long before any written characters were known in that country. It is a very large work, much larger than the Qur'an. It was composed not by one man, but by several, but they had no amanuenses to whom they could dictate their verses. In the Greek language there are two eloquent poems, the Iliad and the Odyssey, which are commonly ascribed to a blind poet named Homer. Blind men in that age were not generally able to read or write. It is possible that there did exist in Homer's time a Greek alphabet, but it is not considered probable that he made use of it or dictated his poems to scribes, more especially as he was a poor man who made his livelihood by going from place to place to recite his poems, in the same way as do storytellers in Eastern lands today.

Moreover, it is by no means certain that Muhammad was unable to read and write. The opinion that this was so rests almost entirely upon the term An-nabiyyu'l Ummi (النّبِيٌ آلأُمِّيّ) in Surah vii, Al A'raf, vers. 156, 158. But this does not mean "the Unlettered Prophet" but "the Gentile Prophet", i.e. the prophet who is not an Israelite, but is from among the Gentiles (مِنَ الأُمِّيّيٍنّ). This is clear from Surah iii, Al 'Imran, ver. 19, where the command is given to Muhammad: "And say thou to those who have been brought the Book and to the Gentiles" (وَاْلأْمِّيّيِنَ). Here it is clear that the Arabs are called "the Gentiles" in contradistinction from "the People of the Book". Hence the expression An Nabiyyu'l Ummi, "the Gentile Prophet," is equivalent to the title so common today, An Nabiyyu'l 'Arabi, "the Arabian Prophet," and does not imply illiteracy. Scholars are also aware that there exist traditions, quoted by Muslim and Al Bukhari, which remove the stigma of want of education from Muhammad. For instance, we are told that, when the Treaty of Hudaibah was being signed, Muhammad took the pen from 'Ali, struck out the words in which 'Ali had designated him "the Apostle of God", and wrote instead with his own hand the words, "Son


of 'Abdu'llah.'' Tradition tells us too that, when he was dying, Muhammad called for pen and ink, to write a command appointing his successor, but that his strength failed him before writing-materials were brought. This tradition rests on the statement of Ibn 'Abbas, but is supported by both Al Bukhari and Muslim. As it is a subject of dispute between the Sunni and the Shi'ah parties, we shall not attempt to decide upon its correctness. But the existence of such Traditions, supported by leading Traditionists, is of great weight, especially as there is nothing unlikely about them. Writing was not uncommon among the Arabs of Muhammad's time. It is well known that when some of the people of Mecca were captured by the people of Medinah, they purchased their freedom by teaching the latter to write. The very existence of the Seven Mu'allaqat (whether these were "suspended" in the Ka'bah, as As Suyuti thinks possible, 1 or were kept in the treasury of the king of 'Ukaz (عُكاظ), as Abu Ja'far Ahmad ibn Isma'il an Nahhas says 2), shows how customary it was for Arabian authors, then and earlier, to commit their works to writing. But even if Muhammad was not much in the habit of writing himself, yet we know from Tradition that Zaid ibn Thabit was only one of several amanuenses whom he employed. The verses of the Qur'an, as dictated by Muhammad, were written upon the shoulder-blades of mutton, pieces of wood, or any other writing-materials that were at hand. The Kufic alphabet was used, destitute of diacritical points and vowel signs. In later times many of the various readings noticed by commentators arose from the imperfection of this alphabet. Whether the Kufic alphabet was that in which the Qur'an is supposed to have been written on the "Preserved Tablet" in Heaven the writer of these pages does not know, but

1 Mudhkir ii. 240.
2 The original Arabic of this and the preceding reference is given in my (English) Original Sources of the Qur'an pp. 49, 50, note.