The rancour which the Shia harbour for the noble Sahabah radiya Llahu ‘anhum needs no introduction and it is quite commonplace to find them levelling unfounded tenuous accusations against the esteemed companions and students of Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam on account of their bigotry. One such accusation has been levelled against Sayyidina Abu Bakr and Sayyidina ‘Umar radiya Llahu `anhuma, that they were not present during the boycott upon Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam and the Muslims. This article explains the true nature of events — in light of authentic narration — and exposes the feeble conjecture of the Shia.
Question Regarding the Boycott in the Valley of Abu Talib
بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
الحمد لله رب العالمين الذي اصطفى من خلقه أنبياء رحمة للعلويين والسفليين وجعلهم ذروة للمؤمنين وقادة هداة للمسلمين فوفقهم لرفعة شان الدين والصلوة والسلام على أفضلهم وأتقاهم محمد سيد المرسلين وخاتم النبيين الذي نزل على قلبه روح الأمين بتنزيل رب العلمين وعلى آله العترة الطيبة والأزواج الطاهرة وأصحابه الكرمة البررة المتقين سيما الخلفاء الراشدين المهديين الذين أنشئهم المولى لنصرة دينه القوي المتين ورباهم الرسول على الهدى والتقى والنقاء هداية لخير أمته إلى يوم الدين وعلمهم الكتاب والسنة أزكى تعليم من الأسلاف إلى الخالفين وزكاهم أحسن تزكية من الأولين والآخرين فصاروا بتربية شموسا ونجوما في الهداية والتعليم والتزكية لملته أجمعين فنصر الله من أتبعهم بالإحسان مرضيين وخذل من في قلبه زيغ وبعض لهؤلاء سادة المسلمين رضي الله عنهم أجمعين
History bears testimony to the fact that the Quraysh of Makkah Mukarramah had completely boycotted Rasulullah salla Llahu alayhi wa sallam for three years. Abu Talib took the entire tribe of Banu Hashim to the valley known as Shi’ab Abu Talib. The Banu Hashim spent these three years in extreme difficulty and plight. Where were Abu Bakr radiya Llahu anhu and ‘Umar radiya Llahu anhu in this time? If they could not go into Shi’ab Abi Talib with Rasulullah salla Llahu alayhi wa sallam, then why did they not help Rasulullah salla Llahu alayhi wa sallam with water or provision at any time, whereas Zuhayr ibn Umayyah ibn Mughirah had encouraged his friends to break the boycott agreement?
A number of points need to be taken into consideration first, from which the reality of this objection will become clear. We need to first determine why did the incident of the boycott take place? Were all Muslims boycotted, even if not from the Banu Hashim? Were the Muslims able to send aid in the form of food and provisions to those who were boycotted? As for the first issue (why the boycott took place), all historians agree that after the uncle of Rasulullah salla Llahu alayhi wa sallam, Sayyid al Shuhad’a’ Hamzah ibn ‘Abd al Muttalib and Sayyidina ‘Umar Ibn al Khattab radiya Llahu anhuma accepted Islam, the world of disbelief and polytheism was shaken. This prompted the disbelievers to take radical steps to stem the growth of Islam. The disbelievers even suggested executing Rasulullah salla Llahu alayhi wa sallam (we seek the protection of Allah). In accordance to Arab custom, Abu Talib had gathered the Banu Hashim and Banu ‘Abd al Muttalib, which was protocol of that time, and decided to take refuge in the valley; so that the disbelievers will be unable to attack them all at once. Thus, the disbelievers prepared a document wherein the tribes agreed to boycott the Muslims, which was subsequently hung in the Ka’bah. The document placed restrictions on dealing with the Banu Hashim, marrying them and on providing provisions to them. The famous historian, al Tabari, states:
فلما أسلم عمر وجعل الإسلام يفشوا في القبائل وحمى النجاشي من ضوى إلى بلده منهم أجتمعت قريش فأتمرت بينها ان يكتبوا بينهم كتابا يتعاقدون فيه على ان لا ينكحوا إلى بني هاشم وبني المطلب ولا ينكحوهم
When ‘Umar radiya Llahu anhu accepted Islam, and Islam began spreading amongst the different tribes, and al Najashi gave asylum to the Muslims who sought it from him, the Quraysh gathered and decided to write a document stipulating that none will marry any of the Banu Hashim and Banu Muttalib and none will give their relatives to them in marriage.
