Shamāʾil al-Muḥammadiyyah – Prophetic Beauty (1)

..."The Messenger of Allāh (SAW) was neither noticeably tall nor was he short, neither was he extremely white nor was he particularly brown, neither was his hair very curly nor completely straight. Allāh commissioned him in his fortieth year. Then he remained in Mecca for ten years and in Madīnah for ten years. Allāh caused him to pass away in his early sixties and there were barely twenty white hairs to be found on his head and beard."...

Shamaʾil al-Muḥammadiyyah

Prophetic Beauty (Ḥadīth #1)

Imām Abū ʿĪsā al-Tirmidhī (d. 279H)


With Abbreviated Notes from the various Commentaries

With the Name of Allāh, the All-Merciful, the Most Merciful


Ḥāfiẓ Abū ʿĪsā Muḥammad b. ʿĪsā b. Sawrah al-Tirmidhī said:


The Stature and Physical Characteristics

of the Messenger of Allāh


1.             Abū Rajāʾ, Qutaybah ibn Saʿīd informed us; from Mālik ibn Anas; from Rabīʿah ibn Abū ʿAbdur-Raḥmān; that he heard Anas ibn Mālik (RA) saying,

The Messenger of Allāh (SAW) was neither noticeably tall nor was he short, neither was he extremely white nor was he particularly brown, neither was his hair very curly nor completely straight. Allāh commissioned him in his fortieth year and then he remained in Mecca for ten years and in Madīnah for ten years. Allāh caused him to pass away in his early sixties and there were barely twenty white hairs to be found on his head and beard.[1]

1-        حدثنا أبو رجاء قتيبة بن سعيد عن مالك بن أنس عن ربيعة بن أبي عبد الرحمن عن أنس بن مالك أنه سمعه يقول:


كانَ رَسُولُ اللهِ  لَيْسَ بِالطَّوِيلِ البائِنِ، وَلا بِالقَصِيرِ، وَلا بِالأَبْيَضِ الأَمْهَقِ، وَلا بِالآدَمِ وَلا بِالجَعْدِ القَطَطِ وَلا بِالسَّبْطِ، بَعَثَهُ اللهُ تَعالى عَلى رَأْسِ أَرْبَعِينَ سَنَةً، فَأَقامَ بِمَكَّةَ عَشْرَ سِنِينَ وَبِالمَدِينَةِ عَشْرَ سِنِينَ، وَتَوَفّاهُ اللهُ عَلى رَأْسِ سِتِّينَ سَنَةً وَلَيسَ فِي رَأْسِهِ وَلِحْيَتِهِ عِشْرُونَ شَعْرَةً بَيْضاءَ


The Messenger of Allāh (SAW) was neither

noticeably tall nor was he short

He (SAW) 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; this indicates that he was of average or just above average height, and it is in this light that Barāʾa said, ‘He (SAW) was of medium stature but closer to being described as tall.’[2] There is no contradiction between this and the forthcoming description that he (SAW) was of medium stature because such a statement is relative, and this is what is alluded to in the narration of ʿĀʾishah that ‘He (SAW) would seem to be of medium stature,’[3] i.e. by way of approximation.[4] Umm Maʿbad said, ‘He was of middle stature, neither loathsome for tallness, nor offensive to the eye for shortness.’[5]

His (SAW) personality was so imposing and awe-inspiring that his very presence would dominate any gathering, Bayhaqī and ibn ʿAsākir record 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.’[6] Others mention that mention that when he (SAW) sat, his shoulder seemed higher than all those sitting around him.[7] Therefore, it would seem to those around him (SAW) that just as none was spiritually and morally above him, so too was no one physically above him.[8] Umm Maʿbad said, ‘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.’[9]


Neither was he extremely white

nor was he particularly brown

This description does not contradict the fact that he had a brownish complexion mentioned in the next ḥadīth since what is negated here is his (SAW) being dark brown. There are a number of narrations that describe his (SAW) skin colour in different ways, but the overall picture given is that his (SAW) skin was pale or light brown, with the parts of the body usually concealed by garments being of an even lighter colour, having a lustre or a luminescence about it.[10]

Anas said, ‘He (SAW) had a rosy white colour (azhar al-lawn), neither completely white, nor deep brown.’[11] It is also possible that term azhar al-lawn mean that he had the best skin colour.[12] Tirmidhī records that ʿAlī said, ‘He (SAW) was white skinned with a reddish tinge.’ Anas said, ‘He was white, a whiteness leaning towards brown,’[13] and ibn ʿAbbās said, ‘He was (light) brown, leaning towards white.’[14] Ibn Ḥajr 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.’[15] A red-white colour is often referred to by the Arabs as asmar, brown and this is why Anas said, ‘The Prophet (SAW) was brown.’[16]

