One of the fabrications against the prophet that was created by the corrupt Muslim ulama was that he was illiterate and could not read or write. This fabrication originated because Muhammad, unlike the previous prophets and messengers of the past, did not have a physical miracle. So people invented a lie that he was illiterate and that was his miracle since he was able to produce the Quran, which was linguistically excellent. But this narrative contradicts the verses of the Quran.
Firstly, because God informs us in the Quran that Muhammad did not have a physical miracle.
[10:20] They say, “How come no miracle came down to him from his Lord?” Say, “The future belongs to GOD; so wait, and I am waiting along with you.”
(٢٠) وَيَقُولُونَ لَوْلَا أُنْزِلَ عَلَيْهِ آيَةٌ مِنْ رَبِّهِ فَقُلْ إِنَّمَا الْغَيْبُ لِلَّهِ فَانْتَظِرُوا إِنِّي مَعَكُمْ مِنَ الْمُنْتَظِرِينَ
If Muhammad was able to produce the Quran despite being illiterate then it would contradict the above verse because that would be quite extraordinary if it was true.
But it is obvious that Muhammad not only could read and write, but he actually wrote the Quran with his own hand.
Muhammad was a successful merchant. The “Muslim scholars” who fabricated the illiteracy lie forgot that there were no numbers during the Prophet’s time; the letters of the alphabet were used as numbers; similar to roman numerals. As a merchant dealing with numbers every day, the Prophet had to know the alphabet, from one to one-thousand.
Even the contemporary adversaries to the prophet acknowledged that he could read and write. This is stated in the following verse.
[25:5] They also said, “Tales from the past that he wrote down; they were dictated to him day and night.”
(٥) وَقَالُوا أَسَاطِيرُ الْأَوَّلِينَ اكْتَتَبَهَا فَهِيَ تُمْلَىٰ عَلَيْهِ بُكْرَةً وَأَصِيلًا
1st Revelation – Read
The first revelation given to the prophet was Sura 96 verses one through five. And it states:
[96:1] Read, in the name of your Lord, who created. [96:2] He created man from an embryo. [96:3] Read, and your Lord, Most Exalted. [96:4] Teaches by means of the pen. [96:5] He teaches man what he never knew.
If Muhammad could not read then Muhammad would have not been able to fulfill this request by God. Yet even if we say that prior to this revelation he was illiterate the verses states that God teaches man what he never knew, which means God could have allowed him to read to fuilfill this command.
2nd Revelation – Function of The Pen is to Write
Additionally, God tells us that he teaches man by means of the pen. Some people argue that the pen is only metaphorical, but this is clarified in the next revelation that the purpose of the pen is to write. This is because the next revelation given to the prophet was Sura 68 entitled “The Pen” and it informs us that the function of the pen is to write.
[68:1] NuN, the pen, and what they (the people) write.
نون وَالقَلَمِ وَما يَسطُرونَ
3rd Revelation – Read Quran Cover to Cover
The next revelation the prophet received was Sura 73 and we see in the third verse the following command:
[73:1] O you cloaked one. [73:2] Meditate during the night, except rarely. [73:3] Half of it, or a little less. [73:4] Or a little more. And read the Quran from cover to cover.
(٤) أَوْ زِدْ عَلَيْهِ وَرَتِّلِ الْقُرْآنَ تَرْتِيلًا
It was Muhammad’s sole duty to deliver God’s final scripture to mankind. If he outsourced the critical task of physically writing the revelations he received from God during the 23 years he received Quranic revelations, then he would have been neglecting his very function as prophet.
[42:48] If they turn away, we did not send you as their guardian. Your sole mission is delivering the message.
[64:12] You shall obey GOD and you shall obey the messenger. If you turn away, then the sole mission of our messenger is to deliver the message.
An additional confirmation that Muhammad wrote the Quran with his own hand can be found in 69:45 of the Quran.