Moreover, in volume 2, page 335, it states that Sayyidina ‘Umar ibn al Khattab radiya Llahu anhu – May thousands of the mercies of Allah descend upon him – embraced Islam, and he was a resolute, strong and formidable individual. Sayyidina Hamzah ibn ‘Abd al Muttalib radiya Llahu anhu had also embraced Islam just before him, resulting in the companions of Rasulullah salla Llahu alayhi wa sallam finding strength; and as a result Islam began to spread in the tribes. Hafiz Ibn Kathir rahimahu Llah (d. 680 A.H) reports in al Bidayah wa al Nihayah, on the authority of Ibn Ishaq:
‘Umar accepted Islam, and he was an awe-inspiring individual. None could grumble or dispute in front of him. The Sahabah of Rasulullah salla Llahu alayhi wa sallam were protected by means of him and Hamzah, to the extent that the Quraysh were angered.
Sayyidina ‘Abd Allah ibn Mas’ud radiya Llahu anhu used to say:
We could not perform salah at the Ka’bah but when ‘Umar embraced Islam, he fought the disbelievers of the Quraysh and performed salah at the Ka’bah, and we used to perform it with him.
It is reported in Sahih al Bukhari that Sayyidina Ibn Mas’ud radiya Llahu anhu said:
We have not ceased being honoured from the day ‘Umar embraced Islam.’
He also said:
The Islam of ‘Umar was a victory (for Islam), his migration (to Madinah) a help, and his khilafah was a mercy (for Islam). We could not perform salah at the Ka’bah at first, until ‘Umar embraced Islam. He fought the Quraysh, and he performed salah at the Ka’bah and we performed salah with him.
In the Shia book, Rowdat al Safa (vol. 2 p. 49) with reference to Kashf al Asrar (p. 15), the following is written with regards to the reason for the boycott:
By Hamzah and ‘Umar embracing Islam, Islam was elevated, and as a result the Quraysh plotted to kill Rasulullah salla Llahu alayhi wa sallam. Abu Talib came to know of this, and gathered the Banu Hashim and Banu Muttalib; seeking their assistance and protection for Rasulullah salla Llahu alayhi wa sallam. By their consensus, they went to the valley of Abu Talib.
We learn from these clear Sunni and Shia texts that after Sayyidina Hamzah and Sayyidina ‘Umar radiya Llahu anhuma embraced Islam, a revolution began. The disbelievers were infuriated on seeing the widespread propagation of Islam amongst the various tribes, resulting in the mentioned cause of action. Now in terms of intelligence, it is far-fetched to believe that the disbelievers would leave alone the very person whose acceptance of Islam had so enraged them, such that this fury led them to even call for the execution of Rasulullah salla Llahu alayhi wa sallam. In fact, in Sahih al Bukhari (vol. 1 p. 542) it is clearly stated that when Sayyidina ‘Umar radiya Llahu anhu embraced Islam, he informed Abu Jahl and other leaders of the Quraysh of his new faith, and even fought the disbelievers of when they attacked him. As a result, the disbelievers of Makkah laid siege to his house, with the intention to kill him, and their numbers filled the streets. Sayyidina ‘Umar radiya Llahu anhu was trapped in his home. One of the leaders, ‘As ibn Wa’il, gave him protection and the disbelievers returned to their homes. In accordance to the information at our disposal, all the disbelievers had plotted to kill Rasulullah salla Llahu alayhi wa sallam before the night of migration and before the departure to the valley, and thereafter Sayyidina ‘Umar radiya Llahu anhu. It can be gauged from this that the disbelievers harboured the same enmity for Sayyidina ‘Umar radiya Llahu anhu as they did for Rasulullah salla Llahu alayhi wa sallam. If he is not regarded to have been present in the valley during the boycott, then the siege on his home was even worse; wherein the swords of the entire city were raised just outside his door. As for the second issue (were other Muslims also boycotted), our view is that other Muslims were also included in the boycott together with the Banu Hashim. Instead of a siege on their homes, it was a source of honour for them to be boycotted along with their beloved Rasul salla Llahu alayhi wa sallam, and share in the difficulty he endured. Akbar Khan Najibabadi mentioned the following sentence repeatedly, concerning the incident of the valley:
Whatever amount of Muslims there were, they too were with the Banu Hashim in this difficulty, known famously as Shi’ab Abi Talib.
