Allah SWT sent prophets and messengers with perfect inner and outer characteristics so that humanity has no reason to reject them. Therefore, every messenger has ideal characteristics, mannerisms, and perfect external beauty.
As we know, Prophet Yusuf (AS) was given half of all beauty.
In a lengthy Hadith narrated on the authority of Anas bin Malik (RA) that the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said:
[...] Then I was taken to the third heaven and Jibril (AS) asked for the opening (of the door). He was asked: Who are you? He replied: Jibril. He was (again) asked: Who is with you? He replied Muhammad (ﷺ). It was said: Has he been sent for? He replied He has indeed been sent for. (The gate) was opened for us, and I saw Yusuf (AS), who had been given half of (world) beauty. He welcomed me prayed for my well-being. Then he ascended with us to the fourth heaven [...]
(Sahih Muslim 162a : Book 1, Hadith 316)
The majority opinion of scholars is that this means half of all beauty of humankind. However, there is a minority opinion where some scholars say that when the Prophet said half of beauty, he meant half of his beauty. Therefore, according to this opinion, the Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) is the most handsome of the entire creation.
There are many characteristics of the Prophet (ﷺ) that the Sahaba have described.
Ar-Rubayyi' bint Mu'awwith (RA), a Sahabia, when her son asked her what the Prophet (ﷺ) was like (this is later on after he had passed away and she is now an old lady), all she could say was, "Oh my dear son, if you were to have seen him, you would have thought that the sun had risen." That is all she could describe.
Ka'b Ibn Malik (RA), another famous companion, describes him as a moon.
Narrated `Abdullah bin Ka'b:
I heard Ka'b bin Malik talking after he failed to join (the Ghazwa of) Tabuk. He said, "When I greeted Allah's Messenger (ﷺ) whose face was glittering with happiness, for whenever Allah's Messenger (ﷺ) was happy, his face used to glitter, as if it was a piece of the moon, and we used to recognize it (i.e. his happiness) from his face."
(Sahih al-Bukhari 3556 : Book 61, Hadith 65)
It is beautiful that the Sahaba describe the Prophet (ﷺ), with what they know to be the most beautiful; the sun and the moon. So we have one Sahabia saying he is like the sun shining and another saying he is like a full moon.
One of the beautiful traditions is from Amr Ibn Al-Aas (RA), who used to be a leader of the Quraysh against Islam. He was among the nobleman who initially rejected Islam like Abu Sufyan and Khalid Ibn Waleed. This category of people opposed Islam, but they did not stoop to dirty tactics. Eventually, Allah guided all of them to Islam. So Amr Ibn Al-Aas (RA) is of those who converted to Islam very late. He only had the opportunity to be in the company of Prophet (ﷺ), for two years or so. Later on in his life, he became the Vizier of Muawiya (RA).
It is narrated on the authority of Ibn Shamasa Mahri that he said:
We went to Amr Ibn al-Aas, and he was about to die. He wept for a long time and turned his face towards the wall. His son said: Did the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) not give you tidings of this? Did the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) not give you tidings of this? He (the narrator) said: He turned his face (towards the audience) and said: The best thing we can count upon is the testimony that there is no god but Allah and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah. Verily I have passed through three phases. (The first one) in which I found myself averse to none else more than I was opposed to the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) and there was no other desire stronger in me than the one that I should overpower him and kill him. Had I died in this state, I would have been definitely one of the denizens of fire. When Allah instilled the love of Islam in my heart, I came to the Apostle (ﷺ) and said: Stretch out your right hand so that I may pledge my allegiance to you. He stretched out his right hand, and I withdrew my hand, He (the Holy Prophet) said: What has happened to you, O 'Amr? I replied: I intend to lay down some condition. He asked: What condition do you want to put forward? I said: should be granted pardon. He (the Holy Prophet) observed: Are you not aware that Islam wipes out all the previous (misdeeds)? Verily migration wipes out all the previous (misdeeds), and certainly, the pilgrimage wipes out all the (previous) misdeeds. And then no one was dear to me than the Messenger of Allah, and none was more sublime in my eyes than him. Never could I, pluck the courage to catch a full glimpse of his face due to its splendor. So if I am asked to describe his features, I cannot do that, for I have not looked at him fully. Had I died in this state, I had every reason to hope that I would have bee among the dwellers of Paradise. Then we were responsible for certain things (in the light of which), and I cannot know what is in store for me. When I die, let neither female mourner nor fire accompany me. When you bury me, fill my grave well with earth, then stand around it for the time within which a camel is slaughtered, and its meat is distributed so that I may enjoy your intimacy and (in your company) ascertain what answer I can give to the messengers (angels) of Allah.
