LAWS OF NATURE
Most of the arguments against miracles are those based on Hume’s article in his book “Human Understanding”. Hume’s arguments stem from his definition of a miracle. He defines it as: “that which is contrary to the laws of nature.” According to Hume then; nature runs according to certain laws and since a miracle is contrary to these laws, it is its own contradiction. This argument is against Hume’s own philosophy about the laws of nature. He does not believe in cause and effect in the general sense. He says that we only see a succession of events: one event following another; but we have no proof that the preceding event caused the following event. Based on this belief he asserts that anything can happen and the acceptance of the happening of an event should be based on reliable testimony. In his article on miracles, however, he makes a complete turn about and refuses to accept the occurrence of miracles even in the face of the most authentic testimony. In other words, Hume seems to be saying “Anything is possible but not a miracle.” How can a great philosopher and thinker become so closed-minded can be explained only in spiritual terms.
The people who consider miracles against scientific laws are mostly those who are unaware of the developments in science in the last fifty years. In Newtonian science, the physical laws were definite laws which predicted events with certainty. In Modern Physics, the Physical always are considered to be only probabilistic, one can only talk of the probability of occurrence or otherwise of an event. An easy example is that of Hydrogen atom. According to old scientific rules, the electro-proton distance in a Hydrogen atom is always a certain value (about a half angstrom unit). According to Modern Physics this distance is most probably that given above. It could, however, be one million times that. Thus even if an event has been observed to occur in a certain way for a very large number of times, it may still occur differently. (See any good book on Quantum Mechanics or the Philosophy of Modern Physics e.g. Quantum Mechanics by Bohm. The Foundations of Physics by Lindsay.)
Hence miracles are not against any laws of possible events. Mirza Bashiruddin Mahmud Ahmad of Qadian calls miracles “stupidities” and “fables which serve only to amuse little babies in their cradle.” These remarks are in his article on miracles in his “Introduction to the Study of the Holy Quran.” I have nothing to say to such unscholarly remarks.
MUSLIM RATIONALISTS MAKE A MISTAKE
Muslim Rationalists try to give all kinds of far-fetched interpretations to the miracles since they consider some of them against the “Way of God.” They interpret this in the same sense in which the “Laws of Nature” are interpreted by superficial thinkers. These Rationalists base their arguments on the Qur’aanic verse.
“There is no change in the Way of Allaah.”
The Arabic word is “Sunnatullaah.” The above phrase occurs in four places in the Holy Qur’aan. If one reads any of them with reference to the context, one finds that the term “Sunnatullaah” does not mean “the Physical Laws of Nature.” These verses are:
(1) Chapter 17 verses 76-77,
(2) Chapter 33 verses 61-62,
(3) Chapter 35 verses 43-44,
(4) Chapter 48 verses 22-23.
The first and the third translate.
“And they (the polytheists) had started to unsettle you in this city so as to expel you from here. And if this happens, they will not live long after that. This has been the Way with the prophets that We sent before you and you will not find a change in Our Way.”
“And the evil plan falls back on the authors. So are they awaiting for the way of the ancients. So you will find no change in Allaah’s Way and you will find no deviations from the Way of Allaah. Have not they traveled in the Earth to see the end of those before them?”
Al-Qur’aan Chapter 35 verses 43-44
It is evident from these that by Sunnatullaah is meant that unchangeable law of Allaah according to which He destroys the evil. In none of these verses is the term used in the sense of the physical laws of Nature which are only probabilistic and hence deviations from them are possible.
Another mistake these Rationalists make is in the term Fitratullaah “Nature of (made by) Allaah.” They quote:
“The Nature made by Allaah in which He created men: there is no altering Allaah’s creation.”
Read the whole verse and you find their mistake.
“Keeping away from un-natural (inclinations), set yourself straight on The Religion. This is the nature in which Allaah has created men; there is no altering Allaah’s creation. This is the right Religion but many people don’t know.”
Al-Qur’aan Chapter 30 verse 30
Clearly, then the verse refers to the Nature of Man as a believer in Towheed, in One Allaah and His Religion. Thus, the Muslim Rationalists have taken a stand on an interpretation which is against the context. This could be because of mental blocks.
At the other extreme are philosophers who consider “reality” as only a product of our imagination. In this class could also be grouped Muslim Scholars who deny that things have their own properties. The Holy Qur’aan clearly attributes properties to objects. I don’t think I should tarry here long since most of my readers are not of this opinion.
Scientifically, therefore, events which appear contrary to general occurrence are possible. The larger is the number of events contrary to it, the less is its probability. Even if we accept definite laws of Newton, miracles can be accounted for. If a stone is dropped from a height, it falls towards the ground. If the stone fails to reach the ground we would think some object or agent got in its way. This is the stand taken by some scholars. They say that in miracles Allaah intervenes. Some others take the view that Allaah suspends the rules: Since He is the Author of the rules, He may suspend them whenever He wants.
