The Year of Grief
In Rajab[Tareekh Al-Islam 1/120], the tenth year of the Prophethood, Abu Talib fell ill and passed away, six months after leaving the confinement at Ash-Shib. In another version, Abu Talib breathed his last in Ramadan, three days prior to the death of Khadijah [R] . On the authority of Al-Musaiyab, when Abu Talib was on the death bed, the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) entered the room where he saw Abu Jahl and Abdullah bin Abi Omaiyah. He requested his uncle:
"My uncle, you just make a profession that there is no true god but Allâh, and I will bear testimony before Allâh (of your being a believer)".
Abu Jahl and Abdullah bin Abi Omaiyah addressing him said: "Abu Talib, would you abandon the religion of Abdul-Muttalib?" The Messenger of Allâh (Allah bless him and give him peace) constantly requested him (to accept his offer), and (on the other hand) was repeated the same statement (of Abu Jahl and Abdullah bin Abi Omaiyah) till Abu Talib gave his final decision and he stuck to the religion of Abdul-Muttalib and refused to profess that there is no true god but Allâh. Upon this the Messenger of Allâh (Allah bless him and give him peace) remarked:
"By Allâh, I will persistently beg pardon for you till I am forbidden to do so (by Allâh)".
It was then that Allâh, the Magnificent and Glorious revealed this verse:
"It is not (proper) for the Prophet and those who believe to ask Allâhs forgiveness for the Mushrikûn (polytheists, idolaters, pagans, disbelievers in the Oneness of Allâh) even though they be of kin, after it has become clear to them that they are the dwellers of the Fire (because they died in a state of disbelief)." [Al-Qur'an 9:113]
And it was said to the Messenger of Allâh (Allah bless him and give him peace):
"Verily! You (O Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace)) guide not whom you like."[Al-Qur'an 28:56]
It goes without saying that Abu Talib was very much attached to Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace) . For forty years, Abu Talib had been the faithful friend the prop of his childhood, the guardian of his youth and in later life a very tower of defence. The sacrifices to which Abu Talib exposed himself and his family for the sake of his nephew, while yet incredulous of his mission, stamp his character as singularly noble and unselfish. The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) did his best to persuade his octogenarian uncle to make profession of the true faith, but he remained obdurate and stuck to the paganism of his forefathers, and thus could not achieve complete success. Al-Abbas bin Abdul-Muttalib narrated that he said to the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) "You have not been of any avail to your uncle (Abu Talib) (though) by Allâh, he used to protect you and get angry on your behalf." The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said: "He is in a shallow fire, and had it not been for me, he would have been at the bottom of the (Hell) Fire." [Bukhari 1/548]
Abu Said Al-Khudri narrated that he heard the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) say, when the mention of his uncle was made, "I hope that my intercession may avail him, and he be placed in a shallow fire that rises up only to his heels." [Bukhari 1/548]
Only two months after the death of his uncle, did the Messenger of Allâh (Allah bless him and give him peace) experience another great personal loss viz., the Mother of believers, his wife Khadijah passed away in Ramadan of the tenth year of his Prophethood, when she was sixty-five years old, and he was fifty [Talqeeh Fuhoom Ahl-al-Athar p.7; Rahmat-ul-lil'alameen 2/164]. Khadijah was in fact a blessing of Allâh for the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) . She, for twenty-five years, shared with him the toils and trials of life, especially in the first ten years of his ministry of Prophethood. He deeply mourned over her death, and once he replied in an honest burst of tender emotions:
"She believed in me when none else did. She embraced Islam when people disbelieved me. And she helped and comforted me in her person and wealth when there was none else to lend me a helping hand. I had children from her only." [Musnad Imam Ahmad 6/118]
Abu Hurairah reported that Gabriel came to Allâhs Messenger (Allah bless him and give him peace) and said: "Allâhs Messenger, lo, Khadijah is coming to you with a vessel of seasoned food or drink. When she comes to you, offer her greetings from her Lord, and give her glad tidings of a palace of jewels in Paradise where there is no noise and no toil." [Bukhari 1/539]
These two painful events took place within a short lapse of time and added a lot to his grief and suffering. The Makkans now openly declared their campaign of torture and oppression. The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) lost all hope of bringing them back to the right path, so he set out for Al-Taif seeking a supportive atmosphere. But there too, he was disappointed and he sustained unbearable tortures and maltreatment that far outweighed his miserable situation in his native town.
His Companions were on equal footing subjected to unspeakable torture and unbearable oppression to such an extent that his closest friend, Abu Bakr, to escape pressure, fled out of Makkah and wanted to leave for Abyssinia (Ethiopia) if it were not for Ibn Ad-Daghanah who met him at Bark Al-Ghamad and managed to dissuade him from completing his journey of escape and brought him back under his protection. [Bukhari 1/552; Ibn Hisham 1/372]
The death of Abu Talib rendered the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) vulnerable, and the polytheists availed them of that opportunity to give free rein to their hatred and highhandedness and to translate them in terms of oppression and physical tortures. Once an insolent Quraishite intercepted him and sprinkled sand on his head. When he arrived home, a daughter of his washed the sand away and wept. "Do not weep, my daughter. Allâh will verily protect your father." The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said. [Ibn Hisham 1/416]
Rapid succession of misfortunes, led the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) to call that period, the year of grief and mourning. Thenceforth, that year bore that appellation.
The death of Khadijah left the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) lonely. The name of Sawdah was suggested to him for marriage which he accepted. This lady had suffered many hardships for the sake of Islam. She was an early convert to the Islamic Faith and it was by her persuasion that her husband had embraced Islam. On the second emigration to Abyssinia (Ethiopia), Sawdah had accompanied her husband As-Sakran bin Amr. He died on their way back to Makkah leaving her in a terrible state of destitution. She was the first woman for the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) to marry after the death of Khadijah. Some years later she granted her turn with the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) to her co-wife, Aishah. [Talqeeh Fuhoom Ahl-al-Athar p.10; Rahmat-ul-lil'alameen 2/165]