Posted on January 26, 2009 by


Surah-e-A’raf, Verse 157:

“Those who follow the Messenger, the Prophet who is an Ummi, whom they will find described in the Torah and the Gospel (which are) with them. He will enjoin on them that which is right and forbid them that which is wrong. He will make lawful for them all good things and prohibit for them only the foul; and he will relieve them of their burden and the fetters that they used to wear. Then those who believe in him, and honour him, and help him, and follow the light which is sent down with him: they are the successful.”

Allah gave the Prophet “Risalat”, “Nabuwwat” and “Ummiyat“.

Muslim translators and mufassirs wrote the meaning of Ummi as “one who does not know how to read or write”.

What needs to be thought upon is level by level, literacy and accumulation of knowledge increases. First you pass level one, then two, then you move on to class/level three. Here it is first Risalat, then Nabuwwat, then the Prophet becomes illiterate!

If this is the meaning of Ummi, then it’s a disgrace to Risalat and Nabuwwat.

If the Prophet did not know how to read and write, then why was it said in the first revelation to “Read!”? And in the same revelation was also the phrase “Bil-Qalam”: We taught him to write with the pen!

“Read with the name of your Lord Who created, created man from a clot. Read, and your Lord only is the Most Beneficent, The One Who taught to write with the pen!” (Al-Alaq 96: 1-4)

Taught whom? Why isn’t it “Say in the name of your Lord”? Why is it specifically “Read”?

The first revelation contains both reading and writing, then why are Muslims saying “didn’t know how to read or write”?

“Nun, and by the Pen, and that which will be written. Thou art not, for thy Lord’s favour unto thee, a madman.” (68:1-2)

Mufassirs have written the meaning of Nun as “fish”. Now what does a fish have to do with a pen? We have the pen, and what it will write, the only thing left to complete the set is a “dawaat” (ink bottle). Does the letter Nun resemble a container of sorts?

Why did Allah reveal this verse? Did the Holy Prophet (S.A.W.W.) ask for a pen, paper and an ink bottle, and was declared a madman ever?

It is a strange thing that in Arabic, every word has 20-25 meanings. The Prophet said “Man Kunto Maulahu Fahaza Ali Un Maula!” Here the meanings of Maula have been declared by Muslims as brother, aide, helper, servant, neighbor, friend, etc so that the real meaning gets lost somewhere. But when it comes to Ummi, they have declared just one meaning “illiterate”. Why has the dictionary shrunk here?

Risalat means to convey the message, and Nabuwwat means to get it from Allah, if a Prophet passes away then neither will the message come from Allah nor would it be conveyed to the people. This means that both ranks get terminated. But the Holy Prophet is above all the other prophets, so there must be a rank that does not end ever.

Prophet Ibrahim was given Risalat, Nabuwwat, then Khullat (ref Khalilullah), showing that the rank is increasing, not decreasing, and in the end he was given Imamat. The last rank is the highest of them all: “We have made you the Imam of all humanity.” This rank will go on till Qayamat, all other ranks ended at his passing.

Imamat, Imam and Ummi, there is a strong connection between these three in Arabic. Since Ibrahim was the first Imam, this rank was passed on in his lineage till Qayamat. Since the Holy Prophet is above Ibrahim, then he must have a rank that is greater than that of an Imam i.e. Ummi.

Ummi is a rank that will go on till Qayamat and beyond that. Higher than Risalat, higher than Nabuwwat!

To understand this word, we must see where it comes from. Ummi is derived from the word “Umm” (ام). “Umm” has a lot of meanings and in the light of each and every one of them, the Holy Prophet is an “Ummi”.

“Umm” means “mother”, “Umm” means the “origin/reality of everything”, e.g. the origin of Ummah, Ummi. The origin of Imamat, Ummi. “Umm” also means “basis/foundation”, and it also means “root”.

“Umm” means “central land”, “Umm” means “central/main Alam(flag)”, “Umm” means “where two rivers meet and form the main river”.

Umm means main alam/flag. A flag is the identity of an army, it’s purpose to bring all soldiers closer to their base. Flags are raised so that all those who have gone astray may reach their destination. On tall buildings, in villages, alams were hoisted so that a traveller, a stranger may find inhabitations easily. The first alam was used for gathering people. When Shees decided to avenge Abel’s murder from Cain, the children of Adam were scattered over great distances so Shees asked Gabriel on how to unite them. Gabriel brought an alam from Heaven and asked Shees to raise it. An Alam unites people, it does not create divisions. The one who raises it is an Ummi.

But the Holy Prophet never held an Alam throughout his entire life. It was either Hamza, or Ja’far-e-Tayyar and in Khyber he announced that he would give the Alam to the one who is a Man (Rajul) and it was awarded to Ali. Then which Alam is this? It’s the Alam of Shafa’at. On the Day of Judgment, this Alam will be in the Prophet’s hand, and this honor has not been bestowed on any Nabi or Rasool.

Umm also means “central land”. When the world was being created, the first land to be formed was Makkah, that’s why one of it’s names is “Umm-ul-Qara”. “Qarion ki Maan” (mother of villages), the origin of cities. A resident of Lucknow is Lakhnavi, that of Dehli is Dehlavi, the one from Umm-ul-Qara is Ummi. Mufassirs have written that in relation to Umm-ul-Qara, the Holy Prophet has been called Ummi. But that means every resident of Makkah becomes an Ummi, and everyone can not be an Ummi.

Allah says in the Quraan:

“We sent an Ummi from amongst Ummis.”

During the tafseer of this verse, the literal meaning was taken. If every infidel from Makkah becomes an Ummi, then this is a disgrace for this rank.

And if we repeat the previous meaning that “We sent an illiterate from illiterates” then the Quraan again refutes by saying that “He recites verses over them. He narrates the Quraan”…one who narrates the Quraan cannot be illiterate…and neither were the inhabitants of Makkah. They were so learned that their children used to say poetic verses effortlessly while walking. They used to recognize the rider by looking at the hoof-prints of the horse or camel. They used to say rhapsodies on the go during battles and were proud of their eloquence. They called themselves Arabs and all others Ajams (mutes). They were not illiterates. These Arab non-believers were not illiterate but the Prophet was…won’t the one saying this be called an infidel himself?

Then what does the Quraan mean by saying that we sent an Ummi from Ummis?

Sometimes the application of “Ummat” is on one man. The Quraan says that Ibrahim was an Ummat [Ibrahima Kana Ummatan (16:120)], this Ummat is still alive after Ibrahim in his progeny…this Ummat is of Abdul Muttalib, Abdullah, Abu Talib, Fatimah Binte Asad, Khadijah and Ali, etc. And from amongst these Ummis, the Prophet was sent.

Coming to the meaning of Umm that is “where two rivers meet to form the main river”:

Two bahars (seas) met…Ibrahim is one bahar, Hajra another, both met and this process led till Hashim. Hashim got married to Salmah of Madinah, Abdul Muttalib was born. Abdul Muttalib and Fatimah-e-Makhzoomia form two bahars, and Abdullah is born. Abdullah and Aminah meet, and the Noor of the Prophet appears. Where two Umms meet, appears an Ummi. Khadijah’s lineage comes from Ibrahim…she gets married to the Prophet and Fatimah Zehra’s Noor appears. Abu Talib and Fatimah Binte Asad meet and the Noor of Ali appears. Ali and Fatimah Zehra come together then the Quraan moves forward and declares:

“Pearls and Coral” like Hasan and Husain are born.

Now we come to the most important meaning of Umm…”mother”.

Ummi means “son of one’s mother”, this means that the son of every Umm is an Ummi. No, every son of an Umm is not Ummi, only one whose mother is the pride of the Creation.

This is a strange merit…whenever the Prophet selected anyone from his Ummat to award a title or merit, then the highest merit was always awarded to Ali, and to Fatimah among the women. The Prophet declared everyone in his Ummat to be the brother of another, but made Ali his own brother…highest merit for Ali.

He made all his wives the mothers of the Ummat, Ali the father.

But for Fatimah, the merit had to be higher, so he called Fatimah “Umm-e-Abiha” (mother of her father)!

By calling Fatimah his mother, the Prophet wanted to show the Ummat that a prophet’s mother is always pure, and devoid of impurities and faults, like Fatimah. And the one who raised him on his lap was a mother like Fatimah Binte Asad. Ayah-e-Tatheer stands witness over their purity and infallibility.

It is now clear that the Prophet was not illiterate, the translators and mufassirs are the illiterate ones. Then how high a standard does the Prophet have of knowledge? This can only be declared by an Infallible. Muhammad-e-Taqi, his successor, states:

The Prophet knew how to read and write in the 97 languages in use at that time!


This is a modified and translated extract (almost half) of Dr. Syed Zameer Akhtar Naqvi’s speech on the topic “Rasool-e-Ummi”, from the book “Mairaj-e-Khitabat” Volume III. Most parts have been removed to prevent choking due to overdose. :P Sorry!

Any mistakes or discontinuities are my faults, I am a mere human being after all. The full speech can be found in the book above.


Picture of Allama Dr. Syed Zameer Akhtar Naqvi

Allamah Dr. Syed Zameer Akhtar Naqvi

Born in Lucknow in 1947, Syed Zameer Akhtar Naqvi is one of the prominent scholars of Pakistan, having a breath-taking command over history, not just of Islam or Muslims but the whole goddamn world, and maybe more. Having two Ph. Ds to his credit, one on “Khitabat” and the other on “Mir Anees”, he has been conducting research on God knows how many topics for the past 50 years. Not only this, he has command over languages including Urdu, Arabic, Persian, Hindi and (again) God knows what else (I’ve even heard him speak in some dehaati language!). Ask him about the origin or roots of any word or idiom and he’ll tell you.

Having read books of all Muslim schools of thought, including Shia, Hanafi, Barelvi, Ahl-e-Hadees, Deobandi, Maliki, etc and even those of other religions like Christianity, Judaism and Hinduism, he has devoted his life to upholding the merits of the Holy Prophet and His Progeny (S.A.W.W.) and condemning all actions taken by the perpetrators of heinous crimes against them, or in current times by the supporters of these perpetrators. He has taken it upon himself to defend these virtuous personalities and their forefathers, e.g. Hazrat Abu Talib (A.S.), Hazrat Abdul Muttalib (A.S.), by refuting all degrading theories, and proving their virtues and high status with the help of the Quraan, Ahadees and History. This has earned him the title of “Wakeel-e-Wila-e-Ali” from his fans and followers, belonging to both Shia and Sunni sects. He has delivered lectures in various countries including Pakistan (obviously!), India, Iran, Iraq, Syria, UK, USA, Greece, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, etc, etc, etc, bus main thak gaya!

Author of more than 300 books and articles, on topics like “Mir Anees Ki Shairi Mein Rangon Ka Istimal”, “Ilm-e-Maasoom”, “Shu’raye Urdu aur Ishq-e-Ali”, “Fatah-e-Imam-e-Hasan [w.r.t the deal with Muawiyyah (L.A.)]“, “Janab-e-Zainab aur Tareekh-e-Mulk-e-Shaam”, “Gham-e-Imam-e-Husain Aur Azadaron Ki Shifa’at”, etc, and personalities like Hazrat Ali (2000 pages), Bibi Fatimah Zehra(2000 pages), Hazrat Ja’far-e-Tayyar, Shahzada-e-Qasim Ibne Hasan (two volumes, 1000 and 900 pages), Bibi Umm-ul-Baneen (500 pages), etc and being an excellent poet himself (by the name ‘Akhtar’), he is famous in the literary world as well and many of his books are present in the Library of the U.S. Congress.

Bus buhat ho gaya, I’m tired. Find more here: Allamah Zameer Akhtar Naqvi