The Quran Counts Miracle as a Proof of the Truth of the Claim of Prophethood
10:44:37 2024-05-15 127

Question: What is the connection between miracle and veracity of the claim of prophethood? Reason fails to see any binding relation between the two. But the Qur'àn time and again asserts this concomitance, as may be seen in the stories of various prophets, for example, Hùd, Sàlih, Mùsà, 'Isà and Muhammad (peace of Allàh be on all of them. The Qur'àn narrates that no sooner did they announce their claim than they were asked by their people to bring some miracle to prove the truth of their claim; and they responded to it by showing the miracle. Not only that. Some of them were given their miracle even before their nations had asked them for it. Allàh told Mûsà (a. s.) at the start of his mission:

"Go you and your brother with my signs and be not remise in remembering Me." (20:42)

And He says about 'Isà (a.s.):

"And (will make him) an apostle to the children of Israel: "That I have come to you with a sign from your Lord, that I create for you out of dust like the form of a bird, then I breathe into it and it becomes a bird with Allàh's permission and I heal the blind and the leper, and bring the dead to life with Allàh's permission and I inform you of what you eat and what you store in your house; most surely there is a sign in this for you, if you are believers." (3:49)

The same is the position of the Qur'àn which was given to the Prophright at the start of his mission. Reason does not see any connection whatsoever between the truth of the message of an apostle or a prophet on one hand and his ability to show a super-natural sign on the other.

Moreover, the beauty of the principles expounded by the apostles and the prophets, strengthened as it is by irrefutable proofs, dispenses with the need of any miracle - for an intelligent and knowledgeable person. That is why it is said that miracles are needed for convincing the simple-minded people, because they cannot understand a learned discourse; but knowledgeable persons do not need them.

Answer: The prophets had not brought the miracles to prove any principle of religion, like belief in Oneness of God and the Day of Resurrection etc. - the truth of which could be realized by intellect and reason. They always proved such things with reasoning and logical arguments. For example, Allàh says regarding the existence of the Creator:

"Their apostles said: "Is there doubt about Allàh, the Master of the heavens and the earth?" (14:10)

and He says about resurrection:

"And We did not create the heaven and the earth and what is between them in vain; that is the opinion of those who disbelieve; then woe to those who disbelieve on account of the fire. Shall We treat those who believe an and do good like the mischief-makers in the earth? Or shall We make those who guard (against evil) like the wicked?" (38:27-28)

Why were, then, the apostles asked to show miracle, and why did they bring it about? It was to prove that they were in fact sent by Allâh; it was meant to authenticate their claim. The prophets claimed that they were sent by Allàh, that He had revealed His message to them - either directly or through an angel. It was an assertion of a super-natural event; a claim of a reality beyond the physical senses and mental cognization of their people; a fact above the level of man's perception. If that claim was right, it would be a special metaphysical disposition reserved for the prophets only. The difficulty was that the prophets were like any other human being in their humanity and in its characteristics. How could they be favoured for this especial relationship with the world beyond nature?

The disbelievers, therefore, resorted to two methods to disprove the prophets' claim:

First Method: They tried to refute it through such "arguments" as the following:

a) They said: "You are nothing but human being like us; you wish to turn us away from what our fathers used to worship" (14:10). The apostles were like all other men; and other men do not receive such divine revelation as was claimed by the apostles. If they could be given revelation from God, why could not others get it as well? Were not all of them alike in their humanity?

The apostles replied to it in these words: Their apostles said to them: "We are nothing but human beings like yourselves, but Allàh bestows (His) favours on whom He pleases of His servants..." (14:11). They accepted that they were like all men in their humanity, but showed that apostleship was a very especial favour of Allàh, and He bestows it on whom He pleases. It is not difficult to see that being alike does not preclude some of them from being reserved for some especial favours. Of course, if Allàh had pleased, He could have bestowed it on anyone among them, but He chose for this favour whom He pleased. The same was the thrust of their protest against the Prophet: "Has the reminder been revealed to him from among us?" (38:8)

b) Of the same nature, but with added sarcasm, were the following remarks of the polytheists of Mecca: And they say: "Why was not this Qur'àn revealed to a man of importance in the two towns?" (43:31) And they say:

"What sort of apostle is this that he eats food and goes about in the marts; why has not an angel been sent down to him so that he be a warner with him? Or a treasure be thrown down to him, or be for him a garden from which he may eat!" (25:7-8)

What they wanted to say was this: If the Apostle (of Islam) really has been chosen by God to receive divine revelation, then he must be someone above all the mortals. Then why does he require food to e, and why is he obliged to go about in the markets to earn his livelihood? If he is truly a représentative of God, he should have been accompanied by an angel to assist trim in his work, or he should have been given a treasure to save him the trouble of earning his livelihood in the markets, or a garden should have been bestowed on him, so that he would not need a food like ours.