[69:44] Had he uttered any other teachings. [69:45] We would have punished him [seized him by the right hand]. [69:46] We would have stopped the revelations to him. [69:47] None of you could have helped him.
وَلَو تَقَوَّلَ عَلَينا بَعضَ الأَقاويلِ
لَأَخَذنا مِنهُ بِاليَمينِ
ثُمَّ لَقَطَعنا مِنهُ الوَتينَ
فَما مِنكُم مِن أَحَدٍ عَنهُ حاجِزينَ
Here is a word for word breakdown of 69:45
The word ” بِالْيَمِينِ ” means: by the right hand. It comes from the root ” ي م ن “. The meaning of this root is the following:
to meet on the right side; bless; lead to the right; be a cause of blessing; right hand; oaths; blessed; peoples of the right hands that are blessed
Why would God indicate that had Muhammad taught any other teachings other than the Quran that He would have seized him, Muhammad, “by the right hand”?
The context of 64:44 – 47 are in reference to God’s revelations of the Quran, that was given to Muhammad to deliver. To provide assurances that God’s verses were not altered by the messenger, God is telling us that if Muhammad was to write any other teachings He would have seized his right hand, thus refraining him from being able to write any more of God’s revelations.
In 17:73 – 75, God gives us further assurances that the Quran, that Muhammad wrote with his own hand, was exactly as intended by God without alteration by any intermediary.
[17:73] They almost diverted you from the revelations we have given you. They wanted you to fabricate something else, in order to consider you a friend. [17:74] If it were not that we strengthened you, you almost leaned towards them just a little bit. [17:75] Had you done that, we would have doubled the retribution for you in this life, and after death, and you would have found no one to help you against us.
To make the revelation of the Quran more miraculous the ignorant Muslim scholars created a lie that Muhammad was illiterate. The word they relied on to bestow illiteracy upon the Prophet was “UMMY.” Unfortunately for those “scholars,” this word clearly means “Gentile,” or one who does not follow any scripture; it does NOT mean “illiterate.”
The common verse that people point to in order to claim that Muhammad was illiterate is the following verse:
[29:48] You did not read the previous scriptures, nor did you write them with your hand. In that case, the rejectors would have had reason to harbor doubts.
(٤٨) وَمَا كُنْتَ تَتْلُو مِنْ قَبْلِهِ مِنْ كِتَابٍ وَلَا تَخُطُّهُ بِيَمِينِكَ إِذًا لَارْتَابَ الْمُبْطِلُونَ
But this verse has nothing to do with Muhammad’s ability to read or write, but specifically with the fact that he did not read or write the previous scriptures. This is because he was a gentile, yet the Quran were full of details about the previous scripture that would have been impossible for him to know. This is why the enemies of the prophet speculated that the person disseminating this info to him was someone from the previous scriptures, yet the Quran was written in perfect Arabic tongue.
[16:103] We are fully aware that they say, “A human being is teaching him!” The tongue of the source they hint at is non-Arabic, and this is a perfect Arabic tongue.
(١٠٣) وَلَقَدْ نَعْلَمُ أَنَّهُمْ يَقُولُونَ إِنَّمَا يُعَلِّمُهُ بَشَرٌ لِسَانُ الَّذِي يُلْحِدُونَ إِلَيْهِ أَعْجَمِيٌّ وَهَٰذَا لِسَانٌ عَرَبِيٌّ مُبِينٌ
The next set of verses that use the word ummy is 7:157-158, which is part of the covenant that God made with the Children of Israel. The reason this was a test for them was because the Children of Israel have a predisposition against gentiles, so the fact that God sent his final scripture to a gentile would serve as a major test for them. But even in the Jewish Bible and scholarly work you see discussions of gentile prophets, but there is no discussion regarding the prophecy of an illiterate prophet.
