This is response to Muslims belief that Qur’an was revealed verbatim (i.e. word for word) by God, to Muhammad in twenty three years career in separate revelations over the major portion of his life at Mecca and at Medina. Muslims’ claim of “internal evidence” for the divine authorship of the Quran, i.e. from statements to that effect in the Quran itself (e.g. Quran 4:82; 6:19; 6:92; 27:6; 45:2, etc.) The site Islam-Religion gives reasons, why Qur’an is authored by Allah. We will see how much true their claim is.
Muhammad: Unlettered and Had No Teachers
The fact that Muhammad could neither read nor write (Quran 29:48) is well known and uncontested by even his non-Muslim contemporaries and present day historians. He had no schooling or teacher of any kind. He had never been known to compose oral poetry or prose. The Quran, with its all-embracing laws and freedom from all inconsistencies, has its greatness acknowledged even by non-Muslim scholars. Its contents treat social, economic, political and religious legislation, history, views of the universe, living things, thought, human transactions, war, peace, marriage, worship, business, and everything relating to life – with no contradicting principles. The Quran has never been edited or revised as it was never in need of any revision or correction. How were such vast subject areas expounded upon with such precision by a 7th century Arab with no formal education or even the ability to read what scant material there may have been in his environment on such topics? Where and when has history ever produced an illiterate author of such a scripture?
This is not at all true that Muhammad was illiterate, the Biography of Muhammad, and his history recorded by Muslims have sufficient proof of his literacy. If not literate, he was able to read and write a bit. Ibn Ishaq records one of Prophet’s written communication from Musaylima.
MUSAYLIMA’S LETTER AND THE APOSTLE’S ANSWER THERETO Musaylima had written to the apostle (Prophet Muhammad):
From Musaylima the apostle of God to Muhammad the apostle of God. Peace upon you. I have been made partner with you in authority. To us belongs half the land and to Quraysh half, but Quraysh are a hostile people…
Then he (Prophet Muhammad) wrote to Musaylima:
From Muhammad the apostle of God to Musaylima the liar. Peace be upon him who follows the guidance. The earth is God’s. He lets whom He will of His creatures (to) inherit it and the result is to the pious…
[The Life of Muhammad, a translation of Ibn Ishaq’s Sirat Rasul Allah, Page – 649]
Even Qur’an gives some hint that Muhammad used to learn hear and learn Scriptures from Christians. For instance see Qur’an 16:103, which says:-
And We certainly know that they say, “It is only a human being who teaches the Prophet.” The tongue of the one they refer to is foreign, and this Qur’an is [in] a clear Arabic language.
Ibn Jalalayan in his explanation of this verse says:-
And verily (wa-laqad is for confirmation) We know that they say, ‘It is only a human that is teaching him, the Qur’ān’ — this was a Christian blacksmith whom the Prophet (s) used to frequent. God, exalted be He, says: The tongue, the language, of him to whom they refer, to whom they incline, [with the accusation] that he is [the one] teaching him, is foreign’; while this, Qur’ān, is [in] a clear Arabic tongue, one of lucidity and clarity: so how can a foreigner be teaching him?
Evidence from Hadith.
Sahih Bukhari, Vol 7 Book 62 No 88 Reads:-
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).
If still not convinced that Muhammad was literate, please see what an Islamic scholar ‘Edip Yuksel’ say about Muhammad literacy.
The verse 7:158 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?
This is enough to prove that Muhammad was literate and could have been written Qur’an using sources from other religion, as it can be seen in this article. Now lets move to second evidence.
Muhammad’s Known Integrity
Muhammad’s sincerity, truthfulness and integrity were so well known that he was even nicknamed “Al-Ameen” (The Trustworthy) by his pre-Islamic community. Not a single lie is recorded against him, and many modern Western Orientalists have themselves admitted that contrary to any deliberate deception, that the Prophet had a profoundly sincere conviction that it was revealed to him by God Himself is undeniable.
If his integrity had been in question, and he was supposed to have been motivated by the desire for personal glory to produce the Quran, why then would he disclaim authorship and instead claim it was from God, especially when the pagan Meccans had conceded that no one could produce such a scripture (Quran 2:23-24, 17:88, etc.), but only marvel at it? His enemies even offered him kingship over Mecca and any riches he desired if only he would stop reciting. If it was true that he desired his personal glory and leadership, why would he decline the offer when it was presented to him and instead prefer a life of humility, simplicity, persecution, sanctions, and even hostile attack by those who felt threatened by the Message of One God?
This is claim is chanted by Muslims that Muhammad was known as “Al-Ameen”, to reply this I’ll quote, what Ali Sina writes about this in his book, ‘Understanding Muhammad’. He says:-
Muslims claim that Muhammad was known to be an honest man as the Meccans called himAmin. This claim is disingenuous. Amin means trustee. It was the title of those who sold and bought merchandise on behalf of others. One is called school trustee, or city trustee because of his profession. The title “Amin” is a label for every sort of profession. Here are some examples: Amin El-Makataba (Trustee of the library); Amin El-Shortaa (Police Trustee); andMajlass El-Omnaa (Council of Trustees.)
Abul Aas, husband of Zeinab, Muhammad’s daughter, was also called Amin because of his profession. Muhammad acted as the trustee (Amin) for Khadijah once, when he took her merchandise to Damascus and sold it on her behalf.
Further we see that Meccans claimed Muhammad to be liar and Madman, see Qur’an 15:6:-
And they say,”O you upon whom the message has been sent down, indeed you are mad.
His own tribe also called him Soothsayer, see Qur’an 52:29
So remind [O Muhammad], for you are not, by the favor of your Lord, a soothsayer or a madman.
Ibn Ishaq records that Meccans called him Jinn Possessed, and his message to be ancient Fables. This exposes the real identity of Prophet Muhammad. He was never considered by Meccans as Honest or True. But later, this was added by later Muslims to hide his Heinous acts and show him as a Noble Man.