Analysing and criticizing the view of liberal-minded writers on miracle of finality (the Qur’an) (2)

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C. Analysing the view of liberal-minded writers on “Miracle”
Now let us discuss one the points made by the opponents of the miracles:

1- 1. non- restriction of the prophet’s miracles to the Qur’an:
Is it true that the Prophet of Islam had no miracle except the Holy Qur’an? Apart from the fact that this view is unacceptable from the viewpoint of history and traditions reported by numerous authorities, it is contrary even to what the Holy Qur’an itself says. The miracle of the split of the moon is mentioned in the Holy Qur’an itself. Suppose someone explains away the verse mentioning this miracle, though it is not amenable to any explanation, how will the story of the ascension of the Holy Prophet mentioned in the Surah Bani Isra’il be explained? The Holy Qur’an expressly says: Glory be to Him who carried His slave by night from the Masjidul Haram(in Makkah ) to the Masjidul Aqsa ( in Jerusalem), the precincts of which We have blessed. (We took him on this journey) to show him some of Our signs. (Surah Bani Isra’il, 17:1) ((سبحن الذی اسری بعبده لیلا من المسجد الحرام الی المسجد الاقصی الذی بارکنا حوله لنر یه من ایاتنا .))

Is this occurrence not a supernatural event and a miracle? In Surah al- Tahrim there is an event saying that the Holy Prophet told a secret in confidence to one of his wives who divulged it to another wife of his. The Holy Prophet asked the first wife why she disclosed the secret to the second one and recounted a part of the conversation which had transpired between the two. That wife was surprised and asked the Holy Prophet how he came to know all that. The Holy Prophet replied that Allah had apprised him the event. When the Holy Prophet confided a fact to one of his wives and when she afterwards divulged it and Allah apprised him thereof, he made known to her of part thereof and passed over the rest. And when to told it to her, she said: “Who has told you?” He said :”The Knower, the Aware has told me”. Does this not mean telling the unknown? Is this not miracle?

2. Philosophy of miracle is: guidance Not amusement
What has been mentioned in Surah Bani Isra’il, 17:90 -93 and some other verse does not all indicate what has been inferred from it. The idolaters were not asking for a proof of Prophet hood and sign with a view to gain satisfaction. They were actually asking for something else. These verses as well as Surah al- Ankabut, 29:50 throw ample light on the unique mentality of the idolaters who were apparently demanding a miracle. These verses also make clear the philosophy of the Holy Qur’an about the miracles of the Prophets.

In Surah Bani Isra’il the idolaters begin their talk saying virtually: We will not join you unless you on your part make a spring gush forth for us in this arid land of Makkah. This is just a bargain. They further say: Or you have a garden of date-palms with rivers flowing in their midst or you have a house full of gold, so that we may share these things with you. This is again bargain, as they wanted these things for their own benefit. They say: Or you cause the sky to fall on us in pieces as you think that it will fall on the day of Resurrection.

This is asking for a punishment and the end of everything though apparently they asked for a miracle. Or you ascend to heaven or you bring Allah and the angels before us. (Surah Bani Isra’il, 17: 90-93) (...او ترقی فی السماء ... او تاتی بالله و الملائکة قبیلا)This is again a bargain, though this time they were not asking for riches, but were asking for something they could be proud of. Anyhow, they ignored the fact that it was impracticable to fulfil their demand.

The words actually used by the idolaters are notable. They did not says: Lan nu’mina bika, that is we not believe you. Instead they said: Lan nu’mina laka, meaning we will not join you to your advantage. This difference in meaning has been pointed out by the scholars of the principles of jurisprudence while explaining in Surah al- Tawbah, 9:61. Further, the intention of idolaters is clear from the way they put their demand. They asked the Holy Prophet to make a spring gush forth for them in exchange for their support and expedient faith. Evidently this is a demand for remuneration and not for a proof and miracle. The Holy Prophet came to make the people believers, not to purchase their opinion and faith.

The writer whom we quoted above, himself says: “The idolaters asked the Holy Prophet to foretell the price their goods would fetch so that could earn profit.” Evidently this demand for a miracle was made not in order to know the truth. They wanted to use the Prophet as a means of making money. Naturally his reply was: “If I had the knowledge of the unknown, I would have certainly used it to acquire for myself much that is good in this world. Obviously miracles are not meant for such purposes. I am a Prophet. I only give warning and bring good news to a believing people.”

3. “miracle” is by the will of Allah
The idolaters thought that the Prophet could work a miracle to order, any time and for any purpose. That is why they wanted him to make a spring gush forth, to have a house of gold and make a prophecy about the market rates. But the fact is this that a miracle is just like a revelation. Its occurrence is determined from “that side”, not “from this”, Just as a revelation is not subject to the wish of the Prophet and is a process which influences his will, similarly a miracle is also a process that proceeds from the other side and influences the will of the Prophet, though is worked by him. That is what the words, by the will of Allah signify both in the case of a revelation and a miracle. And that is what is meant by the following verse of Surah al- Ankabut, which has been misinterpreted by the Christian missionaries: “The signs are with Allah alone. I am nothing but a plain warner.”

