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The Illiteracy of Muhammad
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Pazuzu bin Hanbi
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 08, 2008 7:24 am    Post subject: The Illiteracy of Muhammad  Reply with quote

Read it and weep, boys…

Numerous sources attest to Muhammad’s early career as a merchant, a trader. He dealt, inter alia, with weights and gained a reputation as a scrupulously honest businessman who didn’t give short measures to people. Obviously this involved dealing in numbers, especially when it came to money. Now, Islamic sources have Muhammad’s date of birth down as around the year 570 CE (common era) and his death at 632 CE (though contemporary scholarship disputes the date of birth as influenced by legend). But what do I see here?
http://www.geocities.com/rmlyra/arabic.html wrote:
All Arabic numbers we use today are ideograms created by Abu Ja'far Muhammad ibn Musa al-Khwarizmi (c.778 - c.850)
and
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arabic_numerals#Origins wrote:
The numeral system came to be known to both the Persian mathematician Al-Khwarizmi, whose book On the Calculation with Hindu Numerals written about 825, and the Arab mathematician Al-Kindi, who wrote four volumes, "On the Use of the Indian Numerals" (Ketab fi Isti'mal al-'Adad al-Hindi) about 830, are principally responsible for the diffusion of the Indian system of numeration in the Middle-East.
and
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abjad_numerals wrote:
In the Arab World - until modern times - the Arabic numeral system was used only by mathematicians. Muslim scientists used the Babylonian numeral system, and merchants used the Abjad numerals.
and more on ‘Arabic letters in place of numbers prior to Abu Ja‘far Muhammad ibn Musa al–Khwarizmi’s representation of numbers through ideograms:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hist...ic_alphabet#Early_Islamic_changes wrote:
The alphabet then had 28 letters, and so could be used to write the numbers 1 to 10, then 20 to 100, then 200 to 900, then 1000 (see Abjad numerals). In this numerical order, the new letters were put at the end of the alphabet. This produced this order: alif (1), b (2), j (3), d (4), h (5), w (6), z (7), H (8), T (9), y (10), k (20), l (30), m (40), n (50), s (60), ayn (70), f (80), S (90), q (100), r (200), sh (300), t (400), sh (500), kh (600), dh (700), D (800), Z (900), gh (1000).

What does this all mean? It means that the ‘Arabic numerals we see today, the ideograms that represent numbers, did not come into existence until Abu Ja‘far Muhammad ibn Musa al–Khwarizmi introduced them almost two hundred years after the death of Muhammad! As the sources above clearly display, merchants used Abjad numerals, which consisted of using ‘Arabi letters in place of numbers — something which Muhammad would have had great skill in during the course of his career as a merchant. That doesn’t prove he could write (or perhaps even read), but could certainly identify the ‘Arabi alphabet enough to work out simple and complex sums. So you can’t call him completely ‘unlettered’!

Moreover, multiple different — but all Sahih — ahadith attest to Muhammad writing or about to write. A few select examples, all drawn from Sahih Bukhari:
http://www.usc.edu/dept/MSA/funda.../bukhari/052.sbt.html#004.052.189 wrote:
Volume 4, Book 52, Number 189:
Narrated Anas:

When the Prophet intended to write a letter to the ruler of the Byzantines, he was told that those people did not read any letter unless it was stamped with a seal. So, the Prophet got a silver ring-- as if I were just looking at its white glitter on his hand ---- and stamped on it the expression "Muhammad, Apostle of Allah".
http://www.usc.edu/dept/MSA/funda.../bukhari/072.sbt.html#007.072.763 wrote:
Volume 7, Book 72, Number 763:
Narrated Anas:

The Prophet got a ring made for himself and said, "I have got a ring made (for myself) and engraved a certain engraving on it so none of you should get such an engraving on his ring." I saw the glitter of the ring on his little finger.

These two ahadith show that Muhammad could write and that he did write. On this occasion he intended to write to the Byzantine (Christian) ruler. His followers told him that the ruler did not accept any letter not officially stamped with a seal. Accordingly Muhammad made a ring and engraved it (himself!) with the words ‘Muhammadur Rasulullah’.

Not convinced yet? Trip off this one:
http://www.usc.edu/dept/MSA/funda.../bukhari/052.sbt.html#004.052.191 wrote:
Volume 4, Book 52, Number 191:
Narrated Abdullah bin Abbas:

Allah's Apostle wrote to Caesar and invited him to Islam and sent him his letter with Dihya Al-Kalbi whom Allah's Apostle ordered to hand it over to the Governor of Busra who would forward it to Caesar. Caesar as a sign of gratitude to Allah, had walked from Hims to Ilya (i.e. Jerusalem) when Allah had granted Him victory over the Persian forces. So, when the letter of Allah's Apostle reached Caesar, he said after reading it, 'Seek for me any one of his people! (Arabs of Quraish tribe) if present here, in order to ask him about Allah's Apostle…
Here the hadith clearly states that Muhammad wrote a letter asking a major leader to convert to Islam!