Some narrations, however, describe that ‘he was extremely white’[17] and Abū’l-Ṭufayl said, ‘I have not forgotten the extreme whiteness of his face.’[18] These are understood to refer to the lustre, sheen and glitter of his skin under the light of the sun as shown by the ḥadīth, ‘It was as if the sun were pursuing its course across, and shining from, his face.’[19] As such, there is no contradiction between these narrations.[20] Umm Maʿbad described him (SAW) saying, ‘I saw a radiant man with a luminous face and handsome physique[21]

Additionally, there are numerous narrations highlighting the paleness or lightness of the skin colour of various parts of his (SAW) body. His (SAW) leg has been described as being white by Abū Juḥayfah[22] and Anas[23] as were his thighs[24] and shanks.[25] His (SAW) forearms were described as being white[26] and so too his armpits[27] and abdomen.[28] The Companions also related how they saw the whiteness of his cheeks as he (SAW) said the salām at the end of the prayer.[29] Abū Hurayrah narrated that when the Prophet (SAW) removed his upper garment, he would resemble an ingot of silver.[30] Miḥrash al-Kaʿbī also stated that he saw his (SAW) back and it resembled an ingot of silver.[31] Anas narrated that one time a Bedouin came and asked, ‘Who amongst you is Muḥammad?’ They replied, ‘This white man reclining on his arm.’[32] All of these narrations are understood to mean his (SAW) having light brown skin colour. When describing skin colour, Arabs would refer to pale or light brown skin as white (abyaḍ) and they would call Caucasian white colour, yellow (asfar), hence the Romans would be referred to as Banū Asfar.


Neither was his hair very curly

nor completely straight

His  hair was in a state between being very curly and completely straight; and the best of affairs are those that are between the two extremes. Zamakhsharī said, ‘The predominate course amongst the Arabs is to have curly hair and among the non-Arabs, straight hair.’ Allāh has blessed His Messenger  with the best of virtues and qualities and has combined in him all that He has scattered amongst the different races.[33]


Allāh commissioned him in his fortieth year

Allāh commissioned him as a Prophet and Messenger, and sent him to both the worlds of jinn and man. This is an integral part of the Muslim faith and whoever rejects it becomes a disbeliever. Some scholars postulated that he was also sent to the Angels.[34]

The commentators have stated that the meaning of the ra’s of his fortieth year mentioned in this ḥadīth is its last part and not the turn. This is because the majority of the historians and biographers state that he was commissioned after having entered his fortieth year. Ṭībī said, ‘Raʾs here is metaphorically used to refer to the end of the year [and not its beginning] in the same way as one says, “Raʾs of the verse” i.e. its last part.’

Ibn Ḥajr 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 Rabīʿ al-Awwal, however he was commissioned in the month of Ramaḍān 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 Masʿūdī and ibn ʿAbdu’l-Barr mention that the correct opinion was that he was commissioned in Rabīʿ al-Awwal, so according to this view he  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. Qāḍī ʿIyāḍ relates an irregular report from ibn ʿAbbās and Saʿīd ibn al-Musayyab that he  was commissioned at the turn of his forty-third year.’[35

The “fortieth year” could refer to when a person has turned forty and moves towards the forty-first, or it could refer to when a person turns thirty-nine and moves toward the fortieth, both usages are common. However, here, the first sense is more likely

It is said that he was born on Monday, revelation came to him on Monday, he migrated to Madīnah on Monday, he arrived at Madīnah on Monday and he passed away on Monday.[36]


He remained in Mecca for ten years

this narration has caused some confusion since the nation is agreed that he  stayed in Mecca for thirteen years; the scholars have explained it by saying that those who narrated ten years as the period, rounded down and hence did not mention the additional three years, a style commonly used by the Arabs. Others said that, put simply, the narration of those who mentioned thirteen years is stronger and this one is weak.[37] “And in Madīnah,” i.e. after the Hijra for “ten years,” there is no difference concerning this. He  remained there until the people entered into the religion in droves, until Allāh perfected the religion for him and his nation, and completed his favour upon them.[38]


Allāh caused him to pass away in his early sixties

the statement in Arabic implies that he passed away at the turn of (raʾs) his sixtieth year, but can also be understood to mean at the beginning of his sixties. Some authorities said that he passed away at the age of sixty-five but the strongest opinion is that he was sixty-three years old when he passed on. The different narrations concerning this 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, all methods used by the Arabs when discussing the age of an individual.[39]


And there were barely twenty white

hairs on his head and beard

and ibn ʿUmar said, ‘He (SAW) had approximately twenty white hairs.’[40] In reality, there were less. Anas said, ‘There were only seventeen white hairs on his head and beard.’[41] Ibn ʿUmar further said, ‘The Messenger of Allāh’s  white hairs only came to about twenty, all towards the front.’[42] While describing his  beard, ʿAbdullāh ibn Busr said, ‘His white hairs did not exceed ten,’ and he further said that they were concentrated between his lower lip and chin,[43] hence the remainder is understood to be on his temples and head.[44] Bukhārī records that Anas was asked if the Prophet  used to dye his hair to which he replied, ‘He did not reach that stage, there was just something on his temples.’[45] Muslim records on the authority of Anas that the white hairs were only to be found on his lower lip, temples, and a scarce scattering on his head.[46] Otherwise his (SAW) hair was jet black.[47]

There are some narrations stating that he  had no white hairs, but these are understood to mean that he did not have a lot of white hairs, they were not mean to be a negation in totality. A more detailed discussion concerning his  age and white hairs follows in the relevant chapters.[48]



[1] Bukhārī, Ṣifatu’l-Nabī #3547-3548, Libās #5900 and Muslim, Faḍāʾil #2347.

