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.
In the last article, we began with an exploration of the stature and physical characteristics of the Messenger of Allāh (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam). Now we learn of some of the qualities and virtues he was known for, inshāAllāh.
– حدثنا سفيان بن وكيع قال، حدثنا جُميع بن عمير بن عبد الرحمن العجلي (إملاء علينا من كتابه) قال، أخبرني رجل من بني تميم من ولد أبي هالة زوج خديجة يكنى أبا عبد الله، عن ابن لأبي هالة، عن الحسن بن علي رضي الله عنهما قال:
سَأَلْتُ خالِي هِنْدَ بنَ أَبِي هالَةَ، وَكانَ وَصَّافاً عَن حِلْيَةِ النبيَّ وَأَنا أَشْتَهِي أَنْ يَصِفَ لِي مِنْها شَيئاً أَتَعَلَّقُ بِهِ فَقالَ:
كانَ رَسُولُ اللهِ فَخْماً مُفَخَّماً، يَتَلَأْلَأُ وَجْهُهُ تَلَأْلُؤَ القَمَرِ لَيلَةَ البَدْرِ، أَطْوَلَ مِن المَرْبُوعِ، وَأَقْصَرَ مِن المُشَذَّبِ عَظِيمَ الهامَةِ، رَجِلَ الشَّعْرِ، إِنِ انْفَرَقَتْ عَقِيقَتُهُ فَرَقَها، وَإِلا فَلا يُجاوِزُ شَعْرُهُ شَحْمَةَ أُذُنَيهِ إِذا هُوَ وَفَّرَهُ، أَزْهَرَ اللَّونِ، وَاسِعَ الجَبِينِ، أَزَجَّ الحَواجِبِ سَوابِغَ فِي غَيرِ قَرَنٍ، بَينَهُما عِرْقٌ يُدِرُّهُ الغَضَبُ، أَقْنَي العِرْنَينِ، لَهُ نُورٌ يَعْلُوهُ يَحْسَبُهُ مَن لَمْ يَتَأَمَّلَهُ أَشَمَّ، كَثَّ اللِّحْيَةِ، سَهْلَ الخَدَّينِ، ضَلِيعَ الفَمِ مُفَلَّجَ الأَسْنانِ دَقِيقَ المَسْرُبَةِ كَأَنَّ عُنَقَهُ جِيْدُ دُمْيَةٍ فِي صَفاءِ الفِضَّةِ، مُعْتَدِلَ الخَلْقِ، بادِنٌ مُتَماسِكٌ، سَواءَ البَطْنِ وَالصَّدْرِ، عَرِيضَ الصَّدْرِ، بَعِيدَ ما بَينَ المَنْكِبَينِ ضَخْمَ الكَرادِيسِ، أَنْوَرَ المُتَجَرَّدِ، مَوصُولَ ما بَينَ اللَّبَّةِ وَالسُّرَّةِ بِشَعْرٍ يَجْرِي كَالخَطِّ، عارِيَ الثَّدْيَينِ وَالبَطَنِ مِما سِوَى ذَلك، أَشْعَرَ الذِّراعَينِ وَالمَنْكِبَينِ وَأَعالِي الصَّدْرِ، طَوِيلَ الزَّنْدَينِ رَحْبَ الرَّاحَةِ شَثْنَ الكَفَّينِ وَالقَدَمَينِ، سائِلَ الأَطْرافِ، أَو قالَ شائِلَ الأَطرافِ خُمْصانَ الأَخْمَصَينِ مَسِيحَ القَدَمَينِ يَنْبُو عَنْهُما الماءُ، إِذا زَالَ زَالَ قَلْعاً، يَخْطُو تَكَفِّياً وَيَمْشِي هَوناً، ذَرِيعَ المِشْيَةِ إِذا مَشَى كَأَنَّما يَنْحَطُّ مِن صَبَبٍ، وَإِذا الْتَفَتَ التَفَتَ جَمِيعاً، خافِضَ الطَّرَفِ، نَظَرُهُ إِلى الأَرْضِ أَطْوَلُ مِن نَظَرِهِ إِلى السَّماءِ، جُلُّ نَظَرِهِ المُلاحَظَةُ. يَسُوقُ أَصْحابَهُ، وَيَبْدَأُ مَن لَقِيَ بِالسَّلامِ
Sufyān b. Wakīʿ narrated to us that Jumayʿ b. ʿUmayr b. ʿAbdur-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 was told from one of the sons of Abū Hālah that al-Ḥasan b. ʿAlī (raḍiy Allāhu ʿanhumā) said,
I asked my uncle, Hind ibn Abū Hālah, [to describe the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam)] because it was his habit to do so and I really wanted him to describe some of his characteristics to me that I could memorise. He said,
“The Messenger of Allāh (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) was imposing and majestic in and of himself and in the eyes of those who saw him. 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 easily, he would keep it parted, otherwise his hair, when at its longest, would reach the lobes of his ears. He had a rosy white complexion with a wide brow, thick curved eyebrows that did not quite meet in the middle. Between them was a vein that would throb when angry. He had a long, slightly arched nose which shone with a light that would seem to elevate it, whoever did not carefully look at it would think he had a large nasal bridge. He had a thick and full beard with smooth cheeks that were not raised. He had a wide mouth with a gap in the teeth. He had a fine line of hair extending from his chest to navel. His neck resembled that of an ivory dolls, white in colour like pure silver. His body was well proportioned: stout and muscular. His chest and stomach were level and he had a wide chest with broad shoulders. His limbs were large and stout, and the skin that was bare of 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 masculine hands and feet. His fingers were long but not extremely so, he had 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 comfortably. 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.”
