Barelwī Distortion of the Prophetic Title “Ummī” (Unlettered)

The following is a striking example of the unprecedented ways in which Barelwī scholars attempt to distort established and well-known concepts of deen.

Famous Barelwi scholar, Aḥmad Yār Khān Naīmī (1324 – 1391 H/1906 – 1971 CE), referred to as “Muftī”, “Ḥakīmul Ummah” and “Shaykh al-Tafsīr” by Barelwīs, said to have met with Aḥmad Riḍā Khān Barelwī and studied with his students (Tazkira e Akābir Ahl e Sunnat, p. 54), writes on the Prophetic Title, “Ummī” [1]:

“Ummī can have several meanings. The mother and source is referred to as ‘umm’. Its meaning may be the ‘Prophet possessing a mother’. Every person in this world has a mother, but no one has a mother like the mother Ḥuḍūr was given. Ḥaḍrat Maryam had also been a mother, but just as the Master of Prophets is without equal, his mother, Allāh be pleased with her, is also without equal [2]…The second meaning is, one not taught, meaning, he was born from his mother’s womb already being learned, and did not learn to read or write from anyone [3]…A third meaning is being from Umm al-Qurā, i.e. one who lives in Makkah al-Mukarramah. A fourth meaning is being mother-like, meaning, the foundation/source of the entire universe.” (Shān Ḥabībur Raḥmān min Ᾱyāt al-Qur’ān, Maktabah Islāmiyyah, p. 87)

[1] By consensus of classical scholars, “Ummī” means one who is unlettered and not able to read and write. There are many evidences from Qur’ān and ḥadīth proving the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) was Ummī and unable to read and write. (See: Ummiyyat al-Nabī al-Muṣṭafā al-Karīm by Mullā Khāṭir)

[2] Naīmī is clearly suggesting that the mother of the Beloved Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) is superior to Sayyidah Maryam (raḍiyallāhu ‘anhā)! This is another clear example of extremism. The excellence and superiority of Sayyidah Maryam (raḍiyallāhu ‘anhā) is established in clear texts of Qur’ān and ḥadīths, while there is disagreement over whether the mother of the Beloved Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) was even a believer!

[3] On this belief, ‘Allāmah ‘Abd al-Ḥayy al-Laknawī states: “From these (fabrications) is what they mention that he (Allāh bless him and grant him peace) was not unlettered (ummī), but was able to read and write by nature. This is a statement opposed to Qur’ān and Sunnah as well as the consensus of the Ummah. It therefore has no consideration.” (al-thār al-Marfū‘ah, Dār al-Kutub al-‘Ilmiyyah, p. 38)

[By Mufti Zameelur Rahman]

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