Islamic View of Miracles

A number of terms are used in Islam to refer to events not explicable by natural or scientific laws, explained as supernatural interventions in the life of human beings. In the Quran the term āyah (آية‎; plural: آيات āyāt, literally “sign”) refers to signs in the context of miracles of God‘s creation and of the prophets and messengers (such as Abraham and Jesus). In later Islamic sources miracles of the prophets were referred to by Muʿjiza (مُعْجِزَة literally meaning “that by means of which [the Prophet] confounds, overwhelms, his opponents”), while miracles of saints are referred to as karamat (charismata). I’jaz al-Quran – literally the inimitability of the Quran – refers to the Quranic claim that no one can hope to imitate its (the Quran’s) perfection, this quality being considered the primary miracle of the Quran and proof of Muhammad’s prophethood. In recent decades, “I’jaz” has also come to refer to the belief that the Quran contains “scientific miracles”, i.e. prophecies of scientific discoveries. Kharq al`adad – “a break in God’s customary order of things” – was a term used in “theological or philosophical discussions” to refer to miraculous events. Karamat – “gifts or graces” – was usually used for miraculous performances of Sufi saints often used to convert unbelievers to Islam (considered a work of “divine generosity” rather than “divine power” employed in the miracles of prophets).

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Mythical horse, Buraq

Definition

A systematic definition of miracles performed by apostles can be found in the work of the Muslim scholar al-Īd̲j̲ī Mawāḳif, historian A.J. Wensinck states. The main purpose of miracle is to prove the sincerity of the apostle and has to satisfy the following conditions:

  1. It must be performed by God
  2. “It must be contrary to the usual course of things”
  3. It should be impossible to contradict it
  4. “It must happen at the hands of him who claims to be an apostle
  5. “It must be in conformity with his announcement of it, and the miracle itself must not be a disavowal of his claim”
  6. “It must follow on his claim”

Theology

Belief in that which is transmitted by mutawatir are obligatory to believe in for Sunni Muslims. Rejection of that which is mutawatir is cause for leaving Islam according to consensus of Sunni scholars. The Qur’an is transmitted by mutawatir and therefore every verse must be believed in, including every reference to a miracle of any prophet. Additionally, there are several hadith reports which convey miracles of the prophet Muhammad which are also transmitted by mutawatir. Such hadiths and miracles must also be fully believed in for one to be a Muslim. However, rejecting an ahad, or solitary, narration is only sinful (fisq) and not disbelief.

Miracles are split up into Karamat and Mu’jizat, the former are given by God to saints and the latter are given by God exclusively to prophets. In Al-Aqidah al-Tahawiyyah, upon which there is consensus, we find two points on this: “We do not prefer any of the saints of this nation over any of the prophets, upon them be peace. We say that a single prophet is better than all the saints put together. We have faith in what has come of their miracles (karamat) and what has been authenticated in their narrations from trustworthy narrators.”

Islam and natural law

In order to defend the possibility of miracles and God’s omnipotence against the encroachment of the independent secondary causes, medieval Muslim theologians rejected the idea of cause and effect in essence, but accepted it as something that facilitates humankind’s investigation and comprehension of natural processes. They argued that the nature was composed of uniform atoms that were “re-created” at every instant by God. Thus if the soil was to fall, God would have to create and re-create the accident of heaviness for as long as the soil was to fall. For Muslim theologians, the laws of nature were only the customary sequence of apparent causes: customs of God.

Quran

Main articles: Quran and Miracles 

Miracles — i.e. a supernatural interventions in the life of human beings — are present in the Quran “in a threefold sense: in sacred history, in connection with the Islamic prophet Muhammad himself and in relation to revelation.”

In the Qur’an, the term Ayah is used to refer to miracles — cosmic phenomena for example are ayat takwiniyyah — particularly miracles of creation. But it is also used to mean “evidence,” “sign”, “Quranic verse”, (religious obligations are ayat taklifiyyah). In Islam in general ayah is often used to a mean Quranic verse, but there is overlap in meaning: ayat/verses are believed to be the divine speech in human language presented by Muhammad as his chief miracle, and miracles are a “sign” (ayah) of God and of Muhammad’s prophethood.

Sacred history

The Qur’an does not mention any miracle for Adam (Adem) who though an Islamic prophet was not supposed to convince anybody of God’s message. Sura (verse) 11 (Hūd) and 23 (Al-Mu’minoon) mention miracles of Noah (Nuh), “The oven (tannur) out of which the water burst and announced the flood”. Hud, prophet for the ancient tribe of ʿĀd and the first of five Arabian prophets of the Qur’an, does not have any particular miracle (thus according to historian Denis Gril prefiguring Muhammad). (See Q.7:69 for his response when he was rebuked for not producing a miracle.)

Ijaz movement

Further information: Quran and miracles § Claimed scientific miracles

Quran and miracles

Quran and miracles

Starting the 1970s and 80s a “popular literature known as ijaz” and often called “Scientific miracles in the Quran”, argued that the Quran abounds with “scientific facts” centuries before their discovery by science and thus demonstrating that the Quran must be of divine origin. Among these miracles alleged by enthusiasts of the movement to be found in the Quran are “everything, from relativity, quantum mechanics, Big Bang theory, black holes and pulsars, genetics, embryology, modern geology, thermodynamics, even the laser and hydrogen fuel cells”. “Widespread and well-funded” with “millions” from Saudi Arabia, the literature can be found in Muslim bookstores and on websites and television programs of Islamic preachers, though it has come in for criticism by scholars.

Muhammad

Main article: Miracles of Muhammad

The Qur’an does not overtly describe Muhammad performing miracles, according to historian Denis Gril, and the supreme miracle of Muhammad is finally identified with the Qur’an itself. At least one scholar (Sunni scholar Muhammad Asad) states that Muhammad performed no miracles other than to bring the Quran to humanity, and other scholars (Cyril Glasse, Marcia Hermansen) downplay miracles of Muhammad, stating “they play no role in Islamic theology”, or “play less of an evidentiary role than in some other religions”.

However, Muslim tradition (hadith) credits Muhammad with several supernatural events. For example, many Muslim commentators and some western scholars have interpreted the sura 54 (Al-Qamar) to refer to Muhammad splitting the Moon in view of the Quraysh when they had begun to persecute his followers. This tradition has inspired many Muslim poets, especially in India.

See also

References

Adapted from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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