Muhammad's Miracles

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This article analyzes the Islamic belief that Muhammad was able to perform miracles.


While some suggest Muhammad's only miracle was the revelation of the Qur'an, the so-called "Moon splitting miracle" and "Night Journey" and other lesser-known miracles are widely held to be orthodox Islamic beliefs, and find reference in the Qur'an and heavy endorsement in the hadith literature. Some of these miracles alleged to occur in Muhammad's life also appear to adaptations of miracle stories from earlier faiths.

The hadith record that Muhammad denied being able to perform miracles, and an analysis of the Qur'an clearly shows that he had maintained this denial when confronted by critics. And thus, according to imam Bukhari's criteria, the narrations which claim miracles on Muhammad's behalf should be discarded.

It appears more clearly then why Muhammad emphasized the Qur'an as his miracle, for he, it seems, did not think himself in possession of other miracles. Moreover, while miracles may serve as proof for those who witness them, they must come to mean little to others. Moreover, one may add, it is indeed quite difficult to maintain the Qur'an is miraculous, given its textual history and claims of dubious reliability, but this is only of secondary relevance to this article, which looks at what the Islamic scriptures say about the prophet's ability to do miracles whatsoever.


Moon Splitting Miracle

The hour drew nigh and the moon did rend asunder.

And if they see a miracle they turn aside and say: Transient magic.

And they call (it) a lie, and follow their low desires; and every affair has its appointed term.
The amazing and wonderful phenomenon of the splitting of the Moon was a manifest sign of the truth that the Resurrection, of which the Holy Prophet was giving them the news, could take place and that it had approached near at hand. The great sphere of the Moon had split into two distinct parts in front of their very eyes. The two parts had separated and receded so much apart from each other that to the on-lookers one part had appeared on one side of the mountain and the other on the other side of it. Then, in an instant the two had rejoined.
Narrated Abdullah bin Masud: "During the lifetime of the Prophet the moon was split into two parts and on that the Prophet said, 'Bear witness (to thus).'"
Narrated Anas: "That the Meccan people requested Allah's Apostle to show them a miracle, and so he showed them the splitting of the moon."
Narrated Ibn 'Abbas: "The moon was split into two parts during the lifetime of the Prophet."
Narrated Anas bin Malik: "The people of Mecca asked Allah's Apostle to show them a miracle. So he showed them the moon split in two halves between which they saw the Hiram' mountain."
Narrated 'Abdullah: "The moon was split ( into two pieces ) while we were with the Prophet in Mina. He said, "Be witnesses." Then a Piece of the moon went towards the mountain."
Narrated 'Abdullah bin 'Abbas: "During the lifetime of Allah's Apostle the moon was split (into two places)."
Narrated 'Abdullah: "The moon was split (into two pieces)."

Water Creation Miracle

Narrated Anas bin Malik: I saw Allah's Apostle when the 'Asr prayer was due and the people searched for water to perform ablution but they could not find it. Later on (a pot full of) water for ablution was brought to Allah's Apostle . He put his hand in that pot and ordered the people to perform ablution from it. I saw the water springing out from underneath his fingers till all of them performed the ablution (it was one of the miracles of the Prophet).

Multiplied Bread Miracle

Narrated Jabir bin 'Abdullah: When the Trench was dug, I saw the Prophet in the state of severe hunger. So I returned to my wife and said, "Have you got anything (to eat), for I have seen Allah's Apostle in a state of severe hunger." She brought out for me, a bag containing one Sa of barley, and we had a domestic she animal (i.e. a kid) which I slaughtered then, and my wife ground the barley and she finished at the time I finished my job (i.e. slaughtering the kid). Then I cut the meat into pieces and put it in an earthenware (cooking) pot, and returned to Allah's Apostle . My wife said, "Do not disgrace me in front of Allah's Apostle and those who are with him." So I went to him and said to him secretly, "O Allah's Apostle! I have slaughtered a she-animal (i.e. kid) of ours, and we have ground a Sa of barley which was with us. So please come, you and another person along with you." The Prophet raised his voice and said, "O people of Trench! Jabir has prepared a meal so let us go." Allah's Apostle said to me, "Don't put down your earthenware meat pot (from the fireplace) or bake your dough till I come." So I came (to my house) and Allah's Apostle too, came, proceeding before the people. When I came to my wife, she said, "May Allah do so-and-so to you." I said, "I have told the Prophet of what you said." Then she brought out to him (i.e. the Prophet the dough, and he spat in it and invoked for Allah's Blessings in it. Then he proceeded towards our earthenware meat-pot and spat in it and invoked for Allah's Blessings in it. Then he said (to my wife). Call a lady-baker to bake along with you and keep on taking out scoops from your earthenware meat-pot, and do not put it down from its fireplace." They were one-thousand (who took their meals), and by Allah they all ate, and when they left the food and went away, our earthenware pot was still bubbling (full of meat) as if it had not decreased, and our dough was still being baked as if nothing had been taken from it.


