The Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) said: “None of you truly believes until I am more beloved to him than his father, his child and all the people.”
In this series we embark on a journey to increase our knowledge of the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam), to view him as the Sahāba viewed him, and to love him as we should.
Last week, we learnt of how the Messenger of Allāh (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) captivated hearts through his impeccable character, qualities and virtues. This week, be awed by his modesty but also his imposing dignity, his strength of limbs but also his lustrous beauty.
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Sufyān b. Wakīʿ narrates that Jumayʿ b. ʿUmayr b. ʿAbdu’l-Raḥmān al-ʿIjlī read to us from his book saying,
“A man from Banī Tamīm, from the sons of Abū Hālah – the husband of Khadījah – who was given the honorific of Abū ʿAbdullāh; from al-Ḥasan b. ʿAlī (raḍiy Allāhu ʿanhu) said,
I asked my uncle, Hind b. Abū Hālah, [to describe the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam)] because it was his habit to do so and I ardently desired that he describe something of his characteristics so that I could relate to them and imitate them. He said,
‘The Messenger of Allāh (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) was imposing, dignified and one who was greatly honoured and respected. His face shone with resplendence like that of the moon when full. He was somewhat taller than a person of medium stature but shorter than a tall person. His head was large with slightly curly hair and if the hair on his forehead parted of its own accord, he would keep it parted, otherwise his hair, when at its longest, would reach the lobes of his ears. He was white skinned with a wide brow, thick curved eyebrows which were completely joined except in the place where they met. Between them was a vein that would throb when angry. He had a long, aquiline nose which shone with a light that would seem to elevate it, whoever did not carefully look at it would think it upturned. He had a thick and full beard with firm cheeks that were not raised. He had a wide mouth and evenly spaced teeth. He had a fine line of hair extending from his chest to navel. His neck resembled that of an ivory statue’s, white in colour like smooth silver. He was of a goodly build: finely balanced. His chest and stomach were level and he had a wide chest with broad shoulders. His joints were large, and his skin that would normally be covered with clothes, had a lustre about it. He had a line of hair extending from his upper chest to his navel, apart from that, his chest and stomach were bare. The upper part of his chest, his forearms, and shoulders had a lot of hair on them. He had long forearms with wide palms and he had heavy and thick hands and feet. His fingers were long but not extremely so, he had high insteps, and his feet were smooth and well-proportioned because of which water would swiftly flow off them and quickly vanish. When he walked, he walked briskly with strength of purpose but placed his feet on the ground softly. When he walked, he took large steps as if he was descending a slope. When he turned [to address someone], he turned his entire body. He would constantly lower his gaze looking more to the ground than he would the sky, and most of the time he would merely glance at something. He would have his Companions walk in front of him and would hurry to greet whoever he met with the salām.’”
His face shone with resplendence like that of the moon when full
It was the habit of the Arabs, and poets for that matter, to compare certain qualities and attributes to objects and creatures to drive home the point being made, to make it easier for the reader to grasp what was being said or to introduce hyperbole. Here the comparison can only be one of approximation since the true nature of his qualities is far beyond the ability of any human language to describe. Here Ibn Abī Hālah chose to compare his face to the moon because he (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) appeared when the world was steeped in the darkness of disbelief and he filled it with light just as the moon illuminates the night.
His head was large with slightly curly hair and if the hair on his forehead parted of its own accord, he would keep it parted, otherwise his hair, when at its longest, would [sometimes] reach the lobes of his ears
Ibn Ḥajr said,
‘Bukhārī and Muslim record that he (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) would let his hair hang freely, as did the People of the Book, and the polytheists would part their hair. He liked to follow the practice of the People of the Book in those matters for which no command had come to him. Then, after this, the Messenger of Allāh (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) would part his hair. It is permissible to let the hair hang freely or part it, but parting is better as this is what he (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) did at the end.’
