The Biography of

Muhammad Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam

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Lesson 2

The sources of Seerah

a. Quran

The Quran gives us information regarding many aspects of the life of the Prophet Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam. His character, the difficulties he was given by his enemies, the battles of Badr, Ahzaab, Hudaibiyah and Hunain, his miracles like the Miraj, etc have been mentioned briefly in the Quran.

However, the Quran does not discuss details. For example, regarding the battles he fought the Quran does not discuss the reasons for the battles or the number of combatants, prisoners and injuries. It only discusses the lessons from a specific battle. For this reason we cannot suffice on the Quran only for a complete description of the life of the Prophet Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam.

b. Sunnah

The six canonical books of ahadith are an invaluable resource in understanding the life of the Prophet Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam. These give us detailed information and descriptions of his life from the Sahabah who were closest to him. Valuable insights regarding his actions, words, character, disposition, etc are gathered from the ahadith.

c. Arabic poetry

Poets who lived in the time of the Prophet Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam like Hassaan Ibn Thaabit, Abdullah Ibn Rawahaa Radhi Allahu Anhuma and others give useful insight into the background of his life.

d. Biographies

A number of authentic biographies of the Prophet Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam from the early Islamic scholars are available to us. These include the likes of Al-Maghaazi, Sirat Ibn Hishaam, Tabqaat Ibn Sa'd, Taarigh At-Tabari, etc.

e. Miscellaneous works

Numerous works dissecting and analyzing his life have been compiled by scholars of every age, both Muslim and non-Muslim. Works in this category include Dalaaílun Nubuwah by Isbahani, Zaadul Maáad by Ibn Qayyim Jowzi, As Shifaa by Qazi Ayaaz, Mawaahibul Ladunya by Qastallani, etc. (1)

European and Western Biographies

Numerous western writers and scholars have also attempted to analyze the life of the Prophet Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam. In many cases, unfortunately, their acceptance of western standards as a yardstick for success has left them far short of providing a truly objective analysis. As an example, Western and Christian literature of the 11th and 12th centuries often referred to Muslims as idolaters, pagans and sun-worshippers. According to Christian writers, human sacrifices were supposed to have been offered to Mohamed under the names of Maphomet, Mawmet and Bafum! This distortion has become permanently rooted into the English and French languages. The French word, "Mahomerie" refers to superstitious rites. The English words "Mammet" and "Mawmet" mean an idol. This is despite the fact that Islam prohibits not only the worship of idols but also the artistic representation of anything that resembles the human form. (2)

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The World of the sixth century

The Prophet Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam was sent as a guide to remove all of mankind from the darkness of sin and disbelief to the light of purity and faith. His message encompassed all of humanity and would remain as an eternal source of guidance for all time to come. To get a realistic and holistic picture of his message it is crucial to understand the conditions and circumstances of the world he was sent to.

Religious condition

At the dawn of the sixth century of the Christian era the world was in darkness. The great religions of the past had been corrupted and mutilated to such an extent that it was near impossible to distinguish the true teachings of the faith from the false. This was the case with Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism and Hinduism.

Arabia - The land and its people

Geography of Arabia

The Arabian Peninsula is an arid desert land of approximately one and a quarter million square miles. It is one of the driest and hottest areas of the world. It is surrounded by water and oceans on three sides. To the west is the Red Sea. To the east is the Arabian Gulf. To the south is the Arabian Sea. To the north is Syria and Iraq. Its location made it difficult for invaders to gain access. Despite it being surrounded by two of the greatest empires of the day it was left untouched. Its people enjoyed complete freedom and independence for a long time.

Having easy access to land and sea Arabia was at the centre of the then known world. It was connected by land and sea to the continents of Africa, Asia and Europe. It was, actually, the most suited for radiating the divine message to the entire world. It is no surprise that research has shown that Makkah lies at the centre of the world.

      The Arabian Peninsula      


Makkah has been described in the Quran by the noble title of Umm al-Qura - 'the mother of cities.' At the dawn of prophethood it had already developed into an urban city which was governed by self-governing clans who, by mutual agreement, saw to the administrative, civil and religious functions of its inhabitants and pilgrims. The Banu Haashim clan had the honour of providing water for the pilgrims. Similarly, other tribes saw to the upkeep of the Ka'bah, the administration of the House of Assembly, etc.

