Seera episode 16: Bahira the Monk

— After his grandfather Abdul Mutallib died, the 8-year-old Muhammad (saw) was taken under the guardianship of his uncle Abu Talib

  • Abu Talib was an extremely caring uncle, & raised Muhammad among his own children

— There are differences in narrations as to the age of Muhammad when this incident with the monk took place

  • The minority position is that Muhammad was 9 years old
  • The majority position is that Muhammad was 12 years old

— Abu Talib was a businessman

  • Makkah was a strategic business center, where the products were imported & sold from all over the Arab world
    • Also the Kab’ah attracted lots of pilgrims, so Makkah was the ideal business center
  • Abu Talib decided to go to business trip to As-Sham (modern day Syria & surrounding regions)
    • As-Sham was ruled by Roman Empire at the time & had a strong Christian presence

— Muhammad’s entire world revolves around Abu Talib. The child had lost his mother & grandfather in a short time, so he’s very attached to his uncle.

  • As Abu Talib gets ready to leave for his business trip & says farewell to his family, Muhammad starts to cry very profusely
    • “Don’t leave me here by myself.”
  • Abu Talib tries to comfort his nephew. Other family members are saying, “Oh, he’s just a child, he’ll forget about it come tomorrow.”
    • Travel those days was not a walk in the park. There’s high probability that you might die during this journey. Hashim died, Abdullah died, Aminah died all during travels. It’s out of the question to take a child on a long journey
  • Muhammad was very distraught & Abu Talib was equally troubled by his nephew’s distress
    • Abu Talib says, “I can’t go like this. I swear by Allah, that I’m going to take him with me. I will never leave him, and he’ll never leave me. I don’t care if the rest of the business caravan refuses to take us along. I don’t care what the family has to say. Don’t worry son, I’m never going to leave you by yourself.”

— While they travel to As Shaam, the business caravan stop at a place called Busra, a small type of village on the outskirts. Busra was a safe place, like a rest stop for food & shelter.

  • There was a temple in Busra – not certain whether it’s a church or synagogue
    • Buhaira ar Rahib was the one who occupied the place of worship. Most say he’s Christian, but there are some narrations that say that he’s Jewish.
      • He’s also known as “Sergius the Monk”

— That monastery has always been inhabited by one of the greatest scholars of the Christian-Jewish history at the time

  • The temple was reserved for a well-educated academic. They weren’t public preachers
  • The temple was a research center. It had a library that was one of the most well-stacked libraries of ancient texts of the Christian tradition
    • Whenever the monk/priest occupying the monastery would be old & near death, he’d handpick his successor to take over the duty of doing the research.
  • Bhaira was the latest resident monk of that monastery
    • He was a bit of an anti-social. He wasn’t very conversational or friendly. The locals of that area would avoid him
    • He’d also actively avoid the idol-worshipping Arab caravans that would make the rest stop. He wouldn’t come outside of the monastery to greet the pagans whenever he saw them.

— In the old Christian tradition, there were 3 people who were most educated from that era of Jahiliya (pre-Prophethood era)

  • Bhaira ar Rahib (the Monk)
    • His original name was Surgis, from Banu Abdul Kais
  • Reyab as Shanni (aka ibnul Barra)
    • He was a very pious man. He was one of the Hunafa, one of the few people who at the time was on the righteous monotheistic path
    • His grave would have a light drizzle (as a Rahma)
  • Al Muntadhar (someone that are awaited)
    • We still await his arrival
    • Possibly refers to Muhammad

— So Abu Talib & his business caravan makes a rest stop at Busra

  • Bhaira is sitting in his monastery on a hill with a great view into the distance
    • He sees the Quryash and Makkans arriving; “Oh great, here we go again.” He don’t have much respect for them because they worship the idols.
  • But as he watches, something catches his attention
    • What he spots is that there’s a cloud moving along with the caravan, casting a shadow
    • When they stop where the Quraysh usually stops, the cloud stops as well
  • Now Bhair comes out of his monastery to take a closer look. He notices that the cloud follows a boy
    • Others in the caravan have all sat down under the shade under a tree. All the spots in the shade of the tree have been taken
    • The boy goes to lean against the other side of the tree, where there’s no shade
      • Branches literally bend to provide shade for the boy

— Now Bhaira is completely blown away

  • “Is this the moment I’ve been waiting for?”
  • He flips the monastery & goes through all the manuscripts & refreshes on the description of Prophet of the Last Times
    • He reads that a shade will always cover the Prophet. All the trees & nature will show respect to the Prophet
  • Bhaira calls for his devotees & students
    • “Here’s some money. Gather a lot of food for a large feast, we are having a feast tonight.”

— Bhaira then leaves his monastery & goes down to the place where the Qurayss are chillin’

  • The Quraysh are startled, because Bhaira usually avoids them. “Look who it is. It’s the cranky old guy. Watch him, he won’t even acknowledge us. He’s just gonna walk on by without even waving at us.”
  • Instead, Bhair awalks right up to the Quraysh. Bhaira greets them & is polite & friendly with them.
    • Bhaira says, “I’d like to invite you all to my monastery for a feast.”
  • The Quraysh quickly get past their surprise & are excited for some hospitality & a nice meal

— In the evening, the Quraysh gets ready for Bhaira’s feast. Most of the caravan considered Muhammad a burden on the trip, who came with them on Abu Talib’s insistence

  • They said, “We’re gonna go get our grub on. The young one has to stay here and watch the animals, merchandise, and the money.”
  • The Makkans all freshen up & go up to eat with the famous monk
    • They show up for the food

— Bhaira’s scanning the crowd, looking for the boy. He doesn’t want to blow his cover, so he says, “Ya Quraysh. Is everybody here? I kind of notice someone’s missing.”