He was white-skinned with a lustre to it
He was not very white as already discussed; rather he was light-skinned with a red tinge. It is also possible that the sentence means that he had the best skin colour.
With a wide brow, thick curved eyebrows which were completely joined except in the place where they met
This means his eyebrows almost joined but did not. This is the correct description of his features in contrast to what is mentioned in the ḥadīth of Umm Maʿbad that his (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) eyebrows were joined. Assuming that this report is authentic, it is possible to reconcile the two descriptions by saying that the gap between the eyebrows was very fine and not easily discernable unless one looked carefully.
He had a thick and full beard
‘This is how it was described by ʿUmar b. al-Khaṭṭāb, Ibn Masʿūd, Umm Maʿbad and Hind. The narration of Ḥumayd has, “His beard filled the area from here to here,” and some of the narrators of this ḥadīth pointed from one side of the face to the other. The narration of Simāk from Jābir has, “He (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) had a thick head of hair and a thick beard.”’
With firm cheeks that were not raised. He had a wide mouth [and] evenly spaced teeth
A later narration shows that he had evenly spaced incisors.
The Messenger of Allāh’s (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) mouth was full of blessings. Ibn Ḥajr said,
‘Aḥmad and others record that he (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) drank from a bucket which was then lowered into a well, and after this it would diffuse an aroma like that of musk. Abū Nuʿaym records that he (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) spat in a well in the house of Anas, after which there was no well to be found in Madīnah that would give sweeter water than his. Bayhaqī records that on the Day of ʿĀshūrāʾ, he spat lightly in the mouths of those suckling infants with him and his daughter, Fāṭimah, and said not to feed them until nightfall, and his spit would suffice them.’
His neck resembled that of an ivory statue’s
The purpose is to illustrate that the length of his neck was finely balanced with his body and truly beautiful.
He had long forearms with wide palms and he had heavy and thick hands and feet. His fingers were long but not extremely so, he had insteps
This does not necessarily contradict the description mentioned in the ḥadīth of Abū Hurayrah that when he (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) walked, he walked with all his foot and he did not have insteps, because he merely negated his having high insteps while those who affirmed them for him affirmed slight insteps. Moreover, the context of the narration of Abū Hurayrah shows that he derived this description from looking at his footprints and did not rely upon any narration. As such, his description would be viewed as the weaker of the two even though the isnād of his report is stronger than this isnād. Others argued that there was need to reconcile the two sets of ḥadīths as this ḥadīth is not authentic and Abū Hurayrah’s is.
‘Amongst the virtues of the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) is that Allāh has mentioned each of his limbs in the Qurʾān: He mentioned his face in, “We have seen the turning of your face toward the heaven”; his eyes in, “Do not direct your eyes longingly to that which We have given certain categories of them to enjoy”; his tongue in, “We have made it easy on your tongue so that you can give good news to those who have taqwā”;  his hand and neck in “Do not keep your hand chained to your neck and neither extend it to its full extent”; his chest and back in, “Did We not expand your breast for you and remove your load from you which weighed down your back”; his heart in, “The faithful spirit brought it down to your heart so that you would be one of the warners”; and all of him in, “Indeed you are truly vast in character.”’
When he turned [to address someone], he turned his entire body. He would constantly lower his gaze looking more to the ground then he would to the sky
This is a description of the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) in his periods of silence. The reason for this is that such a posture is more conducive to contemplating and thinking, or it was because of his (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) great modesty before his Lord. When understood in this light, this narration does not contradict the narration that states when he sat and spoke, he would frequently look at the sky.
He would have his Companions walk in front of him
He did this out of modesty and humbleness. By doing this, he was showing them that he was like a shepherd guiding his flock, and that he was also thinking about the poor and weak, putting himself behind them, thereby taking their feelings into account. This practice refutes the habit of the arrogant, ostentatious and the ignoramuses hankering after status. The Messenger of Allāh (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) said, “Leave my back empty for the Angels.” The Companions of the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) would walk in front of him and leave his rear for the Angels. Perhaps this is derived from His saying, “And the Angels moreover are his assistants.”
