Countering Muslim Claims, Episode 5: Did Muhammad Perform Miracles?

Today we’re going to focus on a specific argument that has to do with the idea that Muhammad, the prophet of Islam, performed miracles, which I can tell you right now as a former Muslim who studied the Quran, usually the Quran is considered to be the only miracle for Muhammad.

I have debated many Muslims on whether Muhammad is a prophet and it’s interesting over and over again, Muslims keep bringing up the claim that Muhammad performed  miracles and this is to show Jews and Christians that Muhammad is in the same line of prophets that we find in the Bible. If you go to the Old Testament, we find a prophet like Moses performing miracles like the parting of the Red Sea. If we go to the New Testament, we find Jesus performing miracles, we find the apostles performing miracles and so on. And so this is to show that Muhammad is in the same line with all of these guys and if Muhammad did perform miracles, that would be something that we would need to consider as evidence for Islam. 

When we look at the Muslim sources, as we find in the surah and in the hadith Muhammad performing miracles. We find him shooting water out of his fingertips when his followers were thirsty. He could miraculously provide food for his followers. But we have to be somewhat skeptical of sources because of their dates. Christians don’t just believe things just because they’re written down somewhere, we have to consider the sources. When we talk about these sources, the earliest source that talks about Muhammad’s miracles is in a book that was written more than a century after the time of Muhammad and that’s a book that most Muslims I talk to you say they don’t believe in. So what source do we go to to talk about Muhammad’s miracles? While they say we have to go to Sahih Bukhari and Sahih Muslim, these are written two centuries after the time of Muhammad so you’re talking about two centuries to invent things. We know that Muslims had very good reasons to invent stories. They are going around, they’re interacting with Jews and Christians. Over and over again, Jews and Christians were asking the Muslims “What miracles did your prophet perform?” At first they’re saying the Quran. “Look at this awesome, miraculous Quran” and Jews and Christians did not take that seriously at all. They have miracles like Moses parting the Red Sea. Then they have Muslims saying “Look at this lovely Arabic script.” What kind of miracle is that? So Christians and Jews were not impressed with this until by the time you get to the end of Ibn Asaq, Sahih Muslim and Sahih Bukhari, suddenly you have all these miracle stories. So we would have to be skeptical just by the late date of the sources, especially when Muslims had every reason to invent stories about Muhammad performing miracles and the entire reasoning for putting the Hadith into written collections was that there were so many false stories circulating about Muhammad. The great Hadith collector Bukhari had to sift through literally hundreds of thousands (600,000) of stories to get to what he considered the most reliable (7000 only). Most of it he regards as fabrications.  These stories grow up in an atmosphere where Muslims are inventing all kinds of false things about Muhammad in order to justify their positions. Very difficult to take that seriously. But there’s an even bigger problem for Muslims.

The Quran over and over again talks about Muhammad being asked why he couldn’t perform miracles. And the response is never “What are you talking about? Muhammad is performing miracles all the time.” Let’s look at what the Quran says.

Surah 6:37 And they (the unbelievers) say: Why has not a sign been sent down to him from his Lord? Say: Surely Allah is able to send down a sign, but most of them do not know.

If Muhammad had been performing miracles, and they asked why has a sign not been sent down to him from his Lord, the appropriate response would have been “I did a miracle last week”.

Surah 10:20 And they say: Why is not a sign sent to him from his Lord? Say: The Unseen is only for Allah; therefore wait – surely I too, with you am those who wait.

“The Unseen things are only for Allah”, in other words “We don’t know.” 

Surah 11:12 Then it may be that you will give up part of what is revealed to you and your breasts will become straightened by it because they say: Why has not a treasure been sent down upon him or an angel come to him? You are only a Warner, and Allah is custodian over all things.

So why hasn’t a miracle come down upon Muhammad? Because Muhammad is only a Warner.

Surah 13:7 And those who disbelieve say: Why has not a sign been sent down upon him from his Lord? You are only a Warner and (there is) a guide for every people.

Surah 13:27 And those who disbelieve say: Why is not a sign set down upon him by his Lord? Say: Surely Allah makes him who will go astray, and guides to himself those who turn (to him).

Surah 17:59 And nothing could have hindered Us that we should send signs except that the ancients rejected them, and We gave to Samood the she-camel – a manifest sign – but on her account they did Injustice, and We do not send signs but to make (men) fear.

Why doesn’t Allah give a miracle to Muhammad? Because others rejected them, so therefore Muhammad doesn’t get one either. By this argument, I am also a prophet and I’m not going to bring any signs to you because others have already rejected them. 

Surah 29:50-51 And they say: Why are not signs sent down upon him from his Lord? Say: The signs are only with Allah, and I am only a plain Warner. Is it not enough for them that We have revealed to you the book which is recited to them? Most surely there is mercy in this and a reminder for people who believe.

“I’m just a Warner.” Anyone can do this job. Following this reasoning, isn’t every Muslim who preaches the Quran a warner? Over and over again in the Quran itself, people are challenging Muhammad. Jews are asking and Christians are asking, unbelievers are asking, polytheists are asking, the idolaters are asking “Why doesn’t this guy have any miracles?”

Muslims should realize they have to be skeptical, even about their most most trusted collections. Even stories stories about Muhammad performing miracles in their most trusted sources of stories about Muhammad, those passed the criteria for authentic narration but we know the stories are false because they contradict even the Quran doesn’t support the stories. 

