Amr ibn Hishām
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'Amr ibn Hisham (born 556? died Wednesday, March 17, 624) (Arabic: عمرو بن هشام), was one of the Meccan polytheist pagan Qurayshi leaders known for his hostility against the Islamic prophet Muhammad and the early Muslims in Mecca. He was one of the arch-enemies of Muḥammad and the flag-bearer of disbelief & hatred towards Islam & Muslims. His malevolence and enmity was to such an extent that the Prophet gave him the title of ‘The Pharaoh of this Ummah’. The Prophet also said, “He who calls Abu Jahl Abu’l Hakam, then he has made a serious mistake. He should seek forgiveness from Allah for this.” 
- 1 Abu Jahl versus Abu Lahab
- 2 Name
- 3 Family
- 4 Identification mark
- 5 Personality
- 6 After Muhammad announced his prophecy (c 613)
- 6.1 Old jealousy
- 6.2 Refusal to reform the social system of exploitation
- 6.3 Arrogance of aristocracy
- 6.4 Power struggle between Banū Makhzūm and Banū ‘Abd Manāf
- 6.5 Denial in repudiating Ṭāghūt
- 6.6 Accusation of creating factions
- 6.7 Persecution of converts
- 6.8 The Man from Banu Irāsh
- 6.9 Abu Jahl condemned Christian converts
- 6.10 Acts of atrocities to Muhammad
- 6.11 Disbelieved the miracles of the Prophet
- 6.12 Ḥamzah ibn ‘Abdul Muṭṭalib antagonized by Abu Jahl
- 6.13 Abu Jahl betrayed his brother Salamah
- 6.14 ‘Ayyāsh ibn Abī Rabī‘ah held prisoner by Abu Jahl
- 6.15 When the family of Jaḥsh migrated for Madinah
- 7 Imposition of the Boycott
- 8 Abu Jahl’s denial to the abrogation of the boycott
- 9 Plan of assassination
- 10 The Hijrah of the Prophet
- 11 Before the Battle of Badr
- 12 Battle of Badr
- 13 Death
- 14 Fate of Abu Jahl
- 15 Quranic verses revealed related to Abu Jahl
- 16 References
Abu Jahl versus Abu Lahab
Contrary to popular belief, Abu Jahl was not an uncle i.e. blood-relation to Muḥammad. The prophet belonged to Banū Hāshim clan, the same clan of Abu Lahab, whereas Abu Jahl to Banu Makhzūm clan of the Quraysh tribe.
His epithet was "Abu al-Ḥakam" (ابوالحكم), ("Father of wisdom", ) as he was a man of deep wisdom, intelligence and understanding for which the elders of Quraysh trusted his opinion and relied on him as an elite member of their assembly. Even at the age of thirty, he used to attend the special assemblies held at Dār’un Nadwa, the residence owned by Ḥakīm ibn Ḥizām. Yet, the rule of age of entry to these private assemblies was at least forty.
In spite of his well-known erudition, ‘Amr ibn Hishām showed relentless animosity to Muhammad. By rejecting his message, ‘Amr failed to enter the ultimate path of enlightenment. According to Islam, no matter how wise a person is, if his intelligence & knowledge do not guide him to the truth, he is, in effect, ignorant. And that is the admission, as related in the Quran, the people with high intellect will make on the Day of Judgment by saying,
وقالوا لوكنانسمع او نعقل ما كنا في اصحب السعير
Therefore, the Prophet referred him as Abu Jahl (أبو جهل') ("Father of Ignorance"). ‘Amr ibn Hishām was also called Ibn al-Ḥanẓalīya from his mother's side.
Genealogy: ‘Amr ibn Hishām ibn Mughīrah ibn ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Umar ibn Makhzūm. So, He was a member of the Banu Makhzum clan of the Quraysh and one of the leaders in Mecca prior to the city's conversion to Islam.
Father: He was born and raised into the generous and noble household of Hishām ibn al-Mughīrah who was a man of great admiration for his generosity and intellect.
- Ḥārith ibn Hishām (Abu ‘Abd ar-Raḥmān): Father of Umm Ḥakīm
- Urwah ibn Hishām
- Khālid ibn Hishām
- Salamah ibn Hishām: He later accepted Islam.
- al-‘Āṣ ibn Hishām: Father of Walīd. Al-‘Āṣ ibn Hisham joined the Battle of Badr in Abu Lahab's stead for he owed him 4000 dinars. He was killed by ‘Umar ibn al-Khaṭṭāb, the son of his sister Khantamah.
- Khantamah (or Hantamah) bint Hishām: Married to al-Khaṭṭāb ibn Nufayl who bore ‘Umar ibn al-Khaṭṭāb and Fāṭimah (Umm Jamīl). So Abu Jahl was ‘Umar’s maternal uncle. When ‘Umar ibn al-Khaṭṭāb embraced Islam, he was determined to announce his new faith to the Prophet’s enemies and the first place he went to was the house of Abu Jahal. ‘Umar knocked on his door, Abu Jahl came out and greeted him, “Welcome! What brings you here?” “I have come to tell you that I have embraced the religion of Allah and His Messenger, Muhammad,” ‘Umar calmly stated. Abu Jahl heard this and said in disgust, “May God ruin you and what you have brought!” and slammed the door shut.
- Umm Harmalah bint Hishām: Married to al-‘Āṣ ibn Wā’il who bore him Hishām.
- 'Ikrimah, who later converted to Islam.
