The Prophet goes to Damascus with his uncle

The Master of the Universe (PBUH) had reached twelve years of age.

He possessed a unique kind of body and face among his friends. His face would emit gleaming light to his surroundings and his heart was always filled with peace.

In the meantime, Abu Talib, who was sheltering our Holy Prophet (PBUH), had great difficulty getting by. For this reason, he felt obliged to get involved in trade/commerce. He decided to go to Damascus that year by joining the caravan that the Quraysh had arranged for the purpose of trade.

Preparations for the journey were being made and they took place right before our Holy Prophet’s (PBUH) eyes. Consequently, this uncle, whom he loved so much, was going to be separated from him for some period of time. However, how was he going endure this? Years ago, he had lost both his honorable father and saintly mother at the end of two journeys. Now, his guardian, Abu Talib, was going to set off on a journey and be separated from him for days. How was his gentle and delicate soul going to bear this separation? 

Like Abu Talib, the members of the household were also afraid that something would befall upon the Master of the Universe (PBUH), and for that reason, they did not want him to embark on this journey. However, our Holy Prophet (PBUH) wholeheartedly wanted to go with his uncle. He was left with no choice but to open up to his uncle after having been sad for days. He could not help speaking to his uncle in the following manner with a longing and sad tone:

“My Dear Uncle! Where and with whom are you leaving me? I neither have my mother nor my father here with me.”

Our Holy Prophet’s (PBUH) teardrops decorated these words like a flower. Even the most hardened of hearts, let alone Abu Talib, who wholeheartedly loved his nephew, would be unable bear the Master of the Universe’s sorrow. Abu Talib immediately changed his mind upon hearing these expressions that had inflamed his feelings of compassion.

The Master of the Universe (PBUH) was able to go with his uncle; thus, his heart was filled with happiness after this decision had been made. The preparations were complete and he joined the caravan together with his uncle.

The caravan reached Busra by passing through deserts and stopped there for a rest. Busra was a town with plenty of water and gardens between Damascus and Jerusalem.

Bahira’s Observation and Evaluation

There was a priest by the name of Bahira who lived in a small monastery that was close to the market of Busra. (1) At that time, this priest was a reputable scholar among Christians. There was a book in the monastery and those who worshipped at that monastery and read from that book would become the most knowledgeable of Christians. Until that time, every priest had benefited from this book. (2)

The Qurayshi procession of trade lodged in close proximity to this priest’s monastery as they had done every year. What was strange was that Bahira, who had not interacted with anyone from the procession in the past years, was now showing an unexpected interest in the procession and had arranged a feast for them.

Why had this feast and attention been given?

This was the question that got the procession thinking.

The Wise Bahira had witnessed some peculiarities in the procession that he had not seen before. While he was looking at the Qurayshi procession, he had noticed a cloud shading the Master of all Masters (PBUH). When the procession came and lodged underneath a tree, he observed the same cloud shading the tree and the tree’s branches bending before the Radiant Child to provide shade for him.

Bahira, who had seen these peculiarities, wanted to invite them for a meal. He sent the Meccans the following notice:

“Oh Qurayshis! I prepared a meal for you. I want all of you: the elderly, the young, the free, and the enslaved to come”.

The Qurayshi merchants noticed Bahira’s unusual attitude. They wondered what the reason was and asked, “Oh Bahira, by God, your mood is different today. We stop by you each time we come. You have never done something like this for us before. What is the matter?"

Bahira did not disclose his secret and made do with this answer:

“Yes, you are right, but after all, you are my guests. For that reason, I wanted to host and have you eat. Please come and help yourselves!”

They accepted the invitation and sat at the dinner table.

However, there was an individual from the procession who was absent. Bahira was looking for the Master of the Universe (PBUH). Since he was the youngest, the Radiant Child had been charged with the duty of keeping an eye on the procession’s belongings; thus, he was sitting by the tree.

Bahira was busy with eying everyone at the dinner table from head to toe. However, none of them had the disposition of the Radiant Child that he was looking for. He asked, “Is there anyone who has not come to the meal? Is there someone who has been left behind?”

They answered, “No, Bahira, there is no one who has accepted your invitation and then did not come. Only a child was left behind to wait on our belongings.”

