Biography and Traditions of the Prophet Muhammad

Key information

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Module code
FHEQ Level

Module overview

The module will give an outline of life in Arabia before the time of the Prophet, and then cover the Prophet Muhammad’s early life, call to prophet-hood, opposition and rejection, emigration to Medina, building the Muslim community, the prophet’s death and succession.

Themes for study will include:

  • Muhammad the Prophet: the nature of prophet-hood in Islam;
  • Character of the Prophet and its impact on his followers;
  • Muhammad the family man, teacher, judge, leader in peace and war;
  • The Prophet as an exemplar and his ‘tradition’—both Hadith and sunnah—as the source of this exemplar
  • The image of Muhammad in English biographies;
  • Investigation and discussion of the sources for biographies of the Prophet, Muslim and other.

The Traditions: the genesis of hadith literature; shifts towards preserving the oral tradition of Islam; the concept of prophetic sunna and its legal import; Hadith as a source of law, ethics, knowledge and narrative; genres of hadith literature; issues of authenticity; the sciences of the Hadith; the origins of the isnad and its conceptual impact upon textual criticism, historical vision and writing; the emergence of biographical literature; the relationships between the Qur’an, hadith and biographical writing; Muslim and non-Muslim scholarly approaches to hadith literature. Reading of selected hadiths.

Introduction to Islam may touch briefly on the Life of the Prophet but this module will be a more extensive and in-depth study. The hadith element may overlap with some material in the Qur’an and Hadith module for the BA Arabic and Islamic Studies, but this new module is all in English and does not require any Arabic.



Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

The module will introduce students to the main events and aspects of Muhammad’s life and character, with discussions on the sources used by Muslims and non-Muslims, including the principal hadith materials which preserved accounts on all aspects of his biography.

On completion of the module, students will be able to demonstrate a firm understanding of Muhammad’s life, and the importance of his character to Muslims, as well as his image in English biographical writing. They will be able to understand the significance of the sources, and evaluate the relative strength of the conclusions reached by people of different perspectives on the Prophet’s life and character.

This module is core for Year 2 of BA Islamic Studies


This module is taught over 22 weeks with 2 hours classroom contact per week.

Method of assessment

  • One three-hour written examination taken in May/June (70%)
  • one 2,500 - 3,000 word essay to be submitted in term 2 (15%)
  • one 2,500 - 3,000 word essay to be submitted in term 3 (15%)
  • The exact assessment deadline dates are published on the relevant module Moodle/BLE page

Suggested reading

  • Image of the Prophet Muhammad in the West Jabal. M. Buaben (Islamic Foundation, UK, 1996)
  • The Life of Muhammad M. H.Haykal (American Publication Trust, 1976)
  • The Caliphate Sir Thomas W. Arnold (Adam Publishers, India)
  • The Succession to Muhammad Wilfred Madelung (Cambridge, 1997)
  • The Qur’an: a New Translation M.A.S. Abdel Haleem (OUP 2005)
  • Muhammad: his life based on the earliest sources Martin Lings (Islamic Texts Society, Cambridge and others 1983 - )
  • The Life of Muhammad: a translation of Ibn Ishaq: Sirat Rasul Allah A. Guillaume, (OUP, 1955 -
  • Muhammad, Prophet and Statesman Montgomery Watt (EUP,
  • Muhammad Michael Cook, (OUP, 1983)
  • Islam and the West Norman Daniel, Oneworld Publishers (OUP, 1960)
  • Rethinking Islam in the Contemporary World Carl Ernst (EUP, 2003)
  • ‘Muhammad’ in Encyclopaedia of Islam (Brill, 1993)
  • Islam, Fazlur Rahman (University of Chicago Press, 1979)
  • Sahih al Bukhari: the Virtues of the Prophet (Various editions)
  • Muhammad: Prophet for Our Time (Eminent Lives), Karen Armstrong 2007
    Muhammad: Western Attempt to Understand Islam, Karen Armstrong1991
  • The Biography of Muhammad: The Issue of Sources, Harald Motski, Brill 2000
  • What do we actually know about Muhammad? Patricia Crone, Open Democracy
The Hadith
  • Azami, Mustafa. Studies in Hadith Methodology and Literature (American Trust Publication: 1977).
  • Dickinson, E., The Development of Early Sunnite Hadith Criticism: the Taqdima of Ibn Abi Hatim al-Razi (240-327/854-938) (Leiden : E.J. Brill, 2001).
  • Burton, John. Introduction to the Tradition (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2000).
  • Ibn Taymiya, Al-Kalim Al-Tayyib (The Goodly Word) translated by Ezzedine Ibrahim and Denys Johnson Davies, (Cambridge: Islamic Texts Society, 2003)
  • Motzki, Harald (ed.), Hadith: Origins and Development (Aldershot : Variorum, 2004).
  • Guillaume, Alfred. The Traditions of Islam (Beirut: Khayyat, 1961).
  • Jaques, Kevin. Authority, Conflict, and the Transmission of Diversity in Medieval Islamic Law (Leiden: E.J.Brill, 2006).
  • Jabali, Fuad. The Companions of the Prophet: a Study of Geographical Distribution and Political Alignments (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 2003).
  • Juynboll, G.H.A. Muslim Tradition: Studies in Chronology, Provenance and Authorship of Early Hadith, Cambridge Studies in Islamic Civilisation (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983).
  • Juynboll, G.H.A., Studies on the Origins and Uses of Islamic Hadith (Aldershot: Variorum, 1996).
  • Lucas, Scott. Constructive Critics, Hadith Literature, and the Articulation of Sunni Islam (Leiden: E.J Brill, 2004).
  • Montgomery. James. The Oral and the Written in Early Islam / Gregor Schoeler (London: Routledge, 2006).
  • Parshall, Phil. Inside the Community: Understanding Muslims Through their Traditions (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1994).
  • Robson, James. (Trans.) - Mishkat Al-Masabih. English Translation (Lahore: M. Ashraf, 1981)
  • Siddiqi, Muhammad. Hadith Literature: its Origin, Development, Special Features and Criticism (Cambridge: Islamic Texts Society, 1993).
  • (Lahore:M. Ashraf, 1981)
  • Islambase
  • Siddiqi, Abdul Hamid. (Trans.) Sahih Muslim, Beirut Dar al-Arabia n.d.


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