Was Muhammad Illiterate?

General James Green

I N MINA NEVISA’S book, “Miracle of Miracles,” she says in the Addendum (pg. 202) that, “Muhammad claimed that he was unable to read and thus asserted that his revelation of the Quran was miraculous. There are many scholars who challenge his illiteracy, as his vocation in the caravan trade business required a generous level of competency in reading and writing...In addition, it was not he who put the Quran into a single volume. This did not occur until well after his death…various disciples…compiled the oral tradition…in no less than 7 different versions…” (Touch of Christ Ministries, Fairfax, VA, 2004) (Mina was born to a fundamentalist Muslim family in Iran, miraculously converted to Christianity in the early 1980s).Scholars Challenge Illiteracy

and Meaning

Mrs. Nevisa wrote about many scholars challenging Muhammad’s illiteracy. Well, one such scholar (I have the names of others also) is Joseph Azzi, a Lebanese Christian, who also wrote “The Priest and the Prophet” (first published under the title “Oirs wa Nabi” (Arabic) in 1979). Azzi gives several pages to the topic of Muhammad’s Literacy.

He writes, “The firmly held belief that Muhammad lacked reading and writing skills goes against all evidences that he was literate. Part of the evidence for his reading abilities indicates that God does utilize natural abilities to announce His Truth and His will. God entrusts His servant, Waraqa, to communicate with Muhammad by means of a literacy device, the Gospel of the Hebrews (book of Matthew). The Quranic expression ‘the illiterate prophet’ means something other than what the majority of Muslims now hold onto regarding their prophet” (Pen Pub., LA, CA, 2005).

According to Azzi, the prophet learned reading and writing in his childhood. He says that proofs for his literacy are apparent in the Quran and elsewhere. “Regarding what he did not know, but he would learn, is the science of the revealed book, meaning the science of divinities, spirituality and legislation.”

Azzi believes that Muhammad learned natural sciences in childhood under his grandfather and the tutelage of his uncle. Do his devotees recognize that he gained reading skills as a child? Apparently not, for they stress the miracle intervention of Allah’s revelations. FRIENDS, THIS “REVELATION” STUFF IS A FABRICATION! Most of the supposed “divine revelations” come from his mentor, the Christian monk/Priest, Waraqa bin Naufal; it was he who had profound influence upon the prophet.

Naufal was an Ebionism Christian. This sect represented the faith of a Jewish Nazarene group who followed Jesus. But, they did not believe in Jesus’ divinity nor His Sonship. This is why the prophet denies Jesus to be the Son of God. Surely, you don’t believe that God (Allah) revealed this to Muhammad?

Irenaeus, Origen, and Epiphanius all alluded to the Ebionism sect.

Let us find out what the word “illiterate” really means according to their book, The Quran. The Quran states that “illiterate” is the individual or group who does not own a holy book. The Quran states plainly that the Jews were the people of the book (Ahl al-Kitab), whereas the Arabs are the “illiterates” in pro-Islamic Arabia [Hadith vol. 6.362 states: “Verily We have sent you (O Muhammad)...as a protector for the illiterates (i.e., the Arabs.)”]. Yes, dear Muslims, your book makes this distinction!

Muslims Should Learn From Christians?

Sura 3:20 reads, “Say to the People of the Book and to those who are unlearned: Do you submit yourselves?” Here it expresses the desire of the illiterate to learn the Book (our Holy Scriptures): “There are among them illiterates who do not know the Book, but mendacious tales” (2:78). Of course, Muhammad claims that Allah chose him among the non-Scriptural people. 7:63 reads, “God (Allah) sent a messenger chosen among them.”

Azzi believes that in this respect it is necessary to understand the Quranic understanding of Muhammad’s illiteracy was a social standing rather than an individual situation. To prove this, we’ll read the following out of their book: “People who follow the messenger, the illiterate (unlettered) prophet.” (7:157). This shows that the prophet believed that he came from an illiterate background. Also, 7:158 tells us, “Believe in God (Allah) and in his messenger, the illiterate prophet, who believes also in God.”

If God revealed Himself to Muhammad as he claimed, why did God’s message change?

Muhammad’s early “revelations” in Mecca were peaceful and positive about the Jews and Christians. But after he went to Medina, his “revelations” became hostile, and he dramatically shifted his attitude towards the Jews and Christians. Was it because the Jews and Christians rejected his “divine revelations”? Yes! It was not that God changed His revelations, for He never revealed Himself to the prophet in the first place; it was Muhammad who changed his disposition. THE MEDINAN “REVELATION” BECAME HOSTILE; THEREFORE, THE QURAN BECAME A HATEFUL THEOLOGY, AND ISLAM BECAME A BLOODY RELIGION.

Although Muslims respect their prophet, notwithstanding, standard Islamic theology in no way considers him divine. One scholar warns, “Neither in theological nor in phenomenological terms can Muhammad be likened to the Christ of Christianity—hence the Muslim’s aversion to the term ‘Muhammads,’ which seems to them to imply a false parallel to the concept of ‘Christians’.” (Schimmel’s analysis of the Current situation in the Middle East is that “awareness of the danger that now confronts Islamic Tradition has certainly contributed to the sudden growth of Muslim fundamentalism that came as such a surprise to the unprepared Western World” (Annemarie Schimmel, “We Believe in One God,” New York Press, 1979).


Muhammad, ONLY HUMAN!

Admitting Muhammad is only human is no embarrassment for orthodox Islam because of its strict monotheism. They still consider him the last and the greatest of ALL prophets. Please, please, give me a break! The Quran is full of confusion, lies, etc. (write for our books on “The Two Faces of Islam”). The Holy God nor the Holy Spirit inspired the Quran. It is full of contradictions, but God and the Spirit ARE NOT! If God inspired Muhammad to write the Quran (which he never wrote—his friends put it together long after his death), then God would be the author of confusion.

Mina Nevisa writes in her book, Miracle of Miracles, “What is the Quran?” (referring to Toby Lester’s title in the Atlantic Monthly Magazine (1999). She says that in his third article about the Quran, he states: “Gerd-R Puin speaks with disdain about the traditional willingness, on the part of Muslim and Western scholars, to accept the conventional understanding of the Quran. ‘The Quran claims for itself that it is “mubeen,” or “clear.” He says, ‘But if you look at it, you will notice that every 5th sentence or so simply doesn’t make sense. Many Muslims, and Orientalists, will tell you otherwise, of course, but the fact is that a 5th of the Quranic text is just incomprehensible….even speakers of Arabic will tell you: There is a contradiction…”’


Muhammad was not illiterate— he was a false prophet!

“With the death of their prophet, Muslims were convinced that God’s revelations to humankind was finalized. As 5:4 puts it, “...This day have I Perfected your religion for you, completed my favour upon you and have chosen for you Islam as your religion” (Answering Islam, by Geislerand Saleeb). This may be ok for Muslims, but I’ll stick to my Lord, Prophet, King, Saviour, Teacher, Master, Healer, Baptizer, Lover, and Revealer, the Lord Jesus Christ. You can see why Islam is divided, confused, bloody, hateful, etc., can’t you?

Don’t ever believe for a minute that the Quran is arranged in the same form that is available today under Muhammad’s and Gabriel’s direct supervision. Uthman, the 3rd Muslim Caliph, recalled all the Qurans that were not a revised version and burned them. Why? Because, according to the report of Bukhari, several Qurans differed in context and content. Again, is God the author of confusion? (see Al-Bukhari, 478-79. [Hadith 6.510 describes this Qur’an burning by Uthman.]).


Arabic Language Worship

Despite all the confusion and abrogations (naskh) (see our booklet on the abrogations of the Quran), Muslims for the most part still believe that their book is unique among sacred Scriptures. Sayyed Hassein Nasr, in his book, “Ideals and Realities of Islam,” says that “the word of God in Islam is the Quran; in Christianity it is Christ….the form of the Quran is the Arabic language which religiously speaking is as inseparable from The Quran as the body of Christ is from Christ Himself. Arabic is sacred in the sense that it is an integral part of the Quranic revelation whose very sounds play a role in the ritual acts of Islam” (George Allen & Unwin, 1975, pgs. 43-44).

It has been pointed out by many scholars that there are OVER 100 WORDS IN THE QURAN THAT ARE NOT ARABIC (we also have tracts available on this subject).

Back to Azzi’s research: “The illiterates are the Arabs, children of Ishmael, while the People of the Book are the Jews, children of Isaac and the Christians who had the Gospels.” So, my dear Muslims, your prophet’s illiteracy never means that he ignored reading and writing, but rather HE WAS ONE OF THE ILLITERATE ARABS WHO DID NOT HAVE A HOLY BIBLE. There is no doubt that Waraqa Ibn Naufal taught Muhammad a lot about the Bible, but with a twisted view. And I’m sure that Muhammad probably read from Naufal’s Book. Sura 96 states, “Read in the name of your Lord, who created man out of a mere clot of congealed blood (the Bible states that man was created out of the dust of the earth in Genesis 2:7). Read: For your Lord is most bountiful, He who taught you the use of the pen and taught man which he did not know.”

According to the compilers of the Sirachs of the messenger, Hadith and Sahih, all confirm that Sura 96 (1-6) is the first one to appear in revelation (as they believe in revelations). Muslim scholars agree that the angel Gabriel held a book in his hand, telling Muhammad to “Read” or “Recite.”

Muhammad’s uncle, Abu Talib, taught him writing skills and reading skills (Ibn Sa’d, p. 119). It is believed that the love Talib had for his orphan nephew, automatically meant that the adopted child would have received the same education as provided to Ali, the birth son of Abu Talib. Ali became the author of “The Path of Eloquence” (Nahj al-Balaghah).

Muhammad studied the knowledge that Waraqa translated into Arabic from the Hebrew Gospel (Matthew). This book would help the Arabs in matters of disputes (see Sura 68:35-38 [and 3:3], see also 34:43-44).

