With Annotated Notes from the Commentaries of al-Hāfidh al-Munāwī (d. 1003H) «M» and Mullā ‘Alī al-Qārī (d. 1014H) «Q»
With the Name of Allâh, the All-Merciful, the Most Merciful
al-Hâfidh Abû ‘Isâ Muhammad bin ‘Isâ bin Sawrah at-Tirmidhî said:
The Stature and Physical Characteristics of the Messenger of Allâh (SAW)
§1. Abû Rajâ’, Qutaybah bin Sa’îd informed us; from Mâlik bin Anas; from Rabî’ah bin Abû ‘Abdur-Rahmân; that he heard Anas bin Mâlik (RA) saying,
The Messenger of Allâh (SAW) was neither very tall, such that he would be clearly noticed, nor was he short. He was not extremely white and neither was he very brown. His hair was neither very curly nor completely straight.
Allâh commissioned him towards the end (ra’s) of his fortieth year. He remained in Mecca for ten years and in Madînah for ten years. Allâh caused him to pass away at the turn of his sixtieth year and there were not to be found [as much as] twenty white hairs on his head and beard.
- The Messenger of Allâh (SAW) was neither very tall, such that he would be clearly noticed, nor was he short
«Q» Meaning that he was of medium height. His being short has been categorically negated but only his being so tall as to be clearly noticed has been negated, in this lies an indication that he (SAW) was indeed of medium height but leaning towards being described as tall and this is what has been reported about him (SAW) by al-Bayhaqî. There is no contradiction between this and the forthcoming description that he (SAW) was of medium stature because such a statement is relative. This understanding is strengthened by the report of al-Barâ’a, ‘he (SAW) was of medium stature but closer to being described as tall.’ al-Bayhaqî and ibn ‘Asâkir mention that, ‘none would be perceived to be taller than he (SAW), sometimes two tall men would stand on either side of him and he would seem taller than them, yet when they parted he would seem to be of medium height.’ Ibn Saba’, al-Khasâ’is, mentions that when he (SAW) sat, his shoulder was higher than all those sitting around him. It is said in explanation to this, ‘perhaps it was that none could be perceived to be physically above him just as none was spiritually and morally above him.’
- He was not extremely white and neither was he very brown
«Q» This description does not contradict the affirmation of his having a brownish complexion mentioned in the next hadîth. [Ibn Hajr] al-’Asqalânî said, ‘from all the various reports on this it becomes clear that the whiteness that has been negated from him (SAW) is that whiteness that has no tinge of red and the brownness [affirmed for him] is redness that is mixed with white.«M» This is proven by the narration of Anas in ad-Dalâ’il, ‘he was white, a whiteness going towards brown.’ As for his being described in some narrations to be extremely white, such as in the report of Bazzâr from Abû Hurayrah, ‘he was extremely white’ and the report of at-Tabarânî from Abû at-Tufayl, ‘I have not forgotten the extreme whiteness of his face,’ these are understood to refer to the luster, sheen and glitter of his skin under the light of the sun as shown by the hadîth, ‘it was as if the sun were following its course across, and shining from, his face.’
- His hair was neither very curly nor completely straight
«M»Meaning that his (SAW) hair was in a state in between being very curly and completely straight and the best of affairs are those that are in between the two extremes. az-Zamakhsharî said, ‘the predominate course amongst the Arabs is to have curly hair and among the non-Arabs, straight hair.’ Allâh has blessed His Messenger (SAW) with the best of virtues and qualities and has combined in him all that He has scattered amongst the different races.
