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 Topic: Muhammad's illiteracy, poetry unlearnability and isolation

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  • Muhammad's illiteracy, poetry unlearnability and isolation
     OP - June 08, 2016, 10:54 PM

    The Qur’an, hadith and Islamic hagiography, in making the case for Muhammad’s prophethood, place paramount importance on three personal traits and attributes about him.

    These three qualities are to explicitly give credence to the supernatural nature of Muhammad in himself as literally a miracle worker. Depending on which hagiographers, in what period, and which methodological approach we investigate the textual evidence through, we have documented at least ten incidents in which Muhammad is claimed to have suspended the laws of nature — Abu Nu`aym al-Isfahani’s famous Hilyat al-awliya' expounds on these miracles of Muhammad of which the Qur’an is only one.

    The three qualities of Muhammad also seek to give credence to the supernatural nature of the Qur’an, not because the Qur’an suspended the laws of nature, such might be the case in all his other miracles (like splitting the moon into two, and causing water to pour forth in the Battle of Tabouk for his soldiers to drink) but how the Qur’an came into being.

    Thus, if any one of these three became unsustainable or doubtful, then the whole Islamic structure, including the trilateral Qur’anic chain of custody, should collapse on itself. These three are:

    A - That Muhammad was illiterate all his natural life, and did not know how to read and or write in any way shape or form, which can render him literate and or in possession of the means through which Muhammad could have increased his knowledge and awareness by written means,

    B - That Muhammad did not know and was unable to learn, recite or memorise Arabic poetry, in anyway shape or form, and this learning disability remained the case for him throughout his natural life,

    C – That in his geographical isolation, Muhammad did not have any external contact with Christians or any other faith groups of that time and this remained the case throughout his adulthood. Thus, Muhammad didn’t learn from and his knowledge wasn’t humanly transmitted to him by such others.


    As for A, if memory serves, Hitchens in God Is Not Great comments on the illiteracy of Muhammad for Islam as being essential to his miraculous prophethood as the virgin birth or parthenogenesis of Jesus is for Christianity.

    The case for Muhammad’s absolute illiteracy has been made and consistently sustained to be so in all Islamic sources, primary or otherwise, and there isn’t one piece of textual evidence, as far as I know, which positively challenges or contradicts its veracity.

    Here, I’m tempted to perfunctorily say “enough said” and move on to B. But that would be to let the reader down as this will be overlooking Muhammad’s Seal which was used singularly on the written documents Muhammad is said to have encountered in his contractual business as well as military dealings. An example of its use would be at the left bottom of Muhammad’s letter to al-Muqawqis (Alexandria’s ruler) which, according to ibn Ishaq, was delivered personally by ibn Abi Balta’ah in the intervening period to Muhammad’s death from the Treaty of Hudaybiyyah.

    If so, then the grounds on which the Seal of Muhammad is relevant to his illiteracy (precluding any chance of Muhammad getting taught by others, for example, the same biblical accounts — albeit with degrees of and often contradictory variation — as loosely found in JudeoChristian texts; and, his illiteracy precluding at the same time, by necessity, Muhammad’s ability to plagiarise had he come into contact with said texts) are not because Muhammad had as a matter of fact used, as his unique personal signature, any pictographic representation; such a thing being, at least theoretically, a workable alternative which sound reason would advance in his case. All this trouble was absolutely necessary to have been gone into, of course, in order to maintain as well as protect Muhammad’s illiteracy from being doubted because such a notion would pose considerable danger to a host of other things built on its incontestable basis.

    It is safe to say that there is no evidence in the available Islamic primary texts that illiterate Muhammad signed any documents using logography or a pictogram which he subsequently went on to facsimiliously and faithfully reproduce.

    Rather, Muhammad is reported to have opted for a seal which contained three undotted Arabic words written horizontally so that they *literally* read in the descending order of

    Allah
    Messenger [of]
    Muhammad.

    The syntax and order of these three words should ordinarily not matter in Arabic and it is not uncommon to witness in its calligraphy and even in its earlier angular Kufic script.

    Because written Arabic is read from right to left, this unusually horizontal order engages the reader’s imagination to actively interpret the phrase as “Muhammad” being the first word, “Messenger” the second, and finally “Allah” – this imposed order of reading it from bottom to top is common sense if by that we want to mean that any other directional order of the phrase will result in making Allah the messenger.

    Therefore, it is not far-fetched to assert that Muhammad did encounter how his first name was written as well as how the other two words were written (Messenger and Allah) in Arabic.

    If so, then it is very difficult to argue that Muhammad did not have any conception of and did not see and know these three written words, or that he did not sufficiently know his own official seal’s content (which must have been made on his orders) so that a simple pointing and telling from a scribe or Wahhi writer would have been impossible or wouldn’t have done the trick of learning them individually by Muhammad.

    (Bear with me. If the inquisitorial case being made here looks terribly gradual, then that should be taken as the first steps of a mind trained in common law reasoning towards methodically building a case, or in this case, disproving a positive case by mounting and casting doubt on it, bit by bit, for the case’ absolute certitude to become untenable.)

    Further, if it were to be accepted that Muhammad’s illiteracy was absolute throughout his prophethood, thereby he did not know these three words in their written form, then that would pose some difficulty in explaining how did Muhammad personally manage to rub the three-word phrase off from the Treaty of Hudaybiyyah?

    The account of Ali ibn Abi Talib refusing to personally rub and erase the phrase attributing messenger-hood to Muhammad from the document, when the phrase had proven contentious because the other Meccan signatories didn’t accept Muhammad was a messenger, is in both Sahih Bukhari and Muslim.

    Muhammad rubbed off the phrase himself because he was being accommodating to his enemies and the textual accounts try to suggest that Muhammad needed the ten year truce as a political solution from where he could start approaching tribes that were other than Qureysh. This, then, is an instance in which Muhammad could be said to have edited a written document by himself even if his contribution is deletion.

    I have refrained from defining what the word <illiterate> means, but this could cause confusion because the adjective has come to be used away from its conclusive reference to reading and writing in modern times (e.g. computer illiteracy). In Muhammad’s case, the textual evidence refers to his complete inability to read or write as a matter of historical fact; this was a learning disability for Muhammad which could not have been mitigated or remedied throughout his natural life.

    It is true that Muhammad’s deletion of a short phrase does not make him an expert on Arabic writing and reading. However, it is also the case that Muhammad certainly knew about writing, based on the following authenticated hadith narrated by ibn Mas'ud in Sunan at-Tirmidhi:

    “Whoever reads a letter from the Book of Allah gets a Hassana. I say not AlifLaamMeem is a letter. Rather, Alif is a letter and Laam is a letter and Meem is a letter.”

    Clearly, this was a man who at least knew the segmental units of Arabic writing. Muhammad knew a letter was smaller than a word and was trying make this distinction clear in the quoted hadith.

    Further, if the argument being made for Muhammad’s illiteracy does not include Muhammad’s innumeracy at the same time, then it is already weaken. If Muhammad was innumerate in the sense of not being able to read or write numbers as well, then that challenges the reports about him being able to trade on his first wife’s behalf and to manage her financial affairs for at least a decade.

    The hagiographic accounts for Muhammad’s marriage to Khadijah bint Khuwaylid suggest that Muhammad was asked by Khadijah to join her in matrimony when he had returned from an unusually successful business trip to the Levant/Sham with Maysarah. Maysarah, a male slave, was employed by Khadijah alongside Muhammad to go on one of Khadijah’s caravans; the two are said to have travelled from Mecca to Syria (Bosra) and undertaken the same journey back, talking to each other a lot, which had allowed Maysarah to know Muhammad better.

