The Illit­er­ate Prophet

Some Arab Chris­tians apol­o­gists false­ly claim that Prophet Muhammad(P) was lit­er­ate and even knew many lan­guages. They base their false­hood on the inter­po­la­tion of the word umiyy” and claim that it stands for non-Israelite” or Gen­tile” and that it does not mean illit­er­ate”.

One won­ders why would Arab Chris­tians make such a false claim ? The answer is that in try­ing to prove that the Prophet Muhammad(P) was not illit­er­ate”, they would be achiev­ing the fol­low­ing goal, that

  • the Prophet(P) did know how to read and write, and hence 
  • he(P) did copy the Qur’an from the pre­vi­ous Scrip­tures (the Torah and the Injil) 

When it is pre­sent­ed to them that the word umiyy” means illit­er­ate” in Ara­bic, and proof is avail­able from the term mah­wo al-umiyyah”, lit­er­al­ly eras­ing illit­er­a­cy” or edu­cat­ing the illit­er­ate adults”, Arab Chris­tians claim that this term is a late one that was devel­oped but does not prove that the word umiyy” means illit­er­ate”.

This arti­cle will present, beyond a shad­ow of doubt, the truth behind the word umiyy” and will prove that it stands for illit­er­ate” from with­in the Qur’an­ic con­text itself since the crit­ics tend to use the Qur’an in their vain attempts to dis­cred­it the Prophet Muhammad(P).

Let us start by quot­ing Qur’an­ic vers­es that tes­ti­fy to the illit­er­a­cy” of the Prophet(P).

Vers­es 7:157 – 158 tes­ti­fy to the illit­er­a­cy of the Prophet(P):

7:157 Those who fol­low the Mes­sen­ger, the unlet­tered [al-umiyya] Prophet, 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.”

7:158 Say : 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, the unlet­tered [al-umiyyi] Prophet, who believed in Allah and His Words : fol­low him that (so) ye may be guided.” 

Vers­es 29:47 – 49 refute (1400 years ago) the false claims of what the Arab Chris­tians are say­ing today :

29:47 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.

29:48 And thou wast not (able) to recite a Book before this (Book came), nor art thou (able) to tran­scribe it with thy right hands : in that case, indeed, would the talk­ers of van­i­ties have doubted.

29:49 Nay, here are Signs self-evi­dent in the hearts of those endowed with knowl­edge : and none but the unjust reject Our Signs. 

The above two sets of vers­es are enough proof to the lack of lit­er­a­cy” of the Prophet Muham­mad (P). How­ev­er, know­ing how recal­ci­trant some anti-Islam­ic apol­o­gists are, as well as their lack of log­ic when deal­ing with the Qur’an it is there­fore nec­es­sary to present fur­ther Qur’an­ic proof that will sti­fle their false­hoods and hope­ful­ly forever.

The Chris­t­ian Arabs and their par­rot-like non-Arab part­ners keep repeat­ing the non­sense that umiyy” means non-Israelite” or Gen­tile”. What will hap­pen when the Qur’?itself refutes this claim by attribut­ing the very same word to the Jews ? It should be suf­fi­cient proof against the fal­lac­i­es of the Arab Chris­t­ian apol­o­gists, and it should prove beyond any shad­ow of doubt that their claims are as false as their Trin­i­ty” doc­trine that was nev­er preached by the Prophet Jesus(P).

Let us read the fol­low­ing vers­es objec­tive­ly and in its context :

2:75 Can ye (O ye men of Faith) enter­tain the hope that they will believe in you ? See­ing that a par­ty of them heard the Word of Allah and per­vert­ed it know­ing­ly after they under­stood it.
2:76 Behold ! when they meet the men of Faith, they say : We believe”: but when they meet each oth­er in pri­vate, they say : Shall you tell them what Allah hath revealed to you, that they may engage you in argu­ment about it before your Lord?” Do ye not under­stand (their aim)
2:77 Know they not that Allah knoweth what they con­ceal and what they reveal ?
2:78 And there are among them illit­er­ates [umiyy­ouna], who know not the Book, but (see there­in their own) desires, and they do noth­ing but conjecture.
2:79 Then woe to those who write the Book with their own hands, and then say : This is from Allah ” to traf­fic with it for a mis­er­able price ! Woe to them for what their hands do write, and for the gain they make thereby.
2:80 And they say : The Fire shall not touch us but for a few num­bered days”: say : Have ye tak­en a promise from Allah for He nev­er breaks His promise ? Or is it that ye say of Allah what ye do not know?”
2:81 Nay, those who seek gain in Evil and are girt round by their sins, they are Com­pan­ions of the Fire : there­in shall they abide (for ever).
2:82 But those who have Faith and work right­eous­ness. They are Com­pan­ions of the Gar­den : there­in shall they abide (for ever).
2:83 And remem­ber We took a Covenant from the Chil­dren of Israel (to this effect): wor­ship none but Allah treat with kind­ness your par­ents and kin­dred, and orphans and those in need ; speak fair to the peo­ple ; be stead­fast in prayer ; And prac­tice reg­u­lar char­i­ty. Then did ye turn back, except a few among you, and ye back­slide (even now). 

From vers­es 2:75 – 83, one should notice that they are talk­ing of those who have a Book (the Jews), those who con­cealed parts of it and who had a Covenant with God accord­ing to a con­sen­sus among Mus­lims. In view of the above, one is bound to won­der how can the Jews be called non-Jews” accord­ing to the log­ic (or lack of it) of some Chris­t­ian apologists ?

The Qur’an­ic texts prove that the use of the word umiyy” or the plur­al umiyy­oun” stands for illit­er­ate” and not for non-Jews” (goyem).

To describe the mis­guid­ed apol­o­gists and their mis­guid­ing efforts against the truth, allow me to quote a verse from the Qur’an that is very prop­er for the situation :

28:75 And from each peo­ple shall We draw a wit­ness, and We shall say : Pro­duce your proof”; then shall they know that the Truth is in Allah (alone), and the (lies) which they invent­ed will leave them in the lurch. 

Peace to all the believ­ers in The One True God, The Cre­ator Allah”.


A. Yusuf Ali, The Holy Qur’an : Text, Trans­la­tion and CommentaryEndmark

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