Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Surah Yusuf: The Story That Brings Comfort (Part 2 of 5)

In Part 1, we have seen how devastated the Prophet was with the death of his beloved wife, Khadijah.  That alone was enough to make him sorrowful, but not sufficient for the year to be called the Year of Sorrow.  It is called the Year of Sorrow because he experienced the death of another important person in his life. 

The Prophet was emotionally shattered with the death of his wife, but his life was not in danger because of it.  With the death of Abu Talib, however, even his life was at stake.  His wife gave him emotional and material comforts, but it was his uncle who ensured the safety of his life, not to mention Abu Talib was the one who raised him after his grandfather, Abdul Muttalib, died.  Muhammad was only eight years old then. 

When Muhammad started his mission as the Seal of the Prophets, his movement was so radical to the eyes of his people that the fledgling Islamic community became a serious threat to their social, economic and political orders.  The leaders of Quraysh knew that, in order to solve their problem, they had to go to the source.  The source of their problem was Muhammad. 

They had tried everything they could to stop Muhammad from spreading Islam, including trying to bribe him with the wealth available so that he would be the richest among them, or to offer the most beautiful women, virgins or otherwise, as many as Muhammad fancy, or to be made a king upon them.  The only thing they asked in return was for him to compromise his stand.  They did not even ask him to quit his mission.  All however failed.

The only thing left to do was to kill Muhammad.  This they could not do because Muhammad was protected by his clan Banu Hashim, under the leadership of the much revered elder among the Makkan community, Abu Talib.  If they killed Muhammad, then they have to fight the whole clan of Banu Hashim and their allies.  Needless to say, such a route could spell disaster to the whole of Qurasyh. The leaders of Qurasyh could not afford such a route.

Having failed to influence Muhammad, the leaders of Qurasyh came to Abu Talib, asking him to reason with his nephew, which Abu Talib did, but to no avail.  They then asked him to relinquish his protection to his nephew, which Abu Talib flatly rejected.  Finally, they came to offer Abu Talib to switch Muhammad with one of the finest young men among themselves.  This young man, whose name was 'Amarah bin Al-Walid Mughirah,  will be offered to Abu Talib in exchange of Muhammad, whom they will kill.  This 'Amarah was the brother of Khalid Al Walid, who would one day embrace Islam and become known as the Sword of Allah.

Abu Talib retorted: "You offer me your son so that I feed him, and in exchange I give you my nephew so that you can kill him?  What a lousy offer!"

By then they knew that nothing can persuade Abu Talib to relinquish the protection of his nephew.  Leaving Abu Talib in anger, they exclaimed that Abu Talib had just announced the death of his clan.  And they set their mind to do just that.

The Qurasyh drew the agreement among themselves that from that day onwards, the clan of Banu Hashim shall be completely boycotted.  There shall be no relationship whatsoever between the clan of Banu Hashim and the rest of the clans.  No food should be sold to them, no marriage should be contracted with the Banu Hashim men or women, and no transaction of any kind should take place between the Banu Hashim and the rest of the clans.  Banu Hashim would be left to fend for themselves, starving to death if necessary.

Sensing that his clan was in danger and the life of Muhammad was at stake, Abu Talib took the whole clan and camped outside of Makkah vicinity, leaving their houses behind.  The boycott lasted for three years, during which time many of the children and the weakling among them died of starvation.  It was at this time that the Prophet was reported to resort to eating grass to stay alive.

The boycott was harsh and its impact was devastating.  Though Abu Talib and Khadijah survived the boycott and their spirit remained high, the boycott had taken its toll on their bodies.  In a matter of a few months, both of them died, one after the other.  Their death took place in the tenth year of Muhammad prophethood.

With his uncle death, the Prophet had lost the strong and well respected protector who will ensure that no harm will be inflicted on his body.  His life was by then in grave danger.   The matter became more perilous because the leadership of his clan was transferred to his uncle Abu Lahab, the Prophet's most staunch enemy within his own clan.

Although Abu Lahab used to love Muhammad dearly, and did reason with his father, Abdul Muttalib, for the custody of the boy, arguing that he could take care of the boy better, on account that he was rich, and Abu Talib, his half brother, was poor, their father insisted that the young boy Muhammad be left to the custody of Abu Talib.  For one thing, Abu Talib was the full brother of Muhammad's father, Abdullah.  For another, Abu Talib was a man of better character. 

His father's preference for his half brother, Abu Talib, for the custody of the boy did not, however, reduce Abu Lahab's love for Muhammad.  He continued to love the latter, until Muhammad became a prophet.  Muhammad prophethood, however, had changed all the equation.  From a loving and dotting uncle to a bitter enemy.  He was about the only one in the clan of Banu Hashim who did not mind Muhammad to be killed, as would be the case had the offer made to Abu Talib proven successful.  Even when the boycott occured, he sided with the Quraysh and therefore escaped dire privation.

Thus, when Abu Talib died and the leadership of the clan fell to Abu Lahab's hand, the risk of Muhammad's life became all too real.  What saved the Prophet from getting killed by the Quraysh, apart from his constant precaution and the protection from Allah, was the support he got from the majority of his clan members, especially his uncle Abbas, who was not yet a Muslim at that time, and the others who had already become Muslims, such as Hamzah.  Still, with Abu Lahab at the helm of the clan, the Prophet did feel concerned about the safety of his life.

To top it all, the fledgling Muslims community had ceased to have new convert.  Most of his companions were already exiled in Ethiopia.  Those who remained in Makkah were under constant persecution.  Most of them could not even protect themselves, although they would quickly rise to the Prophet's defence whenever they heard that Muhammad was being harmed.  The vast world felt constricted to them.  They were in dire straits.

Sensing the danger, Muhammad sought new protection outside of Makkah.  He went to nearby city Taif, but instead of embracing him, they welcome him with stones.  Bleeding, Muhammad ran away from Taif as an outcast. 

The spirits of the Prophet and his companions were at their lowest.  Their faith did not falter, but they were looking for some consolation to entertain their gloomy hearts.   Muhammad's companions went to him, asking him to relate the story of the earlier generation which could put their current predicament into perspective. 

It is with that background that the Surah Yusuf was revealed.

The End of Part 2


  1. S.M,

    Thanks for including me in your mailing list. Your blog is a God-sent gift! Just last week I browsed the net looking for a comprehensive history of Islam after our Prophet S.A.W. Thank you for taking the time to put together such an excellent seerah. I really enjoyed this little history lesson. KUDOS!
    Rgds - TSZ

  2. Most welcome TSZ. Your comment makes all these efforts, and it is quite an effort actually, worthwhile.