He writes regarding the end of the boycott:
The Banu Hashim and all the Muslims came out after three years and they returned to Makkah and began living in their homes. In the valley of Abu Talib, the Muslims were restless because of hunger and most of them would eat the leaves of the trees. The condition of some reached the extent that if they found a dry skin; they would clean it, soften it, put it on the fire, roast it and chew it.
It is apparent that Sayyidina Abu Bakr and Sayyidina ‘Umar radiya Llahu anhuma were part of the group of Muslims. They too went into the valley and were boycotted. Mowlana ‘Abd al Shakur Lakhnawi rahimahu Llah has clearly mentioned in Khulafa’-e Rashidin that Sayyidina Abu Bakr radiya Llahu anhu was with Rasulullah salla Llahu alayhi wa sallam in the valley, as one of his attributes. Sayyidina Abu Bakr radiya Llahu anhu shared in this difficulty, he accompanied Rasulullah salla Llahu alayhi wa sallam in the valley, where he too stayed. When Allah delivered Rasulullah salla Llahu alayhi wa sallam from this difficulty, then Sayyidina Abu Bakr radiya Llahu anhu (and the other Muslims) were also saved. Abu Talib mentions this incident in the following poem:
فسر أبو بكر بها ومحمد
وهم رجعوا سهل بن بيضاء راضيا
They (the Quraysh) sent back Sahl ibn Bayda’ pleased (upon the breaking of the pact),
This pleased Abu Bakr and Muhammad salla Llahu alayhi wa sallam.
This incident is also mentioned in al Isti’ab of ‘Allamah Ibn ‘Abd al Barr rahimahu Llah. We learn from this poem that according to Abu Talib, Sayyidina Abu Bakr radiya Llahu anhu was a sincere believer and devout companion, as only then would Abu Talib have mentioned his joy upon the termination of the boycott. The non-Hashimi, Sayyidina Sa’d ibn Abi Waqqas radiya Llahu anhu — conqueror of Iran (whose full name was Sa’d ibn Malik ibn Wuhayb ibn ‘Abd Manaf ibn Zuhra ibn Kilab) — one of the ten promised Jannat; narrates that once he laid his hands on a dry piece of skin at night. He washed it and then roasted it on fire; he then mixed it with water and drank it. The following is stated in Hayat al Sahabah (vol. 2 p. 324), with reference from Hilyat al Awliya’ (vol. 1 p. 93) on the authority of Sayyidina Sa’d radiya Llahu anhu:
We are the people who stayed with Rasulullah salla Llahu alayhi wa sallam in Makkah. Our lives and the life of Rasulullah salla Llahu alayhi wa sallam were marked with severe hardship and difficulty. When we were in this difficulty (during the boycott in the valley), we became accustomed to poverty, want and adversity. We bore all of this with patience and tolerance. Whilst staying with Rasulullah salla Llahu alayhi wa sallam in Makkah, I awoke to relieve myself in the darkness of the night. I heard a scratching sound, and when I looked carefully, I discovered that it was a piece of camel skin. I picked it up, washed it, then burnt it and crushed it into powder using two stones. I then gulped it down with water. I sufficed on this for three days.
