Breaking the Pact
after three years of blockade and in muharram, the tenth year of muhammad’s mission, the pact was broken. hisham bin ‘amr, who used to smuggle some food to bani hashim secretly at night, went to see zuhair bin abi omaiyah al-makhzoumy 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 hisham bin ‘amr, zuhair bin abi omaiya, al-mut‘im bin ‘adi, abu al-bukhtari and zam‘a bin 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 bani hashim were perishing on account of starvation and economic boycott. they swore they would never relent until the parchment of boycott was torn to piece 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. al-bukhtari intervened and backed zam‘a. al-mut‘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.
abu talib meanwhile was sitting in a corner of the mosque. he came to communicate to them that a revelation had been sent to his nephew, the prophet [pbuh] to the effect that ants had eaten away all their proclamation that smacked of injustice and aggression except those parts that bore the name of allâh. he contended that he would be ready to give muhammad [pbuh] up to them if his words proved untrue, otherwise, they would have to recant and repeal their boycott. the makkans agreed to the soundness of his proposition. al-mut‘im went to see the parchment and there he did discover that it was eaten away by ants and nothing was left save the part bearing (in the name of allâh).
the proclamation was thus abrogated, and muhammad [pbuh] and the other people were permitted to leave ash-sh‘ib and return home. in the context of this trial to which the muslims were subjected, the polytheists had a golden opportunity to experience a striking sign of muhammad’s prophethood (the white ants eating away the parchment) but to their miserable lot they desisted and augmented in disbelief:
"but if they see a sign, they turn away, and say ‘this is continuous magic." [al-qur'an 54:2] [bukhari (in several chapters); za'd al-ma'ad 2/46; ibn hisham 1/350]