the Almighty alludes to this in the Quran as follows:

فَارْتَقِبْ يَوْمَ تَأْتِي السَّمَاء بِدُخَانٍ مُّبِينٍ.
يَغْشَى النَّاسَ هَذَا عَذَابٌ أَلِيمٌ

“Then watch out for the day when the sky will produce visible smoke that shall overtake men. That is a painful punishment!” (ad-Dukhan, 10-11)

Once the famine became intolerable, Abu Sufyan pleaded the Messenger of Allah (pbuh), “You say you have been sent as mercy, Muhammad! You enjoin obeying Allah and helping relatives. But your people are about to perish from famine! Ask Allah to relieve them! If He does through your prayers, then be sure that we will believe in Him!”

So the Noble Messenger (pbuh) prayed and down poured the rain. But although the famine ended, the idolaters continued in their old ways.[4]

In the Quran, the Almighty says the following with regard to the idolaters’ mindset:

وَإِذَا مَسَّ الإِنسَانَ الضُّرُّ دَعَانَا لِجَنبِهِ أَوْ قَاعِدًا أَوْ قَآئِمًا فَلَمَّا
كَشَفْنَا عَنْهُ ضُرَّهُ مَرَّ كَأَن لَّمْ يَدْعُنَا إِلَى ضُرٍّ مَّسَّهُ
كَذَلِكَ زُيِّنَ لِلْمُسْرِفِينَ مَا كَانُواْ يَعْمَلُونَ

“And when affliction touches a man, he calls on Us, whether lying on his side or sitting or standing; but when We remove his affliction from him, he passes on as though he had never called on Us on account of an affliction that touched him; thus that which they do is made fair-seeming to the extravagant.” (Yunus, 12)

The End of the Boycott

At the end of three years of agony, the Almighty set loose a maggot on the written pact of the boycott which the idolaters had posted inside the Kaabah. Except for the words Bismik Allahumma (In your Name O Allah), the maggot ate away the entire document of cruelty and oppression. Informed through Revelation, the Prophet (pbuh) disclosed the event to his uncle Abu Talib who, in turn, informed his brothers, telling them, “Wear your neatest clothes and go to Quraysh! Tell them about the fate of the pact before they find out!”

Straight after the idolaters were told of the matter by Abu Talib and his brothers, they sent a person to fetch the written pact, who brought it in the very condition the Prophet (pbuh) had told them. The idolaters were frustrated. Encouraged, Abu Talib spoke out:

“Do you now understand you have done wrong and oppressed your people?”

There was not a word. Some eventually began mumbling:

“This has got to be magic!” After that they raised pretexts, once again turning their backs on the clear truth. But some Qurayshi men did begin to feel remorse for what they did and began to look for a way out. It was now the tenth year of prophethood when a few idolaters made a move to lift the boycott. Telling off Zuhayr ibn Abi Umayya was Hisham ibn Amr:

“Listen to me Zuhayr! How can you be content doing as you wish, while your uncles struggle in poverty and are prevented from even the simplest rights of trade and marriage? If you had called Abu Jahl to a pact against his uncles, I swear he would not have listened to you!”

After convincing Zuhayr, Hisham was able to win over, one by one, Mutim ibn Adiyy, Abu’l-Bakhtari and Zam’a ibn Aswad. At night, the five met at Hajun in upper Mecca to discuss the moves they were to make. They vowed to struggle until the boycott was lifted.

The next morning they went to the Kaabah. Wearing expensive clothing, Zuhayr circumambulated the Great House after which he said, “Meccans! How can it be that we can live to our heart’s content while we leave the Hashim and Muttalib clans to perish? I swear to God that I shall not sit until the vicious pact that has done away with all blood ties is torn!”

Abu Jahl’s protests fell on deaf ears once the four friends expressed their support, which suddenly created an encouraging atmosphere. At once, Mutim got up and tore the pact hanging on the wall. Arming themselves, Adiyy ibn Qays, Abu’l-Bakhtari and Zuhayr headed towards the quarters of Abu Talib, making sure the Muslims returned to their homes. Thus with Divine blessing, Muslims were finally freed from the fierce three-year siege. Abu Talib read a poem in praise of those who ended the boycott. Meanwhile, the diehard idolaters had all but lost hope in ever preventing the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) from inviting people to Islam.[5]

In the end, such hardships served to strengthen the faith of believers and their ranks, while, as always, they added to the idolaters’ misery.

In the meantime, during the course of the eight years of prophethood, the Persians had defeated the Byzantines in successive battles and laying waste to their cities had reached as far as the gates of Constantinople, forcing the humbled Byzantines to pay a hefty tribute.

