Episode 13: Boycott of Bani Hashim
The spread of Islam among the tribes further aggravated the resentment of the Quraysh. They came together and decided to draw up a decree ostracizing Bani Hashim and Bani ‘Abdul Muttalib. It was decided that nobody should marry the women of these two clans nor give their women to them in marriage; neither should they buy from nor sell to them. Having solemnly agreed to these points, the agreement was put into writing and the parchment was hung in the Ka?bah in order to give it a religious sanction thereby making it mandatory for all.
THE VALLEY OF SH’EB ABI TALIB
Bani Hashim and Bani Abdul Muttalib joined Abu Talib after the boycott was enforced and withdrew to a narrow glen or wadi known as Sh’eb Abi Talib. It was the seventh year of the Prophet?s peace be and blessings upon him mission. Abu Lahab Ibn ‘Abdul Muttalib, however, decided to join with the Quraysh, leaving his kith and kin covered by the ban. Weeks and months had passed, and the people of Hashim lived in misery and hunger. The ban was so rigorously enforced that the Prophet?s peace be and blessings upon him clan was reduced to eating acacia leaves and the cries of hungry children reverberated all over the valley. The caravans passed peacefully through the streets of Makkah but the Quraysh told the merchants not to buy from or sell anything to the two forsaken clans. This resulted to the prices being pegged so high that it was extremely impossible for the beleaguered people to purchase even their basic necessities.
The decree of proscription lasted for three years and for the same number of years Bani Hashim and Bani ‘Abdul Muttalib lived in exile and endured the hardships of a blockade. But not all Quraysh people were utterly humiliated and deprived. Those of them who were good-natured and kindhearted occasionally supplied food secretly to those who are in exile. However, the Prophet peace be and blessings upon him never ceased preaching the message he had brought to his own people and even towards others, whenever he got the opportunity. Bani Hashim on their part endured every trouble with exemplary patience and fortitude.
ANNULMENT OF THE DECREE
The pitiable condition of the exiles gave rise to a feeling of resentment against the ban confronting the gracious and genial sons of the desert. Hisham Ibn ‘Amr Ibn Rabi’a took the initiative to end the boycott. He was amiable and kindhearted, as well as highly esteemed by the Quraysh. He approached some other considerate and well?disposed persons and put them to shame for allowing tyranny to linger on. At last, Hisham, supported by four other persons agreed to stand together till the decree of boycott was cancelled. Then, when the Quraysh had assembled in the sanctuary, Zuhayr whose mother ‘Atika was daughter of ‘Abdul Muttalib, cried out to the people, “O ye people of Makkah, shall we eat and drink while Bani Hashim should die of hunger, unable even to buy or sell? By God I will not take rest until this cruel and unjust decree is torn into pieces.”
Abu Jahl tried to intervene but found everybody against him. Mut’im Ibn ‘Adiy then went up to tear the document into pieces but discovered that with the exception of the words “In Your Name, O Allah” the rest of the document had already been eaten up by white ants. The Prophet peace be and blessings upon him had already told his uncle, Abu Talib, that God has given the white ants power over the document. The blighted document was, however, taken out and thrown away and thus ended the boycott and everything that was written on it. (Ibn Hisham, Vol. I, pp. 350?51).