The Ideal Prophet

Saiyid Sulaiman Nadwi

Reviewed by: Norhiyah Mohammad Noor Siti Fatimah Mohd Tawil Junaiza Jarjis

Muhammad: The Ideal Prophet

Man, the perfect creation by Allah differs from other creations because of the volition and consciousness given by Allah to them. Since men possess the senses, consciousness, intellect, will and determination they held responsibility for their own action. The responsibility of men differs according to his competence and depending on his strength. Based on al-Quran, 2:286;

“Allah tasketh not a soul beyond its scope”.

Men by nature inclined towards extravagance, thus he requires knowledge and constraint to enlighten his path. The prophets and the messengers of Allah have been sent to this world to give guidance to their followers. As Allah said in the Quran:

“There is not a nation but a warner hath passed among them”. (35:24) “For every folk a guide”. (13:7)


Every prophets of Allah came to this world together with specific duties according to the time and people in which they were sent to. Some came to this world as a witness to Allah’s majesty like Jacob, Isaac and Ishmael while Abraham and Jesus were sent as the heralds of glad tidings. Prophet Muhammad S.A.W. was the last prophet and messenger of Allah came to this world with the combined qualities of all of his predecessors. Since Prophet Muhammad S.A.W. was the last line of prophets, he was sent as a standard of virtue and goodness for the guidance of mankind till the Last Day, not only for his particular time and people. In this book, the author Saiyid Sulaiman Nadwi clearly presents the life of the Prophet Muhammad S.A.W. as an abiding historical model for all humanity.

Prophet Muhammad S.A.W. held out as an ideal character or model for humanity. This is based on the Prophet’s historicity which shows the authenticity of the accounts of his life and character as a perfect model based on reputed sources and methodical records put forward by his companions, their sons and successors. Nadwi provides comparison of the biography of Prophet Muhammad S.A.W. with other characters which came from various civilizations like


Zoroaster of Iranian, Buddha, Confucius, and prophets like Noah, Salih, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob, Zachariah and John. However the writings of these characters were incomplete and there were missing details of their lives and doings from the chain of history. The works were also proven to be written long after the death of those characters or the writer never saw the prophets. Some of the writings were even fictitious for having the mixtures of fables and folklore like the story of the life of Buddha.

Other than a complete chain of historicity, an ideal biography must be comprehensive in which the character provides light and guidance to the peoples’ need in different walk of life, besides became the prophet or the founder of a religion. The complete historicity of Prophet Muhammad S.A.W. and Islam as the religion sent down from Allah through him has proven Prophet Muhammad S.A.W. as an ideal character.

This book also compares Islam with the religion of Jesus and the religion of Moses. Based on this comparison, it shed the light on indisputable fact of history that no other life other than Prophet


Muhammad S.A.W. which is the most practical, comprehensive and perfect.

The period during which the collection and compilation of the traditions and the related historical data was completed can be divided into three parts; first, the periods of companions. The companions were the people who have transmitted directly some saying or an act of the Prophet Muhammad S.A.W. to others. The period of companions stretch up to before the first century of Islam. Second phase is the period of tabiy’in and younger tabiy’in. Tabiy’in is the people who had seen and conversed with some companion of the prophet but not with the prophets himself. Tabiy’in periods stretch from the first century of Hijrah until 150 A.H. The third period is the period of people like Muhammad b. Ismail al-Bukhari, Muslim b. al-Hajjaj al-Qushairi, Muhammad b. Isa Tirmidhi, and Ahmad b. Muhammad ibn Hanbal who started to write their works after examining thoroughly the available materials from the second phase of the narrators. The third period extends from 150 A.H. up to the opening decades of the fourth century.


Nadwi further extends the discussion on the narrators to the criterions or principles for historicity set by the Muslims. The principles include the narrator from whom the narration was handed down, should be eye-witnesses to the events recounted by him. For a chain of narrators, who has transmitted the information from one person to another, the character and antecedent of each should be fully known. The scholars also need to satisfy about the moral conduct, intelligence, and reliability of each intervening narrator. The principles, history, and explanation on the narrators lead to the existence of the sciences of asma-i-rijal.

The biography of Prophet Muhammad S.A.W. can be referred from the two major sources of Islam that is al-Quran and the books of ahadith. Other than these two, the biography can be referred from books such as maghazi (the journal of the battles fought by the Prophet s.a.w), the books of history associated with the life and time of the prophet like al-Tabaqat of Ibn Saad, Tarikh ar-Rasul wal Muluk by al-Tabari, and al-Tarikh al-Kabir and al-Tarikh as Saghir by al-Bukhari.


