Prophet Muhammad’s Miracles
A miracle is an extraordinary event that God Almighty brings about at the hands of a Prophet to prove his Prophethood, strengthen the believers’ faith, and break the unbelievers’ obstinacy.
The universe operates according to God’s fixed laws. In the absence of His laws and the uniform character of natural events, everything would be in continual flux. In such an environment, we would be unable to discover the Divine laws of nature or make any scientific progress. Although recent discoveries in atomic physics have shown that whatever exists is a wave in continuous motion, on the surface everything occurs according to classical or Newtonian principles. This has forced scientists to admit that they cannot state that anything will exist in the same state as it did even one second ago.
Normally, life has its own laws according to which we behave. We need food and water to satisfy our hunger and thirst, and go to a doctor when we are sick. We use animals for labor, but cannot talk to them. Trees are fixed in their places, and neither they nor stones and mountains greet us. We conform to the laws of gravitation and repulsion, and do not attempt to rise into the sky without first making the relevant calculations.
All of these and other laws make human life possible. However, since God has determined them, He is not bound by them. Therefore, He may sometimes annul a law or change the ordinary flow of events to allow a Prophet to perform what we call a miracle or to show that He can do whatever He wills at whatever time He desires. The original word in Islamic literature translated as miracle is mu‘jiza (something that no one else can do). If God allows a saint to perform such an event, it is called karama (an extraordinary favor). These favors constitute another proof of Muhammad’s Prophethood and the truth of Islam.
God created innumerable karama at the hands of Muslim saints. One kind is foretelling the future. For example, Muhyi al-Din ibn al-‘Arabi died almost 50 years before the establishment of the Ottoman State, and yet wrote in his Shajarat al-Nu‘maniya about the Ottomans, predicted their conquest of Damascus and Egypt, that Sultan Murad IV would march on Baghdad and conquer it after a siege of 41 days, and that Sultan ‘Abd al-‘Aziz would be killed by cutting his wrists. He also wrote that: “When ‘S’ enters ‘SH,’ the burial-place of Muhyi al-Din will be discovered.” Using symbols in his predictions, “S” means “Selim” and “SH” means “Sham” (Damascus). Like his other predictions, this one came true when Sultan Selim I conquered Damascus, discovered Ibn al‘Arabi’s burial-place, and ordered a tomb built upon it.
Mushtaq Dada of Bitlis, an eastern province of Turkey, predicted 71 years in advance that after many wars and convulsions Ankara would replace Istanbul as the capital city. Interestingly enough, Mushtaq Dada gives the name of the man who would do this: by combining the initial letters of his lines of verse, you get the name Kemal.
God Almighty allowed His Prophets to perform miracles. However, since all previous Prophets were sent to their own people, and their Prophethood was thereby restricted, their miracles were related to the widespread arts and crafts of their time. For example, since at the time of Moses, sorcery enjoyed great prestige in Egypt, God Almighty caused his staff to change into a snake and swallow those of the sorcerers. At the time of Jesus, the healing arts enjoyed great prestige, and so most of his miracles involved healing. As for Prophet Muhammad, since his Prophethood is universal and he is the last Prophet, his miracles are very diverse and connected with nearly all parts of creation.
When a glorified ruler’s aide-de-camp enters a city with various gifts from the ruler, a representative of each group of people or from each professional group, society, or association welcomes him cheerfully. Similarly, when the Eternal Sovereign’s supreme Messenger honored the universe as an envoy to the Earth’s inhabitants, bringing from the Creator the light of truth and spiritual gifts related to the truths of the universe, every entity—from mineral elements and plants to animals and human beings, and from the moon and sun to stars—welcomed him in its own way and language, and became a means for one kind of miracle.
Every word, act, and state of the noble Prophet testifies to his Prophethood and his faithfulness. But not all of them need to be miraculous. The Almighty sent him as human being so that he could guide and lead men and women, in all their individual and collective affairs, to happiness in both worlds, and so they could view the wonders of His art and the works of His Power. Each of these are in fact miracles, but they appear to us as ordinary and familiar events.
If the Prophet had been extraordinary in all his acts, he could not have guided and instructed us. God allowed him to perform some extraordinary phenomena to prove his Prophethood to unbelievers, and so he occasionally worked miracles. But these were done in a way that did not compel belief, as this would negate the purpose of our testing and exercise of free will. If miracles forced people to believe, thereby depriving them of their choice to believe or not, our whole existence and purpose would be meaningless.
