Monastery of Bahira

By the Editors of the Madain Project

This structure is most commonly known and believed to be the basilica or monastery of Bahira (دير البحيرة), according to Islamic tradition with whome Muhammad met on his way to Syria during a trade trip. According to early Muslim historians, Bahira, a monk living near the church, met Prophet Muhammad when he was a boy; Muhammad was travelling with his uncle, a merchant; the monk told the uncle that Muhammad was the prophet mentioned in the original gospels. Other than a local tradition there is no direct evidence to connect the structure with either Bahira or prophet Muhammad.

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A Christian community is recorded from the IInd century, but the town does not retain any early church. Bosra, notwithstanding having been seized and sacked in 269 by Queen Zenobia of Palmyra, continued to be a rich town until the middle of the VIth century. After the 392 decree by Emperor Theodosius, which banished non-Christian beliefs, a large pagan building was turned into a church. It is located some 200 meters away from the Umari Mosque and some 450 meters from the Roman Theatre.

The most common Muslim version of the legend is included in the principal biographies of Muḥammad by Ibn-Sa‘d and Ibn-Isḥūq, confirmed by Ibn-Hishām and Al-Ṭabari and regarded as fact by most later Muslim biographers of Muḥammad. According to this version Muḥammad, when 12 years old, accompanied his uncle Abū Ṭālib on a caravan trip to Syria. When the caravan was near or already in the town of Bosra, a Christian monk or hermit, noting what he regarded as a miraculous movement of a cloud (or branch) shading it, invited the caravan to dine with him. All accounts agree that the monk on that occasion foretold the young man's prophetic destiny.

Monastery of Bahira



Monastery of Bahira

Monastery of Bahira the Monk is an oblong square building is called by the natives Deir Boheiry, or the Monastery of the priest Boheiry. Built out of the black basalt stones the building bears no decoration, carvings or engravings. Bahira the Monk is said to have been a rich Greek priest, settled at Boszra, and to have predicted the prophetic vocation of Mohammed, whom he saw when a boy passing with a caravan from Mekka to Damascus.


Dedicatory Inscription
A fine dedicatory inscription (inspect), within a tabula ansata, reused above the entrance to the church of Bahira. Set up by the optiones and centurions of Legio III Cyrenaica to the provincial governor (and consul designate), Aelius Aurelius Theonus. The additional titles of the legion (Valeriana Galeriana) and the form of the governor's name suggest a mid-3rd century CE date for the piece. Legio III Cyrenaica was a legion established by Marc Antony; it was stationed in Egypt until Emperor Hadrian relocated it to Bosra.

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Monastery of Bahira

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