Two years later Abu Talib set out on a mercantile journey, and was minded to leave his small foster-child behind him, but Mahomet came to him as he sat on his camel equipped for his journey, and clinging to him passionately implored his uncle not to go without him. Abu Talib could not resist his pleading, and so Mahomet accompanied him on that magical journey through the desert, so glorious yet awesome to an imaginative child, Bostra was the principal city of exchange for merchandise circulating between Yemen, Northern Arabia, and the cities of Upper Palestine, and Mahomet must thus have travelled on the caravan route through the heart of Syria, past Jerash, Ammon, and the site of the fated Cities of the Plain. In Syria, too, he first encountered the Christian faith, and planted those remembrances that were to be revived and strengthened upon his second journey through that wonderful land—in religion, and in a lesser degree in polity, a law unto itself, forging out its own history apart from the main stream of Christian life and thought.
Legends concerning this journey are rife, and all emphasise the influence Christianity had upon his mind, and also the ready recognition of his coming greatness by all those Christians who saw him. On the homeward journey the monk Bahirah is fabled to have met the party and to have bidden them to a feast. When he saw the child was not among them he was wroth, and commanded his guests to bring “every man of the company.” He interrogated Mahomet and Abu Talib concerning the parentage of the boy, and we have here the first traditional record of Mahomet’s speech.
“Ask what thou wilt,” he said to Bahirah, “and I will make answer.”
So Bahirah questioned him as to the signs that had been vouchsafed him, and looking between his shoulders found the seal of the prophetic office, a mole covered with hair. Then Bahirah knew this was he who was foretold, and counselled Abu Talib to take him to his native land, and to beware  of the Jews, for he would one day attain high honour. At this time Mahomet was little more than a child, but although few thoughts of God or of human destiny can have crossed his mind, he retained a vivid impression of the storied places through which he passed—Jerash, Ammon, the valley of Hejr, and saw in imagination the mighty stream of the Tigris, the ruinous cities, and Palmyra with its golden pillars fronting the sun. The tribes which the caravan encountered were rich in legend and myth, and their influence, together with the more subtle spell of the desert vastness, wrought in him that fervour of spirit, a leaping, troubled flame, which found mortal expression in the poetry of the early part of the Kuran, where the vision of God’s majesty compels the gazer into speech that sweeps from his mind in a stream of fire: