Question: Since i moved to Istanbul, I visited Topkapi palace, where in the Islamic section you see what is claimed to be the clothes and the personal belongings of Prophet Mohammad ﷺ. I personally have big doubts in referencing them to Prophet Muhammad ﷺ.
1. His shoes and foot mud print is really huge. I mean, by modern measurements, the Prophet ﷺ would wear a shoe sized 55. Also one of his shoes belongs more to the Indo-Pak type rather than to the Arabic one….shoes as the ones you see on the “Islamic” history” programs on Arabic TV’s.
2. The letter to the king of Egypt, should be left to historians and archaeologists to decide, I believe.
3. Some of the cloths are really with lots of jewelry, but some says that the Ottomans are the ones who added this to them.
4. The claimed two pieces of hair of the Prophet ﷺ are so microscopic that I am wondering how they preserved them for more than 1400 years.
5. The swords, especially that of Ali bin Abi Talib, is so big and long that it will take 5 people like me to carry it, forget fighting with it.
Those are my observations, but have the scholars said anything about this matter?
Bismillah wal-Hamdulillah was-Salatu was-Salam ‘Ala Rasulillah
(1) For a description of the beloved Prophet’s ﷺ clothing, items of personal use, and general characteristics, one of the best and easily available books is “al-Shamail al-Muhammadiyya” by Imam Tirmidhi. It has been translated into English and Urdu.
(2) Can we find any relics of the Prophet ﷺ today, like his mantle, ring, shoes, hair, etc?
A few important points must be kept in mind:
(a) The relics of the Prophet ﷺ continue to be sacred (i.e. they can be used for tabarruk) even after his demise. Their sanctity was not limited to the era of the Sahaba or the Tabi’een only, rather the baraka of the prophetic relics is incessant.
(b) Narrated Amr bin Al-Harith (brother of the Prophet’s ﷺ wife, Juwairia bint Al-Harith): “When Allah’s Messenger ﷺ died, he did not leave any dirham or dinar (i.e. money), a slave or a slave woman or anything else except his white mule, his arms and a piece of land which he had given in charity.” (Bukhari)
This indicates that the Prophet ﷺ left behind few items.
(c) Many reports have been transmitted after the era of the Sahaba and Tabi’een to this day which indicate that righteous Caliphs, noble scholars, and pious men sought baraka with the few relics that were left by the Prophet ﷺ.
Examples can be seen in “Seer ‘Aalam al-Nubala” of Imam al-Dhahabi (vol 11, p. 212, 250, 338) and “Kitab al-Aathaar al-Nabawiyya” by a Turkish historian, Ahmad Taimur Pasha.
Some of these reports are not reliable because of weakness in their chains. More commonly, the attribution of the other relics to the Prophet ﷺ is suspect.
(c) Many relics were lost in times of war and fitna through the ages.
Here are few examples:
(i) Bukhari and Muslim report from Ibn ‘Umar that the Prophet ﷺ used to wear a silver ring in his hand with ‘Muhammad Rasul-Allah’ engraved on it. After him, Abu Bakr wore it, and then ‘Umar, and then ‘Uthman wore it till it fell in a well from ‘Uthman.
(ii) The mantle and the staff of the dear Prophet ﷺ were lost towards the end of ‘Abbasid rule till the Tartars burnt it the day Baghdad was ransacked in 656 A.H.
Ibn al-Jawzi notes that it was kept by the caliphs of his time.
Ibn Kathir writes in his monumental work of history, ‘al-Bidaya wa al-Nihaya‘:
“Banu Abbas inherited this mantle (burda) generation after generation from the earlier generations. The Caliph would wear it on the day of Eed upon his shoulders and hold the staff attributed to him, may Allah’s blessings and peace be on him, in one of his hands, coming out with such serenity and dignity that the hearts would burst and eyes would become dazzled.”
(iii) The sandals of the Prophet ﷺ were lost during the fitna of Taimurlink in Damascus, 803 A.H.
(iv) Another reason why some relics have been lost is because some Sahaba, may Allah grant us love like theirs, bequeathed that they be buried with them.
For example, Bukhari reports that a Sahabi asked for the mantle (burda) of the Prophet that a woman had gifted him. When asked why he asked the Prophet ﷺ for it, he said, “I hope to have its baraka (blessings) since the Prophet ﷺ wore it, and I hope to be buried in it.”
Mu’aawiya ibn Abi Sufyan had saved some hair and nails clippings of the Prophet ﷺ. Close to his death, he asked that they be put on his eyes and ears in the grave and hoped to be saved from the punishment of the grave thereby.
(v) As time passed, claims about prophetic relics became widespread in Muslim cities, like Damascus, Jerusalem, Cairo, Haifa, Kabul, Kashmir, Lahore, and Karachi. For example, in 1327 A.H. more than forty hair strands attributed to the Prophet were claimed to be in Constantinople alone! Some developed elaborate celebrations of displaying the relics on a regular basis like on the 27th of Ramadan.
In light of the above, perhaps it is safe to say that claims regarding prophetic relics are open to investigation. Relics must be proven to be genuine to remove any lingering doubt.
Ibn Taimiyya wrote,
“When the Prophet ﷺ arrived in Madina, the inhabitants brought eeman in him and obeyed him with his baraka. The baraka they achieved thereby was prosperity in this life and in the one to come. Every believer who brings eeman in the Prophet ﷺ and obeys him receives the baraka of the Prophet ﷺ because eeman and obedience to him are the most valuable (possession) of this life and the one to come, none knows it except Allah.”
After fourteen centuries have passed it is likely that many relics have been attributed to the Prophet ﷺ just like hadith were fabricated in his name for personal gain and other reasons.
In any case, true tabarruk with the Prophet lies in following him (ittiba) in what he said and did, and walking in his footsteps outwardly and inwardly.
After discussing the relics attributed to the Prophet ﷺ found in Constantinople, Ahmad Taimur Pasha wrote,
“It is not hidden that some of these relics can be genuine, except that we have not seen a single reliable (scholar) confirming or denying it. So, Allah, the Exalted, knows best about them. Some of them, one can not help but be suspect.”
And Allah knows best.
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