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Confinement of the Prophet (PBUH) & his family in valley of Abu Talib (Part 10)

SHAFAQNA- The black and difficult years of hunger began in the valley of Abu Talib. The Hashimi and Abdul-Muttalib families were imprisoned with the exception of Abu Lahab who has joined the enemies. Men, women and children were placed in this hot, dry valley. A notice was written by Abu Jahl, in the name of all the wealthy people of the Quraysh, and it was placed on the Kabah wall: No one should have any contact with the Hashimi tribe. 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 were forced to live in this stony prison until loneliness, poverty, hunger and the difficulties of life made them surrender to either the idols or to death! They all had to bear torture both those who had accepted the new religion and those who have not yet turned to the new religion.

Those who had not yet embraced Islam, nevertheless admired Muhammad (PBUH) and presented a united front to the enemy. They defended him and even though they did not know Islam, they knew the Prophet. They had faith in his purity. They knew he was not interested in personal gain. They sensed his faith. They heard what he had to say about the worship of the Truth. They knew he sincerely wished to free the people.

They were worth far more than the intellectuals filled with fear such as conservatives like Ali ibn Umayyid, who, having discovered progressive ideology, supposedly opposed reactionaries, the foulness of aristocratic society and the Arab regime with its class distinctions. Yet, these same people, knowing all of this, in order to protect the wealth of their fathers, their social position and physical health remained on the side of Abu Jahl and Abu Lahab. They watched the torture of Balal, Ammar, Yasser and Somayyeh. They did not move their lips to object.

Throughout these difficult years, these men left their compatriots and their friends in this small compound, alone. They busied themselves with their lives in the bazaar, their homes and families. They past their time with the pagan leaders. They even joined hands. Years later, the followers of this way and its religion were more than the followers of the religion of the Prophet (PBUH) himself.

On the opposite side was Ali (AS), Abu Dharr (RA), Fatimah (SA), Hussain (AS), Zaynab (SA) and all of the Emigrants and Companions. But those like Ali ibn Umayyid were the first Muslims to continue the practice of dissimulation even though the Prophet (PBUH) had forbidden it. They remained loyal to this principle and did not relinquish it until their death.

It is when the fire of a new faith lights up their spirits and a movement full of danger begins in society (based upon experiment, choice and obligatory tests in which one speaks to the self clearly and without deceit) that the wonders of humanity appear. The glories were accompanied by feelings of inferiority, by feelings of strength as well as weakness. All these were hidden within the spirit, and all of them revealed themselves.

Now in this frightening compound were people who, although not Muslims, yet bore the difficulties with patience, silence and three years of hunger and loneliness. They shared the shadow of danger. They also took part in God’s great revolution for humanity. In this most sensitive moment of the beginning of the history of Islam, they shared the pain, and understood the position of the Prophet (PBUH) and his Companions

But the black cloud of ignorance covered the comfortable and happy city filled with conservatism, contradiction, and shamelessness. Some Muslims could be seen whose skirts were contaminated and their hands frail. They were busy gaining security and comfort. Were they the viewers or the players in this tragedy? The question arises because in their imagination they believed they had religion. They loved religious people. They felt themselves to be enlightened.

The families of the Hashimi tribes cut themselves off for three years from their city, their people, their freedom and even their means of livelihood and lived in this confinement. Was it possible to leave the valley in the middle of the night and, hidden from the eyes of the spies of the Quraysh, get food for the hungry waiting in jail? Could it be that a liberal family member or friend might, out of kindness, bring some bread. Hunger sometimes reached the point that they looked like ‘black death’. But as they had prepared themselves for a ‘red death’, they were patient.

Saied ibn Ali Vaqas, confined with the others, wrote, ‘Hunger had brought on such dizziness that, if at night I kicked a soft, wet material, without even realizing it, I would put it in my mouth and suck it. Two years later, I still do not know what it was.’

All of the Prophet’s (PBUH) family bore the difficulties of hunger, loneliness and poverty for his sake. The Prophet personally assumed responsibility for them. When a child cried from the pain of hunger, when a sick person cried from lack of medicine and lack of food, when an aged person (man or woman) reached the limits of suffering after three years of hunger, physical torture and the rigors of the climate, they hid all the suffering within themselves. The light and blood drained from the* faces, yet they denied any problems when speaking to the Prophet (PBUH).

At the same time, despite all the difficulties, they remained loyal and generous in faith and love. All of this was an expressions of spirit and of faith and greatly affected the sensitive heart of the Prophet (PBUH).

Know for sure that whenever food arrived in the darkness of the night and was given to the Prophet to be shared among the people, the portion of his wife and daughter was the least of all. The family of the Prophet (PBUH), in this compound, consisted of Khadija, the small daughter, Fatima, and her sisters, Umm Kulthum and Ruqiya, the daughters-in-law of Abu Lahab. After the mission of the Prophet (PBUH), Abu Lahab ordered his sons to divorce Ruqiya and Umm Kulthum in order to hurt and show contempt for the Prophet (PBUH).

But Uthman, a young, wealthy, hand-some man, married Ruqiya thus answering the act of Abu Lahab. Ruqiya then immigrated to Ethiopia with Uthman. Umm Kulthum, whose life had fallen apart and who had lost her happiness because of her faith in her father, now found herself in the compound. She preferred 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, Utayba.

The days passed with difficulty in this compound separated from life. At night, the black tent of darkness fell upon the residents of this mountainous area. Weeks, months and years of hardship passed slowly over their tired bodies and spirits, but all continued in sympathy with each other and with the Prophet (PBUH). The family of the Prophet (PBUH) had a special position in the midst of this group. The head of the family bore the heavy weight of their bitter fate upon his shoulders.

Umm Kulthum, her happiness destroyed, had moved from the home of her husband to that of her father. His other daughter, Fatimah (SA) was still a young girl of either two or three or twelve or thirteen depending on whose reckoning we follow. She has a weak constitution, but a sensitive spirit full of feelings.

Khadija (SA), his wife, had lived through the ten years of the Prophet’s (PBUH) mission and three years in the compound. She had suffered hunger. She had witnessed the constant torture of her husband and daughters. She had borne the death of her two sons. She has not lost patience, but her body had been severely weakened. At every instant death appeared to her. In this state, hunger cried out so loud that the aged, sick Khadija (who had lived her life in wealth and had now given everything in the way of the Prophet (PBUH)) put a bit of leather in water and held it between her teeth.

Fatimah (SA), the young, sensitive girl was worried about her mother. Her mother was worried about her last, frail daughter whose great love for her mother and father was common knowledge among the people. In the last days of their imprisonment, Khadija, who sensed the approach of death, was bedridden. Fatima and Umm Kulthum sat beside her. Her father had gone outside to distribute the rations. Khadija, aged, weak, remembering the difficulties she had lived through, said 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 Kulthum, crying, said, “It is nothing, mother, do not worry.” Her mother replied, “Yes, for me, by God, it is nothing. I am not worried about myself, my daughter. No woman among the Quraysh 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 the Prophet and that I am called ‘the mother of his followers’.” Then whispering to herself, she continued, “O 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 fell upon the house. Silence and deep sorrow filled Khadija (SA), Umm Kulthum and Fatima. Suddenly, the Prophet appeared illuminated with hope, faith, strength and victory. It was as if three years of loneliness, hunger and heavy spiritual asceticism had produced no effect upon the body and spirit of the Prophet (PBUH) other than to increase his courage, will power and faith.


Part of a Series:  Fatemeh is Fatemeh by Dr Ali Shariati

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