Is the story regarding Rasulullah (sallallahu’alayhi wasallam) meeting Bahirah the monk as a child authentic, is it in any hadeeth?
You are referring to an incident when Nabi (sallallahu’alayhi wasallam) accompanied his uncle Abu Talib on a trip to Sham (Syria) when he was aged twelve. In this journey, they met a monk named Bahirah who subsequently recognised Nabi (sallallahu’alayhi wasallam) at that young age to the be the final Prophet.
This is a famous incident among the scholars of seerah (biography) of Nabi (sallallahu’alayhi wasallam) and has been cited by the following authorities in the field of seerah:
1. Imam Muhammad ibn Is-haq (rahimahullah),
2. Imam Ibn Sa’d (rahimahullah)
3. Imam Ibn Hisham (rahimahullah)
4. ‘Allamah Suhayli (rahimahullah),
5. Imam Abu Sa’d An-Naysaburi (rahimahullah)
6. Imam Ibn Sayyidin Nas (rahimahullah)
7. Hafiz Ibn Kathir (rahimahullah),
8. ‘Allamah ‘Iraqi (rahimahullah), and several others.
References for the above:
Dalailun Nubuwwah of Imam Bayhaqi, vol.2 pg.26-29
Tabaqat Ibn Sa’d, vol.1 pg.96-97
Sirah ibn Hisham with Ar-Rawdul Unf, vol.1 pg.118-119
Sharaful Mustafa, vol.1 pg.403-406
‘Uyunul Athar, vol.1 pg.105-108
Al-Fusul fi Siratir Rasul, pg.94, Al-Bidayah wan Nihayah, vol.2 pg.289-290
Alfiyyatul ‘Iraqi fis Sirah.
Also see Sharhuz Zurqani ‘alal Mawahib, vol.1 pg.366-367, and Siratul Mustafa, vol.1 pg.90-93
Imam Bayhaqi (rahimahullah) stated:
‘The incident is popular among the authors of seerah.’
(Dalailun Nubuwwah, vol.2 pg.26)
The Hadith sources do mention this incident as well, with acceptable chains of narrators. However, in their version there is mention of Sayyiduna Abu Bakr and Sayyiduna Bilal (radiyallahu’anhu) in this incident, which is problematic, due it conflicting with other historical facts.
(Sunan Tirmidhi, hadith: 3620, Musannaf Ibn Abi Shaybah, hadith: 32391, 37696 & Dalailun Nubuwwah of Bayhaqi, vol.2 pg.26)
This is either explained as a mistake or a different incident from the one which occurred when Nabi (sallallahu’alayhi wasallam) was just twelve years old.
(Al-Isabah, vol.1 pg.176-177, Al-Khasaisul Kubra, vol.1 pg.84-86 & Sharhuz Zurqani ‘ala Mawahib, vol.1 pg.366-370)
In essence, this incident is correctly understood to have indeed occurred as is widely cited in the authentic books of Sirah. However the details that have been mentioned in the narration of Tirmidhi and Ibn Abi Shaybah are questionable according to some Muhaddithun, and is best avoided.
Therefore, the version cited by the senior Sirah expert, Imam Muhammad ibn Is-haq (rahimahullah) is the better version in this case to quote.
This version is the one that has been widely accepted and quoted by the Scholars of Sirah.
(‘Uyunul Athar, vol.1 pg.105, Seerah of ‘Allamah Dhahabi, pg.28, Zadut Ma’ad, vol.1 pg.75, Al-Khasaisul Kubra, vol.1 pg.84-86 and others. Also see Shaykh ‘Awwamah’s footnotes on Musannaf Ibn Abi Shaybah, hadith: 32391)
And Allah Ta’ala Knows best,
Answered by: Moulana Muhammad Abasoomar