Or how about this rather convoluted one (but from which I have highlighted the salient points)?
http://www.usc.edu/dept/MSA/funda.../bukhari/053.sbt.html#004.053.408 wrote:
Volume 4, Book 53, Number 408:
Narrated Al-Bara:

When the Prophet intended to perform the 'Umra he sent a person to the people of Mecca asking their permission to enter Mecca. They stipulated that he would not stay for more than three days and would not enter it except with sheathed arms and would not preach (Islam) to any of them. So Ali bin Abi-Talib started writing the treaty between them. He wrote, "This is what Muhammad, Apostle of Allah has agreed to." The (Meccans) said, "If we knew that you (Muhammad) are the Apostle of Allah, then we would not have prevented you and would have followed you. But write, 'This is what Muhammad bin 'Abdullah has agreed to..' " On that Allah's Apostle said, "By Allah, I am Muhammad bin 'Abdullah, and, by Allah, I am Apostle of 'Allah." Allah's Apostle used not to write; so he asked 'Ali to erase the expression of Apostle of Allah. On that 'Ali said, "By Allah I will never erase it." Allah's Apostle said (to 'Ali), "Let me see the paper." When 'Ali showed him the paper, the Prophet erased the expression with his own hand. When Allah's Apostle had entered Mecca and three days had elapsed, the Meccans came to 'Ali and said, "Let your friend (i.e. the Prophet) quit Mecca." Ali informed Allah's Apostle about it and Allah's Apostle said, "Yes," and then he departed.

Muhammad ‘used not to write’. Note the wording. This does not mean he cannot write, but simply that he didn’t generally write at that time. ‘Ali wrote out the Treaty with the Makkans for Muhammad. At their behest, Muhammad decided to change his appellation in the treaty from ‘Apostle of God’ to his actual family name (bin ‘Abdullah). ‘Ali refused to erase that section, so Muhammad asked to see the paper. Note that the hadith does not mention anywhere that Muhammad asked ‘Ali where he had written the words Apostle of Allah, he simply erased the phrase with his own hand! How did he recognise it if he couldn’t read it?

And now the killer. Please forgive me for my extravagant use of multiple quoted ahadith on a single event in Muhammad’s life, but I believe this bears repeating simply to show multiple attestation (2 narrators stating the same tale at different times, but both making the same point — that Muhammad could certainly write):
http://www.usc.edu/dept/MSA/funda.../bukhari/070.sbt.html#007.070.573 wrote:
Volume 7, Book 70, Number 573:
Narrated Ibn 'Abbas:

When Allah's Apostle was on his death-bed and in the house there were some people among whom was 'Umar bin Al-Khattab, the Prophet said, "Come, let me write for you a statement after which you will not go astray." 'Umar said, "The Prophet is seriously ill and you have the Qur'an; so the Book of Allah is enough for us." The people present in the house differed and quarrelled. Some said "Go near so that the Prophet may write for you a statement after which you will not go astray," while the others said as Umar said. When they caused a hue and cry before the Prophet, Allah's Apostle said, "Go away!" Narrated 'Ubaidullah: Ibn 'Abbas used to say, "It was very unfortunate that Allah's Apostle was prevented from writing that statement for them because of their disagreement and noise."
and
http://www.usc.edu/dept/MSA/funda.../bukhari/059.sbt.html#005.059.717 wrote:
Volume 5, Book 59, Number 717:
Narrated Ubaidullah bin 'Abdullah:

Ibn Abbas said, "When Allah's Apostle was on his deathbed and there were some men in the house, he said, 'Come near, I will write for you something after which you will not go astray.' Some of them ( i.e. his companions) said, 'Allah's Apostle is seriously ill and you have the (Holy) Quran. Allah's Book is sufficient for us.' So the people in the house differed and started disputing. Some of them said, 'Give him writing material so that he may write for you something after which you will not go astray.' while the others said the other way round. So when their talk and differences increased, Allah's Apostle said, "Get up." Ibn Abbas used to say, "No doubt, it was very unfortunate (a great disaster) that Allah's Apostle was prevented from writing for them that writing because of their differences and noise."
and
http://www.usc.edu/dept/MSA/funda.../bukhari/092.sbt.html#009.092.468 wrote:
Volume 9, Book 92, Number 468:
Narrated Ibn 'Abbas:

When the time of the death of the Prophet approached while there were some men in the house, and among them was 'Umar bin Al-Khatttab, the Prophet said, "Come near let me write for you a writing after which you will never go astray." 'Umar said, "The Prophet is seriously ill, and you have the Quran, so Allah's Book is sufficient for us." The people in the house differed and disputed. Some of them said, "Come near so that Allah's Apostle may write for you a writing after which you will not go astray," while some of them said what 'Umar said. When they made much noise and differed greatly before the Prophet, he said to them, "Go away and leave me." Ibn 'Abbas used to say, "It was a great disaster that their difference and noise prevented Allah's Apostle from writing that writing for them.

The story here looks clear–cut to me: before his demise, Muhammad had some guests at his house. He says in no uncertain terms to them that if they approach him he will write words of wisdom for them. Such words that they will never go astray! This causes them to start arguing. Note that not a single one of them says: “Hey, you can’t actually write!” No, the subject of the clamour involves their firm belief that they have the Qur’an, and therefore do not need any other words to live by, especially when writing would cause undue stress on one as ill as Muhammad! He, however, finally grows weary of their din and sends them away.

I believe the evidence incontrovertible: Muhammad could read & write, and did so on numerous occasions. The stories in the Qur’an about his illiteracy came due to his (or the final redactors’) rightly or wrongly held belief that if people knew he could read and write, it would automatically follow that he had composed the Qur’anic revelations himself. From this follows the fact that they didn’t come to him as divine truths from God. Whether or not people would say this, I submit, remains irrelevant: his perception that they would drove him to claim illiteracy, OR drove his later followers to claim him an illiterate (I believe this 2nd possibility more viable since the ahadith above feature him declaring in public that he had written things, such as the engraving on his ring).

(NOTE: For the sake of brevity, clarity and general message board etiquette, please do NOT quote my entire post if you wish to comment on it! Simply select the passage you wish to discuss, copy and paste it into your message box, highlight it and click the BBCode ‘Quote’ button above the box to put it into the quotation format.)
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 08, 2008 8:53 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Another free-minds crap that was initiated by the Dajjal Rashad Khalifa, well, not idiot to waste my valued time replying to such crap
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 08, 2008 9:02 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Let me expose another confused who promotes lies about this great religion to serve the cause of the confused free-minders (www.free-minds.org), their enemy the submitters (www.submition.org) and their other enemy the 19ers (www.19.org):

And you did not recite before it any book, nor did you transcribe one with your right hand, for then could those who say untrue things have doubted.

[The Quran ; 29:48]

وَمَا كُنتَ تَتْلُو مِن قَبْلِهِ مِن كِتَابٍ وَلَا تَخُطُّهُ بِيَمِينِكَ إِذًا لَّارْتَابَ الْمُبْطِلُونَ (48)

-> Clearly it says وَمَا كُنتَ تَتْلُو مِن قَبْلِهِ مِن كِتَابٍ, And you did not recite before it any book,, i.e. Mohammad never read a book before, then it  says وَلَا تَخُطُّهُ بِيَمِينِكَ, nor did you transcribe one with your right hand, some may still argue and say this  means that Mohammad may or may not be literate. I say,  what follows next indicates that he was illiterate : إِذًا لَّارْتَابَ الْمُبْطِلُونَ, for then could those who say untrue things have doubted., i.e. Mohammad was illiterate before the revelation of the Quran because if he was literate, the people at his time would have doubted him.
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 08, 2008 9:14 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Erm… Rashad Khalifa DENIED the validity of Ahadith. I haven’t done so at all, and I constructed those arguments myself.

Having grown up a muslim I know precisely what the Qur’an says on this subject. I simply point out the contradictions from sources pretty much contemporaneous to the Qur’an that cast serious doubt on the claims of so–called ‘illiteracy’.
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 08, 2008 9:23 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

AhmedBahgat wrote:
Let me expose another confused who promotes lies about this great religion to serve the cause of the confused free-minders (www.free-minds.org), their enemy the submitters (www.submition.org) and their other enemy the 19ers (www.19.org):

And you did not recite before it any book, nor did you transcribe one with your right hand, for then could those who say untrue things have doubted.