(Sahih Muslim 121 : Book 1, Hadith 228)
Amr Ibn Al-Aas says there was nothing that he got more peace from, more serenity from and nothing sweeter than simply looking at the Prophet's (ﷺ) face. Yet, he could never get enough of looking at him. He says, "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 he had that did not allow him to look directly at him. It is a beautiful narration coming from a nobleman of the Quraysh, and yet this is how humbled he was just by the appearance of the Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ).
Most of the descriptions of the Prophet (ﷺ) come from the younger Sahaba. The most detailed description is from Anas ibn Malik (RA), who was a little kid at the time. He did not have the same type of emotions that the older Amr Ibn Al-Aas (RA) had. Anas ibn Malik (RA) was introduced to the Prophet (ﷺ) when he was seven years old. His mother, Rumaysa bint Milhan (RA) (popularly known by her kunya as Umm Sulaym), came to him and requested him to accept her son to serve him. So, Anas would wake up in the morning and run to the Prophet's house, stay there all day, and then go back to his house. He would serve the Prophet (ﷺ), fetch him water, etc. As such, Anas ibn Malik (RA) has given us one of the most explicit descriptions of the Prophet (ﷺ).
Anas ibn Malik (RA) reports:
"Allah's Messenger (ﷺ) was neither very tall nor short. His skin was neither pale white nor tawny, and his hair was neither crisply curled nor lank. Allah SWT sent him [to serve as His Messenger] at the end of forty years of life, so he stayed in Mecca for ten years and in Medina for ten years, and Allah took him unto Himself at the end of sixty years, with fewer than twenty white hairs on his head and his beard."
(Ash-Shama'il Al-Muhammadiyah : Book 1, Hadith 1)
Anas ibn Malik (RA) says that the Prophet (ﷺ) was neither very tall, such that he stood above the crowd, nor was he short, such that he would be ignored. He was of medium stature. Prophet (ﷺ) was neither extremely white and nor was he a ruddy brown. What we call white, the caucasian color, the Arabs called it yellow. The caucasian color is generally called "asfar," and that's why the Arabs called the Romans the tribe of the yellow people. Generally speaking, when the Arabs use the word white, it is a lightish brown. So the Prophet (ﷺ) was of a very lightish brown color.
The Prophet (ﷺ) hair was not in curls, nor was it straight and it was firm hair.
Anas ibn Malik (RA) narrated:
that "I served the Prophet (ﷺ) for ten years. He never said Uff and never blamed me by saying: 'Why did you do so' or why did you not do so?' And the Messenger Of Allah (ﷺ) had the best character among all of the people. I never touched Khazz nor silk, nor anything softer than the hand of the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ), nor have I smelled musk, or a fragrance sweeter than the sweat of the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ)"
(Jami` at-Tirmidhi 2015 : Book 27, Hadith 121)
Prophet's (ﷺ) natural odor that would emanate from him, Anas ibn Malik (RA) said, "I never smelt any fragrance sweeter than that smell." We know the stories of Ummu-Salama and others in this regard. When the Prophet (ﷺ) went to sleep, she would collect his sweat in a small bottle to use as perfume. They would also use it as medicine. Put a drop in water, and drink it. These Sahaba living with him saw for themselves the reality of the miracles of the Prophet (ﷺ).
Ibn Ishaq said:
"I heard al-Bara' ibn 'Azib (RA) say: "Allah's Messenger(ﷺ) was neither curly nor lank-haired, of medium height, broad-shouldered, with luxuriant hair reaching the lobes of his ears, wearing a red suit of clothes. I have never seen anything more beautiful than him!"
(Ash-Shama'il Al-Muhammadiyah 3 : Book 1, Hadith 3)
Al Bara' Ibn Azib (RA) said the Prophet's (ﷺ) hair was thick. At least five different Sahaba have narrated the thickness and lusciousness of hair. His beard is very bushy, and his hair is full. The Prophet would usually grow it until they went down to his earlobes. Then he would shave it all off.
Al Bara' Ibn Azib (RA) said that once I saw him wearing a red Hulla. Hulla is a cloak, something like what we would call a jacket. He said I never saw anything more beautiful than him on that night that I saw him wearing that red Hulla.
Ali Ibn Abu Talib (RA), the cousin of the Prophet (ﷺ), also described the Prophet in a lot of detail. Ali was somebody who grew up with him and knew him even before the prophethood began. He was also his son-in-law. So Ali is a close family member who has seen the Prophet (ﷺ) more than many of the other Sahaba.
Narrated Ibrahim bin Muhammad, one of the offsprings of 'Ali bin Abi Talib: said: "When 'Ali (RA) described the Prophet (ﷺ) he would say: 'He was not extremely tall (Mummaghit), nor was he extremely short (Mutaraddid), and he was of medium height in relation to the people. The wave of his hair was not completely curly (Qatat), nor straight, but it was in between. He did not have a large head, nor a small head (Mukaltham), his face was round and a blended-white color (Mushrab), his eyes were dark black (Ad'aj), his eyelashes were long (Ahdab). He was big-boned and broad-shouldered (Al-Katad), his body hair was well-placed, and he had a Masrubah. His hands and feet were thick (Shathn). When he walked, he walked briskly (Taqalla'), he leaned forward as if he was walking on a decline (Sabab). And if he turned his head, his body turned as well, between his two shoulders was the Seal of Prophethood, and he was the Seal of the Prophets. He was the most generous of people [in hand, and the most big-hearted] in breast. He was the most truthful of people in speech, the softest of them in nature, and the noblest in his relations ('Ishrah). Whoever saw him for the first time (Badihah) would fear him, and whoever got to know him loved him. The one who tried to describe him would have to say: 'I have not seen before him or after him anyone who resembles him (ﷺ).'"
(Jami` at-Tirmidhi 3638 : Book 49, Hadith 34)
Ali Ibn Abu Talib (RA) says that the Prophet did not have a very fleshy face, nor was it completely round. They're trying to describe him without drawing pictures. They are trying to use words to get the imagery across.
The Prophet (ﷺ) was broad-shouldered, and he did not have hair all over his body. He did have a fine line of hair extending from the chest to the navel.
He (ﷺ) would walk briskly as if he was descending a slope. It is Sunnah to walk fast. In other words, he is so fast, it is as if he is coming down a slope. Some scholars have also said that it is as if Allah SWT made the earth humble to him, that whenever he's walking it's as if the earth is giving him the space to walk. Others said this is metaphorical. It means that the Prophet (SAW) would walk briskly and he's walking so fast that most of us, can only walk like that when we are going down an inclined plane.
When he turned, he would turn to face with his whole body. So if someone calls him when he is walking, he turns to face the person with his whole body. Modern presenters and speakers tell you the same advice: never speak with your head turned when you speak to somebody. Instead, face the person and talk directly.
Between his two shoulders was the Seal of the Prophethood. The Prophet (ﷺ) had a physical seal that Allah SWT gave him on his body. This was to be a sign by which other people would recognize him. Ali Ibn Abu Talib (RA) says he had the Seal, and he was the Seal of the Prophets.
It was an outgrowth of hair in an area where hair does not normally grow, and it was of a different color. It was between his shoulder blades, oval-shaped, like a pigeon's egg. It was not an abnormal growth of skin.
When a number of people accepted Islam, most famously Salman Al-Farsi (RA), they wanted to see the Seal. Salman Al-Farsi (RA) accepted Islam because his Christian teacher had told him that the sign of the Prophet is that he will have the Seal between his two shoulders. So when Salman Al-Farsi (RA) came to the Prophet (ﷺ) he wanted to check if he had the signs. One day he came, he checked for the first sign and went home. The second day he came, he had the second sign checked. These two signs were physically apparent. The third sign he wanted to check was the Seal of prophethood.
