Rebuttal to Sam Shamoun's Article, "Muhammad - Literate Still!"


Bassam Zawadi

Shamoun wrote a response to my article over here.

Shamoun wasn't satisfied with my answer regarding one of the possibilities as to why Gabriel squeezed Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). However, I want to remind my readers that there is only one possible reason and only the opinion of some scholars. I might not personally hold to this opinion, but I do have to argue that it is at least possible.

Shamoun said:

After all, didn't Muhammad immediately respond back to the spirit and even stated that he felt as if he was going to die from the spirit's physical abuse, which shows that he was clearly aware that something was going on?

Well, perhaps squeezing the Prophet one time wasn't enough. Perhaps it was necessary to do it more than once to ensure that the Prophet wouldn't doubt the reality of the experience later on.

Shamoun also said:

Besides, Zawadi's logic simply does not follow since Muhammad's response fails to prove that it was not a dream. Don't people have dreams in which they argue with others? And don't plenty of people have nightmares where they think they are going to die, and then wake up, drenched in sweat, and realize it was "only" a dream?

Yes, but do people simply having a dream experience the same physical interaction that the Prophet experienced with Gabriel? I strongly doubt it.

Shamoun goes on to mention the alleged suicide attempts of the Prophet (peace be upon him), which have already been addressed here.

Shamoun said:

Moreover, Muhammad's experiences with this being were quite unlike the encounters of God's true prophets. Instead of demoralizing and violating God's spokespersons the Spirit and/or the righteous angels would comfort the inspired emissaries and assure them that they were receiving communications from the true God:

First of all, Shamoun assumes that his Bible is the true, authentic word of God and is using it as a criterion to judge Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). He still needs to prove this, not just assert it. 

Secondly, Shamoun is arguing from silence. He thinks that just because his Bible does not mention these experiences, that does not necessarily imply that they didn't happen. 

Thirdly, Sam quotes from the Gospel of Luke to show people's experiences with Gabriel, but Sam forgot an important point. Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) saw Gabriel in his true original form while receiving the revelation. He saw him up close and personally and had physical contact with him, unlike Mary or Zechariah, who saw Gabriel as a man.

Daniel, for example, saw Gabriel while Gabriel took the form of a man:

            Daniel 9:20-22

 "While I was speaking and praying, confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel and making my request to the LORD my God for his holy hill-- while I was still in prayer, Gabriel, the man I had seen in the earlier vision, came to me in swift flight about the time of the evening sacrifice. He instructed me and said to me, 'Daniel, I have now come to give you insight and understanding.'"

However, this man did have extraordinary features:

Daniel 10:5-6

I looked up and there before me was a man dressed in linen, with a belt of fine gold from Uphaz around his waist.  His body was like topaz, his face like lightning, his eyes like flaming torches, his arms and legs like the gleam of burnished bronze, and his voice like the sound of a multitude.

If we continue reading on, you will see that Daniel was terrified:

Daniel 10:7-15

7 I, Daniel, was the only one who saw the vision; those who were with me did not see it, but such terror overwhelmed them that they fled and hid themselves. 8 So I was left alone, gazing at this great vision; I had no strength left, my face turned deathly pale and I was helpless. 9 Then I heard him speaking, and as I listened to him, I fell into a deep sleep, my face to the ground.

    10 A hand touched me and set me trembling on my hands and knees. 11 He said, "Daniel, you who are highly esteemed, consider carefully the words I am about to speak to you, and stand up, for I have now been sent to you." And when he said this to me, I stood up trembling.

    12 Then he continued, "Do not be afraid, Daniel. Since the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to them. 13 But the prince of the Persian kingdom resisted me twenty-one days. Then Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, because I was detained there with the king of Persia. 14 Now I have come to explain to you what will happen to your people in the future, for the vision concerns a time yet to come."

    15 While he was saying this to me, I bowed with my face toward the ground and was speechless. 16 Then one who looked like a man [b] touched my lips, and I opened my mouth and began to speak. I said to the one standing before me, "I am overcome with anguish because of the vision, my lord, and I feel very weak. 17 How can I, your servant, talk with you, my lord? My strength is gone and I can hardly breathe."

So here we see that Daniel got terrified by his vision just like Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) did. Shamoun may argue back that eventually, the angel comforted Daniel. Well, obviously, the same thing happened with Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) later on. 

Shamoun states:

In addressing my comments concerning Q. 25:4-6 Zawadi proceeds to attack a straw man,

The Arabic word in the verse is iktatabaha, which means "had it written down". The proper Arabic word that Allah should have used to signify that the Prophet himself wrote it would have been katabaha.

And in so doing he ends up contradicting himself in his response to my explanation of Q. 29:48, as well as providing a refutation for his own point,

There goes Shamoun again with his selective choice of translation. The Arabic word in the verse is kitab, which simply means "book" and no where does the context necessarily imply that it is referring to scripture. Please refer to the commentaries of Ibn Kathir and Jalalayn.

If it means book then how can it not be referring to scripture? After all, what book can the Quran be referring to if not the so-called revealed scripture given to Muhammad? Does Zawadi even make sense?

It seems like Shamoun is the one who is attacking strawman. I never said that "book" cannot be referring to scripture. Scripture also comes under the " book " category because scripture is in book form. What I said in my article was that it doesn't exclusively refer to scripture, as Shamoun contended in his article here. This is what Shamoun said:

The verse is not denying that Muhammad could read or write, but denying that Muhammad had read or written down an inspired Scripture prior to his receiving the Quran

Here, we see that Shamoun exclusively limits the meaning of the word "book" in the verse to only scripture. I argued back by saying:

There goes Shamoun again with his selective choice of translation. The Arabic word in the verse is kitab, which simply means "book" and no where does the context necessarily imply that it is referring to scripture.

So I was arguing that the word "book" does not necessarily refer only to "scripture".

Shamoun said:

Furthermore, didn't Zawadi read Q. 25:5 carefully which says that Muhammad wrote down the forgeries that he claimed were revelations from God? Doesn't this therefore prove that the verbs iqra and yatlu can and do mean that Muhammad was actually reading from a book? After all, if Muhammad "had it [i.e. the Quran] written down" then this actually substantiates my point that he wasn't merely reciting the verses from memory but reading from a book.

First, Surah 25:5 says that Muhammad (peace be upon him) had the Qur'an written down, not that he actually wrote it.

Secondly, even though the Qur'an was written down, that doesn't mean that every time someone recites the Qur'an, he is reciting it from the Qur'an itself. Today, we have the Qur'an written down in billions of books, but you can still have someone reciting it from memory. The existence of the Qur'an in book form does not necessitate that recitation must be done from a book. This is feeble reasoning from Shamoun.

Shamoun, after presenting several hadith that state that the Prophet can write, says:

We are aware that Zawadi will try to reconcile these hadiths by arguing that Muhammad wasn't necessarily going to write anything himself, but have one of his scribes do so on his behalf.

It seems like Shamoun already knows the rebuttal to his arguments. Yes, one can easily understand those statements of the Prophet, which means that he had them written down. (Refer to Ibn Hajar Al Asqalani's Fathul Baari, Kitab: Al Jihad Wal Sayr, Bab: Salh Hudaybiyyah fil Hudaybiyyah, Hadith no. 3336, Source)

Shamoun then states:

The problem with this assertion is that one must first assume that Muhammad was illiterate and read this back into the reports in order to deny the plain and explicit meaning of these texts. After all, the above narrations do not say that Muhammad dictated to someone else to write on his behalf, but clearly state that he himself wrote or was planning to write down something.

First, Surah 29:48 and my argument by appealing to the incident with Ali are clear proof that the Prophet didn't know how to read or write. Shamoun did not successfully address those arguments. However, the hadiths that Shamoun presented are not that clear since it is possible linguistically and not by twisting the statements that the hadiths are saying that the Prophet had his scribes write down the material for him.

Secondly, even if those hadith clearly stated that the Prophet (peace be upon him) himself wrote and read, this wouldn't contradict the other narrations. This could easily be harmonized by saying that the Prophet (peace be upon him) learned how to read and write later in life.

Regardless of whether a Muslim believes that the Prophet (peace be upon him) was unlettered all his life or if he learned how to read and write shortly before his death, it is still a refutation to the Islamophobes. How can someone who couldn't read and write author such a book like a Qur'an? So much for Shamoun's arguments.

The debate continues.

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