What are the saddening incidents that took place in the life of the Prophet (pbuh) in the year called "the Year of Sorrow"? (the deaths of Abu Talib and Hz. Khadijah)

The Details of the Question
What are the saddening incidents that took place in the life of the Prophet (pbuh) in the year called "the Year of Sorrow"? (the deaths of Abu Talib and Hz. Khadijah)
The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

Sad events followed the happiness that came with the lifting of the boycott. The first chain of a series of saddening events was the death of our Holy Prophet’s four-year old son, Qasim.

Our Holy Prophet’s (PBUH) heart, which was a fountain of compassion, was greatly saddened by his oldest son’s death. As he was walking to his beloved child’s funeral in a deep woeful state, he said to the Kuaykian Mountain that stood upright before him,

“O Mountain! If what has befallen upon me had befallen upon you then you would not have been able to bear it and would have crumbled.”

Another painful event occurred while our Holy Prophet was still in deep mourning over his eldest son’s death: the death of his other son, Abdullah.

The Master of the Universe (PBUH), who is the ultimate example of what it means to submit to the will of Allah, was unable to hold back his tears.

Hazrat Khadijah asked about her beloved children whom she had rendered to Allah,

“Oh Allah’s Apostle! Where are they now?”

Allah’s Apostle (PBUH) answered,

“They are in heaven.”

Due to these painful circumstances, our Holy Prophet’s (PBUH) heart was mournful and his eyes were continuously filled with tears. The Muslims also shared his sadness while the polytheists were elated. They did not pay any condolences nor exhibit any sense of human integrity as they tried to further upset our Holy Prophet (PBUH) in whatever way they could. Savages like As bin wail and Abu Jahl took their cruelty to a whole other level by arrogantly saying,

“Muhammad is now abtar, his progeny has been cut off. He does not have any sons left to continue his lineage. When he dies, his name and fame will be forgotten.” 1

Allah, Who never refrained from helping and consoling His beloved, revealed Surah al-Kawthar, which consoled our Holy Prophet (PBUH) and caused the polytheists to gag:

“Verily, We have granted you Al-Kawthar (2) (a river in Paradise). Therefore turn in prayer to your Lord and sacrifice (to Him only). For he who hates you (O Muhammad) he will be cut off.” 2 (Surah al-Kauther, 108/1-3)

Yes, in reality the Abu Jahls and Abu Lahabs were the ones whose names and fame fell from grace whereas our Holy Prophet’s (PBUH) name and cause have continued to prevail for centuries and will continue to wave like a flag in the believers’ hearts till the Day of Judgment.

Abu Talib’s Death

The Muslims were immensely happy after having been rescued from this harsh boycott, which lasted three years. A common feeling of happiness spread across Mecca. However, this joy did not last long. Other painful events and tribulations occurred within a very short time.

Abu Talib fell sick and passed away during the tenth year of our Holy Prophet’s (PBUH) Prophethood. Our Holy Prophet (PBUH) was immensely saddened by the death of his beloved uncle who had embraced him at a young age, who compassionately took him under his wing and raised him, and risked all sorts of dangers in order to protect our Holy Prophet (PBUH.) At the same time, the Master of the Universe (PBUH) sincerely yearned for Abu Talib to become a Muslim so that his uncle could attain eternal happiness.

As time passed, Abu Talib’s illness had gotten worse. The polytheists noticed this and again decided to appeal to Abu Talib to surrender his nephew to them. Utba bin Abi Rabia, Shayba bin Rabia, Abu Jahl, Umayya bin Khalaf, Abu Sufyan and many others came to him and said:

"Oh Abu Talib, you are one of our elders. We are now worried seeing that you have fallen on your death bed. You know what has happened between us and your brother’s son. Call him and be a judge amongst us. Have him separate from us and we will separate from him. Let us not struggle with one another. Have him not interfere with our faith and we will not interfere with his.”

Abu Talib sent for our Magnificent Holy Prophet (PBUH). Allah’s Apostle (PBUH) came and sat amid his uncle and those who were present.

Abu Talib addressed the Master of the Universe (PBUH), “Oh my Brother’ Son. These are the leading figures of the tribe. They came here to discuss your matter. They are going to give you what they offer to give and will take what they want to take.”