Bukhari's criteria

When dealing with sahih hadith narrations, in the Islamic context, the burden of proof is always on the person who claims a certain narration is not authentic to provide the evidence for why they consider it to be not authentic.

Imam Bukhari came up with three criteria which he used to determine whether or not a narration was sahih or not. His third criteria is regarding mat'n (text), i.e. the text/content of a narration must not be in contradiction with the Qur'an. The only exception to this rule is the narrations regarded by scholars to be Qudsi (narrations which contain non-Qur'anic words from Allah).

Hadith Evidence

When challenged by skeptics, the hadith record that Muhammad denied being able to perform any miracles. He admitted that although other prophets before him were given the power of performing miracles, his only miracle was the Qur'an:

Narrated Abu Huraira: The Prophet said, "There was no prophet among the prophets but was given miracles because of which people had security or had belief, but what I was given was the Divine Inspiration which Allah revealed to me. So I hope that my followers will be more than those of any other prophet on the Day of Resurrection."

Qur'anic Evidence

Reaffirming the previous hadith, in the following verse Muhammad is acknowledging that other prophets before him came with miracles or clear signs but still people rejected them, highlighting the futility of miracles as the proof of his revelation:

They (also) said: "Allah took our promise not to believe in an messenger unless He showed us a sacrifice consumed by Fire (From heaven)." Say: "There came to you messengers before me, with clear Signs and even with what ye ask for: why then did ye slay them, if ye speak the truth?" if you are truthful?

The unbelievers asked Muhammad to perform a miracle so that they too could believe. All they received in response was,

They say: "We shall not believe in thee, until thou cause a spring to gush forth for us from the earth,

And he would reply:

Say: "Glory to my Lord! Am I aught but a man,- a messenger?"

According to the Qur'an, people doubted Muhammad due to seeing nothing extraordinary or miraculous in him:

And naught prevented mankind from believing when the guidance came unto them save that they said: Hath Allah sent a mortal as (His) messenger?
And they say: "What sort of a messenger is this, who eats food, and walks through the streets? Why has not an angel been sent down to him to give admonition with him? "Or (Why) has not a treasure been bestowed on him, or why has he (not) a garden for enjoyment?" The wicked say: "Ye follow none other than a man bewitched."

Muhammad maintained that he was just an ordinary man, not an angel, meaning people should not expect miracles from him:

Say: Had there been in the earth angels walking about as settlers, We would certainly have sent down to them from the heaven an angel as a messenger.

Muhammad was accused of being a "possessed by demons" - a suspicion Muhammad, at one point shared - and other times of being a "mad man". One wonders if such accusations would be made against someone conducting miracles.

Say (unto them, O Muhammad): I exhort you unto one thing only: that ye awake, for Allah's sake, by twos and singly, and then reflect: There is no madness in your comrade. He is naught else than a warner unto you in face of a terrific doom.
And your comrade is not mad.
Or (why is not) treasure thrown down unto him, or why hath he not a paradise from whence to eat? And the evil-doers say: Ye are but following a man bewitched.

Miracles continued to be requested:

Why do you not bring to us the angels if you are of the truthful ones?

To this, Muhammad responded:

We send not the angels down except for just cause: if they came (to the ungodly), behold! no respite would they have! “And the Unbelievers say: "Why is not a sign sent down to him from his Lord?" But thou art truly a warner, and to every people a guide.”

The Quraishites continued asking for a sign or a miracle to believe, however Muhammad repeated that he was only a warner:

“And the Unbelievers say: "Why is not a sign sent down to him from his Lord?" But thou art truly a warner, and to every people a guide.”

Many other verses host the same theme: people asking for miracles, and Muhammad replies “I am just a man, just like you, only a warner”.

This verse seems to suggest that miracles would prove futile and that, as such, they were not provided to Muhammad:

Then if they reject thee, so were rejected messengers before thee, who came with Clear Signs, Books of dark prophecies, and the Book of Enlightenment.

If the hadith describing Muhammad's miracles are to be considered authentic, what might these verses possibly be referring to? In fact, one would imagine that Qur'an would rather emphasize such miracles, had they occurred, rather `than implying their non-occurrence.

The following verses seems to suggest that miracles are an insufficient grounds for prophet-hood, since magicians can achieve what resembles miracles:

Their hearts toying as with trifles. The wrong-doers conceal their private counsels, (saying), "Is this (one) more than a man like yourselves? Will ye go to witchcraft with your eyes open?"

See Also