Allàh answered them in these words: See how they coin comparisons for thee! So they have gone astray, therefore they shall not be able to find a way . . . And We did not send before thee any messengers but they most surely ate food and went about in the markets; and We have made some of you a trial for others; will you bear patiently? And your Lord is Ever-seeing (25:9.20). And in reply to their demand for sending down an angel, it was said in another chapter: And if We had made him angel, We would certainly have made him a man, and We would certainly have made confused to them what they make confused (6:9).

c) Going further, they raised their demands even higher: And those who do not hope for Our meeting, Say: "Why have not angels been sent down upon us, or (why) do we not see our Lord?" Now certainly they are too proud of themselves and have revolted a great revolt (25:21).

According to their thinking, there was no difference between them and the Prophet; all were human beings. Then why should he be reserved for this office of apostleship? They too should be visited by angels; or, even better, they should see the Lord. Allàh replied to them: On the day when they shall see the angels, there shall be no joy on that day for the guilty, and they shall say: "It is a forbidden thing totally prohibited" (25:22). It means that if they persist in their disbelief, they shall not see the angels except at the time of death, and then they shall not find any joy in it. The same thing has been mentioned in another verse: And they say: "O you to whom the Reminder has been revealed! you are most surely insane. Why do you not bring to us the angels if you are of the truthful ones?" We do not send the angels but with truth, and then they would not be respited (15:6-8).

d) This last verse shows us one more twist of their "arguments". The Prophet, according to their thinking, was truthful in his claim of revelation, but he was insane; whatever news he brought was a product of his unstable mind and was, therefore, not correct. The same "argument" was put against Nùh (a.s.), as the Qur'àn says: ... and they called (Nùh) mad, and he was driven away (54:9).

These were the variations of their "arguments" against the claims of the Prophet, the arguments which were based on similarity of the prophets and their people in their humanity.

Second Method: It was to reject outright the claim of the prophets, and demand from them proof of their veracity, asking them to bring some signs to show that they were in fact representatives of Allàh and recipients of His revelation.

The apostles and the prophets claimed a distinction which was intangible and unknowable to their people. They claimed that they were given apostleship and/or prophethood; that they were spoken to by Allàh - either directly or through angels Now, such a claim could not be verified by any test or experiment. It could be objected against in two ways:

(i) There was no proof that such a claim was true; (ii) there was proof that it was not true. Revelation, divine speech, (and the resulting shari'ah and religions discipline) could not be experienced by anyone other than the claimant; the normal system of cause and effect was against it. If such a claim were true, it would mean that the Prophet was in direct contact with the world beyond nature; he was tuned to the divine power - the power that can change the course of nature, can make the effect appear without their usual causes. In that case, he should be able to produce some another tangible super-natural effect; after all one super-natural event is like any other super-natuevent so far as the divine authority iconcerned. If Allàh spoke to the Prophet - a super-natural effect He should show on his hands some other tangible super-natural effects in order to prove the truth of his former claim, that is, the claim that he receives revelation from God. If God wanted to guide the people aright by means of a super-natural thing, that is, revelation, then let Him prove the truth of His Prophet by means of another super-natural, that is, miracle. That was why the people asked for miracles whenever a prophet was sent to them. They wanted miracles to verify his claim of prophethood, and not to ensure the truth of his teachings. Suppose a man is sent by a ruler to his subjects with his commands and laws. He reaches his destination and they ask him for his credentials. Will they be satisfied if, at this juncture, he starts explaining the wisdom underlying each rule and regulation?

Certainly not. They will say: All that you have said, just shows that these rules are based on wisdom and meant for our good; but it does not prove in any way that they are from our ruler, nor that you are his deputy authorized to manage our affairs on his behalf. We shall believe in your claim only when you show us a credential to this effect, for example, an appointment letter duly signed by the ruler and having his official seal. It is as the polytheists had said to the Prophet:

"... until you bring down to us a book which we may read" (17:93)

From the above explanation, two things become abundantly clear:

Miracle has an inseparable connection with the truth of the claim of prophethood. Learned and ignorant, elite and common, all men need miracle in order to be able to accept the truth of a prophet's claim.

What the prophet receives and perceives of the revelation is entirely different from those things which we feel by senses or comprehend by intellect. In plain words, revelation is not a function of mind; it is a reality totally separate from "right thinking". This fact is brilliantly clear from the Book of Allàh; and no one, having an iota of common sense, can entertain any doubt about it.

But in recent times some "scholars" have closed their eyes from this reality, and tried to reinterpret the spiritual facts and divine knowledge in the light of the natural sciences. They have, accordingly, based their explanations on materialistic theory. They believe that human perception and comprehension is a characteristic of matter, emanating from the brain. They are of the opinion that all real merits and perfections – whether of an individual or of a group - are developments of matter only. Based on these premises, they have explained prophethood and all related spiritual factors on the following materialistic lines: Prophethood is a sort of a sharp mental power, an intellectual genius. The genius who is called prophet, looks at the social conditions of his nation; analyses what they have inherited of the beliefs, ideas, customs and superstitions; and then changes them to conform with the needs of his time and place, in the most suitable manner. In that light, he frames for them the basic social principles and ordains practical rules and regulations - in order to raise their standard of life, to elevate their morality and ethics, to make them better members of society. Basing on this hypothesis, they have declared that:

Prophet is an intellectual genius, who calls his people to the good of their social life.

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