The Prophet of Islam (sws) never claimed that his
teachings stemmed from his own ‘intellectual world’. The Qur’ān explicitly
Even so We have revealed to thee a Spirit of Our
bidding. Thou knewest not what the Book was, nor belief; but We made it a
light, whereby We guide whom We will of Our servants. And thou, surely thou
shall guide unto a straight path -- the path of God, to whom belongs
whatsoever is in the heavens, and whatsoever is in the earth. Surely unto God
all things come home.
As regards the charge that his teachings ‘stemmed mostly
from Judaism and Christianity’, it is to be noted that the source of all true
religions is one and the same: the divine revelation; there is also a unity of
purpose in all the divine religions: providing guidance to mankind. The
Prophet of Islam (sws) never claimed that Islam was a novel or a unique
religion. This fact has been categorically made clear in the Qur’ān:
I am not an innovation among the Messengers, and I
know not what shall be done with me or with you. I only follow what is
revealed to me; I am only a clear warner.
The resemblance of some aspects of Islam and the Biblical
religions (Judaism and Christianity) is due to the unity of source of all the
three religions. There is no possibility of the Prophet of Islam (sws) having
extorted and adopted his teachings from the Biblical sources. Some of the
Orientalists have also admitted this fact. Prof. Montgomery Watt observes:
(...) The possibility of his having read the Bible or
other Jewish or Christian books may be ruled out. [p.39] (....); and it is
unlikely that he had ever read any other books.
Marshall G. S. Hodgson has also expressed the same views:
Muhammad’s standard for prophecy was, in principle,
the experience and action of the old Hebrew prophets. But he knew nothing of
them directly. His own experience was evidently very personal.
Islam is a code of life revealed by God through his
Messengers for providing guidance to the whole of mankind through the ages and
its basic teachings have remained common in spirit and purpose all along. It
would have been ridiculous if its fundamental teachings, which are not subject
to time and space, had been different. God is One; He is the Creator and
Sustainer of every being; there is no peer or partner to Him; Resurrection is
unavoidable; murder, adultery, telling a lie, stealing, cruelty, etc. are sins
and liable to punishment; mercy, truth, alms-giving, service to all beings and
social welfare are virtues: These had been virtues hundreds of thousands of
years back, they are virtues today, and they will remain virtues throughout
the centuries and millennia to come. How can, then, the teachings of one
Prophet (sws) be different from other Prophets even though there be a gap of
hundreds and thousands of years between them? This fact should best be known,
and be made known to all others, by, of all people, the learned orientalists.
The Qur’ān explains:
He has laid down for you the [same] way of life and
belief which He commanded to Noah, and which We have enjoined on you, and
which We had bequeathed to Abraham, Moses and Jesus, so that they should
maintain the order and not be divided among themselves. Heavy is to idolaters
what you invite them to. God chooses whom He please for Himself, and guides to
Himself whoever turns to Him.
The Prophet of Islam (sws) was an unlettered person. He
had no contact with some authority of religious knowledge, nor had he any
opportunity of receiving a regular schooling or education from some religious
scholar. There is a tradition that the Prophet, at the age of nine or twelve,
travelled to Syria, with his guardian uncle, Abū Tālib, in a trading caravan.
The caravan broke journey at Busra. A monk, Buhayra or Bahīra by name, who
lived there in a monastery, recognized him to be the Apostle of the Lord of
the Worlds. When asked about his source of knowledge about Muhammad’s imminent
apostleship, he replied that every tree and rock had prostrated itself before
him; At his advice, Abū Tālib sent him back to Makkah with Abū Bakr and Bilāl.
Most of the renowned Orientalists have made every effort to exploit this
tradition and to assert that the Prophet (sws) of Islam (sws) conceived the
idea of apostleship and got most of its training and education from this monk.
They let aside all their scholarship, analytic study, objectivity and their
high standard of research for which they are conspicuously renowned and
appreciated the world over and made a mountain out of a molehill.
