The Life of Perfection Physical Appearance
By Dr Abidullah Ghazi
IQRA’ International Educational Foundation
We are fortunate to know about the Sirah (biography) and Shama’il (characteristics) of Rasulullah saws. Rasulullah saws is the only person in human history about which there is so much information that we can spend our life time studying that and it would not be exhausted. A Persian poet Jami had said:
Umram tamam gasht-o-bi payaN raseed umr
Maa hamchunaN sar awwal-i-wasf-i-to manda aim
All my life has passed and to end comes my age
Yet we are still talking about your preliminary characteristics.
What was true of poet Jami is also true of me and my wife (Dr. Tasneema Ghazi); we have spent more than forty years of our life writing about the Sirah of Rasulullah saws, and once again we are rewriting the same again and again with new methodology and perspective, discovering new insights and enjoying afresh that we have spent our life time exploring and living with, al-hamdu lillah.
Bara’a Ibn `Azib (R) describes Rasulullah (S) thus:
“Rasulullah Salla Allahu Alaihi wa Sallam, was a man of average height. The distance between the two of his shoulders was more than average. He had thick hairs which came up to the top of his eras... I have never seen anything more beautiful than him.”
Bara’a (R) further reported that: “Sometimes Rasulullah (S) allowed his hairs to grow up to his shoulders.”
Ali (R) gave a more descriptive account of the physical appearance of Rasulullah (S):
“Rasulullah (S) was neither very tall nor very short but he was of average height. Neither his hairs were very curly nor straight. Though his hairs had some curl. He was not of heavy built.
His face was somewhat round. His color was white with some red. His pupils were dark black and eye less long. The bones of the joints strong and heavy. The space between his two shoulders was soft and fleshy. He had a straight line of hair from chest to hand.
When he walked he lifted his legs with power as if descending from higher to lower levels. When he listened to someone he paid full attention. Between his shoulders was the seal of Prophethood (Khatim al-Nabuwwat).
He was the last Prophet. He had the most generous heart, most truthful tongue and most sweet temper and the kind heart belonged to the noblest family.
Whoever saw him unexpectedly was overawed and whoever got acquainted with him he fell in love with him. Whoever wishes to describe him he can only say: “I have not seen anyone like him.”
Ibn Abi Halah (R), son of Khadijah (R) from her previous marriage, used to describe Rasulullah (S) in great detail. His nephew Hasan (R) son of Ali (R) and Fatimah (R) was only seven years old when Rasulullah died. Hasan’s (R) memory of Rasulullah (S) was not very clear and he wanted to recapitulate the physical and moral characteristics of Rasulullah (S). He approached his uncle Ibn Abi Halah (R) and asked him to describe the characteristics of Rasulullah (S). Ibn Abi Halah (R) explained thus:
“Rasulullah (S) was not only great himself but also he was great in the eyes of other people. His face used to shine like a full moon. He was little taller than the man of average height but he was smaller than the very tall person. His head was moderately big.
His hair’s had some curl in them. He would part the hair if they parted easily, otherwise he allowed them to stay as they were. When his hair were long they reached the upper lope of his ear. His color was bright and radiant and the forehead was wide. His eyebrows were thin and unconnected, between them was a vein which will show up when he was angry. He had a sharp pointed luminous nose. Because of its radiance someone looking at it might think it was big (but in fact it was not).
His beard was thick and luxuriant, cheeks were smooth, mouth was wide, teeth small and separated from each other. His neck was distinguished looking as if well-chiseled belonging to a doll of white silver. His body was moderate, proportionate and well-built. His chest was in proportion. He had wide shoulders and his bones appeared well set. The upper part of his body radiated when it was without clothes. A thin line of hair ran between his chest and navel. His chest and body had no hairs except some on arms, shoulders and upper part of the chest.
He had long arms. The palms of his hands were wide. His palms and feet were soft and webbed. The fingers of his hands and feet were long. The soles of his feet were deep and hollow. His feet were so smooth that even washed water will not stick to them.
When he walked he appeared slightly bent taking steps with vigor. His feet touched the earth softly. He walked fast and took long steps. When he walked it appeared as if he was descending from a height.
When he looked at someone he paid full attention. His eyes mostly looked downward, toward the earth and not upward toward the sky. His habit was not to directly look at someone but through the side of the eyes. When walking he made Sahabah (R) walk ahead of him and when he met someone he took initiative in saying Assalmu Alaikum.
Khatim Al-Nabuwwat: The Seal Of Prophethood
Many ahadith confirm the presence of a birth mark called Khatim al-Nabuwwat between the two shoulders of Rasulullah (S). This mark was witnessed by many Sahabah (R), including Sa’ib Ibn Yazid (R), Jabir Ibn Samrah (R), Ramitha (R), Abu Sa’id (R), Abdullah Ibn Sarjis (R) Umar Ibn al-Akhtah (R), Salman al-Farsi (R), Ali Ibn Abi Talib (R), Asma bint Abu Baker (R) Umm al- Mu’minin A’ishah (R).
This Khatim al-Nabuwwat (seal of Prophethood), a very exceptional occurrence, was regarded as a physical sign of divine confirmation of the finality of the mission of Rasulullah (S).
Ad-Dumi explains the traditional Muslim opinions about Khatim al-Nabuwwat in the following words:
“it was a sign of Prophethood and an evidence in its favor...... It was a further proof of his Prophethood. In fact it was one of these signs which were foretold in the revealed books. It was a confirmation of the mission of Prophethood, a protection of its secrets and a safeguard for its preciousness.”
It was reported from A’ishah (R) that this Khatim al-Nabuwwat was a birth mark. Some other traditions indicate that it was placed at the time of the first opening and illumination of the chest (Shaqqa al-Sadr). In the Prophet’s childhood at Bani Sa’d. Abu Dhar Gniffari (R) says it was placed during second opening and illumination the time of Mi’raj (Ascension) in the 10th year of Prophethood.
The fact of the matter is that it was witnessed by many people and confirmed as an unusual phenomena representing his mission as khatim al-nabiyyin, the finality of Prophethood.
It is reported by Asma’ (R) and A’ishah (R) that it disappeared after the demise of Rasulullah (S). Such tradition, however, are not reliable.
Exact Nature of the Seal
Traditions differ slightly in describing the exact nature of this mark, the differences are minor and maybe regarded due to the individual differences of observation and its description.
Observers describe it through comparisons such as “red gland equal to the pigeon’s egg” (ghuddatun hamra’a mithla baidati al-hamamati), “decorative bells of the canopy of a bed” (zirri al-hajlah), like a “fish” (Ka’annaha tha’ ubun) and “a lump of flesh” (bid’atun nashizatun). Around it was observed hairs growth, (Sha’raturn majtami’atun) and moles.
Writing on the Seal
There is a difference of opinion on the fact that there was something written on the seal or not. Ibn Habban (R) reported that in the Khatim al-Nabuwwat was written “Muhammadun Rasulullah” (Muhammad is Allah’s Messenger). Other traditions indicate that “Safar anta Al-Mansoor” (wherever you go you will be helped) was written in it. (Continued next week)