What is Prophet Muhammad (pbuh)’s lineage? Arabs of the old were very preserving of their lineage. That is why if we open up the biography of any famous companion, we will find that his generation has been persevered sometimes up to 15-20 generations, the names of his fathers and forefathers all. Unfortunately, in our times it is not known.
As for our Prophet (pbuh), 21 of his forefathers’ names have been authentically preserved:
Muhammad ibn Abdullah ibn Abdulmuttalib ibn Hashim (banu hashim—founder of tribe) ibn Abdu Manaf ibn Qusai ibn Kilab ibn Murra Ibn Ka’ab ibn Lu’aie ibn Ghaalib ibn Fihar (he was Quraish so his descendants are known as Quraish, most respected tribe), Maalik ibn Nadhar ibn Kinana (famous person whom Prophet mentioned in a hadeeth) ibn Khuzaima ibn Mudrika ibn Ilyaas ibn Mudar ibn Nizaar ibn Ma’ad ibn Adnan (forefather of the vast majority of Arab tribes).
Even Imam Bukhari has this much lineage in his Saheeh.
Adnan is the direct descendant of Isma’eel (AS). According to some scholars only 7 people are between them, but it is not confirmed. However, Adnan was fairly close to Isma’eel, how many generations are between them, we don’t know their names and we are not sure of the quantity.
Isma’eel son of Ibraheem son of Azar (as mentioned in Qur’an—in books of history his name is Taanikh) of the descendants of Nuh. How many generations are between Azar and Nuh, again we don’t know. However, between Nuh and Adam were 10 generations which is authentically narrated in a narration by Ibn Abbas in Mustadrak Imam Hakim.
So, we have a lineage here. We don’t have a direct lineage all the way to Adam but here is what we have:
Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) to Adnan: a continuous name which is confirmed.
Adnan to Ismaeel (AS): we don’t know.
Ibraheem to Nuh: we don’t know.
Nuh to Adam: we don’t know the names but the quantity.
As for the chart that shows a lineage all the way from Prophet Muhammad to Adam (AS) it has no sources in our history, rather it is taken from Christian and Jew sources. It is not to be found in our ahadeeth.
Why is there such a big deal about this? Simply because we have to be very cautious about what we find in our religion to be true and what we are not certain about. What we find in our religion then we are sure about it and there is no doubt about it. Something clearly stated in Qur’an and Sunnah, we don’t use our intellect for it. If we find something against Qur’an and Sunnah then we reject it and we stick to Q & S.
In this particular issue problem arises when modern anthropologist tell us that men has been around for a very long time. How long has the homo sapien species been around? There are scientifically-authentic evidences that say that there were men 20-30000 years ago. There are certain drawings in caves of France, when carbondate them, they go back almost 25,000 years ago!
Christians and Jews have precise chronology of events and they precisely date back time of Jesus, Moses, Ibraheem, Nuh and Adam (peace be upon them). Jewish calendar is based on the beginning of earth, which only go back to 6000-7000 years ago i.e. time of Adam! This clearly contradicts the modern science.
As Muslims, on the other hand, we don’t need to worry about it. Why? Because our Qur’an and Sunnah don’t tell us. It is eluded because there is nothing explicit. Allah says:
“Wa Quroonum baina dhalika katheera—and many were the generations that came between them.” [still searching for the verse no.]
When Allah (swt) is using the word many then how many can there be! 10-15 like Christians allege? Yes the Qur’an says that there were many many generations that came and went.
When we have a scientific evidence and it doesn’t contradict Qur’an and Sunnah, then there is nothing wrong in accepting it. However when it goes against Qur’an and Sunnah then we reject it outright. We also know from Qur’an and Sunnah that generations of old lived for hundred of years, Nuh (AS) was 950 years old, Adam lived for more then 1000 years! So if this is the case then it is doubtful that a calendar may go back only 6-7000 years to time of Adam, and Allah knows best.
Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said in Muslim:
“Allah purified and chose Kinana out of all descendants of Isma’eel and He chose Quraish from among children of Kinana and He chose from Quraish, Banu Hashim, and He chose from amongst Banu Hashim, me.”
In another narration he (pbuh) said, “I am the best of the best of the best.”
So it was, is and it will always remain the most noble lineage ever known to mankind. There is no lineage that is more superior, more blessed and more honorable then the lineage of our Prophet (pbuh). This is one of the miracle of Allah (swt) because when a person of status and nobility speaks, it is not like when anybody speaks!
When Muhammad came forward with a message, then his message had to be heard. That is why when Ja’far bin Abu Talib spoke to Nijashi, he described the coming of Prophet saying:
“…then Allah sent us a Prophet. We knew his lineage, we know his background, and there cannot be any room to doubt where he was coming from.”
Likewise, when Mughairab bin Shu’bah stood strong in front of the Emperor of Sassinads, Yazdijaar, he said:
“Allah sent to us a person who was well knows. We know his lineage, we know his face, we know his birth, his land is the most sacred of all lands, his ancestors were the best of all our ancestors, his house (household) is the best of all our households, his tribe is the best of all tribes, and he himself as a person of all of us.”
In fact, when a noble man stands up and he is willing to give up his nobility for something greater then that, then that is one of the greatest signs of his sincerity. Had the Prophet stood up and said, ‘I want to be a king’ NO ONE could have stood in his way. But for him (pbuh) to give up that power, to give up that kinship and call to something greater then that is one of the greatest signs of his sincerity and truthfulness.
He was not calling to revive the kingdom of his forefathers, he was not calling to revive the glory and honor of Quraish, had he been doing so, not only he would have been excused but he would have been followed and obeyed!
Who could deny this lineage? But the fact that he (pbuh) didn’t do any of the above and he turned it aside and he called to another message, a GREATER message, the worship of Allah, what more indication of his truthfulness and sincerity could there be?!
For him, to give up the most respected/most valuable thing to the Arabs and to call to something more noble then that, this was one of the greatest signs of his prophet-hood and that is why this was mentioned by so many companions.
This is the Sunnah of Allah, that whenever He (swt) sends a messenger, He makes them the best of the best and He always gives them support of their own community. Some of the community rejected, yes, but there were others who would support him.
For the Prophet to come at a time in jahiliyya Arab, when a person could be killed for his slightest crime, where a shepherd could be killed if his flock wandered in the territory of another and a hundred year war would be waged because of that, what could protect one in that society; after Allah, it was the lineage and status.
Notice, when Meccans agreed to boycott Prophet’s family, his family supported him. Even though they didn’t believe in Prophet, Banu Hashim didn’t hand him over to Arabs. Because of this reason, Arab tribes couldn’t kill the Prophet. If they were to kill him, it would have become a matter of honor for Banu Hashim. And that is why Abu Jahal planed that one member of each tribe would kill the Prophet (pbuh) so Banu Hashim could not wage a war against them for they would have to fight entire Arab tribes!
Allah rewarded the people of Quraish for their sacrifices in protecting Prophet (pbuh) by making them the leaders of our Ummah. As the Prophet (pbuh) said in Muslim:
“Leaders should be/shall be from Quraish.” And this is the commandment of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh).