Author Topic: Was Prophet Muhammad s.a.w. unlettered or not?  (Read 7456 times)

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Offline Tanveer

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Re: Was Prophet Muhammad s.a.w. unlettered or not?
« Reply #1 on: December 09, 2012, 05:05:32 pm »
Personally i couldnt care less what others think. Theres a verse in the quran which says 'the unlettered prophet' which i always understood as illiterate. Most of these muslims dont agree with the illiteracy 'allegation' because they take it as an insult.

Offline Sama

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Re: Was Prophet Muhammad s.a.w. unlettered or not?
« Reply #2 on: January 25, 2013, 02:14:25 pm »
Was Prophet Muhammad Not Illiterate?
Critics point to the following narrations as evidence that the Prophet Muhammad was not illiterate:


Sahih Bukhari, Book 3, Number 65:
"Narrated By Anas bin Malik : Once the Prophet wrote a letter or had an idea of writing a letter. The Prophet was told that they (rulers) would not read letters unless they were sealed. So the Prophet got a silver ring made with "Muhammad Allah's Apostle" engraved on it. As if I were just observing its white glitter in the hand of the Prophet."
http://sunnah.com/bukhari/3/7

Sahih Bukhari, Book 3, Number 114:
"Narrated By 'Ubaidullah bin 'Abdullah : Ibn 'Abbas said, "When the ailment of the Prophet became worse, he said, 'Bring for me (writing) paper and I will write for you a statement after which you will not go astray.' But 'Umar said, 'The Prophet is seriously ill, and we have got Allah's Book with us and that is sufficient for us.' But the companions of the Prophet differed about this and there was a hue and cry. On that the Prophet said to them, 'Go away (and leave me alone). It is not right that you should quarrel in front of me." Ibn 'Abbas came out saying, "It was most unfortunate (a great disaster) that Allah's Apostle was prevented from writing that statement for them because of their disagreement and noise. (Note: It is apparent from this Hadith that Ibn 'Abbes had witnessed the event and came out saying this statement. The truth is not so, for Ibn 'Abbas used to say this statement on narrating the Hadith and he had not witnessed the event personally. See Fath Al-Bari Vol. 1, p.220 footnote.) (See Hadith No. 228, Vol. 4)."

Sahih Bukhari, Book 62, Number 88:
"Narrated By 'Ursa : The Prophet wrote the (marriage contract) with 'Aisha while she was six years old and consummated his marriage with her while she was nine years old and she remained with him for nine years (i.e. till his death)."


Let us first deal with Sahih Bukhari, Book 3, Number 65. Let me show you this Hadith in the original Arabic:

Sahih Bukhari, Book 3, Number 65:
كتب النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم كتابا - أو أراد أن يكتب - فقيل له: إنهم لا يقرؤون كتابا إلا مختوما، فاتخذ خاتما من فضة، نقشه: محمد رسول الله، كأني أنظر إلى بياضه في يده. فقلت لقتادة: من قال نقشه محمد رسول الله؟ قال: أنس.

The Arabic word used here is "yaktb" which comes from the root word "kataba" (*) which has the following meanings:
write
pen
inscribe
write down
note down
enter
record
register
compose
compile
draft
prescribe

Sources: (*) (*)


كتّب ‎(kلttaba) (verb form II) (causative)

1. to cause to write, to make someone write
2. to deploy in squadrons

Source: (*)

It doesn't only mean "write" but came mean "record," or "register." Ibn Hajar in his commentary of Sahih Bukhari: Fathul Bari basically held the same view.(Source).

It is possible that Muhammad could have indeed composed a letter, but this doesn't mean he literally wrote it himself, using his hands. As the meaning above shows, it can mean to make someone write. During Muhammad's time, that is what he did. He was able to write letters by asking others to write them down who could write. For example, Muhammad asked someone to write as we read:

Sahih Bukhari, Book 42, Number 613:
"Narrated By Abu Huraira : When Allah gave victory to His Apostle over the people of Mecca, Allah's Apostle stood up among the people and after glorifying Allah, said, "Allah has prohibited fighting in Mecca and has given authority to His Apostle and the believers over it, so fighting was illegal for anyone before me, and was made legal for me for a part of a day, and it will not be legal for anyone after me. Its game should not be chased, its thorny bushes should not be uprooted, and picking up its fallen things is not allowed except for one who makes public announcement for it, and he whose relative is murdered has the option either to accept a compensation for it or to retaliate." Al-'Abbas said, "Except Al-ldhkhir, for we use it in our graves and houses." Allah's Apostle said, "Except Al-ldhkhir." Abu Shah, a Yemenite, stood up and said, "O Allah's Apostle! Get it written for me." Allah's Apostle said, "Write it for Abu Shah." (The sub-narrator asked Al-Auza'i): What did he mean by saying, "Get it written, O Allah's Apostle?" He replied, "The speech which he had heard from Allah's Apostle."

As you can see, Muhammad was asked to get something written for him, yet Muhammad asked someone else to write for him. Another example of Muhammad asking someone else to write is:

Sahih Bukhari, Book 50, Number 891:
"When Suhail bin Amr came, the Prophet said, "Now the matter has become easy." Suhail said to the Prophet "Please conclude a peace treaty with us." So, the Prophet called the clerk and said to him, "Write: By the Name of Allah, the most Beneficent, the most Merciful." Suhail said, "As for 'Beneficent,' by Allah, I do not know what it means. So write: By Your Name O Allah, as you used to write previously." The Muslims said, "By Allah, we will not write except: By the Name of Allah, the most Beneficent, the most Merciful." The Prophet said, "Write: By Your Name O Allah." Then he dictated, "This is the peace treaty which Muhammad, Allah's Apostle has concluded." Suhail said, "By Allah, if we knew that you are Allah's Apostle we would not prevent you from visiting the Kaba, and would not fight with you. So, write: "Muhammad bin Abdullah." The Prophet said, "By Allah! I am Apostle of Allah even if you people do not believe me. Write: Muhammad bin Abdullah." (Az-Zuhri said, "The Prophet accepted all those things, as he had already said that he would accept everything they would demand if it respects the ordinance of Allah, (i.e. by letting him and his companions perform 'Umra.)" The Prophet said to Suhail, "On the condition that you allow us to visit the House (i.e. Ka'ba) so that we may perform Tawaf around it." Suhail said, "By Allah, we will not (allow you this year) so as not to give chance to the 'Arabs to say that we have yielded to you, but we will allow you next year." So, the Prophet got that written."

As you can see, Muhammad keeps telling the clerk to write down whatever he is saying since he was unable to read or write. The last part of the Hadith "So, the Prophet got that written," affirms that Muhammad got all that he wanted written done THROUGH the clerk, and the context of this Hadith clearly shows this.

It is well known that the Prophet even had scribes who wrote down Quranic verses that he dictated to them.

Ibn Kathir's tafsir - Surah Ankabut 29:48:
"He used to have scribes who would write down the revelation for him, or would write letters from him to be sent to different places."


Secondly, Muhsin Khan in Bukhari, Book 3, Number 65 translates part of it as "had an idea." Skeptics might claim this means he had an idea how to write. However, "had an idea" can easily mean he intended to get it written. For example, one can come up with an idea to get something done. That doesn't mean that the person knows how to get that thing done all by himself. He could get it done through others.

The Arabic word used is "araada," means:


1. wish
2. want
3. will
4. intend
5. choose
6. care

Sources: (*) (*)

Similarly, Sakhr Dicitionary - 2006/2007 gives similar meanings.