[The Quran ; 29:48]

وَمَا كُنتَ تَتْلُو مِن قَبْلِهِ مِن كِتَابٍ وَلَا تَخُطُّهُ بِيَمِينِكَ إِذًا لَّارْتَابَ الْمُبْطِلُونَ (4Cool

-> Clearly it says وَمَا كُنتَ تَتْلُو مِن قَبْلِهِ مِن كِتَابٍ, And you did not recite before it any book,, i.e. Mohammad never read a book before, then it  says وَلَا تَخُطُّهُ بِيَمِينِكَ, nor did you transcribe one with your right hand, some may still argue and say this  means that Mohammad may or may not be literate. I say,  what follows next indicates that he was illiterate : إِذًا لَّارْتَابَ الْمُبْطِلُونَ, for then could those who say untrue things have doubted., i.e. Mohammad was illiterate before the revelation of the Quran because if he was literate, the people at his time would have doubted him.


Or it just simply says that Muhammad was unlearned in the previous scriptures; he has not read and recited the earlier scriptures and therefore has no knowledge of them.

Corresponding to 8.31

Quote:
When Our Signs are rehearsed to them, they say: "We have heard this (before): if we wished, we could say (words) like these: these are nothing but tales of the ancients."


And especially 25.05

Quote:
And they say: "Tales of the ancients, which he has caused to be written: and they are dictated before him morning and evening."


So what could be said in 29.48 is that, Muhammad is arguing that he did not know the previous scriptures. An argument of being unable to read or write does not mean that a person cannot know the stories, ie. that he can still posses the knowledge of the previous scriptures. The opponnents or unbelievers are charging Muhammad that he is just reciting old tales, ie. the previous scriptures, but in 29.48 he tries to tell that he does not know it, ie. that he does not get them "dictated before him morning and evening".

I'm not saying that thats it. I'm just trying to look at some perspectives.

Cheers.

PS. Ahmed in advance we are having a civil and relaxed debate.
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 08, 2008 11:45 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

We already been through this Ahmed. "Tatlu" means recite not read or write.

"You did not recite a book before and you did not write *it* with your right".

It does not say you did not write with your Right Hand.
It does not say you can not write.
It only states that you did not recite a book or write 'it' with your hand.

With very small modifications to the text, it could have meant that Muhammad never wrote before but that is not what the text is stating. Because people knew he can write. He was a merchant.

In fact, if you read this text a little more precisely then how you already read it, then this text will actually prove that muhammad knew how to write.
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 08, 2008 12:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Baal wrote:
We already been through this Ahmed. "Tatlu" means recite not read or write.

"You did not recite a book before and you did not write *it* with your right".

It does not say you did not write with your Right Hand.
It does not say you can not write.
It only states that you did not recite a book or write 'it' with your hand.

With very small modifications to the text, it could have meant that Muhammad never wrote before but that is not what the text is stating. Because people knew he can write. He was a merchant.

In fact, if you read this text a little more precisely then how you already read it, then this text will actually prove that muhammad knew how to write.


Mister Baal

in your barbie word mister baal

Tilawat Al Quran means, reading al quran

The verse also denies that Mohammed wrote any book before the Quran revelation

please dismiss yourself
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 08, 2008 1:18 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Indeed it does. And yet all the evidence I have presented in my first post contradicts that assertion!
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 08, 2008 7:01 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I understand your reasoning, dear Pazuzu...

But, still it raises questions, regarding the credibility you put emphasis on.

I see your point, when you conclude that he was portrayed as being "illiterate", since then he could just have written a book, with no indications that its the "words of god" !

But then, why would I rather believe a book that has been written FOR somebody else, by various authors ?

Take it to present times - wouldn't I rather believe in the words of the author himself, his own wordings, his style, his ideas, his "message"...

or would I think that the words, style, and maybe "translated" ideas, by a GHOSTWRITER, would be more credible than the author himself ?

Out of pure curiosity, are there any "reports" of him really working as a merchant ?
Or is this rather an assumption, because he was with Khadija ?

Another possibility would be, he just acted as the "boss" in HER shop, you know like sitting in a corner, sipping tea, smalltalk with merchants coming in, ordering employees around, and in the end somebody else would be in charge of "invoice", or simply counting up numbers, etc...

Another possibility would be, he was just Khadija's PLAYBOY ?

I mean, also his [later] sexual activity points in this direction, rather than pointing to him being a "merchant" !
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 09, 2008 8:18 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I see your point! But if you take your first line of reasoning, you cannot really draw many conculsions about his sexual activity since most of it comes from secondhand sources. In fact, the Qur’an tells us precious little about him and his life, going so far as to name him only 4 times in the whole thing!

Obviously you can draw some inferences from the Qur’an: his sudden ‘revelation’ that he could marry his adopted son’s wife, for example, points to a devious and voracious sexual appetite, but you can’t take much away from a reading of the Qur’an alone.


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