The Truth About the History of Writing

Conventionally, it is believed that all writing originated in Mesopotamia, around 3000 BC. From there, the invention spread via cultural diffusion to other parts of the world.

Some believe, moreover, that writing evolved independently more than once. It did, apart from Mesopotamia, in some other conducive civilizations, such as in Egypt (also around 3000 BC) and China (around 1200 BC).

However, this assessment is part of the sociocultural evolution, which, in turn, stems from the theory of evolution.

It is integral to Darwinism, relating biological evolution to sociocultural evolutionism.

Since many aspects of Darwinism are outright wrong, and others most seriously problematic, the same holds true concerning the theories of sociocultural evolution as its derivative.

That includes the idea of the origins and evolution of writing as well.

It is true that much of the understanding in relation to the matter is empirical. But it is evident at the same time that not all knowledge can be covered by empirical systems and methods.

Because life is shrouded in infinite mysteries and obscurities – empirically speaking – the role of the revealed knowledge and guidance is indispensable.

Integrating the two is the only way forward.

The Pen and Writing as Heavenly Entities

So important is writing in the Islamic revealed message that both the pen and writing feature prominently as well as permanently in the heavenly realm – regardless of the exact natures of theirs.

For example, Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said that the pen (al-qalam) – an instrument of writing – was the first thing Allah had created.

He said:

Verily, the first thing to be created by Allah was the pen. Allah instructed it to write, so it wrote all that will exist until the end (Jami’ al-Tirmidhi).

Abdullah ibn ‘Umar said that four things Allah created with His hand: the pen, the Throne, the Garden of Eden (Jannah ‘Adn) and Adam. The rest of creation He created by saying to them “Be” and they were.

There is a chapter (surah) in the Qur’an that is called “the Pen” (al-qalam). In its first verse (ayah), Allah swears by the pen and by that which angles write in the records of people:

By the pen and what they inscribe (Al-Qalam, 1).

Allah also says:

No disaster strikes upon the earth or among yourselves except that it is inscribed in the Book of Decrees before We bring it into being – indeed that, for Allah, is easy (Al-Hadid, 22).

The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, bringing to mind the message of this verse:

The pens (aqlam) have been lifted and the pages (suhuf) have dried (Jami’ al-Tirmidhi).

Furthermore, some angels have been entrusted with watching over people and recording their deeds.

The Qur’an says about them:

And indeed, (appointed) over you are keepers (guardians), kind and honourable – writing down (your deeds) (Al-Infitar, 10-11).

Yet other angels are sent by Allah to write down four things while people are still in their mothers’ wombs: their livelihood, their death, their deeds, their fortune and misfortune (Sahih Muslim).

Read the full article here.

About Dr. Spahic Omer
Dr. Spahic Omer, an award-winning author, is an Associate Professor at the Kulliyyah of Islamic Revealed Knowledge and Human Sciences, International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM). He studied in Bosnia, Egypt and Malaysia. In the year 2000, he obtained his PhD from the University of Malaya in Kuala Lumpur in the field of Islamic history and civilization. His research interests cover Islamic history, culture and civilization, as well as the history and theory of Islamic built environment. He can be reached at: [email protected].