Was he illiterate?

Surah 2 verse 285 confirms that ‘The messenger believes in what has been revealed to him from his Lord, and (so do) the believers; they all believe in Allah and His angels and His books and His messengers; We make no difference between any of His messengers; and they say: We hear and obey, our Lord! Thy forgiveness (do we crave), and to Thee is the eventual course’.

We hear and obey, our Lord.

How would the prophet have responded to this?

‘Read in the name of your Lord Who created. He created man from a clot. Read and your Lord is Most Honorable, Who taught (to write) with the pen, taught man what he knew not’ – Surah 96 verses 1-4.

Did the prophet say ‘I hear and obey, our Lord’ or ‘I cannot read’ as contended in the hadith?

What means God by this?

‘And you did not recite before it any book, nor did you transcribe one with your right hand, for then could those who say untrue things have doubted’

Is it that the prophet did not himself transcribe the revealed words of the Holy Qur’an because to do so would have invited all sorts of accusations, as this verse seems to say, or because he did not know how to write?


Published in: on April 18, 2008 at 5:21 am  Comments (5)  

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  1. Who is Illiterate? Harass and Arrest are two different words in the dictionary. Perhaps you were seen with the candle and the man in uniform misconstrued this action, as one who is going to burn something or someone. Culture! Yes, I say the difference in cultural perception. But, who can be in a culture safe, when we are seeing the Fire in the Hereafter…

  2. For an untold period of time, the Vedas were maintained orally. The first evidence of the Vedas being recorded in writing dates back some 5 millennia.

    I suspect there is some value in an oral tradition that we are missing.

  3. The scholars of traditional Islam, called the “Ulema”, state that Muhammad, the prophet of Islam, was illiterate, but was he really? So as to heighten the miracle of the Qur’an as coming from an illiterate man, they make this claim. They also state this to eliminate the criticism that he copied Qur’an from the Bible, and from scientific theories of the Greeks. Islam was ridiculed by the Jews of the time, in that Muhammad performed no miracles, a “prerequisite” for a prophet from God, so a perfect Qur’an from an illiterate man was indeed a great miracle. Muhammad was not illiterate, as the Ulema claim, but was instead a gentile, meaning someone not trained in the Biblical scriptures and traditions, and the Holy Qur’an is the greater miracle, not needing lies to be told about it.

    The primary argument from the Ulema is in the Arabic word “Ummi”, which they claim means “illiterate”, but when the verses in the Qur’an are read as “illiterate”, some rather nonsensical results are evident, yet make perfect sense with the word “gentile”, is used. “…and tell those who have received the scriptures, and the illiterates, have you submitted?…” versus “…and tell those who have received the scriptures, and the gentiles, have you submitted?…” (3/20). Another example, “And from them are illiterates who do not know the scriptures except wishes and they only follow conjecture” versus “And from them are gentiles who do not know the scriptures except wishes and they only follow conjecture” (2/78). There are five more verses showing the same results, for seven total that use this word. All of these show the same concept. “Ummi” means “gentile”, not “illiterate”. Also, the Biblical verses prophesied a gentile prophet would come from the Ishmaelite nation. These verses said nothing about an illiterate prophet, so assuming Muhammad fulfills prophecy he had to have been a gentile, not necessarily illiterate.

    Traditional Muslims claim history supports the claim of Muhammad’s illiteracy, but does it really? Before God revealed the Qur’an to him, Muhammad was a well respected businessman, known for his honesty and detailed record-keeping. The Arabs of that time had no numbering system, but instead letters, each with it’s own numerical value, much like the Talmud of the Jews. Could such a business leader, who began as a “secretary” to a businesswoman, know nothing of reading and writing? Does it then make any sense for traditionalists to be proud of Muhammad’s business record yet still claim he was illiterate? The Arabs of the time were well known for their written poetry, and a favorite competition then was in the writing of poetry on walls, with the people voting the winner. Could Muhammad have won so many competitions without knowing how to read or write? The Ulema state he was illiterate, yet in their very own historical records are still proud of Muhammad’s deep grasp of written poetry?

    The Ulema also claim the Qur’an shows Muhammad’s illiteracy, in the first revelations given to Muhammad. The very first command that God gave to Muhammad was “Read! In the name of your Lord who creates….” (96:1). The very first Surah (book) that God revealed to Muhammad was “The Pen”, commanding all Muslims learn to read and write, showing the people of Arabia the value of the written word. There are many verses throughout Qur’an teaching that knowledge is power, and without knowledge one is always at a disadvantage. Muhammad commanded any slave captured in battle was to be given freedom when he or she taught ten Muslims to read and write. With the command that all Muslims learn to read and write, would Muhammad have disobeyed this clear order from God, supposing he originally was illiterate? Would the man chosen by God to convey His message to the gentiles of Arabia have disobeyed his Lord and refused to learn to read and write?

    Assuming he was initially illiterate, he would never have disobeyed God’s clear command that all Muslims must immediately learn to read and write. The historical records show he was not illiterate. Ibn Ishaq, who lived 85 years after Muhammad and was considered one of the earliest biographers of Muhammad and chroniclers of Islam, stated Muhammad many times re-read the dictations of the scribes for accuracy, and that he also wrote the the order of verses in the Qur’an, in his own hand. Muhammad was NOT illiterate. Was the Qur’an then a clever work of a scholar, as claimed by its’ critics, or the revealed Word of God, as claimed by Qur’an? As an example, the Greeks and Romans, and the Jews, claimed that the world was two-thirds water, and even I was taught this in school. In Qur’an, the word “land” is repeated thirteen (13) times, and the word “sea” thirty-two (32) times, for a combined total of forty-five (45). Dividing thirteen by forty-five yields twenty-eight point eight (13 / 45 = 28.888888 %), and dividing thirty-two by forty-five yields seventy-one point one (32 / 45 = 71.1111111 %). These are the EXACT ratios of land to sea on planet earth. There are MANY more points the Qur’an makes, proving that it is the revealed Word of God Almighty, who did not need false claims by the Ulema to show the Qur’an itself was the greatest of God’s miracles.

  4. The proof of the pie is in the eating.How many have been shown the truth by reading and understanding the Quran.Many sufi master testify to this upon their realisation.Without grasping the essense,the holy words of the scriptures are to readers,pearle before the swine as mentioned by Nabi Isa on his sermon at the mount.Not a single umno members understand the quran.One who grasp the Truth will distance themselves from such an evil unislamic organisation.

  5. Was is all the argument about illiterate and unlettered for? Muhammad didn’t know how to read and right before God started revealing his words to him through Angel Gabriel. The Quran asserts this in Quran 29 vs 47-49.”And you did not read before it any book, nor did you write one with your right hand, for then could those who say untrue things have doubted’ “This silly argument was the talk of the town during the time of the prophet by non Muslims and still now in this modern era, even God said those who say untrue things have doubted by claiming Muhammad was literate, copied the Quran from Jews and Christians. The scientific discoveries in the Quran now confirmed through scientific observations shows clearly Muhammad got this revelations from God. Muhammad may later have learn t how to read and write but that doesn’t disclaim the fact that he was not literate before God sent him revelations and actually taught him. Islam is a true faith and a gift to mankind by God. Christians should go and reconcile the conflicting and contradictory accounts in the bible rather than dissipate energy trying to distort the meaning of the words of the Quran.

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