Head of polytheists of Mecca
|Full Name||Sakhr b. Harb b. Umayya b. 'Abd al-Shams b. 'Abd Manaf|
|Teknonym||Abu Sufyan, Abu Handhala|
|Well-known Relatives||Mu'awiya b. Abi Sufyan, Ramla bt. Abi Sufyan|
|Birth||ten years before the 'Am al-Fil/560|
|Place of Birth||Mecca|
|Places of Residence||Mecca, Medina|
|Death||30/650-1 or 31/651-2 or 32/652-3|
|Activities||Waging the battles of Badr, Uhud, Khandaq against Muslims|
Ṣakhr b. Ḥarb b. Umayya b. ʿAbd al-Shams b. ʿAbd Manāf (Arabic: صَخر بن حَرب بن اُمَیـَّة بن عبد الشمس بن عبد مَناف), famous as Abu Sufyan (Arabic: اَبوسُفیان), is one of the famous Arab men in the history of early Islam. When the Noble Prophet (s) started his invitation to Islam, Abu Sufyan turned in to one of the most obstinate enemies of the Prophet (s). He had an active role against the Prophet (s) in the Battles of Badr, Uhud, and Khandaq but embraced Islam in 8/629, and was appointed as the governor of Najran by the Noble Prophet (s).
Birth and Lineage
Sakhr b. Harb b. 'Umayya b. 'Abd al-Shams b. 'Abd Manaf, also known as Abu Sufyan, he was sometimes called with his other kunya, Abu Handhala. His exact date of birth is not clear, but according to some, he was born ten years before the 'Am al-Fil (the Year of the Elephant)/560.
Social and Political Personality
Although Abu Sufyan is a famous figure in the early history of Islam, his life, specifically before Islam, is not clear. Some indications from historians show that he was probably one of the nobles of the Quraysh before Islam and was a merchant. Ibn Habib says he was one of the rulers of Quraysh. He was one of the authorities of Quraysh and one of the four people whose command was influential.
With the beginning of the Prophet's (s) invitation to Islam, Abu Sufyan turned into one of his obstinate enemies; nevertheless, it is believed that his enmity with the Prophet (s) was less than the rest of the leaders of Quraysh, such as Abu Jahl and Abu Lahab.
Although he embraced Islam after the Conquest of Mecca, the speeches which have been attributed to him in the Battles of Ridda shows his desire and attraction to the previous religion. Ibn Habib states he was one of the pagans of Quraysh.
Abu Sufyan has reported some hadiths from the Noble Prophet (s) as well.
Encountering the Prophet (s)
Battle of Badr
- Main article: Battle of Badr
In the second year after the Prophet's (s) migration from Mecca to Medina, Abu Sufyan was leading a trade caravan coming back from Syria. The Prophet (s) decided to raid the caravan. Abu Sufyan sent a letter asking for the help of the Qurayshi Meccans on one hand, and at the same time, changed his path and delivered the caravan to Mecca safely. Although the caravan avoided the raid, Abu Jahl became angry of the Prophet's (s) threat and decided to stay and fight the people of Yathrib. So, with the help of new force that came from Mecca, Abu Jahl fight against the army of Muslims.
Torching the Palm Tress of Medina
The defeat in Badr was too much for the Quraysh to bear, therefore, they decided to battle the Prophet (s) and the Muslims of Medina once again. Abu Sufyan, accompanied by two hundred cavalry, marched to Medina. Upon negotiating with Sallam b. Meshkam, the head of Banu Nadhir, a couple of men were sent to Medina who torched the palm trees of 'Uraydh and fled. Abu Sufyan was under pursuit by the Prophet (s) but managed to escape.
Battle of Uhud
- Main article: Battle of Uhud
In 3/625, Abu Sufyan led an enormous army to Medina with the hope of revenge from the Muslims. Near Medina, near Mount Uhud, a heavy war broke out and the Muslims were defeated. Some of the Muslim elites such as Hamza, the Prophet's (s) uncle, were martyred. After the war Abu Sufyan went up the hill, and after praising the idols, promised the Prophet (s) another war in Badr.
The Prophet (s) went to Badr the following year, but Abu Sufyan convinced the Qurayshis to return to Mecca before they reached Badr.
Battle of Khandaq
- Main article: Battle of Khandaq
Abu Sufyan organized the Battle of Khandaq with the help of the Jews in Medina in 5/627, but with the Prophet's (s) management, Abu Sufyan's army and their allies were defeated and Medina was safe.