Moving on: Regarding the hadith of Sahih Bukhari, Book 62, Number 88. In Arabic, it is:

Sahih Bukhari, Book 62, Number 88:
{ حَدَّثَنَا قَبِيصَةُ بْنُ عُقْبَةَ حَدَّثَنَا سُفْيَانُ عَنْ هِشَامِ بْنِ عُرْوَةَ عَنْ عُرْوَةَ تَزَوَّجَ النَّبِىُّ صلى الله عليه وسلم عَائِشَةَ وَهْىَ ابْنَةُ سِتٍّ وَبَنَى بِهَا وَهْىَ ابْنَةُ تِسْعٍ وَمَكَثَتْ عِنْدَهُ تِسْعًا . }

There's no word in the Arabic that says "wrote" or means this.


Regarding the next Hadith (Sahih Bukhari, Book 3, Number 114) which says that when Muhammad was ill (had ailment), he asked for writing paper to write a statement. The Arabic is:

Sahih Bukhari, Book 3, Number 114:
ابْنِ عَبَّاسٍ قَالَ لَمَّا اشْتَدَّ بِالنَّبِىِّ صلى الله عليه وسلم وَجَعُهُ قَالَ ائْتُونِى بِكِتَابٍ أَكْتُبُ لَكُمْ كِتَابًا لاَ تَضِلُّوا بَعْدَهُ . قَالَ عُمَرُ إِنَّ النَّبِىَّ صلى الله عليه وسلم غَلَبَهُ الْوَجَعُ وَعِنْدَنَا كِتَابُ اللَّهِ حَسْبُنَا فَاخْتَلَفُوا وَكَثُرَ اللَّغَطُ. قَالَ قُومُوا عَنِّى، وَلاَ يَنْبَغِى عِنْدِى التَّنَازُعُ . فَخَرَجَ ابْنُ عَبَّاسٍ يَقُولُ إِنَّ الرَّزِيَّةَ كُلَّ الرَّزِيَّةِ مَاحَالَ بَيْنَ رَسُولِ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم وَبَيْنَ كِتَابِهِ

The Arabic أَكْتُبُ (aktab) means:

"to dictate something to, to make someone write" (Source).




We read the following Hadith which critics may use:

Abu Dawud, Book 13, Number 2984:
"Narated By Mujja'ah ibn Mirarah al-Yamani : Mujja'ah went to the Prophet (pbuh) asking him for the blood-money of his brother whom Banu Sadus from Banu Dhuhl had killed.

The Prophet (pbuh) said: Had I appointed blood-money for a polytheist, I should have appointed it for your brother. But I shall give you compensation for him. So the Prophet (pbuh) wrote (a document) for him that he should be given a hundred camels which were to be acquired from the fifth taken from the polytheists of Banu Dhuhl. So he took a part of them, for Banu Dhuhl embraced Islam.

He then asked AbuBakr for them later on, and brought to him the document of the Prophet (pbuh). So AbuBakr wrote for him that he should be given one thousand two hundred sa's from the sadaqah of al-Yamamah; four thousand (sa's) of wheat, four thousand (sa's) of barley, and four thousand (sa's) of dates.

The text of the document written by the Prophet (pbuh) for Mujja'ah was as follows: "In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful. This document is from Muhammad, the Prophet, to Mujja'ah ibn Mirarah of Banu Sulma. I have given him one hundred camels from the first fifth acquired from the polytheist of Banu Dhuhl as a compensation for his brother."


Based on this, critics may use this as evidence against Muslims that Muhammad was able to write and therefore literate. We shall accept for sake of argument the content of the hadith's authenticity (and the next one which will be bought up). The Arabic text is:

Abu Dawud, Book 13, Number 2984:
أتى النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم يطلب دية أخيه قتلته بنو سدوس من بني ذهل فقال النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم لو كنت جاعلا لمشرك دية جعلت لأخيك ولكن سأعطيك منه عقبى فكتب له النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم بمائة من الإبل من أول خمس يخرج من مشركي بني ذهل فأخذ طائفة منها وأسلمت بنو ذهل فطلبها بعد مجاعة إلى أبي بكر وأتاه بكتاب النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم فكتب له أبو بكر باثني عشر ألف صاع من صدقة اليمامة أربعة آلاف بر وأربعة آلاف شعير وأربعة آلاف تمر وكان في كتاب النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم لمجاعة هذا كتاب من محمد النبي لمجاعة بن مرارة من بني سلمى إني أعطيته مائة من الإبل من أول خمس يخرج من مشركي بني ذهل عقبة من أخيه

