abu talib wisely and quietly took stock of the situation and decided to withdraw to a valley on the eastern outskirts of makkah. banu hashim and banu al-muttalib, who followed suit, were thus confined within a narrow pass (shi‘b of abu talib), from the beginning of muharram, the seventh year of muhammad’s mission till the tenth year, viz., a period of three years. it was a stifling siege. the supply of food was almost stopped and the people in confinement faced great hardships. the idolaters used to buy whatever food commodities entered makkah lest they should leak to the people in ash-shi‘b, who were so overstrained that they had to eat leaves of trees and skins of animals. cries of little children suffering from hunger used to be heard clearly. nothing to eat reached them except, on few occasions, some meagre quantities of food were smuggled by some compassionate makkans. during ‘the prohibited months’ — when hostilities traditionally ceased, they would leave their confinement and buy food coming from outside makkah. even then, the food stuff was unjustly overpriced so that their financial situation would fall short of finding access to it.
hakeem bin hizam was once on his way to smuggle some wheat to his aunt khadijah [r]ا when abu jahl intercepted and wanted to debar him. only when al-bukhtari intervened, did hakeem manage to reach his destination. abu talib was so much concerned about the personal safety of his nephew. whenever people retired to sleep, he would ask the prophet [pbuh] to lie in his place, but when all the others fell asleep, he would order him to change his place and take another, all of which in an attempt to trick a potential assassin.
despite all odds, muhammad [pbuh] persisted in his line and his determination and courage never weakened. he continued to go to al-ka‘bah and to pray publicly. he used every opportunity to preach to outsiders who visited makkah for business or on pilgrimage during the sacred months and special seasons of assemblies.
this situation ultimately created dissension amongst the various makkan factions, who were tied with the besieged people by blood relations.