- Allâh commissioned him towards the end (ra’s) of his fortieth year
«M»Allâh commissioned him as a Prophet and Messenger, sent to the entirety of the worlds of Jinn and Man, this by agreement of the Muslim nation and is known in the religion by necessity, whoever rejects this becomes a disbeliever. He was also sent to the Angels in the view of the researching scholars ( muhaqqiqûn), however some have objected to this. «Q» It is said that he was born on Monday, revelation came to him on Monday, he migrated to Madînah on Monday, he arrived at Madînah on Monday and passed away on Monday. The commentators have stated that the meaning of the ra’s of his fortieth year is its last part [and not the turn] due to the opinion of the majority of the historians and biographers that he was commissioned after having entered his fortieth year. at-Tîbî said, ‘ ra ‘s here is metaphorically used to refer to the end of the year [and not its beginning] in the same way as one says, “ ra’s of the verse” i.e. its last part.’ As for the usage of the word forty then it could either refer to the entry into the fortieth year or the year which is added to the thirty-ninth, both usages are common. However the specification that occurs through mention of the word ‘year’ in this hadîth lends weight to the first possibility. al-Hâfidh al-’Asqalânî said, ‘[understanding it to mean the turn of the fortieth year] would mean that he was commissioned in the month of his birth which is Rabî’ al-Awwal, however he was commissioned in the month of Ramadân and therefore his age would be forty and a half or thirty nine and a half. Those who mentioned forty as his age did so by ignoring the addition or subtraction. However both al-Mas’ûdî and ibn ‘Abdu-l-Barr mention that the correct opinion was that he was commissioned in Rabî’ al-Awwal, so according to this view he (SAW) would have just turned forty. It is also postulated that he was commissioned when he was forty years and ten days or forty years and twenty days old. Qâdî ‘Ayâd relates an irregular [and hence weak] report from ibn ‘Abbâs and Sa’îd bin al-Musayyab that he (SAW) was commissioned at the turn of his forty-third year.’
- He remained in Mecca for ten years
«Q»The nation is agreed that he (SAW) stayed in Mecca for thirteen years, «M»therefore one could say that those who narrated ten years, rounded down and left off mention of the additional three, or one could say that the narration of those who mention thirteen years is stronger.
- and in Madînah for ten years
«M»meaning after the Hijrah. He (SAW) remained there for ten years, there is no difference concerning this, until the people entered into the religion in droves, until Allâh perfected the religion for him and his nation and completed his favour upon them.
- Allâh caused him to pass away at the turn of his sixtieth year
«Q»This implies that he passed away at the age of sixty, however the strongest opinion is that he was sixty-three and it is said sixty-five. These ages are reconciled by stating that those who stated sixty-five included the year of his birth and death. Those who mentioned sixty-three did not and those who mentioned sixty rounded down. «M»This point is not contradicted by the statement ‘turn of his sixtieth year’ because what is meant here is the beginning of his sixties.
- and there were not to be found [as much as] twenty white hairs on his head and beard
«M»Rather there were less as proven by the narration of ibn Sa’d [from Anas (RA)], ‘there were only seventeen white hairs on his head and beard.’ There is no contradiction between this and the report of ibn ‘Umar (RAA), ‘he had approximately twenty white hairs’ because this just talks about an approximation. In the report of ibn Hibbân and al-Bayhaqî from ibn ‘Umar (RAA) there occurs, ‘his white hairs were approximately twenty all towards the front.’ As for the hadîth of ‘Abdullâh bin Busr, ‘his white hairs did not exceed ten’, he was talking about the hairs on the front of his beard, and hence the remainder is understood to be on his temples. «Q»As for what is mentioned in one narration by way of negating white hairs for him (SAW), what is meant is a negation of plentitude not a negation in totality. A more detailed discussion concerning his (SAW) age and white hairs follows in the relevant chapters if Allâh wills.
§2. Humayd bin Mas’adah al-Basrî nararted to us; ‘Abdu-l-Wahhâb ath-Thaqafî narrated to us; from Humayd; from Anas bin Mâlik (RA) that he said,
The Messenger of Allâh (SAW) was of medium stature, neither tall nor short, of a goodly build. His hair was neither curly nor completely straight. He had a brownish complexion and when he walked he leant forward [walking briskly].
