On an internet forum, recently some very inappropriate remarks were made against miracles which are established realities clearly pronounced by the Noble Qur’aan. In fact, Qur’aan itself is the living miracle that was always presented as the evidence of the truth of Rasoolullaah when challenged by Kuffaar. Although we can talk about the miracles from different angles on the basis of the Qur’aan itself, I will defer discussion on those aspects to part two of this article. Today, I will briefly talk about the Sunnah of Allaah, because it has been suggested that miracles are against Allaah’s Sunnah and thus are not acceptable. This stance is far from the truth as presented by the Qur’aan. Miracles are, in fact, a well-established Sunnah of Allaah SWT, as will be evident when we study the Noble Qur’aan with an open mind, and as will be shown by this two-part article.
The Qur’aan mentions a term “Sunnatullaah” (the Sunnah of Allaah) and tells us that Sunnatullaah never changes. The question is what is “Sunnatullaah that never changes”. Some people take it as an isolated term (without any context) and then speculate that it means the laws of nature as we know and experience them. Then they conclude that because laws of nature as we understand them are the Sunnatullaah and the Sunnatullaah never changes, hence, nothing can happen in this universe against the known laws of nature. Using this logic, they reject and deny any miracles shown by Allaah through any of His messengers, because those miracles defy the laws of nature as we know them.
To have a clear and accurate understanding, let us first determine, what is the Sunnah of Allaah?
A Sunnah means a beaten path, an action repeated consistently or one’s repeatedly consistent way of dealing with certain situations. Allaah’s Sunnah will be Allaah’s established policy or consistent way of dealing with people. This being a Qur’aanic term, instead of speculating, we should refer to the Qur’aan to find out how it uses this term and for what situations. Obviously, to understand the meaning properly, we cannot take the verses in isolation. We would have to look at the context as well. Following are the instances in the Qur’aan where unchanging Sunnah of Allaah has been mentioned:
1. The Qur’aan says:
And surely, they are also bent upon uprooting you from this land (Makkah) in order to expel you from it; in that case, they will not remain there after you, except for a short while. Such has been Our Sunnah with those of Our messengers We sent before you, and you will not find a change in Our Sunnah. (Banee Isra’eel 17:76-77)
In these two verses, which were revealed just before Hijrah (migration) of Rasoolullaah (the Messenger of Allaah SA‘WS), Allaah SWT is assuring Rasoolullaah that just as He (Allaah) has always in the past ensured the safety and victory of His messengers and the destruction of their enemies, the same Sunnah of Allaah SWT will continue in the matter of Rasoolullaah and his Makkan enemies. Here the Sunnah of Allaah refers to His Policy of helping His messengers and eliminating those of their enemies who exceed all bounds and try to kill or evict a messenger. Consequently, just a year after his Hijrah, all those leaders of the Quraish who were instrumental in plotting against Rasoolullaah were killed at Badr.
2. Al-Aĥzaab states:
There can be no reproach for the Prophet in what Allaah has obligated for him. That has been the Sunnah of Allaah with respect to those who have gone before – and the command of Allaah (to messengers) is a predetermined destiny (for them) – those who convey the messages of Allaah and fear Him, and do not fear anyone but Allaah; and Allaah is sufficient as a Supporter. (Al-Aĥzaab 33:38-39)
The context of these verses is that Allaah had commanded Rasoolullaah to marry Zainab to break an un-Islamic tradition. Rasoolullaah did as commanded being the most obedient servant of Allaah, though he was hesitant and reluctant, apprehensive about the vilifying attacks on his personality he would have to endure from the hypocrites and other enemies (and those attacks continue till this day). Through these verses, Allaah is reminding the world by addressing Rasoolullaah that Allaah’s policy (Sunnah) is that a messenger did not have a choice or an option. A messenger had to do what he was commanded without being concerned about how the world would react.
3. Al-Aĥzaab declares:
If the hypocrites and those in whose psyche is a disease and those who monger seditious rumours in Madeenah do not desist, We will certainly incite you against them; then they will not remain your neighbors except for a short while; accursed, they will be seized wherever found and mercilessly killed. This has always been the Sunnah of Allaah, and you will never find any change in Allaah’s Sunnah. (Al-Aĥzaab 33:60-62)
In this case, Sunnah of Allaah refers to His Policy of severely punishing those who persistently spread Fitnah against a messenger and an Islamic society.
