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Would Illiteracy Have Hindered Mohammed?

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This began in the Human Evolution thread. I realize that there are some who want to argue that Mohammed was not illiterate, but this thread isn't the place for it. Here we're talking about arguments which arise if it is assumed that he was.

 

I'm arguing that Mohammed's illiteracy is totally irrelevant to discussions about the authorship of the Koran.

 

One of the common arguments used to show that Mohammed must have had divine help to compose the Koran is that he was illiterate. I maintain that illiteracy in a society with an oral tradition of passing on knowledge does not mean the same as it does today, where it is associated with lack of education or learning disability. It would have been perfectly possible for Mohammed to be knowledgeable aout his society's collective wisdom while being illiterate.

 

In fact an oral tradition and the memory skills it demanded would have been an advantage in composing the Koran.

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This began in the Human Evolution thread. I realize that there are some who want to argue that Mohammed was not illiterate, but this thread isn't the place for it. Here we're talking about arguments which arise if it is assumed that he was.

 

I'm arguing that Mohammed's illiteracy is totally irrelevant to discussions about the authorship of the Koran.

 

One of the common arguments used to show that Mohammed must have had divine help to compose the Koran is that he was illiterate. I maintain that illiteracy in a society with an oral tradition of passing on knowledge does not mean the same as it does today, where it is associated with lack of education or learning disability. It would have been perfectly possible for Mohammed to be knowledgeable aout his society's collective wisdom while being illiterate.

 

In fact an oral tradition and the memory skills it demanded would have been an advantage in composing the Koran.

 

I understand what you are saying and respect that. The reason why your argument makes sense and is so logical is because of our ignorance about classical Arabic (Native speakers included).

The spoken language at the time of Muhammad (saw) was vastly different and much more elegant and descriptive than modern arabic. The people were also obsessed with poetry. But even the best poets of the time couldn't even replicate a single ayat. If you study the arabic language and the Quran you will begin to understand why.

 

Listen to this lecture: http :// blog.sunnipath. com/2007/09/27/recording-for-Islam-the-language-of-the-arabs/

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You've raised a different argument (which I would answer by saying that there's no neccessity for divine intervention to produce the greatest poet of the age - SOMEONE has to be the greatest poet of the age), and this thread might not be the place for it, unless you are suggesting that literacy was necessary to be a great poet, as it obviously isn't in an oral tradition.

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My argument could actually support yours, all I am trying to say is that the people at the time saw it as a miracle but we are ignorant to the language and might not be able to see it as a miracle (from a linguistic point of view). We also know an illiterate person back then still had superior language skills.

 

Another viewpoint to consider is the content of the Quran. How could an illiterate person know so much about the people before us? Often agreeing with the previous scriptures?

It could of been told to him but by who and when? Were there many Ahlil Kitab around at the time and what were their beliefs? Salman Al-Farsi was Christian (of some kind) but he didnt meet Muhammad (saw) until Hijrah (from memory).

 

Anyway some things to consider.

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You attributed prophet Muhammad's ability in creating the Qur'an to genius. But now you seem to be downplaying this ability by arguing that because illiteracy was common and tradition was oral-based, it was easy for him to create the Qur'an. Which is it? Was it an easily accomplished task for illiterate people to come up with great works of poetry because of the time period and the livelihood of the people, or was prophet Muhammad a rare case?

 

Salam.

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Was it an easily accomplished task for illiterate people to come up with great works of poetry because of the time period and the livelihood of the people, or was prophet Muhammad a rare case?

 

Depends on how you look at it.

Some of the people were literate some were not but all of them had excellent language skills were all obsessed with poetry. I'm am not sure if the best poets were literate or not. If they were then you could easily say its a miracle if your a sceptic could easily argue that it was a rare case.

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Just to clarify:

 

Yes I believe the Quran to be a miracle and I don't believe anyone could or will ever be able to replicate a single ayat. I believe Muhammad (saw) was illiterate and stayed that way to prove this miracle. To understand why I feel this way you would have to look into it yourself. The harder you look the more obvious it will become.

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Just to clarify:

 

Yes I believe the Quran to be a miracle and I don't believe anyone could or will ever be able to replicate a single ayat. I believe Muhammad (saw) was illiterate and stayed that way to prove this miracle. To understand why I feel this way you would have to look into it yourself. The harder you look the more obvious it will become.

 

:sl:

 

Thank you for the clarification, and I agree completely with your words.

 

Salam.

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I have to add for bartlett's sake:

 

Your theory that prophet Muhammad was frequently exposed to oral poetry and had the time and opportunity to master the Arabic language, is mere speculation, and founded on little to no evidence. Prophet Muhammad, from the time he was 12, worked as a trader and a shephard. He spent much of his time traveling in merchant caravans and selling goods in markets.

 

The significance of prophet Muhammad is not simply that he was illiterate. He was unlearned, as I've mentioned before. He did not know Arabic beyond the spoken language. He did not put endless hours into perfecting his poetry, he did not attend competitions and tournaments held for poets. And yet, the first thing he's ever shown to the people completely blew everyone else out of the water. The language of the Qur'an is rich, eloquent, and so sophisticated that it outranked the works of even the greatest poets and changed the Arabic language itself.

 

The reason you are unable to understand just how impossible an orphaned, uneducated tradesman who began working at a young age to support himself and who had no opportunity to learn the language he spoke beyond the words necessary for communication, could easily come up with the Qur'an is that you haven't read the Qur'an itself in Arabic. Or at the very least, read English works on the linguistics of the Qur'an and how high-class it was compared to the man speaking it.

 

As Ibn Qayyim Al-Jawziyya said over 500 years ago, "Whoever knows Arabic and is acquainted with lexicography, grammar, rhetoric, and Arabic poetry and prose recognizes ipso facto the supremacy of the Qur'an"

 

Prophet Musa was no magician, even though he lived in an age when magic was revered and influenced society. But he was able to turn a stick into a snake and part a sea, and his achievements could not be rivaled by the best of magicians. Prophet Isa was no medicine man, even though he lived in an age when medicine was at its finest and had much importance to the people. But he was able to heal the blind, give life to dead people and could not be rivaled by the best of medicine men. And lastly, prophet Muhammad was no poet, even though he lived in a society that treated poets as kings and where people had deep appreciation for literature. But he was able to bring a revelation that could not be rivaled by the best of poets. Those are the miracles of the prophets. That is what makes the nature of the Qur'ans revelation miraculous.

 

Salam.

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Prophet Muhammad, from the time he was 12, worked as a trader and a shephard. He spent much of his time traveling in merchant caravans and selling goods in markets.

 

He counted money and used money and made busniess transactions an illiterate person can do no such thing nor could they read the signs of what other merchants were selling.

 

The significance of prophet Muhammad is not simply that he was illiterate. He was unlearned, as I've mentioned before. He did not know Arabic beyond the spoken language.

 

Yes he was unlearned but unlearned in sciptual knowledge, Prophet Muhammad was eloquent in language yet he was known throughout Mecca as no poet this was clear.

.

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I'll reply to all the posts soon, but I'm about to run out of electricity (I'm on solar power and it's the deepest depths of winter here I get to have jolly evening by candlelight for about 4 weeks a year), so can I just ask people to please not introduce new elements - start new threads for them and I'll gladly join them.

 

This thread is SOLELY discussing my contention that the common argument "Mohammed was illiterate, therefore he could not have written Koran without divine help" is worthless.

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Just quickly for Redeem - I'm not at all downplaying Mohammed's genius by saying that illiteracy would have assisted him. No-one considers (eg) Shakespeare a lesser genius because he was 'assisted' by being able to read sources for his plots. (And no, I'm not arguing that either Mohammed or Shakespeare was the greater genius... please don't you.)

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He counted money and used money and made busniess transactions an illiterate person can do no such thing nor could they read the signs of what other merchants were selling.

 

:sl:

 

The only time I argue with Muslims is when it's based on evidence from the scholars. I've already asked that you present proof that he was not illiterate or that he was educated, and if you have any, you're welcome to begin a new topic for the discussion. In the meantime, why don't we focus on more important issues? Like giving Da'wah to non-Muslims, instead of the secondary task of trying to dispute fellow Muslims?

 

Just quickly for Redeem - I'm not at all downplaying Mohammed's genius by saying that illiteracy would have assisted him. No-one considers (eg) Shakespeare a lesser genius because he was 'assisted' by being able to read sources for his plots. (And no, I'm not arguing that either Mohammed or Shakespeare was the greater genius... please don't you.)

 

I wasn't sure what you were saying, that prophet Muhammad was a genius, or that the circumstances he lived in allowed a simple illiterate man to learn poetry.

 

In any case, illiteracy was not what made prophet Muhammad's case unique nor was it what made it impossible for him to be the author of the book that he had revealed to the Arabs. It was other factors, but being unlettered was simply the icing on the cake. So no, illiteracy alone probably would not have hindered prophet Muhammad. Then again, even being deaf would not have hindered him if Allah had willed it.

 

Salam.

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This thread is SOLELY discussing my contention that the common argument "Mohammed was illiterate, therefore he could not have written Koran without divine help" is worthless.

 

 

 

illiterate to scripture meaning that he did not follow any structred religion nor did study any of them nor was his speech ever about any God. This is what he was known for in all arabia never was he called a God fearing man or one who preached about God he was just known as a good honest man.

 

Now for someone who never even preached about God never even followed a religion and even his close friends and wife knew this of him, now for him to all of a sudden start reciting scripture and making sense was something strange to the meccans. All of a sudden Muhammad who they knew all their lives is now talking about a 1 GOD and a way of life.

 

This man who was once illiterate (unlearned)in scriptual knowledge who never even recited a verse from any scripture is now talking about God?? Then the question was asked where did you get this information Muhammad, his answer was from God from his angel.

 

Now here they was faced with a serious challenge, here they have a man that they nicknamed trustworthy a man who they could trust with antthing a man who never ever told a lie, here is this same man quoting words that sound beautiful and he says that he got it from God. Well 1400 years later that same man has led over 1 billion people to a way of life and Islam is the fastest growing way of life in the world. I ask you if this is not an example of divine help then what is?

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In any case, illiteracy was not what made prophet Muhammad's case unique nor was it what made it impossible for him to be the author of the book that he had revealed to the Arabs. It was other factors, but being unlettered was simply the icing on the cake. So no, illiteracy alone probably would not have hindered prophet Muhammad. Then again, even being deaf would not have hindered him if Allah had willed it.

 

:sl:

 

bartlett: Did you listen to the lecture linked in my first post?

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Aussie - Not yet, and frankly I probably won't. The 'lectures' I've heard by religious people (any faith) tend to be high on emotion and podium/pulpit tricks and short on fact and genuine argument (that is offering at least hypothetical credibility to opposing views and not misrepresenting them). Like politicians, I've never heard a religious 'lecturer' speaking to the faithful diverging far from the LCD party line and the (admittedly few) Muslim speakers I've heard are better than most at this.

 

That isn't to say that I don't take seriously the point that Muslim scholars are of the opinion that the Koran is the greatest work of literature in Arabic. I'm very dubious about the claim that it is impossible to better even a single verse, but I take it as a serious claim worth investigating.

 

However this thread isn't the place for it.

 

Twoswordsali - how on earth can you quote me saying what this thread is about and then post something that is completely contrary to it?

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Another viewpoint to consider is the content of the Quran. How could an illiterate person know so much about the people before us? Often agreeing with the previous scriptures?

 

You're still assuming that illiteracy means lack of access to cultural resources. Which in Mohammed's society was not the case.

 

It could of been told to him but by who and when? Were there many Ahlil Kitab around at the time and what were their beliefs? Salman Al-Farsi was Christian (of some kind) but he didnt meet Muhammad (saw) until Hijrah (from memory).

 

I seem to recall that Mohammed went on trading trips as a young man, on which he would have met all sorts of people. Meeting Christians would not have been at all unlikely. For the "he was illiterate therefore ..." argument to work, you have to assume that no-one talked about Christianity. That would be extremely unlikely for an evangelising religion that was becoming very widely adopted. Remember also that Mohammed married a rich widow. He would have had a lot of spare time.

 

Remember I'm ONLY talking about the merits of the argument 'Mohammed was illiterate therefore he couldn't have composed the Koran by himself'. I think it's a worthless argument and it really annoys me every time someone puts it forward - it shows that they haven't really thought much about what they are saying.

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Twoswordsali - how on earth can you quote me saying what this thread is about and then post something that is completely contrary to it?

 

 

im speaking of the viewpoint that you have brought up, im saying that Muhammad being illiterate is not meaning that he cannot read or write. The word in Arabic is ummiy which means unlearned, unlearned in scripture illiterate in scripture, how can a man in a position like this write a book the Quran without divine help. A book that is more scientificly advanced than what the Arabs ever had, a book that helps people 1400 years later to live a better way of life a book that brought about the renasaince, a book that give better understanding into the scriptures of old how can a man who is unlearned in scripture and science do this without divine help??

 

Now looking at your contention of the common argument of Muhammad being illiterate is worthless, im saying that its not worthless, in fact its worth looking into. starting with 1 question HOW did he do it?? Then looking at Muhammads answer to that question,also looking at what type of person Muhammad was, what his enemies even said about him, Looking at these then you can see how even his enemies asked the same questions and ended up following his way of life based off of the character of Muhammad. But it all starts with the question HOW??

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twoswords, the answer to the "HOW" is that he did it in pretty much the same way as a literate person would have. That's all I'm arguing - that his illiteracy is completely irrelevant.

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edit (except I can't edit yet) - if what you say is correct, then I wish people would argue "Mohammed was uneducated" rather than "Mohammed was illiterate".

 

But not in this thread.