[7:157] (4) follow the messenger, the gentile prophet (Muhammad), whom they find written in their Torah and Gospel. He exhorts them to be righteous, enjoins them from evil, allows for them all good food, and prohibits that which is bad, and unloads the burdens and the shackles imposed upon them. Those who believe in him, respect him, support him, and follow the light that came with him are the successful ones.
الَّذِينَ يَتَّبِعُونَ الرَّسُولَ النَّبِيَّ الْأُمِّيَّ الَّذِي يَجِدُونَهُ مَكْتُوبًا عِنْدَهُمْ فِي التَّوْرَاةِ وَالْإِنْجِيلِ يَأْمُرُهُمْ بِالْمَعْرُوفِ وَيَنْهَاهُمْ عَنِ الْمُنْكَرِ وَيُحِلُّ لَهُمُ الطَّيِّبَاتِ وَيُحَرِّمُ عَلَيْهِمُ الْخَبَائِثَ وَيَضَعُ عَنْهُمْ إِصْرَهُمْ وَالْأَغْلَالَ الَّتِي كَانَتْ عَلَيْهِمْ فَالَّذِينَ آمَنُوا بِهِ وَعَزَّرُوهُ وَنَصَرُوهُ وَاتَّبَعُوا النُّورَ الَّذِي أُنْزِلَ مَعَهُ أُولَٰئِكَ هُمُ الْمُفْلِحُونَ
[7:158] Say, “O people, I am GOD’s messenger to all of you. To Him belongs the sovereignty of the heavens and the earth. There is no god except He. He controls life and death.” Therefore, you shall believe in GOD and His messenger, the gentile prophet, who believes in GOD and His words. Follow him, that you may be guided.
قُلْ يَاأَيُّهَا النَّاسُ إِنِّي رَسُولُ اللَّهِ إِلَيْكُمْ جَمِيعًا الَّذِي لَهُ مُلْكُ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ لَا إِلَٰهَ إِلَّا هُوَ يُحْيِي وَيُمِيتُ فَآمِنُوا بِاللَّهِ وَرَسُولِهِ النَّبِيِّ الْأُمِّيِّ الَّذِي يُؤْمِنُ بِاللَّهِ وَكَلِمَاتِهِ وَاتَّبِعُوهُ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَهْتَدُونَ
In the following next verse some people apply this verse to illiterates, but once again notice that the subject is specifically scripture and not the general ability for someone to be able to read or write. This is because a gentile is someone without a scripture e.g. Arabs.
[2:78] Among them are gentiles who do not know the scripture, except through hearsay, then assume that they know it.
وَمِنْهُمْ أُمِّيُّونَ لَا يَعْلَمُونَ الْكِتَابَ إِلَّا أَمَانِيَّ وَإِنْ هُمْ إِلَّا يَظُنُّونَ
But if we look at the next verse, we see that the “ummy” mentioned in the previous verse are those who read and write the scripture with their own hands. This would be inconsistent if we were to translate ummy as illiterate.
[2:79] Therefore, woe to those who distort the scripture with their own hands, then say, “This is what GOD has revealed,” seeking a cheap material gain. Woe to them for such distortion, and woe to them for their illicit gains.
فَوَيْلٌ لِلَّذِينَ يَكْتُبُونَ الْكِتَابَ بِأَيْدِيهِمْ ثُمَّ يَقُولُونَ هَٰذَا مِنْ عِنْدِ اللَّهِ لِيَشْتَرُوا بِهِ ثَمَنًا قَلِيلًا فَوَيْلٌ لَهُمْ مِمَّا كَتَبَتْ أَيْدِيهِمْ وَوَيْلٌ لَهُمْ مِمَّا يَكْسِبُونَ
Additionally, we see in the following verse that Muhammad was not just sent to the illiterates, but to the gentiles.
[62:2] He is the One who sent to the gentiles 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.
