home Information Library Contact us

16. The Terrible Boycott

The Makkans were very angry and concerned about the situation that had developed. Especially since Hamzah and Umar had joined the ranks of the Muslims by accepting Islam. They were both important and respected members of the community and this had strengthened the cause of Islam. No matter what the Makkans had tried in the past, the Muslims were slowly increasing in number as its message began to reach more people.

The Makkans had already tried to negotiate with the prophet (pbuh) and had failed every time. They had offered to make Muhammad (pbuh) their king or a very rich man but Muhammad (pbuh) had refused them. Instead the prophet (pbuh) had proposed that they only worship Allah and leave idol worship. The prophet (pbuh) explained to them that this was the path of righteousness. The Makkans had refused him saying that they would prefer to follow their forefathers!

Abu Talib, the prophet’s uncle, had been offering Muhammad (pbuh) his support and protection. They had many meetings with Abu Talib, trying to win him over. They had tried to negotiate and bargain with Abu Talib but he had also refused their offers. In fact, Abu Talib was often angry with the offers they made because they were so unjust. Abu Talib may not have been a Muslim but he loved and respected his nephew Muhammad (pbuh).

The Makkans had realised that Islam wasn’t going to be easy to subdue. They decided on one last attempt to finish off the Muslims and their supporters. The Makkans decided they should now break all communication with the Muslims and boycott them. They would boycott the Muslims, Bani Mutallib and Banu Hashim with the exception of Abu Lahab. Although Abu Lahab was the prophet's uncle, he was also one of his greatest enemies and therefore wasn’t included in the boycott.

All the leaders of the Makkans got together and decided to enforce a boycott of the Muslims and their supporters. No one was allowed to have any sort of dealings with them. There would be no inter-marriage, no buying and selling, no business dealings and no socializing. In fact, no one would be allowed to speak to them as far as it was possible. They would also prevent any traders that came to Makkah from dealing with the Muslims and their supporters.

All their Makkan nobles got together at Wadi Al-Muhassab and wrote out an agreement. This agreement started with ‘In the name of Allah’ and then continued to lay down the exact details of the boycott. They then got all the leaders to sign this agreement so that they were all obliged to stick to the treaty. The Makkans then took this document and hung it on one of the walls inside the Ka'bah. The Makkans said that they would only cancel this treaty when Muhammad (pbuh) was handed over to them to be killed.

Abu Talib was very concerned about the events unfolding and decided to take action himself. He saw the situation moving from bad to worse, especially since the attacks on the prophet (pbuh) were getting worse. In the past there had been a little bit of bad feeling towards the Muslims by the Makkans. Now the Makkans were openly hostile to the Muslims and their beloved prophet Muhammad (pbuh). Abu Talib gathered together all his tribe and family and moved to a narrow valley which became known as Shi’b Abu Talib. This group of Muslims and Abu Talib’s clansmen moved to this valley and lived there for a period of three years. The Muslims during this period were in a very bad state.

There was no trade between the Muslims and the Makkans so the money and food began to run out. It came to a stage that the state of the Muslims was so bad that the cries of hungry children suffering were heard constantly in this valley. Any little food the Muslims had would be shared amongst themselves, which wasn’t enough to satisfy anyone. In some cases the Muslims had to resort to eating the leaves of trees and the skins of animals to survive.

The Makkans tried their best to cut off the Muslims completely. Whenever any traders came to Makkah and the Muslims tried to buy food, the Makkans would come and offer a much higher price so that the Muslims could not afford it. The Makkans would warn the traders that trading with the Muslims was not allowed. Some of the Muslims were already poor and suffered a lot through these hardships.

In some cases, close relatives and friends of the people in the valley smuggled some food in. This food was in small amounts and would take place late at night so that the Makkans would not find out. However, the Makkans were always on guard and watching for anyone who was going to break this boycott. Hisham bin Amr, amongst a few others, would occasionally smuggle a little food to their clansmen in the valley. They witnessed the awful state of the Muslims and saw the hardships they were going through.

Hashim bin Amr thought the Makkans were unjust in this inhumane boycott. He hoped that the agreement could be cancelled which would alleviate this suffering his clansmen were exposed to. Some other Makkans were not as hard-hearted and through compassion would smuggle food to the Muslims. They also considered this agreement as unjust but were powerless to do anything because their nobles and leaders had signed it. There was a general feeling amongst a lot of Makkans that this ban should be lifted.

