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Prophet pbuh is mentioned as Ummi in Quran: Dear Brother Burhan, Assalam o Alaikum In Ayahs 157 and 159 of Surah Al A’araaf Allah (SWT) has referred to as Prophet Muhammad (SAW) as Ummee. What does Ummee mean here? Does it mean anyone who is not a Jew i.e. a gentile or someone who is not educated in an institution? Or does it connote some other meaning? In this context I would also like to ask you how true is the statement of most people that our Beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAW) was not educated and could not read or write? I have heard some people say that it merely denotes that he was not formally educated i.e. not in any school or institution, but he could read and write both. Please clarify. Wasalaam Your sister in Islam,

Your Question: In Ayahs 157 and 159 of Surah Al A’araaf Allah (SWT) has referred to as Prophet Muhammad (SAW) as Ummee. What does Ummee mean here? Does it mean anyone who is not a Jew i.e. a gentile or someone who is not educated in an institution? Or does it connote some other meaning?

Allah Says in the Holy Quran Chapter 7 Surah Aaraf verses 157-158:

157    "Those who follow the Messenger, the ‘Ummi’ (unlettered) Prophet, whom they find mentioned in their own (Scriptures); in the Law and the Gospel; for he commands them what is just and forbids them what is evil: he allows them as lawful what is good (and pure) and prohibits them from what is bad (and impure); He releases them from their heavy burdens and from the yokes that are upon them.  So it is those who believe in him honor him help him and follow the light which is sent down with him it is they who will prosper."

158    Say: "O men! I am sent unto you all as the Messenger of Allah to Whom belongeth the dominion of the heavens and the earth: there is no god but He: it is He that giveth both life and death.  So believe in Allah and His Messenger, the ‘Ummi’ (unlettered) Prophet who believed in Allah and His Words: follow him that (so) ye may be guided."

 

The literal meaning of the Arabic term ‘Ummi’ when applied to an individual, means one who is illiterate and cannot read or write. 

 

Allah Says in the Holy Quran Chapter 62 Surah Jumuaa verse 2:

2        It is He Who has sent amongst the ‘Ummi’ (unlettered) a Messenger from among themselves, to rehearse to them His Signs, to sanctify them, and to instruct them in Scripture and Wisdom; although they had been before in manifest error


 

But when the Quran uses the term ‘Ummi’ for a people or a nation, it refers to the Arabs of that time, who were considered to be ignorant about Divine Scriptures in comparison to the People of the Book who had a longer tradition of learning the Divine Scriptures.  The Jews especially were extremely proud of their heritage of the Prophets who were sent to them, and their Diving Scriptures, and their learning, that they normally used this term ‘Ummi’ as a derogatory term to mean a ‘Gentile’: anyone who was not a Jew.

 

Your Question:In this context I would also like to ask you how true is the statement of most people that our Beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAW) was not educated and could not read or write? I have heard some people say that it merely denotes that he was not formally educated i.e. not in any school or institution, but he could read and write both. Please clarify.

In light of the Quran and the Sunnah, there is absolutely no doubt and it is absolutely true that our beloved and Noble Last and Final Messenger of Allah, the one who was sent as a Mercy and a Guide to all mankind until the end of time, the one whose knowledge, wisdom, and intelligence surpasses any man who ever walked on this planet earth, Mohamed ar-Rasool Allah (saws) was indeed ‘illeterate’: meaning, he (saws) could not read or write!

 

Today,  when one hears the term ‘illiterate’,  they try to understand the term with its currently used connotation;  because it is obvious that if one is illiterate,  he neither knows how to read or write,  and thus cannot derive any knowledge from the volumes of books which are the only available sources of millenniums of humanly acquired knowledge.

 

Some believers,  who sincerely love and respect the Messenger of Allah (saws) find it difficult to comprehend that how can this most remarkable teacher of teachers be ‘illiterate’?   How can this man, who was sent as a leader to all mankind, be illiterate?   How can this man, who is the ‘imam’ of all the Prophets, be illiterate?   How can this man, who cannot even read and write,  dictate a Book which is to be the source of Guidance for all mankind until the end of time???

They just cannot fathom and comprehend this fact; so they, in their genuine love and respect for the Prophet of Allah (saws), deny that he (saws) was illiterate!!!

 

Most scholars and teachers learn their knowledge through years and years of study from the collection of written material made available to them.  The fact that this illiterate man from the desert,  whom the people knew for 40 years ,  suddenly comes out one day with the blazing and eloquent poetry of a Book the like of the Quran is in itself a miracle,  and a proof that indeed he (saws) was directly guided by Allah, The Lord of the Worlds!   Thus instead of being ashamed or thinking that this belittles the elevated and supreme status and position of our noble Prophet (saws);  we should realize that this very fact that no man was/is/or will ever be able to produce wisdom and literature of the like of the Glorious Quran,  is in itself the biggest proof that he (saws) was indeed the chosen and appointed Prophet of Allah,  and the words of the Quran could not be the work of a man; but rather they are the very Words of the Lord of the Worlds!      

