OUR purpose is not to attempt to give a coherent biography of the Arabian prophet, or even to mention the principal incidents in his life. Material for this must be sought elsewhere.1 But simply because no survey of the hadith literature, however superficial, would be complete without some account of the impression it gives of the enigmatic personality of its great hero, a few hadith are translated to supplement what has gone before, and to show particularly how, with the passing of years, the fallible, human figure of Muhammad has faded into oblivion. The gulf between the prophet who is believed to have worked the miracles mentioned on page 136 and him who spoilt the date crop of Medina by his untimely interference with established custom could not have been bridged in one or two generations.

Many of the hadith already cited will have shown the good sense, amiability, and liberality of the prophet; and the following further examples of the qualities which have ever endeared him to his followers must suffice.

Rafi' b. 'Amr al Ghaffari: 'When I was a boy I threw stones at the Ansar's date-palms, and so they brought me before the prophet of God. "Boy," said he, "why

1 See especially the works of Caetani, Muir, Margoliouth, Sprenger, and others; also Ibn Sa'd and Ibn Hisham.


did you throw stones at the date-palms?" "So that I might eat dates," I said. "Don't throw stones," said he, "but eat the failings." Then he touched his head and prayed: "O God, satisfy him with food." 'Aisha: 'A man asked permission to see the prophet of God, who said: "Let him come in though he is of an evil tribe." When the man sat with him the prophet showed him a bright countenance and conversed agreeably with him. After he had gone 'Aisha asked: "How is it that you treated him so kindly when you had thus spoken of him?" He replied: "When have you known me immoderate in speech? The worst men in God's sight on the day of resurrection will be those whom men forsake through dread of their wickedness" (variant: harsh speech).1 The Babu-l-Muzah contains a pleasing notice of the prophet's kindness to children and his fondness of jokes and raillery, which may be further illustrated from the story of his relation to his child-wife. 'Aisha said: 'The apostle of God returned from the raid of Tabuk (variant: or Hunain). Now her booth was protected by a curtain, and when the wind blew aside the edge of the curtain 'Aisha's dolls were seen. "What are these?" asked Muhammad. "My dolls," she answered. Then he noticed among them a horse with two wings of patchwork, and was told what the object was. "A horse with two wings!" he exclaimed, "Have you not heard", she replied, "that Solomon possessed winged horses?" 'Aisha, in relating the hadith, adds: "Then he laughed so that I could see his molars."'

1 Commentators differ as to the meaning of this last sentence. It reads rather like a protest against the autocratic bearing of the caliphs than a recommendation of courtesy towards the wicked.


But their relations were not always so easy. There are frequent references to the domestic troubles of the prophet which sometimes scandalized his followers. We read of the anger of Abu Bakr when his daughter dared to scold the prophet in a voice that could be heard without. Exclaiming, 'I will not hear thee lift thy voice against the apostle of God,' he seized hold of her to slap her face. But the prophet restrained him so that he went out in anger. When he had gone the prophet said, 'You see how I have delivered you from the man.'1 Abu Bakr remained unreconciled for some days. Then he called and found the pair at peace, and said, 'Include me in your peace as you included me in your quarrel!' The prophet answered, 'We do! we do!' Another occasion of strife is connected with the dispute between Muhammad and his wives which has found its way into the Quran (Sur. 33. 51). Its guarantor is Jabir: Abu Bakr came asking to see the apostle of God, and found people who had been refused admittance sitting at his door. Abu Bakr was allowed to enter, and was followed subsequently by 'Umar. They found the prophet sitting, surrounded by his wives, gloomy and silent. 'Umar said: 'I must say something to make the prophet laugh'; so he began: 'O apostle of God, if I see Bint Kharija asking me for money then I get up and throttle her!' The apostle of God said: 'These women about me as you see, are asking for money.' So Abu Bakr got up and throttled 'Aisha, and 'Umar treated Hafsa similarly, saying: 'Will you ask the apostle of God for what he does not possess?' They said: 'By God, we never ask him for anything he does not possess!' Then he sepa-

1 The commentators suppose the remark to be a jest.


rated himself from them for a month (variant: or twenty-nine days), when this revelation descended: 'O prophet, say to thy wives, if ye desire this present life and its braveries, come then I will provide for you and dismiss you with an honourable dismissal. But if ye desire God and his apostle and a home in the next life, then truly hath God prepared for those of you who are virtuous a great reward."1 He told 'Aisha of this first, saying: 'I wish to lay a matter before you in the which I desire that you do not decide until you shall have consulted your parents.' When she inquired what it was he recited the revelation to her. She responded: 'Is it about you that I am to consult my parents? Nay, but I choose God and his apostle and the home in the next life. I ask you, however, not to inform any of your other wives of what I have said.' His answer was, 'If any of them ask me I shall tell them, for God has not sent me to cause chagrin and sin, but to teach and to make (righteousness) easy.'

