Miracle in Islam - Mujiza or Ayah?
By: Khurshid Imam
A. Mujiza or Ayah?
The triliteral root ʿayn jīm zāy (ع ج ز) occurs 26 times in the Quran. Arabic word 'mujiza' is derived from it. It means "that by means of which [the Prophet] confounds, overwhelms, his opponents" or in simple words “miracle”.
Generally, we use the word 'miracle' or 'mujiza' to describe something that perplexes human mind and can't be explained. For many events mentioned in the Quran, we use these terms.
However, the shocking fact is that Qur'an does not use the technical Arabic word (مُعْجِزَة Muʿjiza) for 'miracle'. When we go through statements in Quran that talk about so-called-miraculous events, we do not find the Arabic word 'mujiza' mentioned in the text.
Instead of 'mujiza', Quran uses the term 'Ayah' (literally meaning sign) to describe such events [what we call as miracles].
B. Quran as witness
Let us ponder over few examples from Quran
1. Prophet Salih and the miracle of the she-camel:
Prophet Salih referred to the she-camel as 'Ayah' of Allah. In general, people think that the she-camel was sent as 'mujiza or miracle but Quran says that she was an Ayah from Allah. Refer Quran 7:73
In English translations you can see the word "Miracle" added in bracket in front of the word 'ayah'.
2. Prophet Moses and miracles for Firaun:
Quran describes all miracles shown to firaun as ‘Ayah’ of Allah.
Then [Musa (Moses)] showed him the great AYAH (usually translated as miracles). Quran 79:20
But [Fir'aun (Pharaoh)] belied and disobeyed. Quran 79:21
Quran is saying that Prophet Moses showed ‘Ayah’ to Firaun. We know that Moses showed many events to Firaun that we understand as miracle.
➢ Quran 20:22 – Stick as snake was an Ayah and not Mujiza.
➢ Quran 20:56 – Allah showed all Ayah to Firaun.
➢ Quran 20:72 – Magicians surrendered and believed in Ayah shown to them.
➢ Quran 10:92 – Preservation of Firaun’s body is an Ayah from Allah.
➢ Quran 7:106-109 – Firaun asked Moses to show the Ayah, Moses showed the Ayah of snake and stick and magicians were surprised to see; they attributed this event to sorcery.
Quran 7:130-132 refers to “years of drought and shortage of crops” as ‘Ayah’. Similarly, events of flood, locusts, lice, frogs, blood are referred to as Ayah of Allah sent for Firaun.
C. What difference it makes whether it is ‘Mujiza’ or ‘Ayah’?
One may question: what is the big deal in use of word ‘Ayah’ or absence of word ‘Mujiza’?
When we use word ‘miracle’ or ‘Mujiza’ for an event then we assume it to be:
✓ Super natural event
✓ Something that is beyond human perception
✓ Something that goes against laws of nature.
However, Quran attributes these events to be Ayah of Allah. Arabic word ‘Ayah’ is difficult to translate in any language because it comes solely from Allah. Loosely, we can translate it as ‘Sign’. Ayah of Allah are of two types:
➢ In the Quran: Every sentence in the Quran is an Ayah of Allah.
➢ Outside the Quran: Everything surrounding us reflect Ayah of Allah.
1. Time and again Allah urges readers of Quran to deeply ponder over Ayah of Allah.
2. Quran also says that in the ‘work’ of Allah there is Ayah for those who think.
Ayah of Allah is for human beings to ponder upon, derive guidance and benefit. When we assume that it’s not an Ayah but a super natural event then we deprive mankind of the benefits of Ayah.
We keep on discovering and knowing more details of Ayah or 'signs' of Allah.
For example, Quran 2:164 says that those who use ‘aql’ or intellect will find many things from following Ayah of Allah:
- Creation of heavens and the earth
- Alternation of day and night
- Sailing of ship through oceans
- Moving Creatures
- Movement of wind
Quran says that all above events are Ayah of Allah for those who use intellect / AQL.
Today, science has discovered many aspects of above Ayah of Allah, which earlier people did not know. The more people pondered over above Ayah of Allah, more knowledge they gained.
Similarly, the more we will ponder over so-called-miracles or ‘Mujiza’, better we will understand its mechanism. Mujiza is neither super natural nor it’s against the laws of nature. If we ponder over it more, we will be able to explain its mechanism better.
1. Quran uses the Arabic word ‘Ayah’ to indicate events that we deem as miracle. Quran never uses the word ‘Mujiza’ in context with such events.
2. With the passage of time, we keep on moving from less knowledge domain to more knowledge domain.
3. Whatever the so-called-miracle occurred in the past, they occurred as part of God's laws. We might discover many of these laws in future. We will explore more and more regarding Ayah of Allah.
4. Miracles of Quran are for us to ponder over and derive the guidance.
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