Makkah was the centre of trade. Merchants and caravans would proceed from Makkah to Africa and Asia and would return with all the necessities and luxuries. Gold, ivory, resin and ebony were imported from Africa. Spices, saffron, hides and incense were imported from Yemen. Oils, armour, silk and wine came from Egypt and Syria. Cloth was brought from Iraq. Precious stones, ivory and gold were brought from India. (3)

Makkah was regarded as the home of the Arabic language. The dialect of Arabic spoken here was the standard. The elegant expressions and untainted purity forced its neighbours to regard Makkan Arabic in the highest esteem.

Culturally, the Makkans were attracted to genealogy, poetry and astrology. Horsemanship was an art dear to their hearts. They would preserve the breed of the Arabian horse and were masters at every aspect when it came to their horses.

Religious Condition in Arabia

The Arabs had been followers of the Abrahamic religion of old and were fortunate enough to have the house of Allah, the Ka'bah, in their midst. A number of the true teachings of the Prophet Ibrahim Alaihis Salaam had remained intact, such as the pilgrimage to the Ka'bah. In addition, Arabia had been the birth-place of many prophets. Hud had been sent to the nation of Aad which, according to historians, was close to Hadramaut. Saalih was sent to the tribe of Thamud between Tabuk and Hijaz. Similarly, Ismail, Shuaib and other prophets lived in Arabia. (4)

Unfortunately, the people had been led astray by idol worship. It was the chief of the Khuzaá tribe, Amr Ibn Luhai, who brought idol worship to Arabia. He was a man who was renowned for his piety and kindness. On one of his journeys to Syria he came across people worshipping idols. He liked the idea and brought back with him an idol and placed it in the Ka'bah. As a leader people respected and obeyed him and readily agreed to follow him in worshipping it. In a short time many more idols were introduced and idol worship spread all over Arabia. At the time of the Prophet Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam idolatry had reached its peak in Arabia with every clan and family having an idol of their own. Three hundred and sixty idols had been installed in the Ka'bah itself. Hubal was the chief idol and occupied the central spot in the Ka'bah. Is'af and Na'ila were two idols that were placed in front of the Ka'bah. (5)

Idols came to be venerated and honoured in different ways. People supplicated to them, sought refuge with them and pleaded to them for all of their needs. Prostration and pilgrimage to them was considered a great act of worship. Devotees would make sacrifices of food, crops and cattle to them.

Along with idol worship astrologers, soothsayers and diviners played an important role in the social setup of the Arabs. Superstitious beliefs also played an important role in every day life. As an example, they believed that the soul of a murdered person would fly in the wilderness and would never come to rest until revenge was taken for his death.

These conditions together with the barren rugged terrain of Arabia and its deficiency of resources discouraged any conquering nation from casting a second glance at it. In the midst of this corruption a prophet would be born, who would rescue the Arabs from the gloom that had overpowered them.

Social Life

Story telling was common amongst the Arabs and groups of men would assemble around a man well-versed in the art and spend the entire night listening with rapt attention. The evils of wine and gambling had also become a way of life for the Bedouins.

Women were regarded as symbols of honour. They were protected by their tribes and families and blood was often shed in her defence. However, in many other ways a woman was regarded as a worthless commodity. She had little control over her affairs. Prostitution and sexual immorality was common. Adultery was prevalent amongst all social classes of men. A man could marry as many wives as he wanted and would divorce his wives when he felt like. Female children were considered a burden to the family and the father would bury his daughter alive to avoid the shame of rearing a girl.

Tribalism was an integral component of the society. A Bedouin had deep emotional attachment to his clan. His tribal pride would lead him to avenge any act which brought disrepute to his tribe. This would sometimes result in war which would drag on for forty of more years.

In short, the Arabs were uncultured and uncivilised. They did not even know the difference between camphor and salt. The Arab Muslims, when their days of conquest came, conquered cities and palaces where they found rooms filled with gold and silver. They found camphor in large amounts. Thinking it to be salt they used it in their dough. They found it to be very bitter and only then did they realize their mistake. (6)

Political Condition

The Arabs were then an alienated nation. The super powers of the day, the Romans and the Persians, did not consider the possibility of conquering the cities of Arabia due to the miserable plight of its inhabitants. They were steeped in moral decay. Their tribal feuds, which lasted for many years, caused havoc in their social set-up. Arabian society was fragmented into numerous tribes and clans making any possibility of a government impossible.

