When the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam turned 12, Abu Talib planned a trade journey to Syria. However, he was reluctant to be distanced from his beloved nephew, so he took him along.
They erected their camp near the city of Busra. Close by there was a church where lived a Christian monk named Buhaira. When Buhaira saw the caravan, he came out and went past the people to see Muhammad salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam. He held the hand of the 12 year old and said, “He is the leader of the world – the Messenger of the Creator of Universe. God will send him as a mercy to the world.”
People asked, “How do you know?”
He said, “When you were descending the valley there was no rock or tree that did not bow in prostration. And both these things do not prostrate to anyone besides a prophet. Then I also recognize him by the Seal of Prophets below the cartilage of his shoulder blades.”
Buhaira then prepared a feast for the Makkan caravan and advised Abu Talib to send the boy back to Makkah. He feared for his safety from the Jews and Romans. So, Abu Talib sent young Muhammad salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam back to Makkah.
Ibn Katheer quotes a similar version in his book Al-Seerah Al-Nabiwiyya. He writes: When the caravan stopped near Busra, as they had often done in the past without anyone paying them any attention, a Christian monk Buhaira came out and invited them to meal. He said, “O Quraysh! I have prepared food for you and would like to invite all of you.” One member of the caravan commented that Buhaira had put himself in too much trouble. Although, they have been there many times, Buhaira had never invited them to a feast before. So, why today had he asked them so?
Buhaira replied that they were his guests and he wanted to honor them. Therefore, he prepared a feast for them.
They accepted the invite but left Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam behind to look after their belongings. Buhaira immediately noted his absence and asked about him. The Quraysh said because he was the youngest, they had left him to take care of their belongings. Buhaira said, “Do not do this. Call him over and let him attend this feast along with you.” They then called Muhammad salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam to join them.
When the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam arrived, Buhaira scrutinized him closely. He studied his face, his built and how he carried himself. When they had finished eating and some men had returned to their camp, Buhaira went up to the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam and said that he will ask him some questions.
Buhaira then asked him about his sleeping habits, his circumstances, etc. and the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam answered his questions. He then asked Abu Talib about his relationship with the boy. Abu Talib replied that he was his son. Buhaira objected, “He’s not your son. This boy can’t have a living father.” Abu Talib told him that he was his nephew. Buhaira then asked, “And what happened to his father?” He was informed that he died while the mother was still pregnant with the child.
The monk said, “Now you are telling the truth.” He continued, “Take your brother’s son back to his own country and guard him from the Jews. For, by Allah, if they see him and know what I know, they will do him evil. This nephew of yours has a great future before him; take him back soon to his own country.”
When the caravan was marching toward Busra, Buhaira had seen a cloud casting its shade only on the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam. When the caravan stopped to take rest under the shade of a tree, the cloud covered the tree and the tree extended its branches to shade Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam.
Buhaira was from the People of Book, as we read in the Tafseer of Surah Al-Baqarah, they had read the description of the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam in their Scriptures. They recognized him as one recognizes their child meaning there was no chance that one would have doubts about him. His description was so clear which they secretly admitted as well.
We also learn that the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam did not shy away from additional responsibilities. At age four, he was leading a herd of sheep with his foster brothers. At age twelve, he accompanied his uncle on the trade journey. It is this hardship of the young age and responsibilities that made him a self-reliant person and nurtured in him leadership qualities. If we do not challenge ourselves and undertake responsibilities we will remain an average person. In order to become more than just an ordinary person, we need to get out of complacency and aim high.
The Arabs took their twelve year old along with them on business meeting, how do we treat our twelve year olds? We treat them as babies incapable of responsibilities. And here we have young Muhammad salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam without his parents accompanying his uncle on a business trip. It was this training that started in his childhood that made him an honest and skilled businessman.
May Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala allow us to learn from the life of the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam and work on ourselves and our loved ones, aameen.