AN INQUIRY INTO MUHAMMAD'S ALLEGED MIRACLES, IN ORDER TO LEARN WHAT EVIDENCE IN SUPPORT OF HIS CLAIM TO BE A PROPHET OF GOD IS THEREBY AFFORDED
IN order to prove that a man is really a prophet, it is by no means necessary to show that he wrought miracles. Many prophets have come without miraculous power, and, on the other hand, men who had no Divine commission have done what seemed miraculous. For instance, in Moses' time the magicians of Egypt did some things which to the polytheists of that country seemed quite as wonderful as Moses' miracles (Exodus 7:10-13, 22; 8:7, 18). Besides this, we are told of false prophets who shall work miracles (Mark 13:22; Matthew 24:24; Revelation 16:13,14; 19:20), especially one who is still to come, and who is probably the Dajjal of whom Muslims speak. Of the true prophets, very few have wrought miracles. In the Old Testament miracles are not mentioned as wrought by anyone until the time of Moses. As Moses was not only a great prophet, but had also to introduce a new Revelation, he was empowered to work certain miracles mentioned in the Torah These were necessary to prove his claim to come with a message from God, to speak with God's authority, and to bring a Divine Revelation. Elijah and Elisha too had this power granted them, because they lived at a time when the true Religion was almost extinct, and because their task was to call the people back to their God. But we are not told that the power of working miracles was given to David, Jeremiah, or other leading prophets. Of John the Baptist, who was greater than any preceding prophet .(Matthew 11:11; Luke 7:28), the Jews said, apparently with truth, “John did no miracle” (John 10:41). It is clear, therefore, that only at great crises, or when a new Revelation was being given, did God grant a great prophet the power of working miracles in proof of his Divine commission.
But, if Muhammad's claims were well-founded, he was the Seal of the Prophets, the last and greatest of them all, sent to the Arabs, a people among whom no prophet had ever before risen, as far as is known to us. He asserted that he was the bearer of an unique message from God, a Revelation greater than any that had preceded it, and that the Qur'an which he recited had been dictated to him by the Angel Gabriel, who on the Night of Power had brought it down from the highest heaven, where it had been inscribed by God's command upon a Preserved Tablet. Moreover, Muhammad claimed that his message was for all men, and was never to be superseded. It was necessary, therefore, that he should work miracles in order to substantiate this lofty claim. Otherwise his claim could not be proved true, since (as has been shown above) he uttered no prophecies. We naturally therefore inquire what miracles he wrought.
Here the Qur'an itself gives us a very clear and concise answer. He wrought none. This is evident from not a few passages. One of the most decisive of these is Surah 17:61: “And nought hindered Us from sending the signs except that the ancients called them false.” In his Commentary upon this verse Al Baizawi says1: “Nothing turned Us from sending the signs which the Quraish demanded except the fact that the ancients called them false, those who were like them in disposition, like 'Ad and Thamud: and verily, if they had been sent, they would surely have called them false, just as those people did, and would have rendered their own extirpation necessary, according as Our rule runs: and We had decreed that We would not extirpate them, because among them are those who will believe, or who shall beget those who will believe.” 'Abbasi gives very much the same explanation of the passage. In fact, there can be no doubt about its meaning. It tells us that God had not given Muhammad the power of working such miracles as the Quraish demanded, because He knew that the latter would refuse to accept him as a prophet, even were his claims thus supported.