The status of the pre-Islamic Arabs amongst the rest of humanity can be better understood from the opinion of their neighbours regarding them.

Yezdigird, the emperor of Persia said to Mughira ibn Shuba, a Muslim ambassador to Persia : 'I do not know of any nation on earth which is worse than you, which is smaller in number than you and which has stone-hearted enmity as you. We had assigned to you the outlying cities so that we could remain safe from you, so that the Persians would not wage war against you and so that you would not intend rising to them. If your numbers are large then do not be deceived by us. If difficulties afflict you we will stipulate quantities of food to supplement you. We will honour you. We will clothe you. We will appoint a ruler over you who will be kind to you.'

Mughira ibn Shuba replied: 'O King! You have described us with such qualities that you do not know. With regards to your description of evil conditions, no condition could have been worse than ours. Our hunger did not resemble hunger. We used to eat dung beetles, scarabaeus, scorpions and snakes. These we regarded as food. Our houses were the surface of the earth. We used to wear clothing spun from the fur of camels and the hair of goats. Our religion was to murder and oppress each other even though it meant one of us burying his daughter alive disliking the idea that she would eat from his food. This was our condition until yesterday. Then Allah sent to us a man...' (7)

Noble qualities of the Arabs

Despite the paganism, superstition and inter-tribal wars that weakened their societies, the Arabs were characterised by a number of praiseworthy attributes.

1. Strong will and determination - If an Arab was convinced of the truth of a cause he would place everything, even his life, in realising it.
2. Simple mindedness - Being accustomed to the desert terrain they were free from many evils that accompanied an urban lifestyle. They were frank and practical in their dealings. They had become used to a hard life on horseback with little water and provisions.
3. Justice and honesty - An Arab was a man of his word. When he made a promise he would keep it even if it meant sacrificing his family, children and his wealth in the process.
4. Language - The Arabs took great pride in their language. Poetry was a cherished art with them. Despite the vastness of their deserts Arabic was always the common language of the Bedouins.
5. Hospitality and generosity - When it came to their guests they would spare nothing in entertaining them. They would themselves remain hungry and would even incur debt but their guest had to be honoured in the best possible way.
6. Courage and bravery - They were an extremely brave nation and did not consider it difficult to fight a war with an enemy. (8)


Lessons to learn

Allah chose the land of Arabia as the base for the religion of Islam because of its favourable geographical location and the noble qualities of its inhabitants. Both these factors proved critically important as Islam spread the wings of its message to the rest of the world.

Rooting out the evils which had piled up over generations and constructing a society which would serve as a model for the rest of mankind was no simple task. Only a prophet assisted by divine power could accomplish a task as difficult as this.



(1) As-Siba’i, M., As-Seerat an-Nabawiyyah, Karachi, n.d. p. 25-31

(2) Galwash, A.A, The Religion of Islam, p.13

(3) Nadwi, Syed Ab al-Hasan Ali, Muhammad Rasulullah, Lucknow, 1982, p. 82

(4) Nadwi, Syed Ab al-Hasan Ali, As-Seerut An-Nabawiyyah, Lucknow, 2003, p. 70

(5) Nadwi, Syed Ab al-Hasan Ali, Muhammad Rasulullah, Lucknow, 1982, p. 89

(6) Ibn Kathir, Al-Bidayah Wa-Nihayah, vol. 7, p.67

(7) Ibn Kathir, Al-Bidayah Wa-Nihayah, vol. 7, p.41

(8) Mubarakpuri, Safi-ur-Rahman, Ar-Raheeq Al-Makhtum, Riyadh, 2000, p. 47



Dua when waking up from sleep

Meaning : All praise belongs to Allah Who gave us life after death and to Him is our raising (return).




It is Sunnah to use the miswaak when awakening. It is also Sunnah to rub the eyes and face with the palms of the hands in order to remove the drowsiness of sleep.