Additional Material
for Key Chapters

Chapter 6: The Prophet Muhammad

More hadiths about the Prophet
(cf. p. 74, Introducing Islam):

The Apostle of God used to patch his own sandals, stitch his own garments, and work around the house just as any one of your works around his house. (Islam, Muhammad and his Religion, ed. Jeffery, p.31)

When the Apostle of God shook hands with a man he would not be the first to withdraw his hand, and when he was facing a man he would not turn his face away till the other turned his, nor was he ever seen with his knees crossed in front of one of his guest... He did not chatter uninterruptedly as you do, but he used to speak with proper pauses so that those who sat with him could memorise it... Never did I see anyone who smiled more than the Apostle of God... When he sat down to converse (he) would often lift his gaze to the skies. (Ibid. p. 32)

The Apostle of God was neither dissolute nor immoderate in speech. He was not one who talked loudly in the streets, nor did he return evil for evil, but rather he would pardon and forgive. He was accustomed to visit the sick, follow the bier (at a funeral), would accept an invitation even from a slave, and would ride on a donkey. (Ibid. p.30, translation modified; partly quoted in Introducing Islam)

See under Chapter 20 for two hadith relating to suicide


Here is a fuller version of the quotation from al-‘Aqqād found on p. 81 of Introducing Islam. [This] book is not an explanation of Islam or any of its provisions nor a defense of it nor a debate with its opponents, . . . Rather it is an evaluation of the 'genius of Muhammad' to the extent that it can be affirmed by every man and not only by the Muslim, and by virtue of the love of him diffused in the heart of every man and not of the Muslim only.

Muhammad is a great hero because his virtues and exploits are a model that any sincere person would want all men to emulate. He is great because his character is great . . . .To give greatness its due is necessary in all times and places, but especially in this time and in our world . . . .It is useful for the Muslim to evaluate Muhammad by the evidence and proofs that the non-Muslim can see because a Muslim who does so will love Muhammad doubly, once by virtue of his religion, which the other does not share, and once by virtue of his human qualities which all men can share. (‘Abbās Maḥmūd al-‘Aqqad, ‘Abqariyyat Muḥammad, pp 6-8)


Taha Hussein on the biography (sīra) of the Prophet (cf. p. 81 of Introducing Islam). If reason is not content with these accounts and tales, and if logic is not satisfied with them, and if they do not measure up to the canons of scientific thinking, still there is something in the hearts of the people, in their feelings, their emotions, their imagination, their inclination toward the simple, their desire to seek refuge in it from the struggle and hardship of life, that makes them love and desire these accounts and that moves them to seek in them relaxation for their souls when life bears harshly upon them. There is a great difference between the person who relates these accounts to the intellect as scientifically established truths and acceptable bases for investigation, and the one who presents them to the heart and the feelings as something that will stir up good emotions, deflect evil impulses, and help them to pass the time and bear the burdens and demands of life.

I want people also to know that I have allowed myself the storyteller’s liberty and inventiveness in relating these accounts and tales wherever I saw no harm in so doing, but not when the stories and accounts touch the person of the Prophet or any aspect of religion. At those points I gave myself neither freedom nor latitude, but stuck strictly to that which is accepted by the ancient authorities on the Sira and the hadith, the experts on the sources of transmission, and the scholars of religion.

From: "Taha Hussein: Interpreting Muhammad's Life in Modern Times", translated from the Introduction to ‘Ala Hāmish al-Sīrah, in Windows on the House of Islam: Muslim Sources on Spirituality and Religious Life, ed. John Renard (Berkeley, etc.: University of California Press, 1998), p.129.


Abu A‘la Mawdudi, a leading Islamist, on the Prophet:

Such was our Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). He was a prodigy of extraordinary merits, a paragon of virtue and goodness, a symbol of truth and veracity, a great apostle of God, His Messenger to the entire world. His life and thought, his truth and straightforwardness, his piety and goodness, his character and morals, his ideology and achievements - all stand as unimpeachable proofs of his prophethood. Any human being who studies his life and teachings without bias will testify that verily he was the true prophet of God and the Qur'an - the Book he gave to mankind - the true Book of God. No unbiased and serious seeker after truth can escape this conclusion (A.A. Mawdudi, Towards Understanding Islam, Lahore: Idara Tarjumanul-Quran, 1960, p. 78)

Western scholarly assessments: two contrasting views.

He gained men's respect and confidence by the religious basis of his activity and by qualities such as courage, resoluteness, impartiality and firmness inclining to severity but tempered by generosity. In addition to these he had a charm of manner which won their affection and secured their devotion . . . . The more one reflects on the history of Muḥammad and of early Islam, the more one is amazed at the vastness of his achievement. Circumstances presented him with an opportunity such as few men have had, but the man was fully matched with the hour. Had it not been for his gifts as seer, statesman, and administrator and, behind these, his trust in God and firm belief that God had sent him, a notable chapter in the history of mankind would have remained unwritten . . . . He was a man in whom creative imagination worked at deep levels and produced ideas relevant to the central questions of human existence, so that his religion has had a widespread appeal, not only in his own age but in succeeding centuries. Not all the ideas he proclaimed are true and sound, but by God’s grace he has been enabled to provide millions of men with a better religion that they had before they testified that there is no god but God and that Muḥammad is the messenger of God. (W.M. Watt, Muhammad, Prophet and Statesman London: Oxford University Press., 1961, p.231-41)

(Beneath the surface) was a temperament which was nervous, passionate, restless, feverish - filled with an impatient yearning which burned for the impossible. This was so intense as to lead to nervous crises of a definitely pathological kind... Muhammad was certainly dissatisfied. Were there more tangible reasons for an attitude of mind without which his later development cannot be understood, and if so what were they? ... The troubles of a man mocked for his lack of male heirs, the frustration of a highly sexed man whose own moral conscience prevented him from realising his desires, the suppressed fury of a man fundamentally sure of himself but treated with contempt by practical politicans - all these things were capable of creating a personality thirsting to turn the tables in each particular, but still keeping strictly within the normal bounds of the society in which he lived. There was something in Muhammad which made him overstep those bounds.(Maxime Rodinson, Muhammad, London : Allen Lane, 1971 p.53f.)


Additional Sources:

Brown, Jonathan A. C., Hadith: Muhammad’s Legacy in the Medieval and Modern World. One World: Oxford, 2009.
A very thorough and detailed study. First couple chapters give an excellent presentation of the role and importance of hadith. The rest may be useful for an assingnment on hadith,  especially the chapters on early modern and modern periods.

Salahi, M.A. (1995) Muhammad, man and prophet: A Complete Study of the Life of the Prophet of Islam, Shaftesbury, Dorset ; Rockport, Mass. : Element. Detailed study in a fairly traditional mode by a modern writer.

Documentary on Muhammad, with Karen Armstrong. Two hours.


For information on pictures of Muhammad (and some examples) see Depictions of Muhammad, Wikipedia:

© William Shepard

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