  • The Quraysh reply, “Oh, he’s nobody important. He’s just a child. He’s looking after the animals & supplies. Don’t worry, he’s nobody.”
  • Bhaira said, “No, look. I invited all of you. I want to show hospitality to everybody.”

— The Quraysh notice that Bhaira’s getting agitated; now their meal is in jeopardy

  • Before Bhaira loses his cool, one of the Quraysh members goes to fetch Muhammad
    • Quraysh: “Oh how thoughtless of us! He’s Muhammad the son of Abdullah who’s the son of the famous Abdul Mutallib. Of course, I’ll go get him.”
  • With Muhammad there, the feast starts

— While everyone is eating, Bhaira is sitting there & literally staring  very intently at the Muhammad the entire time, observing the young boy’s facial features & mannerisms

  • As the food starts to flow & people start to loosen up (ice is broken, people are laughing & talking), Bhaira makes his way over to Muhammad & shows a lot of affection to him
    • Bhaira places his hand on Muhammad’s back, & says, “How is everything son? Is the food good?” Bhaira places more food on Muhammad’s plate
    •  Bhaira was fully convinced that this is the final Nabi.
      • Bhaira is doing khidma. He’s doing whatever he can to show respect to the final Prophet, serving more and more food
  • Now Bhaira starts asking Muhammad some questions. Muhammad was a child, & he’s honestly answers them, as is his nature
    • Bhaira: “How do you sleep? What kind of thoughts do you have? What do you do during the day? What are your likes and dislikes? Do you play with other children?”
    • As Muhammad answers these questions, Bhaira gets more & more convinced that this is the Final Prophet
      • Bhaira also notices the mark of Prophethood on the boy’s back

— Now everyone is full; they’ve finished eating & waiting for tea. Bhaira then goes to Abu Talib & asks of his relationship to the boy.

  • Abu Talib: “This is my son.”
    • Abu Talib always affectionately referred to Muhammad as his son
  • Bhaira: “This can’t be your son.”
  • Abu Talib: “This is my brother’s son.”
  • Bhaira: “Where is his father?”
  • Abu Talib: “He passed away.”
  • Bhaira: “When did he pass away?”
  • Abu Talib: “He passed away before he was born, when his mother was expecting.”
  • Bhaira:  “Now you’re telling the truth. There’s something very special about your nephew. You’re heading farther into as-Shaam. I strongly suggest that you don’t take him to as-Shaam. Just like I’ve noticed something special about him, there’s other people in as-Shaam who’ll notice these things. You people are not people of the Kitab. They might not be merciful or hospitable as I am. Some of them might have ill will toward that child. You’ll be putting him in harm’s way.”

— Abu Talib decides best course of action is to take Muhammad back to Makkah

  • While the Makkans are encamped at Busra, about 5 people from as-Sham come to Busra
  • They go to Bhaira & they tell him that, “We’ve been reading some of the ancient sacred texts that we have, & all the signs & prophecies align to the fact that the Final Nabi is supposed to be here in this region right now. No one knows about these ancient traditions more than you do. Can you tell me if you’ve seen anything?”
  • Bhaira’s worried because he doesn’t know if these people are trustworthy. “Hold up,” he says, “Let me go check my notes.”
    • After Bhaira comes back, he tells them, “I don’t think you’re reading things correctly. I don’t agree at all that he’s supposed to be here. You’ve got your dates wrong.”
  • Bhaira goes to Abu Talib and says, “Look, some people just came asking about your nephew. You should go now.”

— There are 3 narrations as to what happens next

  • Minority position says  that Abu Talib takes care of business quickly in as-Sham to be able to take care of bills back home & then takes Muhammad back to Makkah
  • Majority of narrations says Abu Talib headed back home right then & there with Muhammad
  • According to authentic books of hadith/seerah, in this business trip, the Quraysh decided to let a young boy (Abu Bakr) to jump the business caravan since he’s talented so he can start learning about the art of business. He’s really good childhood friends with Muhammad. Another young slave boy (Bilal, from Abyssinia) was brought to do so menial tasks.
    • Abu Talib tells his caravan that he’s about to hit the ground home, but the caravan would like him to stay since he’s a respectable businessman. “We can’t lose you, we need you for our business needs/strategy. This business is supposed to get us through until next season.”
    • Abu Talib: “What am I gonna do? I need to get my nephew home to safety.”
    • Quraysh used to take this trip often, so they have fixed stops during these business trips where they stop every year, to rest & get supplies. They said they’ll leave the boys at those stops, and they’ll look out for each other.
      • The trio of Muhammad, Abu Bakr, & Bilaal bonded during this trip, a bond that lasted throughout their lifetime
  • When Muhammad receives his divine revelation, one of the first people he told was Abu Bakr & Bilal was one of the first to accept Islam
    • Such a bond was between these 3, that Abu Bakr would go out & give dawah & that Bilal remained steadfast in his faith even though he was tortured for it

— Muhammad was known as Al Sadiq, Al Amin. This character was established early on

  • Other merchants would trust him to deliver their money
  • He was the go-to guy from his teenage years to take care of business matters

Link to the next episode

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s