Al-Murshid Al-Mu’in of Ibn ‘Ashir: Purification and Prayer (Booklet)

II. The Unsophisticated (Ummi)

Indeed, help comes from Allah, The Glorious, in composing poetic verses that are of benefit to the unsophisticated.


The unsophisticated or ‘ummī’ applies to anyone who lacks knowledge of something particular regardless of the scope of that person’s education. ‘Ummī’ is usually translated as ‘illiterate or unlettered.’ A more literal translation of ‘ummī’ would be ‘likened to one’s mother.’ The origin of the term is taken from the illiterate slave woman who lives according to the custom of her foremothers and has learned neither writing nor reading.

So others were referred to as ‘ummī’ due to their likeness to her in that respect. What is actually intended by the ‘ummī’ in the above verse is ‘anyone who lacks knowledge of those matters discussed in the verses of this poem.’  So even a doctor, engineer, grammarian, or other person who takes on a particular art or profession is ‘ummī’ if he/she doesn’t have knowledge of what these verses contain. For that reason, I translated it as ‘unsophisticated.’  That is, these verses are of benefit to those who lack

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