The same is the case with the revealing of the unknown miraculously .As far as the personality of the Holy Prophet is concerned, he is not aware of the unknown. The Holy Qur’an says: Say: I do not to you that I am an angel, nor am I aware of the unknown.

But when he comes under a supernatural influence he tells of what is hidden, and when he is asked how he knew that, he replies that Allah, the Al-knowing apprised him of the unknown matter.

When the Holy Prophet says that he does not know the unknown and if had known it he would earned a lot of money through that knowledge, he wants to refute the false presumption of the idolaters and makes it clear that the knowledge of the unknown falls within the range of miracle for he receives it through Divine revelation only. Had his knowledge of the unknown been automatic and had he able to use it for any purpose he liked, he would have used it to fill his own coffers instead of telling the future market rates to others in order to enable them to fill their pockets.

In another verse the Holy Qur’an says: He is the known of what is hidden and He reveals His secret to none, except to a Messenger He has chosen. (Surah al-Jinn, 72:26-27) (عالم الغیب فلا یظهر علی غیبه احدا الا من ارتضی من رسول)
The Holy Prophet was certainly His chosen Messenger.

4. Inconsistency of the Prophet’s human aspect with his miracle
Furthermore, the Holy Qur’an has recounted many miracles of the former prophets like Prophet Ibrahim, Prophet Musa and Prophet Isa. Then how was it possible that the Holy Prophet, when asked to work a miracle like of the former Prophets, should say that he was no more than a human messenger? Had not the idolaters a right to retort and say: “You yourself describe the miracle of the former Prophets so eloquently. Were they not human beings or were they not Prophets?” Is it possible that such a glaring contradiction should exist in the Holy Qur’an? Is it imaginable that the idolaters did not take notice of such a glaring contradiction?

Should the thinking of these liberal-minded be correct, the Holy Prophet instead of saying: “Glory be to Allah! I am no more than a human messenger,” should have said: “Glory be to Allah! I being the last Prophet am excluded from the rule applicable to other prophets. Therefore do not ask me to do what the other Prophets were asked to do.” Anyhow, he did not say so. On the other hand he said: “I am a messenger like all other messengers.”

This shows that what the idolaters demanded from the Holy Prophet was not a miracle or sign with a view to find out the truth. They were asking for something else and their demand was such that the Prophets usually do not accede to it. That is why the Holy Prophet declined to give a positive reply to their selfish and arrogant demand. They were actually asking for something impossible.

We admit that the common people are inclined to invent the stories of the miracles and ascribe them not only to the Prophets and the Imams but even to any grave, stone or tree. But that is no reason why we should deny that the Holy Prophet had miracles other than the Holy Qur’an.

Further, there is a difference between a Prophetic miracle and a saintly miracle. A Prophetic miracle is a Divine sign and a proof to prove that there is a Divine assignment. It is always linked together with a challenge. It has certain special conditions and takes place for a special purpose. As for a saintly miracle, that is a supernatural event which is purely an outcome of the spiritual power and personal sanctity of perfect or a semi-perfect man and does not take place to prove the truth of any Divine mission. It is almost an affair with no special conditions attached to it. A Prophetic miracle is the voice of Allah in support of a particular person. But that is not the case with a saintly miracle.

Value and Effect of a Miracle
What is the value of miracle? The logicians and the philosophers divide the material that is used to argue a case into several kinds. Some arguments have a proving value. They are something beyond and reasonable doubt, as is the case with the data used by a mathematician. Some other arguments have only a persuasive value, as is the case with the arguments advanced by the rhetoricians, If the arguments of the latter are analysed, they often do not prove to be convincing. But so long s they are not dissected, they prove quite moving. Some other arguments are merely emotional or have some other value.

Value of a Miracle From the Viewpoint of the Qur’an
The Holy Qur’an describes the miracles of the Prophets as the signs and clear proofs, and regards them as a convincing and logical evidence of the existence of Allah in the same way as it regards the creation as the incontrovertible proof of His existence.

The Holy Qur’an has elaborately dwelt on the question of the miracles. It considers the demand of the people for a miracle and their refusal to submit to the Prophets unless a sign was shown to them, to be reasonable and justified, provided the demand was not made for ulterior motives or just as a pastime. It has eloquently narrated many stories of the practical response of the Prophets to such demands. The Holy Qur’an has no- where indicated that a miracle is only a persuasive argument suitable to the simple –minded people and appropriate to the period of the minority of mankind. On the other hand it has called it clear proof.

