By ‘Allamah Sarfaraz Khan Safdar and others
Compiled and Translated by Saad Khan
‘Allamah Muhammad Sarfaraz Khan Safdar (d. 1430 AH) writes that the word mu‘jizah is linguistically derived from ‘ajz(inability), which is an antonym of qudrah (power). He adds that the [round] ‘ta’ at the end is either for intensiveness (exaggeration) or that the word mu‘jizah is an adjective of words like ayah (sign), etc. It is Allah Most High alone who creates‘ajz (inability) in mu‘jizat and in reality He incapacitates the rejecters. A mu‘jizah is from Allah alone, but appears at the hands of a prophet. The prophet has no power over it.
Reality of Mu‘jizah
Imam Rabbani Mawlana Rashid Ahmad Gangohi (d. 1323 AH) has elaborately discussed the issue of mu‘jizat (miracles of the prophets), karamat (miracles of the saints), and extraordinary events (khawariq al-‘adat) in Fatawa Rashidiyyah. He quotes from the Persian book Radd-i-Bawariq of Shaykh Husayn Shah al-Bukhari (may Allah have mercy on him), who is also known as But Shikan, “To provide the power and choice and to entrust the capability of something are different and distinct from manifesting a trait through something unique to it [in the sense that such a trait is not naturally found in the object].
“For example, one can say Zayd writes with a pen and that Zayd has manifested his trait of writing through [the medium] of a pen. However, it cannot be said that Zayd has provided [or entrusted] the capabilities of motion and writing to the pen itself, since the pen cannot become human [or an intelligent sentient being] and therefore can never gain the capability of [self] motion or acquire the ability of writing. So, if an individual says that Zayd has bestowed the power and capability of writing to a pen, it would mean that Zayd has turned a pen into a human [or a sentient being]. On the contrary, if a person says that Zayd wrote with a pen, it would mean that the action of writing is a unique trait of Zayd which he manifested through the medium of a pen, and the pen has no power or freewill in this action of writing whatsoever; therefore there is a huge difference between the two concepts.
“If you have understood the concepts clarified above, try to understand our actual point of view and hopefully it will be understood. Power, authority and discretion are the characteristics of the One who has no partners (i.e., Allah Most High), and might and sovereignty are [also] attributes belonging solely to the One who is Eternal (i.e. Allah). Therefore, to provide a person or an object the power or capability actually means that the matter has been elevated from [the realms of] possibility (mumkin) to the stages of obligation (wajib) because, after all, origin of power, control of affairs, and axis of might and sovereignty are traits of Wajib al-Wujud, i.e. Allah (not of mumkin, i.e., possible).” (Fatawa Rashidiyyah, 3:230)
‘Allamah Sarfaraz writes that this passage sufficiently highlights the fact that extraordinary feats (khawariq al-‘adat) are actually beyond the power and capability of humans, and this passage also destroys the self-made and farfetched concepts of personal (dhati) and granted (ata‘i) of the Ahl al-Bid‘ah.
Moreover, Shaykh al-Islam Mawlana Shabbir Ahmad ‘Uthmani (d. 1369 AH) writes in his brief but comprehensive treatiseKhawariq al-‘Adat, “(a) Remember that a miracle is in fact an act of Allah, an action which may be contrary to the usual or normal events but not against the special traits of Allah; since to break the routine and to manifest something extraordinary to achieve specific aims is from the special traits of Allah. (b) Furthermore, a miracle is from Allah, [and therefore] to declare a miracle a prophet’s personal action is a huge mistake. (c) And as we pick up a pen and write, apparently it seems as if the pen is writing, but in reality it has no choice in writing; similar is the case with miracles. It is not that prophets can start streams of water from their fingertips anytime they wish; rather, they can do so only when Allah wills so.”