The tradition has been reported through different chains
of narrators and is found in different collections. The strongest chain is
that of Tirmizī. All other stories are so obviously fabricated ones that none
of the regular compilers of the traditions of the Prophet of Islam (sws)
considered them worthy of mention. The chain of the narrators in Tirmizī is:
Tirmizī reports it from Fadl Ibn Sahl, who reports it
from `Abd al-Rahmān Ibn Ghazwān, -- from Yūnus Ibn Abī Ishāq, -- from Abū Bakr
Ibn Abī Mūsa, from his father [Abū Mūsa Ash`arī]. He said: Abū Tālib set out
for Syria etc.
Allama Shiblī Nu`mānī, and later on his learned student
Allama Sayyid Sulaymān Nadwī, made some analytic observations on the Buhayra
incident in their esteemed seven-volume Urdu work on the life of the Prophet (sws),
“Sīrat al-Nabī”. A gist of their observations from Volume I and Volume III is
Although one of the narrators, `Abd al-Rahmān Ibn
Ghazwān, has been approved by some of the critics of Asmā al-Rijāl (the
science of judging the reliability of the narrators of the traditions); yet
others have leveled charges against him. Allama Dhahabī, in his “Mīzān al-I`tidāl”,
says: `Abd al-Rahmān relates Munkar (unacceptable) traditions; the most
unacceptable of which is the tradition regarding the account of Buhayra. The
concocted tradition regarding Mamālīk was also reported by him. Hakīm says: He
reported an unacceptable tradition from Imam Layth. Ibn Hibbān writes: He
committed mistakes. Abd al-Rahmān has reported it from Yūnus Ibn Ishāq.
Although some of the critics have approved this Yūnus, yet generally he is
considered to be unreliable. Yahyā says: He was very careless. Shu`bā has
accused him of deceit. Imam Ahmad has termed his reporting, in general, as
disturbed and worthless. Yūnus reported it from Abū Bakr who reported it from
his father, Abū Mūsā Asha`rī; but it is not certain that he ever heard some
tradition from his father. Imam Ahmad Ibn Hunbal has totally rejected his
hearing from his father. That’s why Ibn Sa`ad has declared him as unreliable.
Thus the tradition can safely be termed as Munqata` (whose chain of reporters
is cut off).
After giving a brief account of the chain of narrators
from “Sīrat al-Nabī”, a fairly detailed study of the narrators is undertaken
hereunder. First of all, a few words about the first narrator, Abū Mūsā
Asha`rī. He was one of the companions of the Prophet of Islam (sws). Ibn Athīr
asserts about him:
A group of scholars of genealogy and biography asserts
that Abū Mūsā came to Makkah, entered into alliance with Sa`īd Ibn al-Ās and
turned back to the area of his tribe. Then [after not less than ten to fifteen
years] he came with his brethren and his journey coincided with the return of
the refugees from Ethiopia at the time of the conquest of Khaybar. It is also
said that their ship was driven by the wind to the land of Negroes, where they
stayed for some time. Then they joined the Refugees in their return to Madīnah
from Ethiopia. Abū Mūsā died
between 42-53 AH at the age of 63.
Hāfiz Dhahabī has collected some detailed information
about him. He says:
It is reported that Abū Mūsā died in the year 42 AH.
Abū Ahmad al-Hakīm reports: He died in the year 42 AH; and it is also said
that in 43 AH.’ Abū Na’īm, Abū Bakr Ibn Abī Shaybah, Ibn Numayr and Qa`nab Ibn
al-Muharrar reported that he died in the year 44 AH]. So far as Wāqidī is
concerned, he says: He died in the year 52 AH; and Madā`Īnī says: in the year
53 AH after Mughīrah. And I had mentioned in Tabaqāt al-Qurrā: True it is that
Abū Mūsā died in Dhū al-Hijjah in the year 44 AH.
Similar data has been recorded about him by the following
(a) Ibn Hajr.
(b) Ibn Sa`ad.
