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Narrated Ibn 'Abbas:

When Allah's Apostle was on his death-bed and in the house there were some people among whom was 'Umar bin Al-Khattab, the Prophet said, "Come, let me write for you a statement after which you will not go astray." 'Umar said, "The Prophet is seriously ill and you have the Qur'an; so the Book of Allah is enough for us." The people present in the house differed and quarrelled. Some said "Go near so that the Prophet may write for you a statement after which you will not go astray," while the others said as Umar said. When they caused a hue and cry before the Prophet, Allah's Apostle said, "Go away!" Narrated 'Ubaidullah: Ibn 'Abbas used to say, "It was very unfortunate that Allah's Apostle was prevented from writing that statement for them because of their disagreement and noise."

— Muhammad al-Bukhari, Sahih al-Bukhari

This is the so called "Hadith of The Pen and Paper"

According to it, the Prophet (PBUH) requested a pen and a paper to write things. I've always been told that he was an illiterate. Is this the case?

I assume he was an illiterate when Qur'an started to be revealed but learned how to read/write after. Or perhaps the translation is wrong as suggested in the comments. He would rather dictate instead of writing. What is the general stand regarding the illiteracy of the Prophet (PBUH)?

  • Not a duplicate but maybe helpful islam.stackexchange.com/questions/28370/… – Medi1Saif Mar 14 '16 at 11:07
  • Thanks. I knew how the Qur'an was compiled though. It doesn't answer to my question. – SpiderRico Mar 14 '16 at 11:12
  • Well i think i made a comment on that before: That would either mean he (Peace be upon him) knew at the time how to read or he was asking for a scribe! – Medi1Saif Mar 14 '16 at 11:14
  • Possible. Though I would like to see some sources/articles that discuss these claims. – SpiderRico Mar 14 '16 at 11:15
  • This Fatwa seems to support my 2nd assumtion islamqa.info/en/134757 based on explanation of the hadith! – Medi1Saif Mar 14 '16 at 11:32
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Well according to my search so far there are many versions of this hadith and all of them use the Arabic words "...أَكْتُبْ لَكُمْ كِتَابًا"= let me write for you a statement/Book ...!

As mentioned in my comment and our discussion: this could either be taken literally as if the Prophet (peace be upon him) could read and write or understood in the context of him being illiterate, which means he was asking for a scribe so that he would dictate them something! The last possibility is what this Fatwa seems to support and suggest!

So this doesn't really clearly answers the Question whether he could read and write at some time of his life or not!

An other search result was this Fatwa which indicates a related hadith which tells us what the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) -apparently- has dictated or told them this was narrated by Said ibn Jubair in sahih Muslim and sahih al-Bukhari and here. So scholars who support the dictation option see this hadith as a support for their claim!

But you should know that this hadith (because of its content) is a disputed matter among Muslim sects

And Allah knows best!

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