We find Ka’b ibn Malik comparing the Prophet with a full moon while Ar-Rubay’a compares him with the rising sun. Such was the appearance of the Prophet that the only way the companions could describe him was with the most beautiful thing that the could relate to. Amar ibn Al-A’as, a companion who converted to Islam very late, says:
“There was nothing that was more sweeter to me, more beloved to me than to stare at the face of the Prophet. And I could never get enough of looking at him, I never got tired of looking at him and yet if you were to ask me how he looked, I couldn’t describe him. Because along with this desire to stare at him there was also this awe, this reverence that I had that could not allow me to just stare directly at him and I had to lower my face.”
The beauty of the Prophet was so overpowering that Amar ibn Al-A’as is saying:
“There is nothing that I got more peace from, more serenity from than to simply look at the face of the Prophet. And yet he couldn’t just stare at him because of the reverence, because of the overpowering awe that he is looking at the Prophet.
Perhaps for this same reason, most of the physical description of the Prophet comes from the younger companions. The most explicit of those descriptions comes from Anas ibn Malik who was a young child at that time. Anas ibn Malik says:
The Prophet was neither very tall such that he stood above the crowd, nor was he short such that he would be ignored. He was of a medium stature. And the Prophet was neither extremely white and nor was he a reddish brown.”
It should be mentioned here that, what we now call white, the Arabs at that time used to call that yellow. That is why they used to call the Romans the tribe of the yellow people – Banu Asfar. Generally speaking, when the Arabs used the word white, it was for light brown. It is not that white that we consider Caucasian white. So the Prophet had a skin color of very light brown.
Anas ibn Malik continues:
“The Prophet’s hair was not in curls nor was it straight. I never felt any velvet or silk softer that the hands of the Prophet. Nor did I smell a musk or a perfume more fragrant than the sweat of the Prophet.” (Source)
In other words, he had firm hair like most men and his natural odor was more fragrant than a perfume. It is also known that Umm Salama and others would collect his sweat in a jar when he is sleeping and use it as a perfume – such was the odor of the Prophet.
Al-Bara ibn Azim describes the Prophet as:
“He was of a medium stature, had broad shoulders and his hair was thick.”
The thickness of his hair and bushy beard has been reported by at least five other companions as well. It is said that he would usually let his hair grow such that it would reach his earlobe and then he would shave it all of in times of Hajj or Umrah.
Ali ibn Talib, a close family member and cousin of the Prophet, says:
“The Prophet did not have a very fleshy face, nor was it completely round, it was slightly ovalish. He had a whitish skin with a reddish tinge (as explained earlier this means lighter brown), his eyes were large with jet-black pupils and his lashes were long. his joints were large as was his upper back. He did not have hair all over his body, he had a fine line of hair extending from chest to the naval. When he would walk, he would walk briskly as if he is descending down a slope. When he would turn, he would turn to face with his whole body.
Whoever unexpectedly saw him, would stand in awe of him. And whoever accompanied him and got to know him would love him. And those who described him would always say: “I have never seen anyone before him or after him, who was like him”.
Ali ibn Talib continues:
“between his two shoulders was the seal of the prophethood.” (Source)
Many people converted to Islam just by looking at his face. Most famous of such converts was the chief rabbi of the Jews of Madinah – Abdullah ibn Salam. When the Prophet went to Madinah, this rabbi came to see who this person was. He describes his experience in first person:
“As soon as I saw him, I knew that this cannot be the face of a liar.” (Source)
One conversation with the Prophet and he accepts to Islam right then and there.
The content of this page was compiled from video lectures on the Seerah of the Prophet Muhammad by Yasir Qadhi. The video can be found here.