    Some accounts say that up to this point, Muhammad’s work experience revolved around shepherding and he did not have any personal business or trading experience. Although the textual evidence does refer to Qurayshi tribesmen’s collective business acumen, there is nevertheless no evidence that Muhammad himself had been an entrepreneur or anything suggestive of his being versed in business matters. Rather, Muhammad was initially hired by Khadijah for his reputation as trustworthy, and this quality was clearly appreciated by the businesswoman Khadijah and would likely to be due to her historically disadvantaged gender in 7th century Arabia.

    However, Khadijah was impressed by the profit Muhammad’s trading trip on her behalf had brought her.

    The hagiographic accounts do not quantify Muhammad’s success in monetary terms; they only say Muhammad had made Khadijah more money from that first caravan trip than she ever had from similar arrangements, presumably, using Maysarah and or other men.

    Therefore, in his capacity as a merchant, Muhammad must’ve entered into numerous trade negotiations, transactions and contracts with other people between Hijaz and Sham regions. These commercial activities must at least have triggered and or engaged Muhammad’s use of as well as becoming familiar with weighing scales of one type or another.

    Additionally, if Muhammad’s trustworthiness were to be accepted wholeheartedly, then the possibility of trade deals being made by him with others through set time frames (i.e. via appointments), on a yearly or seasonal basis, cannot be excluded. That is to say, Muhammad must have been compelled to using a ledger and must have kept a written record, if not for his own benefit then for his employer’s and other parties with whom he had entered into commercial contracts. (In Reply#5, an argument has been made that Muhammad’s humanity meant he was not above forgetfulness in religious as well as non-religious matters.)

    It is reasonable, therefore, to think that such trading wasn’t retailed and wasn’t a simple, repeated sale in which products were specific and known, and exchange prices would be pre-set on smooth terms and conditions to the satisfaction of everyone involved all the time. No.

    Given the textual evidence supports the notion that Muhammad did not lead an entirely uneventful, secluded life from the age of 25 to 40 (that is, the duration for which Muhammad was married to Khadijah prior to his prophethood — Khadijah died ten years into his prophethood at the age of 65), Muhammad could not have humanly avoided recording things and keeping them in written form. It would otherwise seem that this has remained the case from the age of 25 onwards when Muhammad could be said to have undergone a career change, away from shepherding for his relatives to becoming a roving merchant.

    To be sure, that is not the same as saying Muhammad was able to write and or read documents himself. But the traditional reductive argument which makes Muhammad’s involvement with written documents as passive and limited as the case of “a donkey carrying books on its back” [62:5] is not incontestable in light of his non-social interactions with others above.

    ***

    The traditional Sunni accounts which claim that prior to prophethood, Muhammad was known as “the trustworthy” (الأمين) by the Meccans, also claim that everybody entrusted safekeeping their money to Muhammad; the only other thing which was used as a communal deposit box apart from Muhammad being the Kaaba, according to these accounts. If so, then there’s no textual evidence to suggest that this was a business enterprise in which Muhammad played a fiduciary role by guarding and looking after people’s valuables and monies for a fee.

    The significance of this lies in that although Muhammad probably did not profit from intentionally becoming known as trustworthy and or from naturally having the personal quality of trustworthiness in relation to his wider socio-economic milieu, it is nevertheless the case that such an attribute then became the explicit reason why Khadijah should hire him in the first place.

    However, it is not inconceivable that Muhammad continued to be known as the trustworthy by the Meccans even after he declared himself the Final Messenger of Allah. Ayisha’s hadith — in Al-Bayhaqi’s Al-Sunan Al-Kubra, and in Ibn Kathir’s Al-Bidāya wa-n-nihāya and in ibn Jarir al-Tabari’s History of the Prophets and Kings — explains that the reason why Muhammad had had to stay longer before his Hijrah to Medina, three extra days to be precise, was because he still had people’s deposits and valuables to return back to them in person.

    There was nobody in Mecca” says Aayish “who had anything valuable whose loss or theft he or she feared without them leaving their property with the Prophet PBU.

    Therefore, if this account is accepted, in terms of the possibly large quantity of the Meccan deposits Muhammad was tasked with looking after, relative to Mecca’s population at the time, then it is reasonable to assert that people’s valuables and deposits must have consisted of currency and monetary items.

    Thus, Muhammad could not have humanly kept track with the inventory (i.e. how much belonged to whom, why and where was it located in his humble Meccan house) without the necessary aid of writing everything down. What could be inferred from all this is that Muhammad must have had numerous occasions, in multiple personal capacities (such as a roving merchant and a human savings account and when writing to other tribes post Hudaybiyyah's hostility cessation), in which he resorted himself and or was compelled to by circumstances as well as other parties to avail himself of written documentation as a communication means when distance was concerned, or as written receipts where Meccan deposits were concerned in particular.

    Finally, when it comes to (ووجدك عائلاً فأغنى) [93:8], it is some Mufisroon’s contention that that was in reference to Muhammad growing rich on Khadijah’s wealth, and not the other way around. This would mean that Muhammad had played the role of a trusted accountant as far as Khadijah’s business management was concerned. If so, then Muhammad’s illiteracy problem still persists, no matter how small the volume of trade was and the length of journeying he had had to undertake, in months or kilometres, as an accountant for his then new employer.
  • Muhammad's illiteracy, poetry unlearnability and isolation
     Reply #1 - June 08, 2016, 11:10 PM

    Note: I have deliberately left out sourcing what I thought to be fairly 'common knowledge' of Muhammad's biography because I believe such mentioned events and stories are well-documented in the Sunni textual evidence. Also, the text has already run into 2500 words even though it only explored the first of three aspects of Muhammad.

    Apropo of the Seal of Muhammad, it is no accident that the very flag of ISIS contains the exact replica of Muhammad’s Seal, with the horizontal order where it is read from bottom up above, because the Islamic concept of caliphate does not work without making a reference to Muhammad. A caliph is somebody who deputises Muhammad in ruling for the simple fact of Muhammad being biologically dead. After Muhammad’s death, whoever was supposed to rule the Ummah was to do so in his stead, hence, the meaning of caliph and the literal official name of anyone at the top of a caliphate is “the one who fills the shoes of Muhammad”. A living example of such a scenario is that we have Abu-Bakr Al-Baghdadi. Muhammad's Seal is claimed to have survived until Calip Uthman lost it in a well, but a replica was said to have been made for it -- also the same or another was preserved up to the Ottoman Caliphate. Such accounts tend to conflict each other not unexpectedly. 
  • Muhammad's illiteracy, poetry unlearnability and isolation
     Reply #2 - June 09, 2016, 01:54 AM

    Good work, thanks for posting it up. Looking forward to more!

    Don't let Hitler have the street.
  • Muhammad's illiteracy, poetry unlearnability and isolation
     Reply #3 - June 14, 2016, 10:25 PM

    Thanks, three. It’s like you to encourage. Been very busy these days which is why this thought experiment remains unfinished.

    Although this is the first time for me to exam Muhammad’s illiteracy, I suspect there’s more in the accepted, authenticated textual evidence that should render the notion fairly falsifiable.

    When I textually rely on the same primary sources which Sunni Islam uses, I am keeping the onerous of proof firmly on the claimant. Not me.

    For such an approach to function as intended, I have to take the Qur’ān and Authenticated Hadith as sources of knowledge and certainty because when I start from a position of outright rejection of their being the frame of reference on Islam then that would force me into making claims thereby shifting the onerous of proof onto me.

    An example of this reversal of roles would be a debate on the veracity of Islam between a mainstream Muslim and a non-Muslim where the Muslim refers to the Qur’ān as the miraculous word of Allah and the non-Muslim asserting that certain parts of it were copied from predating religious traditions and localisable myths. The Muslim does not dispute these said similarities to begin with, but rather accounts for them as emanating from the singularity of their supposed author in Abrahamic religions; the non-Muslim is using for her disputatious purpose with the Muslim a point which for him is of confluence.   