It also can be derived from the works describing the miracles and spiritual attainment of the Prophet known as kutub-i-dala’il, from the books known as shama’il which portray the moral, the habits, manners and character of the Prophet and finally, from the books purporting to be annals of Mecca and Madina such as Akhbar-iMecca by al-Azraqi and Akhbar-i-Madina by Umar b. Shaiba. The works of western orientalists like Pof. Dr. D.S Mongoliath, teacher of Arabic of Oxford Univesity, a Christian biographer, John Davenport, and R. Bosworth Smith also acknowledged the authenticity of the biography of the Prophet Muhammad S.A.W. The statements like “The biographers of the Prophet Muhammad form a long series which it is impossible to end, but in which it would be honourable to find a place” (Mongoliath) and “of all the law makers and conquerors there is not one the events of whose life are more true and more detailed than those of Prophet Muhammad.” (John Davenport) prove the unbeatable genuine biography of Prophet Muhammad S.A.W. written by Muslim scholars.

Nadwi elaborated more on the concept of perfection and completeness of throughout the prophet life from his birth to death.


He is very detail in explaining the perfection of prophet’s life by referring to the Shama’il of Muhammad by Isa Tirmidhi, a book that discussed on the appearance, habit and character of the prophet. Indeed, Prophet Muhammad S.A.W. was admired by all of his companions. Obviously, there are many books that mention about Prophet Muhammad S.A.W. as a model such as kitab-us-Shifa’ and Siratun-Nabi. The aspects covered on the books are like the daily routine of prophet, his worship to Allah and his moral virtue including character and behavior.

In this chapter, it was also mentioned about some of the enemies of the Prophet Muhammad S.A.W. who respected him. It can be seen from one of the conversation between Abu Sufyan, the well-known enemy of the Prophet with Heraclius, the Byzantine Emperor, where Abu Sufyan without any hidden information confessed about the truthfulness of Prophet Muhammad S.A.W. Simultaneously, he

described and showed the perfection of Prophet Muhammad. Even though it had been mentioned in the Quran, where certain verses endorsed the Prophet, it was just a point that is pointed out by Allah to ensure that the character of Prophet Muhammad S.A.W. was to


be presented in the full light of the day and to maintain the ma’sum status of the Prophet.

Nadwi made clear that by knowing Prophet Muhammad S.A.W. in depth, it will make us contemplate the perfection of him as well as increasing our love to him. Indeed, he was the only perfect man that created by Allah in this ephemeral world.

Next, Nadwi touched the concept of comprehensiveness of Muhammad as the ideal prophet and model which should be followed and imitated by Muslims. Islam brought the ideal Prophet that suited any aspects of human life first to be easy accepted by the follower. In addition, it is to differentiate Islam with any other religion. Besides that, Prophet Muhammad S.A.W. is a model which can serve as a standard for every class of the people acting under different circumstances and stakes of human emotions.

Nadwi elaborated more on the example of the Prophet’s achievement in the battle with the Muslim enemies. All of these examples are not mere fictions but actual facts. Prophet Muhammad


is a great mu’allim that has a comprehensive character. He is responsible for disseminating the light and guidance to all classes and group of human being in all diverse situation of human’s life. In other hand, the author also highlighted the comprehensiveness of the Prophet with the distinguishing feature in him from the other prophet like Abraham, Noah and others.

In Chapter 6, Nadwi covers the concept of practicality in Prophet Muhammad S.A.W. where the obvious part is that he always does what he has said. For instance, in performing prayer at punctual time, he was the one who practices what he had preached. Indeed, in the messenger of Allah have a good example. Besides, the concept of zuhud and qana’ah were also practiced by the Prophet throughout his life even though he held the high status as the messenger of Allah. As much as he can, he tried to avoid being luxurious in the life style.

Prophet Muhammad S.A.W. himself stands as a protector and commander to his people in battles and wars, and not just an observer. He was also a good husband to his wives and good father


to his children. In short, he never failed to illustrate everything he had preached using his own life as an example. It can be shown that Prophet Muhammad S.A.W. is to be presented by illustration and model of practical morality in every part of life.

Nadwi further has given clear quotations from book of Torah, Bible’s Old Testament and Bible’s New Testament on the arrival of Prophet Muhammad S.A.W. The verses in the Gospel affirmed that it was not the last word of God, where in the Qur’an Prophet Muhammad S.A.W. has been indicated as the Seal of Prophecy. And that is not all; the message brought by the Prophet is universal, that is for all nations from his prophecy until the end of this world.

