Muhammad could read, but no pundit
In this article, I introduce a video of an imam arguing that Muhammad was an illiterate man. He could not read and write. This article argues against such a claim.
In prior postings, I showed that the evidence from Hadith and Qur’an show that Muhammad did in fact read and write and was able to do that at will. The interested reader is advised to read such postings.
In the current article, I will introduce evidence from the Sirat (Ibn Hisham) showing that Muhammad was able to read and write.
Many Muslims believe that Muhammad’s illiteracy, if true, shows a divine origin of the Qur’an. The reason for that is the great linguistic eloquence of the Qur’an. Truth is far from that. The Qur’an, in addition to being one of the most boring books to read, is replete with grammatical errors, and scientific errors, and historical errors and mathematical errors. The interested reader is advised to read the works of Islamic researchers like Abul Kasem and Mu’min Salih and Ali Sina on such matters.
The plan for the current article is simple. I will introduce a video supporting the claim of Muhammad’s illiteracy. Next, I will introduce and analyze a quote from Ibn Hisham’s “The Prophet’s Biography” . I will end the article with a substantive conclusion.
Here is a link to a video claiming Muhammad’s illiteracy:
The Evidence from Ibn Hisham’s Prophet’s biography (translated by Mohammad Mahdi al-Sharif, Dar Al-Kotob Al-Ilmiyah, 2006 Lebanon):
The Messenger of Allah, (Allah’s blessing and peace be upon him), himself narrated this story as follows: (Gabriel came to me carrying a carpet of silk as I was sleeping within which there was a book and said to me: (Read.)
I said: (I never read.)
He compressed me with it so strongly that I thought it to be the death.
Then he let me and said again: (Read.)
I said also: (I never read.)
He compressed me with it once again so strongly that I thought it to be the death.
He let me and said: (Read.)
I said this time: (What can I read?)
He said: ( Read in the name of your lord who has created; created man from leech; read and your lord is the most bounteous; who taught people with the pen. Taught man what he did never learn before.)
I read it myself; and he went away. …. [ Sirat, page 41 ]
The above quote is revealing at many levels. Muhammad was going through a psychological episode of his illness. Those of us who were around someone who is hit with a “panic attack” or an “epilepsy seizure” can appreciate the intensity of Muhammad’s ordeal. But even within this quote, we can see strong evidence that Muhammad was able to read and write.
First of all, if Allah was an all-knowing entity, would He send an angel to someone with the command to read if that person was illiterate. Common sense tells us no, and Muhammad must have been able to read. However, the above quote shows that Muhammad was no pundit. He did not like to read, hence his expression (I never read.).
The last expression by Muhammad saying (I read it myself) gives a clear indication that Muhammad was a man who could read.
There are other problematic issues in the above quote that are not related to Muhammad’s literacy, but I’ll mention them anyway. Mu’min Salih, rightly questioned: How did Muhammad know it was Gabriel who came to him? Even if the “angel” told him he is Gabriel, what would make Muhammad believe that? What if that entity was lying, and in fact it was the Devil appearing to him? Such possibilities are very likely with Muhammad. We know, for instance, that Muhammad claimed that the devil put some Qur’anic verses in his mouth when he worshipped idols with some of the men of Quraish.
There is also the scientific error that Man was created from leech. On this matter, I am sure Muslim “miracle experts” will rush to the rescue and explain what leech means
The above quote from the “Sirat” has direct evidence that Muhammad was able to read, even though he was no pundit.
Those who believe that Muhammad was an illiterate man are simply wrong. Islamic sources tell us otherwise.