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I met an elderly Muslim who found out that I'm Christian. He told me that the Quran teaches the faithful should pray like Jesus prayed. We didn't have much time to talk, so he asked me to read Sura 62 and especially the first three verses:

  1. Whatever is in the heavens and whatever is on the earth is exalting Allah, the Sovereign, the Pure, the Exalted in Might, the Wise.

  2. It is He who has sent among the unlettered a Messenger from themselves reciting to them His verses and purifying them and teaching them the Book and wisdom—although they were before in clear error—

  3. And [to] others of them who have not yet joined them. And He is the Exalted in Might, the Wise.

I checked a few other translations. One of them provides a parenthetical that interprets the messenger as Muhammad:

Messenger (Muhammad صلى الله عليه وسلم)

So I'm left wondering who interpreted the Quran correctly. My instinct tells me that the scholar who translated the Sura into English is more likely to produce a correct interpretation. But I don't want to dismiss the man I recently met without looking into the matter. When I met him again, what should I tell him?

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1 Answer 1

The Arabic term الأميين (translated in 62:2 as "the unlettered") is used more than once in the Qur'an to refer specifically to people who don't have knowledge of the Scripture. In the context of this verse, it is commonly interpreted to mean the pagan Arabs who were not People of the Book (i.e. neither Christian nor Jewish).

The obvious interpretation of the "messenger" in this case would be Muhammad himself (the "unlettered prophet" being an Arab sent among the Arabs) — the Ghali, Shakir and M.M.Khan translations of the Qur'an clearly use this interpretation, as does the explanation in Tafsir Ibn Kathir — and I don't recall ever seeing any conflicting opinion on this.

Given the context of your conversation, I don't understand why these three ayat were specifically referred to you except as general da'wah. While Christians ignorant of their own Scripture could be argued to be الأميين (see Al-Baqarah 78), I have never heard that the referenced ayat should be taken to refer to Jesus, nor to apply to Christians in general; if that interpretation is known, it is likely a minority position.

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الأميين (plural form of امی) means those who are uneducated and can not read or write. not those who are not people of Scripture (Jews and Christians). a people of scripture (for example a Jew) can be امی too. –  Battle of Karbala Feb 21 at 6:55
    
I think that these 3 verses refer to Muhammad (pbuh) and the Arabs of Makkah, because the verses after these 3 verses refer to Jewish people and implies that the Jewish were not accepting Muhammad (pbuh) as a true prophet due to jealousy and arrogance. I agree with goldPseudo. –  Umar Farooq Khawaja Jun 4 at 9:28
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