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Prophet Muhammad's Encounters with the Christians of His Time - I

Thursday 05/01/2012

Prophet Muhammad,  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allaah exalt his mention ), met many Christians in his lifetime, both before he embarked on his Prophetic mission and after. These Christians included a monk called Baheerah, his wife Khadeejah’s relative Waraqah ibn Nawfal, and the Abyssinian king, An-Najaashi. The Prophet,  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allaah exalt his mention ), had many champions amongst these Christians, and they, having read about the emergence of a new prophet in their religious books, appeared quite supportive of him.

The first of these Christians was a monk called Baheerah, who the Prophet,  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allaah exalt his mention ), met as a boy of twelve. This was when the Prophet,  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allaah exalt his mention ), was travelling with his uncle Abu Taalib, in a merchant caravan heading to Ash-Shaam. The caravan stopped near Baheerah’s house for the travelers to rest.
 
Baheerah had studied ancient scriptures and religious texts from which he had learnt of the coming of a final prophet. He was convinced that this prophet would appear in his own lifetime, and his anticipation increased every time a caravan of Arab merchants passed by where he lived. Therefore, he was struck and awed at the arrival of a caravan from Makkah which, to his amazement, was shaded by a cloud hovering closely above them. The cloud moved as the caravan moved, and did not go any further when they stopped. It appeared as though it were providing shade for one person or all those in the caravan. When he also noticed that a tree lowered its branches over the caravan to provide further shade, he immediately realized that there must be someone extraordinary in the caravan.
 
Baheerah invited all the travelers from the caravan to a meal in his house, but none of their features had the traits of the awaited prophet. He inquired if there was anyone who had not joined the meal. It was then that he received news that a young boy, Muhammad, had been left outside to guard the caravan. Baheerah could not wait to see the boy, and when he did, he realized that this was the awaited prophet who carried all the signs that he was supposed to have, as described in the religious books that Baheerah had studied. When the caravan was going to leave, Baheerah told Abu Taalib, the uncle of the Prophet,  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allaah exalt his mention ), to take the boy back to Makkah as soon as possible, in order to guard him against those who might try to harm him.
 
Here was a Christian monk who did not forge facts or hide them, but was honest enough to know and acknowledge the truth of what he had seen: that the last prophet had indeed been born but had not yet embarked on his mission.
 
Another Christian was Waraqah ibn Nawfal, who was related to Khadeejah bint Khuwaylid, may Allah be pleased with her, the wife of the Prophet,  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allaah exalt his mention ). Waraqah was a respected man of his time and a well-known Christian scholar. He was also one of those who used to translate Christian holy texts into Arabic. Khadeejah, may Allah be pleased with her, brought the Prophet,  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allaah exalt his mention ), to Waraqah after the Prophet,  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allaah exalt his mention ), received his first revelation in the cave of ‘Hiraa.
 
The revelation had left the Prophet,  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allaah exalt his mention ), shaken and terrified. He had rushed home to his wife, overwhelmed by the experience. Khadeejah, may Allah be pleased with her, calmed him down and took him to Waraqah ibn Nawfal. After the Prophet,  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allaah exalt his mention ), related the whole incident to him, Waraqah informed him that it was Jibreel (Gabriel), may Allah exalt his mention, who had come to him, just as he had come to Moosa (Moses), may Allah exalt his mention, before him. Waraqah added that he wished he was young, so that he might live to support the Prophet,  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allaah exalt his mention ), through his mission when the Quraysh, his people, cast him out.
 
Waraqah was a learned man; he had converted from paganism to Christianity, thus preferring monotheism to polytheism. He understood the features of the revelation in the account that the Prophet,  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allaah exalt his mention ), gave him. Furthermore, Waraqah fully and sincerely supported the Prophet,  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allaah exalt his mention ), even though he had not yet become a prophet. He believed that Muhammad,  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allaah exalt his mention ), was the last awaited prophet.
 
Waraqah also encouraged Muhammad,  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allaah exalt his mention ) to continue his call, without ever doubting that Allah The Almighty would protect him from the polytheists of the Quraysh. 

Prophet Muhammad’s Encounters with the Christians of His Time - II

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