Besides this there are other verses which somewhat less clearly state the same thing. For instance, in Surah 2:112, 113, it is written: “And those who know not have said, '(We shall not believe) unless God speak to us, or there come to us a sign.' Thus spake those who were before them, the like of their speech: their hearts were similar. We have made the signs clear to a people that seeks certainty. Verily we have sent thee with the truth as an evangelist and as a warner.” On this passage Al Baizawi says 2 that the Quraish were dissatisfied because signs did not come to them. Instead of those which the people demanded, in the second part of ver. 112 they are offered verses of the Qur'an as a proof of Muhammad's mission. That the “signs” (الآيات) in this part of the verse mean this is clear from the context, and also from Surah 2:146: “According as we have sent among you an Apostle from among yourselves, who reads aloud over you Our 3 signs (ءَآياَتِناَ).” These “signs” then were not wonderful works or miracles, such as his opponents demanded, they were merely verses of the Qur'an, for otherwise the verb “reads aloud” (يَتْلو) would have no proper meaning. So too in Surah 2:253: “Those are God's signs: We read them aloud over thee in truth, and verily thou art indeed of the Messengers”; and in Surah 2:93: “And indeed We have sent down unto thee evident signs, and none shall disbelieve in them except the dissolute.” The verb “We have sent down” (أَنْزَلْنَا) shows that the “evident signs” are Qur'anic verses, which are always spoken of as “sent down” Similarly in Surah 7:202, the word ءَآيَةْ, “sign,” clearly means a verse of the Qur'an. It is possible that the meaning of Surah 6:124— “And then there came to them a sign they said, 'We shall never believe until we are brought the like of what the Apostles of God were brought'”—is that the Quraish; demanded, instead of verses of the Qur'an, some such miracles as those which some of the Prophets and Apostles had wrought. This is supported 4 by Surah 6:37, and still more clearly by Surah 6:109: “And they swore by God, the utmost of their oaths, Surely if a sign come to them they will surely believe in it. 'Say thou: 'Verily the signs are with God, and what will make you understand that, if they come, they will not believe?”' This amounts to a declaration that Muhammad had not been given the power of working miracles. The kind of sign which the Quraish demanded is clearly shown in Surah 13:30: “'And if there were a Qur'an by which the mountains would be removed or the earth cleft or the dead addressed. . . ! 'Say thou: 'To God belongeth the matter altogether.”' In his commentary on this passage Al Baizawi tells us at length what was the challenge which the Quraish offered to Muhammad on this occasion. In Surah 17:92-95 we find something similar: “And they said, 'Never shall we believe thee, until thou causest a fountain to spring forth from the earth for us, or till thou shalt have a garden of palm-trees and grapes: therefore shalt thou cause the rivers to gush forth according to their nature in gushing forth; or till thou shalt cause the sky to fall upon us in fragments, as thou hast fancied, or till thou bring God and the angels as a surety; or till thou hast a house of gold, or thou climbest up into the sky; and we shall never believe in thy climbing up, until thou shalt cause to descend upon us a book which we shall read,' Say thou: 'Praise be to my Lord: have I been aught but a human being, an Apostle?”' From this passage it is clear that the Quraish were not satisfied with the statement (verse 90) that the Qur'an could not be equalled, and was a sufficient proof of Muhammad's commission. Hence they demanded a miracle of the kind here mentioned. In reply Muhammad is told to say that, being merely a man, he could not show such a miracle as they desired. Hence it is clear that the accounts of the Miraj and of the water which Muhammad is said in certain Traditions to have caused to gush forth from the ground, and even from his fingers, 5 cannot be relied upon, since, if they were historical, no such answer would have been given to the demands of the Quraish as is given in this passage. Instead of this, the answer would have been a declaration of his ability to do such things. In Surah 29: 49, 50, we find the same demand for a miracle, and the same refusal to give any sign except the Qur'an itself. “And they said, 'Unless there be sent down upon him signs from his Lord . . .' Say thou: 'Verily the signs are with God, and verily I am an evident warner.' Hath it not sufficed them that We have sent down upon thee the Book? It is being read aloud over them: verily in that is surely mercy and warning to a people who believe.”
From these passages it is clear that the Qur'an teaches us that Muhammad had no power to work miracles, and that the verses of the Qur'an (for this very. reason called “signs “— آيات) are sufficient proof 6 of his being a Prophet. We have already in a previous 7 chapter inquired into this matter, and have seen that something more than mere elegance of style is needed to prove that a book has really been sent down from God Most High.
Some Muslims, however, assert that in the Qur'an itself two special miracles of Muhammad are definitely mentioned. One of these is the alleged Splitting of the Moon. It is true that in Surah 54:1 it is written “The Hour hath drawn near, and the moon hath been split.” But for many reasons this verse does not prove that any such miracle was wrought by Muhammad. (1) If it meant this, it would contradict Surah 17:61; whereas Muslims deny that there is any self-contradiction in the Qur'an. (2) Muhammad is not mentioned in this verse in connexion with the splitting of the moon: neither in Suratu'l Qamar nor in any other Surah is he said to have had anything whatever to do with it. Nor does the Qur'an call it a miracle, nor does it say that the Splitting of the Moon was in any way a sign of Muhammad's Divine commission. If the Qur'an had meant that Muhammad wrought so stupendous a miracle, it would have said so, just as the Old Testament and the New clearly record certain definite miracles wrought by Moses, Christ, and His Apostles respectively. (3) If Muhammad had split the moon asunder, the Qur'an would certainly have stated this in answer to the demands of the Quraish in Surahs 13:30 and 17:92-95, for commentators agree in holding that Surah 54 “descended” before either of these two. (4) Injury done to a creature of God like the moon would be a sign of great power, but it would not necessarily prove that the person who exercised that power had a commission from God. (5) Had any such phenomenon occurred, it would have been observed all over the earth, and would have been recorded in the histories of many nations as a most astounding event. Those who know from Astronomy the size of the moon, and what effect its splitting in two and the wide separation of the portions from one another would have had upon the earth, will not contend that this really occurred. (6) Moreover, no history records such an event, or even the appearance of the moon being split in two, and some leading Muslim commentators deny that the Suratu'l Qamar implies that anything of the kind ever occurred. Al Baizawi in his commentary on Surah 54:1, prefers 8 the view that the moon was actually split asunder because of the reading; وَقَدِ انْشَقّ آلْقَمَرُ (which, 9 however, differs from that adopted to the usual text of the Qur'an) but he informs us that “It has been said that its meaning is, It will be split on the day of the Resurrection”. Now there could be no doubt whatever about the matter, had it actually occurred, and were the Tradition 10 correct that states that Muhammad showed the people of Mecca the moon split in two, so that Mount Hira was visible between the parts, or, as another Tradition 11 says, one part appeared above the mountain and the tether beneath it. In the margin of the Mishkat an attempt is made to avoid the obvious difficulty caused by the fact that the world in general did not notice the strange sight. The writer of the note says that the event occurred at night when men were asleep, and in a moment, and that therefore it would not necessarily be observed in all parts of the world. (7) The expression “The Hour” (السّاعَةُ), with the definite Article, has a very distinct and special meaning in both the Qur'an 12 and the Traditions. 13 It always in them means the day of the Resurrection, as Al Baizawi admits. Now it is clear that the Resurrection Day was not near at the time when the Suratu'l Qamar was written, for this Surah was dictated a long time ago, before the Hijrah itself. Hence, as in this verse the Splitting of the Moon is said to be so closely associated with the Resurrection Day's approach, the meaning must be that, when the Resurrection draws nigh, the moon will be split. Both the verbs in the past tense in the verse are thus used with a future signification, which is a usual idiom in Arabic. We have seen that, even in Al Baizawi's time, some people thus explained the verse; and the very fact that we are still alive today, so many years later, shows that this sign of the approach of the Resurrection Day had not then appeared. Hence 'Abbasi well says that the Splitting of the Moon and the appearance of Dajjal will be signs of the nearness of the Resurrection, when they occur.
From all this we see that the Qur'an does not assert that Muhammad performed the miracle of Splitting the Moon. Therefore this verse cannot justly be quoted as a proof that he wrought such a miracle, nor can a miraculous event which has not yet occurred be adduced as a proof that Muhammad 14 was an Apostle sent by God.
The one other miracle of Muhammad which some suppose to be referred to in the Qur'an is an event which some assert to have occurred at the battle of Badr, though others deny this and say that it took place at the battle of Hunain, or at Uhud, or at Khaibar. It is said that a miracle is referred to in the words: “And thou threwest not when thou didst throw, but God threw” (Suratu'l Anfal—Surah 8—ver. 17). Al Baizawi informs 15 us that Gabriel told Muhammad at Badr to cast a handful of earth at the Quraish. When the battle was joined, he threw some gravel in their faces, saying, “Let the faces be disfigured.” Then their eyes all became full of the gravel, and they fled, pursued by the Muslims. When the latter were afterwards boasting of their victory and of the number they had slain, this verse is said to have been sent down. Al Baizawi says that it means: “And thou threwest not, (O Muhammad, a throw which thou wouldest cause to reach their eyes, and thou couldest not do so], when thou didst throw [i.e. when thou camest with the appearance of throwing), but God threw (effected what was the object of the throw, and caused it to reach the eyes of them all.” But Al Baizawi adds: “It is said that its meaning is, 'Thou didst not cast fear when thou didst cast the gavel, but God cast fear into their hearts.' And it is said that it came down in reference to a spear with which he 16 pierced Ubai ibn Khalaf on the day of Uhud, and there proceeded no blood from him; 17 he began to grow feeble until he died: or about the shooting of the arrow which he 1 shot on the day of Khaibar near the fortress; it reached Kinanah 18 ibn Abi'l Huqaiq on his horse. And the great majority are in favour of the first view.” From this commentary it is clear that there is no certainty that the passage which we are considering refers to Badr. In fact, it may refer to Uhud or Khaibar, and not to the gravel which Muhammad threw, but to an arrow which he shot or a spear which he hurled. But in any case it does not prove that a miracle vas wrought by Muhammad on any one of these occasions. Nay, the passage denies that Muhammad succeeded in casting the gravel into his adversaries' eyes or in killing Ubai or Kinanah, saying that the agent was not Muhammad, but God. If we accept the verse as referring to the battle of Badr, we must remember that it is not at all a rare thing for a general to act in some such way, in order to encourage his followers and disconcert his foes. If the result is a victory, no one ever fancies that it is thereby proved that there was anything supernatural or miraculous about the action referred to. Nor can the shooting of a man with an arrow or the piercing of a man with a spear (if we accept the other traditions) be regarded as miraculous.
Besides these two passages some Muslims are of opinion that the words “evident signs” (ءَآياَتٍ بَيّناَتٍ), which occur in certain other places in the Qur'an, imply that miracles were really wrought by Muhammad. If so, it is very strange that to no such passage does a description of any such miracle or a single detail regarding it occur. When the Qur'an refers to Christ's miracles, on the contrary, it tells what some of them were (Surah 3:43). But let us examine some of the passages in which it is asserted that the words “evident signs” denote miracles of Muhammad.
One of these is Surah 61:6: “Accordingly,. when he came to them with the evident (signs, they said, 'This is manifest sorcery.'” This may refer to what is said in the context regarding the promise of the coming of someone called Ahmad. 19 Or it may refer to Jesus, who is mentioned in the former part of the verse. Al Baizawi takes the latter view, for in his commentary 20 he says: “The reference is to that with which he came, or to himself: and the entitling it sorcery is by way of hyperbole. And this view is supported by the reading of Hamzah and Al Kasa'i, 'This is a sorcerer'; so that the reference is to Jesus.” If this commentator's explanation is correct, then this verse cannot be said to prove anything about Muhammad's miracles. Otherwise here and elsewhere the “evident signs” denote the verses of the Qur'an, which (as we have already pointed out) are in passage after passage called “signs” and “evident signs”.
Should any one say that the mention of “sorcery” or “sorcerer” in Surah 61:6, shows that some supernatural work was performed, and that such words could not be used regarding eloquent verses like those of the Qur'an, the answer can readily be given from the Qur'an itself. For example, in Surah 38:3, we read: “They wondered that there had come to them a warner from among themselves, and the unbelievers said, 'This is a sorcerer, a liar'” In Surah 43:29, we read: “And when the truth came to them, they said, 'This is sorcery, and verily we are unbelievers in it.' Here Al Baizawi says, 21“Accordingly they named the Qur'an sorcery.” And again, in Surah 46:6, it is thus said: “And when Our signs are read aloud over them as evidences, those who disbelieved the truth when it has come to them have said, 'This is manifest sorcery.'” In this passage we find exactly the same expression as in Surah 61:6. Moreover, Al Baizawi 22 explains “the truth” here as the verses “.
Many Muslims urge that in the Traditions (احاديث) many strange miracles are attributed to Muhammad. Doubtless this is true, as we shall see. But the question of the reliability of the Traditions in reference to this matter must be considered, before we accept their evidence as a proof that such miracles were actually wrought. In the first place, as we have seen, the Qur'an itself not only does not mention any of Muhammad's miracles, but it even explains why God did not give him miracle-working power. To the thoughtful and learned man, whether Muslim or Christian, this evidence of the Qur'an far outweighs any number of Traditions. Moreover, while it is easy to understand why in later times traditions arose which ascribed miracles to Muhammad, on the other hand it is quite impossible to imagine that these verses of the Qur'an which show that he wrought no miracle could have been interpolated or corrupted in order to deny his miracles, if he had worked any such. Secondly, those who compiled the Traditions had no personal knowledge of the events which they recorded. They lived some hundreds of years after Muhammad's time, and therefore had to rely upon statements repeated orally and said to be traceable to trustworthy witnesses. The collectors of the Traditions contained in the Sihahu's Sittah died at 23 the following dates: Bukhari, A.H. 256; Muslim, A.H. 261; Tirmidhi, A.H. 279; Abu Da'ud, A.H. 275; An Nasa'i A.H. 303; Ibn Majah, A.H. 273. Among the Shiites the chief works on the subject belong to still later dates: the Kafi of Abu Ja'far Muhammad to A.H. 329; the Man la yastahdirahu'l Faqih of Shaikh 'Ali to A.H. 381; the Tahdhib of Shaikh Abu Ja'far to A.H. 466; the Istibsar to A.H. 406; and the Nahju'l Balaghah of Sayyid Radi to A. H. 406. The fact that the Sunnis and the Shi'ites, while accepting the same Qur'an cannot agree upon the same collections of Traditions, shows how unreliable Tradition is when it contradicts the Qur'an. The Traditions given by Bukhari in his Sahih are probably the most reliable of all; next come those accepted by Muslim and Tirmidhi. But, in order to show the honoured reader of these pages what an immense number of unreliable Traditions were current even in Bukhari's time, and how very much credulous imagination or falsehood then prevailed, it will suffice if we remind him that Bukhari himself informs us that he collected 100,000 Traditions, which he thought might be correct, and 200,000 unreliable ones. Out of the whole 300,000, he finally held only 7,275 to be trustworthy; and, when he had eliminated repetitions, these were reduced to 4,000. 24 Even these are not all trustworthy, for they often contradict one another, and sometimes even are contrary to the Qur'an, as in this matter of Muhammad's miracles. Abu Da'ud collected 500,000 Traditions, but accepted only 4,000 of them. 25
But let us adduce some of these asserted miracles that their nature may be clearly seen.
(1) Bukhari, on what he considers good authority, tells 26 the following tale. “The Prophet sent a company to Abu Rafi'. Accordingly 'Abdu'llah ibn 'Utaik entered his house against him by night when he was asleep, and slew him. Therefore 'Abdu'llah ibn 'Utaik said: 'And I placed my sword in his belly until it reached his back, and I knew that I had killed him. Then I began to open the doors, until I reached a staircase. Then I put down my foot, and I fell in the moonlit 27 night, and my leg was broken. I bound it up with a bandage and set out for my companions, and I came to the Prophet and I told him. Then he, said, 'Stretch out thy foot.' I stretched out my foot; he rubbed it, and it became as if I had never broken it.'” We 28 shall see further on in the next chapter what light this incident throws on Muhammad's character. Here we note that the tale of the killing of Abu Rafi' is related also by Ibn Hisham, 29 Ibn Athir, 30 and by the Author of the Rauzatu's Safa. 31 The tales differ considerably, some saying that the murderer's leg was broken, some his arm, and some that he had only sprained his wrist. Some forms of the story say nothing whatever about Muhammad's having cured the injury, 32 and hence they do not recognize that anything miraculous occurred. All, however, admit that the killing of the sleeping man was performed at Muhammad's instigation. Under these circumstances, had Muhammad wrought a miracle, we should have been confronted with an immense moral difficulty, if we tried to prove that it was Divine aid that enabled a miracle to be wrought for the benefit of a murderer like 'Abdu'llah ibn 'Utaik.
(2) Many different and contradictory accounts are given of how Muhammad supplied water to his followers when thirsty. Of these a considerable number appear in the Mishkat. As a specimen of these we may quote the following Tradition, which is given 33 upon Jabir's authority: “The men were thirsty upon the day of Al Hudaibiyyah, and the Apostle of God had in his hands a small skin water-bottle, from which he was performing religious ablutions. Then the men approached him. They said, 'We have no water to perform ablutions with and to drink, except what is in thy water-bottle.' Accordingly the Prophet dipped his hand into the water-bottle, and the water began to bubble out from between his fingers like fountains. We drank therefore, and performed out ablutions.” It was said to Jabir, “How many were you?” He said, “If we had been 100,000, it would surely have been enough for us. We were 1,500.” Other accounts say the number was 1,400; others say between 1,400 and 1,500; others 1,300; or 1,600; or 1,700. Ibn 'Abbas says 1,525. Another very different version of the story is given by Bukhari on the authority of Al Bara ibn 'Azib. He said: “We were, with the Apostle of God, fourteen hundred on the day of Al Hudaibiyyah; and Al Hudaibiyyah is a well. We had exhausted it, and had not left in it a drop. The Prophet arrived and came to it. He sat down upon its edge. Then he asked for a vessel of water. He performed his religious ablutions. Then he rinsed his mouth and prayed. Then he poured it” (i.e. what was left of the water) “into it” (i.e. into the well). “Then he said, 'Leave it alone for a time.' Accordingly they drew water for themselves and for their steeds until they 34 marched away.” Now the honoured reader will perceive that it is not a miracle for water to collect in a well when it has been left alone for a time; and this is a very different matter from causing water enough to satisfy the needs of 100,000 men to flow from between a man's fingers. 35
(3) Quite a number of stories tell how trees and stones saluted Muhammad as the Apostle of God, and how trees followed him or moved at his command. From these we select one, though modesty requires the omission of some words in it. The story is told by Muslim 36 on the authority of Jabir: “We travelled with the Apostle of God until we descended into a spacious valley . . . . And lo! two trees at the edge of the valley . . . . The Apostle of God took hold of a branch of one of them, and said, 'Follow me, with God's permission.' Accordingly it followed him, like the camel with a nose-ring which comes slowly after its guide, until he came to the other tree. He took hold of one of its branches and said 'Follow me with God's permission,' And it followed him thus, until he was to the midst of the space between them. He said, 'Meet above me, with the permission of God.' Then they met.” Jabir goes on to say that, glancing aside quietly he himself saw that, when Muhammad had done with the trees, they returned to their places.
(4) As a specimen of another class of asserted miracles we select the following, given by Anas. 37 “Verily there was a man who used to write for the Prophet. Then he apostatized from Islam and joined the Polytheists. Accordingly the Prophet said: 'Verily the earth shall not receive him.' Abu Talhah therefore informed me that he came to the land in which the man had died, and found him cast out. He said, 'What is the matter with this man?' They said, 'We have buried him several times, and the earth would not receive him.'” Muslim men of learning have never been able to agree who this unfortunate man was.
(5) On the authority of the same Jabir, Al Bukhari tells the following story. 38 “The Prophet, when preaching, had leaned on the trunk of a date-palm, one of the columns of the Mosque. When, therefore, the pulpit was made for him and he stood upon it, the date-palm by which he was wont to preach cried out so that it was near splitting. Accordingly the Prophet descended till he took it and pressed it to him. Then it began to wail with the wailing of the babe which is being soothed to silence, until it was pacified. He said, 'It wept because it was not [any longer] listening to the Warning.'“ 39
(6) At Tirmidhi and Ad Darimi 40 relate the following tale on the authority of 'Ali ibn Abi Talib “I 41 was with the Prophet at Mecca. We went out into one of its neighbouring districts. No mountain or tree met him that did not say, 'Peace be upon thee, O Apostle of God.”'
(7) Ibn 'Abbas is the authority for the following. “Verily 42 a woman brought a son of hers to the Apostle of God, and she said: 'O Apostle of God, verily my son has a demon in him, and verily he surely seizes him at our breakfast and our supper.' Therefore the Apostle of God rubbed his chest and prayed. Accordingly [the child] vomited, and there came out from within him as it were a black whelp.”
(8) Ad Darimi tells 43 the story of how Muhammad on one occasion called a thorn-tree to come to him. It came, ploughing up the ground, and stood before him: and at his bidding it thrice recited the words, “There is no god but God alone: He hath no partner and Muhammad is His servant and His Apostle.”
(9) At Tirmidhi vouches for the truth of the tale that,5 at Muhammad's command, a bunch of dates fell from a date-palm, to prove to an Arab of the Desert that Muhammad was a Prophet. Then, at his bidding, the bunch of dates returned to its former position on the tree.
(10) In the First Part of the Turkish work entitled Mir'at i Ka'inat we read the following 44 wonderful narrative. “A miracle. In the Books of Biographies of Muhammad it is written that, when the Apostle was coming from Ta'if to Mecca, a cloud came over his head. Gabriel appeared and said, 'God Most High, having heard the words of thy nation and that they have rejected thee, has sent to thee the angel who is commissioned to keep guard over the mountains, that thou mayest tell him what thy command is.' Thereupon that angel saluted him and said, 'O Muhammad, thy Lord has sent me to thee that thou mayest tell me what thy bidding is. Therefore, if thou biddest, I shall join the two mountains to one another, in order that the unbelievers, remaining between them, may perish.' The Apostle said: 'Nay, I entreat of God Most High that from their loins may proceed a posterity which will worship God alone, and will not associate a partner with Him.'”
It is not necessary to quote any more of such tales as these. Those who have a taste for them will find abundance of them in such books as the Rauzalu's Safa, 45 the Rauzatu'l Ahbab, and the Jami'u'l Mu'jizat in Persian, in the Mir'at i Ka'inat in Turkish, and in other Arabic works besides those we have previously mentioned. Stories of this kind abound in the books of the Hindus and other heathens, and are still believed by ignorant idolaters in many land; but they differ in their whole style and character from the genuine miracles recorded in the Injil, to which the Qur'an bears witness. Some of these Traditions put us in mind of the tales told in the Thousand and One Nights, and they prove that in earlier times also the Arabs possessed lively imaginations and great power of romancing. Be it noted, however, that such miracles as some of those which we have quoted were exactly of the kind which the Quraish demanded from Muhammad. Had he wrought them, then undoubtedly the Qur'an would have mentioned some of them.. Instead of doing so, it tells us that he was not a Ruler but a Warner, and also informs us why God did not give him the power to work miracles at all.
If our honoured readers will carefully read the accounts which the New Testament gives of the miracles wrought by the Lord Jesus Christ and His Apostles, they will perceive how totally they differ in kind from those which, in opposition to the Qur'an, the Traditions attribute to Muhammad. The New Testament miracles are not merely astounding occurrences, contrary to Nature (such as a tree Walking and talking, a wooden column crying out and wailing like a babe, a murderer's broken leg or arm made well with a touch, &c.); they are acted parables, full of spiritual instruction, works of Divine mercy as well as of Divine might, such as the cleansing of lepers, opening the eyes of the blind, raising the dead, &c. (Matthew 11:4, 5; Luke 7:22). But Christ's miracles of healing were never wrought to save a murderer from one of the results of his crime. Nor did He devote Divine power to the task of making trees walk about and stones cry out..
Besides this, the records which contain the account of Christ's miracles were compiled at latest during no long period after His Ascension, during the lifetime of many of His immediate disciples. These records were drawn up, under Divine guidance, in some cases by the disciples themselves. (the Gospels of Matthew and John), in others by their authority (the Gospels of Mark and Luke). There is also good reason to believe that brief accounts of Christ's wonderful work as well as of His words were in some cases set down in writing at the time of their occurrences. On the other hand, the miracles which the Traditions ascribe to Muhammad were not recorded in writing until hundreds of years after his death. In the Injil, Christ Himself refers to His own mighty 46 works as a proof of His Divine Commission; mission; whereas in the Qur'an, on the contrary, the occurrence of Muhammad's miracles is denied, 47 while Christ's are acknowledged. 48
Here we may state concisely some other great differences between Christ's miracles and those which the Traditions ascribe to Muhammad.
“There 49 is satisfactory evidence that many, professing to be the original witnesses of the Christian miracles, passed their lives in labours, dangers, and sufferings, voluntarily undergone in attestation of the accounts which they delivered, and solely in consequence of their belief in those accounts; and that they also submitted, from the same motives, to new rules of conduct.”
There is no satisfactory evidence that persons professing to be the original witnesses of Muhammad's reported miracles have ever acted in the same manner, in attestation of the accounts which they delivered, and properly in consequence of their belief in these accounts.
The compilation of Muhammadan Traditions took place at so late a date, and their contents are in many cases so strange, that no scholar can rely upon them with any certainty with regard to miracles, though they may be more reliable in reference to other matters connected with Muhammad. The statements about such subjects made in the Mishkat, the Hayatu'l Yaqin, the 'Ainu'l Hayat, and in still more popular books circulated among both Sunnis and Shi'ites, are so very extraordinary that they cast doubt upon all the Traditions. For instance, it is said that virgins grow up out of the ground, like roses, on the banks of the rivers of Paradise, and are gathered by Muslims at their pleasure. We are told that in Paradise birds ready cooked descend upon tables, and fly away again when the Muslims have eaten of them as much as they desire. It is said that, when God wished to create Adam, He sent Gabriel to bring a handful of clay from the earth for that purpose. The Earth adjured him by God not to take any of her substance, and he returned empty-handed. But finally Azra'il took it by force. Muhammad is said to have stated that there is an angel in the form of a cock, whose feet stand at the bottom of the seventh storey of the earth, while his head reaches up to the threshold of God's Throne. Elsewhere it is stated that when Eve wished to eat some wheat, the plant grew 500 years' journey high, in order to escape her. It is also said that the distance between the shoulders and the ears of the Porters of the Throne is seventy years' journey.
