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• Qur'an
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The Arabic word ummi is commonly translated as "unlettered." In the Qur'an, Muhammad is described as "ummi" and traditionally this has meant for Muslims that Muhammad was illiterate, completely unable to read or write. Thus, the fact that he was able to write down the Qur'an should be regarded as a miracle (i'jaz) and evidence that it really does have a divine origin.

Some have, however, argued that ummi and "unlettered" should not be taken to mean illiterate, but rather scriptureless. This would mean that when Muhammad is described as ummi, it means that he is not one of the Jews (a people "of the Book") or simply that he is not a member of a group which has yet received a revelation from God - at least, not until he received the Qur'an. Such a translation seems more likely to many because Muhammad is also described as having been a merchant, and it is unlikely that a completely illiterate person could have functioned as a merchant.

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What is Islam?
What is Islam? What do Muslims believe? Where did Islam come from? What is jihad? Find the answers to these questions and more in our Islam FAQ.

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