- 'Amr ibn Hishām also had a daughter who embraced Islam. When ‘Alī ibn Abī Ṭālib wanted to marry her, the Prophet declared that the daughter of the Messenger of Allah and that of Abu Jahl could not get together (Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhāri 4.342); the Prophet added, "I fear for her (Fāṭimah) being faced with trials in her religion (because of her jealousy).". ‘Alī gave up that engagement as a result (Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhāri 5.76). Bukhāri listed the ḥadīth under the title of "Father defending his daughter concerning her jealousy and seeking for her husband to be just to her"
Abu Jahl had trace of a scar on his knee which helped 'Abdullah ibn Mas'ūd to identify him among the slain & wounded soldiers of Quraysh in the battlefield of Badr.
'Amr ibn Hishām was almost the same age of Muhammad. Once in their youth, they had been pressed together at the table of 'Abdullah ibn Jud'ān at-Taymī. He was thinner than Abu Jahl and he gave him a push which sent him to his knees and one of them was scratched so deeply that it left a permanent scar.
Abu Jahl inherited the virtue of hospitality from his family and was renowned among the Arabs manifested by the following incidence:
Two people from Banū Sulaym traveled to Makkah and had no food or provisions with them. They could not seem to find any inn or place to eat or stay. When they entered the Ḥarām, they noticed groups of people coming and going to the same direction. They asked as to where all the people were going to. So the people replied that they were all headed to have meals. So the two men from Banū Sulaym followed the crowd in hope of food. They reached a large property with a big, luxurious house. The house had two great doors in the entrance and inside there was a man sitting on a bed with a cane in his hand, directing the people and inviting them in. There were wide table spreads stretched out with meat and fresh bread on them. They ate to their fill until they just could not eat any more. When they were leaving the house, they saw many camels for loading at the door, so they asked what the camels were there for. They were told that the camels were for delivering more meat and bread at the order of the master. So they asked who the master of the house was. They were told that he was `Amr ibn Hishām.
The distinguishing attributes of ‘Amr ibn Hishām made him an unparalleled chieftain of not only his clan but also one of the principal leaders of the Quraysh. The Prophet Muhammad had an exceptional capability of appraising the people around him and judging them according to their personal traits. He therefore knew both ‘Amr ibn Hishām and ‘Umar ibn al-Khaṭṭāb were endowed with leadership qualities and how valuable assets they would be for the sake of Islam. Both of them possessed the strength, sincerity & courage to lead their people. They were relentless in pursuit of their objectives and possessed the staunchness to whatever they were committed to even though it was evil. So the Prophet chose them in particular among his adversaries and prayed to Allah so that one of them might embrace Islam.
After Muhammad announced his prophecy (c 613)
'Amr was among the chieftains that in varying degrees kept a relentless hostility towards the Muslims. Abu Jahl showed fierce opposition against Muhammad when he began preaching publicly. Instead of being atheist, the people of Mecca were mostly devout in leading their lives. They were already familiar with the Abrahamic faith as descendents of Isma‘īl. Likewise, Abu Jahl had a deep faith in Allah and stuck to the social & religious traditions of the community prevalent since the time of his forefathers. However, the following causes of dissension created hostility towards Muhammad:
‘Aws ibn Ḥajar from Banū Tamīm came to Makkah and approached Abu Jahl asking him to introduce him to his family and his tribe. Abu Jahl told all the young men of his tribe to come to the Ḥarām wearing their nicest and most presentable clothes. ‘Aws was very impressed when he saw them. Then Abu Jahl entertained ‘Aws and his companions to a banquet. Suddenly ‘Abd al-Muṭṭalib entered the Ḥarām surrounded by his sons. ‘Aws was so impressed by his personality that he forgot about his host and asked with great interest, “O Abul-Hakam! Who is that honorable old man with all those strong and handsome youths around him? By Allah, I have never seen more handsome, strong and intelligent looking family than this! ” Abu Jahl felt very insulted at this.
Muhammad’s form of monotheism was received as a threat to the Quraysh hierarchy. Abu Jahl, being a man of high intellect, had no difficulty realizing the ulterior motive of Muhammad’s preaching which would not only jeopardize their long-established social position, but topple the empire of vested interests. The most outspoken and violent in their rejection to the message of the prophets are the ones in authority & power because they feel that the prophets’ message of monotheism will change the status quo and will strip them off their abilities to take advantage of others and to enslave others. They realize that Islam is a religion that will free people from worshipping people into worshipping Allah only.
Arrogance of aristocracy
Despite all men are equal in the eyes of Allah, their dignity & honor is appraised on the basis of their ‘Taqwa’. So Muhammad’s message would break the chain of so-called aristocracy. Thus privileged class of Mecca would never condescend to be relegated by accepting Islam.
Power struggle between Banū Makhzūm and Banū ‘Abd Manāf
Abu Jahl once secretly went out by night to listen to Muhammad as he was praying in his house while Abu Sufyan b. Ḥarb and al-Akhnas b. Sharīq al-Thaqafi also did the same thing. Every one of them chose a place to sit where he could listen, and none knew where his fellow was sitting. So they passed the night listening to him, until as the dawn rose, they dispersed. On their way home they met and reproached one another, and one said to the other, 'Don't do it again, for if one of the light-minded fools sees you, you will arouse suspicion in his mind.' Yet they continued doing this for the next two days.
Abu Jahl later told al-Akhnas ibn Sharīq, “We competed with Banū ‘Abd Manāf in everything to attain status & nobility. They fed people, so we also fed people. They gave charity, so we also gave charity. They looked after people; so did we. We did these until we became equal. And now they say, ‘A prophet has come from us who receives revelations from the sky’ How can we possibly be able to compete with this? By Allah, we will never believe in him and we will never accept his message!”