And would hurry to greet whoever he met with the salām
This is a general statement but it excludes the disbelievers. The first thing the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) would do when meeting someone was to give the salām. This act is a clear manifestation of humility.
Some have argued that he did so to prefer those he met over himself with the greater reward of responding to the salām since responding to the salām is obligatory and hence superior to the sunnah of initiating the greeting. This is incorrect since it is an established principle that giving preference to others in matters of worship is not praiseworthy. In fact, Nawawī said it was reprehensible when explaining this in the chapter dealing with Tayammum in al-Majmūʿ, and Imām al-Ḥaramayn said it was unlawful. Ibn ʿAbdi’l-Salām said,
‘One cannot give preference in matters of worship because the goal of worship is to exalt and magnify Allāh; as such when a person gives preference to another in matters of worship, he has left magnifying Allāh as best he can.’
Moreover, they have also overlooked the saying of the scholars that this sunnah is better than the obligation because it is a means to its attainment. The principle that an obligation is superior to an optional deed does not hold true in every case, rather there are exceptions such as initiating the salām which is a sunnah, the response to which is an obligation. Another example is performing ablution before the time of prayer; it is a sunnah and is better than performing it in the time of prayer.
Abū Mūsā Muḥammad b. al-Muthanna narrated to us; from Muḥammad b. Jaʿfar; from Shuʿbah; from Simāk b. Ḥarb; that Jābir b. Samurah (raḍiy Allāhu ʿanhu) said,
“The Messenger of Allāh (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) had a wide mouth, eyes, the white of which had a red tinge, and lean heels.”
Shuʿbah said, ‘I asked Simāk what the meaning of “wide mouth” was and he replied, “A large mouth.” I asked him what the meaning of “Ashkal eyes” was and he replied, “Wide eyes.” I asked him what the meaning of “manhūs heels” was and he replied, “Of little flesh on the heels.”’
The Messenger of Allāh (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) had a wide mouth
This is a praiseworthy feature in the view of the Arabs and an expression denoting the peak of eloquence and clarity in speech.
Shuʿbah said: I asked Simāk what the meaning of ‘wide mouth’ was and he replied, ‘a large mouth’
This is the opinion of the majority, and it is also said that the meaning is ‘having large teeth,’ but this is incorrect.
I asked him what the meaning of ‘ashkal eyes’ was and he replied, ‘wide eyes’
Qaḍī ʿIyāḍ said, ‘This is an error on the part of Simāk and the correct position is the position agreed upon by the scholars and all those who explained the difficult words occurring in the aḥādīth: Shaklah is a redness in the white of the eye and this is an extremely praiseworthy feature in the view of the Arabs; shahlah is a redness in the black of the eye. Bayhaqī records on the authority of ʿAlī that, “He (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) had large eyes, long eyelashes and his eyes had a tinge of red.”’
Hāfiẓ al-ʿIrāqī said,
‘This feature is one of the signs of Prophethood. When he (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) journeyed to Syria with Maysirah and the monk asked about him, amongst the things that Maysirah said was “His eyes have a red tinge to them” to which the monk said, “That is him, that is him.”’
The Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) was said to have extremely keen eyesight, more so than those around him. Suhaylī records that he (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) could see ten stars of the Pleiades and in al-Shifā it is mentioned that he could see twelve.
Hannād b. al-Sarrī narrated to us; from ʿAbthar b. al-Qāsim; from Ashʿāth b. Sawwār; from Abū īsḥāq; that Jābir b. Samurah (raḍiy Allāhu ʿanhu) said,
“I saw the Messenger of Allāh (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) on a clear night wearing a red ḥulla and I paused and looked at him and then the moon and found that, in my view, he was more beautiful than the moon.”