According to 7:169, “was not the covenant of the book taken from that that they would not ascribe to God anything but the Truth?,” the “prophet” advises the Arabs to put in practice what they learn. Sura 3:79 states, “Be you worshippers of the Lord who is truly the cherisher of all. For you have taught the book and you have studied it earnestly.” This was the way Muhammad was first taught by his mentor, Naufal, but LATER ADOPTED A HATRED FOR GOD’S REVEALED TRUTHS AND BECAME HATEFUL AND MURDEROUS. This is undeniable!

The Science

In Mecca, Muhammad learned lessons from the Holy Book, and he went about explaining their meaning to the Arabs. Sura 31:20 and 22:8 tells us that the Arabs “….discuss about God (Allah) without knowledge, without guide, and without an appropriate guidebook.” Surely we understand that Muhammad possessed reading skills. The Quran makes allusions to “the science which man does not know;” it means the ignored knowledge of the revealed books. The science Muhammad is ignorant of is the one which the Priest transmits to him—THE HOLY BOOK, THE BIBLE.

Dr. Anis A. Shorrosh, in his book, “Islam Revealed,” states on page 52 that, “Many experts on the life of Muhammad believe he was illiterate. However, such a claim is not true. The myth may be an attempt to magnify the work of Muhammad in producing the Quran, thus substantiating the so-called miraculous nature of the book” (Thomas Nelson Pub., Nashville, TN, 1988). I agree.

In John Glubb’s, “The Life and Times of Muhammad,” he writes that when the TREATY WITH THE MECCANS WAS TO BE SIGNED BY MUHAMMAD, they refused to accept him as the Apostle of Allah. Enraged, he struck out that title and wrote, not Muhammad, but son of ‘Abdu’llah, then signed the peace treaty. (New York: Stein and Day, 1971, p. 271).

Another incident supporting Muhammad’s literacy took place on his death bed. William Goldsack wrote in his book, “Muhammad in Islam,” that the prophet motioned to ‘Ayisha, his favorite wife, to bring him something on which he could write the name of his successor, but he was too weak to perform the task. (Madras India: CLS for India, 1916, pgs. 112-114).

Part of the Trade

It is no secret that Muhammad served for many years as a trading camel-caravan merchant (which included raiding, plundering, and murdering!) which naturally necessitated reading, writing, and arithmetic.

Dr. Shorrosh, a Palestinian Christian, tells that while visiting the St. Catherine’s Monastery at Mt. Sinai in 1979, he was shown a personal letter said to be signed by Muhammad, guaranteeing the freedom of the monks and their monastery and dated in 632. He states that the document was issued because the monks honored Islam by building a small morgue within their walled fortress. (Wasn’t that nice of the prophet, since he either killed, enslaved, or charged large taxes if one did NOT accept his “Lordship” and Islam?!)

We’ve already mentioned Sura 96:1-5 (al-‘Alaq- The Clot) where supposedly Gabriel commands Muhammad to read!

Azzi says in his book, “The Priest and The Prophet” that Divine knowledge is neither intuition nor revelation. He claims it comes from learning and acquisition from people “who read the book (Bible) before” (see 10:94). To those who say “we know well that they say ‘a man instructs him,’” he answers, “The tongue of him they wickedly point to is notably foreign, while (the Quran) is pure and clear Arabic” (16:103). I must point out that the Quran IS NOT pure and clear Arabic. I am no scholar, but I can read for myself what other serious scholars have discovered.

Confusion and Destruction!

In the Quran, we find clear mentions of Biblical passages, but also we find very distorted ones. For one thing, the Ebionism sect, whom Waraqa Ibn Naufal was a priest, recognized a single, non-canonical gospel—The Gospel of Hebrews, also called the Gospel of Matthew, but a distorted and falsified one, according to Epiphanius. (Epiphanius, XXX, pgs. 3, 13). Here we find the source of Quranic teachings concerning Jesus. No angel, neither God Himself, revealed these distorted truths to Muhammad.

According to Epiphanius, Ebionism states, “For Ebion said that Jesus was generated by sexual intercourse and the seed of Joseph…” The Holy Bible states otherwise. One can easily see where all this twisted Quranic teachings came from. Supposedly, some monks of the Quran, according to Azzi and many others, joined this cultic sect after the 70 AD destruction of Jerusalem. It is said they immigrated to Hijaz area where other Arab tribes merged into this sect. (Epiphanius, XXIX, XXX.)

Actually, Islam has taken Billions back into the dark ages of death and destruction. But as confusing as the Quran is, Sura 16:43; 21:7 says if any man is in doubt of God’s knowledge, “Ask the man of Scriptures, if you do not know it.” Good advice, but unheeded! If Muslims want to KNOW THE WHOLE TRUTH, they ought to read the Holy Bible and BELIEVE IT!! The Quran would lose all appeal and would be dull in comparison.


There are two things I’ve tried to accomplish in this writing: 1) To prove that Muhammad was literate; 2) To prove that the Quran is corrupted and confusing, never being revealed by an angel, nor by God. Sadly, Muhammad succeeded Waraqa, carrying on with his cultic and twisted “religious” teachings.