Nature of the Holy Prophet’s Guidance and The Holy Qur’an
The miracle of the Finality being a Book, apiece of literature and a treasure of culture and knowledge, is an everlasting miracle. Many of its miraculous aspects are still gradually coming to light. Some wonderful features of the Holy Qur’an which have become known to the people of our times were not known and could not be known in the past. The value of a Book-miracle is better grasped by the thinkers than by the common people. It is true that this miracle because of its special merits, is appropriate to the period of the finality, but, is it also true this miracle has the nature of Book because it is intended, among other things, to divert the attention of man from the unknown to known, from the unreasonable to the reasonable and logical, and from the supernatural to the natural Does the Holy Prophet try to draw of the inquisitiveness of people from the unusual and supernatural things to the rational, logical, intellectual, scientific, social and moral questions and to turn their sensitivity from wonders to the realities?

That does not appear to be true. Should it be true, that would mean that all other Prophets were inviting people to the unknown and only the Holy Prophet invited them to the known. If this the case, then why have hundreds of the verses of the Holy Qur’an been devoted to the description of miracles?

Undoubtedly it is one of the basic distinctions of the Holy Qur’an that it calls for the study of nature and describes the natural phenomena as Divine signs. But a call for the study of nature does not mean diverting the attention of people from everything that does not pertain to nature. On the other hand a call for the study of natural phenomena as signs means passing from nature to what is beyond nature and from what is perceptible to what is intelligible.

The importance of the work of the Holy Prophet lies in the fact that just as he calls the people for the study of nature, history and society, he also persuades those who submit to nothing but supernatural, to submit to reason, logic and science also. He similarly tries to make those who are fond of reason and logic and submit to nothing but what is natural and perceptible, to get acquainted with a higher logic as well.

The basic difference between the world presented by the religion on the whole ,and especially by Islam, and the world depicted by the purely human sciences and philosophies, is that as William James has put it, in the construction of the world of religion certain other elements have gone in addition to the material elements and the laws generally recognized by mankind.

z. Invitation to the seen and unseen in the Quran:
The Holy Qur’an does not want to divert the attention from natural and perceptible things to supernatural and imperceptible things. The importance of the Holy Qur’an lies in the fact that besides paying attentions to what is natural or in the words of the Holy Qur’an, is the seen, it puts the belief in the unseen in the forefront of its teaching: This is the Book about which there is no doubt. It is a guidance to the pious, who believe in the unseen. (Surah al- Baqarah, 2:2-3) (ذلک الکتب لا ریب فیه. هدی للمتقین الذین یومنون بالغیب).

How can the Holy Qur’an divert the attention of people from what is supernatural when it is itself a miracle, and so many other miracles have been described in more than hundred verses of it.

We are unable to understand what is meant by saying that the Book is the only miracle, the belief in which is not confined to those who believe in the supernatural things.

What belief? Does the writer mean the belief that the Holy Qur’an is a Book the contents of which are very valuable and sublime, or the belief that it is a miracle? The belief that a thing is miraculous in the sense that it is a Divine sign, amounts to the belief in its super naturalness. How can a man have a belief in anything supernatural?

It has been said that the miracle of the Prophet of Islam does not belong to the category of non-human matters though it is a non- human act. To us the meaning of this statement also is not clear for it can be interpreted in two ways. Firstly it may mean that the Holy Qur’an being a revealed Book, not having been composed by the Holy Prophet is a non- human act, but though is the word of Allah, not of any human being it belongs to the category of human matters and is an ordinary act like other human acts.

It appears to be improbable that this is what the writer means, for in the case of the acceptance of this view, the Holy Qur’an would have no distinction over other revealed Books. All the other revealed Books have also issued from the same source of revelation, but they have no supernatural aspect, they do not belong to the category of superhuman acts.

There is a category of the saying of the Holy Prophet known as Haditit al- Qudsi. These saying are the revealed words of Allah but still they are neither miraculous nor superhuman.

The Holy Qur’an is distinguished from other revealed Books and from Hadith al-Qudsi in that it is superhuman. It is revealed as well as superhuman and supernatural. That is why the Holy Qur’an Says: If all human beings and jinn were to combine to produce the like of the Qur’an, they would surely fail to compose the like of it, even if they helped one another. (Surah Bani Isra’il, 17:88) (قل لئن اجتمعت الانس و الجن علی ان یاتوابمثل هذا القران لا یاتون بمثله و لو کان بعضهم لبعض ظهیرا.).

The other interpretation of the above –mentioned statement may be that unlike the miracles of other Prophets such as converting a staff into a serpent and bringing the dead to life which definitely do not belong to the category of human acts, the miracle of Muhammad ( Peace be on him and his progeny) being a sort of learned speech and dissertation, belongs to that category, but it is still superhuman, having sprung from a supernatural source. Should this interpretation be what is intended, and it should be, then this statement in itself an admission that there exists what is supernatural and extraordinary and that there are things which are unseen and unknown. Then why should we think of a miracle as if it is something mythical and irrational. Why should we not from the very beginning distinguish between the miracles on the one hand and the myths and superstitions on the other, so that the less-informed people may not from that impression of the miracles which we do not want them to from. Why instead of saying clearly and in straightforward manner that the Book of the Prophet of Islam is a miracle, should in a roundabout way say that his miracle is a Book?

Sources

Man and Universe- part Revelation and Prophethood- pages: 157to165

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