I saw the Messenger of Allāh (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) on a clear night
Some narrations mention that it was the eighth night of the month.
Wearing a red ḥulla
He remembered the incident so well that it was as if he (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) was before his eyes. The clothes struck him and were a further cause to ponder his (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) beauty.
I paused and looked at him
Meaning at his (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) face.
In my view
This would not just have been in his view because he (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) is like this in the eyes of every Muslim who looks at him with the light of faith, in contrast to those who are blind as Allāh, Mighty and Magnificent, informs us, “You see them looking at you but not seeing,” i.e. not seeing your beauty and your perfection because of their defective sight.
The report of Ibn al-Jawzī and others on the authority of Jabir has “in my eyes” in place of “in my view”.
He was more beautiful than the moon
This is in reference to his physical beauty coupled with his spiritual beauty. The light of his (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) face is intrinsic to it, never leaving it, but the light of the moon is something that does not belong to it, rather it is borrowed; sometimes it fades and sometimes it disappears altogether in an eclipse. Abū Nuʿaym records on the authority of Abū Bakr that, “His face was like the halo of the moon.” Dārimī records on the authority of Rabīʿ bint Muʿawwidh, “Were you to see him (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) you would have thought the sun had risen.” Kaʿb b. Mālik said that ‘when the Messenger of Allāh (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) was happy, his face would light up as if it was a piece of the moon.’
Sufyān b. Wakīʿ narrated to us; from Ḥumayd b. ʿAbdur-Raḥmān al-Ruwwāsī [or al-Ruʾāsī]; from Zuhayr; from Abū Isḥāq that a man asked Barāʾa b. ʿĀzib (raḍiy Allāhu ʿanhu),
“‘Did the face of the Messenger of Allāh (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) resemble a sword?’ He replied, ‘No, rather it resembled the moon.’”
Did the face of the Messenger of Allāh (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) resemble a sword?
The comparison to a sword is with regards to beauty and lustre. The question was also posed regarding the shape of his face as indicated by the wording of Ismāʿīlī, ‘Was the face of the Messenger of Allāh (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) elongated like a sword?’
No, rather it resembled the moon
It resembled the moon in its lustre and beauty as well as being round rather than long. This understanding is strengthened by the ḥadīth of Kaʿb b. Mālik previously quoted who said that, ‘when the Messenger of Allāh (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) was happy, his face would light up as if it was a piece of the moon.’ Indeed the aḥādīth prove that, “he was more beautiful than the moon,” and that, “were you to see him (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam), you would have thought the sun had risen”.
The moon is more luminescent and of more benefit than the sword because the sword rusts, its splendour fades, and its sharpness decreases; as such the comparison was altered to that of the moon. This was also done by way of seeking good omens (tafāʾul) because the word sword comes from sāfa which means halaka (to perish). We say this even though the sword has merits to it but, for the purpose of this similitude, this benefit is countered by what we have just mentioned. If it said: but the sun and moon eclipse [and therefore lose their light], we would say this is just a temporary occurrence, like illness, in contrast to what happens to the sword.
Muslim records on the authority of Jābir b. Samurah that a man asked him, ‘Did the face of the Messenger of Allāh (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) resemble a sword?’ He replied, ‘No, it was like the sun and the moon, it was round.’ Abū ʿUbayd said, ‘He did not mean that it was completely round, rather it had a sense of softness and easiness about it.’ This understanding is strengthened by the report that, “he had firm cheeks.”
The sun and the moon have been mentioned here because the first is used to liken light and radiance whereas the second is used to liken beauty and perfection. So, he clarified that his (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) face combines both aspects as well as being round, but not completely so. The purpose of these similitudes is not mere comparison but to highlight his beauty and splendour, so the intent here is to compare his excellent qualities with the excellent qualities of all that is beautiful.