As the Persians too were idolaters, the Meccans were delighted by their victory. The Prophet (pbuh) was, however, left disheartened by the Byzantine defeat, the People of the Book, at the hands of the Persians. But just then the following ayah were revealed:

الم غُلِبَتِ الرُّومُ فِى اَدْنَى اْلاَرْضِ وَهُمْ
مِنْ بَعْدِ غَلَبِهِمْ سَيَغْلِبُونَ فِى بِضْعِ سِنِينَ لِلّٰهِ اْلاَمْرُ
مِنْ قَبْلُ وَمِنْ بَعْدُ وَيَوْمَئِذٍ يَفْرَحُ الْمُؤْمِنُونَ
بِنَصْرِ اللّٰهِ يَنْصُرُ مَنْ يَشَاءُ وَهُوَ الْعَزِيزُ الرَّحِيمُ

“The Romans have been defeated in the nearer land, and they, after their defeat, will be victorious again within a few years. Allah’s is the command before and after; and on that day the believers shall rejoice in the victory of Allah; He supports whomever He pleases. And He is the Mighty, the Merciful.” (ar-Rum, 1-5)

“Defeat is surely near for the Persians!” the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) remarked. (Ahmed, I, 276)

Hearing the Divine news, Abu Bakr (r.a) made a wager with idolater Ubayy ibn Khalaf for ten camels that the Byzantines would defeat the Persians within three years.[6]

He then told the Prophet (pbuh) of the wager, who said, “The word bid’ actually means a period from three to ten years. So now go and increase the term and the number of camels!” Abu Bakr (r.a) then increased the time to nine years and the amount of camels to a hundred.

The Byzantines swiftly regained strength to score a crushing victory over the Persians. Collecting the hundred camels due from Ubayy, Abu Bakr (r.a) brought them to the Prophet (pbuh), who advised him to deal them out to the poor. And he did exactly that.

The Quran’s miraculous prediction led to the guidance of many idolaters.[7]

Shaqqu’l-Qamar: The Splitting of the Moon

To help them defeat the stubbornness they faced along the way, the Almighty provided His prophets carrying out the duty of inviting others onto the true path with an exceptional gift to affect people and attract them to belief. For drawing masses towards what is best for them, prophets are also given extraordinary blessings called miracles.

The miracles Prophets have been blessed with have always been in line with the skills commonly admired in their times. During the time of Musa (a.s), for instance, sorcery was at its peak. So Prophet Musa (a.s) was given fitting miracles: the Staff and the Luminous Hand.[8]

During the time of Prophet Isa (a.s), it was medicine that had gained popularity, and doctors were highly respected in society. He was therefore blessed with a miracle that could bring even the best doctors to their knees: raising the dead.

But as the prophethood of Muhammad (pbuh) encompasses all ages and is valid until the end of time, his authority and influence, and the miracles in relation, are superior to all others before him. His miracles were not only applicable in the supreme fields and interests of the time like eloquence and expression, but also in various others. One of these was the Splitting of the Moon; a miracle that uplifted Muslim hearts weakened by the vicious boycott with a ray of hope and a new drive that would give the idolaters an idea of the power they were trying to defy.

This great miracle occurred amid the boycott, in the ninth year of the Meccan period. In a moonlit night, the Noble Prophet (pbuh) prayed to the Almighty and the moon was split in two, one part descending on one side of Mount Abu Qubays, and the other near Mount Quayqian. But despite this awesome miracle, the idolaters still shied away from believing. Abu Jahl, as always, decried the event as magic.

It was a show of magic, the idolaters thought, that charmed them, but surely it could not have charmed others! So they decided to ask members of the incoming caravans to Mecca whether or not they saw such a thing. To their dismay, they testified that they did.

These below ayah were revealed immediately following the event:

اِقْتَرَبَتِ السَّاعَةُ وَانْشَقَّ الْقَمَرُ.
وَاِنْ يَرَوْا اَيَةً يُعْرِضُوا وَيَقُولُوا سِحْرٌ مُسْتَمِرٌّ

“The hour drew nigh and the moon did rend asunder. And if they see a miracle they turn aside and say: Transient magic. (al-Qamar, 1-2) (Wahidi, p. 418; Tirmidhi, Tafsir, 54/3286)

All Meccans agreed seeing the moon split. Those with glimpses of truth in their hearts declared their belief in the Prophet (pbuh), while others, the hearts of whom remained firmly locked, continued calling him a magician.

While investigating the previous cycle of the moon’s motion, even the famous French astronomer Lefrançois de Lalande (1732-1807) admitted the truth of the miracle of Shaqq’ul-Qamar.[1]

The underlying reasons as to why the Almighty has given miracles to his prophets could be summarized as follows:

1. To influence the masses and attract them to believing.

2. To strengthen the faith of believers and console their hearts.

3. To prove the veracity truth of prophets’ call.

4. To awe Muslims and force nonbelievers to realize their weakness against Divine Power.

Enhancing the faith of the believers, each verse of the Quran yet only increases the disbelief of those the Quran declares as ‘la yahdi’, those that may never be guided.[2]

The Splitting of the Moon is a great miracle of the Prophet (pbuh). As he is also the ‘Prophet of the Last Hour’, his coming to the world is also among the signs of the Day of Judgment. By stating:

اِقْتَرَبَتِ السَّاعَةُ وَانْشَقَّ الْقَمَرُ

“The Hour has drawn near and the moon was rent asunder”, (al-Qamar, 1) the Quran in fact alludes to this.