- He had a brownish complexion
«Q»This does not contradict the previous description of his skin as has already been explained. However it is said that this contradicts the ensuing description that he ‘was white skinned as if moulded of silver.’ Some have reconciled this by saying that the brownish complexion applied to that part of the skin that was exposed to the sun and that that part of his skin which was concealed by his garments was white. However this reconciliation has been refuted because of the narration that mentions his neck being white as if it was made of silver, the neck is normally exposed to the sun. It is possible that this comparison hold true when considering the luster and sheen of his skin under the light of the sun and the smoothness of his skin.
§3. Muhammad bin Bashshâr – al-’Abdî – narrated to us; Muhammad bin Ja’far narrated to us; Shu’bah narrated to us; from Abû Is`hâq; that he heard al-Barâ’a bin ‘Azib (RA) saying,
The Messenger of Allâh (SAW) had slightly curly hair and was of medium stature (rajil marbû’) with broad shoulders. His hair was thick, reaching his earlobes and he wore a red hulla. I have never seen anything more beautiful than he.
- reaching his earlobes
«Q»Some reports mention that his hair reached below his ears and above his shoulders, others mention half way down his ears, others mention to his ears, others mention to his shoulders and others mention to his shoulder blades. Qâdî ‘Ayâd reconciled these by saying that these descriptions all related to different times. Therefore when he (SAW) delayed cutting his hair, it would grow to his shoulders, when he cut his hair, it would reach his ears, or half way down his ears or to his earlobes.
and he wore a red hulla
A detailed discussion follows in the chapter dealing with his (SAW) clothes.
- I have never seen anything more beautiful than he.
«M»This statement, along with proving the great beauty of the Messenger of Allâh (SAW), also goes to show al-Barâ’a’s complete faith because believing him (SAW) to be so is one of the branches of having complete love for him.
§4. Mahmûd bin Ghaylân narrated to us; Wakî’ narrated to us; Sufyân ath-Thawrî narrated to us; from Abû Is`hâq; from al-Barâ’a bin ‘Azib (RA) that he said,
I have never seen a person having a full head of hair, wearing a red hulla, who looked better than the Messenger of Allâh (SAW). He had hair that reached his shoulders and his shoulders were broad. He was neither short nor tall.
§5. Muhammad bin Ismâ’îl narrated to us; Abû Nu’aym narrated to us; al-Mas’ûdî narrated to us; from ‘Uthmân bin Muslim bin Hurmuz; from Nâfi’ bin Jubair bin Mut’im; from ‘Alî bin Abû Tâlib (RA) that he said,
The Prophet (SAW) was neither tall nor short. His hands and feet were heavy and thick [but not calloused]. He had a large head, large bones and a long line of fine hair extending from his chest to navel. When he walked, he leant forward as if descending a slope. I have not seen anyone, before him or after him, who was comparable to him.
§6. Sufyân bin Wakî’ narrated to us; my father narrated to us; from al-Mas’ûdî the likes of this with this isnâd.
§7. Ahmad bin ‘Abdah ad-Dabbî al-Basrî narrated to us, as did ‘Alî bin Hujr and Abû Ja’far Muhammad bin al-Husayn – i.e. ibn Abî Halîmah; ‘Isâ bin Yûnus narrated to us; from ‘Umar bin ‘Abdullâh the servant of Ghufrah; Ibrâhîm bin Muhammad – one of the sons of ‘Alî bin Abû Tâlib (RA) – narrated to me that when ‘Alî (RA) described the Messenger of Allâh (SAW) he would say,
The Messenger of Allâh (SAW) was neither extremely tall nor extremely short, rather he was of a medium stature amongst the people. His hair was neither curly nor completely straight, rather inbetween. He did not have a very fleshy face, neither was it completely round, rather it was only slightly so. He was white skinned, having a reddish tinge. His eyes were large with jet black pupils and his lashes, long. His joints were large as was his upper back. He did not have hair all over his body but had a line of fine hair extending from his chest to his navel. When he walked, he would walk briskly as if descending a slope. When he turned, he would turn his whole body and between his two shoulders was the Seal of Prophethood.