 

When the disbelievers saw that a man who spent 40 long years amongst them,  whom they knew could not read or write,  suddenly comes out one day and starts reciting the like of the Quran,  and declares himself to the chosen Prophet of Allah (saws),  they called him every imaginable name they could think of!   The called him a liar even though they knew that for 40 years he never spoke a lie;  a sooth-sayer even though they knew he never was,  a madman when he was the sanest man in the universe,  one who is possessed, a poet, etc.!   These disbelievers just could not fathom that a man who could put the best poets of Arabia to shame, was indeed what he (saws) claimed to be:  The Chosen Prophet of Allah.

 

Allah says in the Holy Quran Chapter 68 Surah Qalam verse 2:

Thou (O Mohamed) art not,  by the Grace of thy Lord,  mad or possessed!

 

Allah says in the Holy Quran Chapter 52 Surah Tur verses 29-30

29      Therefore proclaim thou the praises (of thy Lord):  For by the Grace of thy Lord thou (O Mohamed),  art no soothsayer,  nor art thou one possessed.

30      Or do they (the disbelievers) say "A poet? We await for him some calamity (hatched) by time!"

 

Allah says in the Holy Quran Chapter 69 Surah Haaqqah verses 41-43:

41      It is not the word of a poet:  little it is ye believe!

42      Nor is it the word of a soothsayer: little admonition it is ye receive.

43      (This Quran is) a Message sent down from the Lord of the Worlds.

 

Allah says in the Holy Quran Chapter 44 Surah Dukhaan verse 14:

14      Yet they turn away from him (Prophet Mohamed (saws),  and they say: "Tutored (by others), or a man possessed!"

 

But the people who were not proud, whose hearts were open to Guidance,  who knew and recognized him (saws) as the Truthful, who realized and recognized the Words of the Quran could not be the work of a mere human being;  believed in the claim of this noble and illiterate man from the deserts of Arabia: that he (saws) was indeed the Prophet of Allah Subhanah!

 

 Allah says in the Holy Quran Chapter 29 Surah Ankaboot verse 48:

(O Prophet),  you did not read any book before this,  nor did you write any with your hand.   If it were so,  the worshippers of falsehood could have been involved in doubt.

 

And the single biggest evidence that the Prophet (saws) was indeed unable to read and write,  are the very words of Allah Subhanah in His Glorious Quran in the above Aayah of Surah Ankaboot verse 48!   Allah Subhanah clearly declares that never did Prophet Mohamed (saws) ever read any book before this, nor did he (saws) ever write any!   And the wisdom for keeping the Prophet illiterate is given in the very next sentence of the same Aayah: “If it were so,  the worshippers of falsehood could have been involved in doubt!” 

 

Because if indeed the Prophet (saws), who lived 40 long years amongst his people,  could read and write…then the unbelievers could easily claim that he (saws) had read the previous Scriptures or had conjured up this Glorious Book himself!  But Allah Subhanah, in His Divine and Absolute Wisdom did even want this window of doubt to be left open to the disbelievers!  The disbelievers who heard the noble words of the Quran, knew that this could not be the work of a mere man…but in their pride and arrogance,  just did  not want to comprehend how can this simple, illiterate, orphan desert Arab could be chosen as a Prophet above all the other people of the land! 

 

But the Lord does whatever He Wills!   And to prove that Mohamed (saws) was indeed the Chosen Prophet of Allah,  and to prove that the Noble Quran was indeed the Words of the All-Mighty Lord,  Allah Subhanah challenged the disbelievers to all get together and produce the like of the Quran!  Nay:  produce ten Surahs like it!   Nay:  produce even only one Surah like it; if indeed they were in any doubt that such a Book as the Quran could be produced by a mere mortal!!! 

 

Allah says in the Holy Quran Chapter 17 Surah Isra verse 88:

Declare this! ‘Even if human beings and the jinns should co-operate with one another to bring forth a book like the Quran,  they would never be able to bring anything like it,  even though they all helped one another!”

 

Allah says in the Holy Quran Chapter 11 Surah Hud verses 13-14:

Do they say, “He has invented the Book himself?”  Say to them, “Very well,  if it is so,  then bring ten fabricates Surahs like this!  And you may call to your assistance whosoever you can except Allah,  if you are speak the truth!   Now if they (your false gods) do not come to your help,  you should know that this Book has been revealed with the knowledge of Allah,  and that there is no true deity other than Allah.  Do you then surrender to this?”

 

Allah says in the Holy Quran Chapter 2 Surah Baqarah verse 23-24:

And if you be in doubt whether the Book We have sent down to Our Servant (Mohamed(saws)) is from Us or not,  then produce, at least, one surah like this.   You may call all your associates to assist you and avail yourselves of the help of any,  other than Allah.   If you are genuine in your doubt,  do this!  But if you do not do this,  and you can never do this,  then fear the Fire which has been prepared for the disbelievers,  and which shall have men and stones for fuel.

 

Thus my beloved and dear sister in Islam, in light of the Quran and the Sunnah of the Messenger of Allah (saws), there is absolutely no doubt and it is absolutely true that our noble and beloved Prophet (saws) could neither read nor write; but Allah is our witness, no man who ever walked on this planet earth had more wisdom, or more knowledge, or more understanding, or more intelligence than this Noble and Truthful orphan from the desert of Arabia, the Last and Final Messenger of Allah, Mohamed ar-Rasool Allah (saws)!     


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