Our Holy Prophet (PBUH) answered, “Alright, my Uncle. I have one word that I want them to take and accept from me. With that one word, they can rule over all the Arabs and non-Arabs.”

Abu Talib was amazed, “only one word?”

“Yes, only one word” replied our Holy Prophet (PBUH). Everyone was curious; what could this word be?

Abu Jahl came forth and arrogantly said, “Tell us what that one word is so we can add ten more words to it.”

The Master of the Universe (PBUH) announced the one word that everyone was so curious to hear:

“Say La ilaha illallah and throw away all the idols that you worship!”

The polytheists all clapped their hands and said, “Oh Muhammad, do you want to make all these gods just one God? We are surprised.”

Afterwards, they spoke amongst themselves:

“By God, this man is not going to give us what we want. Let us go, until God issues His judgment, let us firmly follow the religion of our forefathers.” 3

Allah notifies us of their action in the Holy Quran as follows:

"Has he made the gods (all) into one God? Truly this is a wonderful thing!  And the leaders among them go away (impatiently), (saying) "Walk ye away, and remain constant to your gods! For this is truly a thing designed (against you)! 4

Our Holy Prophet (PBUH) Invites His Uncle to Islam

Following the discussion they had with the polytheists, Abu Talib said to our Holy Prophet (PBUH),

“By God, my brother’s son, I do not see your request as being far from the truth.”

When he heard this, our Holy Prophet (PBUH) was happy and hopeful that his uncle whom he dearly loved and respected would become a Muslim,

“O Uncle! Say ‘La ilaha illalah’ so I can intercede for you on the Day of Judgment.”

Unfortunately, the Uncle of the Master of the Universe (PBUH) did not provide a joyous answer:

“Oh my nephew, I swear by God that if I was not afraid of them claiming that my conversion was due to having been afflicted with dementia at an old age and of them continuously mentioning this to you and the sons of your forefathers after my departure from this world, then I would say what it is that you want me to say and would submit to you;  The Quraysh is going to think that I uttered those words because I fear death; that is why I am not going to say them.”

However, despite this, our Holy Prophet (PBUH) did not refrain from encouraging his uncle to convert to Islam. His holy heart was pounding with the fear of the frightful aftermath that his beloved uncle would face in the event that he did not convert. Therefore, he continuously said,

“Oh Uncle, say 'La ‘ilaha illallah’ so I can intercede for you in the hereafter.”

On some other occasion, while our Holy Prophet was (PBUH) inviting Abu Talib to testify to faith, Abu Jahil and Abdullah bin Abi Umayya were present. They both said,

“Oh Abu Talib! Are you going to turn away from Abdulmuttalib’s people and his religion?”

Our Holy Prophet (PBUH) did not pay attention to their words and persisted in inviting his uncle to recite the shahada (testimony of faith.) They also continued to repeat their own words in the same manner. At last, Abu Talib said (by referring to himself) “he was a follower of Abumuttalib’s faith. 5

Despite this, our Holy Prophet’s (PBUH) holy heart was greatly distressed with the fear that his uncle, who loved him dearly, would share the same frightful fate as the polytheists who had subjected our Beloved Prophet (PBUH) to all sorts of insults and cruelty. He said,

“O Uncle, know that that I will continue to ask for you to be forgiven until Allah takes your soul.” 6

Eventually, Abu Talib died at the age of 87 without attaining an acceptable belief. 7 Upon this, Allah revealed a verse that addressed our Holy Prophet (PBUH) and the Muslims at the same time:

“It is true thou wilt not be able to guide everyone whom thou lovest: but Allah guides those whom He will and He knows best those who receive guidance.” 8

Our Holy Prophet’s (PBUH) holy and delicate heart was immensely saddened by his uncle’s death. His eyes were filled with tears and he said,

“May Allah forgive his sins and offer His benevolence.”

At the time of Abu Talib’s death, Hazrat Abbas was at his brother’s bedside. When Abu Talib was dying, Hazrat Abbas saw his lips moving and heard him say, “La ilaha illalllah.” He turned to our Holy Prophet (PBUH) and said,

“O my Brother’s Son! By Allah, I heard my brother Abu Talib utter the testimony that you had wanted him to say.”