It is thus clear from the above that:
i) Abū Mūsā died at the age of 63.
ii) He died between the year 42-53 AH and most probably
in 44 AH, as stated above by Dhahabī.
iii) If he died in 42 AH, he was born when the Prophet (sws)
was 32, i.e. 20 to 23 years after the incident of Buhayra.
iv) If he died in 53 AH, he might have been born when the
Prophet was 34, i.e. 31 to 34 years after the incident of Buhayra.
v) In no case can Abū Mūsā be treated as an eye-witness
to the incident which took place not less than 20-34 years prior to his coming
into existence; and 30-40 years before his pubescence, when he could have been
expected to be able to understand and remember such an event even to a very
Even if Abū Mūsā be not an eye-witness, his report could
have been acceptable, had he stated that either he had heard it from the
Prophet (sws) himself, or from some of the Prophet’s companions, who should
have heard it from the Prophet (sws) himself. In the absence of such a
statement, the chain of the narrators is to be considered as disconnected, and
such a tradition is termed as ‘Mursal’, which is a sort of a defect in a
tradition. But even if this flaw is ignored, the chain has other serious
shortcomings, which render it quite unacceptable.
Abū Bakr reports the tradition from his father, Abū Mūsā
Asha`rī. It is genuinely questionable if he ever heard some tradition from his
father. He died in the year 106 AH
whereas his father Abū Mūsa died [at the age of 63]
in 42 AH as has been reported by Imam Dhahabī, which is reproduced here: Ibn
Sa`ad reports from Haytham Ibn `Adī: He died in the year 42 AH or later.’
It means that he lived for 64 years or so after the death of his father and
would not have been more than a boy at the death of his father. Imam Ahmad Ibn
Hunbal has categorically rejected any possibility of it. Ibn Sa’ad says that
he is considered as unworthy and unreliable. Hāfiz Yūsuf al-Mizzī states that
it is reported that his name was `Amar or `Āmir. He further states:
He reported the traditions from: al-Aswad Ibn Hilāl,
Barā Ibn `Āzib, Jābir Ibn Samurah, Abdullāh Ibn `Abbās, `Alī Ibn Abī Tālib,
and what had been said, which is a misconception, [emphasis added] from his
father, Abū Mūsā.
From Abū Bakr the tradition has been reported to Yūnus
Ibn Ishāq. As already stated: he is unworthy, unreliable, careless and even a
cheat. Abū Hakīm asserts that he is often baffled and hallucinated about his
reports. Although some of the critics have tolerated or even approved him, yet
most of them consider him unreliable. Hāfiz Mizzī has collected some fairly
detailed information about him. It would be pertinent to study some of the
remarks made by him:
Sālih Ibn Ahmad Ibn Hanbal reports from `Alī Ibn al-Madyanī
that he was listening to Yahyā. When Yūnus Ibn Ishāq was mentioned there, he
said: He was negligent and careless; and these were his natural and innate
characteristics. Bundar quotes from Salm Ibn Qutaybah: I came from Kūfah.
Shu`bah asked me whom I had seen there. I said I saw such and such persons
there; and I also met Yūnus Ibn Abī Ishāq. He asked: what [hadīth] has he
related to you. I narrated [whatever I had heard]. He kept silent for a while.
I told him that he said: Bakr Ibn Mā’iz narrated to me. Shu`bah observed:
Didn’t he say to you that Abdullāh Ibn Mas`ūd had narrated to him? (which was
obviously impossible due to the gap of time in both of them. It means that
Shu`bah treats him as a fabricator.) Abū Bakr al-Athram says: I heard Abū
Abdullah#. When [the name of] Yūnus Ibn Abī Ishāq was mentioned, he termed his
reporting from his father as unreliable. Abū Tālib told Ahmad Ibn Hanbal as
saying that in Yūnus’s hadīth there were some additions on the reports of the
people. His son Israel heard and noted down from Abū Ishāq; but there are no
such additions in it as Yūnus adds. Abdullāh Ibn Ahmad Ibn Hanbal said: I
asked my father about Yūnus Ibn Abī Ishāq; he said that his reports are
disturbed and confused. (...). He is such and such a person. Abū Hātim said
that he was truthful but his hadīths cannot be quoted as authentic or offered
as a proof for something. Imam Nasāi tolerated him by saying that there is no
harm in him. (...). He died in 159 or 152 or 158; the first one is more
The next narrator `Abd al-Rahmān Ibn Ghazwān -- although
most of the learned critics have declared him a strong, reliable or acceptable
narrator -- is also not without a blame. Imam Mizzī observes as follows:
Ibn Hibbān has reported about him: He used to commit
mistakes. His report from al-Layth -- from Mālik -- from Zuhrī -- from `Urwah
-- from `Āishah about the story of al-Mamālīk disturbs and troubles the heart.