Mawlana Amin Safdar Okarwi (d. 1421 AH) explains that there are four principles that should be kept in mind regardingmu‘jizat and karamat: (1) There is no ikhtiyar (choice) involved on the part of humans. (2) There is no continuity (dawam). (3) There is no generality (kulliyat), i.e., if an extraordinary event happens at the hands of a certain saint (wali), it is not necessary that it can also happen at the hands of other saints. (4) They are not absolute (qat‘i). However, if a mu‘jizah isqat‘i al-thubut (proven through conclusive evidence), then its qat‘iyyah (decisiveness and certainty) will be established. (See Khutbat-i-Amin, p.155-157)
Qadi Abu Bakr ibn al-Tayyib al-Baqillani al-Maliki (d. 403 AH) writes, “The meaning of our statement that the Qur’an is inimitable (mu’jiz), as per our principles, is that people are not able to produce anything like it. It has been established that it is not correct to include the miracle proving the truthfulness of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) under the ability of people. Rather, Allah Almighty alone has power over it … and so is the case with the miracles of all the Prophets (i.e., they are beyond human ability).” (I‘jaz al-Qu’ran, from Al-Itqan, 2:186)
Imam al-Ghazali (d. 505H) writes, “The reason a miracle attests to the truthfulness of prophets is that everything which human beings cannot produce [its similitude] must be the work of Allah. Whenever this is linked to a Prophet’s challenge, it is as if Allah Most High has said: ‘You are true.’.” (Ihya ‘Ulum al-Din, 1:97)
‘Allamah ‘Ali ibn Muhammad ibn Aqbaras al-Shafi‘i al-Misri (d. 862 AH) writes, “The theologians (mutakallimun) say that miracles are exclusively from the action of Allah Amighty and they are not included under the power (qudrah) of humans.” (Fath al-Safa’ sharh al-Shifa’, from Hidayat al-Murtab, p.20; Fatawa Rashidiyyah, p.144)
‘Allamah Ahmad ibn ‘Abd al-Qadir al-Rumi (d. 1041H) writes in his brilliant book Majalis al-Abrar wa Masalik al-Akhyar, “Amu‘jizah is actually from amongst the actions of Allah, out of the norm, which he manifests at the hands of His messenger.” (Majalis al-Abrar, p.43)
He writes in another place, “Whatever appears at their hands as extraordinary is created by Allah Most High and they have no power to invent it; since if they had power to invent it, they would have been able to repel from themselves the lighter matters as well such as disease, hunger, thirst, pain of heat and cold, the harms of the people and so on.” (Majalis al-Abrar, p.103)
Imam Fakhr al-Din Razi (d. 606 AH) writes, “From the many verses that support the veracity of our previous statement is that when He (Exalted is He) related of the disbelievers that they requested overwhelming miracles (al-mu’jizat al-qahirah) from him in His (Exalted is He) statement: ‘They said [to the Prophet Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace)]: We shall never believe in you unless you cause a spring to gush forth for us from the earth…’ He (Exalted is He) then said: ‘Say [O Muhammad]: I proclaim the Purity of my Lord. I am nothing but human (bashr), a messenger.’ (Qur’an, 17:90-93). In other words, a person being a human with the quality of messengership implies he is perfect in his theoretical and practical faculties, and is able to treat [other human beings] who are deficient in these two faculties; but it is not necessary in acquiring this quality [of messengership] that he has the ability to [bring about] the conditions [i.e.mu‘jizat] which you request from him.” (Matalib ‘Aliyyah, from Al-Kalam, 2:225, Mawlana Shibli Nu‘mani)
‘Allamah ‘Abd al-Rahman ibn Khaldun (d. 808 AH) states, “One of the signs [of the prophets] is that they work wonders which attest to their truthfulness. ‘Wonders’ are actions, the likes of which are impossible for human beings to achieve. They are, therefore, called ‘miracles’ (mu’jizat). They are not within the ability of men, but beyond their powers. There is a difference of opinion as to how they occur and as to how they prove the truthfulness of the prophets. Speculative theologians (mutakallimun) base themselves on the doctrine of the ‘voluntary agent’ and say that miracles occur through the power of Allah, and not through the action of the prophet. The Mu‘tazilah maintain that human actions proceed from man himself, but still miracles do not belong to the type of actions that human beings perform. According to all schools, the prophet’s place in the performance of miracles is confined to the ‘advance challenge’ (tahaddi) that he offers by divine permission. That is, the prophet uses the miracles before they occur as proof of the truth of his claims. They therefore take the place of an explicit statement from Allah to the effect that a particular prophet is truthful.” (Muqaddimah Ibn Khaldun, p.93)
‘Allamah Sarfaraz explains that it is clear from the statement of ‘Allamah Ibn Khaldun that miracles are not from those acts which humans have been given power over. The Mu‘talizah are of the view that humans are khaliq (creators) of their actions but when it come to miracles, even they believe that miracles are acts of Allah.
