Historians are unanimous that the Prophet Muhammad was unlettered without any known teachers or books. So why would Allah send humanity a Prophet that could not read nor write?

This is an important question because He, the Prophet( peace and blessings be upon him) guides us to the pure and pristine revelation of the Quran. Why would God send humanity a leader who cannot read? Did the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) really not know how to read or write?

The Quran answers this question with clarity, as Allah says himself about the unlettered Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) :

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

“And you did not read before it any book, nor had you written any book with your own hands, otherwise the falsifiers would have (had cause for) doubt.”

Surah Al-Ankabut, v.46

Also Allah says:

الَّذِينَ يَتَّبِعُونَ الرَّسُولَ النَّبِيَّ الْأُمِّيَّ الَّذِي يَجِدُونَهُ مَكْتُوبًا عِندَهُمْ فِي التَّوْرَاةِ وَالْإِنجِيلِ

“Those who follow the Messenger, the Prophet who can neither read nor write,about whom they find written in what they have with them of the Torah and Gospels”

Surah Al-A’raf, V.157

So it’s clear as Allah informs us here that the Prophet ( peace and blessing be upon him) was neither able to read nor write.

In Islam knowledge is the most important thing from the beginning and that’s why Muslims are instructed to act upon knowledge in whatever they do. The famous saying goes

“knowledge proceeds actions”.

So the command within the Quran and the Sunnah (Prophet traditions) is that we Muslims should seek knowledge first so that our actions are correct and divinely guided.

The Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) had the greatest knowledge, because his teacher was Allah himself. He was taught through revelation and not from books or teachers like the rest of us.

We often elevate the status of people because of the teachers or the prestigious institutes they have study with. In the case of the Messenger of Allah, there cannot be a more elevated status than to be taught by The Creator himself.

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Why the Prophet Muhammad (s) couldn’t read or write:

Allah says in surah Al Baqarah, verse 78,

وَمِنْهُمْ أُمِّيُّونَ لَا يَعْلَمُونَ الْكِتَابَ إِلَّا أَمَانِيَّ وَإِنْ هُمْ إِلَّا يَظُنُّونَ

“And among them are unlettered ones who do not know the Scripture, except in wishful thinking, but they are only assuming.”

This verse was revealed about the people who rejected Islam, and Allah says that they were people who assumed they had knowledge. However, the word ‘Ummi’ is used to describe them, which is translated as unlettered, one who cannot read or write. This is the same as the word ‘Ummi’ that is used in Surah Al A’raf above.

So being unlettered, unable to read or write is not a praiseworthy thing when it comes all of humanity. However, in the Case of Prophet Muhammad(phub) it was necessary as Allah mentions in the same verse of Surah Al Ankabut:

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

“otherwise the falsifiers would have (had cause for) doubt.”


What is meant by this is that, the Prophet(pbuh) was unlettered so that no one could claim that this Quran was his words, and his writing. The Corrupted of hearts of those falsifiers would have led a campaign to lead the people astray from the truth that this Book, the Quran was in fact revealed from the Heavens and it is the words of God himself.

Muslims celebrate that the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) was unlettered. Does this mean that it’s okay not to have knowledge? The answer is a resounding no, because knowledge is an important and vital part of Islam.

In the very first verse revealed of the Quran, Allah commands us with the word, “Read”. The Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) was an exception to this rule as Allah saved him from the negative baggage of the cultures that existed at his time. Every language and culture come with some good and some bad baggage.

Allah saved his Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) from all of the negative effects of the culture, because he was going to be the carrier of the final revelation. Allah intended for him to carry a pure knowledge which would not be tainted by any impurity of human addition.

This is why he says in Surah An-Najm verse 3, 4:

“and He does not speak of his own desires, indeed he speak but revelation”

You and I speak from the knowledge that we have, and our speech is influenced by the desires that we have. Whereas the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) was someone who only spoke revelation because Allah guided him to that.

Importance of Knowledge in Islam

Knowledge in Islam is of the highest priority, which is why the first verse of revelation was a command to read, (Surah Al Alaq). It is based upon this command that the Muslim nation was established, and upon this command the Muslim nation became the most powerful nation the world had ever seen.

Knowledge coupled with action creates a power that is unparalleled. If you want to understand the power of the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him), then all you have to do is look at the knowledge that he possessed and who his Teachers was.

His teacher was none other than Allah himself, whereas my teacher or yours is someone else from the creation.

Knowledge of your profession is important, whether you’re a doctor or a scientist or any other profession that requires a high level of education. However, you can be someone who possesses the foundation knowledge to get you through life.

Professional knowledge is essential so that we can flourish in your career. However, knowledge of Allah and his religion is even more essential so that you can flourish in your life, have a happy life and ultimately get into Paradise.

Today the Muslim nation is full of professionals from the various disciplines and sciences. Yet, we are weak in our understanding and implementation of Islam, and most importantly, weak in our understanding of our Creator and what He wants from us.

As a result of that we become weak despite our professional roles and education. Furthermore, we become weak as an Ummah and this suffer many trials and tribulations.

The Muslim should be a person who has both professional knowledge as well as knowledge of Islam, knowledge of Allah. If you do not know who your Lord is how will you love Him, or even believe in Him with absolute belief.

Allah was the teacher of Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him). He is the teacher of the Muslims and the leader who will guide us to success in both this world and the next. Knowledge will give you power if you’re willing to act upon it.

So, it’s vital that we follow the messenger of Allah(Pbuh) and how He lived because he was someone who acted upon the knowledge that he had.

Today we spend weeks, months and years learning about the different sciences, yet we do it for curiosity, or just to earn an income and get a great job. It’s imperitive to seek knowledge of the final revelation, the guidance that Allah sent as a source of light in this world, The Quran and Sunnah.

When you and I begin to walk our talk, to seek knowledge of the most important subject (the purpose of your life), and then to act upon that knowledge you will become more powerful than you’ve ever been before. This knowledge of the Deen will transform your life, motivate your for greater and better things and push you towards becoming the person Allah intended for you to be. Insha’Allah you will become the very best that humanity has ever seen.

Today is a good day to start, tomorrow is not guaranteed for anyone.

Take small steps towards some good and you can achieve great things insha’Allah. I pray that you and I will be amongst the greatest this Ummah has seen.