Tabarī says that he died in the year 207 AH.
Now there remains only Fadhl Ibn Sahl Ibn Ibrahīm al-`Araj.
He is a reliable narrator; but there are also some reservations about him.
Khatīb Baghdādī asserts:
Ahmad Ibn Sulayman Ibn `Alī al-Muqriu reported to me
from Abū Sa`id Ahmad Ibn Muhammad al-Malīnī to whom reported Abdullāh Ibn `Adī
-- he said: I heard Abdān saying that he heard Abū Dawūd al-Sajistānī saying
that he did not [like to] report [some tradition] from Fadhl [the Lame]. I
asked why. He said [how is it that] no good hadīth escaped from him. Ibn `Adī
said that he heard Ahmad Ibn al-Husayn al-Sufi saying that Fadhl was one of
the fox like cunning, wily and crafty persons.
It is to be noted that if only a single narrator is
adversely criticized, or if there is a disconnection in the chain of the
narrators, or if the first narrator is not either a part of the event himself
or an eye-witness to the event, the whole chain of the narrators becomes
doubtful and the report or the hādīth becomes unreliable. In this hadīth, most
of the narrators are unreliable. Secondly, the chain of the narrators is
disconnected. And finally, the first narrator is not an eye-witness or part of
the incident. It is strange that in spite of all these defects and with the
chain of narrators being of such a dubious nature, how could a scholarly
analyst have even dared to quote this tradition, not to say of presenting it
as an evidence on an important issue.
After undertaking the external study of its chain of
narrators of the tradition, its text and content also needs to be looked into.
The text of the tradition is reproduced below:
Along with the Prophet, Abū Tālib set out to Syria
with some of the elders of the Quraysh. When they approached the monk, they
dismounted for a break. The monk came to them, whereas, previously, when they
passed by him, he never came out or took any notice of them. While they were
unfastening their saddle-bags, he passed through them. Coming to Muhammad, he
caught his hand and said: This is the Chief of the Worlds, Messenger of the
Lord; Allah shall appoint him as Mercy for the Worlds. The elders of Quraysh
asked him how he came to know about it. He said: When you appeared from the
gorge, each and every tree and stone bowed down before him; and they never
prostrate for anyone except a prophet. I also recognized him by means of an
apple-like “Seal of Prophethood”, which is below his shoulder-bones. Then he
came back and got some lunch prepared for them. When he brought it for them,
he [the ‘would be’ Prophet boy] was with the herd of camels. The monk sent for
him. The [‘would be’] Prophet came along with a cloud casting shadow on him.
When he reached the people he found that they had already occupied all the
shady place under the tree. The Prophet sat, and lo! the shade of the tree
leaned over him. The monk said: Look here! the shade of the tree has inclined
towards him. He was yet standing with them, solemnly requesting them not to
take him to the territory of Byzantine, because no sooner would the Romans see
him than they would recognize him by his traits, and would murder him; when,
all of a sudden, seven persons appeared from Byzantine. He welcomed them and
asked the purpose of their visit. They said: It has been brought to our
knowledge that this [promised] Prophet is to come out [of his place of
residence] in this month. So, people have been dispatched on all sides and we
have been sent to this route of yours. The monk said: Is there anyone behind
you who is superior to you? They said that they being the best ones had been
selected for this side. The monk said: Have you pondered ?! Can anyone prevent
the accomplishment of a task that Allah has resolved to accomplish? At their
reply in the negative, he urged them to pledge their allegiance to him. They
stood with him. Upon his earnest request people told him that Abū Tālib was
his [Muhammad’s] guardian. On his insistence, Abū Tālib sent him back [to
Makkah] with Abū Bakr and Bilāl [or it was Abū Bakr who sent Bilāl with him;
which does not look to be a proper rendering]. The monk [then] offered them
oil and cake for their en-route provisions.
