The verse 7:158 states that Muhammad was a gentile:

“So you shall believe in God and His messenger, the gentile (ummy) prophet.”


1: having little or no education; especially: unable to read or write <an illiterate population>
2 a : showing or marked by a lack of familiarity with language and literature <an illiterate magazine>
b : violating approved patterns of speaking or writing
3: showing or marked by a lack of acquaintance with the fundamentals of a particular field of knowledge.


The word Ummy clearly means “Gentile,” or one who does not follow scripture (Torah, Injeel) [see 2:78, 3:20 & 75, 62:2]; it does NOT mean “illiterate.”


Let’s examine the true meaning of “ummy” in the Quran. Anyone can easily understand that “ummy” does not mean an illiterate person by reflecting on the verse 3:20 below:

“And say to those who received the scripture, as well as those who did not receive any scripture (ummyyeen)…”

It is obvious that “ummy” does not mean illiterate because it has been used as the antonym of the people of the scripture. If the verse was” … And say to those literate and illiterate”, then their above translation of “ummy” would be correct.

According to the verse 3:20 the people of Arab peninsula were two main groups:

  1. The people of the scripture, i.e., Jews and Christians.

  2. Gentiles, who did not receive any scripture.

If the people who were neither Jews nor Christians were called “ummyyeen” (3:20; 3:75), then the meaning of “ummy” is very clear. As a matter of fact, the verse 3:75 clearly explains its meaning as gentile.

Mecca was the cultural center of the Arabs in the 7th century. Poetry competitions were being held there. It is a historical fact that Meccans were not familiar with the Injeel and Taurat , thus they were gentiles. So the verse 62:2 describes Meccan people by the word “ummyyeen”:

“He is the One who sent to the gentiles (ummyyeen) a messenger from among them, to recite to them His revelations, purify them, and teach them the scripture and wisdom. Before this, they had gone far astray.” (62:2)

The Quran does not classify the people of Arab peninsula as the literate and the illiterate, as Muslim scholars claim. The Quran classifies the people as people of the book (Jews & Christians) and gentiles. The second classification is the correct one, and the Quran supports it.

The disbelievers claimed that Muhammad was quoting verses from the Old and New Testaments (25:5; 68:15). The verse below refutes their accusation and gives the answer:

“You did not read any previous scriptures, nor did you write them with your hand. In that case, the objectors would have had reason to harbor doubts.” (29:48)

This verse tells us that Muhammad did not read nor write previous scriptures. The word “min qablihi = previous” proves that Muhammad read and wrote the final scripture.


After this examination on the true meaning of the word “ummy”, here are the reasons and proofs for the fact that Muhammad was a literate gentile:

ˆ To magnify the miraculous aspect of the Quran, religious people thought that the story of illiteracy would be alluring.

ˆ The producer of the illiteracy story found it easy to change the meaning of “ummy”, which in the entire Quran, consistently means “gentile” (2:78; 3:20; 3:75; 62:2).

ˆ The Arabs of the 7th century were using letters as numbers. This alphabetical numbering system is called “Abjed”. The merchants of those days had to know the letters of the alphabet to record their account. If Muhammad was a successful international merchant, then he most probably knew this numbering system. The Arabs stopped using the “Abjed” system in the 9th century when they took “Arabic numbers” from India.

ˆ Traditional history books accept that Muhammad dictated the Quran and controlled its recording. Even if we accept that Muhammad did not know how to read or write before revelation of the Quran, we can not claim that he preserved his illiteracy during 23 years while he was dictating the Quran.

ˆ The first revelation was “Read,” and the first five verses of that revelation encourage reading and writing (96:1-5). The second revelation was “The pen and writing” (68:1).


a) As you can see in verse 3:20 and 3:75, the Quran uses the word “ummy” as the antonym of the “ehlil kitab = people of the book”. Do you believe that Quran classifies people as literate and illiterate?

b) The Quran describes Meccan people with the word “ummyyeen = gentiles” (62:2). According to traditional Muslims claim, all Meccan people must have been illiterate. According to their hadith books, who was writing poems in Mecca? Who was reading the poems hanging on the walls of the Kaba?

c) Which numbering system were the Arabs using in the 7th century? Did those who were making calculations with those numbers know how to read and write?

d) Is the unique spelling in the Quran the result of errors and personal opinions? How do Traditional Muslims explain the different spelling of “bism” of the Basmalah and the first verse of chapter 96?

e) Does God command an illiterate man to “read”? Could Muhammad read after Gabriel’s instruction? Does this story not contradict Traditional Muslims claim that Muhammad died an illiterate?

f) Let us accept that Muhammad was illiterate before the revelation of the Quran. Why did he insist on staying illiterate for 23 years after the first revelation: “Read !”? Did he not obey his Lord’s command? Did he receive another command forbidding him from reading and writing?

g) Was it so difficult for Muhammad to learn to read and write? If a person still does not learn to read and write after 23 years of careful dictation of a book, what do you think about such a person? Is he stupid or a liar?

h) Was Muhammad encouraging his followers to read and write? If so, why did he exclude himself? How do you explain this strange attitude and verse 2:44?

i) How can an illiterate man insure the accuracy of a scribe?

j) Traditional Muslims are trying to imitate Muhammad from his eating to his attire, from his beard to his toothbrush; why do you not imitate his illiteracy? Why do they not follow his sunnah?

k) Traditional Muslims are the people who disagree on almost every subject; but they agree on the story of the illiteracy of Muhammad. How could they manage this agreement?

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