In accordance with what I have said about the laws of Nature. I would side with a more encompassing interpretation: “Allaah wills it.”
WHAT CONSTITUTES A MIRACLE
An event would be considered a miracle if it falls in any one of the following classes:
(1) The event itself is the most improbable one. For example: a stick becoming a snake, the splitting of the moon in two, flowing water from fingers, the coming to life of dead.
(2) The event is ordinary but its timing is the most unusual. For example, natural disasters properly timed.
(3) The event is ordinary, timing is unimportant but the manner in which it occurred is miraculous. For example: the recovery of sick, falling of rain, removal of distress. These things are not unusual and they can happen any time but their happening because of the prayer of a Prophet makes them a miracle.
(4) Neither the event, the timing, the manner of occurrence but fore-knowledge of the event.
It should be pointed out that miracles are unexplainable by the people who witness them. They may be explained later. Then they cease to be miracles. This does not mean that they were not miracles at the time of their occurrence and that is what counts.
PURPOSE OF MIRACLES
The believers never ask for miracles. There is always a class of people who want to believe but need some strong motive force. Miracles provide this force. It should be clear that the tendency for belief must be present and the forces preventing the person from believing must not be stronger than the inclination to believe. The firm opponents are not helped by Miracles. They demand them but when presented with miracles they ridicule them and call them magic.
“And those who have no knowledge say: “Why does not Allaah talk to us Himself or why does not a miracle come to us. People before him had said similar things; their hearts are all alike. We have surely given signs to those who believe.”
Al-Qur’aan Chapter 2 verse 118.
“Even if We send down to them angels and the dead speak to them and We stand everything before them, face-to-face, they will not believe unless Allaah will it but most of them are ignorant.”
Al-Qur’aan Chapter 6 verse 112.
The non-believers are, therefore, so ignorant and blinded by material preventive forces that the miracles have no influence on them. In addition to this kind of miracle, there is the kind which occurs to help people. Examples below will clarify this:
WORK OF GOD, NOT OF PROPHETS
It should be realised that miracles happen when Allaah will them; they are not the works of the prophets and the prophets cannot perform them whenever they want.
“It is not in the power of a messenger to come with a sign except by Allaah’s permission.”
The miracles that the Bible calls Jesus’s (p.b.u.h.) own doing are not his; they
“Verily I have come to you with a sign from your Lord. Verily I form for you out of clay the likeness of a bird and then I breathe therein and it becomes a bird by Allaah’s permission. And I heal the (born) blind and the leprous and bring the dead to life by Allaah’s command.”
Al-Qur’aan Chapter 3 verse 48.
MIRACLES OF MUHAMMAD
(Peace be upon him)
All prophets showed miracles. The miracles all prophets have in common are: their close contact with Allaah, receiving revelations from Him, seeing and talking to angels etc. Other than these the prophets are given miracles which are necessary for the performance of their task. Since all prophets appeared to a localised group of people for a limited period of time, their needs were also restricted. The miracles performed by different prophets tend to fall in different classes. These miracles, being few in number, are remembered well and their repetition off and on leaves a lasting impression.
The Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was sent to the whole world and for all times, therefore, his miracles are numerous. Since they are of all varieties and are scattered, they don’t leave a vivid impression. Also the Holy Qur’aan is not a history book, it does not list all of Muhammad’s (peace be upon him) miracles. One has to look in the books of Traditions (Hadiths).
One major evidence of Muhammad’s (peace be upon him) miracles is the fact that his opponents used to call him a “magician.”
The miracles of the Holy Prophet are so numerous that a mere list of them will overflow the pages of this issue. The following is a more or less random selection from the Holy Qur’aan and the Authentic Tradition.
(1) The Holy Prophet’s predictions that have already come true are a very large number. They cover a very wide variety of events ranging from predicting victory for the Romans to the details of the civil war among Muslims.
(2) THE HOLY QUR’AAN: The Holy Qur’aan is the greatest miracle of the Holy Prophet. It keeps on showing its effectiveness and bringing people to the folds of Islam. The effectiveness of this miracle will last for ever. (A lot has been written on this topic and this is not the place to go into the details).
(3) MIR-AAJ - THE ASCENSION: The ascension of the Holy Prophet is another of his great miracles. This includes the journey from Mecca to Jerusalem and the visit to Heaven. That this miracle happened while the Holy Prophet was awake and in his full sense can be proved from the testimony of the Holy Qur’aan and the authentic Traditions.
