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Topics - AK85

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Salaam alaikum

I am new here, this is my first topic/contribution/entry. Hello to all and may God's blessings be on all of you and may He guide all of you on the straight path and give you strength and wisdom to turn to Him to overcome and persevere through all adversity He may place in your path.

I was doing some research on the internet about the issue of the illiteracy of the noble prophet (pbuh)

I am convinced that the word ummy referrs to the gentiles, regardless of whether it literally is translated as gentiles or is literally translated as unlettered/illiterate either way referring to those illiterate in God's scripture rather than those illiterate in any kind of reading and writing of language period, this makes sense to me when examining the verses the word ummy is brought up in thanks to God.

However, I have a copy of the Qu'ran, (an english copy) which brought a verse to my attention in the preface, which is used to attest that the prophet was indeed illiterate. Specifically, 29:48.

The following is a compilation of different translations of this verse:

Literal   And We were not reading/reciting from before it from a Book , and nor you write it with your right (hand), then the wasters/falsifiers would have doubted/become suspicious.

Yusuf Ali   And thou wast not (able) to recite a Book before this (Book came), nor art thou (able) to transcribe it with thy right hand: In that case, indeed, would the talkers of vanities have doubted.

Pickthal   And thou (O Muhammad) wast not a reader of any scripture before it, nor didst thou write it with thy right hand, for then might those have doubted, who follow falsehood.

Arberry   Not before this didst thou recite any Book, or inscribe it with thy right hand, for then those who follow falsehood would have doubted.

Shakir   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.

Sarwar   You were not able to read or write before the Quran was revealed to you; otherwise, the followers of falsehood would have tried to confuse the matter.

Khalifa   You did not read the previous scriptures, nor did you write them with your hand. In that case, the rejectors would have had reason to harbor doubts.

Hilali/Khan   Neither did you (O Muhammad SAW) read any book before it (this Quran), nor did you write any book (whatsoever) with your right hand. In that case, indeed, the followers of falsehood might have doubted.

H/K/Saheeh   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.

Malik   O Muhammad, you have never read a book before this nor have you ever transcribed one with your right hand. Had you done either of these, the quibblers could suspect it.[48]

QXP   For, (O Prophet) you were never able to read a book or Scripture before this (Qur'an), nor could you write anything with your own hand. Or else, they who try to disprove the Truth might have some cause to doubt it. ((2:23). 'Biyameenik' = With your right hand = With your own hand).

Maulana Ali   And thou didst not recite before it any book, nor didst thou transcribe one with thy right hand, for then could the liars have doubted.

Free Minds   You were not reciting any scripture before this, nor were you writing one down by your hand. In that case, the doubters would have had reason.

Qaribullah    Never before did you recited any Book, or inscribe it with your right hand. If you had done so, those who follow falsehood would have doubted.

George Sale   Thou couldest not read any book before this; neither couldest thou write it with thy right hand: Then had the gainsayers justly doubted of the divine original thereof.

JM Rodwell   Thou didst not recite any book (of revelation) before it: with that right hand of thine thou didst not transcribe one: else might they who treat it as a vain thing have justly doubted:

Asad   for, [O Muhammad,] thou hast never been able to recite any divine writ ere this one [was revealed], nor didst thou ever transcribe one with your own hand [Lit., "with thy right hand" - the term yamin being used here metonymically, denoting no more than one's "own hand". It is historically established that Muhammad, the "unlettered prophet" (cf. 7:157 and 158), could neither read nor write, and could not, therefore, have derived his extensive knowledge of the contents of earlier revelations from the Bible or other scriptures: which - as the Quran points out - ought to convince any unprejudiced person that this knowledge must have come to him through divine revelation.] - or else, they who try to disprove the truth [of thy revelation] might indeed have had cause to doubt [it]. [The participial noun mubtil is derived from the verb abtala, "he made a false [or "vain"] claim", or "tried to disprove the truth [of something]", or "to reduce [something] to nothing", or "to prove [it] to be of no account" or "null and void", or "unfounded", "false", "spurious", etc., irrespective of whether the object is true or false, authentic or spurious, valid or unfounded (Lisan al-Arab and Taj al-Arus).]

Now this does not contradict in my mind that the ummy and ummien refers to the gentiles who were unlettered/illiterate in the word of God as they (the gentiles/unlettered/illiterate) were not of the peoples of the book. However this above quote from the Qu'ran is explained and interpreted as clearly stating that the prophet was illiterate, and this was to assure the people of the book that he did not simply copy and paste selected excerpts from the previous scriptures and create a new version.

My conundrum is that the evidence that I have seen is quite convincing that the prophet indeed was literate, most specifically the reasoning that the numeral system was not in place in the Arabic language until the death of the prophet. And that before it was in place, the alphabet was used for numbers instead. With the prophet (pbuh)'s profession being a merchant, it is implied that he was indeed literate, as there was no numeral system in place during his time and life and as such he had to have known how to read and write to carry out transactions.

Is the above quote from the Qu'ran interpreted incorrectly when people describe it as proof that the prophet was indeed not only illiterate in the gentile sense, but also in the literal sense? What is the correct interpretation if so? And if it is correct how can we reconcile this with the above reasoning that the prophet had to have been literate in order to carry out his job/duties as a merchant in a time before numerals were in use?

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