Ban on the Clans of Hashim and Muttalib
Frustrated, the idolaters decided to ostracize the whole clans of Hashim and Muttalib and thus destroy them completely. An agreement was signed to boycott these two clans. It was written by Mansur ibn 'Ikrimah and was hung in the Ka'bah. The agreement stated:
"they would neither take the daughters of these two clans nor will they give them their daughters in marriage; they would neither sell anything to them nor buy anything from them. Not only that, they would not have any contact with them nor even allow any food or drink to reach them.This boycott would continue till these clans agree to hand over Muhammad to Quraish."
Abu Talib had no alternative but to take these two clans (who had always stood together) into the mountain trail called Shi'b Abi Talib. It was adjacent to Jannatu '1-Ma'la. Now it is difficult to locate, because the Sa'udis are destroying all historical sites in the name of development. It was a place in Mount Hajun, which belonged to Abu Talib. There were 40 adults in the clans. For three long years, they were beleaguered. It had begun in Muharram, 7th year of Bi'that (Declaration of Prophethood) and continued up to the beginning of the 10th year. They were made to undergo the most acute hardships and privations, so much so that at times they had nothing but tree leaves to sustain them. Only twice a year did they dare to come out: in the months of Rajab and Dhul-Hijjah, when every type of violence was taboo according to the Arabian custom. If any relative sent them any food, and the news leaked out, that relative was publicly insulted and put to shame. The Quraishites used to express their pleasure on hearing the cries of the hungry children.
During all these years of sufferings, Abu Talib had only one worry: how to keep the Holy Prophet out of the harm's way. Historians unanimously say that it was the habit of Abu Talib to awaken the Holy Prophet after all people had gone to sleep and to take him to another place and order one of his own sons or brothers to sleep in the bed of the Holy Prophet. This was done so that if an enemy had seen where Muhammad was sleeping, and if an attack was made on him at night, his own son or brother would be killed while the Holy Prophet would be saved.
All of them suffered these hardships and did their utmost to save the life of the Holy Prophet. History is unable to produce another example of such devotion and loyalty. And imagine that this continued not for one or two days or weeks, but for three long years.
One day the Holy Prophet said to Abu Talib:
"I have been informed by Allah that the agreement of the Quraish has been eaten up by insects, and no writing has been left therein except the name of Allah."
And as the historians write, Abu Talib never had any doubt about any saying of the Holy Prophet.
Thus he came out of his place at once and went to Masjidul-Haram where Quraish had gathered. As luck would have it, the subject of discussion was the same boycott. Hisham, son of 'Amr, Zubayr, and a few others who were related to Khadijah and the clans of Hashim and Muttalib and whose houses were near the Shi'b of Abu Talib used to hear the cries of the children day and night. They had decided to persuade the Quraish to abrogate the infamous agreement. The arguments became very heated and reached a climax when they saw Abu Talib approaching. Abu Jahl and others who opposed the idea of abrogating the boycott, said:
"Abu Talib is coming! It seems that now he is tired and wants to hand over Muhammad to us. Thus, the boycott would end to the satisfaction of us all. Let us keep silent and hear what he wants to say."
But Abu Talib had gone there not to surrender but to challenge them. He stood before the gathering and said:
"My son says that the agreement which you had written has been eaten up by insects, and that nothing remains therein except the name of Allah. Now look at that paper. If the news given by my son is correct, then you must end your injustice and high-handedness, and if the news is wrong then we will admit that you were right and we were wrong."
The agreement was taken out and opened, and lo, there was nothing left of it except the name of Allah in one place.
Now Abu Talib's voice thundered on as he condemned them for their tyranny. Those who wanted that boycott ended said that now there was no agreement at all to adhere to. Abu Jahl and others tried to outwit them but failed and the boycott ended with a total moral victory for Islam over the infidels.
The sufferings and privations of those three years took their toll. Within nine months, Abu Talib died and after him Khadijah also left this world. With the disappearance of their protecting influence, the Meccans had a free-hand and redoubled their persecution. These two deaths, at a time when the Holy Prophet was in dire need of both, left a very deep impression on him. He was so grieved that he called that year "'Amul-Huzn" (The Year of Sorrow). How valuable their support was may be judged from the fact that Allah has counted them as two of His highest Graces and Favors upon the Holy Prophet.
He says in Sura 93:
Did He not find thee an orphan and give thee shelter, and He found thee lost (in thy tribe) and guided (them towards thee), and found thee in need and made thee free from want? (Qur'an, 93:6-8)
All the commentators of the Qur'an say that the first ayat means: "Did He not find thee an orphan and give thee shelter with Abu Talib?", and the last ayat means: "He found thee poor and made thee rich through Khadijah." If we think about the early history of Islam, without the prestigious influence of Abu Talib, we cannot see how the life of the Holy Prophet could have been saved. And if we were to take out the wealth of Khadijah, we cannot think how the poor Muslims could have been sustained, and how the two Hijrats of Abyssinia could have been financed.
It is not the place here to fully explain the share of Abu Talib in the foundation of Islam. The best tribute, therefore, would be to quote some of his poetry lines which overflow with love of, and devotion to, the Holy Prophet. Abu Talib has said these poetic lines:
And you have called me and I know that you are truthful
and, in fact, you were truthful and trustworthy from the beginning.
