One of the clear point in the life of the Messenger of Allah (PBUH&HP) is that he was unschooled and uneducated; he never had a teacher and was not familiar with any books.
The people of Hijaz at that time were generally illiterate, and the number of people who could read or write was very few. Therefore, it was impossible to be learned and not be known among the people in such an environment.
On the Other hand, although those who opposed the Messenger of Allah (PBUH&HP) accused him of receiving knowledge from others, they never accused him of being literate, having books and using them to preach. Indeed, if he had the smallest acquaintance with reading and writing, his opponents would have accused him of being literate.
Therefore, we have no evidence that he read a single line or wrote a single word; rather the Messenger of Allah (PBUH&HP) had a group of “secretaries” who were responsible for recording revelation, the statements of the Messenger of Allah (PBUH&HP), and other matters such as the treaties of the Messenger of Allah (PBUH&HP) and the letters he sent to outskirts.
The experts in eastern studies and the western historians – who generally have a critical viewpoint- have not found the smallest sign indicating an instance of reading or writing from the Messenger of Allah (PBUH&HP). If there was any indication in this regards, the smart non-Muslims historians would not have missed it. Hence, many of them have acknowledged that the Messenger of Allah (PBUH&HP) was unschooled himself and was raised among unscooled people.
For example, Thomas Carlyle writes in his famous book,” One other circumstance we must not forget: that he (Mahomet) had no school learning; of the thing we call school-learning none at all. The art of writing was but just introduced into Arabia; it seems to be the true opinion that Mahomet never could write! Life in the Desert, with its experiences, was all his education.”(1)
Will Durant writes in his book, The History of Civilization, “They gave him affection and care, but no one seems to have bothered to teach him how to read or write; this feeble accomplishment was held in low repute by the Arabs of the time; only seventeen men of the Quraish tribe condescended to it. Mohammed was never known to write anything himself; he used an amanuensis. His apparent illiteracy did not prevent him from composing the most famous and eloquent book in the Arabic tongue, and from acquiring such understanding of the management of men as seldom comes to highly educated persons”(2).
As such, none of the historians – Muslims or non-Muslims- has ever claimed that the Messenger of Allah (PBUH&HP) had ever learned reading or writing during his childhood, at young age, or during his prophethood.
So we need to realize that how could such a person, i.e. Muhammad ibn Abdullah (PBUH&HP), offer a valuable book like the Holy Quran to the world; while the history testifies that he never had a teacher, and was raised in a society so distant from civilization. There is no answer to this mystery except to acknowledge that he was related to a metaphysical reality, and to consider him a Messenger sent by Allah (SWT).
(The above is a selection taken from “The Unschooled Messenger”, by Martyr Murtada Mutahhari (with some changes and additions))
The Roshd Website offers congratulations to all Muslims, especially you dear friend, upon 27th of Rajab, the commencement of the descent of the Holy Quran and the appointment of the last Messenger of Allah, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP).
1. “On heroes, hero-worship, and the heroic in history”, lecture II: The Hero as Prophet. Mahomet: Islam, p. 82
2. “The History of Civilization: The Age of Faith”, Volume IV, Book II: Islamic Civilization, Chapter VIII: Mohammed, part II: Mohammad in Mecca.