Furthermore Shaykh Shah ‘Abd al-Haq Muhaddith Dahlawi (d. 1052 AH) writes, “A mu‘jizah is not an act of a prophet, rather an act of Allah Most High which He manifests at the hands of a prophet. Contrary to other actions, which are created by Allah and the acquisition (kasb) is by the servant; in miracles the acquisition (kasb) too is not from the servant.” (Madarij al-Nubuwwah, 2:116)
And he writes in another place, “Miracles (mu‘jizat) are the actions of Allah Most High that appear at the hands of the slave for verification of his truthfulness and honor. Miracles are not the actions of the slave such that they appear with his intention and choice like his other chosen actions (af‘al ikhtiyariyyah).” (Tarjamah Futuh al-Ghayb, p.27)
‘Allamah Shah Muhammad Isma‘il Shahid (d. 1246 AH) writes on the discussion of khawariq al-‘adat, “It means that Allah Most High, with His absolute power, acts in the universe in an unusual manner in order to endorse any of His beloved servants, not that He creates in him the power of miracle and appoints him to demonstrate it. No, never; freewill in controlling the affairs of the world is from the exclusive attributes of Allah, not from the characteristics of human power.” (Mansab-i-Imamat, p.31)
Mufti Muhammad Shafi‘ (d. 1396 AH) writes, “Miracles and wonders are the direct acts of Allah, but they are manifested through prophets and saints so that people may recognize their spiritual station — prophets and saints themselves have no power to make such things happen… Another verse of the Holy Qur’an reports what a group of prophets said to their people in reply to a similar demand: ‘We cannot give you proof, except by Allah’s will,’ (Qur’an, 14:11). This again was an admission that it was not in their power to produce a miracle, for all power rests in the hands of Allah. In short, it is not at all possible for a prophet or a saint to show a miracle whenever he likes and whatsoever he likes. The disbelievers used to demand specific miracles from the Holy Prophet and from the earlier prophets but Allah manifested only those that He Himself pleased, and not others. The Holy Qur’an presents many such instances.” (Ma‘arif al-Qur’an, 1:102
And ‘Allamah Dr. Khalid Mahmud writes, “A few divine feats are exposed at the hands of the prophets. These feats are technically referred to as mu’jizat. These feats bear testimony to the genuineness of their prophethood because the entire world is incapable of performing such feats. The mu’jizat are divine accomplishments of Allah Most High. They are not subject to the will of the prophets. The prophets are not able to expose these miracles as and when they desire.” (The Concept of Nabuwwah and Rislah, p.7)
The truth that miracles are acts of Allah and that humans have not been given any power over them has also been mentioned by various other luminaries of the Ahl al-Sunnah. Such personalities include:
- Imam Fadlullah Turipisthi al-Hanafi (d. 661 AH) in Mu‘tamad fi ‘l-Mu‘taqad (ch.2:1);
- Mulla ‘Ali al-Qari (d. 1014H) in Al-Mirqat (2:530);
- Shaykh ‘Abd al-Wahhab Sha‘rani (d. 772 AH) from Shaykh Abu Muhammad Tahir ibn Ahmad al-Qazwini (d. 756 AH) and Shaykh Muhyi al-Din ibn al-‘Arabi (d. 638 AH) in Al-Yawaqit wa ‘l-Jawahir (1:158);
- Muhaqqiq Kamal al-Din ibn al-Humam al-Hanafi (d. 861 AH) in Al-Musayarah (2:89);