It’s really baffling to me that Muslims will even want to argue about miracles using the Hadith. Why not the Quran? The Quran was around the time of Muhammad. Why didn’t God reveal such a thing? My objection to this silly argument is: it’s using something that was written two centuries later.  

Muslims do try to argue that there are miracles in the Quran but they’re only interpreting these as miracles because they’re interpreting them in the light of these later sources and not what the Quran actually says. Muslims have two examples that they pulled from the Quran to show that Muhammad did perform miracles. There is an obvious problem here. In these verses, if Muhammad is performing a miracle, that would be yet another example of a contradiction in the Quran because all these other versus deny that Muhammad could perform miracles and the Quran is his miracle.

Surah 17:1 refers to Muhammad’s night journey. Glory be to Him who made His servant to go on a night from the Sacred Mosque to the remote mosque of which We have blessed the precincts so that we may show to him some of Our signs. Surely He is the hearing, the seeing.

This is Muhammad going from Mecca to Jerusalem and this is supposedly an example of a miracle. The problem is that Aisha and other sources were asked about Muhammad’s night journey and she said he was in bed the entire time. So this is not Muhammad miraculously being taken away and him disappearing from Mecca and being taken to Jerusalem and so on. This is Muhammad getting some sort of vision. A miracle is intended for others to see but his own wife said he was asleep. Even if we assumed he left the room, nobody saw this. No one said “I saw something unusual, I saw the prophet fly, I saw an angel, I heard voices.” None of that and that by itself is a problem. Furthermore, we know historically that the far mosque, the Dome of the Rock, wasn’t built until 691 AD. So this verse is problematic anyway and proves that the Quran was tampered with later. It makes no sense for someone to say “I was taking on the journey. No one saw it but trust me on this one.”

Surah 54:1-2 The hour (of judgment) is nigh, and the Moon is cleft asunder. But if they see a sign, they turn away and say “This is (but) transient magic.

There are stories in the Hadith about Muhammad going out and splitting the moon in half and the unbelievers see it and this is a miracle. If you read this passage, it doesn’t say anything about Muhammad doing anything here. There’s nothing about Muhammad going out and saying that this is his sign or something like this or even that this is some past event. You can only conclude that this was talking about Muhammad miraculously doing anything by reading the Hadith rather than that story in the Hadith evolving out of this passage of the Quran. Even in Muslim commentaries, we find there are multiple interpretations of these words, which don’t involve Muhammad doing anything miraculous. Yusuf Ali’s Quran has three interpretations and he says that maybe they’re all true. He does believe that this refers to Muhammad miraculously splitting the moon. But he notes three explanations are given and perhaps all three apply here. 1. That the moon once appeared cleft asunder in the valley of Mecca within sight of the of the Prophet his companions and some unbelievers. 2. The prophetic past tense indicates the future cleaving asunder of the moon being a sign of the Judgment approaching. 3. That the phrase is metaphorical, meaning that the matter has become clear as the moon. Notice it says “if they see a sign”. That fits in perfectly with the other passage of the Quran. This people in the past didn’t believe in it so even if I showed you a sign, you’re not going to believe in someone. This sort of language here you even find it in in other passages of the Quran.

Surah 75:1-10 Allah says “I do call to witness the Resurrection Day and I do call the witness to self-reproaching spirit. Does man think that we cannot assemble his bones? Nay, we are able to put together in perfect order the very tips of his fingers. But man wishes to do wrong even in the time in front of him. He questions ‘When is the day of Resurrection?’ at length when the sight is dazed and the moon is buried in darkness and the sun and moon are joined together. That day will man say ‘Where is the Refuge?’”

The Quran uses this kind of language over and over again so when it is talking about the moon being cleft asunder and the sign of the approaching judgment, it sounds like it that’s referring to apocalypse, not something that’s happening during the time of Muhammad to confirm his prophethood. There’s not one word about Muhammad doing anything.

Muslims are quick to rush to Deuteronomy 18:18 and say only Muhammad is a prophet like Moses. Here is the Quran’s own admission that he is not very. Surah 28:48 When the truth comes to them from ourselves, they said “Why has he not been given the like of that Moses was given (which is signs)? Did they not disbelieve also in what Moses was given of old? 

This would have been the perfect opportunity for Muhammad to show that he is indeed a prophet like Moses. What about our Lord Jesus Christ? Even the Quran acknowledges that Jesus himself and his mother both of them were signs. Jesus himself, long after the ancients had been rejecting other miracles of other prophets, God still kept sending people miracles because the people who are there are different people from the ones who had rejected the miracle. And many people did believe in Jesus because of his miracles, even though other ancient people rejected miracles.

Muslims say God usually sends prophets to specific times and therefore the prophet will use miracles that are only applicable to their time. Muhammad used the Quran because poems and the linguistic style of the Quran would have been the perfect counter effect for that. If that’s the miracle of the time, why do we read over and over again in the Quran people saying “Why doesn’t he have a sign? This shows that the unbelievers, whether Jews or Christians or polytheists, didn’t view this as a miracle. In fact, when we look at the Muslim sources, we find many of them ridiculing this idea that Muhammad’s revelations are what confirm that he’s a prophet. History shows that people didn’t take this argument very seriously. Some followers early on were impressed by his revelations but that’s not how Muhammmad won lots of followers. When he fled Mecca, he did not have many people. It was only later on when his message changed to “Join me fight the unbelievers. If you die in battle, you get paradise and get your virgins. If you survive, you split up the war booty, will divide up the the female slaves and all their property and so on.” That’s when Muhammad started winning tons of followers. As far as the people of his time, very few people found this argument impressive.