The Shia scholar, Mulla Baqir Majlisi also writes:
It is narrated in the Tafsir of Imam Hassan al ’Askari that the disbelievers of the Quraysh forced Rasulullah salla Llahu alayhi wa sallam to take refuge in the valley of Abu Talib and they appointed guards at the entrance to the valley who stopped any provision from going in. The companions of Rasulullah salla Llahu alayhi wa sallam (Banu Hashim and non-Banu Hashim) experienced difficulty. They complained of hunger to Rasulullah salla Llahu alayhi wa sallam, so Allah Taʿâlâ brought down food for them that was better than Mann and Salwa of the Bani Isra’il and whoever among them desired to eat any type of fruit, or clothing, it would reach them.
We learn that the Sahabah of Rasulullah salla Llahu alayhi wa sallam endured the poverty stricken conditions, and no provision could reach them from outside. This is because the disbelievers had appointed guards, such that even if someone tried to assist the Muslims, he was unable to; making any form of trade or assistance impossible.
With regards to the third issue, Rowdat al Safa’ (vol. 2 p. 49) states:
After the Muslims entered the valley, they had to endure extremely difficult conditions. If any of the Muslims wandered out of the valley, the disbelievers would assault them; and none of them were allowed to leave the valley, except during the season of hajj and ‘umrah. Even during the hajj season, hard-hearted polytheists like Abu Jahl, Nadr ibn Harith, ‘As ibn Wa’il, ‘Uqbah ibn Abi Mu’it and others would stand on the roads and tell the people who would bring food items to sell in Makkah: “Whoever of you sells to Muhammad and his companions, his wealth will be destroyed.”
If they saw any of the Sahabah of Rasulullah salla Llahu alayhi wa sallam buying during the visiting season or during tawaf, they would increase the price until the poor Muslim became despondent. Now, be just and explain, in these conditions, how could a Muslim have the ability to buy anything and send it to Rasulullah salla Llahu alayhi wa sallam? How could he be saved from being captured by the disbelievers? There was one of two choices; either the sympathetic disbelievers would do this, as is mentioned in the question, or they smuggled the aid into the valley. How could such secret activity have reached us in the form of narrations? Assuming that Sayyidina Abu Bakr radiya Llahu anhu and Sayyidina ‘Umar radiya Llahu anhu (if it is accepted that they were not in the valley with Rasulullah salla Llahu alayhi wa sallam) or any other Muslim managed to get grain and water to the Muslims, then how could news of this reach us? Aside from having to conceal their activities from the polytheist guards, they still saw no need to relate their activities to anyone since Muslims assist each other (and do not feel the need to inform everyone of their generosity). However, with regards to others —such as Zuhayr ibn Umayyah, who was of the disbelievers who sent aid to the Muslims and attempted to end the boycott — it would only be befitting to recount their assistance, which in turn formed part history. The believers according to the Shia; viz. Sayyidina ‘Ammar, Sayyidina Miqdad and Sayyidina Abu Dhar al Ghiffari radiya Llahu anhum were also non-Hashimi. Is this deed proven from them also? If it cannot be, then is it not bias to only direct this criticism towards Sayyidina Abu Bakr and Sayyidina ‘Umar radiya Llahu anhuma only? In essence, the entire Banu Hashim, except for Abu Lahab and his sons were imprisoned, accompanied with a number of Sahabah radiya Llahu anhum. Those Muslims who did not accompany them were under house arrest, and none of them were free to trade. The manner in which they survived and lived is unknown to us. Sayyidina Abu Bakr and Sayyidina ‘Umar radiya Llahu anhuma were imprisoned with Rasulullah salla Llahu alayhi wa sallam and suffered alongside him. ven if they were in their homes, then too they were under house arrest. When no one could speak openly, no one could trade, and there were harsh restrictions on meeting with Rasulullah salla Llahu alayhi wa sallam; only the lovers and sympathisers can imagine the difficulty experienced. What will those who harbour hatred and malice for the Sahabah radiya Llahu anhum and Ahlul Bayt know of this? They only know how to criticise and hurt the heart of Rasulullah salla Llahu alayhi wa sallam.