I asked my uncle, Hind b. Abū Hālah, [to describe the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam)]
al-Ḥasan b. ʿAlī saw the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) while he was young and wanted to be reminded of how he looked. The request shows that learning about what the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) looked like is a branch of knowledge worthy of our attention.
I really wanted him to describe some of his characteristics to me that I could memorise
The desire to know how someone looked and his qualities and characteristics is a sign of loving that person. The narration shows that the early generation of Muslims were keen to learn as much about their Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) as they possibly could.
In addition to this description given by Hind, another detailed description of him (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) was provided by Umm Maʿbad. She related,
“I saw a radiant man with a luminous face and handsome physique, unspoiled by fleshiness and not tainted by leanness. Comely and fine looking with large black eyes and thick eyelashes. His neck was long, his beard thick, his brows fine, arched and joined. When silent he had an air of dignity, and when he spoke he was stately and lustrous. He was the most handsome of people when you observe him from a distance, and nicest and kindest when close to you. His speech was sweet and clear, like string beads shed from their string; he spoke neither too little nor too much. He was of middle stature, neither loathsome for tallness, nor offensive to the eye for shortness. He seemed like the branch that stood out between two others, being the most beautiful to look at and the most harmoniously proportioned of the three. He had companions surrounding him who, when he spoke, listened silently to what he said, and when he commanded, rushed to carry out the order.”
His face shone with resplendence like that of the moon when full
The ḥadīth of Umm Maʿbad has just preceded where she said, “I saw a radiant man with a luminous face.”
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, or 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. The comparison here will be explained more fully in later ḥadīths.
If the hair on his forehead parted easily, he would keep it parted, otherwise his hair, when at its longest,would 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.’ More detail follows in the chapter dealing with Tarajjul.
Thick curved eyebrows that did not quite meet in the middle
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 discernible unless one looked carefully.
A long, slightly arched nose
aqnā al-ʿirnayn: the word aqnā when used to describe a nose means long with a fine tip, slightly raised in the middle. ʿirnayn refers to the upper part or the bridge of the nose, or it can be used to refer to the whole nose which seems most suitable in this context. This is supported by the narration of Bazzār in which he states
‘He (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam)had a long, slightly arched nose (aqnā al-anf).’
whoever did not carefully look at it would think he had a large nasal bridge
Ashamm: shamam can mean proud and arrogant, but when used to describe the nose means a raised nasal bridge with an upturned tip.
He had a thick and full beard
This is also how his (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) beard is depicted by al-Barāʾa b. ʿĀzib. Another ḥadīth mentions that he (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) had a, “full beard” and in another, “large beard,” and in yet another, “He (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) had lots of hair in his beard.” Ḥāfiẓ Zayn al-ʿIrāqī said, ‘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, covering his neck. Jābir said, “He (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) had a thick head of hair and a thick beard.”’
With smooth cheeks that were not raised
He had a wide mouth
ʿUmar (raḍiy Allāhu ʿanhu) said, “Allāh’s Messenger (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) would laugh, and he had the most handsome of mouths!”Abū Hurayrah also said that he (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) ‘had the most handsome of mouths.’
with a gap in the teeth
mufallaj al-asnān: a gap in the teeth or teeth with a gap between the incisors as a later narration shows. His (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) teeth were also white as recorded in another narration of this ḥadīth.
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 dolls, white in colour like pure silver
dumyah: a doll or small statue made of ivory.
The purpose is to illustrate that his neck was finely balanced, exquisitely formed and truly beautiful. In colour it was not like ivory, rather like pure silver.