The majority of the Prophet’s approximately 1,000 miracles were related first by Companions, then by numerous reliable narrators and authorities, and subsequently recorded in authentic books of Tradition. As for the rest, although related by only one or two Companions, they also must be indisputable, as they later were judged true by all reliable authorities and narrated by more than one chain of transmission. In addition, most occurred in the presence of many people (e.g., a military campaign, wedding ceremony, or feast), and one or more of those present related it and the others confirmed it by keeping silent. Therefore, the miracles recorded in authentic books of Tradition are indisputable and cannot be denied or rejected.
Examples of the Prophet’s Miracles
The Qur’an declares:
Glorified be He Who carried His servant by night from the Sacred Mosque (Masjid al-Haram) to Masjid al-Aqsa, the neighborhood of which We have blessed, that We might show him of Our signs. Surely He is the All-Hearing, the All-Seeing. (17:1)
Then he drew nigh and came down, till he was two bows’ length or even nearer, and He revealed unto His servant what He revealed. The heart (of His servant) lied not (in seeing) what he saw. (53:8-11)
The Ascension is one of the greatest miracles of the Prophet Muhammad. Having been favored with spiritual perfection and full refinement through belief and worship, God took him to His holy Presence. Escaping the imprisonment of natural laws and material causes and transcending bodily existence, the Prophet crossed distances swiftly and rose above all dimensions of the material world until he reached the holy Presence of God.
Atomic physics has changed many concepts in physics. It also has established that this world is only one dimension or appearance of existence among many, each of which has its own particularities. Einstein posited that time is only one dimension of existence. Science has not yet drawn any final conclusions about existence, for new findings and developments continually change our view of it. Therefore, how can one question the Ascension? People have difficulty in understanding how one can penetrate all time at the same moment as a single point. To better understand this subtle matter, consider the following analogy:
Imagine that you are holding a mirror. Everything reflected on the right represents the past, while everything reflected on the left represents the future. The mirror can reflect one direction only while you are holding it. If you want to see both sides, you must rise so high above your original position that left and right are united into one and nothing remains to be called first or last, beginning or end.
In the Ascension, the Prophet must have moved with the speed of the spirit, as he traveled through all time and space and all dimensions of existence in a very short period. During that heavenly journey, he met with previous Prophets, saw angels, and beheld the beauties of Paradise and the terrors of Hell. He observed the essential realities of all Qur’anic issues, as well as the meanings and wisdom of all acts of worship. He also reached the realms where even the greatest angel, Gabriel, cannot reach, and was honored with a vision of God’s “Countenance,” free from any qualitative and quantitative dimension and restriction. Then, to bring humanity out of the darkness of material existence and into the illumined realm of belief and worship, so that all men and women can experience their own “spiritual” ascension, he returned to the world.
Another miracle, that of splitting the moon was performed before people who persisted in denying Muhammad’s Prophethood. As related by ‘Abd Allah ibn Mas‘ud, one night while they were in Mina’, the Prophet split the moon into two with a gesture of his index finger. One half appeared behind the mountain, and the other in front of it. Then the Prophet turned to us and said: “Be witnesses!” The Qur’an relates this miracle:
The Hour has approached, and the moon split. But whenever they see a sign, they turn away and say: “This is evident magic.” (54:1-2).
We will now relate several other miracles, all of which are thoroughly documented in Islamic literature.
• Anas ibn Malik relates that Abu Talha, seeing that God’s Messenger was hungry, invited him to a meal. The Messenger came with a crowd of people. Abu Talha had only one loaf of rye bread at home. His wife Umm Sulaym spread some butter on it. The Messenger prayed for abundance, and at least 70 to 80 people ate as much as they wanted before leaving.
• ‘Abd al-Rahman ibn Abi Bakr relates that 130 Companions were with God’s Messenger during an expedition. The Messenger asked them whether they had something to eat. Someone had one or two sacks of flour. Dough was prepared, and a sheep was bought from a polytheist passing by with his flock. After roasting the sheep’s liver, the Messenger gave a piece to each one present, and put aside the shares of those who were not present. They cooked the meat in two bowls, and everyone ate of it. After they finished eating, there was just as much meat as there had been before they had started eating.
Many similar miracles were transmitted through various (sometimes as many as 16) channels. Most of them took place in the presence of large assemblies and were narrated by many persons of truth and good reputation.
