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Shi'b Abi Talib

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Shi'b Abi Talib (Arabic: شِعب أبي طالب, valley of Abu Talib) is a valley between the Mount Abu Qubays and the Mount Khandama in Mecca. Seven years after Bi'tha, Polytheists of Mecca declared an economic and social boycott on the Prophet Muhammad (s), Banu Hashim and Muslims. So they lived in Shi'b Abi Talib for three years under blockade.

In his letter to Mu'awiya, 'Ali b. Abi Talib (a) mentioned the enmity of Quraysh and their three-year-boycott against Muslims in the valley of Abu Talib.

The valley was owned by 'Abd al-Muttalib and the house of Lady Khadija (a) where she lived with Prophet Muhammad (s), and their children were born in, was located there. The valley is in the east of Ka'ba, next to the place where Sa'y is performed. Because the valley is located close to Ka'ba, it was regarded as the best place in Mecca. As Prophet Muhammad (s) was also born in that region, it is also called as Shi'b al-Mawlid (Arabic: شِعب المولد, the birthplace valley); Lady Fatima (a) was born in this region as well. Today, only a small part of this region, called Suq al-Layl, is left and the other parts were added to al-Masjid al-Haram in different expansions of the mosque.

Concept and Names

A valley, a route on the mountain, and a way between two mountains are called shi'b.

This valley belonged to Banu Hashim and it was called differently in different times including Shi'b Banu Hashim, Shi'b Abi Talib, Shi'b 'Ali b. Abi Talib (a), and Shi'b Abi Yusuf.

Geographical Location

This Shi'b is located near al-Masjid al-Haram and behind Safa and Marwa mountains. It was between Mount Abu Qubays and Mount Khandama. When a person exits al-Masjid al-Haram from Bab al-'Abbas gate, 'Ali gate, or al-Salam gate and passes Mas'a (the place sa'y is performed) an open space can be seen which is located below the Mount Abu Qubays which is the exact location of Shi'b Abi Talib. Today, only a small part of it is remained which is called Suq al-Layl located on the mountain opposite from Mas'a. Most of the historical houses and places of Shi'b Abi Talib are currently added to al-Masjid al-Haram in different expansions.

Some have regarded that al-Hajun Cemetery (Al-Ma'lat Cemetery) where Abu Talib is buried as part of Shi'b Abi Talib by mistake, while he was buried in the cemetery of Mecca which was located out the city.

Living Place of Banu Hashim

When Qusayy b. Kilab came to power in Mecca, he settled every tribe of Quraysh in a region in Mecca. He chose Wajh al-Ka'ba which was in front of the door of Ka'ba to his family and his children 'Abd Manaf and 'Abd al-Dar; it included Shi'b Abi Talib toward al-Ma'lat. As this valley was the closest place to Ka'ba, it was regarded as the best region in Mecca. The valley was owned by 'Abd al-Muttalib and he gave it to his children in the last years of his life; 'Abd Allah, Prophet Muhammad's (s) father was also given a part of that land.

The birthplace of the Prophet (s) is the only historical place remaining in the Shi'b Abi Talib. The building is now used as a library.

In addition, because Prophet Muhammad (s) was born in that Shi'b, then it was also called as Shi'b al-Mawlid (the birthplace valley). The house of Khadija (s) where she and Prophet Muhammad (s) were living was also located in this valley. Also Lady Fatima (s) was born in that house and 'Abd Allah b. al-'Abbas was born and lived there as well.

Boycott of Banu Hashim

The boycott of Banu Hashim was the most important report on the Shi'b Abi Talib. On the first of Muharram in the seventh year after Bi'tha/Septermber 22, 616, a number of clans of Quraysh declared economic and social boycott against Prophet Muhammad (s), Banu Hashim and Banu 'Abd al-Muttalib except for Abu Lahab and his children and they were forced to live with massive difficulties for three years.

The leaders of Quraysh were irritated with the influence and astonishing expansion of Muslims and they tried to find a solution. When Hamza b. 'Abd al-Muttalib converted to Islam and young members of Quraysh showed tendencies toward Islam, besides considering the freedom of Muslims in Abyssinia, Quraysh leaders were stunned as their plans failed to succeed. Therefore, they decided to declare economic and social boycott against Banu Hashim in order to stop increasing influence and expansion of Islam.

Treaty of Polytheists

The Polytheist held a meeting in Dar al-Nadwa and they drew up a treaty written by Mansur b. 'Akrama and signed by the supreme members of Quraysh council which was hanged inside Ka'ba. They took an oath that Quraysh clans would follow its principles until their last breath. Its principles were:

  • Ban of trading with supporters of Muhammad (s),
  • Ban of having relations and social interactions with Muslims,
  • Ban of marrying with them,
  • Its principles could only be breached if they had surrendered Prophet Muhammad (s) to be killed.

