8. Growing Up

The truth was that the Monk had invited them because he wanted to meet that boy. The boy was Muhammad, and Monk Baheera had seen signs as he watched from his monastery that made him curious about the child. While everyone was busy eating and drinking, Baheera watched Muhammad. Then he went to where Muhammad was sitting and began to ask him questions. He began by saying, “By al-Lat and al-Uzza answer my questions truthfully…”   But Muhammad made a face and said, “Please don’t ask me by those names for I never hated anything like I hate them.” Baheera was happy to hear that because he had invited all the people in the caravan so he could meet this person. In the old scriptures he had read about a prophet whose time had come, and he wanted to see if the description fit this young boy.

Baheera then began to ask him about what he ate and how he slept and how he spent his day. Then he went to Abu Talib and asked how the boy was related to him. Abu Talib said, “He is my son.” “No,” said Baheera “he must have no father.” “True,” said Abu Talib, “he is the son of my brother who died before he was born.”  Baheera then took Abu Talib aside and said to him, “Take your brother’s son back to your land for there are Jews in Sham who may kill him if they see him! He is young now and it would be easy to attack him.”

Abu Talib was frightened. Perhaps he remembered the incident between his father’s friend the monk and his father concerning Muhammad. He remembered his father telling him no one’s footprint was more like Ibraheem’s footprint than Muhammad’s. He did not argue with Baheera. He did not continue to Sham. There at the outskirts of the city, he traded his goods and returned quickly to Mecca.

For a long time after this incident, Muhammad stayed in Mecca. Abu Talib had many children, and he was not very wealthy. Muhammad did not want to be a burden upon him. In fact, he wanted to help his uncle, so he began to work as a shepherd. He would take the sheep and goats up the mountain to graze. He had to watch the herd and make sure none of the playful daring animals got away. He had to make sure the weak or injured animals didn’t get left behind. He had to care for the baby animals and make sure their mothers got enough to eat. It was hard work, but it was beautiful up in the mountains where one could see so much sky and the city way below.

And so, Muhammad grew older. He was a grown boy now, and he wanted to do what young boys did for fun. Young people liked to go to weddings, for there was music and singing and food and drink and the partying lasted till very late at night. One day, Muhammad asked his shepherd friend to watch his sheep for him while he went down to the city to attend a wedding. His friend agreed. Muhammad followed the music to the wedding but as soon as he got there, he fell asleep. He woke up as the morning sun rays fell upon his face! Once again, he asked his friend to watch his herd while he went to attend a wedding. Again, he fell asleep and woke up to find himself alone, and the sun beating down on him. Allah had protected him twice; and he never tried again.

Muhammad grew older and was known for his honesty, trustworthiness, and exceptional character. People were drawn to him, and they trusted him. Abu Talib was going through hard times and didn’t have enough money, so he encouraged Muhammad to do trade for people in Mecca. Muhammad was in his mid-twenties now, and he was strong and capable.

In Mecca, there lived a wealthy woman called Khadija. Khadija did business by paying young men to do trade for her. When she heard of Muhammad’s good reputation, she sent her servant Maysara to ask him if he would do business for her. Muhammad agreed, and Maysara went with him. When they returned, they brought back much more profit than usual. Maysara told Khadija about how honest and trustworthy Muhammad was. She offered him, and his friend that was with him, delicacies and asked them to go again for her. Again, they made a lot of money, and she was very pleased.

Long ago when Khadija was a young girl, she had gone with the women of Quraish to the Kaba to celebrate a religious occasion. All the young unmarried girls were together. An old Jewish man passed by them and said, “Young girls of Quraish, a prophet is due to come to your people, if one of you can be his wife let her do so.” The girls laughed and made fun of the old man and said harsh words to him and threw pebbles at him. But Khadija never forgot his words. Perhaps they were on her mind now more than ever, for she was thinking of a plan.