Al-Mughīrah ibn Shu‘bah, a man from aṭ-Ṭā’if, once visited Makkah. He was walking with Abū Jahl ibn Hishām in the streets when they came across Muḥammad. Muḥammad invited ‘Amr ibn Hishām to Islam by saying, “Why don’t you accept Islam and believe me as the Messenger of Allah?” ‘Amr ibn Hishām said, “O Muḥammad, when are you going to stop cursing our gods? If you want us to testify that you have fulfilled your mission, we will testify for you. And if I knew that you are telling the truth, I would have already followed you.” Muḥammad then left. ‘Amr ibn Hishām looked at al-Mughīrah and said, “I know that he is telling the truth, but there is something holding me back. The descendents of Quṣayy ibn Kilāb ibn Murrah [whereas Banū Makhzūm was the descendent of Yaqaẓah ibn Murrah] wanted al-Ḥijābah (Guardianship of al-Ka‘bah & preservation of its key), as-Siqāyah (Custody of Zamzam & catering the pilgrims during the Ḥajj), al-Ifādah (Authority of trade & commerce), al-Liwā’ (Authority of the banner of battles), the authority of armed forces and an-Nadwah (Assembly of the Quraysh). We sacrificed all in favor of them [Banū Makhzūm was only in charge of the cavalry Khālid ibn Walīd being its commander] and started picking up & competing with them. When we are running neck to neck, they say ‘We have a prophet among us’; How can we compete with that? By Allah, we are never going to accept this.”
Denial in repudiating Ṭāghūt
Abu Jahl and the other Quraysh leaders refused to reject their gods as intercessors to Allah. They pointed out that these deities would not only bring them close to Allah, but act as mediators in granting their supplications. They were unwilling to give up the authority of their gods. Neither would they waive their right of jurisdiction in personal, social or political activities only in favor of Allah. Their contradiction was based on the belief that it was not the prerogative of Allah to offer every act of worship & obedience. People were rather free from divine restrictions in their temporal affairs.
Accusation of creating factions
Muhammad’s new message made a rift in the families of Mecca to the extent that estranged children from their parents, husbands from their wives and antagonized each other that would culminate to a great social turmoil.
Persecution of converts
Abu Jahl stirred up the Meccans against the Muslims. When he heard that a man had become a Muslim, if he was a man of social importance and had relations to defend him, he reprimanded him and poured scorn on him, saying, 'You have forsaken the religion of your father who was better than you. We will declare you a blockhead and brand you as a fool, and destroy your reputation.' If he was a merchant he said, ‘we will boycott your goods and reduce you to beggary.' If he was a person of no social importance, he beat him and incited people against him. (Guillaume, p145) Therefore, many converted slaves had to suffer the extreme savagery of Abu Jahl.
It has been told that Amr ibn Hisham often put heavy stones on the backs of his slaves if they made a mistake. Convert slaves belonging to the polytheist Quraysh received the harshest punishment. Abu Jahl beat Ḥarīthah bint al-Mu‘ammil, one such slave, for her conversion to such an extent that she lost her eyesight. He also attacked Sumayyah bint Khayyaṭ, the mother of ‘Ammār ibn Yasar, and inflicted on her mortal wounds by stabbing her with a spear in her private parts. She was the first Muslim to meet martyrdom in the cause of Islam. Abu Jahl also persecuted ‘Ammar’s father Yasar and his brother ‘Abdullah and tortured them to death right in front of his eyes.
Abu Jahl had once clawed at ‘Abdullah ibn Mas‘ūd and punched him in Mecca.
The Man from Banu Irāsh
The harassment of Abu Jahl was not only directed to his own people, but his misdemeanor extended to the people outside of Makkah also.
Once a man from the tribe of Irāsh came to Makkah complaining that Abu Jahl had bought some camels from him without paying him back. When the Irāshi man asked people to help him, they referred him to Muhammad with the intention of stirring up an argument. Muhammad brought him to Abu Jahl’s house and asked him to give the Irāshi man’s money that he owed him. Abu Jahl immediately came back with the money with his face looking extremely pale & timid. The disappointed Quraysh blamed Abu Jahl with sarcasm later on. He said, “Woe unto you all! As soon as I heard the knock on my door, I heard a terrifying sound which filled me with awe. When I looked to see what it was, it was the most colossal & vicious camel I had ever seen towering over my head. By Allah, if I had delayed or refused it would have devoured me alive!”
Abu Jahl condemned Christian converts
While Muhammad was in Mecca some twenty Christians came to him from Abyssinia (or Najrān) when they heard news of him. The apostle answered all their questions and read the Quran to them. Their eyes flowed with tears and they accepted Islam. Abu Jahl intercepted them as they were leaving, saying, 'God, what a wretched band you are! Your people at home sent you to bring them information about the fellow, and as soon as you sat with him you renounced your religion and believed what he said. We don't know a more asinine band than you'. They answered: 'Peace be on you. We will not engage in foolish controversy with you. We have our religion and you have yours. We have not been remiss in seeking what is best.'
Acts of atrocities to Muhammad
One day Abu Jahl declared, 'I call God to witness that I will wait for him tomorrow with a stone which I can hardly lift and when he prostrates himself in prayer I will split his skull with it. Betray me or defend me, let the Banū 'Abdu Manāf do what they like after that.' The Qurayshi people said that they would never betray him on any account, and he could carry on with his project. When morning came Abu Jahl took a stone and sat in wait for Muhammad. The apostle rose to pray while Quraysh sat in their meeting, waiting for what Abu Jahl was to do. When the apostle prostrated himself, Abu Jahl took up the stone and went towards him, until when he got near him, he turned back in flight, pale with terror, and his hand had withered upon the stone, so that he cast the stone from •his hand. The Quraysh asked him what had happened, and he replied that when he got near him a camel's stallion got in his way. 'By God', he said, 'I have never seen anything like his head, shoulders, and teeth on any stallion before, and he made as though he would eat me.'