Moreover, among the Shi'ites at least it is admitted by the learned that there is contradiction between Traditions and uncertainty which, if any, are reliable. This is clear from the following passage in, the Kafi of Abu Ja'far Mubammad on the authority of 'Ali ibn Ibrahim: “Once 50 I said to 'Ali, 'Regarding the Traditions which are from Muhammad, I hear that they are contrary to one another and even to the Qur'an, so that thou thyself also dost not deem them reliable. And I asked him, 'What is the reason of this, and under these circumstances how is it possible to find a correct Tradition?'” Then 'Ali ibn Abi Talib in reply stated some rules for distinguishing between correct and incorrect Traditions. Still dissatisfied, 'Ali ibn Ibrahim said to him: “'If [the sages and Qazis] all agree on both [contradictory] Traditions?' He said: 'One should notice the one towards which their sages and Qazis are not most inclined; then let him leave it and cling to the other.' He said: 'And if their sages all agree upon both the Traditions?' He said: 'If it be so, then wait until your Imam comes, for verily to remain amid doubts is better than to comprehend in perishing.'” 51
On the whole then, we conclude that Muhammad's claim to the prophetic office was not substantiated by any miracles, as the Qur'an distinctly proves; the miracles mentioned in the Traditions being in themselves too absurd, too contrary, in some instances, to the Qur'an, and too ill-corroborated to be accepted as having really occurred.
1. Vol. i, p. 543.
2. Vol. i, p. 81.
3. Compare also Surah 29:50.
4. A demand for a miracle is made also in Surahs 10:21; 13:8, 27, and in other places.
5. See pp. 318, 319.
6. Surah 17:90.
7. See above, Part III, ch. iii.
8. Vol. ii, p. 296.
9. This is Hudhaifah's reading, as Zamakhshari tells us in his commentary. He thus renders the verse: “The Hour has drawn nigh, and of the signs of its approach this has already arrived, that the moon has been split.”
10. From Anas, Mishkat p. 516.
11. From Ibn Mas'ud: ibidem.
12. Compare Surahs 20, 22, 42, &c.
13. Compare Mishkat, pp. 464-469, &c., &c.
14. In some Arabic editions of the Mu'allaqat, in a poem ascribed to Imra'u'l Qais, are found the words: (دَنَتِ آلْسّاعَةُ وَآْنْشَقّ آلْقَمَرُ), which exactly agree in meaning with the first verse of Suratu'l Qamar. As Imra'u'l Qais died about A.D. 540, considerably before Muhammad's birth, it is clear that he did not quote from the Qur'an. Some deny that the poem referred to is really by Imra'u'l Qais. But many of the 'Ulama' are puzzled about the matter.
15. Vol. i. p. 362.
18. Husband of Safiyyah, whom Muhammad took for a wife a very few days later.
19. No such promise is to be found in the Gospel.
20. Vol. ii, p. 330.
21. Vol. ii, p. 238.
22. Vol. ii, p. 254.
23. Kashfu'z Zunun, vol. ii, pp. 34-37.
24. See the Introduction to the Mishkat, last page: ed. of A.H. 1298, Haidari Press, by Shaikh 'Abdu'l Haqq of Delhi.
25. Kashfu'z Zunun, vol. ii, p. 34.
26. Mishkat, pp. 523, 524.
27. The margin of the Mishkat explains that, in the moonlight, he mistook the steps for the ground.
28. See below, ch. vi, pp. 338-340.
29. Suratu'r Rasul, vol. ii, pp, 162, 163.
30. Vol. ii, pp. 55, 56.
31. Vol. ii, pp. 102 sqq.
32. There is no record of a miracle in ibn Hisham's account, nor in that given by Ibn Athir.
33. Mishkat, p. 524.
34. Other forms of the story are given in Mishkat, pp. 529, 530.
35. See p. 310 above.
36. Mishkat, p. 525.
37. Ibid., pp. 527, 528.
38. Ibid., p. 528.
39. [One of the titles of the Qur'an.]
40. Died A.H. 500 according to Kashfu'z Zunun, vol. ii, p. 37.
41. Mishkat, p. 532.
42. Ibid., pp. 532, 533.
43. Ibid., p. 533.
44. Mir'at i Ka'inat, Part I, p. 425.
45. Vol. ii, pp. 133 sqq., and pp. 217 sqq.
46. Compare John 10:25, 32, 37, 38; 14:11, 12; 15:24.
47. Surah 17:61.
48. e.g. in Surah 3:43.
49. [Paley's Evidences of Christianity, Proposition I: cf. Prop. II.]
50. [The Arabic is quoted in p. 213 of the Arabic edition of the unrevised Mizanu'l Haqq, published by Brockhaus, Leipzig, 1874.]
51. See also Sheikh Ja'far's Treatise (رسالة), ch. 35.