The Prophets’MIRACLES

From Ibrahim(a) to Muhammad(s), the prophets have been equipped with the ability to performing miracles. Abbas Di Palma explains the necessity and functions of the prophetic miracles

One of the most interesting questions related to theological affairs is to do with the nature and scope of miracles.  Miracles are a mysterious but fascinating phenomenon, a centre of attention in many popular devotional manifestations, public speeches and scholarly debates present in all cultures and traditions.  A miracle could be defined as an extraordinary act calling for a  challenge that no one can overcome.  In the Islamic context, it has been used as a proof to establish the veracity of the message of the prophet. Prophets have been sent by  God with a divine message for mankind to establish and confirm truth, justice, wisdom and faith on a  wider scale amongst His creatures.  The era of the prophets started with  Adam, peace be upon him, and  lasted until the last prophet and  messenger Muhammad(s). During this  period, different prophets have  performed different types of miracles  to persuade their people to pursue  the holy path towards peace, love  and happiness.  Every prophet was sent with the  same message, set of principles and  ethical values to guide humanity  towards its own benefit. Accordingly,  some prophets brought a new code  of law to be followed while others  confirmed it and assisted them in  their mission. With the coming of  the last Prophet, the complete law  was revealed.  If we look at religious history, it is  evident that the miracles of the  prophets differed from one another  although they essentially invited  people to the same truth and  realisation: for example, the miracles  of Moses differed from the miracles  of Jesus, and the miracles of Jesus  differed from the miracles of  Muhammad, peace be upon them  all. This is because establishing the  veracity of a prophetic claim calls for  a clear and valid proof for all the  subjects of that prophecy; therefore  the miracles of the prophets must  reflect the knowledge of their people.  So Moses came with a miracle  defeating the sorcery that was  widespread in Egyptian culture while  Jesus brought the dead to life in an  environment full of “abstinent  healers”, hermits and ascetic  masters.  The Prophet Muhammad was sent  with the Qur’an in a society whose  major art was rhetoric and eloquence in which orators were  well-respected and greatly admired.  Taking the Qur’an as miracle of the  Prophet Muhammad as an example,  we recognise that a book unrivalled  in its eloquence had such a drastic  effect on Makkan society that its  detractors, unable to answer the  challenge, shifted the mode of their  opposition resorting to defamation  saying that the Prophet was a  magician, a liar or a madman.  It is worth noting that the Qur’an,  being the outstanding miracle of the  last Prophet, should be an  everlasting miracle for the whole of  humankind and not only for the  people of a particular area or a  specific time-period. In other words,  his miracle should be witnessed by  all the addressees of the last  revelation which means all those  living from its beginning to the end  of times. It is probably for this  reason that the Prophet has been  defined as a “mercy to the worlds”  (21:107).  It is not a case that the Qur’an is  the only Abrahamic book still  available in its original language: it  is an Arabic Qur’an that reached us  in its unaltered form directly  through its sacred language.  God has chosen language as  instrumental for the Prophet’s  miracle so that even the future  generations could have direct  access to its splendour and beauty  and humans can be attracted by  divine words through recital and by  pondering over the verses. What is  said has a strong influence on us,  and similarly, what we say has a  significant impact on those around  us.  Religiously, words may determine  our final abode in the Hereafter:  verbally abusing other people, using  bad language or ridiculing holy  personalities may one day lead  one’s soul to great suffering while  giving good words to the people and  advising them to piety may lead to  eternal bliss.  In the Qur’an God communicates  with man through words as they  have a great effect in peoples’  minds, hearts and souls. The more  those words are read, the more faith  increases in us. “…and when His  verses are recited to them, it  increases them in faith” (8:2). This  is another marvellous feature of the  Quranic miracle that people of faith  have the potential to personally  experience. It is probably for this  reason that the Qur’an does not  emphasise the classical Arabic word  ‘mu‘jiza’ for miracle, which includes  the sense of challenge, but rather  often uses the term ‘ayah’ which  means ‘sign’. In calling it a ‘sign’  there is no sense of ‘tension’ or  ‘opposition’ and the soul is called to  ‘soar’ in the domains of faith with a  loving attraction rather than a ‘dry  evidence’. Accordingly, a prophetic  miracle is not a mere challenge but  a light leading to the truth of the  divine message.  In other words, the Qur’an is that  miracle which is able to provide a  guidance and a universal link ‘from  the earth to the sky’ for the people  of the past and present, and the  generations to come.  There is no contradiction between  the different miracles performed by  the prophets. They form a linear  progression leading people to the  most perfect way, giving them a full  sense of the purpose for which they  have been created.  It is correct to say that the code of  Moses was the best code for his  people, and the code of Jesus was  the best code for his followers but  at a certain point in human history,  the invitation to the truth through  miracles had to lean towards a  universal recognition that was  enabled through the last Prophet.

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