Amid his tears our Holy Prophet (PBUH) said,

“I did not hear it.” 9

We should state that Hazrat Abbas was not a Muslim, then.

At his uncle’s funeral, our Holy Prophet (PBUH), who was greatly saddened and whose heart was a trove of compassion for all of humanity, prayed for him,

“May Allah bring you to the presence of His compassion and reward you with benevolence.” 10

During this time a verse related to this matter was revealed, providing the Muslims with an unchangeable measure:

“It is not fitting, for the prophet and those who believe, that they should pray for forgiveness for pagans, even though they be of kin, after it is clear to them that they are companions of the Fire.” 11

The death of his uncle both saddened our Holy Prophet (PBUH) and caused him to think deeply. He was the one who had been our Holy Prophet’s (PBUH) guardian in the physical sense and had tried to protect his nephew from the dangers posed by the polytheists.

He never refrained from safeguarding his nephew under the most difficult and harshest conditions and continued to risk facing harsh enmity from his relatives. Due to this protection, the polytheists were unable to fully interfere with our Holy Prophet’s (PBUH) work.

Now Abu Talib was gone. There was no one left to protect (visibly) our Holy Prophet (PBUH) against the polytheists’ excessive animosity and resentment. However, Allah continued to be His Beloved Messenger’s (PBUH) true protector without leaving the need for a material guard and protector.

Hazrat Khadijah’s Death

A short while after Abu Talib’s death, about three days later, our Holy Prophet’s beloved wife, Hazrat Khadijah, passed away, at age 65, during the holy month of Ramadan.

Our Holy Prophet (PBUH) led the prayer at her funeral and while they were burying her in the Hajun graveyard, he watched the dark soil that now covered her with tears in his eyes.

These painful events that took place one after the other greatly pained and saddened our Holy Prophet (PBUH.) Hazrat Khadijah was our Holy Prophet’s (PBUH) greatest supporter and sympathizer due to her loyalty, the strength of her faith, compassion, faithfulness, submission, her heart’s tenderness, and virtue. While everyone was an enemy to him, she was the first to testify to his Prophethood. And while everyone distanced themselves from him, she opened her heart to him and had her love deeply buried in her tender heart. She was his only source of comfort during all the times he was most distressed.

Our Holy Prophet’s (PBUH) exceptional love for Hazrat Khadijah undoubtedly and greatly contributed to his immense grief. He never forgot about her after her death and would praise and speak about her with great reverence and love when the situation arose. He would help her relatives and never withheld his compassion and mercy from them, which reflected his love for her.

One day, when he heard the voice of Hazrat Khadijah’s sister, Halah, he mentioned the name of his beloved wife. Hazrat Aisha witnessed this and said, “Allah has given you younger and more beautiful wives.”

Our Holy Prophet (PBUH) made it obvious that he was bothered by her words and mentioned Hazrat Khadijah’s kindness and virtue. Intending to make up for what she had said, Hazrat Aisha, who was very perceptive, said with the fullest sincerity,

“O Allah’s Apostle! I swear by Allah Who has sent you as a Prophet that I will always want you to mention Khadijah’s stories from now on.” 12

We learn that our mother Hazrat Aisha was jealous when our Holy Prophet (PBUH) would continue to frequently praise and mention Hazrat Khadijah with love through her own words:

"I did not feel jealous of any of the wives of the Prophet as much as I did of Khadijah though I did not see her, but the Prophet used to mention her very often, and whenever he slaughtered a sheep, he would cut its parts and send them to the women friends of Khadijah. When I sometimes said to him,

"(You treat Khadijah in such a way) as if there is no woman on earth except Khadijah," he would say,

"Khadijah was such-and-such a woman, and from her I had children." 13

When our Holy Prophet (PBUH) frequented Hira, our mother Hazrat Khadijah would take food to him. One day Hazrat Jabrail came and said,

“O Allah’s Apostle! The one who comes directly to you from afar is Khadijah. She is carrying a container that holds food. When she comes to you greet her on behalf of her Lord and me! Tell her that a castle in heaven has been made from pearls to be given to her and that it possesses no work and commotion.” 14

Hazrat Ali heard our Holy Prophet (PBUH) say:

“Maryam, the daughter of Imran, was the best woman of her time. The best woman in my ummah (community) is Khadijah.” 15

Due to the deplorable incidents that took place one after the other and due to the sorrow and pain they caused, the Messenger of Allah named the tenth year of the prophethood as “Sanatu’l-Huzun [Year of Sorrow]”

The polytheists escalate their torture and insults

While our Holy Prophet (PBUH) and the Muslims were grieving Abu Talib’s death, the polytheists were very happy. The chief of the Sons of Hashim was no longer there to support our Holy Prophet (PBUH.) They saw this as an opportunity to give rise to their insults and cruelty.