So the third day, Salman Al-Farsi (RA) comes wondering how he was going to see the Seal, as the Prophet (ﷺ) was wearing a shirt. So he walks behind, trying to see something. When the Prophet saw him walking behind, he (ﷺ) lowered his shirt and showed him, without a word being said, because he realized what Salman (RA) was trying to see. So as soon as he saw the Seal, he accepted Islam.
Ali's (RA) said whoever unexpectedly saw him would stand in awe of him. So much reverence was emanating from him. Whoever accompanied him and got to know him would love him. Those who described him would always say, as Ali (RA) said, "I have never seen anyone before him or after him who was like him." So all of the Sahaba were saying the same thing. They had never seen anyone before him or after him like him.
There is another well know, beautiful Hadith narrated by Jabir Ibn Samura.
Simak ibn Harb said:
"I heard Jabir ibn Samura say: "Allah's Messenger (ﷺ) was dali al-fam, ashkal al-'ain, manhus al-'aqib." Shu'ba said: "I asked Simak: 'What is dali al-fam?" He replied: "[It means] endowed with a grand and impressive mouth." I asked: "What is ashkal al' ain?" He replied: "[It means] long in the slit of the eye." I asked: "What is manhus al-'aqib?" He said: "[It means] endowed with a lean heel."
(Ash-Shama'il Al-Muhammadiyah 9 : Book 1, Hadith 8)
Jabir ibn Samura (RA) said:
"I saw Allah's Messenger (ﷺ) on a cloudless night, and he was wearing a red suit of clothes, so I started looking at him as well as at the moon, for he is indeed more beautiful, in my opinion than the moon!"
(Ash-Shama'il Al-Muhammadiyah 10 : Book 1, Hadith 9)
Jabir ibn Samura (RA) was going home one day in the middle of the night, and it was a clear moon in the sky. He happens to pass by the Prophet (ﷺ), who was also out in the streets of Medina. Prophet (ﷺ) was wearing a red Hulla, the same red Hulla that has already been described. And he said, I looked at the face of the Prophet, and I looked at the full moon, he was more beautiful in my eyes than the full moon.
This shows us that Allah had given the Prophet (ﷺ) not just these physical, but these spiritual characteristics that are just emanating from him.
One of the best examples of this is the fact that many people accepted Islam just by seeing his face. The most famous convert who did this was the chief Rabbi of the Jews of Medina, Abdullah ibn Salam. Abdullah ibn Salam (RA) was the most respected among the Jewish community in Madina. He heard a man is coming, claiming to be a Prophet. So on the first day, that Prophet (ﷺ) came to Medina, he decided to go and see him. He said, as soon as I saw him (ﷺ), I knew that this face could not be the face of a liar. So in just one visit, he accepted Islam, just by looking at the face of the Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ), and he was not the only one to do so.
اللَّهُمَّ صَلِّ عَلَى مُحَمَّدٍ وَعَلَى آلِ مُحَمَّدٍ كَمَا صَلَّيْتَ عَلَى آلِ إِبْرَاهِيمَ إِنَّكَ حَمِيدٌ مَجِيدٌ
اللَّهُمَّ بَارِكْ عَلَى مُحَمَّدٍ وَعَلَى آلِ مُحَمَّدٍ كَمَا بَارَكْتَ عَلَى آلِ إِبْرَاهِيمَ إِنَّكَ حَمِيدٌ مَجِيدٌ
O Allaah, send prayers upon Muhammad (ﷺ) and upon the family of Muhammad (ﷺ) as You sent prayers upon the family of Ibraaheem (AS), and send blessings upon Muhammad (ﷺ) and upon the family of Muhammad (ﷺ), as You sent blessings upon the family of Ibraaheem (AS), You are indeed Worthy of Praise, Full of Glory.
The Seerah of Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ), the life and times of the greatest human being who ever lived and walked on the face of this earth, series is based on the lectures by Dr. Sh. Yasir Qadhi.