Narrated ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Abbas: Abu Jahl said, "If I see Muhammad praying at the Ka'ba, I will tread on his neck." When the Prophet heard of that, he said, "If he does so, the Angels will snatch him away."
Narrated 'Abdullah bin Mas'ud: Once the Prophet was offering prayers at the Ka'ba. Abu Jahl was sitting with some of his companions. One of them said to the others, "Who amongst you will bring the entrails of a camel of Bani so and so and put it on the back of Muhammad, when he prostrates?" The most unfortunate of them got up and brought it. He waited till the Prophet prostrated and then placed it on his back between his shoulders. I was watching but could not do anything. I wish I had some people with me to hold out against them. They started laughing and falling on one another. Allah's Apostle was in prostration and he did not lift his head up till Fatima (Prophet's daughter) came and threw that (camel's abdominal contents) away from his back. He raised his head and said thrice, "O Allah! Punish Quraish." So it was hard for Abu Jahl and his companions when the Prophet invoked Allah against them as they had a conviction that the prayers and invocations were accepted in this city (Mecca). The Prophet said, "O Allah! Punish Abu Jahl, 'Utba bin Rabī'a, Shaiba bin Rabī'a, Al-Walīd bin 'Utba, Umaiya bin Khalaf, and 'Uqba bin Abu Mu'īṭ (and he mentioned the seventh whose name I cannot recall). By Allah in Whose Hands my life is, I saw the dead bodies of those persons who were counted by Allah's Apostle in the Qalib (one of the wells) of Badr.
Disbelieved the miracles of the Prophet
The Quraysh polytheists demanded Muhammad to perform most unlikely things possible to prove his prophethood. Once Abu Jahl, along with other leaders including al-Walīd ibn al-Mughīrah, al-‘Āṣ ibn Wā’il, al-‘Āṣ ibn Hishām, Aswad ibn ‘Abd Yaghūth, al-Aswad ibn al-Muṭṭalib, Zam‘ah ibn Aswad, an-Naḍr ibn al-Ḥārith asked the Prophet, “If you truly are a prophet, then split the moon in half so that one half will appear over Mount Abu Qubais while the other over Mount Quayqian.” Muhammad asked, “If I do it, will you become Muslims?” They agreed. On the 14th night, when it was full moon, Muhammad prayed to Allah to give him the miracle. When the Gabriel informed him that Allah had granted his prayer, he announced it to the Meccans. The polytheists witnessed the splitting of the moon. Muhammad shouted to the Muslims: “O Abu Salama ibn ‘Abdu’l Asad! Arqām ibn Abi’l Arqām! Bear witness!” However, the polytheists said “The son of Abu Kabsha cast a spell on you!” Some of them also said: “If Muhammad had cast a spell on us, then he couldn’t have cast a spell on everyone! Let us ask the wayfarers who came from the surrounding areas if they saw what we saw.” So when they asked the people they informed that the moon was indeed split into two. Yet, the polytheists rejected to be Muslims and to believe. “This is a prevalent magic”, they said, “Abū Ṭālib’s orphan affected the sky with his spell”. (Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhāri 3636, 3638)
- Isra and Mi‘rāj:
When the news of the Mi‘rāj reached Abu Jahl, he went to the Prophet who was sitting next to the Ka’bah. Abu Jahl asked Muhammad, “Anything new today?” Muhammad replied, “Yes, last night I went to Jerusalem and came back.” Abu Jahl said, “O Muhammad, if I would call your people right now and bring them here, would you tell them the same thing what you just told me?” Muhammad said, “Yes, I would.” Abu Jahl, happy and pleased, went running and called the people of Quraysh to come forward and asked Muhammad to repeat the news. Abu Jahl did not want to miss the golden opportunity of ridiculing Muhammad in front of the public; so on hearing the news of the Mi‘rāj, the whole gathering broke into laughter and started clapping & whistling.
- Pebbles testifying the prophethood of Muhammad:
Abu Jahl once held some pebbles in his fist and asked Muhammad about them. The Prophet said the objects would answer for themselves. So the rock pieces testified the prophethood of Muhammad and Abu Jahl remarked that it was a spell of magic.
Ḥamzah ibn ‘Abdul Muṭṭalib antagonized by Abu Jahl
Abu Jahl passed by the apostle at al-Ṣafā, insulted him and behaved most offensively, speaking spitefully of his religion and trying to bring him into disrepute. The apostle did not speak to him. Now a freedwoman, belonging to 'Abdullah b. Jud'ān b. 'Amr b. Ka'b b. Sa'd b. Taym b. Murra, was in her house listening to what went on. When he went away he betook himself to the assembly of Quraysh at the Ka'ba and sat there. Within a little while Ḥamza b. 'Abdu'I Muṭṭalib arrived, with his bow hanging from his shoulder, returning from the chase, for he was fond of hunting and used to go out shooting. When he came back from a hunt he never went home until he had circumambulated the Ka'ba, and that done when he passed by an assembly of the Quraysh he stopped and saluted and talked with them. He was the strongest man of Quraysh, and the most unyielding. The apostle had gone back to his house when he passed by this woman, who asked him if he had heard of what ‘Amr b. Hisham had done just recently to his nephew, Muhammad; how he had found him sitting quietly there, and insulted him, and cursed him, and treated him badly, and that Muhammad had answered not a word. Ḥamza was filled with rage, for God purposed to honor him, so he went out at a run and did not stop to greet anyone, meaning to punish Abu Jahl when he met him. When he got to the mosque he saw him sitting among the people, and went up to him until he stood over him, when he lifted up his bow and struck him a violent blow with it, saying, 'Will you insult him when I follow his religion, and say what he says? Hit me back if you can!' Some of Banū Makhzūm got up to go to Abu Jahl's help, but he said, 'Let Abū 'Umāra alone for, by God, I insulted his nephew deeply.'