- Shaykh Kamal al-Din ibn Abi Sharif al-Shafi‘i (d. 905 AH) in Al-Musamarah (2:89);
- Qadi ‘Adud al-Din al-Iyji al-Hanafi (d. 757 AH) in Mawaqif (p.665);
- ‘Allamah Jalal al-Din Dawani (d. 907 AH) in Sharh al-‘Adudiyyah (p.95);
- ‘Allamah Sa‘d al-Din Mas‘ud al-Taftazani (d. 792 AH) in Sharh al-‘Aqa’id al-Nasafiyyah, (p.18);
- Hafiz Ibn Kathir (d. 744 AH) in Tafsir Ibn Kathir (3:144);
- Qadi Nasir al-Din Baydawi (d. 686 AH) in Anwar al-Tanzil (17:93);
- ‘Allamah Sun’ Allah ibn Sun’ Allah al-Halabi (d. 1120 AH) in Sayf Allah ‘ala man Kadhiba ‘ala Awliya’ Allah (p.45);
- Imam Shah ‘Abd al-‘Aziz Dahlawi (d. 1239 AH) in Fatawa ‘Azizi (p.408);
- ‘Allamah ‘Abd al-Hayy Lakhnawi (d. 1304 AH) in Majmu‘ al-Fatawa (3:18);
- Mawlana Sayyid Awlad Hasan al-Kannauji (d. 1252 AH) from Fatawa Rashidiyyah (3:27);
- Mawlana Shah Sikhawat ‘Ali Jonpuri (d. 1274 AH) from Fatawa Rashidiyyah (3:26);
- Mawlana Haydar ‘Ali Tonki (d. 1273 AH) from Fatawa Rashidiyyah (3:25);
- ‘Allamah ‘Abd al-Haq Haqqani Dahlawi (d. 1336 AH) in ‘Aqa’id al-Islam (p. 154);
This view regarding mu‘jizat and karamat, which has just been presented, is that of Islamic theologians (mutakallimin), jurists (fuqaha) and mystics (sufis). Now, it will be unfair not to present the view of the other factions who regard mu‘jizatand karamat as acts of the prophets and saints.
‘Allamah ‘Abd al-Rahman ibn Khaldun states, “The philosophers hold that wonders are acts of the prophet, even though they occur in areas where the prophets have no power. This is based upon their doctrine that [there exists] an essential and Necessary [causality] and that events develop out of each other according to conditions and reasons that [always] come up anew and, in the last instance, go back to the Necessary per se that acts per se and not by choice. In their opinion, the prophetical soul has special essential qualities, which produce wonders, with the help of the power of [the Necessary per se] and the obedience of the elements to Him in the universe. The prophet, in their opinion, through those qualities that Allah put into him, is by nature fitted to do discretion (tasarruf) among all created things, whenever he addresses himself to them and concentrates on them. They hold that wonders are brought by the prophet himself, whether it is for ‘challenge’ (tahaddi) or not. They are evidence of the prophet’s truthfulness, in as much as they prove that he performs discretion (tasarruf) among the created things; such activity constituting a special quality of the prophetic soul, not because they take the place of a clear assertion of certainty (tasdiq).” (Muqaddimah Ibn Khaldun, p.94-95)
From the above statement of ‘Allamah Ibn Khaldun, it is clear that according to the philosophers, miracles are acts of prophets, and prophets have been given the ability of discretion (tasarruf) in the cosmos by Allah. This belief is contrary to that of jurists, theologians and mystics.
Tasarruf and Takwin
‘Allamah Sarfaraz explains that tasarruf and takwin are terms used for miracles by the sufis. Sufis do not intend the meaning of discretion in the cosmos. This is where the people of innovation (ahl al-bid‘ah) misapprehend the statements of sufis and believe that tasarruf and takwin are at the disposal of the prophets and saints like the self-determined actions (af‘al ikhtiyariyyah).
