Something that suggests the presence or existence of a fact, condition, or quality is called ‘sign’. Sign could also be in the form of miracle as evidence of existence of supernatural power or authority. Miracle is an extraordinary event attributed to a supernatural power. The ancient people considered Miracle as an event in the external world brought about by the immediate agency or the simple volition of God, operating without the use of means capable of being discerned by the senses, and designed to authenticate the divine commission of a religious teacher and the truth of his message. It shows the intervention of a power that is not limited by the laws either of matter or of mind, a power interrupting the fixed laws which govern their movements, a supernatural power. One force counteracts another: vital force keeps the chemical laws of matter in abeyance; and muscular force can control the action of physical force. When a man raises a weight from the ground, the law of gravity is neither suspended nor violated, but counteracted by a stronger force. The simple and grand truth that the universe is not under the exclusive control of physical forces, but that everywhere and always there is above, separate from and superior to all else, an infinite personal will, not superseding, but directing and controlling all physical causes, acting with or without them. God ordinarily effects. His purpose through the agency of second causes; but he has the power also of effecting his purpose immediately and without the intervention of second causes, i.e., of invading the fixed order, and thus of working miracles. An atheist or a pantheist must, as a matter of course, deny the possibility of miracles; but to one who believes in all powerful Supreme God, who in his wisdom may see fit to interfere with the ordinary processes of nature, miracles are not impossible, nor are they incredible. Belief in miracles exist in all cultures and nearly all religions. The Upanishads assert that the experience of religious insight and transformation is the only “miracle” worth considering, but popular Hinduism attributes miraculous powers to the ascetic yogis. Confucianism had little room for miracles. Daoism, however, mingled with Chinese folk religion to produce a rich crop of miracles. Though Buddha Gautama deprecated his own miraculous powers as devoid of spiritual significance, accounts of his miraculous birth and life were later woven into his legend and into those of later Buddhist saints. Miracles are taken for granted throughout the Hebrew scriptures and were fairly common in the Greco-Roman world.
Bible mentions that the Miracles are performed with the power of God: “Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know:”(Acts;2:22); “Jesus answered them, I told you, and ye believed not: the works that I do in my Father’s name, they bear witness of me.”(John;10:25);“The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him.”(John;3:2, also Exodus; 8:19; Act; 14:3; 15:12; 19:11). T
The miracles are not the final test, to establish the truthfulness of claimant, Prophet Jesus Christ (peace be upon him) said:
“For false Christs and false prophets will arise and show great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect.”(Mathew;24:23).
Bible mentions that the wonders can also be performed through the power of the devil (2Thessolosions; 2:9; Revelation; 16:14); Wrought in support of false religions (Deuteronomy;13:1-2); By false prophets (Revelation;19:20). The examples of the Witch of Endor (1 Samuel;28:7-14); Simon Magus (Acts;8:9-11) and Magicians of Egypt (Exodus;7:11; 8:7) have been mentioned.
The peculiar feature of Muslim theology is that, it does not accept the idea of nature as an entity operating according to fixed laws ONLY, as against Deists, who assert that God had created the world and then left it to operate under the natural laws He had devised. The laws do exist, as ordained by Him, but being the Supreme Creator He is not bound, though the creatures adhere to His laws. Allah says: “So, from this creation, He formed the seven heavens in two periods and to each heaven He ordained its laws…”(Qur’an;41:12). God is actively involved in the affairs of His creations: “… We are never unmindful of Our creation.”(Qur’an;23:17), He may do what ever He Wills (Qur’an;3:189, 82:2).
The universe is constantly being re-created by Allah in successive time atoms, natural regularity is nothing but the regularity of Allah’s practice in re-creating the universe. Thus, a miracle is the omnipotent Allah’s departure from his practice but no different, in principle, from the latter. It was generally believed that when people see a miracle, they were more likely to believe in God and the messenger. Therefore, a miracle may be the short cut for making people believe in Allah and implement His law.
However, historical facts show otherwise. When miracles were given to earlier prophets, their communities accused them of sorcery and were even more determined to reject the faith preached by those prophets. Allah says: “To Moses We did give nine Clear Signs: ask the Children of Israel: when he came to them Pharaoh said to him:
“O Moses! I consider thee indeed to have been worked upon by sorcery!”(Qur’an;17:101); “They said: Moses, have you come to us with your sorcery to drive us out of our land? We will certainly come up with sorcery equal to yours. Fix, then, a date for us to be attended by us and you in a mutually suitable place.”(Qur’an;20:57-58).
Prophet Jesus (peace be upon him) despite miracles was also not accepted by his people: “.. (Jesus said to Israelite’s) I have brought you signs of my appointment from your Lord. I will make for you the likeness of a bird from clay; I will breathe into it and, with Allah’s leave, it will become a living bird. I will heal the blind and the lepers, and raise the dead to life, by Allah’s leave. Furthermore, I will tell you what you have eaten and what you have stored in your houses. Surely these are the signs to convince you if you are believers. I am appointed to confirm that which is before me from the Torah and to make lawful to you some of the things forbidden to you. Now I have brought you the signs from your Lord, therefore fear Allah and obey me.”(Qur’an;3:49-50).
Despite all these wonderful miracles the Israelite declined to believe in Prophet Jesus calling the miracles as sorcery, they even tried to kill him but (according to Islamic traditions) Allah saved him: “…How I protected you from the violence of the Children of Israel when you came to them with clear signs and the unbelievers among them said: “This is nothing but a clear sorcery.” (Qur’an;5:110).
In many places the Qur’an stresses the fact that the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), despite his being the last Messenger of God, was not empowered to perform miracles similar to those with which the earlier prophets are said to have reinforced their verbal messages. Allah says:
“They swear their strongest oaths by Allah that if a miracle (sign) were shown to them, they would indeed believe in this (divine writ). Say (O’ Muhammad): Miracles are in the power of God alone. And for all you know, even if one should be shown to them, they would not believe.”(Qur’an;6:109).
Being the last messenger of God, Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), has been provided with the ever living miracle, The Qur’an – a message perfect in its lucidity and ethical comprehensiveness, destined for all times and all stages of human development, addressed not merely to the feelings but also to the minds of men, open to everyone, irrespective of race or social environment, and bound to remain unchanged forever. While the earlier prophets invariably appealed to their own community and their own time alone, their teachings were, of necessity, circumscribed by the social and intellectual conditions of that particular community and time. Moreover the people to whom they addressed themselves had not yet reached the stage of independent thinking, those prophets stood in need of symbolic portents or miracles in order to make the people concerned realize the inner truth of their mission. The message of the Qur’an, on the other hand, was revealed at a time when mankind (and, in particular, that part of it which inhabited the regions marked by the earlier, Judaeo-Christian religious development) had reached a degree of maturity which henceforth enabled it to grasp an ideology as such without the aid of those persuasive portents and miraculous demonstrations which in the past, only too often gave rise to new, grave misconceptions as Allah points out:
“We refrain from sending signs (miracles) only because the men of former generations treated them as false. For example, We sent the she-camel to the people of Thamud – a manifest sign – but they laid violent hands on her. We send the signs only by way of warning, and if people reject the sign after receiving it, they are doomed.”(Qur’an;17:59).
The miracles therefore are not the answer for people’s rejection of the faith. The history proves that while the people were shown the clearest of signs and miracles and yet they continue to deny Allah and His message. According to tradition of Allah, when ever a community was shown a miracle through their Messenger ‘on their demand’ but they continue to disbelieve, that community was destroyed. That was because they actually condemn themselves to destruction by their continued rejection, there are examples found in history of nations: “Hath not the fame of those before them reached them the people of Noah, A’ad, Thamud, the people of Abraham, the dwellers of Median and the disasters (which befell them)? Their messengers (from Allah) came unto them with proofs (of Allah’s sovereignty). So Allah surely wronged them not, but they did wrong themselves.”(Qur’an;9:70).
