Abbas - Tanwîr al-Miqbâs min Tafsîr Ibn ‘Abbâs
(And they say) the Jews, Christians and idolaters say: (Why are not portents) signs (sent down upon him) upon Muhammad (from his Lord) as were sent down to Moses and Jesus? (Say) to them, O Muhammad: (Portents are with Allah only) signs are from Allah only, (and I am but a plain warner) a warning messenger addressing you in a language you understand.
And they, namely, the disbelievers of Mecca, say, ‘Why has not some sign been sent down to him, [to] Muhammad (s), from his Lord?’ (āyatun, ‘sign’: a variant reading has āyātun, ‘signs’) such as the she-camel of Sālih, or the staff of Moses, or the Table of Jesus. Say, to them: ‘Signs are only with God, and He sends them down as He will, and I am only a plain warner’, making manifest my warning of [the punishment of] the Fire for disobedient people.
Allah tells us how the idolators stubbornly demanded signs, meaning that they wanted signs to show them that Muhammad was indeed the Messenger of Allah, just as Salih was given the sign of the she-camel. Allah says:
(Say) -- `O Muhammad' --
إِنَّمَا الاٌّيَـتُ عِندَ اللَّهِ
(The signs are only with Allah) meaning, `the matter rests with Allah, and if He knew that you would be guided, He would respond to your request, because it is very easy for Him to do that. Yet He knows that you are merely being stubborn and putting me to the test, so He will not respond to you.' This is like the Ayah,
(Not upon you is their guidance, but Allah guides whom He wills) (2:272). Then Allah shows us how ignorant and foolish they were when they demanded a sign to prove to them that what Muhammad had brought to them was true. He brought them a great Book which falsehood cannot reach, neither from before it or behind it, it was greater than all other miracles, for the most eloquent of men could not match it or produce ten Surahs, or even one Surah like it.
(Is it not sufficient for them that We have sent down to you the Book which is recited to them) means, `is it not sufficient as a sign for them that We have sent down to you this great Book which tells them about what happened before their time, what will happen after they are gone, and passes judgement between them. Even though you are an unlettered man who can neither read nor write, and you have not mixed with any of the People of the Book. Yet you brought them news of what was said in the first Scriptures showing what is right in the matters that they dispute over, and bringing clear and obvious truth. ' As Allah says:
(They say: "Why does he not bring us a sign from his Lord'' Has there not come to them the proof of that which is in the former Scriptures) (20:133) Imam Ahmad recorded that Abu Hurayrah, may Allah be pleased with him, said, "The Messenger of Allah said:
(There is no Prophet who was not given some miracles that would make the people believe in him. What I have been given is revelation which Allah reveals to me, and I hope that I will have the greatest number of followers on the Day of Resurrection.)'' It was also recorded by Al-Bukhari and Muslim. Indeed Allah has said:
(Verily, herein is mercy and a reminder for a people who believe.) In this Qur'an there is mercy, that is, explanation of the truth and removal of falsehood, and a reminder to the believers of the punishment that is to come to the disbelievers and sinners. Then Allah says:
(Say: "Sufficient is Allah for a witness between me and you...'') `He knows best the words of denial that you utter, and he knows what I am telling you about Him and that He has sent me. If I were telling lies about Him, He would have executed His vengeance upon me,' as Allah says elsewhere:
g(And if he had forged a false saying concerning Us, We surely would have seized him by his right hand, and then We certainly would have cut off his aorta, and none of you could have withheld Us from (punishing) him.) (69:44-47). `But I am telling the truth in what I say to you about Him, so He has supported me with clear miracles and definitive evidence.'
يَعْلَمُ مَا فِى السَّمَـوَتِ وَالاٌّرْضِ
(He knows what is in the heavens and the earth.) means, nothing is hidden from Him at all.