[2] This statement also recorded by Dhuhlī, al-Zuhriyyāt and Bayhaqī, Dalāʾil 1:253 on the authority of Abū Hurayrah and ibn Ḥajr, Fatḥ 6:705 said the isnād was ḥasan. It is also recorded by Bayhaqī, Dalāʾil 1:252 on the authority of ʿAlī.

[3] Bayhaqī, al-Dalāʾil 1:298

[4] Qārī, Haythamī pg. 41.

[5] Ḥākim 3:9-10, Ṭabarī, al-Tārīkh, Ṭabarānī, al-Kabīr 4:48, Abū Nuʿaym, al-Dalāʿil pg. 282

[6] Bayhaqī 1:298, on the authority of ʿĀʾishah, and refer to ibn Ḥajr 6:709.

[7] Ibn Sabaʿ, al-Khaṣāʾiṣ as cited by Qārī

[8] Qārī, cf. Ibn Diḥya, al-Āyātu’l-Bayyināt, pp. 231+

[9] Ḥākim 3:9-10, Ṭabarī, al-Tārīkh, Ṭabarānī, al-Kabīr, Abū Nuʿaym, al-Dalāʿil pg. 282

[10] cf. ḥadīth #8

[11] Bukhārī #3547

[12] Suyūṭī, Qārī

[13] Bayhaqī 1:204

[14] Aḥmad #3410. Munāwī said the isnād was ḥasan.

[15] See for example ḥadīth #7. This is also the description reported of him by Anas in Muslim, Faḍāʾil #2347 and Jābir by ibn Saʿd as per ibn Ḥajr 6:705.

[16] Aḥmad #13715 and ibn Ḥibbān #6286.

The ḥadith is ṣaḥīḥ, cf. ibn Ḥajr 6:706

This description is also recorded on the authority of Anas by Tirmidhī #1754 who said it was ḥasan ṣaḥīḥ gharīb.

[17] Bayhaqī 1:208 from Abū Hurayrah.

Ibn Ḥajr 6:706, said, ‘with a strong isnād.’ Ibn Kathīr, al-Shamāʾil, pg. 30 said the isnād was jayyid

[18] Ṭabarānī, cf. Bukhārī #3351, Muslim #2340

[19] Tirmidhī, Manāqib #3548 and declared ṣaḥīḥ by ibn Ḥibbān #6309.

The full ḥadīth will be mentioned later in the chapter, ‘The manner of walking of the Messenger of Allāh (SAW).’

[20] Ibn Ḥajr, Munāwī

[21] Ḥākim 3:9-10, Ṭabarī, al-Tārīkh, Ṭabarānī, al-Kabīr 4:48, Abū Nuʿaym, al-Dalāʿil pg. 282

[22] Bukhārī #3566

[23] Muslim

[24] Bukhārī #376, Muslim

[25] Bukhārī #3566, Muslim

[26] Abū Dāwūd #3206

[27] Bukhārī #6636, Muslim

[28] Bukhārī #7236, Muslim

[29] Muslim

[30] Bayhaqī 1/203,

[31] Nasāʾī 2:30

[32] Bukhārī #63

[33] Munāwī

[34] Munāwī

[35] Fatḥ 6:707, Qārī

[36] This is reported from ibn ʿAbbās by Aḥmad 1:277.

[37] Munāwī, Qārī

[38] Munāwī

[39] Munāwī, Qārī

[40] Ibn Mājah, Libās #3630 and Aḥmad #5633 with a ḍaʿīf isnād.

[41] Ibn Saʿd, al-Ṭabaqāt

[42] Ibn Ḥibbān #6294-6295 and Bayhaqī, Dalāʾil 1:239; cf. fn. 15

[43] Bukhāri, Manāqib #3545-3546.

The phrase ‘few white hairs,’ has been employed using jamʿ qillah and in the Arabic language this does not exceed ten. It is for this reason that that Munāwī quotes it by meaning, ‘His white hairs did not exceed ten.’

[44] Munāwī

[45] Bukhāri, Manāqib #3550, Libās #5894 and Muslim, Faḍāʾil #2341

[46] Muslim, Fāḍāʾil #2341

[47] Bayhaqī 1:164, 1:178, 1:203

[48] Qārī

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