Are miracles real? Do miracles break the laws of nature? Can we experience miracles in our lives? Here we explore this topic from the Ahmadiyya point-of-view…
Mirza Ghulam Ahmad
PEACE BE UPON HIM
What is a miracle?
“A miracle is in fact an extraordinary phenomenon, the like of which the opponent is unable to produce, even though it appears to be within human power. An example of this is the miracle of the Holy Quran that was shown to all the people of Arabia. Although, on the face of it, it seemed to be within the scope of human potential, all the people of Arabia were frustrated in their efforts to produce anything like it. Thus, for understanding the nature of miracles, the Holy Quran serves as a very clear example. It may seem to be a discourse like that of human beings, but in respect of its eloquent expression, its extremely delectable, pure and colourful diction—characterized in every instance by truth and wisdom—and its brilliant arguments that countered the arguments of the whole world, and, last but not least, in respect of its majestic prophecies, it is a matchless miracle, and one that no opponent has been able to contest despite the passage of thirteen hundred years, and none has the power to do so.” –Essence of Islam, Vol. 5, page 10
For whom are miracles granted?
“It is appropriate in this context to address the question that if everything is subject to the eternal laws, or is predetermined, then what is the significance of miracles? It is undoubtedly true that nothing lies outside the eternal laws or the eternal will of God and His decree, whether we are aware of it or not:
“Whatever is going to happen will happen and the pen has dried.”
And yet the same Divine practice—also called the law of nature—has made certain things dependent upon others. Likewise, there are certain phenomena which the eternal will has made conditional upon the prayers of the holy ones, and the blessings of their holy breath, and upon their attention, their firm resolve and their glory, and has linked them to the entreaties and supplications of these people. When such phenomena occur through these means and under these conditions then, in this particular situation, they are called miracles, wonders, signs or supernormal phenomena. Here the term ‘supernormal phenomena’ should not lead someone to think that there are things which lie outside the scope of Divine practice [laws]. Because, in the present context, the expression ‘supernormal phenomena’ carries an additional significance: Although nothing lies outside the eternal practice of the God of glory, His practice that relates to mankind is of two kinds. First there are ‘ordinary practices’, which, in the form of cause and effect, apply to everyone. Second there are the ‘special practices’ which, with or without the agency of the visible causes, relate only to those who are totally lost in His love and completely given to His desire. That is to say, when a person turns completely to God and brings about a transformation in his human condition, for the sake of gaining His pleasure, then God, in accordance with his transformed state, deals with him in a special manner, which He does not practice when dealing with others.” –Essence of Islam, Vol. 5, pages 11-12
Why are miracles granted?
“Remember, it is only to demonstrate the distinction between truth and falsehood that miracles are granted to men of God. The real purpose of a miracle is none other than that a distinction between a truthful one and a liar be established in the eyes of the wise and just. A miracle is shown only to the extent that is sufficient to establish such distinction. And this extent is determined by the need of the time, as is the nature of the miracles. It does not mean that whenever a prejudiced, ignorant, and evil-minded person demands a miracle, it has to be shown, no matter how contrary it is to the Divine wisdom or the need of the moment. Were it so, it would be as harmful to one’s own faith, as it would be contrary to Divine wisdom. For if the realm of miracles were to be stretched to the extent that whatever has been put off until the day of resurrection can all be witnessed in this world, then no difference would be left between this world and the hereafter…
A sign or a miracle, therefore, is not a self-evident phenomenon for men of every disposition, so that it should be accepted as soon as it is witnessed. Rather the fact is that only wise, just, righteous and truthful people derive benefit from signs. They are the ones who, on account of their intuition, far-sightedness, observation, fair-mindedness, fear of God and righteous conduct, come to realize that these phenomena are not ordinary phenomena of this world, nor could any impostor have the power to show them. They know that such things are far removed from human contrivance, and are beyond the reach of mortals, and have such a quality and distinction about them that the humble powers of man and his elaborate schemes are powerless against them. And these people, by virtue of their profound wisdom and light of intuition, understand that these phenomena possess a certain light and a fragrance which comes from the hand of God, which cannot be mistaken for any cunning, deceit, or trickery. Thus, just as sunlight alone is not enough for one to believe in the light of the sun, but it is equally necessary to have eyesight with which to see the light, similarly, in order to believe in the light of a miracle, the miracle itself is not sufficient, and the light of intuition is equally necessary.” –Essence of Islam, Vol. 5, pages 14-16
Do some reported miracles contravene Divine Wisdom?
“Miracles are, in fact, like moonlight which is partly obscured by clouds. This light is of no use to a person who is night-blind, and, therefore, cannot see anything at night. In this world miracles have never been, nor shall ever be, manifested in the way as they will be manifested in the hereafter. For example it can never happen that two or three hundred people rise from the dead, and they should have with them both the fruits of paradise and the flames of hellfire, and they should go from town to town testifying to the truth of a Prophet, who is at that moment present among his people, and the people should recognize these people as the dead who have been brought back to life; and that the latter should raise a commotion with their sermons and lectures that this person who claims to be a Prophet is true in his claim. Remember that such miracles have never been shown, nor will they ever be shown till the Day of Judgement. Anyone who claims that such miracles have ever been shown, is simply deluded by baseless myths and is totally unaware of the ways of God. Had such miracles ever happened, this world would cease to be what it is, and all veils would have been lifted, and faith would not have deserved any reward whatsoever.” –Essence of Islam, Vol. 5, page 18
Do miracles break the law of nature?
“The truth of the matter is that God Almighty does not do anything against the laws of nature. What He does is that He creates the causes, whether we know of them or not, and these are always present. Hence, miracles, such as splitting of the moon and [the fire not burning Abraham([pbuh)] are also no exceptions. Rather, they too resulted from some very subtle and hidden means, and were based on true and factual science. Shortsighted people and those who are enamoured of dark philosophy cannot comprehend these things.” –Essence of Islam, Vol. 5, page 28
How do miracles work?
