We have all read about them, some of us may have even seen or experienced a ‘miracle’ but we all have an opinion as to what is a ‘miracle’.
This blog will cover our understanding of miracles, whether miracles have occurred in the past and if there is still scope for miracles to occur in the modern age.
With 85% of the global population conforming to some religion or religious belief, it’s no surprise that miraculous events of the past are accepted whether it be the Christian belief of Jesus feeding the 50001, Muslims believing that The Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessing be upon him) split the moon in half2, or Moses parting the sea3. They are all astonishing feats which at first glance seem like incredibly unlikely occurrences, yet us adherents accept them with or without a rational investigation because these miracles are rooted in faith.
What about miracles that we may have experienced or witnessed personally that don’t stem from a religious event e.g. surviving a plane crash or beating the odds against a terminal disease? Of course, when you look at them side by side, splitting the Red Sea is much more impressive than surviving a plane crash yet both are accepted as miracles. What is important to remember is the ability or inability to explain an event at the crucial time of its occurrence.
The Cambridge dictionary defines the term miracle as A:
‘an unusual and mysterious event that is thought to have been caused by a god because it does not follow the usual laws of nature,’ and B: ‘a very lucky event that is surprising and unexpected4.’
Take the parting of the Red Sea. It is a mysterious event and without a doubt, an unexpected one. Moses and his followers flee persecution and arrive at what seems to be a dead end. Somehow, the sea parts and allows them to cross to the other side; these fit both of the above definitions. At the time, it was an unusual, mysterious, very lucky and unexpected event. Of course, none of the followers arrived at the Red Sea waiting for it to part or for someone to part it, that would be ridiculous.
Today, oceanographers and geologists have confirmed that the parting of the Red Sea was an event that is possible and doesn’t contradict the laws of nature.5 The equipment and tools needed to investigate such an event didn’t exist in the time of Moses but the description matches what we now know to be a scientific possibility.
So, if the evidence weighs in favour, why do we still believe it to be a miracle? Well, as said earlier, no one expected such an occurrence to take pave and as far as we know, it’s the first of its kind to have been recorded. What is vital to understand is the use of language and its scope. The event must have been described within the boundaries of the Hebrew or Egyptian languages spoken at that time, not modern Hebrew or Coptic and additionally, they would have been understood through the witnesses’ perception as to whether is was a natural or unnatural occurrence.
My own experience of a miracle occurred in 2013. Setting off from university to go back home, we began the journey down country roads and within a few minutes, the driver lost control of the car. The car made three full rotations on its roof, a scene we’ve all seen in movies, and landed facing the opposite direction. My family member and I opened the doors, brushed off the glass and just stood, shocked that we came out without a scratch; no injuries at all. Some of our luggage had fallen out and was around 100 meters away from where the car had stopped rolling; all the windows shattered, tyres were flat and the roof and windscreen had caved in. Of course, I replayed the event a thousand times immediately after and still couldn’t believe that we had made it out alive let alone unscathed. I did, and still do, remember a physical feeling, as if there was a hand around the car, guiding it. Was there a physical car sized hand? Probably not. If there was, the man who saw the crash didn’t mention it. Was there something guiding the car? Possibly!6 The likelihood is that my body was fighting the feeling of being rolled upside down a few times, the rush one gets from a rollercoaster but this time without the excitement. But no matter how many times I replay that crash, the angles, the speed of the car, the layout of the road, the sloping forest no more than two meters from where we stopped, doesn’t make sense. Was surviving this crash therefore a miracle?
Well, we were lucky, witnesses were surprised and coming out without a scratch was unexpected. So, it fits definition ‘B’. Is our survival of the crash owed to God? My answer is yes. The answer of a mathematician or physicist may however be different7. If it were explained scientifically, I’d still perceive our survival of the crash to be a miracle, though I’d accept the rational explanation.
“Some laws are known to man and some other overriding laws also exist but are unknown to man. So, a miracle appears to be a miracle to the ordinary person when he knows only the superficial laws known to people of his time, but he does not know the other set of overriding laws which exist as laws without breaking the other set of laws…The fact is that the powerful Hand of God remains unseen. But the weak ones win not because they are weak and still they win – they win because the Hand of God is with them.” 8
The Holy Qur’an states:
“Permission to fight is granted to those against whom war is made, because they have been wronged, and Allah indeed has the power to help them” 9.
It could very well be that God helped us in that situation without breaking any laws. You could also argue that if put into a simulation, the result would be the same but that doesn’t disprove the miracle, it simply shows that there are forces in, or laws of nature that aren’t as rigid as we thought.
Was the car crash as great of a miracle as parting the Red Sea? Not even close. Miracles come in all shapes and sizes and from the Islamic viewpoint, God plays a hand in helping the weak. Laws of nature aren’t being broken, and a literal supernatural event isn’t occurring;
“A miracle is the operation of an unseen law” 10
Blog based on Voice of Islam Show 11
- Gospel of Mathew NIV: 14; 13-21.
- Sahih-al-Bukhari, Vol.4 Book 56, Hadith 831
- Book of Exodus 14 – 31
- The Holy Qur’an: (Chapter 22: Verse 40)