Qurʾān may be said to be the key-stone to the biography of Muḥammad, yet it contains but comparatively few references to the personal history of the Prophet. The Traditions, or Aḥādīs̤, form the chief material for all biographical histories. [tradition.]
The first who attempted to compile an account of Muḥammad in the form of a history, was az-Zuhrī, who died a.h. 124, and whose work, no longer extant, is mentioned by Ibn K͟hallikān. The earliest biographical writers whose works are extant are—Ibn Isḥāq, a.h. 151; Al-Wāqidī, a.h. 207; Ibn Hishām, a.h. 218; Al-Buk͟hārī (history), a.h. 256; At̤-T̤abarī, a.h. 310. Amongst more recent biographies, the most noted are those by Ibnu ʾl-Aṣīr, a.h. 630, and Ismāʿīl Abū ʾl-Fidāʾ, a.h. 732. Abū ʾl-Fidāʾ’s work was translated into Latin by John Gagnier, Professor of Arabic at Oxford, a.d. 1723, and into English by the Rev. W. Murray, Episcopal clergyman at Duffus in Scotland, and published (without date) at Elgin.
The first life of Muḥammad published in English is that by Dean Prideaux, which first appeared in 1723, and afterwards passed through several editions. Dr. Sprenger commenced a life of Muḥammad in English, and printed the first part at Allahabad, India, a.d. 1851; but it was never completed. The learned author afterwards published the whole of his work in German, at Berlin, 1869. The only complete life of Muḥammad in English which has any pretension to original research, is the well-known Life of Mahomet, by Sir William Muir, LL.D. (First Edition, four vols., London. 1858–61; Second Edition, one vol., London. 1877).