10.1 The Boycott
Quraysh were constantly seeking an effective means of paralyzing Mohamed's call. After much deliberation they decided to make a covenant against Mohamed, his clan and tribe, Banu Hashim and Banu Abdul-Muttalib, and all the Muslims. There was to be a complete boycott, social and economic. They would not buy or sell to them, they would not marry with them nor give them their daughters in marriage. They wrote down this covenant and hung it, like all-important proclamations, on the wall of the Kaaba. This covenant meant the financial ruin of both Mohamed's people and the Muslims, but they never thought of abandoning Mohamed and his message. They had to take refuge in a gulley in the mountains where they lived a life of hardship and severe deprivation, but they were strengthened by their faith and with the belief that they were doing the right thing.
Then Quraysh went to the three men who were married to Mohamed's three eldest daughters and asked them to divorce their wives. They said,
"You have taken a burden off Mohamed, return them to him. Let him be occupied with them."
Two of the Prophet's daughters were married to the two sons of Abu Lahab, Mohamed's uncle and bitter enemy, a man who collected much wealth but did nobody any good by it. The third daughter, Zaynab, was married to Abul-As, a cousin of Khadija. The two sons of Abu Lahab divorced their wives, according to the wishes of Quraysh and their father. But Abul-As, although he had not entered into Islam, refused to take orders from Quraysh or divorce his wife according to their bidding. Abul-As was a courageous and honorable man, as will be revealed later.
This boycott began in the seventh year of Mohamed's calling and it lasted for three years. During those three years, Mohamed's people lived in a state of near starvation, besieged in the mountain heights. They were eating up their capital, their children were growing hungry and thin, their elderly were becoming weaker day by day, but they would not bow to the tyranny of Quraysh.
Quraysh had meant this boycott to be a lesson for would be Muslims, a deterrent against Islam, but the Muslims suffered it with patience and courage. What Mohamed himself suffered with perseverance and fortitude (he used to place stones inside his waistband to quell the pangs of hunger), earned him the sympathy and respect of many. He used to descend once a year during the Sacred Months to address the pilgrims, and the pilgrims responded with sympathy and admiration for the man who had endured so much for what he believed.
Some of the Qurayshis themselves were appalled at their own cruelty to their kin. One of them, Hisham ibn Amr, used to sneak out at night with camels carrying food until he reached the place where they lived. Then he would whip the camels to run forward into the Muslim camp.