When the text is critically analysed, it reveals serious
flaws. Some of the observations are given below:
1. Abū Tālib had never been a wealthy person. His poverty
was so dire and it struck him to such an extent that he was unable even to
support his own children. Some of his close relatives, who were sympathetic to
him, undertook the up-bringing of some of his sons. Involvement in mercantile
activities and going out in trade caravans could have only been undertaken by
some rich person and Abū Tālib could not have dreamed of it. The story of the
tradition is a fabrication; and there is no mention of any trade activity of
Abū Tālib any where else. He was a simple perfume maker. He is also reported
to have been lame; and thus
incapacitated to commit such a long and troublesome journey.
2. If it be true that Buhayra was such a great scholar
and manipulator that he masterminded the prophethood of Muhammad, there would
have been a lot of literature about this great benefactor of Christianity in
the annals of Christianity. There would have been volumes replete with his
life and works, whereas whatever has been stated about him, is borrowed from a
very weak tradition of Islamic literature.
3. Buhayra singled out the ‘would be’ Prophet and in the
presence of the elders of the Quraysh said that the boy shall become the
“Choicest Leader of the Worlds, Apostle of the Lord of Worlds and Mercy for
the Worlds”. It is very likely that after these elders had borne witness to
this incident they would have described this unusual event to the people of
Makkah on their return. It would have become the talk of the town making
Muhammad a very introduced personality in Makkah. When, a few years later, he
appeared in the Ka`ba one early morning to settle the dispute of the fixing of
the ‘Black Stone’, people should have shouted: `The Apostle of the Lord of the
Worlds has arrived, the Chief Leader of all the Beings has come in; the Mercy
for the Worlds has appeared. We pleasingly approve him and will accept his
decision’. But history records that none of them uttered any such epithets;
they rather cried: `Here comes the Amīn -- the trustworthy--etc’. Then again,
when this ‘would be’ Prophet announced his being formally commissioned to the
position, every one should have rushed to pledge allegiance to him. It should
have been on record that whosoever embraced Islam had announced that he
already knew him to be a prophet and he had been eagerly waiting for his being
commissioned as such.
4. When asked about his source of knowledge about the boy
who was to be commissioned as a Prophet, Buhayra is reported to have answered
that he saw all the trees and rocks bowing down before him. Had it been so,
every body coming in contact with him in Makkah or elsewhere should have been
aware of it. It was an unusual, uncommon, supernatural and extra-ordinary
phenomenon and could not have escaped the notice of the people. It is strange
that the caravan fellows who had been travelling with him for hundreds of
miles, failed to take note of it; and it was only Buhayra who could catch
sight of it. Also, this unusual happening should have been recorded in the
Bible as a sign to recognize Prophet of Islam (sws). But we do not find any
such mention in the Bible. This is an ample proof of this tradition being a
5. Had the learned orientalists, who pick this event as a
boon to show that Muhammad learned and borrowed all the knowledge of his
religious teachings from Christianity through this monk, believed that this
incident was a fact and not fiction, and had they been sincere in their
findings, their attitude towards Islam would have been quite different. Their
present negative attitude towards Islam reveals that, as a matter of fact,
they do not believe in the validity of this tradition.
6. Had the trees and stones bowed down to Muhammad, this
prostration should not have been confined for this journey only. Hundreds of
thousands of people should have already seen it in Makkah and elsewhere. But
we do not find even a single sound tradition in any book of Hadīth reporting
such a happening. This also shows that the tradition is baseless.
