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Holy Prophet’s Journey to Syria

By: Ayatullah Ja'far Subhani
It was customary for the Quraysh who were engaged in trade to visit Syria once every year. Abu Talib had determined to participate in the annual journey of Quraysh. As regards his nephew, whom he did not usually leave alone even for a while, he had decided to leave him behind in Makkah and to appoint some persons to look after him. However, when the caravan was about to move, tears trickled down the eyes of Muhammad and he extremely felt the separation from his guardian. The sad face of Muhammad aroused the sentiments of Abu Talib to such an extent that he felt compelled to bear the hardship involved and to take Muhammad along with himself.
This journey, undertaken by Muhammad at the age of twelve years, is considered to be one of the most pleasant journeys performed by him, because during this journey he passed through Madyan the Qura valley and the country of Samud and witnessed the beautiful natural sceneries of Syria. The caravan had not yet reached Syria when an incident occurred enroute at a place called Busra which upset the programme of Abu Talib's journey to some extent. The details of this incident are as follows
: For very many years a monk named 'Bahira' had been engaged in worship in his particular monastery situated at Busra. He possessed very deep knowledge of the Christian faith and was held in much respect by the Christians of that area. At times the trade caravans broke their journey at that place and the members of the caravans visited him to seek blessings. Fortunately Bahira happened to meet the trade caravan of Quraysh. His eyes fell on the nephew of Abu Talib who attracted his attention. His mysterious and deep look indicated the secret which was hidden in his heart. He stared on for a few moments and then suddenly broke the silence and asked "To whom is this boy related from amongst you?" Some of those present looked towards his uncle. Abu Talib said, "He is my nephew". Then Bahira said, "This boy has a brilliant future. He is the same promised Prophet whose universal prophethood, conquests and rule have been foretold in the Heavenly Books and the signs which I have read in the Books apply to him. He is the same Prophet, about whose name and about the name of whose father and regarding whose family, I have read in the religious books, and I know from where he is to rise and in what manner his religion will spread in the world. However, you must keep him hidden from the eyes of the Jews, for, if they learn about him, they will kill him".[1]
Most of the historians say that the nephew of Abu Talib did not proceed beyond that place (Busra). However, it is not clear whether Muhammad's uncle sent him back to Makkah along with someone else (and this appears to be quite improbable after Abu Talib having heard from the monk that he should not separate his nephew from himself) or himself returned to Makkah along with him and discontinued his further journey. And sometimes it is said that he took Muhammad to Syria along with him, exercising much care about him.

In the chapters of this book we shall point out the mistakes and occasionally the lies and unjust calumnies of the orientalists so that the basis of their information may become known and it may also become clear to what an extent they try intentionally to confuse the minds of the credulous people.
The Prophet's meeting with the monk is quite a simple matter. However, now many centuries have passed since this incident occurred, the orientalists have made it a pretext and insist to prove that Prophet Muhammad learnt from Bahira during this journey his own sublime teachings which he introduced twenty eight years later and which enlivened anew, like the elixir of life, the dead body of the human society of that age. They say: "On account of the greatness of spirit, purity of mind, retentive faculty and profoundness of thought, which nature had endowed upon Muhammad in abundance, he learnt from that very monk the stories of the Prophets and of the perished communities like Ad and Samud and also acquired most of his vital teachings from him during the same meeting".
It goes without saying that the above view is nothing more than mere fantasy and does not at all conform with the events of the life of the Prophet. It is also not supported but stands rejected by the scientific and normal standards. Here are some proofs of what we have said:
1. The historians are unanimous that Muhammad was illiterate and had not learnt reading and writing. Moreover, at the time of this journeys his age did not exceed twelve years. Now is it possible to believe that a boy, who was not more than twelve years old, should learn the realities of the Taurat and the Injeel and later, at the age of forty years, give them the shape of revelation and introduce a new religion? Such an eventuality is beyond usual standards and keeping in view the extent of human capability it may be said that it is not possible intellectually.
2. The period of this journey was too short to enable Multammad to acquire even a smattering of the Taurat and the Injeel, because it was a trade journey and did not last for more than four months including the period of stay. The reason for this is that Quraysh journeyed twice in a year - to Yemen during winter and to Syria during summer - and in view of this it cannot be imagined that the period of the journey in question exceeded four months. And it is not possible even for the greatest sage of the world to master these two voluminous Books in such a short period, not to speak of an illiterate boy, especially when he was not with the monk for full four months and this meeting had materialised at a halting place during the journey and did not last for more than a few hours.
3. History provides testimony to the fact that Abu Talib wanted to take his nephew to Syria and Busra was not their real destination. Moreover Busra was a place which lay on the route and at times the caravans stopped there to take rest. In that event how can it be possible that the Holy Prophet should stay on there and busy himself in the study of the Taurat and the Injeel. It matters little if we say that Abu Talib took him to Syria along with himself or that he returned from there (Busra) to Makkah or sent his nephew back to Makkah alongwith someone - in any of these cases the destination of the caravan and also of Abu Talib was not Busra, so that the caravan might have become busy in commerce and the Holy prophet might have simultaneously engaged himself in receiving instruction.
4. If the nephew of Abu Talib had received instruction from the monk the matter would certainly have gained publicity among the Quraysh and all would have spoken about it on their return. Moreover, even the Holy Prophet himself would not have been able to claim before his people that he was illiterate and had not pursued any studies, whereas we find that the Holy Prophet commenced his prophetic mission with this very assertion, but none said to him "O Muhammad! you did receive instruction from the monk at Busra when you were twelve years of age and learned these glowing truths from him!"
As is well known, the idolaters of Makkah accused the Holy Prophet in different ways and studied the Holy Qur'an very minutely to find a pretext for their accusation. So much so that when they saw at one time that the Holy Prophet associated, on certain occasions with a Christian slave in Marwah they seized he opportunity and said that Muhammad learnt what he said from the Christian slave. The Holy Qur 'an mentions this accusation of theirs in these words.
We know that they say: 'A mortal taught him'. But the man to whom they allude (the Christian slave) speaks a foreign language, while this is eloquent Arabic speech. (Surah al-Nahl, 16:103)
However, as regards this accusation (i.e. the Prophet received instruction from Bahira) it has neither been objected to by the Holy Qur'an nor did the quarrelsome and objectors Quraysh make it a pretext. And this thing is in itself a clear proof of the fact that this accusation is the outcome of the brains of modern orientalists.
5. The stories of Prophets. which have been narrated in detail in the Holy Qur'an, are totally at variance with those narrated in the Taurat and the Injeel and the matters ascribed to the Prophets have been narrated in these two Books in such an indecent and repulsive manner that they do not accord at all with rational standards. A comparison of these two Books with the Holy Qur'an shows that the contents of the Holy Qur'an have not been taken from them. And if it is supposed that Muhammad obtained information about the history of the nations from the two Testaments it should have been necessary that his narrative should also have been mixed with extravagant talks and myths.
6. If the monk stationed on the route to Syria possessed so extensive theoretical and religious knowledge that he could provide it to a Prophet like Muhammad why did he not acquire any fame himself? And why did he not give instruction to anyone other than Muhammad, when he was always visited by the people at large?

