Muhammad : His Life Based on the Earliest Sources

Muhammad : His Life Based on the Earliest Sources

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A revised edition of the internationally acclaimed biography of the prophet


  • Includes important additions about the prophet’s spread of Islam into Syria and its neighboring states

  • Contains original English translations from 8th and 9th century biographies, presented in authoritative language


Represents the final updates made on the text before the author’s death in 2005

Martin Lings’ biography of Muhammad is an internationally acclaimed, comprehensive, and authoritative account of the life of the prophet. Based on the sira, the eighth- and ninth-century Arabic biographies that recount numerous events in the prophet’s life, it contains original English translations of many important passages that reveal the words of men and women who heard Muhammad speak and witnessed the events of his life.

Scrupulous and exhaustive in its fidelity to its sources, Muhammad: His Life Based on the Earliest Sources is presented in a narrative style that is easily comprehensible, yet authentic and inspiring in its use of language, reflecting both the simplicity and grandeur of the story it tells. This revised edition includes new sections detailing the prophet’s expanding influence and his spreading of the message of Islam into Syria and its neighboring states. It represents the final updates made to the text before the author’s death in 2005. The book has been published in 12 languages and has received numerous awards, including acknowledgment as best biography of the prophet in English at the National Seerate Conference in Islamabad.

About the Author(s) of Muhammad (pbuh): His Life Based on the Earliest Sources --

Martin Lings (1909–2005) was a renowned British scholar with degrees in English and Arabic from London University and Oxford University. At Oxford, he studied English under C. S. Lewis, who later became a close friend. Lings taught at several European universities and the University of Cairo and served as the keeper of Oriental manuscripts for the British Museum and the British Library. His friendship and similar beliefs with philosophers René Guénon and Frithjof Schuon inspired Lings to convert to Islam. He went on to become an influential member of Western Muslim society, participating in several international Islamic councils and conferences, including acting as consultant to the World of Islam Festival Trust. He is the author of twelve books on religion and spirituality.

Praise for Muhammad

"Lings provides a wealth of detail on the life of Muhammad, the time and place of many Koranic revelations, and the foundation of Islam, all based exclusively on 8th- and 9th-century Arabic biographical sources and collections of the sayings attributed to Muhammad. General readers will find a well-written, straightforward chronological narrative; Muslim readers will appreciate the favorable treatment of Muhammad; while specialists will find a faithful and convenient rendering of source material."

Joseph Gardner, California State Univ. Lib., Northridge Library Journal

“This work is widely recognized as the most readable account of the life of the Prophet to date.” - Times of London

Book Excerpt

from Chapter 15

The First Revelations

It was not long after this outward sign of his authority and his mission that he began to experience powerful inward signs, in addition to those of which he had already been conscious. When asked about these he spoke of “true visions” which came to him in his sleep and he said that they were “like the breaking of the light of dawn.” The immediate result of these visions was that solitude became dear to him, and he would go for spiritual retreats to a cave in Mount ¥ir¡’ not far from the outskirts of Mecca. There was nothing in this that would have struck Quraysh as particularly strange, for retreat had been a traditional practice amongst the descendants of Ishmael, and in each generation there had been one or two who would withdraw to a solitary place from time to time so that they might have a period that was uncontaminated by the world of men. In accordance with this age-old practice, Mu?ammad would take with him provisions and consecrate a certain number of nights to the worship of God.

Then he would return to his family, and sometimes on his return he took more provisions and went again to the mountain. During these few years it often happened that after he had left the town and was approaching his hermitage he would hear clearly the words “Peace be on thee, O Messenger of God,” and he would turn and look for the speaker but no one was in sight, and it was as if the words had come from a tree or a stone. Ramadan was the traditional month of retreat, and it was one night towards the end of Ramadan, in his fortieth year, when he was alone in the cave, that there came to him an Angel in the form of a man. The Angel said to him: “Recite!” and he said: “I am not a reciter,” whereupon, as he himself told it, “the Angel took me and whelmed me in his embrace until he had reached the limit of mine endurance. Then he released me and said: ‘Recite!’ I said: ‘I am not a reciter,’ and again he took me and whelmed me in his embrace, and again when he had reached the limit of mine endurance he released me and said: ‘Recite!’, and again I said ‘I am not a reciter.’ Then a third time he whelmed me as before, then released me and said:

‘Recite in the name of thy Lord who created! He createth man from a clot of blood. Recite; and thy Lord is the Most Bountiful, He who hath taught by the pen, taught man what he knew not.’”

