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Every biography I've read so far says that by the time of Muhammad's (pbuh) birth, the fortunes of his clan, the Bani Hashim, had declined considerably. But I'm confused about the cause of this decline, what exactly decline means in this case, and especially the reasons for it to have happened so rapidly. Some details on why I'm confused:

In his book "Muhammad: His Life Based on The Earliest Sources", Martin Lings goes over some of the history of the Quraysh leading up to Muhammad's birth. Lings reports that Hashim, son of Abd Manaf bin Qusayy, was granted the right of caring for pilgrims and levying the tax, and also that Hashim was held in high honor.

Lings goes on to say that when Hashim's son Abd al-Muttalib (Muhammad's grandfather) rediscovered the well of Zamzam, a share of the treasure buried there went to Abd al-Muttalib, and the other clans of Quraysh ceded the rights over Zamzam to the Bani Hashim.

This seems like an excellent position of wealth -- and especially political power -- for the Bani Hashim. How did the clan fall from such a height by Muhammad's day, even while Abd al-Muttalib was still alive? What does it mean in particular that the Bani Hashim had declined? Had they used up all their money? Had they somehow lost all their political power? What could have caused such a catastrophic decline?

Edit: perhaps the decline occurred because Abd al-Muttalib was extremely generous with charity and hospitality. If that is the case, then I wonder: did the customs in those days prevent generous people from investing some of their wealth to grow it so they could be even more charitable and hospitable to more people? Or another way to ask: would the rules of charity and hospitality require people to bankrupt themselves?

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    As far as I recall (and maybe I'm wrong) the siqayah was not a good position to become wealthy rather then to get poor as it was involved with many acts like hospitality which cost the Bani Hashim more then it brought them. So yes it was a honorable but not beneficial position. – Medi1Saif Jul 18 '16 at 10:51
  • Thanks. I am wondering: did the custom of hospitality rule out the possibility of investing some of the wealth in a profitable enterprise, so as to have more money to use toward hospitality? – SaganRitual Jul 18 '16 at 15:06
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Most of Mecca's TRADING was a passing trade, for the transferred goods from Yemen and Ethiopia to Mecca and their markets and then to A-Sham.

Abdul Muttalib and Banu Hashim bound traders to follow accurate moral conduct and good treatment of the traders, meeting them and hosting them, which improved the position of their trade.

When Abdulmutallab became older and stopped working nominal preside moved to his son Az-Zubair, but other houses of Quraish got a new generation of men defeated by avarice and greed, especially the sons of Abd Shams, sons of Abd Manaf, the house of Nawfal ibn Abd Manaf, the house of Makhzoom and the house of Sahm.

Their greed and hunger for fortune increased,they abandoned the ethics of Abdul Muttalib, and they wronged small traders and strangers, when Abdulmutallab died, Az-Zubair was not able to rein in that group, and when he died the responsibility moved to his brother Abi-Talib and the leadership of the convoys moved to that greedy group.

And it has led this group's tyranny and oppression of others to increase their wealth and riches and decline Bani Hashim's, besides they were responsible for "Rifadah" and watering pilgrims.

(History of Quraysh : Hussain Mo’ones)

  • Thank you. Could you comment on the other part of my question: did the obligations of rifadah and watering pilgrims require the Beni Hashim to bankrupt themselves? Was there no way for them to invest their wealth to maintain their ability to carry out their duties fully? – SaganRitual Jul 22 '16 at 16:13
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    I do not see how this is different, given: 1) the available methods for investment were limited and all are linked in a way or another to trade. 2) I explained why the trade return declined. 3)When you read about Arabs and hosting a guest, they never used the investor mindset, they would give away the very last thing they own, so when you try to understand their actions with a mind of a man in 21 century , you will feel uncomfortable about their logistics management. – M.M Jul 22 '16 at 16:25
  • Ok, so their customs did require them to bankrupt themselves. I understand. Is the history by Hussain Mo'ones a book, or an article? I can't find it on google. Is it only an Arabic work? I can't find Hussain Mo'ones either. Could you advise me on how to find him and his work? – SaganRitual Jul 22 '16 at 16:28
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    Arabic book and it includes interesting facts and analysis for the subject and how historians presented it. docs.google.com/viewerng/viewer?url=https://archive.org/… – M.M Jul 22 '16 at 17:01
  • Thank you for that! Could you point me to a page number? I would like to learn more details; I will find someone who can translate it for me. – SaganRitual Jul 22 '16 at 17:09
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It is very unlikely that the statement, the Bani Hashim were in decline before the birth of the Holy Prophet, corresponds with reality.

If we look at the historical account of the events in the year of the elephant, which is also the year the Prophet was born, we see that Abdul Muttalib, the chief of Quraysh, was the owner of at least 200 camels, which were stolen by Abraha’s soldiers.

Before this event, Abdul Muttalib had purchased the life of his son Abdullah by sacrificing 100 camels in the name of Allah.

The owner of several hundred camels is a wealthy man or not?

Bani Hashim did not only take care of the pilgrims to the Kabaa but were also traders and participated in the caravans being sent to Syria and Yemen. The father of the Prophet, Abdullah, died on one of these trading trips.

The leader of Quraysch after the death of Abdul Muttalib, Abu Talib, was also a trader. We know that he took the young Muhammad to Syria for the purpose of trade.

The assumption that he spent all his money for serving and accommodating pilgrims cannot be valid. Rather he spent all his money defending his nephew Muhammad and Islam. This becomes clear when we take the boycott and the siege being forced by the Quraysh on Bani Hashim into account.

Why would they decide to put sanctions on Bani Hashim if they were already financially weak and in decline?

After years of intimidation and applying various different means to silence Muhammad,

“Quraysh realised their enemy was not the group of rootless and poverty-stricken Muslims in Makkah. The real enemy – the enemy of the idolaters and the polytheists – they realized, was Abu Talib!

Therefore

they drafted and signed a document which stipulated that unless the clan of Banu Hashim surrendered Muhammad to them, it would be subjected to an economic and social boycott. They pledged themselves not to buy anything from, nor to sell anything to, the members of the Banu Hashim, and they placed intermarriage with them under proscription.

After three years of boycott and isolation, they finally returned to their homes in Makka.

“During these three years, the vast fortunes of Khadija and Abu Talib had run out.”

https://www.al-islam.org/restatement-history-islam-and-muslims-sayyid-ali-ashgar-razwy
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The Bani Hashim continued to have political power due to their wealth and influence and were preservers of the Kaabah, during revelation of Prophethood, they retained some of this power but as Islam grew, it declined. Abu Lahab was the uncle of the Prophet and was against the Prophethood, where as his other uncles like Abbas and Hamza affirmed belief in the Prophet. This lack of unity between the family naturally led to a decline. As, since the head of the family had no influence up the others in the clan, the clan can't be of much value.

  • Thanks. You say that this decline occurred as Islam grew. I'm talking about before that. The histories I am reading say Bani Hashim was in decline before Muhammad (pbuh) was born. Please tell me your thoughts. – SaganRitual Jul 18 '16 at 14:58

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