The years seven to nine of prophethood: The boycott years a three-year-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 -upon him blessings and peace- 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 -upon him blessings and peace-. He gathered the clan of Hashim and Muttalib, urging them to protect the Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- 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 -upon him blessings and peace-, 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 -upon him blessings and peace-, 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 -upon him blessings and peace- 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 -upon him blessings and peace-, and have the Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- take his place.
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.
Amid this crisis, the Messenger of Allah -upon him blessings and peace- and his wife Khadijah -Allah be well-pleased with her- ended up spending all their wealth for relieving the Muslims.
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 -upon him blessings and peace-, 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 -upon him blessings and peace-, even if it meant shedding their last drop of blood.
Once the boycott became unbearable, the Messenger of Allah -upon him blessings and peace- 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 –Allah be well-pleased with him-, 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 -upon him blessings and peace-, “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 -upon him blessings and peace- prayed and down poured the rain. But although the famine ended, the idolaters continued in their old ways.
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)
 Ibn Kathir, al-Bidaya, III, 132.
 Suhaylî, II, 127-128.
 Yakûbî, II, 31.
 Bukhari, Tafsir, 30, 44; Muslim, Munâfiqîn, 40; Ahmed, I, 431, 441.
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