4. Faaŧir describes:
They used to swear their strongest oaths by Allaah that if a warner came to them, they would follow his guidance better than any of the previous peoples; but when a warner came to them, it increased them only in aversion (to the Message) and in evil scheming (against the Messenger) because of their arrogance in the land; and the evil scheme does not engulf except its authors. So, are they but waiting to be dealt with the way the earlier people were punished? Then, you will not find any change in Allaah’s Sunnah in this regard, nor will you find any way of circumventing Allaah’s Sunnah. Have they not travelled in the land and seen how was the end of those before them – and they were even mightier than them in power? And Allaah is not such that anything in the heavens or in the earth could ever frustrate Him; He is All-Knowing, All-Powerful. (Faaŧir 35:42-44)
Once again, Sunnah of Allaah refers to the way Allaah deals with people who reject a messenger; avert from him and his message; and plot against him. It gives Makkans a clear message that they will be dealt with exactly as it has always happened.
5. Verses 82-85 of Al-Mu’min (Ghaafir) have this to say:
Have they not traveled through the land and observed what was the end of those before them? They were mightier than them in strength and left more impressive traces on the earth; but what they used to accomplish was of no use to them. For when their messengers came to them with clear messages and arguments, they exulted in the knowledge they had with them; and what they used to ridicule enveloped them. However, when they saw Our punishment, they said, “We believe in Allaah alone and disbelieve in that which we used to join with Him in our devotions and invocations.” But never did their faith benefit them once they saw Our punishment; this is the Sunnah of Allaah which has always been practised in the matter of His slaves; and there and then the disbelievers became the losers. (Al-Mu’min 40:82-85)
Here, Sunnah of Allaah refers to His policy of not accepting the faith of people once the punishment appeared beyond doubt right in front of them.
6. Allaah SWT assures the Prophet and his companions:
If the Makkan disbelievers had fought you (at Ĥudaibiyyah), they would have turned their backs and fled; then they would not have found any protector or helper. This is the Sunnah of Allaah that has been practised consistently in the past; and you will never find any change in Allaah’s Sunnah. (Aali ‘Imraan 3:102)
Once again, these verses refer to the fact that the disbelievers would always turn their backs and run away in an actual battle against a messenger, and then there would be no place for hiding or for their protection. It reiterates the Sunnah of Allaah that eventually a messenger of Allaah would always be victorious.
These quotations clearly indicate that the Qur’aanic term “Sunnah of Allaah” has been used in the Qur’aan only, and only in reference to Allaah’s consistent practice in dealing with His messengers and their followers, on the one hand, and a messenger’s die-hard opponents, on the other. Hence, the Sunnah of Allaah or Allaah’s consistent practice is the following:
- Allaah SWT sends a messenger as a watershed event for the society to which He sends him. The messenger’s mandate is to restore balance, justice and goodness by establishing Islam as the prevailing way of life and to clean up that society from all kinds of disbelief in and disobedience to Allaah SWT. The messenger’s mission is accomplished when the society is operating fully and purely according to the Islamic teachings and the Islamic system becomes the governing system in that society, without any opposition from any segment of the society.
- To enable messengers to fulfill their mission, they are sent with clear signs, rational evidence, miracles and teachings (Bayyinaat) so that the reasonable people realize that this caller towards Allaah is not an ordinary person but a special person sent by Allaah as His representative who must be listened to, believed in and obeyed.
- The messengers are obligated to present the Islamic message to the people of their society, resulting in the good elements becoming Muslims while the wicked of the society becoming their enemies, who persecute and terrorise Muslims. The messenger organizes these Muslims in the form of a team (Jamaa’ah) and they all continue to work hard to expand their team until every citizen of the society who has any goodness in his/her heart voluntarily joins them. During this period, the messenger and his companions steadfastly endure the abuse and persecution that they are subjected to by the corrupt powers in control.
- The disbelievers are afforded a generous period of respite to allow them full opportunity to think, assess and believe. Once a Messenger had done everything in his human power to present and expound upon the Islamic teachings, his blind, bigoted or arrogant opponents and hypocrites are clearly and repeatedly warned that they will be destroyed in this world and punished severely and eternally in the Hereafter.
- If the messenger and followers are still too small in number to form a government, and Allaah determines that no one else from their society is going to open his or her heart to convert, Allaah takes the Muslims out of that locality and destroys the rest through a natural disaster. If the messenger and his followers are numerous and strong enough to establish an Islamic government on their own, the opponents of the mission are eliminated in the ensuing battles between the believers and disbelievers or through a natural disaster or a combination of both. In any, case the messenger and his companions are eventually able to establish a pure Islamic society that is governed by Islam as a complete way of life, establish Islamic justice, peace and excellence as mandated by Allaah SWT. The result always is that after a messenger has come, he and his followers are helped by Allaah SWT so that they always succeed and prevail. Those who refuse to believe, after all opportunities of preaching to them have been exhausted, are destroyed one way or the other and the society starts its new life under a purely Islamic system.