هُوَ الَّذِي بَعَثَ فِي الْأُمِّيِّينَ رَسُولًا مِنْهُمْ يَتْلُو عَلَيْهِمْ آيَاتِهِ وَيُزَكِّيهِمْ وَيُعَلِّمُهُمُ الْكِتَابَ وَالْحِكْمَةَ وَإِنْ كَانُوا مِنْ قَبْلُ لَفِي ضَلَالٍ مُبِينٍ
Even if we look at Jewish jurisprudence we see that they have different laws for how they are allowed to deal with gentiles compared to people of the book. So for instance, while they are not allowed to charge usury to other people of the book, they were allowed to charge usury to the gentiles. I never heard of any Jewish jurisprudence discussing different set of laws in payments when dealing with those who are illiterate.
[3:75] Some followers of the scripture can be trusted with a whole lot, and they will give it back to you. Others among them cannot be trusted with a single dinar; they will not repay you unless you keep after them. That is because they say, “We do not have to be honest when dealing with the gentiles!” Thus, they attribute lies to GOD, knowingly.
وَمِنْ أَهْلِ الْكِتَابِ مَنْ إِنْ تَأْمَنْهُ بِقِنْطَارٍ يُؤَدِّهِ إِلَيْكَ وَمِنْهُمْ مَنْ إِنْ تَأْمَنْهُ بِدِينَارٍ لَا يُؤَدِّهِ إِلَيْكَ إِلَّا مَا دُمْتَ عَلَيْهِ قَائِمًا ذَٰلِكَ بِأَنَّهُمْ قَالُوا لَيْسَ عَلَيْنَا فِي الْأُمِّيِّينَ سَبِيلٌ وَيَقُولُونَ عَلَى اللَّهِ الْكَذِبَ وَهُمْ يَعْلَمُونَ
The last verse that clearly defines ummy as gentiles and not just one who is illiterate is in the following verse.
[3:20] If they argue with you, then say, “I have simply submitted myself to GOD; I and those who follow me.” You shall proclaim to those who received the scripture, as well as those who did not, “Would you submit?” If they submit, then they have been guided, but if they turn away, your sole mission is to deliver this message. GOD is Seer of all people.
فَإِنْ حَاجُّوكَ فَقُلْ أَسْلَمْتُ وَجْهِيَ لِلَّهِ وَمَنِ اتَّبَعَنِ وَقُلْ لِلَّذِينَ أُوتُوا الْكِتَابَ وَالْأُمِّيِّينَ أَأَسْلَمْتُمْ فَإِنْ أَسْلَمُوا فَقَدِ اهْتَدَوْا وَإِنْ تَوَلَّوْا فَإِنَّمَا عَلَيْكَ الْبَلَاغُ وَاللَّهُ بَصِيرٌ بِالْعِبَادِ
Notice that this verse contrasts those who were given the scripture “لِلَّذِينَ أُوتُوا الْكِتَابَ” with those who were not “وَالْأُمِّيِّينَ” the ummy e.g. gentiles. This is a typical mechanism in the Quran where God contrasts two subjects so that we can recognize each group by its opposite. So in this case the opposite of “those who were given scripture” would not be “the illiterates” but specifically “the gentiles.” It would not make any sense to think that Muhammad was commanded to proclaim the scripture to only those who received the scripture and the illiterates.
3 thoughts on “Muhammad Was Not Illiterate”
It is clear in the Qur’an that our beloved leader Prophet Muhammad could read and write! The Prophet is instructed to read what he can of the Qur’an at night. The Qur’an was revealed in Arabiyya, it does not say Arabic in the Qur’an, in fact, Arabic was still being developed as a written and spoken language during the time of Muhammad. It note here that the Arabic alphabet was adopted from the Nabatean Aramaic language, and interesting fact is the Prophets and Messengers in the Qur’an have Aramaic names and not Arabic. Rasul Allah could read and write, remember he was a merchant so he could count, Arabic letters have numerical value! Prophet Muhammad was a very intelligent and educated man!