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What are the Best Biographies of Prophet Muhammad in English?

What are the Best and Authentic Biographies of Prophet Muhammad for English speaking readers, both Muslims and Non-Muslims?

In this post I have attempted to answer this question by collecting responses from some of the contemporary scholars, teachers and seekers in the Path of Islam. 

We have three successive months which are holy and specially blessed in Muslim calendar. They are Rajab followed by Sha'ban and then finally Ramadan. It is said that Rajab is the month of Allah, Sha'ban is the month of Allah's Messenger and finally Ramadan is the month of the community (or Ummah). Since the month of Sha'ban it was my intention to give more emphasis on learning more about the Messenger, specially  his way of being or his nature or characteristics. In Islamic religious discourse we place far more emphasis on fragments of his life as to what he said or did and sometime when they are read without proper context, it only serves to paint a very fragmented and incomplete picture of his true way of being. It is precisely because like a specialized physicians who would give medicine to different patients according to their need, the blessed Messenger also gave counselling to different people, companions in different need, according to their station and state or need and at the same time his actions were also conducted under very different circumstances. Thus in order to get a truer picture of his way of being there is no other alternative but to know his life as much as possible from the available resources.

The importance of a full and complete biography of the Messenger as available to us can not be under estimated in this troubled time since both Muslims as well as Non Muslims have serious knowledge gap when it comes to even approaching the nature of the Final Prophet and the Ultimate Messenger of God sent to all of humanity, who came to restore the primordial religion of Man, the submission to God and His Commands.

From the month of Sha'ban my intention was to collect information about the best available Biographies of the Messenger, specially for English speaking readers. Though my intention was to publish this earlier, but as Allah wills, I am publishing it now with the intention that perhaps if we study him little by little, his blessed life, a life of tremendous struggle in the face of every kind of opposition that one can imagine to establish the truth, the message of God, his brilliant vision and his way of achieving the highest with least amount of resources at disposal.

With the intention to compile the list of the Best Biographies of Prophet Muhammad, I have asked and interviewed several people, some of which are notable scholars, Professors and others are very knowledgable about Islam and some of them are venerable teachers as well. They all have cooperated to provide their selection of Best Biographies of Prophet Muhammad, may peace and blessings of Allah be upon his noble soul, which I share hereby. May Allah also bless them for their time and suggestions to make this list.

Lest we forget, no Biography of Prophet Muhammad can really suffice to know him for he was all together someone else, the like of which humanity never saw before, never will in future. Language falls short to describe even his physical description, let alone the splendor of his character, the utter compassion the flew from his heart, the excellence of his mind, the unmatched generosity and the unparalleled skill as a teacher of truth. It is very true.

Author Henry Bayman also expressed the same feeling when he wrote, "... I doubt that a satisfactory biography of the Prophet will ever be written in any language. To judge by my Master, Ahmet Kayhan, such biographies leave oceans unsaid. There's a famous quote by Arthur Arberry about the Koran: he speaks of "bewildered critics ambitious to measure the ocean of prophetic eloquence with the thimble of pedestrian analysis." Well, the same holds for the Prophet.

There are certain dimensions about the Biography of the Prophet which I was reminded by Sidi Dara, who wrote, "Unfortunately the Seerah (Biographical Life Sketch) of the Prophet is somewhat anecdotal amongst the Sunnis, Shiites and definitely the Sufis. When you say Seerah to an Arab he thinks how the Prophet ate or combed his hair or how he drank milk from a bowl or how he brushed his teeth and so on. Seerah of the Prophet is our peep-hole into the Path of knowledge i.e. how to acquire knowledge about voyaging towards Allah."

Yet in our heart there is a longing to know him, unless he becomes dearer to us than anyone else and to love someone it is a prerequisite that we know that person. The hierarchy of love asks us to follow the beloved of God to be loved by God. And to follow the one whom Allah has awarded the title of Habib, we must love him and to love him, we must first know him. And may this gnosis of the Rasul be the knowing the of the heart and to reach that knowing of the heart, we must prepare our being and that journey must begin with the intention to know him by our minds.

Indeed all success comes from Allah, every opening is from Allah. May Allah open our heart to the noble door of knowing His habib, Muhammad Mustafa, sallalahu alaihi wa sallam. If you happen to stumble upon this and if you can download any of these Biographies, please make a habit of reading about his life regularly, at least once a week. Kindly spread the PDFs to those whom you think will earn benefit from them, for we have no other model more worthy of studying and aspiring to than the model of our beloved Master, Venerable Muhammad Mustafa, Divine salutation of blessing upon his soul and deep peace.

"You have good example in God's Apostle for anyone who looks to God and the Last Day and Remember God always." - The Quran

Below are some of the best Biographies of Prophet Muhammad as I received from interviews (the source person is mentioned herewith) and also provided whenever possible the E-book copy (PDF format) as made available online in public domain. You may download them for free from here. May they be beneficial for us all.

Recommended by Faraz Rabbani, Scholar and Teacher

  • al-Shifa of Qadi Iyad, translated by Aisha Abdarrahman Bewley   (download PDF, different translation)
  • Imam Nawawi's Gardens of the Righteous (Riyadh as-Salihin) - especially the first 25 chapters, to understand the "sunna of the sunna."  (download PDF)

Recommended by Imam Salim Chishti, Scholar and Teacher

  • Muhammad, his life based on the earliest sources by Martin Lings
  • Muhammad by Karen Armstrong

Recommended by Omid Safi, Professor and Researcher

Recommended by Henry Bayman, Author

Recommended by Dara O. Shayda, Teacher and Researcher

  • Al-Itqan Fi 'Ulum Al-Qur'an by  Imam Suyuti  (Download PDF
(For learning about how Prophet taught the Qur'an)

Recommended by Rashid Patch, Teacher and Seeker

  • Muhammad: His Life Based on the Earliest Sources by Martin Lings Martin Lings - (Shaykh Abu Bakr Siraj Ad-Din)
  • Excellent (though not so extensive) is Muhammad: A Biography of the Prophet by Karen Armstrong. Written by a non-Muslim for non-Muslim readers, this is a sincere and accurate portrait of Rasulallah.

Recommended by Hind Rifai, Researcher and Seeker

  • Muhammad: His Life Based on the Earliest Sources by Martin Lings
by Tariq Ramadan   (download PDF)
  • Memories of the Prophet (Why the Prophet Matters) by Omid Safi
  • Muhammad the Prophet of God (detailed) by Khawaja Shamsuddin Azeemi   (Link for Book)

Recommended by Yafiah Katherine Randall, Researcher and Seeker

  • Muhammad: His Life Based on the Earliest Sources by Martin Lings

Recommended by Yasmin Mogahed, Teacher and Lecturer

Recommended by Ustadh Luqman al-Andalusi, Teacher

  • as-Shifa of Qadi Iyad
  • Muhammad: His Life Based on the Earliest Sources by Martin Lings

And Allah alone gives success. Salwaat, Salamaat and Tahiyyat over the Prophet and his noble family and his extended family, in this life and the life after, collectively.

[+] To ACCESS copies as E-Book of the aforementioned Biographies, please follow the PDF links given along the titles mentioned above.

Some of the Testimonial about Prophet Muhammad by Scholars and Thinkers of the past

"My choice of Muhammad to lead the list of the world's most influential persons may surprise some readers and may be questioned by others, but he was the only man in history who was supremely successful on both the religious and secular level.”  - Michael Hart , author of ‘The 100: A Ranking of the Most Influential Persons in History’

“The world is in dire need of a man with the mind of Muhammad; religious people in the Middle Ages, due to their ignorance and prejudice, had pictured him in a very dark way as they used to consider him the enemy of Christianity. But after looking into the story of this man I found it to be an amazing and a miraculous one, and I came to the conclusion that he was never an enemy of Christianity, and must be called instead the savior of humanity. In my opinion, if he was to be given control over the world today, he would solve our problems and secure the peace and happiness which the world is longing for.” - George Bernard Shaw, the British playwright

“It is impossible for anyone who studies the personality of the great Prophet of the Arabs, and come to know how this prophet he used to live, and how he taught the people, but to feel respect towards this honorable prophet; one of the great messengers whom Allaah sent” - Annie Besant, wrote in ‘The Life and Teachings of Muhammad’

"If greatness of purpose, smallness of means, and astonishing results are the three criteria of a human genius, who could dare compare any great man in history with Muhammad? The most famous men created arms, laws, and empires only. They founded, if anything at all, no more than material powers which often crumbled away before their eyes. This man moved not only armies, legislations, empires, peoples, dynasties, but millions of men in one-third of the then inhabited world; and more than that, he moved the altars, the gods, the religions, the ideas, the beliefs and the souls. Philosopher, Orator, Apostle, Legislator, Conqueror of Ideas, Restorer of Rational beliefs... The founder of twenty terrestrial empires and of one spiritual empire -- that is Muhammad. As regards all standards by which human greatness may be measured, we may well ask, is there any man greater than he?” - Alphonse de La Martaine wrote in ‘Historie de la Turquie’

“Judged by the smallness of the means at his disposal, and the extent and permanence of the work that he accomplished, no name in world's history shines with a more specious luster than that of the Prophet of Makkah. To the impulse, which he gave, numberless dynasties have owed their existence, fair cities and stately palaces and temples have arisen, and wide provinces became obedient to the Faith. And beyond all this, his words have governed the belief of generations, been accepted as their rule of life, and their certain guide to the world to come. At a thousand shrines the voices of the faithful invoke blessings on him, whom they esteem the very Prophet of God, the seal of the Apostles… Judged by the standards to human renown, the glory of what mortal can compare with his?” - J.W.H. Stab wrote in ‘Islam and its Founder’

“Muhammad was a shining example to his people. His character was pure and stainless. His house, his dress, his food - they were characterized by a rare simplicity. So unpretentious was he that he would receive from his companions no special mark of reverence, nor would he accept any service from his slave which he could do for himself. He was accessible to all and at all times. He visited the sick and was full of sympathy for all. Unlimited was his benevolence and generosity as also was his anxious care for the welfare of the community.” - Dr. Gustav Weil writes in ‘History of the Islamic Peoples’

“It is a great shame for any one to listen to the accusation that Islaam is a lie and that Muhammad was a fabricator and a deceiver. We saw that he remained steadfast upon his principles, with firm determination; kind and generous, compassionate, pious, virtuous, with real manhood, hardworking and sincere. Besides all these qualities, he was lenient with others, tolerant, kind, cheerful and praiseworthy and perhaps he would joke and tease his companions. He was just, truthful, smart, pure, magnanimous and present-minded; his face was radiant as if he had lights within him to illuminate the darkest of nights; he was a great man by nature who was not educated in a school nor nurtured by a teacher as he was not in need of any of this.” - The British philosopher, Thomas Carlyle, who won the Nobel Prize for his book ‘The Heroes’ wrote:

“Us, Europeans, with all our concepts could not reach what Muhammad has reached, and no one will be able to precede him. I have looked in the history of humanity for an example and found that it was Muhammad, as the truth must be revealed. Indeed, Muhammad succeeded to subdue the entire world to monotheism”. - Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, the German writer

# Additional Resources:
Audio Book Version of Martin Ling's Biography of the Prophet
* Shamail of Imam Tirmidhi: Audio Lectures  via Sacred Learning
Books via Kalamullah on the Noble Prophet
* PDF: Sacred Scrolls: 40 Hadeeth Nawawi: Taught by Shaykh Yasir Qadhi and Imam Suhaib Webb



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Technology of the Heart: What are the Best Biographies of Prophet Muhammad in English?
What are the Best Biographies of Prophet Muhammad in English?
Technology of the Heart
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