by Ustazah Zahratur Rofiqah Binte Mochamad Sandisi
Anyone who learns about the beloved s.a.w. will tend to fall in love with him. Knowing more about him s.a.w. will cause those who long for him to fall even deeper in love with him. There are countless ways to love him because he is the Beloved’s beloved, and reading about him is just one of them.
Many books have been written about our Prophet s.a.w. Many wrote about him with the intention of preserving their love with the power of a pen. Their devotion to Rasulullah s.a.w. was documented in their books and passed down from generation to generation.
Our Prophet s.a.w. possessed so many exceptional qualities that biographers still have more to say about him one millennia after his departure from this world. Although he is no longer physically present, his legacy remains and continues to live on in the hearts of believers.
Listed below are five books that have benefited, inspired me and shaped me into a better person. I believe it will do the same for you too, Insya’Allah (God willing).
1. Raheeq Makhtoum (The Sealed Nectar) by Safiur Rahman al-Mubarakpuri
The Muslim World League awarded this book first place in a worldwide competition on the biography of the Prophet s.a.w. held in Makkah Al-Mukarramah in 1979.
This book was originally written in Arabic and has since been translated into a number of languages, including English. The original book contained high-status words that required a dictionary to translate into simple terms. Even the English translation was written in such a way that the original language’s concreteness and conciseness were preserved.
This book brilliantly and meticulously revealed the life of the Prophet s.a.w. Every paragraph is jam-packed with information and events that occurred, and readers can feel the intensity and enthrallment as if this book transported them back to the life of the Prophet s.a.w. thanks to the author’s expert and apt choice of words. Because of the detailed description of the events and conversations that occurred during the Prophet’s life, I found it easy to remember everything written in the book in chronological order. I could feel my heart being moved at every word used to describe the emotions and sentiments that were circulating, especially during events of victory or the passing of someone dear to the Prophet s.a.w.
This book covered everything, from the demographics of Arab tribes and their political state during pre-Islamic Arabia to the last moments of the Prophet s.a.w. in this world. The author also concluded his book with an insightful and remarkable description of the Prophet’s attributes and manners, emphasising that he s.a.w. is perfect in both his physical creation and manners.
2. A Depiction of Prophet Muhammad s.a.w. (الشمائل المحمدية) by Imam Abu Isa Al-Tirmidhi
This book is the famous and profound work of Imam Al-Tirmidhi/At-Tirmizi, Syamail Muhamamdiyah. It is an exceptional book that compiles Hadiths (Prophetic Tradition) depicting the physical appearance of the Prophet s.a.w. from his hair to his sandals. Even his belongings were recorded as well, such as his sword, bed, headdress and many more. On top of that, the Prophet’s lifestyle, daily routine, character and interactions with the people around him were also written gracefully and eloquently in Syamail Muhammadiyah.
Alhamdulillah today, we have a lot of translation works being done to make the book more accessible for everyone. On top of that, extensive commentaries and translations were made as well. Amongst many, I would like to recommend a commentary and translation published by Dar Al-Arqam:
The methodology used in this commentary book is intended to make Syamail Muhammadiyah more appealing to all. Hence, extensive research was conducted to present to the readers selected gems from a wide range of other books and references. The variety of quotes and texts researched and included are meant to enrich the content and provide non-Arabic speakers with access to even classical books and references that have yet to be translated.
The commentaries used are drawn from the works of early and contemporary scholars from the four major schools of thought (Hanafi, Shafi’i, Maliki, and Hanbali). From this diversity of scholars, it is hoped to bring people closer together and allow them to be more accepting and respectful of the scholars who have provided us with this knowledge. It is also hoped that this book will unite the hearts of people from various backgrounds. To that end, the commentaries used in this book were chosen based on the added value and benefit they will provide.
To make the book more interesting, researchers extracted the quotes based on the subject matter of the Hadith by combing through multiple classical books and references covering a wide range of topics such as history, fiqh (religious rulings), commentaries, creed, tazkiyyah (spiritual purification), etc.
3. Muhammad s.a.w., 11 Leadership Qualities That Changed The World by Nabeel Al-Azami
“A compelling faith-inspired approach to leadership thinking and practice,” Dr Ali Aslan Gumusay, Researcher at the University of Hamburg; former Lecturer at Magdalen College (University of Oxford) and BCG Strategy Consultant.
“Each of you is a shepherd, and each of you is responsible for their flock” (Muttafaqun ‘alayh). This profound statement by Prophet Muhammad s.a.w. compels us to recognize that we are all leaders at some level. This book explores the qualities and skills that make someone a good leader. It also discusses how each and every one of us would measure up against the leadership standards set by the Prophet s.a.w.
For the first time, a well-researched leadership framework combined with extensively applied contemporary practitioner case studies were presented in this book for readers who are interested in the Sirah (prophetic life) based universal model for good leadership.
Using scholarly findings from eastern and western sources, as well as extensive research on Sirah, an original framework of eleven prophetic leadership qualities is presented, with an entire chapter devoted to each. Each chapter on leadership qualities explains not only what the quality means and where it can be found in the life of the Prophet s.a.w, but also guidelines on how those qualities can be developed within oneself.