حدثنا محمد بن عيسى ثنا عنبسة بن عبد الواحد القرشي قال أبو جعفر يعني بن عيسى كنا نقول إنه من الأبدال قبل أن نسمع أن الأبدال من الموالي قال حدثني الدخيل بن إياس بن نوح بن مجاعة عن هلال بن سراج بن مجاعة عن أبيه عن جده مجاعة أنه أتى النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم يطلب دية أخيه قتلته بنو سدوس من بني ذهل فقال النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم لو كنت جاعلا لمشرك دية جعلت لأخيك ولكن سأعطيك منه عقبى فكتب له النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم بمائة من الإبل من أول خمس يخرج من مشركي بني ذهل فأخذ طائفة منها وأسلمت بنو ذهل فطلبها بعد مجاعة إلى أبي بكر وأتاه بكتاب النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم فكتب له أبو بكر باثني عشر ألف صاع من صدقة اليمامة أربعة آلاف بر وأربعة آلاف شعير وأربعة آلاف تمر وكان في كتاب النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم لمجاعة هذا كتاب من محمد النبي لمجاعة بن مرارة من بني سلمى إني أعطيته مائة من الإبل من أول خمس يخرج من مشركي بني ذهل عقبة من أخيه

In this Hadith, the first 3 times the Arabic (فكتب) is used. It is pronounced "fakataba" which comes from the root "kataba" which means:

كَتَبَ ‎(kلtaba) (verb form I), يكتب (yaktubu)

1. to write, to pen, to write down, to inscribe, to enter, to record, to register
2. to compose, to draw up, to draft
3. to bequeath
4. to prescribe
5. to foreordain, to destine

كتّب ‎(kلttaba) (verb form II) (causative)

1. to cause to write, to make someone write
2. to deploy in squadrons

كاتب ‎(kātaba) (verb form III) (conative)

Source: http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/%D9%83%D8%AA%D8%A8


It doesn't specifically mean "write" but came mean "record," or "register." It is possible that Muhammad could have indeed composed a letter, but this doesn't mean he literally wrote it himself.

Another Hadith which critics might use:

Abu Dawud, Book 13, Number 2993:
"Narrated By Yazid ibn Abdullah : We were at Mirbad. A man with dishevelled hair and holding a piece of red skin in his hand came.

We said: You appear to be a bedouin. He said: Yes. We said: Give us this piece of skin in your hand. He then gave it to us and we read it. It contained the text: "From Muhammad, Apostle of Allah (pbuh), to Banu Zuhayr ibn Uqaysh. If you bear witness that there is no god but Allah, and that Muhammad is the Apostle of Allah, offer prayer, pay zakat, pay the fifth from the booty, and the portion of the Prophet (pbuh) and his special portion (safi), you will be under by the protection of Allah and His Apostle."

We then asked: Who wrote this document for you? He replied: The Apostle of Allah (pbuh)."

The Arabic of this hadith is kataba which doesn't only refer to writing literally. It could easily mean that Muhammad got what he wanted written down, THROUGH others. An example: the late Ahmed Deedat (Muslim orator) was paralyzed from the neck down in the mide 1990's. Yet, he still manage to write stuff down, because he did it through others. If someone has these words today, one may say Ahmed Deedat wrote it, but not literally using his hands.

The english word "write" could mean:

"to execute or produce by setting down words."

Source: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/wrote



Let us agree for sake of argument that in these above hadiths, the Arabic refers to literally writing with one's hand. Writing a few words doesn't disprove one is illiterate.

"The Prophet's mere writing some words does not erase his illiteracy because of the fact that many illiterates nowadays can write their names nevertheless they are still illiterates.

"...they said that the Prophet's knowing of some letters does not erase his deisposition as being an illiterate."