It was the first of aylūl (September) in 582, and it had been a devastatingly hot day: the stones paving the Incense Road that led through the Syrian town of Busra burned any flesh that pressed upon it. A lone monk by the name of Bahira watched from just outside a doorway with supernatural interest, his bare feet sizzling beneath him.
A second monk passed behind him, “Another caravan… shall I invite them in?”
“Yes, for a feast! I feel it is not just another caravan, Abouna,” he said and disappeared into the cell.
A few minutes later, he was looking deeply into the eyes of each traveler as he blessed them. After the last man had entered, Bahira asked, “I’ve invited you all, is there no one else?”
The leader of the party answered, “I’m Abu Talib. Only my son is absent, he’s out gathering kindling.”
“Son?” Bahira asked with noticeable disappointment, “I’m afraid the one I’m expecting has no father…”
“Well, truthfully, he is my nephew… his father died before his birth.”
Bahira insisted that the boy be called in for the feast. He met him at the door and before saying a word, placed his hand on the boy’s back between his shoulder-blades. His eyes widened as he felt an oval ridge beneath his fingers and he spun the boy around to face him.
“What is your name, boy?”
“Welcome Muhammad,” the priest said, and turning, whispered to the uncle, “protect your nephew, he wears the seal of a prophet…”