Hudaybiyya Peace Treaty
Although Abu Sufyan had no apparent role in the Hudaybiyya Peace Treaty, but prior to the Conquest of Mecca, Abu Sufyan was sent by the polytheists to Mecca to negotiate for the extension of the treaty; he was ignored and went back to Mecca with no results.
Converting to Islam
Finally, after much enmity and numerous wars against the prophet (s), Abu Sufyan embraced Islam in 8/629 after the Conquest of Mecca with the intermediating of al-'Abbas b. 'Abd al-Muttalib. Abu Sufyan went to the Prophet (s) and accepted Islam and the Prophet (s) announced his house a safe refuge. From then on, Abu Sufyan and his family were of the Muslims. The Prophet (s) sent him to Najran province. In the same year, Abu Sufyan commanded a group of warriors in the Battle of Hunayn. At the end of the war, the Prophet (s) gave Abu Sufyan and his children a bigger share of the spoils of war.
Relation with the Three Caliphs
Caliphate of Abu Bakr
Nevertheless, he took part in the Battle of Yarmuk, which was commanded by his son Yazid, and encouraged the Muslims army to fight and show stability. It is said that he lost his other eye in this battle.
Caliphate of 'Umar
The narrations suggest that Abu Sufyan warned his son Mu'awiya from opposing 'Umar and recommended he abide him. It seems Abu Sufyan had committed some mistakes during the caliphate of 'Umar and was therefore warned by him.
Caliphate of 'Uthman
When Uthman was chosen as the caliph, Abu Sufyan went to him and said to the Umayyads present, "Now that the sphere of caliphate has fallen in your hands, move it amongst yourselves, and do not lose it".
The exact date of his death is not clear. According to al-Waqidi, he died five years before 'Uthman was murdered which makes it 30/651, but the years 31/652 to 33/654 have also been reported.
Another one of his children was Yazid who was appointed as an army commander and was later appointed as a governor by 'Umar. 'Utba was another one of his children who took part in the Battle of Jamal along with Aisha, and was later appointed as the governor of Egypt by Mu'awiya.
- Al-Waqidi, al-Maghazi, vol. 2, p. 817
- Al-Baladhuri, Ansab al-ashraf, vol.4, p. 13
- Al-Isfahani, al-Aghani, vol. 6, p. 341
- Ibn Habib, al-Munammaq, p. 368
- Ibn 'Abd al-Barr, al-Isti'ab, vol. 2, p. 715
- Al-Baladhuri, Ansab al-ashraf, vol.1, p. 124
- Al-Baladhuri, Ansab al-ashraf, vol.4, p. 13
- Ibn Habib, al-Munammaq, p. 388
- For example, see: al-Bukhari, Sahih al-Bukhari, vol.1, p. 91; Vol.2, p. 108
- 'Urwa b. al-Zubayr, Maghazi Rasul Allah (s), pp. 131-137
- Ibn Hisham, al-Sira, vol. 2, pp. 305-306
- Ibn Ishaq, al-Siyar, pp. 310-312
- Al-Baladhuri, Ansab al-ashraf, vol. 1, p. 312
- Al-Baladhuri, Ansab al-ashraf, vol.1, p. 327; Ibn Ishaq, al-Siyar, pp. 333-4; Ibn Hisham, al-Sira, vol.3, pp. 99-100
- Ibn Hisham, al-Sira, vol.3, pp. 220-1
- Ibn Hisham, al-Sira, vol.3, pp. 225-6
- Al-Baladhuri, Ansab al-ashraf, vol. 1, pp. 343-345
- Ibn Hisham, al-Sira, vol.4, pp. 37-9
- Al-Waqidi, al-Maghazi, vol.2, pp. 817-8
- Al-Waqidi, al-Maghazi, vol.2, pp. 817-8; Ibn Hisham, al-Sira, vol.4, p. 46
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- Al-Tabari, Tarikh, vol.1, p. 2101
- Al-Baladhuri, Ansab al-ashraf, vol.4, p. 9
- Al-Baladhuri, Ansab al-ashraf, vol.4, p. 12
- See: Al-Baladhuri, Ansab al-ashraf, vol.4, p. 13; Al-Tabari, Tarikh, vol.1, p. 2871
- Ibn Qutayba, al-Ma'arif, pp. 344-5
- Ibn Sa'd, al-Tabaqat, vol.8, p. 96
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