It is also to be borne in mind that Islam has strictly
denounced any prostration before anyone except Allah. The Qur’ān asserts:
Bow not yourselves to the sun and moon, but bow
yourselves to God who created them, if Him you serve.
(...), and the stars and the trees bow themselves; and
heaven -- He raised it up, and set the balance.
And they serve, apart from God, what neither profits
them nor hurts them; (...)But when they are told: Bow yourselves to the
All-merciful, they say: And what is the All-merciful?
The Prophet (sws) also prohibited the believers from
prostrating before anyone except Allah. It had also been prohibited in the
You shall not make for yourself a graven image, or any
likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath,
or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them or
serve them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of
the fathers upon the children to the third and the fourth generation of those
who hate me.(...).
It can thus be appreciated that prostration before the
Prophet (sws) is not permissible in any case.
7. As to the “Seal of Prophethood”, there seems to be no
clear account of it in the Bible. Had there been any mention of this sign for
the Prophet of Islam (sws) in the Bible; and had this ‘Seal’ physically
existed on the back of the Prophet (sws), the sincere among the scholars and
the elders of the Quraysh should have appreciated the genuineness of the claim
of the Prophet of Islam (sws) as being the apostle of Allah and, as a result,
should have acknowledged his religion to be true. Although there was a
gland-like blackish growth on the upper back (beneath the shoulder bones) of
the Prophet of Islam (sws), yet he never claimed it to be a sign for his
apostleship. Had it something to do with a sign of his apostleship, the
Prophet (sws) would have insistently offered it as such; the absence of which
shows its irrelevance with any ultra-natural miraculous sign. It thus clearly
establishes the absurdity of this tradition.
8. Had it been a genuine tradition; the Prophet of Islam
(sws) would have asserted it as a conspicuous sign for his prophethood; and it
would have been difficult for an unbeliever of Muhammad’s time to reject
outright such an obviously tangible sign.
9. The same above mentioned observations are pertinently
applicable to the shadow of the cloud for the Prophet of Islam (sws).
10. The same observations are fully applicable to the
inclination of the tree to extend its shade for the Prophet (sws).
11. The tradition says that the monk urged them not to
take the boy to the Byzantine territory, because, seeing the boy, they would
recognize him by his signs and would put him to death. This only means that
the signs of this ‘would be’ Prophet were so conspicuously laid down in the
Bible, that he could in no case have escaped the notice of the Roman elders.
Do the learned Orientalists agree with the monk’s observations? And if it be
so, how far do they find themselves prepared to surrender to the truth? Do
these scholars believe that the signs in favour of the Prophet of Islam (sws)
are really so plainly described in the Bible that only at the sight of him,
and that too in his early age, a scholar of the Bible could have, of certain,
recognized him to be the Prophet?
12. As regards the assertion of the group of seven elders
from Byzantine that the Prophet is out of his station during this month, one
may ask about the source of their information. As far as the Bible is
concerned, there is nothing to be found in it of this sort. It is strange that
the learned Orientalists choose to build their castle on the ground of such a
fabrication which itself has got not a single column to stand upon
13. Had the event been true, the elders of Quraysh and
especially Abū Tālib would not have refrained from embracing Islam as soon as
the Prophet (sws) declared his commissioning to the office.
14. Had there been any truth in the story, the Islamic
literature would have been full of the description of various aspects of the
life of this monk. But he has nowhere been mentioned in whole of the Islamic
writings of that age.
15. According to the last part of the tradition, at the
insistence of the monk, Abū Tālib sent the boy back with Abū Bakr and Bilāl.
This is a clear proof of the story being a blatant lie. It is a well known
historical fact that Abū Bakr was two to three years younger to the Prophet (sws).