The One Who created the universe and made it dependent on certain laws obviously can change those laws for His special, beloved servant and envoy. Especially in our day, when scientists have abandoned mechanistic ideas in favor of relativity, it is neither rational nor scientific to deny miracles on the basis of absolute determinism or causality.
Furthermore, miracles are never completely free of material causes, however slight and insignificant they may be. Given that God Almighty causes the smallest things to produce very great entities, how can we deny miracles? Human beings, weak enough to be defeated by germs, nevertheless are intelligent enough to make computers that can hold knowledge that would fill many libraries. Is this a lesser miracle than enabling His servant to give some food or drink a blessed increase? Indeed, is not every occurrence in the universe, every act of God, really a miracle, the like of which we are unable to make?
There are many examples of the Prophet’s miracles concerning water. They were related by numerous Companions and transmitted through various reliable channels. We mention two of them here.
• Once when they were in Zarwa, the Companions could not find enough water for wudu’ (ritual ablution). God’s Messenger asked them to bring a bowl of water. He dipped his hands into it, and water began to run from his fingers like a fountain. Anas ibn Malik says that on that day they were 300 people, and thus relates this incident on behalf of 300 people. If he were lying, is it logical to assume that not even one person would contradict him?20
• During the campaign of Hudaybiya, the Companions complained to God’s Messenger about the lack of water. He took an arrow out of his arrow-bag and told them to put it in the well called Semed. When they did so, water began to gush forth. During the campaign, all Companions drank from it and performed wudu’ with it.
• Authentic books of Tradition, including primarily Sahih al-Bukhari and Sahih al-Muslim, report many miracles of healing sick and wounded people, among them the following:
During the Battle of Khaybar, God’s Messenger asked where ‘Ali was. Informed that ‘Ali’s eyes were hurting him,” he sent for him and, after he arrived, applied his healing saliva to ‘Ali’s eyes. At the same moment the pain ceased, and ‘Ali’s eyes became better than before.
• ‘Uthman ibn Hunayf relates:
A blind man came to God’s Messenger and requested him to pray to God to recover his sight. The Messenger said: “If you desire, I’ll not pray—being blind may be better for your after-life—or I’ll pray.” The man chose to be relieved of blindness and the Messenger told him: “Go and do an ablution. Then pray two rak’as and say: ‘O God, surely my appeal is to You and I turn toward You through the Prophet Muhammad, the Prophet of mercy. O Muhammad, surely I turn toward God through you, that He uncover my sight. O God, make him my intercessor.’”
The man did as he was told, and his sight was restored.
The animal kingdom recognized God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, and became the means for him to work miracles. Although there are many examples, we will mention here only a few that are well-known and agreed on by exacting authorities.
• During the Hijra, when God’s Messenger took shelter from the unbelievers in Thawr cave, two pigeons guarded the entrance (like two sentries) and a spider (like a doorkeeper) covered its entrance with a thick web. While Ubayy ibn Khalaf, a Qurayshi chief, was examining the cave, his friends suggested that they should enter. He answered: “There is a web here, which seems to have been spun before the birth of Muhammad.” The others added: “Would those pigeons, standing there, still be there if someone were in the cave?”
• Jabir relates:
I was with God’s Messenger during a military campaign. When my camel became exhausted and left behind, God’s Messenger prodded it slightly. This made the camel so fast that I had to pull on the reins to make it go slower so that I could listen to the Messenger, but I was unable to [slow it down].
• Anas ibn Malik reports:
After the conquest of Khaybar, a Jewish woman offered God’s Messenger a roasted sheep. God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, ate a piece but, according to the narration of Abu Dawud, stopped eating and said: “This sheep says it has been poisoned.” He turned to the woman and asked her why she offered him poisoned meat. When the woman replied that she wanted to kill him, the Messenger responded: “God will not let you attack and annoy me.”
• ‘A’isha reports:
We had a pigeon in our house. When God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, was at home, it would stay quiet. As soon as he left, it would continually pace to and fro.
• Anas ibn Malik relates:
God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, was the most generous and courageous person. One night the people of Madina heard some voices and set out in fear to investigate. On their way, they saw a man coming toward them, who appeared to be God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings. He said to them: “There is nothing to be distressed about.” He had mounted Abu Talha’s horse and investigated the matter before anybody else. He turned to Abu Talha and said: “I found your horse fast and comfortable,” whereas it had been very slow before that event. After that night, no other horse could race against it.