    It is not an exaggeration to say that such a debate all too often literally becomes a shouting match of claims and counterclaims.

    Further, much of the so-called “Qur’ānic studies today” seems pertinent to this current post in that it is interested in retracing the origins of the Qur’ān, as we have it today, to older and contemporaneous biblical texts as well as other stories and regional myths by adducing textual evidence which is not contained within the primary sources of Islam. Such an approach flies above textual Islam probably in pursuit of overarching or grand theories whose wisdom and promotion, in post-modernist thinking, have been questioned.   

    If the few articles I have recently read are anything to go by, then they treat such a continuum as an admission of direct plagiarism on the Qur’ān’s and Muhammad’s part. This is contrary to the two primary sources of Islam — the Qur’ān and Authenticated Hadith — because the two sources account for biblical similarities contained within both of them as the latest, updated, definitive versions of what had previously undergone considerable 'corruption' of the otherwise same monotheistic faith [61:6].

    Thus, from a distinctively Islamic point of origins (i.e. what Islam is and where it came from) in relation to Judaeo-Christian traditions, it would seem more fruitful for today’s Qur’ānic studies, if they are even remotely interested in engaging today’s Muslims, to investigate the extent of said corruption exploring where Islamic texts and intertextuality diverge as well as converge.

    This would be in lieu of striving, as it seems now from my cursory inspection, to fill in the evolutionary gap between Islam and Judaeo-Christianity in particular by means of asserting on seemingly thin grounds for things like their chronological order as well as what it’d seem to them to be a garbled version of earlier events and commands around which any narrative coalescence with Islam couldn’t have been possible.

    Isra’iliyyat is a case in point where a profit could be made within the confines of the available primary sources without straining one too much thereby getting too far away from them by dint of adding external textual evidence. More on this should hopefully follow soon, inshallah.
  • Muhammad's illiteracy, poetry unlearnability and isolation
     Reply #4 - June 15, 2016, 11:02 AM

    Great research.

    I've come to accept that Muhammad was certainly not illiterate quite a while back, and in fact, I believe there is a book in Arabic devoted purely to that topic.

    Here are Muhammad's qualities:
    • Extremely high IQ
    • Charismatic
    • Good looking
    • Magnificent storyteller & poet

    Muhammad utilised those skills to trick 1 billion people today and possibly a few more billion in the future. It is extremely unlikely that he couldn't read or write.
  • Muhammad's illiteracy, poetry unlearnability and isolation
     Reply #5 - June 15, 2016, 06:03 PM

    Thanks twolives. It would have been more interesting if you could share the mental processes and textual evidence through which you've reached such a conclusion, as you say, quite a while ago.

    Be that as it may, the only influential and famous book in Arabic I know to have tried to humanise and scrutinise Muhammad is by the poet and journalist Maarouf Al Rasafi (1875-1945) (معروف الرصافي).

    In his book The Character of Muhammad or Solving The Sacred Conundrum (الشخصية المحمدية أو حل اللغز المُقدَس) which was first published in 2002 even though it was written in 1945, Maarouf claimed that Muhammad was not miraculous and did not come up with anything paranormal or above his time in developmental human history.

    If you have a Google account, and are able to read and understand Arabic, then Maarouf’s book is freely available here:

    https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B_5dLWKZrFKnT2JXYVc1SzRJMjg/view?pref=2&pli=1

    I’m not sure if any other Arabic book exists which strips Muhammad of prophethood and his numerous miracles. This has been a reason why I personally have toyed with the idea of translating Maarouf’s book into English.
  • Muhammad's illiteracy, poetry unlearnability and isolation
     Reply #6 - June 16, 2016, 12:29 AM

    Quote
    I’m not sure if any other Arabic book exists which strips Muhammad of prophethood and his numerous miracles. This has been a reason why I personally have toyed with the idea of translating Maarouf’s book into English.


    Please do it!
  • Muhammad's illiteracy, poetry unlearnability and isolation
     Reply #7 - June 16, 2016, 01:04 AM

    I would be interested in an analysis of his life, I have read many, but not much in the way of a cold hard critical look like that.

    Don't let Hitler have the street.
  • Muhammad's illiteracy, poetry unlearnability and isolation
     Reply #8 - June 16, 2016, 03:04 PM

    ....

    Here are Muhammad's qualities:
    • Extremely high IQ
    • Charismatic
    • Good looking
    • Magnificent storyteller & poet

    Muhammad utilised those skills to trick 1 billion people today and possibly a few more billion in the future. It is extremely unlikely that he couldn't read or write.


    You forgot: "Maybe even a real person".
  • Muhammad's illiteracy, poetry unlearnability and isolation
     Reply #9 - June 16, 2016, 03:11 PM

    I wrote a piece detailing his literacy a while back. I'll try and find it and post it here.
  • Muhammad's illiteracy, poetry unlearnability and isolation
     Reply #10 - June 16, 2016, 10:36 PM

    Please do it!

     I think I probably should translate it into English, particularly because the book has been banned and confiscated from Arab bookshops throughout its world; it was only possible to be published in Berlin all these years after its author’s death.

    Translating a book dispassionately scrutinising Muhammad seems to be the next logical step on the forum after My Ordeal with the Qurān. This would be more straightforward than my initial grand ambition of writing my own book on Islam from scratch in four years’ time.
  • Muhammad's illiteracy, poetry unlearnability and isolation
     Reply #11 - June 16, 2016, 10:49 PM

    One of the arguments Maarouf Al Rasafi uses to dispute Muhammad’s illiteracy is the meaning of the word <illiterate> as used in the Qur’ān.

    The word is used in [62:2] in the plural in reference to the Arabs (هو الذي بعث في الأميين رسولاً منهم).

    This statement of collective illiteracy cannot be factual if we say that it means the Arabs, in whose midst Muhammad was sent, were unable to read and write. Then what does <illiterate> mean in this verse?

    According to ibn Abbas et al. (in Tafsir al-Qurtubi and others) the word means those who were not “the people of the Scripture/Book” i.e. the Jews and Christians.

    Such an interpretation is extremely plausible and supportable because of another Qur’ ānic use of the word in which it is juxtaposed with the people of the Scripture/Book [2:314];

    وقل للذين أوتوا الكتاب والأميين أأسلمتم فإن أسلموا فقد اهتدوا

    Thus, the illiterate people inescapably become the people amongst whom Allah did not send a messenger with a book prior to Muhammad which is the case with the Jews and Christians.

    Therefore, illiteracy in Muhammad’s case, as it is in the Qur’ān, cannot be said to conclusively mean his inability to read and write. It could simply mean Muhammad belonged to a hitherto Scripture-less people.

    It is necessary for such a discussion to evaluate opposing views if it is to seek thoroughness. That is, acknowledging that there is at least one Qur’ānic verse which challenges such an interpretation by buttressing the case for Muhammad’s illiteracy with more detail about his inability to read or write, and not the generality of his belonging to Scripture-less people as said above:

    وما كنتَ تتلو من قبله من كتاب ولا تخُطه بيمينك إذا لارتاب المبطلون

    In this verse [29:48], Muhammad’s ability to read from any book or his ability to write it has been thoroughly negated.

    But the argument being made here is that the Qur’ānic word <illiterate> does not systematically and consistently denote Muhammad’s or the Arabs’ inability to read and write. Such variation in the meaning of the word undermines the absolute certainty of Muhammad’s illiteracy as it is maintained and insisted on by all sorts of Islamic scholarships throughout Islam’s history and in its two primary sources.