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twoswords, the answer to the "HOW" is that he did it in pretty much the same way as a literate person would have. That's all I'm arguing - that his illiteracy is completely irrelevant.

 

 

well then what other man has established a way of life for people and that same way of life being the no.1 fastest growing way of life in the world what other person has done this? Look his illiteracy in the knowledge of God is very relevant, and the fact that he was named the most trustworthy, he never lied, never. So if a man who never tells lies never plays jokes on people (even as a youth) and is not insane he has his sanity. If this man comes to you and tells you that God has spoken to him and is reveling a book to him, and you see the effect that the words in which he says comes from God has on people, and how it betters people ,and this man takes no credit for the words he says that they all come form God ,how can you not believe that man?

 

 

edit (except I can't edit yet) - if what you say is correct, then I wish people would argue "Mohammed was uneducated" rather than "Mohammed was illiterate".

 

But not in this thread.

 

 

Well in dealing with scriptual langauge to be illiterate means that you are uneducated in the life in which God wants for you, you cannot read his signs nor his scriptures.

 

And for Muhammad to be known as such a man then all of a sudden become literate(knowledgable) in scripture is big. So to say he was illiterate is correct but illiterate acording to tha arabic meaning which does not literally mean cannot read.

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As I said, I wish people would use English when arguing in English.

 

And please, you STILL aren't addressing the topic, which is: if Mohammed was illiterate (an English word meaning unable to read and write), would this have hindered him in composing the Koran? I maintain that it wouldn't have, and thus it is a worthless argument to say 'Mohammed was unable to read or write, how could he have composed the Koran?'

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As I said, I wish people would use English when arguing in English.

 

And please, you STILL aren't addressing the topic, which is: if Mohammed was illiterate (an English word meaning unable to read and write), would this have hindered him in composing the Koran? I maintain that it wouldn't have, and thus it is a worthless argument to say 'Mohammed was unable to read or write, how could he have composed the Koran?'

 

Well my friend the word illiterate in english holds other meanings as well it also means uneducated,unenlightened,untaught. I see what you are saying, and it is true because in the Quran God says that he gives knowledge to whoever He pleases. So if you cant read or write or even speak the God can give knowledge to you that would surpass all of mans knowledge.

 

Yes you are right in saying that i believe that to, that if God wanted to give knowledge to Muhammad it wouldnt matter if he could not read or write or understand scripture. However at the time of Muhammad the was a charge by the chiefs of Mecca and some nasty Jews and Christians that Muhammad stole information from their scriptures, that he studied their books that he compiled a whole lot of their stuff into one book. That was the charge but the chiefs of Mecca knew Muhammad his own family knew him they all knew him, they knew him as a man who was never versed in the Bible or Torah as long as they knew him they knew him as being "illiterate"," uneducated", in scripture.

 

So the Quran addresses the charge that they made to Muhammad, that how can you say he took information, that he studied your books, when you know that he never in his life even picked up a Bible or Torah never even studied those books and was uneducated in the scripture of old he could not read them , meaning that Muhammad could not derive any insight from those books, no understanding what soever. He couldnt write meaning that he couldnt even put into practice "pen to paper" what was in the Bible and Torah, So how can you charge him of this when you know what type of man Muhammad is.

 

 

So no it is not worthless to say that Muhammad was illiterate(remember the meaning) how could he have composed the Quran, simply because the Quran clears Muhammad of the falsehood that they had attributed to him and it made clear to those who was spreading these rumours and it made them look like the liars they were and it cleared Muhammad. So you are right in what you said in the first question but in the last statement of it being worthless I dont see it as being worthless because it cleared him and put the proff in the pudding so to speak.

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Actually, it doesn't. "Illiterate" means unable to read or write. I don't care what internet dictionaries say, I'll go with the Oxford. Yes, there is a current sloppy popular usage which appends it to an adjective implying that a person is unlearned (as you yourself have used "scripturtal illiteracy"), but only if appended to an adjective. I didn't. People who use illiteracy as part of their argument don't either.

 

Just to make it quite clear, I'm not talking about "scriptural illiteracy" or anything else - I'm talking about illiteracy - the inability to read or write. If you want to discuss this using another definition of illiteracy, please start another thread.

 

You STILL haven't addressed the topic of the post - that the argument that Mohammed's illiteracy meant that he would have needed help to compose the Koran is a worthless argument.

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You STILL haven't addressed the topic of the post - that the argument that Mohammed's illiteracy meant that he would have needed help to compose the Koran is a worthless argument.

 

 

 

ok lets go on the the argument that Muhammad could not read or write, if this is true then how did read or write the Quran without help?? How could he structure words in excellent gramatical order if he could not read or write? Without some intellegent beings help??

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