According to many accounts in the books of Traditions, he used inanimate objects while performing his miracles.
• Jabir ibn Samura reports:
God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, once said: “Prior to my Prophethood, a rock in Makka used to greet me. I still recognize it.” ‘Abd Allah ibn Mas‘ud reports: We could hear food glorifying God while we were eating with God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings.
• Traditionists unanimously report from Anas, Abu Hurayra, ‘Uthman, and Sa‘id ibn Zayd, who said:
God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, climbed up Mount Uhud, with Abu Bakr, ‘Umar, and ‘Uthman. The mountain, either in awe or because of its joy, trembled. He said: “Be still, O Uhud, for on you is a Prophet, a truthful one, and two martyrs.”
Thus did the Messenger predict the martyrdom of ‘Umar and ‘Uthman.
• It is established through authentic narrations from ‘Ali, Jabir, and ‘A’isha that rocks and mountains would greet God’s Messenger, saying: “Peace be upon you, O Messenger of God.” ‘Ali says: “Whenever we walked in the suburbs of Makka in the early times of his Prophethood, trees and rocks would say: ‘Peace be upon you, O Messenger of God.’” The Prophet’s protection was itself a miracle.
• As related through various channels:
During the military campaigns of Ghatfan and Anmar, a courageous chief named Ghowras unexpectedly appeared at the side of God’s Messenger, who was lying under a tree. Unsheathing his sword, he asked God’s Messenger: “Who will save you from me now?” “God will,” the Messenger replied. Then he prayed: “O God, protect me from him as You will.” At that moment, Ghowras was knocked down, and his sword slipped from his hand. God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, took the sword and asked him: “Now, who will save you from me?” Ghowras began to tremble and entreated God’s Messenger to spare his life. “You are a noble, forgiving one; only forgiveness is expected of you,” he pleaded. God’s Messenger forgave him, and when Ghowras returned to his tribe, he said to them: “I have just come from the best of humanity.”
• Abu Hurayra relates:
Abu Jahl once asked those near him: “Does Muhammad still rub his face against earth [i.e. make prostration]?” “Yes, he does,” they answered. Abu Jahl added: “By Lat and ‘Uzza, if I see him doing that again, I will tread on his neck or bury his face with soil.”
A short while later God’s Messenger came and began to pray.
While he was prostrating, Abu Jahl approached him but suddenly turned back in fear and amazement, trying to protect himself with his hands. When asked why he had done so, he answered:
“Truly, between him and me is a trench filled with fire, and something horrible and some wings.” God’s Messenger commented on the event: “If he had approached me, the angels would have torn him to pieces.”
God promised to guard him against people:
O Messenger! Make known whatever is revealed unto you from your Lord, for if you do it not, you will not have conveyed His Message. God will protect you from people. Surely, God guides not the unbelievers. (5:67)
The acceptance of his prayers is also a miracle, as can be seen in the following accounts:
• The authorities of Tradition, including Imam al-Bukhari and Imam Muslim, all report that the Messenger’s prayer for rain always was accepted immediately. Sometimes it would begin before he lowered his hands while on the pulpit. Rain clouds would appear when his army ran out of water. Even in his childhood, his grandfather ‘Abd al-Muttalib would go out with him to pray for rain, and rain would come out of God’s love for him. ‘Abd al-Muttalib immortalized this in a poem. After the Prophet’s death, ‘Umar once invoked the name of ‘Abbas while praying for rain, saying: “O God, this is the uncle of Your beloved Prophet. Give us rain for his sake.” Thereafter it rained.
• Anas ibn Malik reported that one Friday when God’s Messenger was giving a sermon, a man came into the mosque and said:
“O Messenger of God, there is drought. Please ask God to send rain.” The Messenger prayed, and it rained until the next Friday. On that day, while God’s Messenger was on the pulpit again giving a sermon, a man stood up and said: “O Messenger of God, please pray to God to turn the rain from us.” The Messenger prayed: “O God, send the rain onto the places around us, not onto us.” Anas, who reported the event, says: “By God, I saw the clouds scatter and rain fall onto other places, and it stopped raining on the people of Madina.”
• ‘Abd Allah ibn ‘Umar relates:
When there were about 40 Companions, God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, prayed: “O God, strengthen Islam with which of those two, namely, ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab and ‘Amr ibn al-Hisham, is more pleasing to You.” The next morning, ‘Umar came to the Messenger and accepted Islam.