The Hardships Endured by Sayyidina Abu Bakr and Sayyidina ‘Umar
The Shia objectors intend to paint a picture of the Banu Hashim being the sole targets of the persecution of the disbelievers, while Sayyidina Abu Bakr, Sayyidina ‘Umar and the other Sahabah radiya Llahu anhum endured nothing; whereas the reality is contrary to this. There were a few people of the Banu Hashim who were blessed with iman in the initial stages, and they too enjoyed the protection of Abu Talib, who was the head of the family and followed the same religion as the Quraysh, thus shielding them from the persecution. The disbelievers honoured him and they would barely harm any member of the Banu Hashim. The real difficulty was borne by the slaves, such as Sayyidina Yasir, Sayyidina ‘Ammar ibn Yasir, Sayyidah Sumayyah, Sayyidina Bilal, Sayyidina Abu Fakiyyah, Sayyidah Zinnirah, Sayyidina Khabbab ibn Arat, Sayyidina Abu Dhar al Ghiffari, Sayyidina Zubayr ibn ‘Awwam, Sayyidina Talhah ibn ‘Ubayd Allah, Sayyidina Sa’id ibn Zaid and his wife — Sayyidah Fatimah bint al Khattab, Sayyidina Mus’ab ibn ‘Umayr, and Sayyidina ‘Uthman ibn Maz’un radiya Llahu anhum. Aside from Sayyidina Abu Dhar and Sayyidina ‘Ammar radiya Llahu anhuma, the Shia have no consideration for any of the others. Although Sayyidina Abu Bakr and Sayyidina ‘Umar radiya Llahu anhuma were nobles of their families, they were made the foremost targets of persecution, on account of their allegiance to their beloved leader, Sayyidina Muhammad salla Llahu alayhi wa sallam. A few examples will be presented: 1. The Shia scholar ‘Ali ibn ‘Isa al Arbili writes:
ونوفل بن خويلد كان من أشد المشركين عداوة لرسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم وهو الذي قرن أبا بكر بطلحة قبل الهجرة بمكة وأوثقهما بجبل وعذبهما يوما إلى الليل حتى سئل في أمرهما
Nowfal ibn Khuwaylid was the harshest in his enmity for Rasulullah salla Llahu alayhi wa sallam. Before hijrah, he tied Talhah and Abu Bakr with a rope and punished them from morning till night, until people began to ask with regards to them.
2. Sayyidah ‘A’ishah radiya Llahu anha narrates that when there were thirty-eight Sahabah radiya Llahu anhum with Rasulullah salla Llahu alayhi wa sallam, then Sayyidina Abu Bakr radiya Llahu anhu insisted that now we will openly preach. Rasulullah salla Llahu alayhi wa sallam said: “O Abu Bakr, we are few in number right now.” However, Sayyidina Abu Bakr radiya Llahu anhu insisted, and subsequently, Rasulullah salla Llahu alayhi wa sallam began preaching openly. Sayyidina Abu Bakr radiya Llahu anhu (one day) stood up to preach and Rasulullah salla Llahu alayhi wa sallam was also present. He was the first khatib in Islam that called to Allah and His Rasul salla Llahu alayhi wa sallam. The mushrikin pounced on Sayyidina Abu Bakr radiya Llahu anhu and the Muslims from all sides, and they mercilessly assaulted them. They struck Sayyidina Abu Bakr radiya Llahu anhu savagely and trampled upon him. ‘Utbah ibn Rabi’ah came close to Sayyidina Abu Bakr radiya Llahu anhu and struck him with his shoes. He also hit him on the face, and on his back. Sayyidina Abu Bakr radiya Llahu anhu was so injured that his face could not be recognised. He fell unconscious, and when he regained consciousness, he first enquired about the well-being of Rasulullah salla Llahu alayhi wa sallam.
3. When Sayyidina ‘Umar radiya Llahu anhu became a Muslim, then he would go to the gatherings of the disbelievers and openly announce: “I testify that there is none worthy of worship but Allah and I testify that Muhammad is His servant and Rasul.” All the disbelievers would fall upon him. Sayyidina ‘Umar radiya Llahu anhu would fight them — by himself — until the sun would reach its zenith. Sayyidina ‘Umar radiya Llahu anhu would get tired, sit down and say: “Do whatever you want. I take an oath in the name of Allah, if we become three hundred, then we shall overpower or you will remain.”