And I certainly know that the religion of Muhammad is the best of all the religions of the world ....
Also he said in another poem:
Did you not know that we have found Muhammad the Prophet the same as was Musa (Moses)? It is written so in the scriptures.
Compare this poetry with this ayat of the Qur'an:
Verily, We have sent you a Messenger to be a witness over you, as We had sent a Messenger to Pharaoh.(Qur'an, 73:15)
Somewhere else Abu Talib says these poetic lines:
And the Lord of the world has strengthened him with His help,
and has proclaimed the religion which is true, not false. Do not they know that our son is not doubted
by us and that we do not care about the false sayings (of his enemies)?
Once Abu Talib asked 'Ali:
"What is this religion which you are following?"
"I believe in Allah and His Messenger, and I pray with him."
Abu Talib said:
"Surely Muhammad will not call us but to a good thing. Never leave Muhammad; follow him faithfully."
Once he saw the Holy Prophet praying, with Khadijah and 'Ali behind him. Ja'far was with Abu Talib. Abu Talib told JaTar to go ahead and join them in their prayer.
When Hamza accepted Islam in the sixth year of bi'that (Declaration of the Prophethood), Abu Talib was overjoyed and said these poetic lines:
Be patient, O Abu Ya'li (Hamza) on account of the religion of Ahmad. And proclaim the religion with courage, may Allah help you. I was glad when you said that you were mumin (believer). So help the Messenger of Allah in the cause of Allah. And announce to the Quraish your decision, and tell them that Ahmad was never a sorcerer.
It was the policy of Abu Talib to keep the Quraish in suspense about his true belief: Had he announced that he had accepted the religion of Muhammad, his position as a respected leader of the tribe would have been undermined. And then he could not extend his protection to the Holy Prophet. Thus, while always declaring his firm belief that Muhammad could not tell anything but the truth, exhorting his children and brothers to follow the religion of Muhammad, he assiduously refrained from declaring in so many words that he himself was a Muslim. Thus he maintained his position with the hierarchy of Quraish and protected the Prophet through his influence.
Even on his death-bed, while there was still a chance that he might recover, he very diplomatically announced his faith in such a way that the Quraish could not understand what he meant. When they asked him on which religion he was dying, he replied:
"On the religion of my forefathers."
As it has already been explained before, that 'Abdul-Muttalib and all his ancestors were followers of the Divine religion, one cannot but admire the prudence and wisdom of Abu Talib in that difficult situation.
During the last moments of his life, the Holy Prophet advised him to recite the Kalimah loudly (as is the custom of the Muslims). 'Abbas, who had not accepted Islam yet, saw the lips of Abu Talib moving. He put his ears near Abu Talib, and then said to the Holy Prophet:
"O my nephew! Abu Talib is saying what you wanted him to say!"
'Allamah Ibn Abil-Hadid, the Mu'tazilite, has truly said the following poetic lines:
If it were not for Abu Talib and his son ('Ali),
religion of Islam could not take any shape, nor could it find its feet.
Thus, Abu Talib in Mecca gave shelter and protected
(him), and 'Ali in Medina rubbed shoulders with death.
Abu Talib died at the age of 85 in the middle of Shawwal or Dhul-Qa'dah, 10 Bi'that.
Imam Ja'far al-Sadiq (a.s.) said:
"The ancestors of the Holy Prophet will be in Paradise and 'Abdul-Muttalib will enter Paradise having upon him the light of the Prophets and the dignity of kings, and Abu Talib will be in the same group."
Hazrat Khadijah was respected so much that the Meccans called her Tahirah (the pure one). All the children of the Holy Prophet were born from Khadijah except Ibrahim who was born of Maria the Copt.
She was the first person to testify to the truth of the Holy Prophet. She spent all her wealth in the cause of Islam. And she was a source of comfort and consolation to the Holy Prophet.
The Holy Prophet said:
"Four women are the supreme-most amongst the women of Paradise: Maryam mother of 'Isa (Jesus) (a.s.), Asiyah wife of Pharaoh, Khadijah bint Khuwaylid, and Fatimah hint Muhammad."
"I never envied any woman as much as I envied Khadijah. The Holy Prophet always remembered her. Whenever any sheep or goat was slaughtered, the choicest parts were sent to Khadijah's relatives and friends. I used to say, 'It appears that Khadijah was the only woman in the world.' Hearing this, the Holy Prophet was very much annoyed and said: 'Khadijah had many virtues, which others do not have. "'
She also said:
"Once the Holy Prophet remembered her and I said, 'How long will you go on remembering a woman so old that she had no teeth in her mouth? Allah has given you a woman better than her (meaning herself).' The Holy Prophet was so angry that the hair of his head was raised. He said: 'By Allah, I do not have better than Khadijah. She believed in me when others were steeped into infidelity. She testified to my truth when others rejected my claim. She helped me with her wealth when others deprived me. And Allah gave me children by her." 'Ayishah says that from then on she decided not to say any unkind word about Khadijah. (Sahih al-Bukhari, vol. 3).
She was 65 years old when she died, and she was buried at Hajun. Her grave was demolished in 1925 like those of 'AbdulMuttalib, Abu Talib and others.