Preview of the next ḥadīth in the series:
“Allāh never sent a Prophet except that he had a beautiful face and a nice voice, and your Prophet has the best face and the best voice”
This series is an adapted translation of Shamāʾil al-Muḥammadiyyah by Imām Tirmidhī (raḥimahu Allāhu).
 Narrated by al-Bukhāri, 15; Muslim, 44
 It is recorded by Ṭabarānī, al-Kabīr 22:155 and Bayhaqī, al-Dalāʾil 1, pp. 286-297
Qārī and Munāwī said about the narrator, Jumayʿ: he was declared thiqah by Ibn Ḥibbān but ḍaʿīf by others. Abū Dāwūd said, ‘I fear he is a liar,’ Dhahabī said he was feeble and quoted Bukhārī saying, ‘He is problematic.’ Ibn Ḥajr said about him, ‘Ḍaʿīf, a Rāfiḍī.’ A man from Banī Tamīm: Ibn Ḥajr said, ‘He is ʿAbdullāh al-Tamīmī: majhūl al-ḥāl.’
Albānī: the isnād is ḍaʿīf jiddan. In one text the wording is, “He would initiate the salām,” perhaps this is the correct wording for this is what is mentioned in al-Bidāyah via the route of Yaʿqūb b. Sufyān.
Translator: But all that is mentioned in the ḥadīth is proven by other authentic aḥādīth, Allāh knows best.
 Bukhārī #3558-3944-5918 and Muslim #2336
 More detail follows in the chapter dealing with Tarajjul.
 Nasāʾī, Zīnah
 Bayhaqī 1:217
 Qārī, Munāwī
 Ibn Mājah #659 and Aḥmad [4/416]
 Fatḥ 6:711
 Bayhaqī 1:241, 245, 275
 Bayhaqī 1:305
 Al-Qur’ān, 2:144
 Al-Qur’ān, 15:88
 Al-Qur’ān, 19:97
 Al-Qur’ān, 17:29
 Al-Qur’ān, 94:1-3
 Al-Qur’ān, 26:194
 Al-Qur’ān, 68:4
 Recorded by Abū Dāwūd
 Dārimī 1, pp. 23-25. It was ruled ṣaḥīḥ by Ibn Ḥibbān #6312.
Ḥākim #7753 records on the authority of Jābir that the Messenger of Allāh (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) said, “Do not walk directly in front of me or behind me for this is the place of the angels.” He ruled it to be ṣaḥīḥ and Dhahabī agreed.
 Ibn Mājah, Muqaddimah #246 and Aḥmad #14236 with a ṣaḥīḥ isnād and it was declared ṣaḥīḥ by Ibn Ḥibbān #6312
 Al-Qur’ān, 66:4 c.f. Munawī
 Qārī, Munāwī
 Muslim #2339 and Tirmidhī #3646-3647.
 This is the description of his (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) eyes provided by Ibn Ḥibbān #6289 with a ṣaḥīḥ isnād: ashhal al-ʿaynayn.
 Bayhaqī 1:212
 Tirmidhī, Adab #2811 who said it was ḥasan gharīb. Ḥākim #7383 said it was ṣaḥīḥ and Dhahabī agreed. Munāwī said, ‘The ḥadīth is authentically reported on the authority of Jābir and Barāʾa b. ʿĀzib as stated by Bukhārī, as such the statement of Nasāʾi that the report to Jābir is a mistake and what is preserved is the report of Barāʾa, is an error.’ cf. Tirmidhī, al-ʿIlal 2:767
 Al-Qur’ān, 7:198
 Ṭabarānī, al-Kabīr. Haythamī, Majmaʿ az-Zawāʾid 8:280, said that its narrators were trustworthy and precise and Arnaʾūṭ ruled it ḥasan.
 Bukhārī, Manāqib #3556
 Bukhārī, Ṣifatu-n Nabī #3552 and Tirmidhī, Manāqib #3636.
 Qārī, Munāwī
 Muslim, Faḍāʾil #2344