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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


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-i-

Mecca 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


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.


Book Review. Retrieved from htm

Nadwi, Saiyid Sulaiman (1977). Muhammad: The Ideal Prophet.

Kuala Lumpur: Islamic Book Trust.