Abu Jahl betrayed his brother Salamah
Salamah ibn Hishām was among the early converts of Islam who fled to Abyssinia to avoid the persecution by the pagans of Mecca. Being erroneously informed that the entire city of Mecca embraced Islam, a group of emigrants returned to Mecca and realized their mistake. Despite their attempt to return to Abyssinia, many of them failed this time including Salamah. Abu Jahl betrayed his own brother by turning him over to the Meccans. He was held captive and suffered various forms of persecution. He was shackled with the other captives, kept in starvation and physically tortured. The Prophet could only help them by making earnest supplication to Allah for their salvation:
Abu Salama reported that Abu Hurayra said that the Prophet used to say in his prayers, "O Allah, rescue 'Ayyāsh ibn Abī Rabī‘ah! O Allah, rescue Salama ibn Hishām! O Allah, rescue al-Walīd ibn al-Walīd! O Allah, rescue all oppressed believers! O Allah, be hard on Mudhar! O Allah, give them years of drought like the drought years of Yusuf!" (Saḥīḥ al-Bukāhri: 6541)
‘Ayyāsh ibn Abī Rabī‘ah held prisoner by Abu Jahl
‘Ayyāsh ibn Abī Rabī‘ah was one of the paternal cousins of ‘Amr ibn Hishām as well as his maternal brother. ‘Ayyāsh was among the early Muslim converts who emigrated to Madīnah before Muhammad. Abu Jahl devised a plan to bring him back to Makkah. Accordingly, he went to Madīnah with his brother Ḥārith and told ‘Ayyāsh a deceptive story about his mother’s illness as a decoy only to provoke his emotion. Abu Jahl also lied about his mother’s making an oath that she would neither sit in the shade nor comb her hair until she saw ‘Ayyāsh again. ‘Umar ibn al-Khaṭṭāb tried to warn him by saying "This is nothing but an attempt of the people to seduce you from your religion so beware of them; for, by Allah, if lice were causing your mother trouble she would use her comb, and if the heat of Mecca oppressed her she would take shelter from it." But ‘Ayyāsh said, "I will clear my mother from her oath; also I have some money there which I can get." ‘Umar told him that he was one of the richest of the Quraysh and he could have half his money if he refused to go with the two men. But when ‘Umar saw that he was determined to go he said, "If you must go, then take this camel of mine. She is well bred and easy to ride. Don't dismount, and if you suspect them of treachery you can escape on her." The three went off and while they were on their way Abu Jahl said, "Nephew, I find my beast hard to ride. Won't you mount me behind you?" When he agreed he and they made their camels kneel to make the change over, and when they were on the ground they fell on him and bound him securely and brought him to Mecca by day and said, '0 men of Mecca, deal with your fools as we have dealt with this fool of ours.'
When the family of Jaḥsh migrated for Madinah
The house of the Banu Jaḥsh was locked up when they left and ‘Utba ibn Rabī‘ah, al-‘Abbās ibn ‘Abdu’l-Muṭṭalib and Abu Jahl passed by it on their way to the upper part of Mecca. ‘Utbah looked at it with its doors blowing to and fro, empty of inhabitants, and sighed heavily and said:
“Every house however long its prosperity lasts Will one day be overtaken by misfortune and trouble.”
Then 'Utbah went on to say, ‘The house of the Banu Jaḥsh has become tenantless.’ To which Abu JahI replied, ‘Nobody will weep over that. This is the work of this man's nephew. He has divided our community, disrupted our affairs, and driven a wedge between us.’
Imposition of the Boycott
As a means of deterring Muhammad from spreading his message, the Quraysh laid a boycott on Banū Hāshim and Banū Muṭṭalib. Abū Jahl, met Ḥakīm ibn Ḥizām with whom was a slave carrying flour intended for his aunt Khadīja who was with him in the mountain gorge. He hung on to him and said, 'Are you taking food to the Banū Hāshim? By Allah, before you and your food move from here I will denounce you in Mecca.' Abū'l-Bakhtarī (al-‘Āṣ) ibn Hishām came to him and said, 'What is going on between you two?' When he said that Ḥakīm was taking food to the Banu Hāshim, he said: 'It is food he has which belongs to his aunt and she has sent to him about it. Are you trying to prevent him taking her own food to her? Let the man go his way'. Abū Jahl refused until they came to blows, and Abū'I-Bakhtarī (al-‘Āṣ) ibn Hishām took a camel's jaw and knocked him down, wounded him, and trod on him violently.