He was the Seal of the Prophets, the most giving of hearts, the most truthful of them, the best of them in temperament and the most sociable of them. Whoever unexpectedly saw him would stand in awe of him and whoever accompanied him and got to know him would love him. Those who described him would say, ‘I have never seen anyone, before him or after him, who was comparable to him.’
- He did not have hair all over his body
«Q»This description also holds true for someone who has hair on parts of his body and hence does not contradict the description that he (SAW) had hair on his shins, forearms and a line of hair from chest to navel.
- When he walked, he would walk briskly as if descending a slope.
«Q»Meaning that he walked with strength of purpose, lifting each foot clearly off the ground, not like those who walk with an air of ostentation – walking in small steps like women.
- When he turned, he would turn his whole body
«Q»Meaning that he did not steal any glances. It is said that it means that he did not turn his head left or right when looking at something because this is the mannerism of those frivolous and thoughtless, having no sense of purpose; instead he would turn his whole body to one who addressed him, showing his complete concern to what he was saying and would turn his whole body away upon finishing. Therefore when he was talking to someone or other such things, he would turn his entire body to him and not just turn his head as this is the manner of the arrogant. This last meaning is the clearest due to the ensuing description that most of the time he would merely glance at things [i.e. when not addressing them].
- the most giving of hearts
«Q»Meaning he would never miserly withhold any of the effects of this world or any knowledge concerning his Lord. His generosity did not come about through effort, neither was it hard upon him, rather it naturally arose due to the purity of his soul and gentleness of spirit. It is also said that it means that he had the largest heart, i.e. his heart never held back or grieved him. This is supported by the report of ibn Sa’d with this isnâd with the words, ‘the most giving of people and the largest of heart.’ It is also said that it means that he had the best of hearts, i.e. he was free of all lowly traits and how could this be otherwise when Jibrîl cut open his heart, took out of a morsel of flesh, placed it in a golden tray and washed it with Zamzam water.
- the most sociable of them
«Q»In some texts the wording is ‘the best of them in lineage’ and both descriptions hold true of him (SAW).
- Whoever unexpectedly saw him would stand in awe of him
«M»due to his exceptional descriptions, his heavenly sense of gravity, dignity, and appearance and deluge of spirituality.
- whoever accompanied him and got to know him would love him
«M»to the point that that he became more beloved to him than his father, his child and indeed the whole of mankind. This was due to the clear manifestation and existence of all that would necessitate love such as perfect morals and manners, sweeping compassion and kindness, innate humility and his captivating hearts and uniting them. Ibn al-Qayyim said while explaining the difference between arrogance ( kibr) and carrying oneself with an air of dignity and self-respect ( mahâbah), ‘dignity and self-respect arise from a heart that is filled with the glorification of Allâh, with love of Him and magnification of Him. When the heart is filled with this it becomes inundated with light, tranquility descends upon it, one is clothed with the garments of gravity, dignity and inspiring awe, and his face displays a sense of sweetness and pureness. Hearts love him and stand in awe of him, they are drawn to him and are comforted by his presence. His speech is light, his entrance is light, his leaving is light and his actions are light. When he is quiet, a sense of dignity and gravity overcomes him, and when he speaks, he captures heart, ear and sight. As for arrogance then it arises from self-conceit and transgression from a heart that is filled with ignorance and oppression. Servitude leaves such a person and displeasure descends upon him. When he looks at people, he looks askance, when he walks amongst them, he struts. He deals with them as one who gives himself preference in all things rather than giving them preference. He does not commence by giving people the salâm, and if he replies to a salâm, he acts as if he has granted them a great favour. He does not display a cheerful face to them and his manners do not accommodate them. Allâh has protected His beloved from all of these vile mannerisms.’
- Those who described him would say
«Q»i.e. by way of generalisation because of the inability to truly describe his beauty and perfection in detail.
- ‘I have never seen anyone, before him or after him, who was comparable to him.’