It’s not true that Muhammad could not read and write as the Muslims keep propagating. The meaning of the word “illiterate” or “unlettered” mentioned in Quran is not referred to the person who could not read and write, but the person who is unknowing or ignorant of the Book (Torah and Gospel). Here’s the proof;
[Sahih International] And among them are unlettered ones who do not know the Scripture except in wishful thinking, but they are only assuming
[Yusuf Ali] And there are among them illiterates, who know not the Book, but (see therein their own) desires, and they do nothing but conjecture.
[Yusuf Ali] So if they dispute with thee, say: “I have submitted My whole self to Allah and so have those who follow me.” And say to the People of the Book and to those who are unlearned: “Do ye (also) submit yourselves?” If they do, they are in right guidance, but if they turn back, Thy duty is to convey the Message; and in Allah’s sight are (all) His servants.
[Muhsin Khan] So if they dispute with you (Muhammad SAW) say: “I have submitted myself to Allah (in Islam), and (so have) those who follow me.” And say to those who were given the Scripture (Jews and Christians) and to those who are illiterates (Arab pagans): “Do you (also) submit yourselves (to Allah in Islam)?” If they do, they are rightly guided; but if they turn away, your duty is only to convey the Message; and Allah is All-Seer of (His) slaves
COMMENT: The (Jews and Christians) and the Arab pagans are contrasted here. The Jews and Christians who know the Book and the Arab pagans who know not the Book, also called ‘illiterates’ or ‘unlettered ones’.
MUHAMMAD COULD READ AND WRITE ACCORDING TO QURAN;
1. [Quran 29:48] neither did you (o Muhammad saw) read any book before it (this Quran), nor did you write any book (whatsoever) with your right hand. in that case, indeed, the followers of falsehood might have doubted.
2. [Quran 25:5] and they say: “tales of the ancients, which he has written down, and they are dictated to him morning and afternoon.”
MUHAMMAD COULD WRITE ACCORDING TO HADITHS;
1. [Sahih Bukhari Volume 7, Book 62, Number 88]
Narrated ‘Ursa: the prophet wrote the (marriage contract) with Aisha while she was six years old and consummated his marriage with her while she was nine years old and she remained with him for nine years (i.e. till his death).
2. [Sahih Bukhari Volume 4, Book 52, Number 288 & Volume 5, Book 59, Number 716]
Narrated by Said bin Jubair: Ibn ‘Abbas said, “Thursday! What (great thing) took place on Thursday!” Then he started weeping till his tears wetted the gravels of the ground . Then he said, “On Thursday the illness of Allah’s Apostle was aggravated and he said, “Fetch me writing materials so that I may have something written to you after which you will never go astray.” The people (present there) differed in this matter and people should not differ before a prophet. . .
3. [Sahih Bukhari Volume 5, Book 59, Number 717]
Narrated by Ubaidullah bin ‘Abdullah: Ibn Abbas said, “When Allah’s Apostle was on his deathbed and there were some men in the house, he said, ‘Come near, I will write for you something after which you will not go astray.’ Some of them ( i.e. his companions) said, ‘Allah’s Apostle is seriously ill and you have the (Holy) Quran. Allah’s Book is sufficient for us.’ So the people in the house differed and started disputing. Some of them said, ‘Give him writing material so that he may write for you something after which you will not go astray.’ while the others said the other way round. So when their talk and differences increased, Allah’s Apostle said, “Get up.” Ibn Abbas used to say, “No doubt, it was very unfortunate (a great disaster) that Allah’s Apostle was prevented from writing for them that writing because of their differences and noise.”
4. [Sahih Bukhari Volume 1, Book 3, Number :65]
Narrated Anas bin Malik: Once the Prophet wrote a letter or had an idea of writing a letter. The Prophet was told that they (rulers) would not read letters unless they were sealed. So the Prophet got a silver ring made with “Muhammad Allah’s Messenger” engraved on it. As if I were just observing its white glitter in the hand of the Prophet.
5. [Sunan Abu Dawud 42:5117]
Narrated Abdullah ibn Abbas: The Prophet wrote a letter to Heraclius: “From Muhammad, the Messenger of Allah, to Hiraql (Heraclius), Chief of the Byzantines. Peace be to those who follow the guidance.” Ibn Yahya reported on the authority of Ibn Abbas that Abu Sufyan said to him: We then came to see Hiraql (Heraclius) who seated us before him. He then called for the letter from the Messenger of Allah. Its contents were: “In the name of Allah, the Compassionate, the Merciful, from Muhammad the Messenger of Allah, to Hiraql, chief of Byzantines. Peace be to those who follow the guidance. To proceed.”
6. [Hadith about the (non) incident of the pen and paper (a Sunni perspective) [written by: Ibn Al-hashimi]
The prophet asked for a pen and paper in order to write down some religious advice for the Muslims. however, immediately after asking for the pen and paper, the prophet fainted and became unconscious. while the prophet lay unconscious, a man got up to get the pen and paper, but Umar Ibn Al-Khattab called him away from doing that. Umar felt that they should not bother the prophet by asking him to write down religious advice, but rather they should allow the prophet to regain consciousness, get some rest, and recuperate. therefore, Umar said to the other Muslims: “the prophet is seriously ill and you have the Quran; so the book of Allah is enough for us.”
7. [Sunan an-Nasa’i 4855]
It was narrated that Ibn shihab said: “I read the letter of the Messenger of allah which he wrote for ‘Amr bin Hazm when he sent him to govern Najran. The letter was with Abu Bakr bin Hazm. The Messenger of Allah wrote this; ‘A statement from Allah and His Messenger; O you who believe! Fulfill (your) obligations, and he wrote the Verses until he reached. Verily, Allah is Swift in reckoning. Then he wrote: ‘this is the book if retaliation: For a soul, one hundred camels, ”” and so on
8. Muhammad Sent Letter To the King of ‘Oman, Jaifer, and his Brother ‘Abd Al-Jalandi
[Saifur Rahman, The Sealed Nectar p.227-228]
“Embrace Islam… If you two accept Islam, you will remain in command of your country; but if your refuse my Call, you’ve got to remember that all of your possessions are perishable. My horsemen will appropriate your land, and my Prophethood will assume preponderance over your kingship.”
COMMENT: The above is one of the threatening letters from Muhammad to rulers of other countries. The letter says, they (countries) should accept Islam or suffer deaths and destruction.