Abū Hurayrah narrated that when he removed his upper garment, he would resemble an ingot of silver. Miḥrash al-Kaʿbī also stated that he saw his (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) back and it resembled an ingot of silver.
His body was well proportioned: stout and muscular
Mutamāsik: muscular and lean with well-proportioned limbs.
The skin that was bare of clothes had a lustre about it
anwar al-mutajarrad: the skin that was bare of clothes, or hairless, had a lustre about it. The sentence can also mean that the skin of those parts of the body normally covered by clothes, when uncovered had a lustre about it.
He had long forearms
This is also how Abū Hurayrah described him (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) saying, “He had long forearms.”
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 (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) placed his entire foot on the ground, and he did not have insteps. al-Barāʾa also reported the same. This is because what is negated is his (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) having high or deep insteps while what is affirmed is his having moderate insteps. Others argued that there was no need to reconcile the two sets of ḥadīths as this ḥadīth is not authentic and Abū Hurayrah’s is.
Munāwī said, ‘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 what We have given certain 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.”’
He would constantly lower his gaze looking more to the ground then he would to the sky
This would occur in his periods of silence, or when he was not focused on something else. 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 ḥadīth recorded by Abū Dāwūd that when he sat and spoke, he would frequently look at the sky.
He would have his Companions walk in front of him
He (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) 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. Dārimī records with a ṣaḥīḥ isnād that the Messenger of Allāh (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) said, “Leave my back empty for the Angels.” Aḥmad records on the authority of Jābir that 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 he (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) would do when meeting someone was to give the salām, even if they were children. 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, and such as performing ablution before the time of prayer, this is a sunnah and is better than performing it in the time of prayer.
Preview of the next ḥadīth in the series:
“I paused and looked at him and then the moon and found that, in my view, he was more beautiful than the moon.”
This series is an adapted translation of Shamāʾil al-Muḥammadiyyah by Imām Tirmidhī (raḥimahu Allāhu).
 Narrated by al-Bukhāri, 15; Muslim, 44
 Albānī: In one text the wording is, “He would initiate the salām.” I say: perhaps this is the correct wording for this is what is mentioned in al-Bidāyah via the route of Yaʿqūb ibn Sufyān.
It is recorded by Ṭabarānī, al-Kabīr 22:155 and Bayhaqī, al-Dalāʾil 1:286-297 with an isnād that is ḍaʿīf jiddan: the man from Banī Tamīm is majhūl and Jumayʿ is ḍaʿīf and some accused him of lying. However, all that is mentioned in the ḥadīth is proven by other authentic aḥādīth, Allāh knows best.
 Ḥākim 3:9-10, Ṭabarī, al-Tārīkh, Ṭabarānī, al-Kabīr 4:48, Abū Nuʿaym, al-Dalāʿil pg. 282
 Bukhārī #3558-3944–5918 and Muslim #2336
 Chpt. 3
 Ḥākim 3:9-10, Ṭabarī, al-Tārīkh, Ṭabarānī, al-Kabīr, Abū Nuʿaym, al-Dalāʿil pg. 282
 Bazzār #
 Nasāʾī #5232
 Nasāʾī, Zīnah
 Aḥmad #746, Ibn Ḥibbān #6311, Bayhaqī 1:217
 Muslim #2344
 Aḥmad #3410
 Aḥmad #3410
 Qārī, Munāwī
 Bazzār #
 cf. ḥadīth #9
 Ibn Ḥibbān #6290
 Bayhaqī 1:164
 Ḥadīth #15.
 Ṭabarānī, al-Kabīr 22:155 #414, cf. Munāwī, Fayḍ al-Qadīr 5:76
 Ibn Mājah #659 and Aḥmad [4/416]
 Fatḥ 6:711
 Suyūṭī, Bājūrī, ʿAbbād
 Haythamī, Qārī, Munāwī
 Bayhaqī 1:203
 Nasāʾī 2:30
 cf. ḥadīth #7
 Haythamī, Bājūrī
 Bājūrī, ʿAbbād
 Aḥmad #9786
 Bayhaqī 1:241, 245, 275
 Bukhārī, Adab al-Mufrad #1155
 Bayhaqī 1:305, Haythamī
 al-Baqarah (2): 144
 al-Ḥijr (15): 88
 Maryam (19): 97
 al-Isrāʾ (17): 29
 al-Sharḥ (94): 1-3
 al-Shuʿarāʾ (26): 194
 al-Qalam (68): 4
 Abū Dāwūd #4837. cf. Qārī, Munāwī
 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 (SAW) 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-Taḥrīm (66): 4. cf Munawī
 Qārī, Munāwī