- When the respite is over and the punishment manifests, acceptance of faith at that time is futile.
In short, both the eventual dominance of a messenger of Allaah and the eventual destruction of the disbelievers after due respite are predetermined and unavoidable Sunnah of Allaah SWT, as He summarized it in Aŝ-Ŝaafaat as follows:
Our decree has already been given for our slaves, the messengers, that they would certainly be helped, and our forces would definitely be the victorious ones. (Aŝ-Ŝaafaat 37:171-173)
And in Al-Mujaadalah, people were reminded as under:
Indeed, those who contend with Allaah and His messenger will be among the most humiliated. Allaah has decreed, “I will most assuredly prevail, I and My messengers;” indeed, Allaah is Strong, All-Mighty. (Al-Mujaadalah 58:20-21)
The readers must, however, remember that the complete destruction of the enemies of Islam is conditional upon the presence of a messenger of Allaah; and Prophet Muĥammad (ŜAʻWS) was the last prophet and the last messenger of Allaah SWT. As there is no new messenger to come, the aspects of Allaah’s Sunnah related to the presence of a messenger are naturally inapplicable to any struggle for the establishment of the Deen of Islam currently, until the messenger Jesus ‘alayhissalaam returns to live out his remaining life to his natural death. However, the good news of Allaah’s help, support, appreciation and reward for those who persevere in His way, mentioned in all chapters of this group, applies to all those who persevere in sincere efforts for the establishment of Allaah’s Deen.
This is, according to the Qur’aan and its context, the “Sunnatullaah” that never changes, which in other words, means that Allaah is consistent in His policy and His ways. Allaah’s policy or ways do not change, nor do they need to change, because all of His ways and decisions are based on His infinite knowledge and infinite wisdom and thus are infinitely perfect from the beginning, without ever needing any fine-tuning or adjustment.
Now that we have determined the correct meaning of the term ‘Sunnatullaah’ in the light of the Qur’aan itself, it is evident that it has nothing to do with the laws of nature and that miracles are not against Sunnatullaah, but a part of it. The Qur’aanic term for the laws of nature is Taqdeer. If one looks at all the verses of the Qur’aan that use the word Taqdeer in their proper context, it will become evident that Allaah SWT has used the word Taqdeer only in the context of the laws of nature and the natural processes that Allaah SWT had implemented for the operation of this universe and all of Allaah’s creations in it. Thus, Taqdeer refers to all of the laws and processes of nature through which Allaah SWT has automated the operation of the universe and His creations contained therein and through which Allaah SWT has preprogrammed all of His creation to operate and function in the way He wanted them to function. It should be clearly understood that Allaah SWT has subjected His creations to Taqdeer, while He is over and above the Taqdeer and retains full power and authority to overrule or nullify the Taqdeer to which He has subjected His creations.Those people who deny miracles do not interpret the term Sunnatullaah in its Qur’aanic context, but treat it as an isolated term, outside of its context. Then, because the laws of nature operate consistently, they wrongly speculate that the laws of nature must be the Sunnah of Allaah. On the basis of this misunderstanding, they conclude that nothing can happen in this universe against the known laws of nature because Sunnatullaah does not change. Using this logic, they reject and deny any miracles shown by Allaah through any of His messengers because the miracles by nature are supernatural. (1)
1 They violate the laws of nature as we understand them.
This reasoning shows that, in addition to Sunnatullaah, they do not even understand Taqdeer and the difference between Sunnatullaah and Taqdeer. Therefore, they are totally confused between the two. They need to understand that Taqdeer (the laws and processes of nature) is applicable only to the creations of Allaah for whom He has been decreed it. Allaah SWT can and does overrule it as and when He wants. On the other hand, Sunnatullaah is about Allaah’s personal policy and ways of dealing with human beings according to their behaviour, not something that determines the behaviour of His creations; and thus, has nothing to do with the laws of nature. Taqdeer (predetermined laws and processes of nature) provides the constraints and framework within which Allaah’s creations operate, while Sunnatullaah describes Allaah’s own policy of how to treat people.
In summary, the Qur’aan indicates Sunnatullaah as Allaah’s own policy of dealing with His messengers, the Islamic movements, their followers and their opponents. Granting of miracles to messengers is very much part of this Sunnah of Allaah, as they are used to introduce the messengers at the launch of the Islamic movement and to help them succeed eventually over their opponents. According to His own Sunnah, Allaah SWT makes miracles happen to help His messengers, by overruling or setting aside some aspects of Taqdeer – the laws and processes that He has promulgated for His creations.