“Another subtle point that needs to be borne in mind is that when men of God show miracles, for instance, when water is not able to drown them or fire is not able to harm them, the secret behind such manifestations is that at times when the friends of God focus their attention towards a particular thing, the All-Wise God—Whose infinite secrets man can never comprehend—shows a sign of His power, and their attention begins to exercise control in the universe. The convergence of the means which, for instance, cause the heat of the fire to cease casting its effect—whether they are related to heavenly bodies, to some hidden property of the fire itself, or to some subtle property of the body that is put in the fire, or whether it is a combination of all these—all these means come into operation through such attention and such prayer. It is thus that an extraordinary miracle is shown. But this does not cause us to lose faith in the reality of things, nor does it render knowledge useless, for such miracles are themselves a branch among the branches of Divine knowledge. They have their own dimensions, just as, for instance, the burning quality of fire has its own.
Let us understand it this way: there are spiritual elements that manifest themselves by subjugating the fire, and they are peculiar to their own time and place. Human intellect falls short of understanding the secret that a perfect man is the locus for the manifestation of the spirit of God Almighty. And when the time comes for the perfect man to display this manifestation, everything begins to fear him as it fears God. You may now throw him before a beast or into a fire, he will suffer no harm; for at such moments the spirit of God Almighty is upon him and everything is bound to fear Him. This is the ultimate secret of Divine knowledge which cannot be understood without keeping company with the perfect ones. Being a very profound and rare phenomenon, every intellect is not aware of this philosophy. But, remember, everything listens to the voice of God. He has control over everything and He holds all the strings in His Hand. His wisdom knows no limit and it penetrates to the root of every particle. Nothing possesses properties that are in excess of His power. All the qualities that things may possess are within the scope of His power. He who does not believe in this is among those about whom it has been said:
“They failed to respect Allah as he should be respected.”
(Holy Qur’an, 6:92)
Since the perfect man is the perfect manifestation of the whole world, the world is therefore drawn towards him from time to time. He is like a spider of the spiritual world and the whole world is his web. This is the secret behind miracles.” –Essence of Islam, Vol. 5, pages 28-30
Mirza Tahir Ahmad
MAY ALLAH BE PLEASED WITH HIM
Q: Do miracles break the laws of nature?
“A miracle does not mean that God makes a law and then breaks it. This is a reflection about God, an assumed notion about Him; it is not an attribute of God. Any sane person who makes a law and knows that, at times, he will have to deviate from those laws, always needs exceptions (to the law) and these are incorporated in the legal code. Thus, without breaking the law he meets the extraordinary situations which arise and are resolved satisfactorily. How can one expect God to have created a law Himself, the law of nature, yet to have left no cushioning, no alternative possibilities for when some crises arise which cannot be resolved by the ‘ordinary’ law, then God has to break His own Law?
This is totally inconceivable from our point of view and according to our understanding of the logic of the Holy Qur’an and the logic of God’s personality. We totally reject this concept.
Hadhrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, the Promised Messiah, speaking on the same subject, has mentioned that laws have many tiers. 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. An example of this is the law of magnetism prior to its formal conceptualisation.
The laws of magnetism were unknown to the people of some thousand years ago and even people of a few hundred years ago in some parts of the world. They only understood the law of gravity, that the earth must pull everything down to itself. Now if a magnetic field was created about a person who was also wearing a metal which responded to that magnetic field and he was lifted up, the people who did not understand the phenomenon of magnetism would consider it a miracle in the sense that the law is broken, while in reality no law is broken. Gravity is a law of nature and magnetism is also a law of nature and, one law put against the other, follows the overriding principle that whichever acts with greater force would win. But no law had been broken. Similarly, in earlier times many things about chemistry and physics were unknown and people who knew these things in advance of the age would be able to bring about certain tricks through their knowledge.
In the struggle between matter and matter, and life and life, the unbreakable, overwhelming, overriding law is that whichever law operates more strongly will subdue the law which operates less strongly. From this view point there may appear to be some breach of nature when it is not, in fact, a breach of nature…
The real miracle is that we sometimes observe weak people winning in their confrontation with a powerful group of people. If you were to feed the facts of the situation into a computer, the expectation is that the computer would show that the weaker group will be obliterated and the powerful one will win.
The miracle is this that there is an unseen hand of power, unseen by the people, which is on the side of the weak and, because that hidden hand of power is the strongest, despite the fact that the law is not broken, the weak appear to win. This always happens, without fail, every time when a prophet of God is sent. The true miracle is therefore the victory of the weak over the powerful. The supreme law that ‘the powerful will always win and the weak will always be obliterated’ seems to be reversed in this case but here again, I remind you that the law is not broken. 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.
This is the philosophy which has been explained by the Holy Qur’an itself. In that verse of the Holy Qur’an, from Surah Al-Hajj, where the believers are permitted to defend themselves with swords against their oppressors, this phenomenon has been explained in so many words:
“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.”
(Holy Qur’an, 22:40)
They are weak, that is why they have been transgressed against; they are ready to fight not to be destroyed because ‘innallaha ala nasrullahil Qadir’, (Allah indeed has the Power to help them), because God is All-Powerful and the All-Powerful God is on the side of the weak. So this still remains a miracle to those who do not understand this phenomenon.
I have read many a western scholar express this with wonder that when everything is said and done, it is inexplicable how the weak forces which were siding with Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) became so overwhelming and emerged victorious over much powers within Arabia and outside Arabia.
I hope you will now understand that a miracle does not break any law. A miracle is the operation of an unseen law.”- Transcript of a Q&A session from 1983