There are various arguments as proof for the existence of God i.e. ‘Cosmological’, that there must be a First Cause of all things; ‘Teleological’, or the argument from ‘Design’ seen all around the operations of an intelligent Cause in nature; ‘Ontological’, that proceeds from the idea of God to the reality of God. The Moral Argument also called the ‘Anthropological Argument’ is based on the moral consciousness and the history of mankind, which exhibits a moral order and purpose, which can only be explained on the supposition of the existence of God. The Religious experience of existence of God must be understood against the background of a general theory of experience, the reports of the world received through the senses. Qur’an emphasizes the Signs (ayah) of Allah, present all around the world in at every moment in life. One need only to open his mind to observe, what takes place in the universe, in human life, and within himself, but only the people who think and ponder can benefit from them. Allah says in the Qur’an: “Verily in the heavens and the earth are Signs for those who believe”(Qur’an;45:3).
Galileo (1564-1642, the Italian mathematician, astronomer, physicist and philosopher, who due to his scientific views was tried through Church), said in 1623: “Philosophy is written in that great book which always lies open before our eyes, the universe. But it cannot be understood unless one learns to understand the language and to know the letters in which it s written. It is written in mathematical (scientific) language and its letters are triangles, circles and other figures. Without these means, it is humanly impossible to understand a word of it and it remains but and idle roaming through an obscure labyrinth”. The faith and reason are inextricably linked, Faith reinforced by reason and reason is propelled by faith. Science is the link between the seen and the unseen between known and the unknown. The unknown cannot be understood without firmly grasping the known. The birth of every child reflect on the process of conception, creation and development of a human being from the moment a female egg is fertilized by a male’s sperm to the moment of birth, it continue reflection to encompass human life in this world. The miraculous aspects are so numerous and clear in other aspects of human existence and the world around them that, any one using his intellect is bound to acknowledge them, as the work of God. The fine balance, which Allah has created to make sure that the life continues without one side overwhelming the rest, all this is miraculous! Through the last Messenger (peace be upon him), Allah has provided an extended chance to believe in Him. The means to win over humanity to faith are already in place. He has provided the humanity with perfect guidance embedded in the Qur’an, the miracle of miracles. People only need to approach the Qur’an with clear and open mind to ponder over it rationally, they are bound to accept the logical argument and believe in the message. At any time in man’s life there are moments of clear vision. If a person makes use of such a moment, he is sure to accept Allah’s guidance and believe in Him.
The Muslims believe that , the miraculous signs (mu’jizat) bestowed on the Prophets are established as true, (they are the works of God, Qur’an;29:50 & 6:109). Ennobling wonders (karamat) are reportedly made manifest through the genuinely pious people (auliya). As for apparently miraculous and wondrous deeds performed by Allah’s enemies, like Iblis, the Pharaoh and the Dajjal, (anti Christ) whatever is mentioned in tradition as having been performed by them in future, is neither miraculous nor wondrous. Rather it is a question of their needs being fulfilled by Allah Most High; this is done in order to lead them toward destruction and to chastise them, they increase in rebelliousness and unbelief. All of the foregoing is possible and contingent upon Allah’s will.
The Quraysh tribe was unable to believe that the Prophet (peace be upon him) had been able travel from Mecca to Jerusalem in one night. Of course, these days such a journey 222 Faith in the Prophets would not strike anyone as being an impossible feat. But in the days of our Prophet it was considered impossible, as the only means of transport available were animals, such as camels and donkeys. Even the most eminent of physicists living a hundred years ago would never have believed anyone who told him that a time would come when people would be able to fly through the air in vehicles made of iron and steel, ormoreovergo up into space! He would have found it difficult to believe that voices could be recorded and broadcast everywhere and anywhere and that we would therefore be able to listen to people’s voices after they had passed away. Achieving the Impossible.
The concept of ‘impossibility’ is founded on two beliefs. Firstly, impossibility based on something being unfeasible, which is beyond our capabilities, such as the examples given above. The second concept of the term refers to what our minds are unable to take in. For example, we cannot conceive that any two opposites can meet. Let us take the example of existence and nonexistence: a man cannot be present and absent in a place at the same time. In the same way, no object can take on two entities at the same time, so that a book cannot become a spoon while it is still a book. That which is impossible in the sense of something being mentally inconceivable remains impossible. However, what is considered to be impossible because it is not feasible, may become possible if man studies the laws of nature God has laid down for the universe and, as a result, succeeds in making it feasible. In fact as God laid down these laws of nature He can make possible anything which seems impossible. So we should, after ascertaining the facts, accept the fact that this type of impossibility can become a possibility.
The Holy Qur’an mentions three types of supernatural occurrences. The first type concerns miracles performed by the prophets when they were challenged to prove their prophethood. Thus, when Prophet Abraham was thrown into the fire. God made the heat become a peaceful haven. When Prophet Moses threw down his staff, it turned into a snake, and when he struck the sea with his staff, the sea parted and each division looked like a vast mountain. And, with God’s permission, Jesus brought the dead back to life. These are all examples of miracles.
The second type of supernatural occurrences happened to saintly people. Food was made available to Mary in her room and the Queen of Sheba’s throne was transported from Yemen to Palestine in a split second. Another example of supernatural occurrences can be described as Divine temptation which tests one’s faith. The Holy Qur’an talks of how the apostate Samaritan produced a calf making a lowing sound, from molten gold. We should believe in all three types of supernatural happenings and all details regarding them, as they are described in the Holy Qur’an. We can, however, keep the supernatural events happening to saintly people, but not recounted in the Qur’an, open for questioning. They may or may not be true. If they were experienced by truly saintly people, we can believe that these things really happened. A truly saintly person is free of all sin. The Holy Qur’an says: Oh verily, they who are close to God – no fear need they have, and neither shall they grieve: they who have attained to faith and have always been conscious of Him. (Qur’an;10:62-63). You are under no obligation to believe in these occurrences if you are not convinced about the authenticity of the people connected with them. There are some alleged forms of the supernatural involving sinful acts and strange events which cannot be explained also happen to non-believers. But none of these should be considered supernatural.
Miracles and Magic:
When the challenge took place between Moses and Pharaoh’s magicians; the latter threw their ropes and sticks and turned them into snakes. But, in fact, these snakes were soon swallowed up by the snake Moses produced! So, was the snake he produced identical to theirs? Did he, like them, perform a conjuring trick? Not at all. The snakes they produced were illusory, and took the spectators in, whereas the one Moses brought about was alive and real. The magicians were so much in awe of this fact that they made a spontaneous declaration of their faith in God. The reason for this spontaneous reaction was because the magicians realized that Moses’ act was not an illusion or any form of conjuring trick, and were stunned and shaken to the very depth of their hearts. The outcome of this was their total conversion and belief in God. They declared their faith in a way which was most defiant and humiliating to Pharaoh. As they admitted their faith, the falsehood of Pharaoh’s greatness and the fact that his form of godliness was untrue, became apparent to them. They changed their outlook immediately because this world suddenly seemed trivial to them; so they did not feel threatened by Pharaoh’s threat to punish them by crucifixion and mutilation. They developed an inner calm which shielded them from fear and panic. Even though Pharaoh had the power to punish them in this world, how could that compare with the joy and comfort of the world hereafter? Therefore they snubbed Pharaoh, saying: “Decree, then, whatever thou art going to decree: thou canst decree only (something that pertains to) this worldly life!” (Qur’an;20:72).
How much I, who was born a Muslim, and whose forefathers have been Muslims, wish I had been bestowed with this kind of spontaneous faith, as were Pharaoh’s magicians, a faith that was born as a result of their accepting Islam.
- Faith in Prophets
- NEXT ….. Miracles of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh)