Was Prophet Muhammad an illiterate even after the descent of the Qur’an? Not really!

The Mother of the Believers Aisha D/o Abu Bakr said, ’’ثُمَّ حُبِّبَ اِلَیْہِ الْخَلَاءُ فَکَانَ یَخْلُوْ بِغَارِ حِرَاء‘‘(Then the love of seclusion was bestowed upon him (Prophet Muhammad (saw)). He used to go in seclusion in the cave of Hira). (Bukhari Vol. 1, Book 1, Hadith 3)

One day Prophet Muhammad (saw) was busy in his prayers as usual, suddenly the Truth descended upon him while he was in the cave of Hira. The angel came with revelation and said ’’اِقْرَأْ‘‘ “read”. The Prophet replied, ’’مَا اَنَا بِقَارِئٍ‘‘ “I do not know how to read.” Gabriel then embraced him thrice and Prophet developed the ability to read and he read 5 initial verses of Surah Al-‘Alaq.

“Read in the name of your Lord who created, created man from a clinging substance. Read! And your Lord is the most generous. Who taught by the pen. Taught man that which he knew not”


Later Allah’s Messenger (saw) returned his home with the Inspiration and with his heart beating severely and said to Khadija, ’’زَمِّلُوْنِیْ، زَمِّلُوْنِیْ‘‘ “Cover me! Cover me!” After some time his fear was over and he told Khadija everything that had happened and said, “I fear that something may happen to me.” Khadija replied, “Never! By Allah, Allah will never disgrace you. You keep good relations with your kith and kin, help the poor and the destitute, serve your guests generously and assist the deserving calamity-afflicted ones.”

It is true that first five verses of Surah Al-‘Alaq brought by Gabriel were not oral but were written because “ummiyat” doesn’t mean ability to recite but the ability to write. That is why an “ummi” man can recite after oral teaching but he can’t read the written text.

Qastallani who has written commentary on the Sahih al-Bukhari mentioned a Murasal Hadith ’’آتَانِی جِبْرَءِیْلُ بِنَمْطٍ مِنْ دِیْبَاجٍ فِیْہِ کِتَابٌ….‘‘ (Gabriel brought a book in a silk cloth), Ibn Hajar al-‘Asqalani have also mentioned it in his book Fatḥ al-Bārī fī Sharḥ Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī under Kitab al-Tafseer. And as per some narrations, Gabriel came with a silken cloth scripture and put it in the hands of Prophet and said, ’’اقرأ‘‘ read this silken cloth scripture. The Prophet replied, ’’مَا اَنَا بِقَارِئٍ‘‘ “I can’t read this written scripture.” That’s how “نبی اُمّی” “Ummi Prophet” has been translated as illiterate Prophet. And Prophet’s illiteracy has been proven as batch of honour.  یَتْلُوْ صُحُفًا مُّطَھَّرَۃً  (reciting purified scriptures), even after the manifestation of truth! Only Allah can save this Ummah. I am compelled to write that please do not make fun of ourselves infront of others.


Although it’s proven from Quran that after the revelation of Quran Prophet had developed the ability to read by the grace of Allah. وَ مَا کُنْتَ تَتْلُوْ مِنْ قَبْلِہٖ مِنْ کِتَابٍ وَ لَا تَخُطُّہٗ بِیَمِیْنِکَ اِذًا لَّارْتَابَ الْمُبْطِلُوْنَ – عنکبوت  ۴۸

And you did not recite before it any scripture, nor did you inscribe one with your right hand. Otherwise the falsifiers would have had [cause for] doubt. (Al Qur’an 29:48)

This verse from Surah Al Ankabut (The Spider) clearly tells that the Prophet was not able to read before the descent of the Qur’an. Otherwise, the word مِنْ قَبْلِہِ (before) wouldn’t be mentioned. And when the word (before) is used in connection to the ability to read then it proves that (after) the revelation of Quran, he developed the ability to read.

In Quranic verses, the words ’اُمّی، ‘Ummi’,  ’اُمّیین‘ ‘Ummi’en’, and ’ ’اُمّیون ‘Ummiyun’ have been mentioned in various places where it refers to the people of Makkah. In Quran wherever the words ’اُمّیین‘ ‘Ummi’en’, and ’ ’اُمّیون ‘Ummiyun’ have been used, it refers to those who did not get the book. (وَ مِنْھُمْ اُمِّیُّوْنَ لَا یَعْلَمُوْنَ الْکِتَابَ)

Qur’an challenges people of Makkah! If you doubt about the authenticity of the Qur’an, then make a similar copy as Qur’an or a Surah of Quran. This challenge of Quran is for literate people not the illiterate ones.

At the time of the revelation of Qur’an, there were 26 writers who used to write. Were all of them illiterate?


My Dear Readers, In Arabic, ’اُم‘  ‘Umm’ means the primary root, the center – اُمّ الکتاب‘, 13:39 explicit verses, ’اُمّ القریٰ‘ (Main city, Capital), ’ھن اُمّ الکتاب’ Actual book, the foundation of the book – 3:7, لِتُنْذِرَ اُمَّ الْقُرٰی وَ مَنْ حَوْلَھَا  you may warn the residents of the Mother City (Makkah) and its suburbs – 42:7, 6:92, In Surah Al A’raf  verses 157 and 158 which mentions about the نبی اُمّی “Ummi Prophet” refers to the prophet from Makkah and not the illiterate prophet. Makkah was the central town. Qusai ibn Kilab scarified a lot to bring different tribes into one location at Makkah and that’s how Makkah earned the central city status. Now prophet is asked to give general invitation of Islam to people of Makkah. قُلْ لِّلَّذِیْنَ اُوْتُوا الْکِتَابَ وَ الْاُمِّیِّیْنَ أَ اَسْلَمْتُمْ (Say to those who were given the Scripture and [to] the people of Makkah) that if they submit themselves to the Islam. (3:20) Surah Al Imran was revealed in Madinah. The Jews and Christians were in Madinah, not in Makkah. There were only polytheists and unbelievers in Makkah.

“Since the beginning of the first century of Islam till now, the process adopted by the interpreters of Qur’an for interpretation of Qur’an is declining continuously. If some interpreter had made a mistake in third century then it just gets copied till ninth century interpretations of Qur’an. Nobody felt the need to get separated from the Taqleed (unjustified conformity) for a few moments and investigate what the reality of the matter is”? (Maulana Abul Kalam Azad)

Those who invite to ponder in the Qur’an and hails propagation of the Quran as a guide to life, they are labeled as disbelievers and atheist. May Allah bless us all. Aameen!

اَللّٰھُمَّ اَرِنَا الْحَقَّ حَقًّا وَّ ارْزُقْنَا اتِّبَاعَہٗ وَ اَرِنَا الْبَاطِلَ بَاطِلًا وَّ ارْزُقْنَا اجْتِنَابَہٗ! O Allah! Show us the truth as true, and inspire us to follow it. Show us falsehood as falsehood, and inspire us to abstain from it.

A translated excerpt from the Urdu book “Seerat e Badr-ud-Duja” authored by Maulana Syed Shahabuddin Salfi Firdausi.

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