People can be grouped into three categories according to their different attitudes toward the physical miracles of Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him). The three categories and some of the miracles are discussed below:
- Those With an Exaggerated Belief
- Those With an Exaggerated Denial
- Those With a Moderate View
- True Miracles of the Prophet
- The Miracles Related Concerning Hijrah
These people exaggerate in their belief in all the miracles mentioned in the books written on this subject, regardless of whether these books have been written by early scholars or contemporary ones, and regardless of whether they are concerned with examining the authenticity of the hadiths reported or not. They also pay no attention to whether the hadiths reported in this connection are in line with the principles and foundations of religious knowledge or at odds with them. The mere mention of the miracles in a book, any book, or in poems eulogizing Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) is sufficient evidence for these people to believe in their occurrence.
This is usually the attitude of the ordinary people. But we are to bear in mind that there are books that are of trivial weight and others that are of great weight, and that hadiths vary with regard to their degrees of authenticity. There are hadiths that are strongly authentic, others that are just accepted, others rejected, and others fabricated.
Unfortunately, the Muslim religious culture is stained with some authors who are fond of cramming their writings with strange stories, even if they are unreasonable or contradict the authentic religious texts. Such authors pay no attention to the authenticity of the information they include when they write about the Prophet’s miracles or when they intend to preach good manners and warn against evil deeds, on the pretext that no juristic rulings would be concluded from such narrations. When it comes to handling subjects relating to the lawful and unlawful in religion, they become meticulously concerned with the authenticity of the narrations, exercising great effort in revising and refining the hadiths they cite.
This category of writers also includes such ones who cite the narrations in their writings accompanied by the chains of reporters, without making reference to whether these narrators are credible and reliable, believing that merely mentioning the chains of reporters would serve as a disclaimer against any problem in terms of the authenticity of such narrations. This assumption, however, might have been feasible in the early ages when the citation of the chain of reporters was adequate for scholars to distinguish the authenticity of the reports. However, this is not workable at present, as most people depend on narrating whatever they find in books without studying the chains of reporters or verifying the degree of reliability of each reporter. Today, writers merely quote the texts of hadiths they want to include in their writings from reference books such as At-Tabari’s or Ibn Sa`d’s Tabaqat, disregarding all about their chains of reporters.
On the other hand, another type of writer exaggerates in denying all the physical miracles of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him). Their pretext in adopting such an attitude is that the principal and sole miracle of Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) is the Glorious Qur’an. People are challenged to produce a similar book, ten surahs, or even a single surah that can be comparable to the Qur’an. Further, when the polytheists asked for physical signs, the verses of the Qur’an were revealed to reject their demands. Allah Almighty says:
[And they say: We will not put faith in thee till thou cause a spring to gush forth from the earth for us; or thou have a garden of date palms and grapes, and cause rivers to gush forth therein abundantly; or thou cause the heaven to fall upon us piecemeal, as thou hast pretended, or bring Allah and the angels as a warrant; or thou have a house of gold; or thou ascend up into heaven, and even then we will put no faith in thine ascension till thou bring down for us a book that we can read. Say (O Muhammad): My Lord be glorified! Am I naught save a mortal messenger? And naught prevented mankind from believing when the guidance came unto them save that they said: Hath Allah sent a mortal as (His) messenger?] (Al-Israa’ 17:90–94)
Explaining the reason behind this rejection, Allah Almighty says:
[Naught hindereth Us from sending portents save that the folk of old denied them. And We gave Thamud the she-camel, a clear portent, but they did wrong in respect of her. We send not portents save to warn.] (Al-Israa’ 17:59)
He the Exalted also asserts in another verse that the Qur’an is a sufficient sign to prove the truthfulness of the message of Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings b upon him):
[And is it not enough for them that We have sent down to thee the Book which is rehearsed to them? Verily, in that is Mercy and a Reminder to those who believe.] (Al-`Ankabut 29:51)
According to this second category of writers, there is a divine wisdom in giving the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) an intellectual rather than a physical miracle: It befits the concluding of the divine messages sent to mankind, after they have reached maturity, to be coupled with an eternal miracle of intellectual nature, for it is the intellectual aspect that grants a miracle its eternity, while the physical miracles are of temporary nature. Such writers base their viewpoint on an authentic hadith reported by Al-Bukhari:
“Every Prophet was given miracles because of which (his) people believed, but what I have been given is a revelation which Allah has revealed to me. So I hope that my followers will outnumber the followers of the other Prophets on the Day of Resurrection.”
In my point of view, there are two things that motivate this category of writers to hold such attitude:
First, people’s staunch belief in the present time in the physical sciences and the inevitability of the law of causality. Some examples are that fire burns, that a knife cuts, that inanimate objects cannot turn into animate ones, that a dead person cannot return to life in this world.
Second, the exaggerated belief of the first category in the occurrence of all miracles mentioned in the books, regardless of whether or not they truly happened. The first category’s exaggeration in this matter is so extreme that they almost cancel the existence of the law of causality upon which Almighty Allah has established this world.