The Perseverance of the Prophet (pbuh) in Inviting to Islam under all Circumstances

In spite of all the terror unleashed by his tribesmen, the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) did not take a even a single step back in calling to the truth. He made use of the slightest opportunity to invite, using differing methods suiting the person in question.

Rukanah, perhaps the strongest wrestler among Quraysh, one day came across the Prophet (pbuh) in one of the nearby valleys of Mecca. The Noble Messenger (pbuh) called out to him:

“Rukanah! How long more are you going to stand against Islam and live without fearing Allah? Come…be a Muslim!”

“Only if you beat me in wrestling”, Rukanah challenged.

“If I beat you, will you accept the truth of what I say?” the Prophet (pbuh) asked.

“Yes. If you beat me, I will either accept Islam or give these sheep to you! But if I beat you, then you will give up your claim to prophethood!”

They began wrestling. The moment the Blessed Prophet (pbuh) grabbed Rukanah, the Meccan wrestler found himself thrown on the ground. He could not even make a move.

“Let’s have another go”, he said enthusiastically to the Messenger of Allah (pbuh).

They did but he was again defeated.

“Let’s go again”, he told the Prophet (pbuh).

He was beaten again for the third time.

“I swear to God you are better, a nobler man than I”, Rukanah admitted as he left.

Even though he did not remain true to his promise then, Rukanah did eventually become a Muslim following the Conquest of Mecca, after which he went to Medina to settle. (Ibn Hisham, I, 418; Ibn Athir, Usd’ul-Ghabah, II, 236)

Dimad ibn Thalabah, from the tribe Azd Shanuah, arrived in Mecca one day for pilgrimage. A man with an interest in medicine, and known to treat the mentally ill, once he heard that the idolaters call the Prophet (pbuh) ‘mad’, he said to himself:

“I ought to go and visit this man. I might perhaps be a means of curing him.” So getting up, he went to the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) and said:

“I can cure madness, Muhammad; so if you wish I can treat you. It could just be that God will cure you through me!”

The Noble Prophet (pbuh) had the following to say:

“All praises are due to Allah. Only Him do we thank and from Him do we seek help and forgiveness. It is His protection we seek from the evils of our souls. Nobody shall guide whom Allah has deviated. And nobody shall deviate whom Allah has guided. I bear witness that there is no god but Allah. He is One. There is no being alike Him; He has no partners. I again bear witness that Muhammad is His servant and messenger.”

Dimad was very much taken in by the words of the Blessed Prophet (pbuh). “I have never heard such beautiful words in my life. Can you please repeat what you just said?”

The Gracious Messenger (pbuh) repeated his words. Dimad made him repeat them another two times, after which he remarked, “I have heard soothsayers, magicians, poets and all kinds of people, I swear…but never have I heard them say anything like your words. They are like the most precious pearls of the ocean of eloquence. Give me your hand so I can pledge allegiance.”

Thus Dimad (r.a) became a Muslim.

“Can you pledge allegiance also on behalf of your tribe?” the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) asked.

“Certainly…I pledge allegiance on behalf of them too”, he replied. (Muslim, Juma, 46; Ahmed, I, 302; Ibn Saad, IV, 241)

By making Dimad (r.a) pledge allegiance on behalf of his tribe as soon as he became Muslim, the Prophet (pbuh) had effectively appointed Dimad a teacher and a representative of Islam for his tribe.

[1].      Ibn Kathir, al-Bidaya, III, 132.

[2].      Suhaylî, II, 127-128.

[3].      Yakûbî, II, 31.

[4].      Bukhari, Tafsir, 30, 44; Muslim, Munâfiqîn, 40; Ahmed, I, 431, 441.

[5].      See Ibn Hisham, I, 397-406; Ibn Saad, I, 210-211.

[6].      The event precedes the prohibition of betting.

[7].      See Tirmidhi, Tafsir, 30/3194; Qurtubî, XIV, 3.

[8].      The Luminous Hand or Yad’ul-Bayda (literally ‘White Hand’) was one of the nine miracles given to Musa (a.s). (see, al-Araf, 108; al-Isra, 101; Taha, 22; as-Shuara, 33; an-Naml, 12; al-Qasas, 32). Upon removing his hand from his bosom, everything in sight would become illumined as if the sun had appeared.