Probably nothing is more illustrative of the prophet's greatness both among his contemporaries and with posterity than the fact that his reputation could survive the publication of the following story by his wife 'Aisha; 'I was jealous of the women who gave themselves to the apostle of God, and said, "Does a woman give herself?" Then when God revealed: "Thou mayest decline for the present whom thou wilt of them, and thou mayest take to thy bed her whom thou wilt, and whomsoever thou shalt long for of those thou shalt have before neglected; and this shall not be

1 Sur. 33. 28—9. The translation is Rodwell's. The text has only the opening and the final words of the verses. Cf. Muir, p. 304, where the passage is connected with the scandal that gathered round 'Aisha.


a crime in thee."1 I said, "I see your Lord does nothing but hasten to fulfill your desire!"'2 In this context we may include the significant tradition of Anas recorded by Al Nasa'i, 'After women nothing was dearer to the apostle of God than horses.'3 In a hadith of Umm Salma the prophet freely admits his fallibility: 'I am only mortal, and when you come disputing before me perhaps some of you are more eloquent in argument than others, and I give judgement according to what I hear. But whoso receives judgement in this way to the detriment of his brother's rights let him not take it, for if he does I have reserved a place in hell for him.'

But the clearest possible recognition of Muhammad's ignorance of everyday matters is to be found in the story of his interference with the process of fertilizing date-palms. Rafi' b. Khadij: 'The prophet of God came to Medina when they were fecundating the date-

1 v. 51.

2It must be counted unto the traditionists for righteousness that this and the many other hadith so damaging to the prophet's reputation were not expunged from the canonical collections. It would seem that the prophet's character among the faithful was above criticism; otherwise it is difficult to see how such traditions could have been tolerated in a community which claimed to have received a revelation from God.

3 The contradictory nature of some of the hadith is well illustrated by the following sayings which claim to reflect the prophet's preference in the matter of horses:

(a) Abu Qutada. The best horses are black with white foreheads and white upper lip. Then a black horse with a white forehead and three white legs; then a bay with these markings.
(b) Abu Wahab. A bay with a white forehead and white legs is the best.
(c) Ibn Abbas. Prosperity goes with the sorrel.


palms,1 and asked what was being done. It was replied that this was custom. "Perhaps it would be better if you did not do it," said he. So they left the trees as they were and the crop was deficient. When the people told him of this, he said: "I am only mortal. If I give you an order in the domain of your religion then receive it; but if I give you an order from my own opinion (rai) then am I but mortal."'

There is also preserved the story of Muhammad's unsuccessful negotiations with a Jew. The story comes from 'Aisha: 'The prophet wore two thick Qitri2garments, so that when he sat down perspiring he found them oppressive. Now clothes had come from Syria to a certain Jew, so I said: "If you were to send to him and buy (sc. on credit) two garments you would be more at ease." So he sent, and the fellow said: "I know what you want: you only want to go off with my money!" The apostle of God said: "He lies: for he knows that I am the most God-fearing and punctilious in money matters of all men." In another hadith she repeats: "If you wish to cleave to me then be satisfied with the portion of a horseman in this world, and beware of sitting with the rich, nor think a garment shabby until it has been patched."3 Though the last is probably not a genuine hadith it

1 See Margoliouth and Muir in loc.; and Burton, Pilgrimage, p. 403, for a description of the process.

2 The commentator explains this as 'a kind of Yaman garment'. The Nihaya says it is a garment dyed red with rough coarse fringes, and offers another explanation to the effect that it comes from Bahrain.
This tradition bears the warning: Al Tirmidhi relates it, and says, 'This is a gharib hadith. We only know it from the hadith of Salih b. Hassan. Muhammad b. Isma'il (i.e. Al Bukhari) says the latter is munkiru-l-hadith.' See Glossary.


points rightly to the poverty and privation in which the prophet and his friends lived, to which allusion has already been made on p. 144. The same authority (in Bukhari) tells us that the prophet's family did not eat barley bread for two consecutive days during the whole of his life, a statement which is strengthened by Anas, who says that he went to the prophet with some barley bread and rancid dripping, and found that he had pawned his coat-of-mail to a Jew in Medina in exchange for barley for his family. 'Never did there remain overnight in the family of Muhammad a measure of corn or grain though he had nine wives.'