If the ‘would be Prophet’ was 9 at that time, Abū Bakr would have been only 6;
and had the ‘would be Prophet’ been 12, Abū Bakr would have been 9. There is a
Persian maxim: `A liar has no memory.’ The fabricator of the story forgot that
Abū Bakr was younger to the Prophet (sws), as is recorded in history. Ibn
Muhammad Ibn `Umar told us that he heard from Shu`ayb
Ibn Talhah [reporting] from a son of Abū Bakr al-Siddīque who said: Bilāl was
of the same age as Abū Bakr. Muhammad Ibn `Umar said: If it is like this, and
it is a fact that Abū Bakr died in the year 13 [AH], when he was a ‘boy’ of 63
years; thus, between this and between that which was reported to us about
Bilāl, [there is a gap of] seven years. And Shu`ayb Ibn Talhah knows better
about the birth of Bilāl when he says: He was of the same age as Abū Bakr.”
Hafiz Dhahahbī, who is a reliable authority on Asmā al-Rijāl,
has narrated a brief account of the life of Abū Bakr. He says:
al-Siddīque died when eight days were left from the
month of Jumādā al-Ākhirah in the year 13 AH and his age was sixty three
The above reports reveal that there seems to be no sense
in sending Abū Bakr with the ‘would be Prophet’ boy for his protection on his
way back home.
As to Bilāl, he may not have even been born by that time.
Ibn Sa`ad says:
Bilāl died in Damascus and was buried at Bāb al-Saghīr
in the year 20 A H when he was a ‘boy’ of over sixty; and it is [also] said
that he died in the year 17 or 18 A H.
Similar information has been provided by Ibn Hajr. He
He died in Syria in the year 17 or 18 AH and it is
also said in 20 AH when he was above sixty.
Shams al-ddīn Dhahahbī has also noted some of the reports
about Bilāl. He says:
Yahyā Ibn Bukayr reports: Bilāl died in Damascus of
plague in the year 18 AH. Muhammad Ibn Ibrāhīm Taymī, Ibn Ishāq, and Abū `Umar
al-Zarir, and a group report: ‘He died in Damascus in the year 20 AH.
Hāfiz Jamāl al-ddīn al-Mizzī has also quoted some
authorities about Bilāl. He writes:
Bukhārī says that he died in Syria in the reign of `Umar.
Ahmad Ibn Abdullah Ibn al-Barqī reports that he died in the year 20 AH. Wāqidī
and Amar Ibn Ali say that he died in Damascus in the year 20 AH when he was a
‘boy’ of over sixty years.
From all the above references and general information, it
can plainly be deduced that:
i. The Prophet (sws), Abū Bakr and Bilāl lived to be of
the same age, that is 63 years.
ii. The Prophet (sws) died in the year 11 AH.
iii. Abū Bakr died in the year 13 AH, 2 years and 3
months later than the Prophet’s (sws) death.
iv. Bilāl died in the year 17 or 18, and, most probably,
in 20 AH, i.e., at least 6 or 7 years and most probably 9 years after the
death of the Prophet (sws).
v. So, when the Prophet (sws) was 9, either he may not
have been born or would have been a child of 1-3 years.
vi. When the Prophet (sws) was 12, he may have been
either 5-7 years or most probably only 3 years of age.
It can thus be easily concluded that there may have been
no chance of Bilāl having been sent with the Prophet (sws) from Busrā on the
journey back home for his protection. This renders the tradition as totally
impossible and obviously a concocted one. It is now every body’s case that
where the grand edifice of the learned orientalists, showing that the Prophet
of Islam (sws) learned all his religious teachings from a Christian monk,
Abd al-Rahmān Mubārakpurī in his commentary on Sunan al-Tirmizī,
while explaining this tradition, observes:
And our Imams have counted it as an illusion in that
the age of the Prophet, at that time, was twelve and Abū Bakr was two [and a
quarter] years younger than the Prophet, whereas Bilāl was not even born by
that time. In Mīzān al-’Itidāl, it has been noted that of the points that
indicate the absurdity of this tradition is his words ‘and he sent with him
Abū Bakr and Bilāl’ whereas Bilāl was not born by that time and Abū Bakr was
still a boy. And Dhahabī declared this hadīth as weak [and unreliable] due to
the words: And Abū Bakr sent with him Bilāl, whereas Abū Bakr had not yet
purchased Bilāl [and as such he had no right to order him for some task].
