The black and difficult years of hunger begin in the valley of Abu Talib. The Hashimi and Abdul Muttalib families are imprisoned with the exception of Abu Lahab who has joined the enemies. Men; women and children are placed in this hot, dry valley. A notice is written by Abu Jahl in the name of all the wealthy people of the Quraish and it is placed on the Kaaba wall:
`No one, should have any contact with the Hashimi tribe and Abdul Muttalib. All relationships with them are cut‑off. Do not buy anything from them. Do not sell anything to them. Do not marry any of them.'
They are forced to live in this stony prison until loneliness, poverty, hunger and the difficulties of life make them surrender to either the idols or death! They all have to bear the torture, both those who have accepted the new religion and those who have not as yet turned to the new religion.
Those who have not yet embraced Islam, but have a sense of freedom,, even though there is a difference of thought with Muhammad and face to face with Oneness, they put up a united front towards the enemies. They defend him and even though they do not know Islam and therefore do not have faith in it, they know Muhammad. They have faith in his purity. They know he is not interested in personal gain. They sense his faith. They hear what he has to say about the worship of the Truth. They know he sincerely wishes to free the people.
They are worth far more than the intellectuals who are filled with fear, men who are conservatives like Ali ibn Omayyad, who, having discovered progressive ideology; supposedly oppose reactionaries and the bearded men who hold onto the foulness of aristocratic society as well as the classical Arab regime with its class distinctions. But, at the same time, knowing all of this, in order to protect the wealth of their fathers, the luxuries of their family, their social position and physical health and in order to avoid any headaches, they remain on the side of Abu Jahl and Abu Lahab. They watch the torture of Balal, Ammar, Yasser and Somayyeh. They do not move their lips in objection.
Throughout these difficult years, they leave their compatriots and their friends in this small compound, alone. They busy themselves with their lives in the city, bazaar, their homes and families. They pass their time with the pagan leaders. They even join hands. They leave behind a tradition. They open a way. Years later, followers of this way and their religion contain more people than the followers of the religion of the Prophet himself.
The real Shiites are Ali, Abu Dharr, Fatima, Husayn, Zaynab and all of the Emigrants and Companions. But those like Ali ibn Omayyad are the first Moslems to continue the practice of dissimulation (pious fraud) even though the Prophet had forbidden it. They remain, loyal to this beneficial principle and do not relinquish it until their death.
It is when the fire of a new faith alights upon their spirits and a movement full of danger begins in society, based upon experiment, choice and obligatory tests where one speaks to the self clearly and without deceit that the wonders of humanity appear. The glories are accompanied by feelings of inferiority, contempt, strengths as well as weaknesses. All these are hidden within the spirit and all of them reveal themselves.
Now in this frightening compound, there are people who are not Moslems, and yet bear the difficulties with patience, silence and three years of hunger and loneliness. They share the shadow of danger. They also take part in God's great revolution of humanity. In this most sensitive moment of the beginning of the history of Islam, they share the pain, understanding the position of Muhammad, Ali and their Companions.
But the black cloud of ignorance covers the comfortable and happy city which is filled with conservatism, contradiction, painlessness and shamelessness. Some Moslems can be seen among them whose skirts are contaminated and their hands are frail. They are busy gaining security and comfort. Are they the viewers or the players in this tragedy? The question arises because in their imagination they believe they have religion. They love religious people. They feel themselves to be enlightened.
The families of the Hashimi and Abdul Muttalib tribes cut themselves off for three years from their city, their people, their freedom and even their means of livelihood and live in this confinement. Is it possible to leave the valley in the middle of the night and , hidden from the eyes of the spies of the Quraish, get some food for the hungry who are waiting in jail? Could it be that a liberal family member or friend might out of kindness bring them some bread. Hunger sometimes reaches the point that they take on the image of 'black death'. But as they had prepared themselves for a 'red death', they are patient.
Sa’ad ibn Ali Vaqas, who is confined with the others, writes, 'Hunger has brought on such dizziness that, if at night I kick at a soft and wet material, without even realizing it, I put it in my mouth and suck it. Two years later, I still do not know what it was.'