The various currents in Christian tradition, with which theologians are all familiar, represented by the Synoptic, the Apocryphal, and the Apocalyptic school, all have their counterpart in traditions which gather round the person of the founder of Islam.

Some examples of the first have already been given, while to the second belong the stories of Muhammad's miracles: the sun standing still, the splitting of the moon, and others which have already been mentioned. In the Apocalyptic hadith Muhammad stands out as the prophet of the end and consummation of all things, and as the powerful intercessor for his people with God. The following long hadith vouched for by Abu Huraira contains many of the prevailing ideas on these subjects: 'The Hour will not come till there is a fierce battle between two great forces both professing Islam; and until nearly thirty lying Dajjals (antichrists) have been sent, each pretending that he is the apostle of God; until knowledge has been taken away and there are numerous earthquakes, till rebellions occur and commotions are frequent; till wealth be multiplied and


abundant, and the wealthy will trouble him who receives alms and beg him to accept it, and it will be declined, for none need it; till men display arrogance in building, and one will pass by a man's grave and say "Would that I were in his place!" till the sun rises in the west, and all men seeing it will believe. Then will none profit by faith who has not believed aforetime and acquired virtue by faith. And the Hour will come when men have spread out their garment between them and have not agreed on a price nor folded it up; when a man shall have taken away the milk of his camel and not have drunk it; when a man shall be plaistering his cistern and have put no water in it; while a man is lifting food to his mouth and before he can eat it.' A characteristic difference between these Apocalyptic hadith and the literature as a whole is their great length. The tradition which records men's need of an intercessor on the day of resurrection and the refusal of the office successively by Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, and Jesus, and the triumphant intercession of Muhammad for all Muslims, contains upwards of three hundred words exclusive of the isnad. The average length of hadith on all the topics dealt with in the literature I should estimate at fifty words only.

The eschatology of the traditions of Islam — the slaying of the antichrist, the descent of Jesus son of Mary from heaven to usher in a reign of peace, prosperity, and goodness—need not be discussed here. A tradition, hardly in accord with the general content of eschatological speculation, which seems to be deeply rooted in the Muslim mind is that of 'Abd Allah b. 'Umar, which the compiler of the Mishkat says is


recorded by Ibn Al Jauzi in the Kitabu-l-Wifa: 'Jesus son of Mary will descend to the earth, marry, and beget children. He will stay on the earth forty-five years, and then die and be buried in my grave. He and I shall arise in one grave between Aba Bakr and 'Umar."1

One of the most interesting subjects in Muhammadan apocalyptic is the Mi'raj, or nocturnal journey of Muhammad to the heavenly mansions. On this incident, which is referred to in an obscure passage of the Quran (Sur. 17. 1), the reader may consult the interesting study of the learned Spanish Arabist Asin.2 No more striking example of growth and development within the field of hadith has yet been adduced: From the story of the prophet's nocturnal journey in which he saw as in a vision the punishments of the wicked, the joys of Muslims and the felicity of martyrs, and finally Abraham, Moses, and Jesus awaiting him beneath the throne of God, there has grown up a large and extensive literature with which, in its latest form, the Occident has long been familiar in the pages of Dante Alighieri.3

1 Burton, Pilgrimage, pp. 325ff. 'It is popularly asserted that in the Hujra there is now spare place for only a single grave, reserved for 'Isa bin Maryam after his second coming.'

2 La Escatologia Musilmana en la Divina Comedia, Madrid, 1919, and see my review in Theology, i, pp. 315—16.

3 Kanzu-l-'Ummal, Cairo, 1312, vii. 248, no. 2835, and 280, no. 3089.

The Traditions of Islam [Table of Contents]
Answering Islam Home Page