Could the Prophet Muhammad read and write?

Could the Prophet Muhammad read and write?

Frequently Asked QuestionsCould the Prophet Muhammad read and write?
Anis Staff asked 1 year ago

Could the Prophet Muhammad read and write?

Sometimes we are asked about the Prophet’s literacy as it inconceivable to some that the Prophet never read nor wrote during his life.

Please answer question this for us.

(Below image is addressed to Mundhir b. Sawi, leader of Bahrain, informing him about the Prophet Muhammad (pbuhahf)

1 Answers
Anis Staff answered 1 year ago

Could the Prophet Muhammad read and write?

The following answer is taken from page 188 of Aqaid-ul-Islam (Ideology of Islam)

Translation by Anis Kotia

The knowledge that must be available to the vicegerent of Allah in His earth is: to know those points of ideology and legislation in which lies the salvation of mankind in the hereafter. Hence, he must receive inspiration so that he has the final say, and to explain the correct ideology and that legislation that he will refresh. So the knowledge is not of what was but of what will be, so for the vicegerent of Allah to have knowledge of the writing of the previous vicegerent, for example, or to memorise it or to memorise the previous points of legislation is not the most important knowledge which must be available in the vicegerent of Allah in His earth, because these things are available to people and could be acquired by anyone. So he would have no superiority with these things, in fact, the superiority for him is to know what people do not know, and this will only be with inspiration during the moments of the night and the day. So everyone needs this to attain salvation, whilst he is not needy of anyone from the people of his era, exactly like the situation of Adam and the angels, so Adam’s knowledge was not known to the angels, whilst they needed it “their names”. In this way he had superiority over them and it was necessary for them to learn from him and to obey him.

And this clarifies that there is no problem with the Messenger (phuahf) being illiterate (ummi) not reading nor writing, and there is no problem with him not knowing the texts of the Torah and Injeel, or memorising them. Anyone who claims anything other than this is exaggerating and is forcing a point which has no proof: some are predicating bias on to this point, nothing else. Regarding what has been narrated that the Messenger was able to read and write, this also does not go beyond the limit of establishing the ability without the application i.e. it was never affirmed that the Messenger ever read or wrote, in fact the opposite is affirmed, which was him needing someone who could read and write for him, like the presence of the writers of the inspiration (Qur’an) and him needing Ali (pbuh) to write the truce(1) for him.

So what was established in reality for those who faced the Messenger Muhammad (pbuhahf) was that he could neither read nor write(2), because he never practised reading nor writing (And you did not read before this from any book nor did you write with your right hand, since the false people would then have doubted) (Ankaboot : 48). For this reason, they have narrated this matter: them not seeing him write or read in front of them, subsequently, even affirming he had the ability to write and read has no value in negating the permissibility of the Messenger – any messenger or vicegerent of Allah in His earth – being someone who does not actually read nor write, i.e. illiterate. And the Messenger Muhammad (pbuhahf) needed pages from the Torah of Moses which had been passed to him and neither he nor Ali (pbuh) were able to read them: because they were in another language other than Arabic and this also negates an important point claimed by some which is that the Hujjah(3) always knows all languages in every situation.

العبارة في ما هو أدناه من كتاب عقائد الإسلام ص 188

العلم الواجب توفره في خليفة الله في أرضه: هو معرفة ما فيه نجاة الناس في الآخرة من عقائد وتشريع، فلا بد أن يوحى إليه ليكون عنده فصل الخطاب، ويبين الاعتقاد الحق والشريعة الحقة وما يستجد من تشريع، فالعلم ليس ما كان بل ما يكون، فمعرفة خليفة الله مثلا بكتاب الخليفة السابق أو حفظه له أو حظفه للتشريع السابق ليس هو العلم الأهم والواجب توفره في خليفة الله في أرضه، لأن هذه أمور متوفرة بين أيدي الناس ويمكن أن يحصلها أي إنسان آخر، فلا يكون له فضل بها بل الفضل أن يعلم ما لا يعلم الناس، ولا يكون هذا إلا بالوحي في آناء الليل والنهار. فالكل يحتاجونه لينجوا بينما هو لا يحتاج أحدا من الناس في زمانه، تماما كحال آدم والملائكة فعلم آدم كانت تجهله الملائكة مع حاجتهم له (أسمائهم)، وبهاذا كان له الفضل عليهم ووجب عليهم التعلم منه وطاعته.

وهذا يبين أن لا إشكال أن يكون الرسول محمد (صلى الله عليه وآله) أميا لا يقرأ ولا يكتب، ولا إشكال في كونه لم يكن يعلم نصوص التوراة والإنحيل أو يحفظها، كل من يدعى بغير هذا فهو مغالي متكفل أمرا لا دليل عليه، إنما يحمل بعضهم على هذا القول الهوى لا غير. أما ما روي من أن الرسول قادر على القرائة والكتابة، فهذا أيضا لا يعدو كونه في طور إثبات القدرة وليس التطبيق أي أن الرسول لم يثبت أنه قرأ وكتب، بل ثبت العكس وهو احتياجه لمن يقرأ ويكتب له، كوجود كُتّاب الوحي وحاجته لعلي (عليه اللسلام) ليكتب له الصلح.

فما ثبت في الخارح لمن كانوا يواجهون الرسول محمداً (صلى الله عليه وآله) أنه لا يقرأ ولا يكتب، لأنه لم يكن يمارس القراءة والكتابة، (وما كنت تتلو من قبله من كتاب ولا تخطه بيمنيك إذا لارتاب المبطلون) العنكبوت: 48. ولهذا فهم نقلوا هذا الأمر كونهم لم يروه يكتب ويقرأ أمامهم، وبهذا فحتى إثبات أن لديه القدرة على الكتابة والقراءة لا قيمة له في نفي جواز أن يكون الرسول – أي رسول أو خليفة لله في أرضه – لا يقرأ ولا يكتب بالفعل أي أميا. والرسول محمد (صلى الله عليه وآله) احتاج لصحف من توراة موسى نقلت له ولم يتمكن هو وعلى (عليه السلام) من قراءتها: لأنها بلغة أخرى غير العربية، وهذا أيضا ينفي أمرا مهما يدعيه بعضهم، وهو أن الحجة يعرف كل اللغات دائما وفي كل حال.


(1) Appears to be a reference to the famous Truce of Hudaybiyyah

(2) Literal meaning is ‘neither read, nor wrote’, however, the Imam (as) has explained this wording elsewhere by Ummi, i.e. illiterate, i.e. not able to read nor write, so from the Imam’s (as) explanation they amount to the same thing.

(3) This term explained in the subject of Logic (منطق) as ‘proof’, which is that thing that leads us from a ‘perception of something known’, to a ‘perception of something unknown’. In this sense, the Hujjah is proof of Allah, since knowing the Hujjah leads us to know and understand Allah, hence, in narrations from the Holy Household he is referred to as the Hujjah (i.e. the Proof) meaning Allah’s proof on earth which these days refers to the Infallible Imams or Mahdis.

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