Nadwi indicates this by comparing the principles of every religion which comprises of 2 parts: the faith (imãn) and the action (‘amal). The latter can further be subdivide into three namely devotions to God (ibadat), dealing with people (mualamat), and morals (akhlaq). All the scriptures of the religion prior to Islam address the first part vaguely. In addition, Qur’an has successfully explained matters related to nature and purpose of prophecy, retribution in the after-


life, hell and heaven, day of judgement, angels, worshipping actions, morals, and social law, over the Gospels and Bibles.

Nadwi next lined out the 11 commandments that Islam perfected for the Mosaic Law in Torah, whereas the latter has only 7. He then in actual fact describes the principles of the message that Prophet Muhammad S.A.W. has brought that is the place of man in the universe, the fact that man is born sinless (unlike Christianity) and the absence of discrimination of prophets.

In the final chapter, Nadwi brings his audience to the three causes of deviation. He identified personification as the first root of being astray where prior to Islam, the Aryans, the ancient Hindus, the Greeks and the Romans envisaged their God in the shape of a female. On the other hand, the Semites, the ancient Hebrews and the Arabs imagined their God as the father or in a male shape. Nadwi pointed out the Qur’anic verse that cleared all these misconceptions where in Chapter 112 of the Qur’an, Allah has said:


“Say, He is Allah, the One! Allah, the eternally Besought of all! He begotteth not nor was begotten. And there is none comparable unto Him.”

Nadwi further claimed that the second cause is the deification of divine attributes into separate deities, like the Hinduism where they impersonated every divine attribute until the crowd of its deities reached 330 million figures! Its pantheons’ hands alone showed the power the Hindus are trying to express. The Christians too have made 3 attributes out of one that is the Father, the Holy Ghost and the Son of the Father. The message of Prophet Muhammad S.A.W. clearly stresses on the Oneness of Allah and His attributes are countless.

The third reason Nadwi illustrated is the failure of human themselves to comprehend the multiformity of divine acts and manifestations. This relates to the primitive mind believing that there must be different personas functioning simultaneously. The idea of giving one god for righteous deed and another for anything bad had occurred in many cultural thoughts, for instance the


Zoroaster who created twins out of this concept. Prophet Muhammad S.A.W. corrected this thought through his message, that there is only one God who is the author of whatever occurrence that happens in the universe.

Another interesting aspect brought forward by Nadwi is on worshipping. It is incontestable that worship has been the fundamental discipline of every religion. The religions of yore, however, had erroneous self-torture for veneration of God. They were convinced that by suffering agony and encompassing body pain would advance them to more piety and purity of soul. The ancient Hindus’ misconception brought them to yoga and monasticism. The Christians’ credence led to strange practices such as abstaining bath, vowing to stand up, remaining in the sun, dwelt on bare rocks, all for the rest of their lives.

Prophet Muhammad S.A.W. enlighten the world with the Mercy of Allah and His Eternal love showing that worship essentially consists of the acknowledgement of complete and unquestioned loyalty to the Lord and Master of the world. It is uplifting one’s heart to God


in complete surrender to actions that are demanded like fasting, performing pilgrimage, payment of poor-due, being out of celibacy and so forth. Offerings done in perverted beliefs were also corrected by Prophet Muhammad S.A.W. by stating that it should be done unto animals only, not including human. The practice of infanticide too was threatened with dire punishment.

Nadwi brought the final light to the prime teaching by Prophet Muhammad S.A.W. that is to look upon man as the same despite colour and creed, caste and race. The practice of the Jews to look down upon others while having the dogma of being the chosen ones, and the ancient India that regards all other nations and races as unclean, has been counselled by the Qur’an in Chapter 49, verse 13 bearing the message:

“O mankind! Lo! We have created you male and female, and have mage you nations and tribes that ye may know one another. Lo! The noblest of you, in the sight of Allah, is the best in conduct.”


As a whole, Nadwi has efficiently brought forward every essential point demonstrating Prophet Muhammad S.A.W. as the ideal prophet, right from his personality straight to his messages. Lots of verses engaged with Qur’an, Torah and the Bible were transcribed to illustrate his points outstandingly. It is a great book to discover Islam as a religion and a way of life, as much as the Prophet Muhammad as the most ideal prophet that has ever been sent.


Reference Book Review. Retrieved from htm Nadwi, Saiyid Sulaiman (1977). Muhammad: The Ideal Prophet. Kuala Lumpur: Islamic Book Trust.


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