Monday 14 October 2013

The true meaning of 'An Nabi Ul Ummi'

بِسْمِ اللهِ الرَّحْمَنِ الرَّ حِيْمِ

One of the descriptions or attribute of Holy Prophet Muhammad (pboh) is that he is An Nabi Ul Ummi.  Normally, the layman may translate it to mean ‘the illiterate Messenger’.  However this is very far from the truth.  Although he did not attend any formal institution of learning, he gave to the Universe a Book which cannot be surpassed.  Concerning the Holy Qur’an Allah says;

Say: “If the whole of Mankind and Jinns were to gather together to produce the like of This Qur'an, they could not produce the like thereof, even if they backed up each other with help and support.  (17:88)

Do you then think that he was really “illiterate” as we interpret this word to mean?  Therefore we have to understand what Allah means when He says;

 “Those who follow the apostle, the unlettered Prophet, whom they find mentioned in their own (scriptures):” (7:157)

“So believe in Allah and His Messenger, the unlettered Prophet, who believeth in Allah and His Words: follow Him that (so) ye may be guided”.  (7:158)

My understanding and explanation of the unlettered Prophet’ is the one who ‘was not taught by anyone’ except Allah.  He never attended any institution; nor sat at the feet of any scholar.  He was never exposed to any academic teaching from any creature.  This is one reason why he is referred to as An Nabi Ul Ummi

For example, when Prophet Moses (as) was commanded by Allah to go to Pharaoh to give him the dawah, Pharaoh rebuked him by listing all the things he did for Moses as an infant.  On the other hand no one can accuse Prophet Muhammad (pboh) of him being indebted to them.  When he was a baby Halima took care of him and it was only out of his blessed personality that she began receiving so many blessings.  Then he went to his mother who died shortly after and the same with his grandfather.  No one could say that he owed them or anything of such.

A few other reasons why Allah refers to him as Nabi Ul Ummi are as follows;

1.        He was not taught by any creature yet he gave the Universal Message.  The very first revelation, Iqra, could be translated as read or recite.  So when Jibreel requested of him the first five verses of Surah Alaq; what he was possible asking him to do was to recite that which Allah impressed in his blessed heart.  To read would imply a script of which there was not any.

2.        He was never influenced by anyone.  And as a matter of emphasis Jibreel washed his heart on two separate occasions.  Before him the Arabs were quite barbaric.  They believed heavy in tribalism.  And with his coming he refined them and cultured them.  They didn’t give anything or taught him anything.  It was he who totally refined their personalities.

3.        He was never sustained by anyone.  Allah took care of him just as He did with Prophet Jesus (as) and his mother Mary.  As He says in Surah Dhuhaa:
Did We not find thee an orphan and give thee shelter (and care)?  And We found thee wandering, and We gave thee guidance.  And We found thee in need, and made thee independent.  (93:6-8)

4.       He had no biases for any tribe or nation.  He was fair, clean and clear.  Jesus, for example, came to the Israelites as he said “I came to uphold the Law of Moses.”  Prophet Muhammad (pboh) was sent to the whole of mankind.  And he harboured no doubt.  Abraham was questioned Allah as to how He can bring life to the dead.  Prophet (pboh) never displayed anything like that.

In the real sense of the word an nabi ul ummi, is like a mother.  When a baby is brought into the world he is not influenced by anyone and doesn’t know anything.  It has inherent or intuitive knowledge that Allah allows such as to cry or make signs.  Prophet Muhammad (pboh), in this world, was like a young infant.  He was not influenced by anyone except Allah.  Allah guided and took care of him.

Because he was like this and because Allah says of him that he never said any thing of his own desire; coming from him we have Ummul Qura – The Mother of all Cities and Ummaul Kitab – The Mother of all Books.  Would you then say he was illiterate as how we understand the word to be?

Even today we hear Imams attributing this term to him.  And really you cannot connect this degrading character to him.  He got his knowledge from Allah and no man could accuse him like how the Christian’s fabricate that he borrowed from the Bible.  All he gave was clean, pure and comprehensive.  Even though he was not formally taught he is the one who can take you back to your Lord because he went back to Him in this world.

The point we’re making is that we need to understand what Allah means when he says An Nabi Ul Ummi.  Contrary to the literal meaning and what we understand it to mean it does not truly reflect the meaning contained in the ayats quoted above. 

An Nabi Ul Ummi means he is unique, special and we really cannot comprehend the greatness of his personality.  He is not comparable to any other human being with regard to the contributions made intellectually, spiritually, socially and all the other disciplines. 

One of the spiritual formulas which I give to anyone undergoing difficulties and trying times is to recite as many times the following darood;

Allahumma Salay Ala Muhammad An Nabi Ul Ummi.

And I guarantee that once done you will see the benefits.  This is part of my spiritual formula that I do every day.  It is a real blessing to connect to him.  When we engage in darood we are establishing a special connection with him.  And Allah will bless us accordingly for this special darood which is unique in a lot of ways.  As a result it is very beneficial for us to understand what An Nabi Ul Ummi really means and to connect ourselves to that one who is Nabi Ul Ummi.  And insha Allah, Allah will bless us.

Two questions that arose during the discourse:

1.    What was the role of Angel Jibreel in the life of Prophet Muhammad (pboh)?
His role was to just bring that which Allah commanded him to bring.  He was not a teacher of Prophet (pboh).  Even when he impressed the Quran in the heart of Prophet (pboh) he did not know it.  As Allah says in Surah Rahmaan; It is He (Allah) who has taught the Qur'an (55:2).  Angels don’t question, they simply carry out command of Allah.

2.    Was Khadija influential on him?
She did not really influence him.  She, in fact learnt from him as she first hired him.  She even doubled her profit as a result.  So much came from him and eventually when they got married and she gave him her wealth, he didn’t keep it for himself.  He gave her what was sufficient for her to live and shared out the rest to poor.  In this context he helped her and she in turned acted as a true wife when he discussed things with her.  She fulfilled her role as a special companion as wives are special companions to their husbands.  To say she sustained him is incorrect.

We are talking about our leader and our model who has a special connection with Allah.  He is quite unique and incomparable.  And it’s very sad to see the term illiterate being used to describe a Messenger who is the highest of the high, after Allah Almighty.  May Allah enable us all to have a true understanding of His Beloved (pboh) and may He guide us to strengthen our relationship with him, insha Allah.

Transcript of discourse delivered by
Maulana Dr. Waffie Mohammed

The video presentation of this discourse can be accessed at

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