Abu Jahl’s denial to the abrogation of the boycott
This situation ultimately created dissension amongst the various Makkan factions, who were tied with the besieged people by blood relations. After three years of blockade and in Muharram, the tenth year of Muhammad’s mission, the pact was broken. Hishām ibn ‘Amr, who used to smuggle some food to Banū Hāshim secretly at night, went to see Zuhair ibn Abu Umayyah ibn al-Mughirah, one of Abu Jahl's paternal cousins, and reproached him for resigning to that intolerable treatment meted out to his uncles in exile. The latter pleaded impotence, but agreed to work with Hisham and form a pressure group that would secure the extrication of the exiles. On the ground of motivation by uterine relations, there emerged a group of five people who set out to abrogate the pact and declare all relevant clauses null and void. They were Hishām ibn ‘Amr, Zuhair ibn Abu Umayyah ibn al-Mughirah, Al-Muṭ‘im ibn ‘Adī, Abū'l-Bakhtarī (al-‘Āṣ) ibn Hishām and Zam‘a ibn al-Aswad. They decided to meet in their assembly place and start their self-charged mission from the very precinct of the Sacred House. Zuhair, after circumambulating seven times, along with his colleagues approached the hosts of people there and rebuked them for indulging in the amenities of life whereas their kith and kin of Banū Hāshim were perishing on account of starvation and economic boycott. They swore they would never relent until the parchment of boycott was torn to pieces and the pact broken at once. Abu Jahl, standing nearby, retorted that it would never be torn. Zam‘a was infuriated and accused Abu Jahl of telling lies, adding that the pact was established and the parchment was written without seeking their approval. Abū'l-Bakhtarī intervened and backed Zam‘a. Al-Muṭ‘im bin ‘Adi and Hisham bin ‘Amr attested to the truthfulness of their two companions. Abu Jahl, with a cunning attempt to liquidate the hot argument that was running counter to his malicious goals, answered that the issue had already been resolved sometime and somewhere before. (Ar-Raheeq Al-Makhtum)
Plan of assassination
In the end, Abu Jahl came up with a plan to assassinate Muhammad. Each clan should provide a young, powerful, well-born, aristocratic warrior; that each of these should be provided with a sharp sword; then that each of them should strike a blow at him and kill him. Thus they would be relieved of him, and responsibility for his blood would lie upon all the clans. The Banu 'Abdu Manāf could not fight them all and would have to accept the blood-money which they would all contribute to.
At the news of Muhammad's flight with Abu Bakr, Abu Jahl rushed to the house of Abu Bakr. When interrogated, Abu Bakr's daughter Asma denied telling their whereabouts. Abu Jahl, in a fit rage, slapped her so hard that few of her teeth came loose and her earring flew off.
Event with Suraqah ibn Malik
As soon as the Quraysh realized that Muhammad had escaped with Abū Bakr, they sent a cavalry including Umaiyya ibn Khalaf & Abu Jahl in order to chase after them. In their frantic attempt to hunt them down, the Quraysh followed their trails up to Mount Thaor where Muhammad was indeed in hiding inside a cave. One of the pursuers suggested checking out the cave but Umaiyya ibn Khalaf jested at him and showed the intact cobweb and an undisturbed bird’s nest at the mouth of the cave. Abū Jahl was the only one yet to be convinced and said, ‘By Lāt & ‘Uzzā, I’m sure they’re holed up somewhere nearby. They must be watching us now as we look for them. Muhammad has cast a spell on our eyes so we can’t see them.’
Although the prophet managed to escape for the time being, Abu Jahl would never give up and declared a bounty of 100 finest Arab camels for bringing Muhammad dead or alive. Suraqah ibn Malik ibn Ju’shum al-Madlajī raced after Muhammad right away. As he was gaining on them, suddenly the hooves of his stallion sagged in the desert sand and his limbs became paralyzed. So he begged him for mercy. At his entreaty, the Prophet prayed for his relief and let him get away scot-free by making a treaty of maintaining the secrecy of their whereabouts as well as warding off the other pursuers.
When Suraqah was completely certain that the Messenger had reached Madīnah, he returned to Makkah relating his miraculous incident to everyone. Since Suraqah was the leader of Banu Madlaj, Abu Jahl feared that his tribe would accept Islam influenced by this story.
So Abu Jahl wrote a letter to Banu Madlaj tribe warning them of the deviation of Suraqah, despised him for his cowardice & selfishness and advised them to disobey him. Suraqah, however, replied this letter saying, ‘O Abu’l Ḥakam! By Allah, had you witnessed how my horse got pinned into the sand, you also would not doubt the prophethood of Muhammad. I truly see that he will soon dominate all of Arabia and everyone will be his followers!’
Before the Battle of Badr
Prior to the Battle of Badr, Sa'd ibn Mu‘ādh had visited Mecca once to perform his Umrah with his non-Muslim friend Umayyah ibn Khalaf, when they came across 'Amr. They had an argument, and as it became heated, Sa’d threatened him with stopping the Meccan trade route to Syria and 'Amr informed Umayyah that his life was threatened by Muhammad.
Narrated 'Abdullah bin Mas'ud:
Sa'd bin Mu‘ādh came to Mecca with the intention of performing 'Umra, and stayed at the house of Umaiya bin Khalaf Abi Safwan, for Umaiya himself used to stay at Sa'd's house when he passed by Medina on his way to Sham. Umaiya said to Sad, "Will you wait till midday when the people are (at their homes), then you may go and perform the Tawaf round the Ka'ba?" So, while Sad was going around the Ka'ba, Abu Jahl came and asked, "Who is that who is performing Tawaf?" Sad replied, "I am Sad." Abu Jahl said, "Are you circumambulating the Ka'ba safely although you have given refuge to Muhammad and his companions?" Sad said, "Yes," and they started quarreling. Umaiya said to Sad, "Don't shout at Abi-l-Hakam (i.e. Abu Jahl), for he is chief of the valley (of Mecca)." Sad then said (to Abu Jahl). 'By Allah, if you prevent me from performing the Tawaf of the Ka'ba, I will spoil your trade with Sham." Umaiya kept on saying to Sa'd, "Don't raise your voice." and kept on taking hold of him. Sa'd became furious and said, (to Umaiya), "Be away from me, for I have heard Muhammad saying that he will kill you." Umaiyya said, "Will he kill me?" Sad said, "Yes." Umaiya said, "By Allah! When Muhammad says a thing, he never tells a lie." Umaiya went to his wife and said to her, "Do you know what my brother from Yathrib (i.e. Medina) has said to me?" She said, "What has he said?" He said, "He claims that he has heard Muhammad claiming that he will kill me." She said, "By Allah! Muhammad never tells a lie." So when the infidels started to proceed for Badr (Battle) and declared war (against the Muslims), his wife said to him, "Don't you remember what your brother from Yathrib told you?" Umaiya decided not to go but Abu Jahl said to him, "You are from the nobles of the valley of Mecca), so you should accompany us for a day or two." He went with them and thus Allah got him killed.