Abu Talib was also concerned about the welfare of his nephew Muhammad (pbuh). He would often swap places with Muhammad (pbuh) at night in case someone tried to murder him during the night. He was always vigilant and showed a lot of concern for Muhammad (pbuh) through these testing times. Muhammad (pbuh) remained courageous and continued his mission. He would go to the Ka'bahand offer his prayers, even in this hostile environment.

The news got out about the inhumane treatment by the Makkans of their own clansmen. People would talk about the situation in Makkah and about this man Muhammad (pbuh) with his ‘new’ religion. Many were curious about Muhammad (pbuh) and why the Makkans were so against it. All over Arabia, the people talked about the situation in Makkah and it became a major point of discussion and debate.

The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) continued to preach the message of truth in the holy months. In these holy months the Muslims were a little freer to move around but the boycott itself wasn’t relaxed. In the holy months there was supposed to be no fighting and the usual persecution would ease off. Muhammad (pbuh) would invite the people and visitors to Makkah to pray and worship the one and only true god of all Mankind – Allah. He would tell them that their success was in the worship and dedication to Allah and his religion. This religion was the same teachings that was brought by all the prophets. The Prophet (pbuh) told the people that this was their means to success in this life and the hereafter. Some of these words fell on deaf ears; some people accepted some of these teaching whilst others accepted Islam.

The Makkans tried their best to discredit Muhammad (pbuh) calling him a liar and invented many lies against him The Makkans were determined that the message was not conveyed to anyone and they worked endlessly against the prophet (pbuh). Muhammad (pbuh) was undeterred by their activities and continued his noble mission. He knew that Allah would grant this noble mission success and that it was only a matter of time.

It was during this period of hardships that a group of five Makkans got together. They had relatives and friends in the valley. They decided that they would try and change the situation and get the ban lifted. They were concerned for the well being of their relatives or did not agree with this barbaric behaviour. The group of five got together and tried to formulate a plan. They knew that it was a formidable task to cancel an agreement that virtually all of Makkah had agreed to.

One day there was quite a few Makkans at the Ka'bah. The group got together and started talking about the inhumane nature of this boycott. They began to create a bit of a stir just as Abu Jahl heard the talking and decided to join in. They began to debate the ban saying that they had not agreed to such a bad thing and that they should have at least been consulted from the outset. Abu Jahl tried to remedy things saying that this had already been discussed and an agreement had been made. He suggested that the ban was agreed by the majority of the leaders and could not be lifted.

Abu Talib was already at the Ka'bahand also overheard the discussion. He came forward and said that he had heard the prophet Muhammad (pbuh) say that the agreement in the Ka'bahhad been partially destroyed by ants leaving only the name of Allah. Abu Talib said that he was so sure of the prophet’s words that he would hand Muhammad (pbuh) over if these words were proven to be incorrect!

The Makkans went into the Ka'bahand when they saw the treaty, they were shocked. The treaty had been eaten away by the ants, leaving behind only the words “In the name of Allah”. Since the written agreement between the Makkan leaders was destroyed, the ban could no longer be enforced. The boycott had finally ended.

The Muslims had suffered immensely through this period of trials and tribulations. They had suffered three long years of hardship. They were glad that the boycott was finally over and that they could return to their normal everyday lives. They could resume their trade and make contact with friends and relatives. The Muslims thanked Allah that this period of trials and tribulations was finally over.

However, as far as the Makkans were concerned, they were still against the Muslims and their hostilities towards the Muslims were not over. They were also ready to continue where they had left off and would make the life of the Muslims and their prophet a misery. The prophet (pbuh) knew this and also knew that Islam would prevail despite the hostile conditions they were in.

Another significant situation was that the health of Abu Talib had deteriorated. He was an old man, over eighty years of age. He had supported the prophet (pbuh) through all these hardships and had offered his protection to Muhammad (pbuh). However, these last three years had taken its toll. On return from the Shi’b Abu Talib, he suffered from illness and weakness. Everyone was concerned for his well-being.

What would happen if this old and compassionate man would pass away and what would happen to the Muhammad (pbuh) without his support and protection? The Makkans and Muslims waited to see what would happen over the coming months.

You won’t need to wait to see what would happen over the coming months, more next week inshallah!