The Prophets, peace be upon them all, faced many challenges including (1) Prove that they are Prophets sent by ALLAH, subhanahu wata’ala. (2) Convince people to leave their existing beliefs and believe in the messages of the Prophets, and (3) Overcome the pressures from the people in power to follow the Prophets and risk losing their powers. ALLAH (SWT) enabled His Prophets to perform supernatural acts and “miracles” that are beyond the capability of humans in order to convince the skeptics. These acts generally challenged the people of each Prophet with the things they excelled in. For example, when Prophet Musa (PBUH) was sent to the Pharaoh, magicians and sorcerers were held in high esteem and were seen as those who can perform miracles. ALLAH (SWT) provided Musa with the ability to turn a regular cane into a majestic snake which was able to outperform and swallow all the magical tricks that the Pharaoh’s magicians and sorcerers produced. When the magicians and sorcerers saw what happened they realized that it was beyond what man can do. They immediately declared their belief in the Lord of Prophet Musa and rejected the Pharaoh’s beliefs. ALLAH (SWT) also successively sent different punishments on the Pharaoh so that he may reconsider, including turning the entire water of the Nile River red and parting the sea for the followers of Prophet Musa.
Similarly, Prophet Eisa (Jesus) son of Mary, peace be upon him and upon his mother, was given supernatural powers beyond what people can do, including bringing back the dead and curing diseases and ailments for which there was no cure. These acts demonstrated to the skeptics the truthfulness of his prophesy and his message. Yet, some people still chose not to believe. Sometimes the miracles came in the form of a punishment after people continued to disbelieve, such as the great flood during the days of Prophet Nooh (Noah-PBUH). Those who chose not to believe accused the Prophets of being sorcerers and magicians, and today you may find people who would question if these miracles did take place or not because they heard about them but did not actually see them or experience them. The signs and “miracles” given to the Prophets who were sent before Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) were specific to the people to whom those Prophets were sent and required the presence of the Prophets themselves to perform them, and ended when the Prophets departed from this life.
The challenge was greater for Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) because he is the seal of the prophets, and he was sent to all mankind, not to a single group of people at a given time period. ALLAH, subhanahu wata’ala stated (34:28):
Which means: And We have not sent you except comprehensively to mankind as a bringer of good tidings and a warner. But most of the people do not know. (34:28).
Therefore, the signs and miracles that are needed to help convince skeptics of the truthfulness of Prophet Muhammad and of his message needed to be suitable for all generations throughout all times and with different intellectual backgrounds including scientists and others. The “miracle” of Prophet Muhammad was the Qur’an. It is a stand-alone book capable of delivering the message, including revealing information that was not available during the time of revelation but could be discovered in the future after the messenger has departed from this world. The Qur’an challenged people of all generations with what they mastered and revered and considered superior, including the scientists of today and tomorrow.
In addition to the Qur’an, Prophet Muhammad performed miracles that were observed by thousands of his companions, may ALLAH (SWT) be pleased with all them all. Prophet Muhammad also foretold and described events that have occurred long after his departure and are happening today or will happen in the future. Some of these will, in sha ALLAH, be addressed in future articles.
By Bassam Jamil Jody, Ph.D.