The Meccans would not leave Muhammad at peace even in Madinah. So they sent Abu Jahl leading three hundred riders to terrorize the Muslims. The Prophet immediately dispatched a group of thirty Muhajirūn led by Ḥamza ibn ‘Abdu’l-Muṭṭalib (Ibn Sa’d, 2: 9) The two parties confronted on the seashore in the neighborhood of aI-‘Īṣ (in the territory of Juhayna) standing face to face in preparation for battle. In the heat of the moment, Majdi ibn 'Amr al-Juhani intervened and compelled them to lay down their arms. He was at peace with both the parties according to a truce. So the encounter ended up without any fight. At this, Abu Jahl showed much regret in a poem composed by him and hoped for a future victory over the Muslims.
When Abu Sufyan ibn Ḥarb sent a distress message to Mecca, the Quraysh marshaled about 950 men for battle. Abu Jahl, on the point of his journey to Badr, grabbed the hangings (Ghilāf) of Ka’bah and made an earnest supplication to Allah so that He would make the party victorious whichever was on the right side.
Battle of Badr
Abu Jahl's obstinate attitude culminated into actual fight despite several attempts of intimidation by some Quraysh leaders.
Al-Juḥfa Juhaym ibn al-Ṣalt ibn Makhrama ibn al-Muṭṭalib tried to intimidate the Quraysh belligerents from going into battle based on an ominous vision. But Abū Jahl sardonically replied, 'Here's another prophet from Banū al-Muṭṭalib! He'll know tomorrow if we meet them who is going to be killed!'
When Abū Sufyān ibn Ḥarb saw that he had saved his caravan he sent word to Quraysh, 'Since you came out to save your caravan, your men, and your property, and God has delivered them, go back.' But Abū Jahl said, ‘By Allah, we will not go back until we have been to Badr.’ Badr was the site of one of the Arab fairs where they used to hold a market every year. ‘We will spend three days there, slaughter camels and feast and drink, wine, and the girls shall play for us. The Arabs will hear that we have come and gathered together, and will respect us in future. So come on!’
Ḥakīm ibn Ḥizām tried to refrain ‘Utba ibn Rabī‘ah from going to battle based on the report gathered by 'Umayr b. Wahb al-Jumaḥī. On ‘Utbah’s counsel, Ḥakīm approached Abu Jahl so that he might put him off. But Abu Jahl scorned his advice by saying, “By Allah, his lungs are swollen (with fear) when he saw Muhammad and his companions. No, by Allah, we will not turn back until Allah decides between us and Muhammad. ‘Utba does not believe his own words, but he saw that Muhammad and his companions are (in number as) the eaters of one slaughtered camel, and his son (i.e. Abū Ḥudhayfa ibn ‘Utbah) is among them, so he is afraid lest you slay him.”
Narrated 'Abdur-Rahman bin 'Auf: While I was standing in the row on the day (of the battle) of Badr, I looked to my right and my left and saw two young Ansari boys, and I wished I had been stronger than they. One of them called my attention saying, "O Uncle! Do you know Abu Jahl?" I said, "Yes, What do you want from him, O my nephew?" He said, "I have been informed that he abuses Allah's Apostle. By Him in Whose Hands my life is, if I should see him, then my body will not leave his body till either of us meet his fate." I was astonished at that talk. Then the other boy called my attention saying the same as the other had said. After a while I saw Abu Jahl walking amongst the people. I said (to the boys), "Look! This is the man you asked me about." So, both of them attacked him with their swords and struck him to death (One of the boy's hand was slain, the hand was dangling so he used his feet to step on the dangling hand and he forcefully removed the hand so that it won't cause him problem in killing Abu Jahl) and returned to Allah's Apostle to inform him of that. Allah's Apostle asked, "Which of you has killed him?" Each of them said, "I Have killed him." Allah's Apostle asked, "Have you cleaned your swords?" They said, "No." He then looked at their swords and said, "No doubt, you both have killed him and the spoils of the deceased will be given to Muadh bin Amr bin Al-Jamuh." The two boys were Mu’adh bin 'Afra and Mu’adh bin ‘Amr bin Al-Jamuh.
Mu'ādh ibn 'Amr ibn al-Jamūḥ said, “I heard the people saying when Abu Jahl was in a sort of thicket, 'Abu'l-Ḥakam cannot be got at'. When I heard that I made it my business, and made for him. When I got within striking distance I fell upon him and fetched him a blow which sent his foot and half his shank flying. I can only liken it to a date-stone flying from the pestle when it is beaten. His son ‘Ikrima struck me on the shoulder and severed my arm and it hung by the skin from my side, and the battle compelled me to leave him. I fought the whole of the day dragging my arm behind me and when it became painful to me I put my foot on it and standing on it I tore it off.” He lived after that into the reign of 'Uthmān.