Bahira, who had examined the Holy Books and learned the characteristics and signs of the last Prophet from them, insisted that he come as well.

The Qurayshi merchants could not refuse Bahira’s persistent request; so, they went and brought the Master of the Universe (PBUH).

While the Master of the Universe (PBUH) was busy eating his meal at the table, Bahira’s entire attention and amazement was on him. He was eying his every move and condition.

Bahira had found what he was looking for and had reached his goal. The Radiant Child’s behavior and every action perfectly matched the written descriptions in the book next to him.

The meal was finished and while everyone was dispersing from the table, Bahira leaned down to the Master of the Universe’s (PBUH) ear and said, “Look, young man. I want you to answer the questions that I am going to ask you about Lat and Uzza.”

There was an expression of discomfort and hate in the Radiant Child’s eyes, “Please do not want anything from me on behalf of Lat and Uzza. By God, there is nothing that I hate more than them”.

Bahira retracted his first request. “In that case, Answer the questions I am going to ask you for the sake of God”.

Our Holy Prophet (PBUH) replied “Ask whatever you wish”.

Bahira was bewildered by all the answers that he received to his questions because they exactly matched everything that he knew about the Last Prophet.

Lastly, he looked at the Master of the Universe’s back and saw the seal of Prophethood.

Bahira’s conviction was now certain and without doubt: This youth was the long-awaited Last Prophet (PBUH).

Bahira and Abu Talib Face-to-Face

After his recognition, Bahira went to our Holy Prophet’s (PBUH) uncle, Abu Talib. The following conversation took place between the two:

“What relation do you have to this child?”

“He is my son”

“No, he is not your son because this child’s father is not supposed to be living.”

“Yes, you are correct. He is my nephew, not my biological son”.

“Well, what happened to his father?

“He passed away while this child’s mother was pregnant.”

“Yes, you have told the truth.”

Everything was now evident and definite for Bahira.

Finally, Bahira gave the following advice to our Holy Prophet’s uncle (PBUH), which showed that he was a man who thought and spoke rightfully:

“Immediately take your nephew back to your homeland. Protect him from the jealous Jews. By God, if the Jews see this child and notice what I have noticed, then they will try to inflict harm upon him because your nephew is going to attain a great reputation and glory in the future. Do not stay here any more. Be sure to take him back immediately.” (3)

Upon hearing this advice, Abu Talib sold his goods there and returned to Mecca  together with his glorious nephew. (4)

Like Bahira, the monk, many Christian and Jewish scholars had seen the attributes of the Messenger of God in their books and confessed the truth by saying, “Yes, the attributes of Muhammad al-Arabi (pbuh) are written in our books.” Despite this confession, many of them were deprived of being honored by Islam.

Among those who reached that unique bliss are the following people:

Abdullah Ibn Salam, Wahb Ibn Munabbih, Abi Yasir, Shamul, Asid and Sa’laba b. Saya, Ibn Bunyamin, Mukhay­riq, Ka­bu’l-Ah­bar, Daghatir, Ibn Natur, Jarud... (5)

The Quran mentions those righteous scholars of the People of the Book in the following verses:

“…They are not arrogant. And when they listen to the revelation received by the Messenger, thou wilt see their eyes overflowing with tears, for they recognize the truth: they pray: "Our Lord! we believe; write us down among the witnesses..” (6)

[1] Bahira’s real name was either Jarjis or Georges. European historians call him “Sergius”.  He was once a Jewish scholar but then accepted Christianity. (Ibn Hisham, Sirah, V. 1, p. 191, footnote 1).

[2] Ibn Hisham, Sirah, V. 1, p. 191.

[3] Ibn Hisham, Sirah, V. 1, p. 191-194; Ibn Sa’d, Tabaqat, V. 1, p. 153-155; Ba¬la¬zu¬ri, Ansab, V. 1, p. 96-97; Tabari, Tarikh, V. 1, p. 194-195.

[4] Ibn Hisham, ibid, V. 1, p. 194; Ibn Sa’d, ibid, V. 1, p. 155; Ba¬la¬zu¬ri, ibid, V. 1, p. 97.

[5] Husayan el-Jisr, Risala al-Hamidiyya, Trns., p. 55-56; Badiuzzaman Said Nursi, Mektûbat, p. 168-169.

[6] al-Maida, 82-83.

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