One day, when our Holy Prophet (PBUH) was walking on the road, one of the polytheists threw dust and dirt at him. The Master of the Universe (PBUH) did not respond and returned to his home. Hazrat Fatimah could not hold back her tears when cleaning her father. Her heart was already shattered by the loss of her mother and seeing her father in this condition only made matters more difficult. It was as if those tears were falling straight from her heart and soul as opposed to her eyes.

Our Holy Prophet (PBUH), the most compassionate in all of creation, was once again able to gather his composure amid this unbearable scene. He once again put his fullest trust in and turned to his Lord; he wiped his beloved child’s tears with his holy hands and said,

“My daughter, do not cry, Allah will protect your father.”

He added thoughtfully, “the polytheists had not dared to insult and inflict this kind of cruelty upon me until Abu Talib’s death.” 16

In this period, the cruelty and insults posed by the polytheists had left the bounds of humanity to such an extent that it agitated Abu Lahab, one of Islam’s greatest enemies, and caused him to say he would support our Holy Prophet (PBUH) if the situation continued in this manner.

Upon Abu Lahab’s words the polytheists left our Holy Prophet (PBUH) alone for a period of time. Nevertheless, the superficial patronage that stemmed from Abu Lahab’s feelings of kinship did not last long. His tolerance and “partisanship” for his nephew dissolved in the face of the invitation that our Holy Prophet (PBUH) extended to the community, summoning all to come to Allah. He not only declared that he had renounced his patronage but also allowed the torture to resume with the same severity. He continued with his enmity for the rest of his life.


[1] Ibn Hisham, Sirah, V. 3, p. 34; Ibn Sa’d, Tabaqat, V. 1, p. 133.

[2] The “Kawthar” is a pool in heaven. Our Holy Prophet’s ummah (community of believers) will come and drink from it. However, it also means a lot of good deeds, including “prophethood,” “Sharia,” and “the Quran.” The word “Kawthar” means many good deeds. Knowledge and good deeds are deemed honorable in both worlds. According to one of his hadiths, our Holy Prophet (PBUH) said, “It is a river in heaven which my Lord has promised me. It holds many good deeds. Its water tastes of honey and is whiter than milk, colder than snow, and softer than cream. Its two sides are of emerald. Its cups are made from silver. The one who drinks from it will not feel thirst.”

According to some scholars, the word“Kawthar” signifies our Holy Prophet’s (PBUH) children, followers, the scholars from his ummah, or the Holy Quran.  (See: Hasan B. Çantay, Kur'ân-ı Hakim ve Meâl-i Kerîm: 3/1226.)

[3] Ibn Hisham, Sirah, V. 2, p. 57; Ibn Sa’d, Tabaqat, V. 1, p. 211-212.

[4] Sad, 5-6.

[5] Bukhari, Sahih, V. 2, p. 326; Tabari, Tarikh, V. 2, p. 219-220.

[6] Bukhari, ibid, V. 2, p. 326; Tabari, ibid, V. 2, p. 219-220.

[7] Ibn Hisham, ibid, V. 1, p. 60.

[8] al-Qasas, 56.

[9] Ibn Hisham, ibid, V. 1, p. 59.

[10] Suhayli, Rawdu’l-Unf, V. 1, p. 260.

[11] at-Tawba, 113.

[12] Bukhari, Sahih, V. 2, p. 315; Muslim, Sahih, V. 7, p. 138; Ahmad Ibn Hanbal, Musnad, V. 2, p. 58.

[13] Muslim, Fadail al Sahaba, 74; Tirmidhi, 62.

[14] Muslim, Fadail al Sahaba, 71

[15] Muslim, 69; Tirmidhi, 62.

[16] Tabari, Tarikh, V. 2, p. 229.

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