• ‘Abd Allah ibn ‘Abbas reports:
Once when God’s Messenger went to relieve himself, I carried water to him for wudu’. When he came out, he asked who had put the water there. “I did,” I answered. Whereupon he prayed: “O God, make him profoundly knowledgeable in religion and teach him the meaning of the Qur’an.”Based on this prayer, he would be called “Profound Scholar of the Umma” and “Interpreter of the Qur’an.” When he was still young, ‘Umar put him on his consultative assembly of high-ranking scholars and elders of the Companions.
• Anas ibn Malik relates:
My mother took me to God’s Messenger and said: “O Messenger of God, this is my son Anas. Let him serve you. Please pray for him.”The Messenger prayed: “O God, give him abundant wealth and offspring.” Anas remarked in his old age, swearing by God: “You see the abundance of my wealth, and my children and grandchildren number about one hundred.”
• Abu Hurayra once complained to God’s Messenger about forgetfulness. The Messenger told him to spread a piece of cloth on the ground. Then he seemed to fill his hands with invisible things and empty them on the cloth. After repeating this three or four times, he told Abu Hurayra to pick it up. Abu Hurayra, as he himself later swore by God, never forgot anything again. This is also among the well-known events related to the Companions.
• In addition, the Prophet met with and spoke to angels and jinn. ‘Umar reports:
We were sitting with God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, when a man appeared beside us. He had dark black hair and was wearing a white robe. There were no signs of traveling upon him. He sat before the Messenger and, touching his knees to the Messenger’s, asked him about faith, Islam, perfection of virtue (ihsan), and the Last Day. After the interview, the man left and disappeared. God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, turned to me and asked who that man was. “God and His Messenger know better,” I answered. The Messenger concluded: “He was Gabriel. He came to teach you your religion.”
• Sa‘d ibn Abi Waqqas relates:
At the Battle of Uhud, I saw two men (the archangels Gabriel and Michael) dressed in white on either side of God’s Messenger, fighting for his sake. I had never seen them before, nor have I seen them since.
• Rifa‘a ibn Rafi‘ reports:
Gabriel asked God’s Messenger his opinion of the Companions who participated in the Battle of Badr. The Messenger answered like this: “We consider them among the most virtuous of Muslims.” Gabriel responded: “So do we. We consider the angels who were present there among the most virtuous of angels.”
• In his Musnad, Ahmad ibn Hanbal reports from ‘Abd Allah ibn Mas‘ud that God’s Messenger invited jinn to accept Islam and taught them about the Qur’an. The Prophet, also performed miracles related to the appearance of invisible objects and realms.
One day the sun was eclipsed. God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, performed the prayer of eclipse and then explained: “The sun and the moon are two of God’s signs. When you witness an eclipse, pray until it ends. By God, in this place where I have performed the prayer I saw everything promised to me. When you saw me move forward during the prayer, I did that to take a cluster of grapes that appeared to me from Paradise. Again, by God, when you saw me move backward, I did so because I saw Hell roaring with its parts piling one upon another.”
• ‘Abd Allah ibn ‘Abbas relates:
God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, passed by two graves and said:
Heed what I will tell you: Those lying in those graves are suffering torments because of two grave sins. One of them used to backbite and slander others everywhere; the other was not careful [about guarding himself] against urine stains.
Even such inanimate objects as trees and sticks testified to his Prophethood.
• Jabir ibn ‘Abd Allah reports:
We were walking with God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings. We went down into a wide valley, and the Messenger searched for a place to relieve himself. When he could not find one, he went to the two trees he had seen by the valley. He pulled one of them by a branch next to the other tree. The tree was like an obedient camel being pulled by its reins. He addressed them: “Join together over me, by God’s permission.” The trees did so and formed a screen.
• ‘Abd Allah ibn ‘Umar reports:
God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, used to lean against a pole called the “date-palm trunk” when delivering a sermon. When a pulpit was built and the Prophet started giving his sermons from it, the pole moaned because of its separation. The Messenger climbed down and stroked it, after which it stopped moaning.
• Abu Sa’id al-Khudri relates:
God’s Messenger gave Qatada ibn Nu’man a stick on a dark night, saying: “This stick will light up your surroundings as far as 7 meters. When you get home, you will see a black shadow. Without allowing it to tell you anything, strike it with this stick.”
Qatada did as he was instructed.
By M. Fethullah Gülen