(4) SHAQQUL QAMAR: The breaking in two of the Moon. The nation of every prophet is given enough time to testify to the truth of the prophet. After all the good elements have been drawn away into the folds of the prophet, the remaining element, the element with no good in it, is destroyed. But because of Allaah’s Mercy, even at this last minute a stupendous miracle is shown so that if any good elements are left, they will join the folds of the prophet’s followers. It is after this that the rest of the nation is destroyed.
(5) For the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), this miracle was “the
breaking of the moon.”
“The Hour has drawn nigh and the Moon has been rent asunder.”
Al-Qur’aan Chapter 54 verse 1
This miracle is called Mashhoor i.e. well known, widely witnessed. The account of this miracle comes to us from a very large number of people. It happened at Mina near Mecca.
The Holy Prophet motioned to the moon; it got divided in two, one portion going toward the hill. A while later, the two portions came together to form the whole moon.
Some people deny this miracle, on the grounds that it was not seen by the outside world. In the first place, the moon is not seen everywhere at the same time and in the same phase. Second it was meant for the people of Mecca; there was no need for it being seen in the other parts of the world. The fact that it did occur in Mecca is indisputable.
(6) MIRACLES AT THE TIME OF BADR: As mentioned earlier, Shaqqul Qamar was the last warning after which according to Sunnatullaah, the polytheists were to be destroyed. When the non-believers saw the moon rent asunder, they only mocked the Holy Prophet.
“And if they see a sign, they turn away and say: magic, all of it. And they belied
and followed their own lusts; and every affair comes to a final end.”
Al-Qur’aan Chapter 54 verses 2-3
It was also seen in the Quotation from Chapter 17 verse 76 that the leaving of Mecca by the Holy Prophet was going to bring a destruction on the Meccans. The time for the destruction of the Meccan was close, then, after Shaqqul Qamar and the migration of the Holy Prophet. It should be borne in mind, however, that Allaah destroys the nation of a prophet after He loses complete faith in them. Other prophets usually prayed for the destruction of their nation after a small group is separated from them. The Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) who was sent as a mercy to mankind, in spite of all the troubles with the Meccans still does not pray for their destruction; he only prays that their leaders be destroyed. This happened in the Battle of Badr. In addition to Badr being a miracle in this destructive sense, a number of miracles happened during this battle> A short summary, based upon the Holy Qur’aan, is given below.
The number of Muslims in this battle was 313, the number of polytheist opponents being about 1,000. The Muslims were very badly armed and most of them had no experience in the battlefield. The following miracles happened:
(a) The number of opponents, in the eyes of the Muslims, was reduced; the Muslims could actually see fewer enemy soldiers than their real number.
(b) The polytheists were seeing a smaller number of people on the Muslim side than their real number of 313.
The Holy Qur’aan talks of both these in the following words:
“And remember the time when you confronted your enemy. He made them look
fewer in your eyes and He made you look fewer in their eyes in order that Allaah might do that which was to be brought about.”
Al-Qur’aan Chapter 8 verse 44.
The Muslims saw fewer enemies which boosted their morale; the polytheists saw fewer Muslims thus encouraging them to fight. If they had seen more Muslims than there really were, they might have ran away. But this was not to be because the destruction of the polytheists was the purpose of Allaah.
(c) After the battle started, the Muslims suddenly started appearing double their actual number.
“There was a sign for you (O Jews) when you saw two armies confronting each
other; one party fighting in the way of Allaah and the other party of non-believers; the non-believers saw their opposing army twice as many as they were. Indeed, Allaah strengthens with His aid whom He pleases. There is a lesson in this for those who can see the reality of things.”
Al-Qur’aan Chapter 3 verse 12.
(d) The number of Muslims did not simply appear greater; it became greater: Allaah sent angels on the side of Muslims.
“Remember when you were imploring your Lord, so He heard your petition
saying “I will help you with a thousand angels one after the other.”
Al-Qur’aan Chapter 8 verse 9.
“Remember when your Lord revealed to the angels: I am with you so strengthen the hearts of those who believe; I will cast terror in the hearts of the non-beleivers.”
Al-Qur’aan Chapter 8 verse 12.
(e) The part of the battle field on the side of the Muslims was high but soft; the non-believers were on firm low ground; Allaah sent a torrential rain which made the ground on the Muslim side firm while flooding the enemy side.
“Remember when He sent down water from the sky so as to purify you thereby
and remove the uncleanness from you and to strengthen your hearts and make firm your feet.”
Al-Qur’aan Chapter 8 verse 11.
(f) While the battle was going on, the Holy Prophet kept on his prayers and petitions. Once he picked up some pebbles and sand in his hand and threw them towards the enemy. The accounts say that a very large number of enemy fighters were hit and injured by these.
“So you did not kill them but Allaah did and, (O Prophet!) you did not throw
pebbles when you threw pebbles but Allaah did so as to confer upon Muslims the blessings (of victory). Indeed Allaah is Hearer (of prayers) and Knower (of all secrets).”
Al-Qur’aan Chapter 8 verse 17.
(7) THE WALKING OF A TREE AND THE COMING OF SOUND FROM IT The Holy Prophet was traveling when he saw a desert Arab. When he came close, the Holy Prophet asked him where he was going. He said “Home.” The Holy Prophet asked him, “Do you want something good?” The Arab said, “What is that?” The Holy Prophet told him about one God. The Arab said, “Who testifies to that?” The Holy Prophet said, “That tree yonder.” Saying this, the Holy Prophet called the tree from the edge of the valley. The tree came hurriedly and stood in front of the Holy Prophet. The Holy Prophet made the tree say Towheed three times and returned to its place. The Arab went home saying that he is going to bring his whole family to accept Islam on the hands of the Holy Prophet and that if they won’t come, he would come alone.
(8) LIGHT IN DARKNESS: The Holy Prophet’s companion Anas (may Allaah be pleased with him) tells that: two companions of the Holy Prophet came to see him and stayed late till it became very dark. When they left, the path became lit for them as if there were two lamps. When they separated one lamp accompanied one while the other accompanied the second one until they reached their homes.
Chapter: The Signs of Prophethood.
(9) SIGHT FOR BLIND: A blind man came to the Holy Prophet and recounted his difficulties. The Holy Prophet said, “If you want, I will pray for you but if you remain patient, it is better for you.” The man asked for prayers. The Holy Prophet asked him to make ablution and then ask Allaah’s help. When the man did that, his sight came back.
This incident recorded in Tirmidhi. Masard Ibn Hanbal and Mustadrak of Hakim.
Or it might be different incidences of the same kind.
(10) SPEECH FOR DUMB: In the last Pilgrimage, a woman brought her child to the Holy Prophet and told him that the child does not talk. The Holy Prophet asked for some water, washed his hand and gargled and gave the rest of the water to the child. The next year, when the woman came again, she said that the child was completely cured and was talking.
Sunnan Ibn Maja
Ibn Abi Sheeba.
(11) A LITTLE FOOD SUFFICES A LARGE GROUP: One day the companion Abu Talha (may Allaah be pleased with him) felt from the Holy Prophet’s voice that he was weak because of hunger. He went home and told his wife that the Holy Prophet seems to be hungry and asked her to send him some food. She sent a few loaves of bread. When their servant came, he found the Holy Prophet surrounded by people. The Holy Prophet thought that Abu Talha had sent his servant to invite them for dinner. Anyhow, the Holy Prophet, with seventy or eighty people, went to Abu Talha’s home. They did not have anything else in the house so they presented the same loaves of bread. The Holy Prophet got them crushed, poured some ghee over it and invited the people to partake from it. The people started eating in groups of ten, one after the other until they all ate to their fill.
Chapter: Signs of Prophethood
(12) WATER SPRINGING FROM FINGERS: At the time of the treaty of Hudaibiyya, the Holy Prophet started making ablution from a pot of water in front of him. The companions all rushed forward to stop him. The Holy Prophet was told that that was the only water left and that a lot of people were in extreme difficulty from thirst. The Holy Prophet put his fingers in it, water gushed out of his fingers as if from a spring. Fourteen to fifteen hundred people made ablution with it and drank it to their fill.
and Authentic Muslim,
Chapter: Miracles (and Masnad Ahmad).
(13) Authentic Muslim, Abu Daood, Masnad Ahmad, Abu Ya’la Bazzar and Tibrani record the Holy Prophet saying
“Before the End of this World, thirty liars will appear each one among whom would claim to be a prophet.”
We have already seen a large number.
PURPOSE AND DUTIES OF A PROPHET
I would like to emphasise that whereas all the prophets have had miracles and the Holy Prophet Muhammad (upon whom be peace) has had a numerous number, it should not be construed that the job of prophets is to show miracles. The Prophets are to guide, teach and clarify.
“O Prophet, We have indeed sent you as a witness and a bearer of glad tidings and a warner and as an inviter to Allaah by His command and as an “illumination lamp.”
Al-Qur’aan Chapter 33 verse 45-46
“He enjoins upon them good and forbids them from evil and makes lawful for them the goods things and prohibits for them unclean things and relieves them of their burden and the shackles which have been upon them.”
Al-Qur’aan Chapter 7 verse 157.
The only sign of Truthfulness is guidance. The prophets present the rules and message which are for the guidance and well-being of mankind. Those who disbelieve in them are transgressors and haughty.
“Say: then bring a book from Allaah which is a better guide than these two, I shall follow it – if you are truthful. But if they don’t answer you, know that they follow their own desires; and who is further astray than he who follow his low desires without guidance from Allaah. Indeed Allaah does not guide a wrong-doing people.”
Al-Qur’aan Chapter 28 verse 49-50.