He recited these words after the Angel, who thereupon left him, and he said: “It was as though the words were written on my heart.”’ But he feared that this might mean he had become a jinn-inspired poet or a man possessed. So he fled from the cave, and when he was halfway down the slope of the mountain he heard a voice above him saying: “O Mu?ammad, thou art the Messenger of God, and I am Gabriel.” He raised his eyes heavenwards and there was his visitant, still recognizable but now clearly an Angel, filling the whole horizon, and again he said: “O Mu?ammad, thou art the Messenger of God, and I am Gabriel.” The Prophet stood gazing at the Angel; then he turned away from him, but whichever way he looked the Angel was always there, astride the horizon, whether it was to the north, to the south, to the east or to the west. Finally the Angel turned away, and the Prophet descended the slope and went to his house.

“Cover me! Cover me!” he said to Khad•jah as with still quaking heart he laid himself on his couch. Alarmed, yet not daring to question him, she quickly brought a cloak and spread it over him. But when the intensity of his awe had abated he told her what he had seen and heard; and having spoken to him words of reassurance, she went to tell her cousin Waraqah, who was now an old man, and blind. “Holy! Holy!,” he said. “By Him in whose hand is the soul of Waraqah, there hath come unto Mu?ammad the greatest N¡ms, even he that would come unto Moses. Verily Mu?ammad is the Prophet of this people. Bid him rest assured.” So Khad•jah went home and repeated these words to the Prophet, who now returned in peace of mind to the cave, that he might fulfill the number of days he had dedicated to God for his retreat. When this was completed, he went straight to the Ka’bah, according to his wont, and performed the rite of the rounds, after which he greeted the old and the blind Waraqah whom he had noticed amongst those who were sitting in the Mosque; and Waraqah said to him: “Tell me, O son of my brother, what thou hast seen and heard.” The Prophet told him, and the old man said again what he had said to Khad•jah. But this time he added: “Thou wilt be called a liar, and ill-treated, and they will cast thee out and make war upon thee; and if I live to see that day, God knoweth I will help His cause.” Then he leaned towards him and kissed his forehead, and the Prophet returned to his home.


Table of Contents

A Note on the Pronunciation of Arabic Names

Map of Arabia

Quraysh of the Hollow (genealogical tree)

Key to References

1 The House of God
2 A Great Loss
3 Quraysh of the Hollow
4 The Recovery of a Loss
5 The Vow to Sacrifice a Son
6 The Need for a Prophet
7 The Year of the Elephant
8 The Desert
9 Two Bereavements
10 Ba?•rà the Monk
11 A Pact of Chivalry
12 Questions of Marriage
13 The Household
14 The Rebuilding of the Ka‘bah
15 The First Revelations
16 Worship
17 “Warn Thy Family”
18 Quraysh Take Action
19 Aws and Khazraj
20 Ab¥ Jahl and Óamzah
21 Quraysh Make Offers and Demands
22 Leaders of Quraysh
23 Wonderment and Hope
24 Family Divisions
25 The Hour
26 Three Questions
27 Abyssinia
28 ‘Umar
29 The Ban and its Annulment
30 Paradise and Eternity
31 The Year of Sadness
32 “The Light of Thy Countenance”
33 After the Year of Sadness
34 Yathrib Responsive
35 Many Emigrations
36 A Conspiracy
37 The Hijrah
38 The Entry into Medina
39 Harmony and Discord
40 The New Household
41 The Threshold of War
42 The March to Badr
43 The Battle of Badr
44 The Return of the Vanquished
45 The Captives
46 Bani Qaynuqå‘
47 Deaths and Marriages
48 The People of the Bench
49 Desultory Warfare
50 Preparations for Battle
51 The March to U?ud
52 The Battle of U?ud
53 Revenge
54 The Burial of the Martyrs
55 After U?ud
56 Victims of Revenge
57 Bani Na˕r
58 Peace and War
59 The Trench
60 The Siege
61 Bani Quray`ah
62 After the Siege
63 The Hypocrites
64 The Necklace
65 The Lie
66 The Dilemma of Quraysh
67 “A Clear Victory”
68 After Óudaybiyah
69 Khaybar
70 “Whom Lovest Thou Most?”
71 After Khaybar
72 The Lesser Pilgrimage and its Aftermath
73 Syria
74 A Breach of the Armistice
75 The Conquest of Mecca
76 The Battle of Óunayn and the Siege of ?å’if
77 Reconciliations
78 After the Victory
79 Tab¥k
80 After Tab¥k
81 The Degrees
82 The Future
83 The Farewell Pilgrimage
84 The Choice
85 The Succession and the Burial

Index