Episode 16: Bhaira The Monk
Welcome to Seerah Pearls, which aims to highlight some tantalising learning points from each episode of the Seerah- Life of the Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wasallam).
Another well-konown incident is the meeting of the Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) with Bhaira the monk. There is a difference in narrations as to the age of the Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) when this happened: the minority report that he was 9 years old i.e. that this happened soon after he came under the care of Abu Talib. The majority report he was 1 2 years old.
Abu Talib was a businessman and he decided to go on a business trip to Ash-Sham. At that time in history, Ash-Sham was ruled by the Romans, with a strong Christian presence. Travel was very difficult and initially, Abu Talib planned to leave the Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) behind in Makkah. However, the Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) cried profusely and asked not to be left behind. Finally, Abu Talib agrees he can join the business caravan.
While travelling, they stop near a place called Busra, which was the usual stopping place for the Quraysh. Here, there was a temple inhabited by Bhaira ar-Rahib. The majority say he was Christian, but some accounts say he was Jewish. That temple had always been inhabited by academic scholars of the Jewish-Christian tradition. The locals would stay away from Bhaira as he did not like interacting with people. When the Quraysh arrived, he would usually have nothing to do with them.
This time, with the arrival of the Quraysh caravan, something catches the attention of Bhaira: he sees that a cloud is moving along with them. When they stop, the cloud stops. He notices a boy breaks apart from the group and the cloud follows him. Sitting under a tree, the branches seem to move to provide shade for the boy. Bhaira recognises the signs of the last Messenger of all times.
Bahira becomes very intrigued and decides to invite the Quraysh for a feast at the temple. The group is surprised by his pleasant behaviour. They leave the Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) to look after the precious merchandise. Bhaira does not see the boy at the feast and asks if they brought everyone. After this, they bring him to the feast too. Whilst the Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) is eating, Bhaira studies him intently. He shows a lot of affection towards the boy, as he wanted to show his hospitality to the boy that he believed to be the Prophet of the last times.
Bhaira speaks to Abu Talib, sharing his concerns that this special boy should not be taken further into Ash-Sham: he feels that other people may recognise what Bhaira himself recognised, but they may not be so merciful towards the boy. Thus, Abu Talib decides the Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) should return to Makkah. There are three narrations as to what happens next:
- A small minority mention that Abu Talib decides to take the Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) with him to Ash-Sham, but he shortens the business trip.
- The majority mention Abu Talib returns to Makkah from Busra and he takes the Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) home himself.
- Another account mentions that some young people were with the caravan, including Abu Bakr and Bilal the slave. Others in the business caravan do not want to lose Abu Talib’s company on the trip and suggest that the 3 young people go together to Makkah.