The Prophets MIRACLES
by: Abbas Di Palma

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.

Originally published in islam today magazine UK, issue 43 vol.5 | January 2017. It has been republished here with permission.