    Indeed, we are not quite finished with the nature of Muhammad’s contribution to the document of the Treaty of Hudaybiyyah and, by extension, its Hadith in Sahih Bukhari with its interestingly different versions. It seems wise to insert a direct quotation from Al-Qurtubi’s tafsir on [29:48] with its English translations and let the reader think for his or herself.
  • Muhammad's illiteracy, poetry unlearnability and isolation
     Reply #12 - June 16, 2016, 11:02 PM

    Before that, an unavoidable pit stop:

    I was going to end this previous post on Muhammad’s illiteracy issue by mentioning something related to Islamic lunar months, seeing Ramadan is here; al-Bukhari narrated in his Sahih, in the Chapter of Fasting, that Ibn Umar said the Prophet said “we are an unlettered Ummah; we do not write or calculate. The month is such-and-such or such-and-such.”

    Ibn Umar inserted the following explanatory phrase into the hadith “[he means sometimes twenty-nine days, others thirty days].” This hadith can also be found in Sahih Muslim.

    Ibn Umar’s insertion was included, according to some scholars and commentators, because Muhammad had mimed how the two different monthly periods were ‘calculated’: Muhammad held up and spread both hands in the modern gesture of surrender, and then made two fists to indicate the number ten, then ten again; Muhammad then folded the small finger of one hand to indicate the number nine, totalling it all to 29 days. He repeated the same visual demonstration but did not fold any finger this time, totalling it all to 30 days.

    Translating the Arabic adjective <Ummiyah> to English as “unlettered” by Muslim commentators seems to be more often than not — at least when you Google the hadith or look it up online.

    This could be improper in approach: an unlettered person is not the same in English as illiterate because the latter is normally a statement of fact and tends to have neutral connotation. Illiterate in the hadith simply means someone can’t read or write.

    Here, illiteracy has been assigned to the totality of the Ummah. This could not have been factual even in 7th century Arabia for the simple reason that Muhammad was able to have, amongst him own companions, a few scribes and writers. Therefore, such a generalisation remains problematic and illogical.
  • Muhammad's illiteracy, poetry unlearnability and isolation
     Reply #13 - June 16, 2016, 11:22 PM

    Quote
    قوله تعالى : وما كنت تتلو من قبله من كتاب ولا تخطه بيمينك إذا لارتاب المبطلون .

    فيه ثلاث مسائل :

    الأولى : قوله تعالى : وما كنت تتلو من قبله من كتاب الضمير في ( قبله ) عائد إلى الكتاب وهو القرآن المنزل على محمد صلى الله عليه وسلم ; أي وما كنت يا محمد تقرأ قبله ولا تختلف إلى أهل الكتاب ; بل أنزلناه إليك في غاية الإعجاز والتضمين للغيوب وغير ذلك فلو كنت ممن يقرأ كتابا ويخط حروفا لارتاب المبطلون أي من أهل الكتاب وكان لهم في ارتيابهم متعلق ، وقالوا : الذي نجده في كتبنا أنه أمي لا يكتب ولا يقرأ ، وليس به . قال مجاهد : كان أهل الكتاب يجدون في كتبهم أن محمدا صلى الله عليه وسلم لا يخط ولا يقرأ ; فنزلت هذه الآية ; قال النحاس : دليلا على نبوته لقريش ; لأنه لا يقرأ
    ولا يكتب ولا يخالط أهل الكتاب ، ولم يكن بمكة أهل الكتاب فجاءهم بأخبار الأنبياء والأمم وزالت الريبة والشك .

    الثانية : ذكر النقاش في تفسير هذه الآية عن الشعبي أنه قال : ما مات النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم حتى كتب . وأسند أيضا
    حديث أبي كبشة السلولي ; مضمنه : أنه صلى الله عليه وسلم قرأ صحيفة لعيينة بن حصن وأخبر بمعناها . قال ابن عطية : وهذا كله ضعيف ، وقول الباجي رحمه الله منه .

    قلتُ : وقع في صحيح مسلم من حديث البراء في صلح الحديبية أن النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم قال لعلي : اكتب الشرط بيننا : بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم هذا ما قاضى عليه محمد رسول الله . فقال له المشركون : لو نعلم أنك رسول الله تابعناك - وفي رواية : بايعناك - ولكن اكتب محمد بن عبد الله فأمر عليا أن يمحاها ، فقال علي : والله لا أمحاها . فقال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم : أرني مكانها فأراه فمحاها ، وكتب : ابن عبد الله [ . . . . الحديث ] قال علماؤنا رضي الله عنهم : وظاهر هذا أنه عليه السلام محا تلك الكلمة التي هي رسول الله - صلى الله عليه وسلم - بيده وكتب مكانها : ابن عبد الله . وقد رواه البخاري بأظهر من هذا فقال : فأخذ رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم الكتاب فكتب . وزاد في طريق أخرى : ولا يحسن أن يكتب ، فقال جماعة بجواز هذا الظاهر عليه وأنه كتب بيده ، منهم السمناني وأبو ذر والباجي ، ورأوا أن ذلك غير قادح في كونه أميا ، ولا معارض بقوله : وما كنت تتلو من قبله من كتاب ولا تخطه بيمينك ولا بقوله : إنا أمة أمية لا نكتب ولا نحسب بل رأوه زيادة في معجزاته واستظهارا على صدقه وصحة رسالته ; وذلك أنه كتب من غير تعلم لكتابة ولا تعاط لأسبابها ، وإنما أجرى الله تعالى على يده وقلمه حركات كانت عنها خطوط مفهومها : ابن عبد الله لمن قرأها ، فكان ذلك خارقا للعادة ; كما أنه عليه السلام علم علم الأولين والآخرين من غير تعلم ولا اكتساب فكان ذلك أبلغ في معجزاته وأعظم في فضائله ولا يزول عنه اسم الأمي بذلك ; ولذلك قال الراوي عنه في هذه الحالة : ولا يحسن أن يكتب فبقي عليه اسم الأمي مع كونه قال : كتب . قال شيخنا أبو العباس أحمد بن عمر : وقد أنكر هذا كثير من متفقهة الأندلس وغيرهم وشددوا النكير فيه ، ونسبوا قائله إلى الكفر وذلك دليل على عدم العلوم النظرية وعدم التوقف في تكفير المسلمين ولم يتفطنوا لأن تكفير المسلم كقتله على ما جاء عنه عليه السلام في الصحيح ، لا سيما رمي من شهد له أهل العصر بالعلم والفضل والإمامة ; على أن المسألة ليست قطعية بل مستندها ظواهر أخبار آحاد صحيحة غير أن العقل لا يحيلها وليس في الشريعة قاطع يحيل وقوعها .

    قلتُ : وقال بعض المتأخرين : من قال : هي آية خارقة فيقال له : كانت تكون آية لا تنكر لولا أنها مناقضة لآية أخرى وهي كونه أميا لا يكتب ; وبكونه أميا في أمة أمية قامت الحجة وأفحم الجاحدون وانحسمت الشبهة فكيف يطلق الله تعالى يده فيكتب وتكون آية وإنما الآية ألا يكتب والمعجزات يستحيل أن يدفع بعضها بعضا وإنما معنى ( كتب وأخذ القلم ) أي أمر من يكتب به من كتابه وكان من كتبة الوحي بين يديه صلى الله عليه وسلم ستة وعشرون كاتبا .

    الثالثة : ذكر القاضي عياض عن معاوية أنه كان يكتب بين يدي النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم فقال له : ألق الدواة وحرف القلم وأقم الباء وفرق السين ولا تعور الميم وحسن ( الله ) ومد ( الرحمن ) وجود ( الرحيم ) قال القاضي : وهذا وإن لم تصح الرواية أنه صلى الله عليه وسلم كتب فلا يبعد أن يرزق علم هذا ويمنع القراءة والكتابة .