This category, to which I belong, holds a moderate view on the question in hand. This stance can be outline in the following points:
The Glorious Qur’an is the supreme miracle of Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon). With it the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) challenged all mankind, and particularly the Arab people. It is also the miracle that has distinguished the message of Islam from the other divine messages. Its subject matter is the very proof of the truthfulness of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him). Besides, it has ineffable eloquence and is of a supreme intellectual nature. It contains vast knowledge of the Unseen, whether of the past, present, or future.
Almighty Allah granted the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) many great physical miracles, but the purpose of them was not to establish the truthfulness of his message but rather to honor, support, console, and assure him and his followers. Examples of these miracles are the Night Journey, which is mentioned directly in the Qur’an, and the Ascension to the Heavens, which is referred to implicitly in the Qur’an and stated explicitly in the authentic hadiths. Allah Almighty also sent angels to fight with and support the believers at the Battle of Badr. He Most High also caused rain then to fall unto the believers to purify them and satisfy their thirst, while the disbelievers did not avail from it though they were then adjacent to the Muslims in the battlefield. Allah the Exalted also protected the Prophet and his Companion Abu Bakr, when they were in Thawr Cave, against the disbelievers who were then pursuing them; had the disbelievers looked down at their feet when they reached the mouth of the cave, they would have detected the presence of the Prophet and Abu Bakr. Other authentic miracles took place in the Battles of Al-Ahzab and Tabuk in which there was insufficient food for the whole Muslim army; Allah Almighty caused a small amount of food in the hands of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) to suffice the whole army and completely satisfy their hunger.
We only accept the physical miracles that are mentioned plainly in the Qur’an or the authentic Sunnah. Otherwise, we disregard the miracles padded out in many trivial books written on this subject.
A number of the Companions reported that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) used to stand on a stump of a date palm tree while addressing the Muslims. When a pulpit was placed for him, the stump was heard crying like a pregnant camel till the Prophet got down from the pulpit and placed his hand over it. Commenting on this incident, the eminent early scholar Taj Ad-Din As-Subki said, “The crying of the stump of the date palm tree is an authentic incident, having been reported by about twenty Companions within various honest chains of reporters.” Such was also the viewpoint of Judge `Iyad in his book Ash-Shifa’.
Anas said: “A bowl of water was brought to the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) while he and his Companions were at Az-Zawra’. He (peace and blessings be upon him) placed his hand in it and the water started flowing between his fingers. All the people performed ablution (with that water)” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim).
Al-Bara’ (may Allah be pleased with him) also said that they were 1,400 persons on the day of Al-Hudaibiyah, and there was a well at Al-Hudaibiyah. They drew out its water not leaving even a single drop. Knowing this, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) sat at the edge of the well and asked for some water with which he rinsed his mouth and then he threw it out into the well. The Companions stayed for a short while and then drew water from the well and “[we] quenched our thirst, and even our riding animals drank water to their satisfaction” (Al-Bukhari).
There are some other miracles with regard to the water having sprung from between the Prophet’s fingers, the authenticity of all of which has been established.
a) The authentic collections of the Sunnah mention many examples of Almighty Allah immediately answering supplications of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him). For example, he (peace and blessings be upon him) supplicated Almighty Allah in a rainless year at a time when there was no trace of cloud in the sky, and before he (peace and blessings be upon him) got down from the pulpit, it rained abundantly. Likewise, he (peace and blessings be upon him) beseeched Almighty Allah to bring the Muslims victory on the Battle of Badr, to make Ibn `Abbas an eminent knowledgeable scholar in religion, and to give Anas abundant offspring, and Almighty Allah answered all these invocations. This was also the case even when he invoked Almighty Allah’s punishment against some people who affronted him.
b) The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) also foretold some events which actually came true either during his lifetime or after his death. Examples of this are his prediction that the Muslims would conquer Yemen, Busrah, Persia, Constantinople, and so on; that `Ammarwould be killed by the rebel party; and that through the Prophet’s grandson Al-Hasan Almighty Allah would reconcile the two disputing parties of the Muslims.
The Miracles Related Concerning Hijrah
Some writers relate that when the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) hid in Thawr Cave, two pigeons laid eggs at the mouth of the cave and a tree suddenly grew until it covered the entrance of the cave. There is no hadith— whether authentic, sound, or even weak—related concerning this incident.
With regard to people’s circulating that a spider spun its web over the mouth of the cave, there is a hadith reported about it, but it is regarded as sound by some scholars and as weak by some others.
The Qur’an indicates that Almighty Allah supported the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) with unseen hosts. He Almighty says of this:
[Then Allah caused His peace of reassurance to descend upon him and supported him with hosts ye cannot see.] (At-Tawbah 9:40)
Supposing that the story of the pigeons and the spider had been true, they would have been seen, while the verse asserts that the hosts with which Almighty Allah helped His Prophet were unseen. Reflecting a bit on this comparison, one, undoubtedly, will realize that supporting the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) with unseen hosts is a miracle more indicative of Almighty Allah’s capability and might than aiding him with visible hosts.
It is the eulogizing poems and writings of the modern authors that have caused such extraordinary incidents to circulate widely among people.
This is my attitude towards the question of the miracles of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him).
by Dr. Yusuf A. Al-Qaradawi