Was Muhammad (p.b.u.h) Illiterate? Or did he write the revealed Quran with his own hands.


In 7/157-158, Quran mentions the prophet (p.b.u.h) as ‘Al-Nabbiyyil-ummi’.

007:157. “Those who follow the apostle, alnnabiyya alommiyya whom they find mentioned in their own (scriptures),- in the law and the Gospel;- for he commands them what is just and forbids them what is evil; he allows them as lawful what is good (and pure) and prohibits them from what is bad (and impure); He releases them from their heavy burdens and from the yokes that are upon them. So it is those who believe in him, honour him, help him, and follow the light which is sent down with him,- it is they who will prosper.”

007:158. day: “O men! I am sent unto you all, as the Messenger of Allah, to Whom belongeth the dominion of the heavens and the earth: there is no god but He: it is He That giveth both life and death. So believe in Allah and His Messenger, alnnabiyya alommiyya, who believeth in Allah and His words: follow him that (so) ye may be guided.”

Many have translated “Ummi” as the one who can neither read nor write. This gives the impression that Muhammad (p.b.u.h) was illiterate and remained so throughout his life. In 29/47-48, it is mentioned that “thus we have sent down the book to you……29/47. Neither did you read any book before it, nor did you write any with your right hand… 29/48”. In 29/48, the words ‘before it’ are highlighted to clarify that Muhammad (p.b.u.h) did not do any reading and writing before the revelation, which implies that after the revelation, he could read and write.

And thus (it is) that We have sent down the Book to thee. So the People of the Book believe therein, as also do some of these (pagan Arabs): and none but Unbelievers reject our signs. And thou wast not (able) to recite a Book before this (Book came), nor art thou (able) to transcribe it with thy right hand: In that case, indeed, would the talkers of vanities have doubted.[29:47-48]

Other meanings of ‘Ummi’ must also be considered. In 2/78, the word ‘Ummiyyoon’ has been explained as “people who know not the Book’. In 3/20 and 3/75, the word ‘Ummiyyeen’ is used in contrast to ‘those who were given the scripture’.

And there are among them ommiyyoona, who know not the Book, but (see therein their own) desires, and they do nothing but conjecture.[2:78]

003:20. So if they dispute with thee, say: “I have submitted My whole self to Allah and so have those who follow me.” And say to the People of the Book and to those who are alommiyyeena: “Do ye (also) submit yourselves?” If they do, they are in right guidance, but if they turn back, Thy duty is to convey the Message; and in Allah.s sight are (all) His servants.

003:75. Among the People of the Book are some who, if entrusted with a hoard of gold, will (readily) pay it back; others, who, if entrusted with a single silver coin, will not repay it unless thou constantly stoodest demanding, because, they say, “there is no call on us (to keep faith) with these alommiyyeena.” but they tell a lie against Allah, and (well) they know it.

062:2. It is He Who has sent amongst alommiyyeena an apostle from among themselves, to rehearse to them His Signs, to sanctify them, and to instruct them in Scripture and Wisdom,- although they had been, before, in manifest error;-

From the above, it can be seen that ‘Ummi’ not only means ‘one who cannot read and write’ but also means ‘one who does not have the knowledge of the scripture’ and ‘one who is not among those who were given the scripture’. It can be said about Muhammad (p.b.u.h) that before the revelation, he neither had knowledge of the scripture nor he was among those who were given the scripture. It may be true that Muhammad could not read and write before Quran was revealed to him but afterwards, it was not the case and he could both read and write.

As a matter of fact, the very mention of ‘IQRA’ (read) ‘ALLAMA’ and ‘QALAM’ (pen) in the very first revelation [see 96/1-5] underscored the importance of learning, reading and writing to the prophet (p.b.u.h.). So he could not possibly turn a blind eye to a matter of such significance. After all, he was going to be dictated by Allah to put in writing the entire Quran.

Proclaim (or read) thou in the name of thy Lord Who created, Created man from a clot of blood. Proclaim! and thy Lord is the Most Bounteous; Who taught by the pen, Taught man what he knew not.{96:1-5]

In 25/5, it is mentioned that Muhammad is dictated by Allah day and night. You cannot “dictate” to an illiterate person. So Muhammad (p.b.u.h.) not only learned how to read and write but he wrote all the Quran with his own hands as is clear from 25/5.

And they say: “Tales of the ancients, which he has got them written down: and they are dictated before him morning and evening.”[25:5]



1 Response to “Was Muhammad (p.b.u.h) Illiterate? Or did he write the revealed Quran with his own hands.”

  1. November 14, 2007 at 6:28 pm

    This article is another great example and proof that “There cannot be just one interpretation of the Qur’an. Qur’an was revealed in Arabic because of a specific purpose. There must be and will be more than one interpretation almost every word used in it. And Islam has been squeezed into first intrepretation which was concluded by scholars over 1200 years ago. It was a terrible MISTAKE.

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