(And those who believe in falsehood, and disbelieve in Allah, it is they who are the losers.) means, on the Day of Resurrection, they will be punished for what they did, and will get what they justly deserve for rejecting the truth and following falsehood, for disbelieving in the Messengers of Allah even when there was proof that they were telling the truth, and for worshipping false gods with no evidence. Allah will punish them for all that, for He is All-Wise and All-Knowing.
Maududi - Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi - Tafhim al-Qur'an
This is the same argument that has already been given in Surahs Yunus and Qasas as a proof of the Holy Prophet's Prophethood. (See E.N. 21 of Yunus and E.N.'s 64 and 109 of AI-Qasas. For further explanation, see E.N. 107 of An-Nahl, E.N. 105 of Bani Isra'il, E.N. 66 of AI-Mu'minun, E.N. 12 of Al-Furqan, and E.N. 84 of Ash-Shu`araa).
The basis of the argument in this verse is that the Holy Prophet was unlettered. His compatriots and his kinsmen among whom he had spent his whole life, from birth to old age, knew fully well that he had never read a book nor ever handled a pen. Presenting this actual fact Allah says: "This is a proof of the fact that the vast and deep knowledge of the teachings of the Divine Books, of the stories of the former Prophets, of the beliefs of the various religions and creeds, of the histories of the ancient nations, and the questions of social and moral and economic life, which is being presented through this unlettered, illiterate man could not have been attained by him through any means but Revelation. If he had been able to read and write and the people had seen him reading books and undertaking serious studies, the worshipers of falsehood could have had some basis for their doubts, that he had acquired the knowledge not through Revelation but through study and reading. But the fact of his being absolutely illiterate has left no basis whatever for any such doubt. Therefore, there can be no ground, except sheer stubbornness, which can be regarded as rational in any degree for denying his Prophethood."
That is, "The presentation of a Book like the Qur'an by an unlettered person, and the manifestation by him, all of a sudden, of extraordinary qualities of character while nobody ever noticed him making any preparation for these previously, are in fact the clearest Signs which serve as pointers to his Prophethood for those who are possessed of knowledge and wisdom. " If one reviews the life-story of any great historical personage, one can always discover the factors in his environment, which molded his personality and prepared him for the excellences and qualities that emanated from him in life. There always exists a clear relationship between his environment and the component aspects of his personality. But no source whatever can be discovered in his environment of the wonderful qualities and excellences that the Holy Prophet Muhammad (may Allah's peace be upon him) displayed. In his case, neither in the contemporary Arab society nor in the society of the neighboring countries with which Arabia had any relations can one discover those factors which could have any remote relationship with the component aspects of the Holy Prophet's personality. This is the reality on whose basis it has been asserted here that the Holy Prophet Muhammad's personality is not one Sign but a collection of many clear Signs. An ignorant person may not see any of these Signs but those who are possessed of knowledge have become convinced in their hearts by seeing these Signs that he is most certainly a true Prophet of Allah.
That is, miracles by seeing which one may be convinced that Muhammad (upon whom be Allah's peace) is really a Prophet of Allah.
That is, "A Book like the Qur'an has been sent down to you in spite of your being unlettered. Is it not by itself a great miracle which should convince the people of your Prophethood? Do they yet need another miracle after this? The other miracles were the miracles for those who witnessed them. But this miracle is ever present in front of them. It is being recited before them almost daily; they can witness it as and when they like.
Even after such an assertion and argument by the Qur'an the audacity of those who try to prove that the Holy Prophet was literate is astonishing. The fact, however, is that the Qur'an here has presented in clear terms the Holy Prophet's being illiterate as a strong proof of his Prophet hood. The traditions which lend support to the claim that the Holy Prophet could read and write, or had learnt reading and writing later in life, stand rejected at first glance, for no tradition opposed to the Qur'an can be acceptable. Then these traditions in themselves are too weak to become the basis for an argument. One of these is a tradition from Bukhari that when the peace treaty of Hudaibiya was being written down, the representative of the disbelievers of Makkah objected to the word Rasul Allah being added to the name of the Holy Prophet. At this the Holy Prophet ordered the writer (Hadrat `Ali) to cross out the word Rasul-Allah and write Muhammad bin 'Abdullah instead. Hadrat `Ali refused to cross out Rasul-Allah. Then the Holy Prophet took it in his own hand, struck out the word himself and wrote Muhammad bin `Abdullah.
But this tradition from Bara' bin `Azib appears at four places in Bukhari and at two places in Muslim and everywhere in different words:
(1)At one place in Bukhari (Kitab-us-S, ulh) the words of this tradition are to the effect: "The Holy Prophet told Hadrat `Ali to strike out the words. He submitted that he could not do that. At last, the Holy Prophet crossed them out with his own hand."
(2) In the same book the second tradition is to the effect: "Then he (the Holy Prophet) said to `Ali: Cross out Rasul-Allah. He said: By God, I shall never cross out your name. At last, the Holy Prophet took the document and wrote: This is the treaty concluded by Muhammad bin `Abdullah."
(3) The third tradition, again from Bara' bin `Azib is found in Kitab-ul-Jizia in Bukhari to the effect: "The Holy Prophet himself could not write. He said to `Ali: Cross out Rasul-Allah. He submitted: By God, I shall never cross out these words. At this, the Holy Prophet said: Show me the place where these words are written. He showed him the place, and the Holy Prophet crossed out the words with his own hand."
(4) The fourth tradition is in Bukhari's Kitab-ul-Maghazi to the effect: "So the Holy Prophet took the document although he did not know writing, and he wrote: This is the treaty concluded by Muhammad bin `Abdullah."
(5) Again from Bara' bin `Azib there is a tradition in Muslim (Kitab-ul-Jihad) saying that on Hadrat `Alt's refusal the Holy Prophet himself wiped off the words Rasul-Allah. "
(6) The second tradition from him in the same book says, "The Holy Prophet said to `Ali: Show me where the word Rasul Allah is written. Hadrat `Ali showed him the place, and he wiped it off and wrote Ibn `Abdullah.
The disparity in the traditions clearly indicates that the intermediary reporters have not reported the words of Hadrat Bara' bin `Azib (may Allah be pleased with him) accurately. Therefore, none of these reports can be held as perfectly reliable so that it could be said with certainty that the Holy Prophet had written the words "Muhammad bin `Abdullah with his own hand. Probably when Hadrat 'Ali, refused to wipe off the word Rasul-Allah, the Holy Prophet might have himself wiped it off after finding, out the place where it was written, and then might have got the word Ibn `Abdullah substituted by him or by some other writer. Other traditions show that there were two writers who were writing down the peace treaty; Hadrat `Ali and Muhammad bin Maslamah (Fath al-Sari, Vol. V, p. 217). Therefore, it is not impossible that what one writer did not do was got done by the other writer. However, if the Holy Prophet actually wrote his name with his own hand, there are plenty instances of this in the world. The illiterate people learn to write their own name although they cannot read or write anything else.
The other tradition on whose basis it has been claimed that the Holy Prophet was literate, has been reported by Ibn Abi Shaibah and `Umar bin Shabbah from Mujahid. It says: "The Holy Prophet had learned reading and writing before his death." But in the first place, it is a weak tradition on account of its links as said by Hafiz Ibn Kathir: "It is weak: it has no basis." Secondly, it is weak otherwise also, for if the Holy Prophet had really learned reading and writing later in life, it would have become a well known fact. Many of the Companions would have reported it, and it would also have been known from which person (or persons) he had learned this. But no one except one man, 'Aun bin 'Abdullah, from whom Mujahid heard this, has reported it. And this 'Aun was not even a Companion, but a follower of the Companions, who does not at all tell from which Companion (or Companions) he got this information. Evidently, on the basis of such weak traditions nothing which contradicts well known facts can become acceptable.
That is, "The revelation of this Book is, without any doubt, a great bounty of Allah, and it contains great admonitions for the people. But only those people can benefit by it, who believe in it."