This Heavenly Book! It is extremely incoherent in the matter of narratives about the Prophets. We mention briefly here some instances in this regard so that it may become clear that, if the Holy Prophet had obtained the glowing realities of the Holy Qur'an from the monk, there was no reason why even the smallest repulsive remark should not have appeared in what he said. For example:
1 . The Taurat says in the book of Genesis, (chapter 32, verses 28 - 30) 'One night God wrestled with Jacob till dawn'.
2. God lied to Adam by telling him that if he ate the fruit of the particular tree he would die, whereas the fact was that if he ate the fruit of that tree he would have become aware of good and bad like God. And when he did eat it he acquired that knowledge.[2]
3. The Taurat narrates in this manner the descent of two angels to meet Ibrahim: God descended along with two angels to know whether the information which he was receiving about the people was correct or false. For this reason He appeared before Ibrahim, who said "Let me bring water so that you may wash your feet". thereafter God and the two angels who had become tired took rest and ate food. (Vide Genesis. chapter 18, verses 1- 9)
Dear reader! Please also go through the stories narrated in the Holy Qur'an and then decide whether it is possible to say ' I he Holy Qur'an which has narrated everything in so sublime a manner has borrowed the narratives relating to the Prophets from this very TI aural?" And if it has borrowed the-m from the Taurat why is not even an iota ot this extravagant talk reflected in them?

We mention three instances of "glowing realities" of the Injeel to show whether or not this very Injeel is the source of the Qur'an of the Muslims:

'Isa went to a marriage party along with his mother and his disciples. It so happened that the wine got finished. He miraculously converted seven jars full of water into wine. (St. John, chapter 2, verses 1 - 11 ).
Prophet 'Isa took a cup (of wine) and handed it over to them and said "Drink, for it is my blood". (St. Matthew, chapter 26. verse 27)
However, dear readers, you will find the logic of the Holy Qur'an about drinking of wine which is absolutely opposed to the above view. It says: Believers! Wine and games of chance, idols and divining arrows, are abominations devised by Satan. Avoid then, so that you may prosper (Surah al-Mai'da, 5:9)
In these circumstances, is it possible that Muhammad should have collected material for the Holy Qur'an from the monk at Busra?
The present Injeel introduces 'Isa as a vicious person who was very unkind to his mother (vide St. Matthew, chapter 12, St. Mark, chapter 13, St. Luke, chapter 8). whereas the Holy Qur'an depicts him to be quite the reverse of it: He has exhorted me to honour my mother and purged me of vanity and wickedness. (Surah Maryam 19:32)
Unprejudiced persons, while comparing the stories and commands of the Qur'an with the Bible can understand that the latter cannot serve as the source of the Qur'an.
[1] Tabari, vol. I, pp. 33 - 34; Seerah-i Ibn Hisham, vol. I, pp. 180 - 183.
[2] Taurat has narrated in detail the story of Adam and Eve in the book on Genesis, chapters 2 and 3.

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