    قلتُ : هذا هو الصحيح في الباب أنه ما كتب ولا حرفا واحدا وإنما أمر من يكتب وكذلك ما قرأ ولا تهجى . فإن قيل : فقد تهجى النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم حين ذكر الدجال فقال : مكتوب بين عينيه ك ا ف ر وقلتم : إن المعجزة قائمة في كونه أميا ; قال الله تعالى : وما كنت تتلو من قبله من كتاب الآية وقال : إنا أمة أمية لا نكتب ولا نحسب فكيف هذا ؟ فالجواب ما نص عليه صلى الله عليه وسلم في حديث حذيفة والحديث كالقرآن يفسر بعضه بعضا ، ففي حديث حذيفة يقرؤه كل مؤمن كاتب وغير كاتب فقد نص في ذلك على غير الكاتب ممن يكون أميا وهذا من أوضح ما يكون جليا .


    Source

    “And you did not recite before it any scripture, nor did you inscribe one with your right hand. Otherwise the falsifiers would have had [cause for] doubt.”
    Sahih International  [29:48]

    “Neither did you (O Muhammad  ) read any book before it (this Qur'an), nor did you write any book (whatsoever) with your right hand. In that case, indeed, the followers of falsehood might have doubted.” Muhsin Khan  [29:48]

    This verse has three discussion matters:

    First: the pronoun “it” means the Qur’ān, the revelation on Muhammad PBUH; and the meaning of the verse is that Allah is telling Muhammad you did not read before it and did not intermingle or sit with the People of the Book; instead, we have revealed it to you in its extreme miraculous nature and what it contains of the unknown and much else. If you were one of those who can read books and write [alphabetical] letters then the falsifiers of the People of the Book would have had good reason to doubt you; and they would’ve said that the foretold Prophet we find in our Book/Scripture is illiterate and doesn’t write or read, but such is not the case with you.

    Mujahid said: the People of the Book were able to find Muhammad in them [the Torah and the Bible] as someone who does not write or read; and, this is the reason why this verse was revealed, al-Nahhas said, as a testimony to his true prophethood in the eye of Quraysh because he does not read, write or intermingle with the People of the Book, and there was no presence of the People of the Book in Mecca and yet, Muhammad was able to tell them the stories of the previous prophets and nations so that suspicion and doubt [about his prophethood] were removed.

    Second: al-Nakkash commented on this verse about al-sha’bi that he said “The prophet did not die until he wrote himself”. He [al-Nakkash] supported it with Hadith Abi Kabsha al-Salouli whose gist is that Muhammad PBUH read a paper to Uyyana bin Hissin and told him what it meant. Ibn Atiyyah said all this is unsupported/unauthenticated. And what [Abu al-Walid] al-Baji, may Allah have mercy upon him, said is of it [i.e. unauthenticated].

    I say that in Sahih Muslim, from al-Bar’a’s hadith, about the Treaty of Hudaybiyyah that the Prophet PBUH dictated to Ali [ibn Abi Talib] “write the terms between us [and Quraysh] in the name of Allah most gracious, most merciful, that this is what Muhammad, the messenger of Allah, has agreed upon.” The idolaters said “if we knew you were Allah’s messenger we would have followed you (in another version, we would have pledged allegiance to you) but write Muhammad ibn Abdullah. The Prophet ordered Ali to erase it. Ali swore he would not do such a thing. Then the Prophet asked Ali to show him where it [the phrase] is. The Prophet erased it and wrote ibn Abdullah.

    Our scholars, may Allah be pleased with them, said that the surface of this hadith shows that the Prophet PBUH erased the phrase ‘messenger of Allah’ by his hand and wrote in its place ibn Abdullah.

    Al Bukhari narrated the same Hadith another, clearer way “then the Prophet PBUH took the document and wrote”. Al Bukhari added in another different version “[wrote] although he didn’t excel at writing”.

    Some scholars such as al-simnani, Abu Thar and al-Baji were of the opinion that this hadith should be taken literally, that the Prophet wrote with his hand, maintaining at the same time that this does not undermine his illiteracy, and does neither contradict the verse [29:48] nor his saying “we are an unlettered Ummah”. Instead, they thought his ability to write his name was miraculous of Muhammad in itself because he was able to without learning to write and without any prior writing orientation; Allah SWT has ordained that his hand and pen made movements which were lines that read “ibn Abdullah” to anyone reading them. This is a miracle in the same way that PBUH knew the knowledge of the previous and later nations without having to learn or acquire their news and this adds even more profundity to his miracles and greatness to in his greatness and this instance does not remove illiteracy from him. This is the reason why the narrator said “wrote and he did not excel at it” and thus <illiterate> remains true to him even though the narrator said he wrote.

    Our scholar Abu al-Abbas Ahmed bin Umar said that this has been denounced and rejected by a lot of Andulous scholars and others; they severely denounced it and attributed apostasy to whomever said it. This shows their lack of understanding of ‘the theoretical sciences’ and their not trying to avoid Takfir of the Muslims. They did not wise up to the fact that saying a Muslim has apostatised is equal [in gravity and grievousness as a sin] to killing him, such is authenticated a hadith of the Prophet PBUH. This is more so when these who are said to have apostatised are the ones whom the people of knowledge and guidance have testified [their righteousness].

    The matter [of Muhammad’s illiteracy] is not of inescapable certainty. Rather, it is supported by the apparent wording of an authenticated hadith, and logic does not make it [Muhammad writing his name] impossible and there is nothing in Sharia that makes it impossible either.

    I say: some of the late scholars said that this was a miracle ayah. The answer to these scholars is that it would have been a miracle ayah if it did not contradict another verse [29:48]. Muhammad being illiterate in an illiterate Ummah meant his true prophethood was made clearest and to the complete refutation of its deniers. So how could Allah then ordain for Muhammad’s hand to write and at the same time this should be a miracle ayah? The miracle in this case is Muhammad PBUH remaining illiterate; his miracles do not contradict each other. Thus, the meaning of “he wrote and took the pen” that he ordered one of his scribes and Wahhi writers who were twenty six in number.

    Third: Iyyadh, the Judge, mentioned of Muawiyah that he wrote for the Prophet PBUH and that the Prophet told him “drop the inkwell and lean the pen and raise the Baa’ [ B ], separate the Seen [ S ], do not colour in the Meem [ m ], prettify Allah, elongate al-Rahman and maintain excellence with al-Raheem. The Judge said that even though the version of hadith that Prophet PBUH wrote might not be authenticated, it is not far-fetched that he was blessed with such knowledge [of writing] without being able to read and write.

    I say: this is the correct understanding that Muhammad PBUH did not write, not even one letter, but instead he ordered his writers to do so; and he did not read or try to spell out letters. And if it is said that the Prophet BPUH tried to spell out letters when he mentioned ad-Dajjal where he said “written between his eyes Kaf, Alif, Faa’, Raa’ [Kafir], and if it is then said that the miracle is that he was illiterate yet was still able spell then Allah has said [29:48] and Muhammad “we are an unlettered Ummah; we do not read or calculate”; how do we sort this out?

    The answer is what the Prophet PBUH stated in hadith Hudhaifa and the hadith is the same as Qur’ān in that some of it explains the other; in hadith Hudhaifa, [the Qur’ān] reads it every believer who is able to write and who is not. Thus it clearly stated in it that the non-writing believer who is illiterate is also included and this is as clearest as it gets.
  • Muhammad's illiteracy, poetry unlearnability and isolation
     Reply #14 - June 16, 2016, 11:43 PM

    One of the arguments Maarouf Al Rasafi uses to dispute Muhammad’s illiteracy is the meaning of the word <illiterate> as used in the Qur’ān.

    The word is used in [62:2] in the plural in reference to the Arabs (هو الذي بعث في الأميين رسولاً منهم).