Mu‘awwidh ibn ‘Afrā’ passed Abū Jahl as he lay there helpless and smote him until he left him at his last gasp. He himself went on fighting until he was killed. Then 'Abdullah ibn Mas'ūd passed by Abū Jahl when the Apostle had ordered that he was to be searched for among the slain. 'Abdullah ibn Mas'ūd said that he found him at his last gasp and put his foot on his neck and said to him: 'Has God put you to shame?' He replied, ‘How has He shamed me? Am I anything more remarkable than a man you have killed? Tell me how the battle went. He told him that it went in favor of Allah and His apostle. Abu Jahl said, ‘You have climbed high, you little shepherd.' Then I cut off his head and brought it to the apostle saying, “This is the head of the enemy of Allah”, He said, 'By Allah than Whom there is no other, is it?' 'Yes,' I said, and I threw his head before the apostle and he gave thanks to Allah.
When the Prophet saw his lifeless body on the battlefield he said, “"This is the Pharaoh of this Ummah."
Upon his death, the people of Quraysh mourned for him and composed elegies & requiems depicting him as a noble, generous and glorified man.
Fate of Abu Jahl
Narrated by ‘Āmir ash-Sha‘bi: “A man was passing by the field of Badr when he saw the body of a man coming out of the earth and another person following behind him with a mace. The man with the mace hit him with it and dragged him down into the earth. This occurred a number of times. The man who saw this terrifying sight reported this to the Prophet who said, “That was Abu Jahl Ibn Hishām. He will be punished like this till the Day of Judgment.”
‘Abdullah ibn ‘Abbās says that 84 verses of the Quran were revealed regarding Abu Jahl.
Suratul 'Alaq: 9-19
Once the Prophet was praying in the Ḥarām when Abu Jahl came up to him saying, “Should I not stop you from this?!” So the Messenger rebuked him and warned him to stop harassing him. Abu Jahl then told the Prophet, “Do you threaten me when you know very well that I have the most backing and support than anyone in this valley of Makkah?” Allah then revealed: 9. Do you not see the one who forbids? 10. A slave when he (turns to Allah) to pray? 11. Don’t you see if he is on (the road of) Guidance?- 12. Or enjoins Righteousness? 13. Don’t you see if he denies (Truth) and turns away? 14. Does he not know that Allah sees him? 15. Let him beware! If he does not stop, We will drag him by the forelock 16. A lying, sinful forelock! 17. Then, let him call (for help) to his council (of comrades): 18. We will call on the angels of punishment (to deal with him)! 19. Nay, heed him not: But bow down in adoration, and bring yourself the closer (to Allah)! (Sūrah al-`Alaq, 96: 9-19) Abu Jahl then backed off hearing these lines. Ibn ‘Abbās says that if Abu Jahl had called his gang to hurt the Messenger, then Allah would have sent upon him the angels of punishment to deal with him.
Suratul An'am: 108
Once Abu Jahl said to the prophet, ‘By Allah, Muhammad, you will either stop cursing our gods, or we will curse the God you serve.’ So Allah revealed concerning that, “Curse not those to whom they pray other than God lest they curse God wrongfully through lack of knowledge.” (Sura 6:108)
Sura Dukhan: 43
When Allah mentioned the tree of al-Zaqqūm to strike terror into the Quraysh, Abu Jahl asked them, “O Quraysh, do you know what the tree of al Zaqqūm is with which Muhammad would scare you?” When they said that they did not, he said: “It is Yathrib dates buttered. By Allah, if we get hold of them we will gulp them down in one!” So Allah sent down the following verse: “Verily the tree of al-Zaqqūm is the food of the sinner like molten brass seething in their bellies like boiling water.” (Sūra 44: 43)
Sura Anfal: 33-34
Narrated Anas bin Malik: Abu Jahl said, "O Allah! If this (Quran) is indeed the Truth from You, then rain down on us a shower of stones from the sky or bring on us a painful torment." So Allah revealed: "But Allah would not punish them while you were amongst them, nor He will punish them while they seek (Allah's) forgiveness..." (8.33) And why Allah should not punish them while they turn away (men) from Al-Masjid-al-Haram (the Sacred Mosque of Mecca)..." (8.33-34)
Sura Ma'un: 2-3
Abu Jahl was infamous for his ruthless attitude toward orphans as well. 'Amr, who was a custodian of an orphan, refused to return his belongings once he asked for and drove him away. Allah sent down Sūra Mā‘ūn (107:2-3) regarding this act of cruelty.
- ‘Ansabul Ashraf’ by Baladhūri
- Sura Mulk, 67:10
- Guillaume, p298
- Sahih al-Bukhari, 5:59:286
- Guillaume, p291
- Guillaume, p304
- Guillaume, p142
- Guillaume, p304
- Guillaume, p177-178
- Guillaume, p179
- Guillaume, p135
- Sahih Bukhari 6.482
- Sahih Bukhari 1.241. also Sahih Bukhari 4.185, Sahih Bukhari 4.409, Sahih Bukhari 5.193
- Guillaume, p131
- Guillaume, p 217
- Guillaume, p 215
- Guillaume, p160
- Guillaume, p222
- Sahih Bukhari 4.826, Sahih Bukhari 5.286, Sahih Bukhari 5.297
- Guillaume, p283
- Guillaume, p296
- Guillaume, p296
- Sahih Bukhari 4.369, Sahih Bukhari 5.324, Sahih Bukhari 5.298, Sahih Bukhari 5.300, Sahih Bukhari 5.301, Sahih Bukhari 5.355
- Guillaume, p304
- Guillaume, p304
- Guillaume, p162
- Guillaume, p167
- Sahih Bukhari 6.171, Sahih Bukhari 6.172
- Tantavi, 25:274
The Life of Muhammad: A Translation of ibn Isḥāq’s Sīrat Rasul Allāh with introduction & notes by Alfred Guillaume, Oxford University Press, 1955