The text of this treaty was signed by all the prominent members of Quraysh except for Mut'im b. 'Adi and its principles were effectively administrated. Abu Talib invited Banu Hashim and told them to support Prophet Muhammad (s) and ordered all of Muslims in Mecca to move to Shi'b Abi Talib and settle there. He also put some guards around the valley. Living in Shi'b Abi Talib had some outcomes as well:

  • Members of Banu Hashim could protect Prophet Muhammad (s) together.
  • It reduced the mental pressure on Banu Hashim.

Whoever who entered Mecca was not allowed to carry out trades with Banu Hashim. Those who violated the rule, their properties were confiscated.

In the time of official ceremonies, Muslims were allowed to leave Shi'b temporarily in order to buy something, promote, or invite others to Islam. Prophet Muhammad (s) invited people in the time of hajj in the first year of boycott which aggravated the Polytheists. They came to Abu Talib and asked him to surrender Prophet Muhammad (s) as they wanted to kill him. Abu Talib reacted strongly and disappointed them. Because he was afraid that they would come to kill Prophet (s) in his sleep, he slept next to Prophet (s) and told one of his children to sleep on the other side of Prophet (s).

Harsh Situation of Banu Hashim

The boycott lasted for three years and children of Banu Hashim were suffering from the difficulties. Polytheists of Mecca noticed that their children's suffering but they didn't sympathize with them.

Spies of Quraysh were watching Muslims all the time so that no one would be able to give them food. However sometimes Hakim b. Hizam, the cousin of Khadija (s), and Abu l-'As b. Rabi' and Hisham b. 'Umar brought wheat and date to Banu Hashim in the middle of the nights. They put them on a camel and then they released the camel near the valley so that it could get to Banu Hashim.

Prophet Muhammad (s), his supporters, Khadija (a), and Abu Talib lived in harsh situations for three years and they used up the possessions of Khadija (s). Sometimes close relatives of Banu Hashim secretly gave Muslims food, despite the principles of the treaty. The endurance of Prophet Muhammad (s) and his supporters irritated Quraysh leaders. Most of them had a daughter, son, grand children or close relatives living in Shi'b, and they were looking for an excuse to end the treaty and set Muslims free.

End of Boycott

In 10th year after Bi'tha/619-20, a night when Abu Jahl stopped Hakim b. Hizam from sending wheat to Khadija. Others interfered and criticized Abu Jahl for the severity of his actions. Gradually groups of Quraysh members felt guilty and started to support Banu Hashim, meanwhile Banu Makhzum (the rival of Quraysh) where enjoying easy life and Banu Hashim and 'Abd al-Muttalib where living in harsh situations. Finally the treaty ended and some decided to tear up the treaty. Ibn Hisham narrated from Ibn Ishaq that when they went to see the treaty in Ka'ba, they noticed that it was miraculously eaten by termites except for the phrase "Bismik Allahumma" (In your name O Allah).

According to another narration, God informed Prophet Muhammad (s) that the treaty was eaten by termites except for the phrase "Bismik Allahumma" and the Prophet (s) informed Abu Talib about the news. Ibn Hisham has written that a group of scholars have said: "Abu Talib met Quraysh and told them: My cousin has said the treaty you have written is eaten by termites except for the name of God. See the treaty yourself and if he was right end the boycott and if he was wrong I will hand him over to you. When Quraysh leaders went to see the treaty, they were shocked to see that it was eaten by termites except for the name of God. Therefore, the boycott ended and Banu Hashim left the valley."

Word of Imam 'Ali (a) about the boycott

According to Nasr b. Muzahim, Ali b. Abi Talib (a) has written in a letter to Mu'awiya about the tyrannies and oppressions of Quraysh in Shi'b Abi Talib against Prophet Muhammad (s) and Muslims:

Our relatives (Quraysh tribe) decided to kill Prophet Muhammad (s) to end the lineage of Prophet (s). They decided our fate and posed oppressions against us, they blocked our access to water, they frightened Muslims, put spies to watch us and forced us to take shelter in a narrow valley. It was not enough for them as they launched attacks and battles against us and wrote treaties so that they should not eat, drink with us, they banned having any marital relations and trades with us. They put us at risk because we refrain from handing Prophet Muhammad (s) over to them, as they wanted to kill him and mutilate his body. Except for the hajj time, we were in danger of attacks. However God decided that we protected Prophet (s) restlessly. Our Muslim members were protecting him as they were promised rewards from God and our disbelievers were protecting him in order to protect their relatives and clan.

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