    This statement of collective illiteracy cannot be factual if we say that it means the Arabs, in whose midst Muhammad was sent, were unable to read and write. Then what does <illiterate> mean in this verse?

    According to ibn Abbas et al. (in Tafsir al-Qurtubi and others) the word means those who were not “the people of the Scripture/Book” i.e. the Jews and Christians.

    Such an interpretation is extremely plausible and supportable because of another Qur’ ānic use of the word in which it is juxtaposed with the people of the Scripture/Book [2:314];

    وقل للذين أوتوا الكتاب والأميين أأسلمتم فإن أسلموا فقد اهتدوا

    Thus, the illiterate people inescapably become the people amongst whom Allah did not send a messenger with a book prior to Muhammad which is the case with the Jews and Christians.

    Therefore, illiteracy in Muhammad’s case, as it is in the Qur’ān, cannot be said to conclusively mean his inability to read and write. It could simply mean Muhammad belonged to a hitherto Scripture-less people.

    It is necessary for such a discussion to evaluate opposing views if it is to seek thoroughness. That is, acknowledging that there is at least one Qur’ānic verse which challenges such an interpretation by buttressing the case for Muhammad’s illiteracy with more detail about his inability to read or write, and not the generality of his belonging to Scripture-less people as said above:

    وما كنتَ تتلو من قبله من كتاب ولا تخُطه بيمينك إذا لارتاب المبطلون

    In this verse [29:48], Muhammad’s ability to read from any book or his ability to write it has been thoroughly negated.

    But the argument being made here is that the Qur’ānic word <illiterate> does not systematically and consistently denote Muhammad’s or the Arabs’ inability to read and write. Such variation in the meaning of the word undermines the absolute certainty of Muhammad’s illiteracy as it is maintained and insisted on by all sorts of Islamic scholarships throughout Islam’s history and in its two primary sources.

    Indeed, we are not quite finished with the nature of Muhammad’s contribution to the document of the Treaty of Hudaybiyyah and, by extension, its Hadith in Sahih Bukhari with its interestingly different versions. It seems wise to insert a direct quotation from Al-Qurtubi’s tafsir on [29:48] with its English translations and let the reader think for his or herself.

    Walid Saleh makes a similar point in passing on page 57 of this article (from the Qur'anic Studies thread), suggesting a meaning of 'unversed in scripture' rather than 'illiterate': http://www.safarmer.com/Indo-Eurasian/Walid_Saleh.pdf
  • Muhammad's illiteracy, poetry unlearnability and isolation
     Reply #15 - June 20, 2016, 12:28 AM

    I wrote a piece detailing his literacy a while back. I'll try and find it and post it here.

     I look forward to you sharing it with us here X
  • Muhammad's illiteracy, poetry unlearnability and isolation
     Reply #16 - June 20, 2016, 01:23 AM

    I look forward to you sharing it with us here X

    well Wahhabist.,  I am going to share my secret here on that subject of first  Prophet preacher of of Islam that may have been there somewhere in Eastern Arabia around present Iraq..Jordan-Isreal-Egypt.,  Early Scoundrels of Islam along with rulers .. made that first preacher of Islam as Illiterate, Irrational, sex obsessed dirty old man and then they made him prophet changed whole story of Islam  ..

    There was NO prophet of Islam., To start with there was a good man.. good preacher of Islam.. He was killed.. his character  was killed and they erected some SODOM(Sex Obsessed Dirty Old Man) guy as prophet wrote some silly stories on loot booty to rule Arabia and its surroundings..  And at the end they copy /pasted OT /NT and Arab pagan stories made a book erected another deity  allah.

    ..... That is the original story of Islam  and it is my story., Through out Quran .. The name "Muhammad was hardly mentioned ., And any good person good leader could be called as "Muhammad" irrespective of his original name..

    So in short there was NO   Muhammad Prophet in Islam.,  there was good man good preacher in Islam ..

    What is this Ummi Dummy nonsense..  I don't think one verse of Quran could explain whole history of early Islam ., Ummi could be used to any one.. I am Ummi Dummy  of Quantum Mechanics and Theoretical Physics ., A nobel laureate in economics could be ummi dummi in Physics and nobel laureate of Medicine could be ummi dummi  in some other subject..

    This  whole mode of thinking in Islam on that subject is nonsense..

    Do not let silence become your legacy.. Question everything   
    I renounced my faith to become a kafir, 
    the beloved betrayed me and turned in to  a Muslim
     
  • Muhammad's illiteracy, poetry unlearnability and isolation
     Reply #17 - June 20, 2016, 11:11 AM

    Walid Saleh makes a similar point in passing on page 57 of this article (from the Qur'anic Studies thread), suggesting a meaning of 'unversed in scripture' rather than 'illiterate': http://www.safarmer.com/Indo-Eurasian/Walid_Saleh.pdf

     Thanks for sharing this.

    In the paragraph concerned, the author seems to carelessly generalise and offers "unversed in Scripture" not as you say a meaning but the alternative meaning. Maybe when I have read the whole document, rather than just the paragraph, it would not seem to me as such.

    But when illiterate is added to other than Muhammad, an argument could be sustained that it means &#8220;unversed in Scripture&#8221; and we would have good reason for it because they can't all or even most be said to be unable to read and write.

    Further, the second surrah, The Cow, is accepted to be Madina-revealed in its entirety (save for one verse). In another verse in it, [2:281], Allah commands the illiterate believers to write down their commercial activities in which payments and or services are deferred.

    يا أيها الذين آمنوا اذا تداينتم بدين إلى أجل مسمى فأكتبوه

    It would otherwise seem an imposition on the illiterate believers to be required by their Maker to write such transactions down, given their en masse inability to read or write.
    What could be inferred from such a verse (as well as  يريد الله بكم اليسر ولا يريد بكم العسر) is that illiteracy does not seem extremely widespread at least in the place in which the surrah was revealed,&#160; concerning such and similar human endeavours or, generally, keeping a written record in 7th century Arabia was not a very hard task. This is an avenue which I should explore later when I try to contextualise the simple illiteracy of the southern Arabs into which Muhammad appeared.

    Thank you again for sharing it.
  • Muhammad's illiteracy, poetry unlearnability and isolation
     Reply #18 - June 20, 2016, 11:22 AM

    One of the conservative commentators on hadith was Abu al-Walid al-Baji. Al-Baji was of the opinion that Muhammad was able to write his name at least, as in the quote above.

    Here is another well-known Sunni textualist and encyclopaedic Imam, al-Dhahabi, in his famous book, Siyar A’lam al-Nubala (سير أعلام النبلاء), talking about the matter of Muhammad’s ability to read or write in relation to al-Baji.

    Quote
    قال : ولما تكلم أبو الوليد في حديث الكتابة يوم الحديبية الذي في " صحيح " البخاري . قال بظاهر لفظه ، فأنكر عليه الفقيه أبو بكر بن الصائغ ، وكفره بإجازته الكتب على رسول الله - صلى الله عليه وسلم - النبي الأمي ، وأنه تكذيب للقرآن ، فتكلم في ذلك من لم يفهم الكلام ، حتى أطلقوا عليه الفتنة ، وقبحوا عند العامة ما أتى به ، وتكلم به خطباؤهم في الجمع ، وقال شاعرهم :
    برئت ممن شرى دنيا بآخرة وقال : إن رسول الله قد كتبا


    فصنف القاضي أبو الوليد رسالة بين فيها أن ذلك غير قادح في المعجزة ، فرجع بها جماعة .