One can see, under these conditions, what passes for the family of the Prophet, even if history said nothing. All of this family bears the difficulties of hunger, loneliness and poverty for the sake of the Prophet. The Prophet personally assumes responsibility for them. When a child cries from the pain of hunger, whenever a sick person cries from lack of medicine and lack of food, whenever an aged person, man or woman, reaches their limits of bearing difficulties and pressures suffered from three years of hunger, physical torture and the tortures of this valley, they hide all they bear within themselves. The light and blood drained from their faces, they deny any problems when confronting Muhammad.
At the same time, in spite of all of the difficulties, they remain loyal and generous in faith and love. All of this shows the expressions of the spirit, of faith and human life which greatly affected the sensitive heart of the Prophet.
Know for sure that whenever food arrives in the darkness of the night and it is given into the hands of the Prophet to be spread among the people, the share of his wife and daughter is the least of all, in order that they not fear for their lives.
The family of Muhammad in this compound consists of Khadijah and his small daughter, Fatima, her sisters, Umm Khulthum and Roqiyyeh, daughter-in-law’s of Abu Lahab. After the mission of the Prophet, he orders his sons to divorce them in order to hurt and show contempt for the Prophet. But Osman, who is a young, wealthy, handsome man, marries Roqiyyeh and from the point of view of society, the act of Abu Lahab is answered. Roqiyyeh then immigrates to Ethiopia with Osman. Umm Khulthum, whose life had fallen apart and who had given up her happiness because of her faith in her father, now found herself in the compound, preferring hunger and remaining with her generous and heroic father in the way of faith and freedom to living in comfort and ease with her malicious and conservative husband, Otaybeh.
The days pass with difficulty in this compound. At night, the black tent of darkness falls upon the residents of this mountainous area separated from life. Weeks, months and years pass with hardship, they pass slowly over their tired bodies and spirits but all continue to step in sympathy with each other and with the Prophet.
The family of the Prophet has a special position in the midst of this group. The head of the family holds the heavy weight of their bitter fate upon his shoulders. Umm Khulthum, her happiness destroyed, has moved from the home of her husband to that of her father. His other daughter, Fatima, is still a young girl either two or three years old or twelve or thirteen. At the same time that she has a weak constitution, she has a sensitive spirit, full of feelings. His wife, Khadijah, very aged, perhaps seventy years old, having lived through the ten years of the Prophet's mission and three years in the compound, having suffered hunger, having witnessed the constant torture of her husband and daughters, and bearing the death of her two sons, has not given up patience, but the flow of strength to her body has been stopped. At every instant death appears to her.
In this state, the hunger in Muhammad's house cries out so loud that the aged, sick Khadijah, who has lived her life in wealth and has now given everything in the way of Muhammad, puts a bit of leather in water and holds it between her teeth.
Fatima, the young, sensitive girl is worried about her mother and her mother is worried about her last, frail daughter whose love for their mother and father is a common expression among the people.
A day among the last days of their imprisonment, Khadijah, who senses the approach of her death, is bedridden. Fatima and Umm Khulthum are sitting beside her. Her father has gone outside to distribute the rations.
Khadijah, aged, weak, sensing the difficulties she has lived through, says with a sense of regret, `If only my approaching death could wait until these dark days pass and I could die with hope and happiness.'
Umm Khulthum, crying, says, 'it is nothing, mother, do not worry.'
'Yes, for me, by God, it is nothing. I am not worried about myself, my daughter. No woman among the Quraish has tasted the blessings that I have tasted. There is no woman in the world who has received the generosity which I have received. It is enough for me that my fate in this life, in this world, has been to be the beloved wife of God's choice. As to my fate in the other world, it is enough that I have been among the first who believed in Muhammad and that I am called `the mother of his followers'.' Then whispering to herself, she continues, 'Oh God, I cannot count the blessings and kindnesses that you have given me. My heart has not grown narrow because I am moving towards you, but I do wish to be worthy of the benefits you gave me.'
The shadow of death falls upon the house. Silence and deep sorrow fill Khadijah, Umm Khulthum and Fatima. Suddenly, the Prophet appears illuminated with hope, faith, strength and victory. It is as if three years of loneliness, hunger and heavy spiritual asceticism have had no effect upon the body and spirit of the Prophet other than to increase his courage, will power and faith.