Religious Beliefs

Do Muslims believe in miracles?

Muhammad’s early critics in Mecca sometimes taunted him for being so much like an ordinary human being: If he were really a prophet of God, surely he would entertain them with some sort of heavenly pyrotechnics. Muhammad regarded the Qur’an itself as his only miracle, a marvel of eloquence uttered by a man considered technically “unlettered.” But the scripture does refer often to spectacular “signs” God brought about to vindicate earlier prophets. For example, Moses’ staff became a dragon that devoured Pharaoh’s magicians, and Moses’ hand turned white with leprosy and was then restored to health (Qur’an 7:107-108).

Within a generation or two of Muhammad’s death, tradition had begun to attribute to the Prophet a number of extraordinary occurrences. He could fast for inordinately long periods, could see people behind him, heal various ailments, supply water where there was none, and stretch limited food sources as needed. Trees and stones saluted Muhammad, a pillar in his house mourned that the Prophet no longer leaned on it when he preached, and the Prophet split the moon in two to confound his critics.

Throughout the history of Islam holy persons called “Friends of God” have been famous for the ability to perform wondrous deeds. Many Muslims today regard accounts of such legend and lore of secondary importance. Classical Muslim theologians devised technical terms to distinguish between two levels of miracle. They called the works God did as proof of his prophets’ truthfulness “evidentiary miracles” (mu’jizat, pronounced mu’jiZAAT), and those effected by Friends of God “marvels” (karamat, pronounced karaaMAAT). Theologians further called attention to key differences between works of sorcery and wonders performed authentically under divine power.


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