    قلت : يجوز على النبي - صلى الله عليه وسلم - أن يكتب اسمه ليس إلا ، ولا يخرج بذلك عن كونه أميا ، وما من كتب اسمه من الأمراء والولاة إدمانا للعلامة يعد كاتبا ، فالحكم للغالب لا لما ندر ، وقد قال عليه السلام : إنا أمة [ ص: 541 ] أمية لا نكتب ولا نحسب أي لأن أكثرهم كذلك ، وقد كان فيهم الكتبة قليلا . وقال - تعالى - : هو الذي بعث في الأميين رسولا منهم فقوله - عليه السلام - : لا نحسب حق ، ومع هذا فكان يعرف السنين والحساب ، وقسم الفيء ، وقسمة المواريث بالحساب العربي الفطري لا بحساب القبط ولا الجبر والمقابلة ، بأبي هو ونفسي - صلى الله عليه وسلم - وقد كان سيد الأذكياء ، ويبعد في العادة أن الذكي يملي الوحي وكتب الملوك وغير ذلك على كتابه ، ويرى اسمه الشريف في خاتمه ، ولا يعرف هيئة ذلك مع الطول ، ولا يخرج بذلك عن أميته ، وبعض العلماء عد ما كتبه يوم الحديبية من معجزاته ، لكونه لا يعرف الكتابة وكتب ، فإن قيل : لا يجوز عليه أن يكتب ، فلو كتب ; لارتاب مبطل ، ولقال : كان يحسن الخط ، ونظر في كتب الأولين . قلنا : ما كتب خطا كثيرا حتى يرتاب به المبطلون ، بل قد يقال : لو قال مع طول مدة كتابة الكتاب بين يديه : لا أعرف أن أكتب اسمي الذي في خاتمي ، لارتاب المبطلون أيضا ، ولقالوا : هو غاية في الذكاء ، فكيف لا يعرف ذلك ؟ بل عرفه ، وقال : لا أعرف . فكان يكون ارتيابهم أكثر وأبلغ في إنكاره - والله أعلم .


    Source

    Translation:
    He [Iyyadh, the Judge] said: and when Abu al-Walid [al-Baji] commented on the Bukhari hadith on the day of Hudaybiyyah [that Muhammad wrote his name himself] and he [al-Baji] accepted the manifest meaning of it [i.e. zahir], the scholar in figh, Abu-Bakr ibn Assa’igh pilloried him and said al-Baji had committed apostasy, because he attributed the ability to write to the illiterate Prophet PBUH.

    Some [scholars?] of those who did not understand what al-Baji said started talking about him until they roused the rabble; and, their Friday sermonisers also denounced from their pulpits what al-Baji had come up with. Even their poet said:

    I disassociated from he who bought
    Dunya at the expense of the hereafter
    And said the Prophet has written

    Thus, Abu al-Walid [al-Baji], the judge, wrote a letter [or a book] explaining it does not strip miraculous illiteracy off the Prophet the fact that he wrote [once]. His letter convinced some people and these stopped vilifying him.

    I [al-Dhahabi] say: it is possible that the Prophet PBUH wrote only his name and that does not stop him from bein g illiterate. Not everyone who writes his name, amongst the princes and governors, because he is exposed to it until he became familiar with its sight can be said to have become able to write. This is because of the jurisprudential axiom that the rule is for the average and common, and not for the rare and exception of occurrences. When the Prophet PBUH said “we are an unlettered Ummah” he meant most of them do not read or write because there were writers [i.e. can read and write] among his companions but they were few. And Allah SWT said it in [62:2].

    So, what the Prophet said, that we do not calculate, is true even though he knew how to count years and [simple] arithmetic; he also divvied up the spoils of war, and whatever territory and money left behind by the fighting disbelievers or was taken from the non-believers without facing resistance from them [as it is mentioned in surah Hashir 59, verse 7]. He divvied up inheritance through his simplistic Arabic fitrah or rationality [i.e. that a half is less than a whole, and that a brother gets twice as much or two third of what a sister gets from the inheritance when their father leaves an estate after his death].

    Peace be upon the Prophet I would sacrifice my mother and father for him; he was the cleverest of the clever. It is usually a remote possibility that with his cleverness he dictated the Wahh and corresponded with kings and much else through his writers, and he got to see his noble name in his seal and still does not know [how it is written] it with all that exposure to it and does not stop being illiterate.

    Some of the scholars consider what he wrote at Hudaybiyyah as one of his miracles because he does not how to write and yet he wrote. If the contention was that the Prophet couldn’t have written [anything] without giving a falsifier good reason to doubt, and to go on to claim that the Prophet could have read the books of the previous nations [Judaism and Christianity], then we reply back by saying that what he wrote was too little for a falsifier to doubt. In fact, with his extended exposure to how his name was written, if the Prophet said that he did not know how to write his name, which was on his seal, then falsifiers could still doubt him. They could say he was highly intelligent and he did not know how his name was written? No, they would say, he must have known it and claimed he did not know. Thus, their doubt would have been greater. Allah knows best.
  • Muhammad's illiteracy, poetry unlearnability and isolation
     Reply #19 - June 20, 2016, 11:28 AM

    Quote
    In the paragraph concerned, the author seems to carelessly generalise and offers "unversed in Scripture" not as you say a meaning but the alternative meaning. Maybe when I have read the whole document, rather than just the paragraph, it would not seem to me as such.

    I think it is just a passing comment by Saleh. I don't think he mentions it anywhere else in the article, so reading the rest probably won't shed any more light on this though it may be worthwhile for its own sake.
  • Muhammad's illiteracy, poetry unlearnability and isolation
     Reply #20 - June 20, 2016, 11:38 AM

    We begin to see the argument moving from “Muhammad did not write a thing throughout his life” to “it is possible, indeed miraculous that he, the cleverest of the clever, knew how to write his name”.

    In the concerned version of the Bukhari hadith, what Muhammad wrote was “ibn Abdullah” in the place which Ali ibn Abi Talib had written “the messenger of Allah”.

    These two words “ibn Abdullah” are not in Muhammd’s Seal. It would have been more logical if the erased phrase was “ibn Abdullah” instead. Then all Muhammad would have needed to write was “the messenger of Allah” — a phrase with which Muhammad could reasonably be expected to be au fait.

    So, the words with which Muhammad can positively be said to be familiar, in the sense that he could have read and written them himself were: “Muhammad ibn Abdullah the messenger of Allah”. The two new words which were not on his seal were ”slave - عبد” and “ibn - ابن”. (The second word could have been written without the Alif, as بن, after the Arabic spelling convention of omitting the Alif from the article when it is between two proper personal names).

    Therefore, the total number of words Muhammad was able to write was five and they are:

    محمد (ا)بن عبدالله رسول الله

    This total could be challenged because we have one word — Allah — repeated twice. The total then becomes four. Such an objection would have been valid if spacing did not come into it; <Allah> in “Abdullah” is joined to what proceeds it but <Allah> is separate from what proceeds it in “Rasool ullah”.

    It is true that spacing is psychological and not a letter but if we were trying to code the concept of quantity into a computer, the machine would require some input to separate the letters which constitute a word, because of the absence of spacing between its constituents, and the other sets of letters which should be separated by spacings so that they do not belong to the items from which they are put apart and in quantitative terms they can be said to support what on a higher or bigger level is one word.

    The execution of such a task engages conceptual knowledge of writing even if the whole thing in Muhammad's case was achieved through 'look and learn'. We are nevertheless talking about the cleverest of the clever whose lack of such remedial an ability is the consensus.

    Or is it?
  • Muhammad's illiteracy, poetry unlearnability and isolation
     Reply #21 - June 20, 2016, 11:45 AM

    I think it is just a passing comment by Saleh. I don't think he mentions it anywhere else in the article, so reading the rest probably won't shed any more light on this though it may be worthwhile for its own sake.

     I see. Yes, it looks like something I should read for its own sake.

