There were many signs as the prophet Muhammad (salAllahu alayhi wasalam) was growing up and entering manhood that he was an extraordinary person.
He was well known among the Quraish as a trustworthy and honest person. He was an eloquent speaker and a sound judge. But there was something more, something special, about him that was witnessed by many of those around him.
When Amina was pregnant with the baby Muhammad (salAllahu alayhi wasalam), she was aware of a light within her, shining out of her stomach so intensely that she could see great distances.
Just before the baby was born Amina had a dream in which she was told that her child would be the leader of the people and that she should name him 'Muhammad', meaning 'the praised one'. Although it was an unusual name among the Arabs, Amina, when the baby was born in 570, Muhammad he was named.
So Amina was not surprised when Haleema, the childís foster mother, told her about something strange that happened when she was looking after young Muhammad (salAllahu alayhi wasalam).
Muhammad (salAllahu alayhi wasalam) and the son of Haleema had been out in the fields with the sheep, when two men dressed in white took Muhammad (salAllahu alayhi wasalam) a little distance away and laid him down and opened his chest.
Haleemaís son quickly ran back to tell his parents what was happening. What were those two men doing?
When Haleema and her husband ran to him they found Muhammad (salAllahu alayhi wasalam) very pale but standing.
They could see no trace of the men, and there was no sign of any hurt or wound on young Muhammad, but neither boy would change a word of his story.
The only mark on the Muhammadís body was a small mark on his back between his shoulders. But that had been there since his birth.
Later in his life the Blessed prophet described what happened on that day more fully. He said that the two men in white carried with them a gold basin of snow. They opened his chest and removed his heart. They also opened his heart and removed a black clot. Then they cleansed and purified his heart and his breast with the snow.
When Muhammad (salAllahu alayhi wasalam) was six years old his mother died. He was then cared for by his grandfather, Abdul Muttalib, who died only two years after becoming Muhammadís guardian.
After his grandfatherís death, Muhammad was taken into the household of his fatherís brother, Abu Talib. Sometimes, Abu Talib would take Muhammad with him on his travels with merchant caravans. On one such journey they stopped at a place named Bostra, on the way to Syria.
At Bostra there lived a Christian monk named Bahira. He lived there alone, studying old books and manuscripts which had been passed down to him from generations of monks who had lived there before him, all of whom were scholars of the scriptures.
In the books, there was one which predicted the coming of a prophet among the Arabs. Bahira believed that the prophet would come in his lifetime.
As the caravan from Makkah came to a halt near the monkís abode, he noticed something very strange. A small cloud seemed to move slowly above the heads of a couple of the travelers, shielding them from the heat of the sun. What could this mean?
When the group of travelers took shelter beneath a tree, the cloud came to rest above them, and the branches of the tree itself were lowered over them to provide more shade.
Bahira was intrigued, and wanted to know more, so prepared a dinner for the entire caravan. It was no ordinary person who had caused the strange happenings which Bahira had witnessed.
Perhaps the expected prophet was with the caravan.
When his guests arrived for dinner, he saw nothing unusual about any of them, so he asked if everyone had come. Sure enough, the youngest member of the caravan, Muhammad (salAllahu alayhi wasalam), had been left at the camp.
The monkís requested that Muhammad (salAllahu alayhi wasalam) be brought.
Bahira watched the young boy carefully, and noted his behaviour. He knew at once that this was the person for whom the shade had been provided.
After a little while, Bahira took Abu Talib and his nephew aside, and said, "This is the Last Prophet."
When Abu Talib asked him how he knew this, the monk replied, "the signs of the last Prophet are written in our books, and the clouds only cast shade over a Prophet. When you were approaching, I saw a cloud overshadowing your caravan, and I had no doubt that the last Prophet foreseen in our holy books was with you. For this reason I invited you, in order that I might meet him."
Bahira asked the boy many questions, all of which were answered to his satisfaction.
Finally the monk asked if he might see his back. There, between the shoulders, was the mark Bahira had expected to see, just as it had been described in his book.
Bahira advised Abu Talib to take his nephew back to Makkah. He warned him to keep the boy away from the Jews, for if they saw in him what Bahira had seen, they would try to harm him.
He predicted that great things were in store for the son of Abu Talibís brother. Between the shoulders of Muhammad , Bahira had seen what he knew was the seal of prophethood.