John Adair, the world’s first leadership professor, commented that the author gave readers an unforgettable portrait of the Prophet s.a.w. as, in his words, a ’good leader and a leader of good’.
4. With The Heart In Mind, The Moral and Emotional Intelligence of the Prophet s.a.w. by Mikaeel Ahmed Smith
Smith emphasised in his introduction that the ‘aql (intellect) of the Prophet s.a.w. illuminated the darkness within a person while also illuminating the external darkness as well. He also iterated that if one could model and develop multiple intelligences he s.a.w. possessed, one might also hope to become an agent of deep, radical change and influence.
This book approaches the topic of the Prophet’s intelligence by first separating the message from the messenger. The author highlighted that the methods used by the Prophet s.a.w. to effect change deserve just as much attention as the message he s.a.w. was tasked to convey. This book is not only an investigation into the intellect of the Prophet but an attempt to highlight why Islamic scholarship always considered him the most intelligent of Allah’s creation.
The book also aimed to give readers a better understanding of the importance of intellectual development in the Islamic scholastic tradition. Most importantly, the book’s core discussed the Prophet s.a.w.’s emotional intelligence and how he won the hearts of so many people from diverse backgrounds and beliefs while also highlighting the lack of understanding of his emotional intelligence had caused strained bonds between families and communities and worse, robbed humans of their ability to effectively communicate the message of Islam across cultures.
What drew me to this book even more was the author’s assertion that this type of intelligence was absolutely necessary for American Muslim communities due to their extreme diversity, and this hit close to home as the author continued to emphasise that navigating the cultural fault lines within their communities require a deep emotional intelligence.
“If you have never studied the life of the Prophet s.a.w, this book is an excellent place to start because it attempts to uncover the very core of his being, his message, and his understanding of those around him. For seasoned students of knowledge, it is hoped that they too will gain a deeper appreciation for the Prophet after studying him from a perspective that is usually only presented marginally,” Mikaeel Ahmed Smith, Author of With The Heart in Mind.
5. Muhammad s.a.w., His Life Based On The Earliest Sources by Dr. Martin Lings
Written in 1983, this book is widely regarded as Dr. Lings’ magnum opus (the greatest achievement of a writer), having earned him recognition across the Muslim world and awards from the governments of Pakistan and Egypt.
This book has touched many hearts and moved many minds. One may also be interested to know that it was during the research for this book that Dr. Lings accepted Islam.
The narrative style of the biography is lively and approachable; it moves quickly and flows smoothly, and this is one of the distinguishing features of the work. The book reads more like a novel, and it was written in a style that is straightforward, simple, and easy to understand. Additionally, the language that is used in the book reflects both simplicity and grandeur in equal measure.
This book began with a narrative from the time of Prophet Ibrahim a.s and ended with the succession of the message as well as the burial of the Prophet s.a.w. In between there were detailed accounts of the Prophet’s life; it tells the story of Arabia’s history, as well as the birth and life of Prophet Muhammad s.a.w. The biography is divided into 85 short chapters, some of which are only two pages long. Each chapter focuses on a significant event in Islamic history and provides a chronological context for the religion’s emergence.
The biography has been reprinted numerous times in English and translated and published into numerous other languages, including French, Dutch, Malay, and Tamil, among others.
American scholar Sheikh Hamza Yusuf praised this work as “a story told by a master storyteller whose English oft-times sang and always soared.” He continued that this book has masterfully narrated the Prophet’s life through a series of short chapters in a prose as engaging and poetic as Lytton Strachey’s in Eminent Victorians, only the subject matter was not on an eminent Victorian but rather written by one who appeared to be. He was also “astounded at the historical accuracy of the text and the providential care so evident in the author’s choice of versions as well as the underlying structure of the story as he chose to tell it.”
There are undoubtedly many more books that depict the Prophet s.a.w.’s life, personality, interactions, and brilliance. Exploring Hadith books and their commentaries, as well as reading the Quran and its exegesis, are both essential to expand our understanding of the Prophet s.a.w. His character, as Sayyidatina Aishah r.a. mentioned, was the Quran, which is a huge indicator of how we can learn more about him s.a.w.
The personality of Prophet Muhammad was multidimensional and multilayered. The great Maliki jurist, Shihab al-Din al-Qarafi (d. 1285) proposes in his work, Al-Furuq, to examine the Prophet’s life based on his various capacities and roles and to classify his legacy as legislator, judge, and leader.
Tunisian scholar Tahir Ibn Ashur (d. 1973) expanded on these categories by including the Prophet’s role in guidance, counselling, mediating, advising, and striving for high ideals.
Let us, in this holy month of Rabiul Awwal, seek to know him better, set our sights on following in his footsteps in all areas and levels, and prove ourselves deserving of becoming his beloved followers.
And Allah knows best.
Ustazah Zahratur Rofiqah graduated with a BA in Islamic Jurisprudence and its Foundation, University of Jordan. She is now pursuing masters in the same field and is an educator in Islamic studies. She loves tea and poems.