For example, Shaykh ‘Abd al-Haq Dahlawi writes in his commentary of Futuh al-Ghayb of Shaykh ‘Abd al-Qadir al-Jaylani (d. 561 AH), “Shaykh ‘Abd al-Qadir al-Jaylani himself mentions that kharq al-‘adat and tasarruf are acts of Allah that happen at the hands of the servant.” (Sharh Futuh al-Ghayb, p.27)
There is a detailed discussion in Fatawa Rashidiyyah regarding tasarruf and takwin. It would be beneficial to produce some excerpts hereunder:
“We should know that there is a vast difference between the exclusive actions of Allah (af‘al khassah) and the self-determined actions of the servants (af‘al ikhtiyariyyah), since the actions produced by the servants through tools and resources are bound with some conditions. For instance, one needs some things before writing a matter — a pen, paper, a knife to smoothen the pen, eyesight, light, mind, thought, intention, and fingers and their movement. However, the creating of Allah — the Lord of the servants — is neither connected to these matters nor with these conditions; rather, He produces whatever He likes with just an intention, without being dependent upon the resources. This creation of His which is based only on intention is called ‘kun fayakun’: ‘His command, when He intends to do something, is no more than He says, “Be”, and it becomes,’ (Qur’an, 36:82). So supporting the first view for the servants that these actions are from Allah is all right, but affirming the second view (i.e., the power of kun fayakun) is open unbelief (kufr) and heinous polytheism. In brief, asking them to fulfill the matters under self-determined actions (af‘al ikhtiyariyyah) is correct, but demanding to carry out the divine actions [under the power of kun fayakun] is out of place; because the former is within their power and the latter is exclusively related to Allah Most High …” (Fatawa Rashidiyyah, p.143)
And it states, “First, some actions of exclusive attributes of Allah sometimes manifest in the holy existence of the angels and the prophets. These holy existences do not have any power to carry out these acts. So, these acts should not be considered like the actions of eating and wearing, which are within the realm of their choice (ikhtiyar) and power. Demanding them to carry out or bring about these acts is just like addressing the pen overlooking the writer to write such and such, rather believing that the pen in any case has to produce such an act and its power and choice is barred and invalid… Second, [regarding] submission, choice and managing (tadbir) which are attributed to some angels, the same resemblance is found with the pen and writer and the same thing is meant when we say that the writer writes. We have already elaborated on it in detail. It does not mean that He has entrusted the power of creating and the creative process (takwin) with the intention of ‘kun fayakun’ (Be! and it becomes); since it can be available to only the one who is Eternal, as we have already mentioned…” (Fatawa Rashidiyyah, p.141)
It further states in Fatawa Rashidiyyah, “So, the changes and revolutions in any part of the world which appear for the human beings all emanate from the divine power of Allah and are not the result of any possible power. It is not that Allah Most High allows them to act freely (tasarruf) in the world and entrusts the affairs of the human beings to them that they with Allah’s permission use their power and bring about various types of changes and interventions in the universe. So, this belief is pure polytheism (shirk) and absolute unbelief (kufr). One who holds such beliefs about these pious people is a polytheist and is rejected. In short, it is one matter that destiny changes its course for someone’s honor, or fate changes due to the du‘a of some pious man, while it is a different matter that changes take place in the universe through discretion (tasarruf) of a pious man, though with Allah’s permission; the first one is exactly Islam while the second is pure unbelief (kufr)…” (Fatawa Rashidiyyah, p.139-140)
Translator: I would like to thank Mawlana Muhammadullah Khalili Qasmi for help with the translation of Persian texts.
Fatawa Rashidiyyah – Imam Rabbani Mawlana Rashid Ahmad Gangohi
Hidayat al-Murtab Ila Tariq al-Sawab fi Tahqiq al-Mu’jizat (Rah-i-Hidayat) – ‘Allamah Sarfaraz Khan Safdar
- A refutation of Al-Bawariq by Fadl Rasul Badayuni. [↩]
- Allah Most High’s displaying a miracle at the hands of a Prophet who had announced he will display it as proof of his truthfulness, is equivalent to Divine confirmation of his Prophethood [↩]
- Translation compared with Franz Rosenthal’s translation of Ibn Khaldun’s Muqaddimah. [↩]
- Ibid [↩]