(...). And Hāfiz Ibn Qayyim said in his Zād al-Ma’ād (...); when he became of
12 years, his uncle set out with him to Syria. and it is also said that his
age was only nine years at that time. (...). And it is obviously wrong;
because Bilāl had perhaps not even been born. And if he had been born he could
not have been with Abū Bakr.
The tradition says that on the persistent request of the
monk, the ‘would be’ Prophet boy was sent back to Makkah under the protection
of Abū Bakr and Bilāl, because if he were to be taken to the Byzantine
territory, there was a serious danger to the life of the boy; the religious
scholars of the territory would recognize him and would put him to death. Abū
Bakr and Bilāl had not been sent with him for providing him company nor was it
a sports trip. It is just silly, and quite unbelievable, that Abū Tālib, who
is believed to be loving the boy more than his own children, put him in the
sole custody of two youngsters, one of whom was three years junior to him, and
the other (Bilāl) was either yet to be born (if the would be Prophet (sws) was
9 at that time), or a suckling baby of nearly two years. It is difficult to
interpret how the learned orientalists, who are genuinely acknowledged to be
commendable research scholars, and which, no doubt, they really are, picked up
this obviously fabricated tradition and, with their exquisite and adroit pen,
managed to build a complete castle in the air on its foundations.
16. At the age of about 25 years, when the Prophet (sws)
had become a young man, he again undertook the journey to Syria with the
trading caravan for Khadījah. Had he known that the land and its people are so
inimical to him, and that, at the very sight of him, they would recognize him
by his so conspicuous signs, he would never have undertaken that journey. But
at the offer of taking the trading caravan by Khadījah, he showed no
reservations; and unflinchingly accepted the offer. And to the surprise of the
scholars nobody put a hand on him. He returned safe and sound after a very
17. It is surprisingly noted that in all this tradition,
which although is a fabrication in itself, yet is stronger than all other
narratives of the so-called incident, the monk is, at no time, seen to be
addressing the ‘would be’ Prophet boy directly. One may once more go through
the tradition and observe for himself the strange phenomenon. There has not
been a single second person pronoun used for Muhammad any where at any time in
the whole of the report. At every time, the monk uses the third person or a
demonstrative pronoun for the boy. It shows that the monk did not consider
that such a boy and from such an unlettered back ground could have been able
even to understand his assertions. It can also be observed that none of the
narrators of the tradition either, had been so silly as to show the monk
addressing the boy directly; because they could naturally not have conceived a
boy of his age worthy of such conversation.
To end the article, it will be useful to look into some
balanced observations of some learned orientalists. John B. Noss and David S.
Noss write in their esteemed work “Man’s Religions”:
(...). The venerable tradition that he learned about
Judaism and Christianity during caravan trips to Syria, the first when he was
twelve in the company of Abū Tālib and the second when he was twenty-five and
in the employ of Khadīja, whom he subsequently married, must be set aside as
Thomas Carlyle observes:
I know not what to make of that Sergius [Bahira or
Buhayra, whatsoever the pronunciation be, has also been called as Sergius],
the Nestorian Monk whom Abu Thaleb and he are said to have lodged with; or how
much any monk could have taught one still so young. Probably enough it is
greatly exaggerated, this of Nestorian Monk. Mahomet was only fourteen
[according to the tradition he was either only nine or, at the most, twelve];
had no language but his own: much in Syria must have been a strange
unintelligible whirlpool to him.
From the perusal of the above analysis it can be
concluded that the claim of those scholars who assert that the Prophet of
Islam (sws) acquired all his religious understandings from some Biblical
scholar like Buhayra is baseless; and it is only out of their wishful
miscalculations that they articulate such an obviously obscure and improbable
story. Objective research demands sustained and un-prepossessed efforts to
secure facts with a reasonable, justifiable, and responsible approach.