4. When the entire city prepared to kill Sayyidina ‘Umar radiya Llahu anhu when he accepted Islam, and he was forced to seclude himself in his home, then Abu ‘Umar ‘As ibn Wa’il al Sahmi came and drove the disbelievers away from him.
5. Muhammad ibn Ibrahim al Taymi says that when Sayyidina ‘Uthman radiya Llahu anhu accepted Islam, then his uncle, Hakam ibn Abu al ’As ibn Umayyah, tied him in ropes and said: “You have turned to a new religion, away from the religion of your forefathers? By Allah, I shall keep you tied as long as you do not leave this religion.” Sayyidina ‘Uthman radiya Llahu anhu said: “I shall never leave this religion.” When Hakam saw his resolute state, he left him. Besides Rasulullah salla Llahu alayhi wa sallam, we do not have knowledge of such incidents from Sayyidina ‘Ali radiya Llahu anhu or any other of the Banu Hashim.
Sayyidina Abu al ’As Would Send Provisions
Evil be upon stubbornness and fanaticism. The objector, mentions Zuhayr ibn Umayyah, but does not mention Sayyidina Abu al ’As ibn Rabi’ radiya Llahu anhu — the son-in-law of Rasulullah salla Llahu alayhi wa sallam — to be among those who sent financial aid. He was the husband of Sayyidah Zainab bint Rasulillah radiya Llahu anha and the nephew of Sayyidah Khadijah radiya Llahu anha. If he were to have been mentioned, then the Shia allegations would have been reduced to dust. Baqir al Majlisi mentions him in high esteem when discussing the incident of the valley:
And Abu al ’As ibn Rabi’, who was the son-in-law of Rasulullah salla Llahu alayhi wa sallam, would load wheat and dates on a camel and take it to the entrance of the valley. He would call and the camel would enter the valley. (The Muslims would unload the grain), then Abu al ’As radiya Llahu anhu would return. This is the reason why Rasulullah salla Llahu alayhi wa sallam would say: “Abu al ’As gave due consideration to being our son-in-law.”
It is worthy of note that Rasulullah salla Llahu alayhi wa sallam referred to Sayyidina Abu al ’As radiya Llahu anhu as his son-in-law (praising him while doing so), and he said with regards to Sayyidina ‘Uthman Dhu al Nurayn radiya Llahu anhu, after the demise of Sayyidah Ruqayyah and Sayyidah Umm Kulthum radiya Llahu anhuma: “If I had another daughter, I would have married her to ‘Uthman.” This particular incident is narrated with authentic chains of narration in the biographical and historical accounts of both the Ahlus Sunnah and Shia. Thus, the Shia denial of the other son-in-laws of Rasulullah salla Llahu alayhi wa sallam, and their disparagement of them, is a blatant dishonesty; and — according to our knowledge — not a single reliable Shia author, historian or muhaddith ever denied the existence of the daughters of Rasulullah salla Llahu alayhi wa sallam or his son’s in-laws. The detailed texts with regards to this will be presented shortly.
 vol. 2 p. 342  Tarikh al Islam p. 113  Ibid p. 104  Khulafa-e Rashidin p. 30  The Banu Hashim are the children of Wuhayb’s brother, Hashim.  Rasul-e Rahmat p. 49, Rowd al Anf with reference to Sirat al Nabi vol. 1 p. 245  Hayat al Qulub vol. 2 p. 311  Kashf al Ghummah of ‘Ali ibn ‘Isa al Arbili al Shia p. 245  Hayat al Sahabah vol. 1 p. 290  Ibid vol. 1 p. 296  Bukhari  Ibn Sa’d, vol. 3 p. 37  Hayat al Qulub, vol. 2 p. 311, the Shia book, I’lam al Wara (p. 61) has the same words.