    P.S. I'm in the process of moving home and that's why the going has been slow on this tread. I apologise to anyone who is eagerly waiting -- I suspect at least my dear 'three' would be  -- for the rest to be written and then posted. All is at back of my mind silently gathering force and the longer they take the more profitable and with high substance I hope the posts will become. I had better run now!
  • Muhammad's illiteracy, poetry unlearnability and isolation
     Reply #22 - June 20, 2016, 11:46 AM

    Whether Muhammad was illiterate or not has never been a crucial factor in the composition of the Qur'an imho. Pre Islamic poets created beautiful qasidas on the spot. Muhammad came out with the Qur'an over 23 years. Nothing miraculous about that.
  • Muhammad's illiteracy, poetry unlearnability and isolation
     Reply #23 - June 20, 2016, 12:55 PM

    Quote
    Whether Muhammad was illiterate or not has never been a crucial factor in the composition of the Qur'an imho. Pre Islamic poets created beautiful qasidas on the spot. Muhammad came out with the Qur'an over 23 years. Nothing miraculous about that.


    Spot on. Only a few could read or write as formal education was not universal and reading material/writing material expensive BUT,

    Knowledge was transmitted orally.  It didn't mean that people didn't know anything about the prevailing theories/science/knowledge of the day or that there could be no poets, story tellers and/or demagogs to impress people with their verbal skills.   Being from a trading people, Muhammad would have been exposed to different people and ideas from youth.
  • Muhammad's illiteracy, poetry unlearnability and isolation
     Reply #24 - June 20, 2016, 03:30 PM

    Precisely
  • Muhammad's illiteracy, poetry unlearnability and isolation
     Reply #25 - June 20, 2016, 04:29 PM

    Whether Muhammad was illiterate or not has never been a crucial factor in the composition of the Qur'an imho. Pre Islamic poets created beautiful qasidas on the spot. Muhammad came out with the Qur'an over 23 years. Nothing miraculous about that.

    We don't really know how much, if anything, the historical Muhammad had to do with the composition of the religious texts that came to be compiled and edited as the Qur'an. They certainly include material that post-dates Muhammad, and probably also material that pre-dates him. There was nothing unusual at the time about writing religious texts and attributing them to a well-known name to give them credibility. That something is attributed to Muhammad doesn't mean he actually said (or wrote) it. He could have done but that can't just be assumed. My guess is that an urban merchant, if that's what Muhammad really was, would probably have been literate, at least to some degree. I think it's possible to imagine the society he came from being more primitive and unsophisticated than it really was, in part because of the mythical 'Arab' past that later Islamic historians helped to create. However assuming that Muhammad probably wasn't illiterate doesn't necessarily lead to an assumption that he played a part in the writing of the Qur'an.
  • Muhammad's illiteracy, poetry unlearnability and isolation
     Reply #26 - June 20, 2016, 05:16 PM

    I know, Zeca, akhi, but I stick to the traditional narrative because those I talk to aren't ready for arguments outside that.
  • Muhammad's illiteracy, poetry unlearnability and isolation
     Reply #27 - June 20, 2016, 05:44 PM

    Yes, fair enough, I wasn't really thinking the arguments were new to you.
  • Muhammad's illiteracy, poetry unlearnability and isolation
     Reply #28 - June 24, 2016, 01:18 AM

    If you, dear reader, think that this thread is an elaborate exercise in futility because the OP is trying to disprove a lot of stuff which for you has already been sufficiently debunked and refuted, then please feel free to pack it all in and then kindly fuck off.

    The purpose of this thought experiment was made clear at the very beginning and in the first line of it. It is investigating three Islamic claims as they are found in the Qur’ān, authenticated hadith and the accepted accounts of Muhammad’s hagiography or Seerah, all is in accordance with Salafi, Sunni Islam.

    This approach takes the Qur’ān, authenticated hadith and accepted accounts of Seerah as objective sources of knowledge and certainty on everything constituting Islam. It stress-tests the positive case for Islamic certitude and the supposed consensus around the three matters in the OP, carefully exploring the internal textual inconsistencies as they pertain to Muhammad’s three attributes as they’re found in the Qu’rān, hadith and Seerah/hagiography/biography.

    As such, it contributes a big fat zero to this thinking process for anyone to post a list of their naked beliefs and unsupported conclusions.

    If you care enough to make claims here and want to be taken seriously, then you need to substantiate these claims (which are likely to be things that I tend be in complete agreement with you on, but for argument’s sake I’m suspending my judgement on them; I’m forcing myself and others here to take a hard look at the traditional textual evidence not from a disbeliever’s POV but from a fair and balanced investigator's).

    This is because this thread has not been intended as another topic on the forum in which mostly in agreement people give each other a pat on the back and congratulate ourselves for having reached our wonderfully wonderful conclusions on the fallacious nature of Muhammad and the Qur’ān.

    I’m not interested in going about accepting or rejecting these Islamic claims by referring to our own life experiences (as it is often the case for Ex-Muslims here) in ways which could risk regarding these experiences larger than what they really are and have been relevant to other people and Islam.

    I confess that I surprised myself when I first thought about starting a thread in which I conclusively used and referred to what Hassan accurately called “traditional narrative” because the outside arguments do not get a look in by those whom I occasionally talk to, of the divinity-based Muslims, about the Ex Muslim conclusions.

    Further, I do not believe myself to be the only person to have rejected the veracity of Islam solely because of internal inconsistencies in its texts into which I have earnestly delved for 20 years (I just turned 30 or 31).

    Here, the investigation is of internal inconsistencies. I’m simply casting doubt on a claim, which is the least of my rights if those trying to win me over are reasonable enough to believe I must exercise freewill and genuinely choose after careful consideration.

    In [9:6], even Allah offers intellectual immunity for such an approach and those polytheists/idolaters who first wish to listen to the words of Allah to be allowed to investigate them and then return to a place of safety unharmed.

    If so, then when it comes to the idea of scrutinising a claimant (in this case, Islam) according to its exact claims (as found in its authenticated sources), why is this apparent impatience on the part of some members above, whose conclusions I happen to share?

    Is it intellectual insecurity that which makes them uneasy to follow Islam’s own textual evidence (and) or is it the fact that theirs and others’ habitual conclusive reference to their individual reasoning and own life experiences that which make them reluctant to be dragged to the rigmarole of going through Islamic textual evidence as opposed to whatever made them repudiate Islam at whatever age and the rest of particularising conditions in the first place?

    I don't know and, frankly, do not give a flying gelada monkey.

    My interest here is that I’m doubting a case as much as I can in a fair and dispassionate way which I optimistically think able to give any earnest Muslim at least a pause to think (and in doing so, I refrain from theologising what easily seems to be a global faith).

    Such ‘due diligence’ doesn’t automatically make me an enemy of Islam. No, not any more than it would have made Salman the Persian as such or Mosses, when Mosses asked Allah, according to the Qur’an, to have a look at Him (in 7:143).

    With a little patience, the textual evidence can demonstrably be shown to be trying to having it both ways; for example, we just saw how Muhammad could have written his name without becoming literate or able to read and write for reasons of quantity and familiarity with what he actually wrote – all this is in the face of the verse stating he absolutely did not write with his right hand as that would give good reason to falsifiers to doubt [29:48]).
  • Muhammad's illiteracy, poetry unlearnability and isolation
     Reply #29 - June 24, 2016, 09:49 PM

    I don't see any point in using arguments outside of traditional sources. Such is usually immediately rejected by the Ummah. Therefore a waste, in my mind, as the Ummah is the most receptive and discerning audience. I appreciate what you have collected and displayed here, a conclusion drawn from canon has the capacity to stretch Islam a bit- and it needs any flexibility it can get.

    Don't let Hitler have the street.
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