Was Muhammad Illiterate?

Thanks to Smple Trth for collecting and sharing this article in QRAC


The verse 7:157 states that Muhammad was a gentile:

“So you shall believe in God and His messenger, the gentile (ummy) prophet.”

The Arabic word “ummy” describes people who are not Jewish or Christian. The meaning of this word, which occurs six times in the Quran, has been changed to ” one who can neither read nor write”. This deliberate manipulation by Muslim scholars has become widely accepted as the true meaning of the word. For example Yusuf Ali, in his translation, follows this pattern: “… So believe in God and His Apostle, the unlettered Prophet,…”. Marmaduke Pickthall’s translation also reflects the same manipulation: “… So believe in Allah and His messenger, the prophet who can neither read nor write,..”.

The Quran explains the true meaning of “ummy”

Let’s examine the true meaning of “ummy” in the Quran. Anyone can easily understand that “ummy” does not mean an illiterate person by reflecting on the verse 3:20 below:

“And say to those who received the scripture, as well as those who did not receive any scripture (ummyyeen)…”

In this verse the word “ummy” describes Meccan idol worshipers. It is obvious that “ummy” does not mean illiterate because it has been used as the antonym of the people of the scripture. If the verse was ” … And say to those literate and illiterate”, then their above translation of “ummy” would be correct. According to the verse 3:20 the people of Arab peninsula were two main groups:

1. The people of the scripture, i.e., Jews and Christians.

2. Gentiles, who were neither Jewish nor Christian.

If the people who were neither Jews nor Christians were called “ummyyeen” (3:20; 3:75), then the meaning of “ummy” is very clear. As a matter of fact, the verse 3:75 clearly explains its meaning as gentile.

Mecca was the cultural center of the Arabs in the 7th century. Poetry competitions were being held there. It is a historical fact that Meccans were not familiar with the Bible, thus they were gentiles. So the verse 62:2 describes Meccan people by the word “ummyyeen”:

“He is the One who sent to the gentiles (ummyyeen) a messenger from among them, to recite to them His revelations, purify them, and teach them the scripture and wisdom. Before this, they had gone far astray.” (62:2)

The Quran does not classify the people of Arab peninsula as the literate and the illiterate, as Muslim scholars claim. The Quran classifies the people as people of the book (Jews & Christians) and gentiles. The second classification is the correct one, and the Quran supports it.

The disbelievers claimed that Muhammad was quoting verses from the Old and New Testaments (25:5; 68:15). The verse below refutes their accusation and gives the answer:

“You did not read any previous scriptures, nor did you write them with your hand. In that case, the objectors would have had reason to harbor doubts.” (29:48)

This verse tells us that Muhammad did not read nor write previous scriptures. The word “min qablihi = previous” proves that Muhammad read and wrote the final scripture.

Muhammad was a literate gentile (ummy)

After this examination on the true meaning of the word “ummy”, here are the reasons and proofs for the fact that Muhammad was a literate gentile:

ˆ To magnify the miraculous aspect of the Quran, religious people thought that the story of illiteracy would be alluring.

ˆ The producer of the illiteracy story found it easy to change the meaning of “ummy”, which in the entire Quran, consistently means “gentile” (2:78; 3:20; 3:75; 62:2).

ˆ The Arabs of the 7th century were using letters as numbers. This alphabetical numbering system is called “Abjed”. The merchants of those days had to know the letters of the alphabet to record their account. If Muhammad was a successful international merchant, then he most probably knew this numbering system. The Arabs stopped using the “Abjed” system in the 9th century when they took “Arabic numbers” from India.

ˆ The Quran’s spelling is unique. The mathematical miracle of the Quran, which proves that Quran is the word of God, confirms the unique spelling of the Quranic words. The different spellings of some words are not the personal preference of the scribes. For example, the words “salat”, “zakat”, “hayat” are written with “waw” instead of “alif”. In verse 3:96 the name of Mecca is spelled as “Bacca”. The word “bastatan” is written with “seen” throughout the Quran, except in 7:69 where it is written with “saad”.

ˆ If you write the first verse of the first revelation with Basmalah, you will conclude that Muhammad was literate. We know that Basmalah has 19 letters, the first revelation i.e., 96:1-5 consists of 76 (19×4) letters, this first chronological chapter consists of 19 verses and is placed first of the last 19 chapters and has 285 (19×15) letters. (The code 19 will be mentioned in the next questions). This information explains the different spelling of the word “bism” in the beginning of the Basmalah and in the first verse of chapter 96. You decide; is it reasonable for an illiterate to dictate two different spellings of the same word which is pronounced the same?

ˆ Traditional history books accept that Muhammad dictated the Quran and controlled its recording. Even if we accept that Muhammad did not know how to read or write before revelation of the Quran, we can not claim that he preserved his illiteracy during 23 years while he was dictating the Quran.

ˆ The first revelation was “Read,” and the first five verses of that revelation encourage reading and writing (96:1-5). The second revelation was “The pen and writing” (68:1).

Now, let’s ask our questions:

a) As you can see in verse 3:20 and 3:75, the Quran uses the word “ummy” as the antonym of the “ehlil kitab = people of the book”. Do you believe that Quran classifies people as literate and illiterate?

b) The Quran describes Meccan people with the word “ummyyeen = gentiles” (62:2). According to your claim, all Meccan people must have been illiterate. According to your holy books, who was writing poems in Mecca? Who was reading the poems hanging on the walls of the Kaba?

c) Which numbering system were the Arabs using in the 7th century? Did those who were making calculations with those numbers know how to read and write?

d) Is the unique spelling in the Quran the result of errors and personal opinions? How do you explain the different spelling of “bism” of the Basmalah and the first verse of chapter 96?

e) Does God command an illiterate man to “read”? Could Muhammad read after Gabriel’s instruction ? Does this story not contradict your claim that Muhammad died an illiterate?

f) Let us accept that Muhammad was illiterate before the revelation of the Quran. Why did he insist on staying illiterate for 23 years after the first revelation: “Read !”? Did he not obey his Lord’s command? Did he receive another command forbidding him from reading and writing?

g) Was it so difficult for Muhammad to learn to read and write? If a person still does not learn to read and write after 23 years of careful dictation of a book, what do you think about such a person? Is he stupid or a liar?

h) Was Muhammad encouraging his followers to read and write? If so, why did he exclude himself? How do you explain this strange attitude and verse 2:44?

i) How can an illiterate man insure the accuracy of a scribe?

j) You are trying to imitate Muhammad from his eating to his attire, from his beard to his toothbrush; why do you not imitate his illiteracy? Why do you not follow his sunnah?

k) You are the people who disagree on almost every subject; but you agree on the story of the illiteracy of Muhammad. How could you manage this agreement?

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