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Healings and Miracles by Jesus and Muhammad
All the passages below are taken from Mark A. Gabriel’s* book “Jesus and Muhammad” published in 2004.
As a teenager, I had a great deal of respect in my community due to memorizing the Quran and attending Al-Azhar high school. As a result, people often called upon me to pray for friends or relatives who were sick.
When I visited someone who was sick, the first thing I would always do is sit next to him or her and recite from the Quran. I always recited the most well-known verse concerning healing:
And if Allah touches you with harm, there is none who can remove it but He, and if He intends any good for you, there is none who can repel His Favour which He causes it to reach whomsoever of His slaves He wills.
By reciting from the Quran, I hoped to get Allah's attention. Then I prayed: "0 Allah, your slave is sick. Sickness comes from you, but healing also comes from you. So we ask your mercy."
I was always a little bit uncomfortable with doing this. I felt that Allah was very far away, and I did not know whether he would pay attention to me or not. After all, the Quran says that no one can intervene to change Allah's intentions:
Say [0 Muhammad]: "Who then has any power at all (to intervene) on your behalf with Allah, if He intends you hurt or intends you benefit?"
- SURAH 48:11
Muhammad himself said that he was unable to influence Allah on his own behalf:
Say (0 Muhammad): I have no power over any harm or profit to myself except what Allah may will.
-SURAH 10:49 (SEE ALSO SURAH 7:188.)
So I left the patient each time with no knowledge of whether Allah would acknowledge my prayer. But I had done what Allah allowed me to do.
Healing and miracles is an area where the differences between Jesus and Muhammad are most evident. Before beginning the comparison between Jesus and Muhammad, I would like to explain why this topic is an area of great debate among Muslims.
THE DEBATE ABOUT MUHAMMAD AND MIRACLES
Whether Muhammad performed healings and miracles is a controversial topic among Muslims. Muslims accept that Jesus performed miracles (as supported by the Quran), but not everyone agrees on whether Muhammad performed miracles. This is because of contradictions between the Quran and the hadith (the record of Muhammad's teachings and actions). Remember that Muhammad had direct knowledge of what went into the Quran because the Quran is made up strictly of the revelations that he reported from the angel Gabriel. However, Muhammad did not have control over hadith. His followers could tell any story they wanted, whether it was true or not, and Muhammad had no control over it.
The Quran says Muhammad had no obligation to produce a sign to show that he was a prophet. Instead, the Quran is presented as the greatest sign of prophethood. Muhammad was to tell people:
"The signs are only with Allah, and I am only a plain warner." Is it not sufficient for them that We1 have sent down to you the Book (the Quran) which is recited to them?
- SURAH 29:50-51
In other words, Muhammad was to say, "I'm the prophet. Don't ask me for signs. Signs are for Allah to do." The revelation concluded, "The Quran is sign enough for you!"
All Muslims agree that the Quran is the greatest miracle given to humanity. The Quran declares that no other human or spirit could create a book to equal it.
Say: "If the mankind and the jinn were together to produce the like of this Quran, they could nor produce the like thereof, even if they helped one another."
- SURAH 17:88
Had We1 sent down this Quran on a mountain, you would surely have seen it humbling itself and rent asunder by the fear of Allah.
That is why reports of miracles in the hadith raise suspicions regarding their authenticity. Some Muslim scholars believe that most of these miracle stories were invented by Muhammad's followers after his death to help convince people that Muhammad was a true prophet. Other Muslims, however, strongly believe that the miracle accounts are accurate. When I was a child, I believed the stories I was taught. But we weren't really taught much about Muhammad doing miracles. This topic isn't emphasized in Islamic teaching.
With this understanding, let's compare the record regarding miracles for Jesus and Muhammad. For clarity we will divide the miracles into three categories: healing of physical illness, casting out demons, and miracles in the natural world. Lastly, we will look at whether Jesus or Muhammad empowered their followers to perform healings or miracles.
HEALING OF PHYSICAL ILLNESS
Even in the hadith, there are almost no stories about Muhammad praying for people to be healed of physical illness. I am only aware of the following two accounts.
Muhammad and Abu Bakr hid in a cave during their escape from Mecca to Medina (the second hijra). One historian says that Abu Bakr was bit by a poisonous snake and began to suffer from its poison. Muhammad said, "Don't be sad, Abu Bakr, because Allah is with us." Then Abu Bakr recovered.2 This is a very popular story among Muslims and is often used in sermons, especially at the annual celebration of hijra. The story was said to be narrated by Umar ibn al-Khattib based on hearing it from Abu Bakr. Even the historian, Ibn Kathir, said that this hadith was not familiar to him and he was suspicious of its authenticity.
Ibn Kathir also mentioned a different version of the story. In this account, Abu Bakr was with the apostle of Allah in the cave, and Abu Bakr's hand was hurt by a stone. Muhammad did not try to pray for him or touch his hand for healing, but Abu Bakr created a one-line Arabic poem, addressed to his finger. "You are just a finger, you are just a bleeding finger, and this bleeding is just because of Allah." Ibn Kathir denied the story with the snake, but he said that the story of Abu Bakr hurting his finger was likely to be true. Despite the words of the historian, most Muslims still believe the story about the snake.
The second example of healing comes from a hadith narrated by Aisha, who was Muhammad's second wife. She said that Muhammad used to pray for healing for his wives and other sick Muslims, touching them with his right hand as he prayed.3 However, Aisha is the only person who ever gave this report about Muhammad. If Muhammad commonly prayed for sick Muslims, then other followers should have reported it as well. There are no reports of people being healed after Muhammad's prayers.
Even if we find an account of healing in the hadith, it would stand directly against the teaching of the Quran, which says that Muhammad would not perform signs. If a hadith contradicts the Quran, the hadith must be rejected.
These comments of Aisha are usually not preached because healing is not a subject that the imams often discuss. It's just not a big part of Islam.
Rather than present examples of Allah providing healing, Islamic history shows some examples of times that healing was needed and it did not occur.
When the Muslims first came to Medina, many of them became sick and delirious from a high fever although Muhammad did not become sick. There is no record that he prayed for healings, but when he saw some Muslims doing their prayers while sitting down, he told them, "Know that the prayer of the sitter is only half as valuable as the prayer of the stander." The historian concludes: "Thereupon the Muslims painfully struggled to their feet despite their weakness and sickness, seeking a blessing."4
Muhammad had only two sons (Al-Kasim and Ibrahim), and both of them died in childhood. The hadith record this account of Ibrahim's death:
We went with Allah's Apostle to the blacksmith Abu Saif, and he was the husband of the wet-nurse of Ibrahim (the son of the Prophet). Allah's Apostle took Ibrahim and kissed him and smelled him and later we entered Abu Saif's house and at that time Ibrahim was in his last breaths, and the eyes of Allah's Apostle started shedding tears. 'Abdur Rahman bin 'Auf said, "0 Allah's Apostle, even you are weeping!" He said, "0 Ibn `Auf, this is mercy." Then he wept more and said, "The eyes are shedding tears and the heart is grieved, and we will not say except what pleases our Lord, 0 Ibrahim! Indeed we are grieved by your separation."5
If Muhammad could pray for healing, I believe he would have done so to keep his son from dying.
So the record is pretty simple: prayer for healing was not a significant part of Muhammad's life. It is possible that he never prayed for healings.
If you have read through any of the Gospels, you will notice that accounts of physical healing make up a significant part of the story line. Examples of healings include:
Regarding healing, we can see some ironic comparisons between Jesus and Muhammad. For example, Muhammad did not help his followers who were suffering from a fever, but the Gospels specifically mentioned Jesus healing fevers for two people---Peter's mother-in-law (Mark 1:29-31) and the official's son (John 4:48-52). Also, though Muhammad could not save his two sons from death, Jesus raised two children from the dead---a ruler's daughter and a widow's son. Jesus also healed a boy who was close to death in Capernaum just by telling his father, "Your son will live" (John 4:50 NIV).
At this point, we have established that healings played a major role in Jesus' life and a minor, or nonexistent, role in Muhammad's life. Now let's see what Jesus and Muhammad taught about the purpose of healing and the causes of sickness.
PURPOSE OF HEALINGS AND THE CAUSES OF SICKNESSES
I know of no teaching from Muhammad regarding the purpose of healing. He did, however, teach about the source of illness. Let's look again at the verse that I would quote to people who were sick:
And if Allah touches you with harm, there is none who can remove it but He, and if He intends any good for you, there is none who can repel His Favour which He causes it to reach whomsoever of His slaves He wills.
Muhammad taught that sickness came from Allah, so Muslims believe that when a person is affected by sickness, there is a reason behind it. Maybe the sick person did something wrong or sinned against Allah, so Allah gave him a disease to purify him from his wrongdoing. Muslims believe this purification will put that person in a better position to stand in front of Allah on Judgment Day.
This verse also says that Allah is the only one who can remove the disease. This teaching frustrated me as a Muslim. I wondered, "If you are sick and you pray to Allah for help, what do you expect? If Allah is the one who sent the disease, how can you convince him to take it back?"
Jesus said that his healings and miracles were a sign to show people that he really came from God.
When John heard in prison what Christ was doing, he sent his disciples to ask him, "Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?" Jesus replied, "Go back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor.
-MATTHEW 11:2-5 NIV
Similarly, Jesus said to the Jews:
The Jews gathered around him, saying, "How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly." Jesus answered, "I did tell you, but you do not believe. The miracles I do in my Father's name speak for me.
-JOHN 10:24-25 NIV
The Gospels also say Jesus was motivated to heal out of compassion for the people's suffering.
When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick.
SEE ALSO MATTHEW 20:34; MARK 1:41 NIV
Jesus' compassion for people's sickness is in character with his teaching regarding the source of illness. We can see Jesus' point of view through various comments that he made while healing people. He said:
1. Illness can be a result of sin.
Later Jesus found him [a man he healed] at the temple and said to him, "See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you."
-JOHN 5:14 NIV
2. Illness can occur without a fault.
As he [Jesus] went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" "Neither this man nor his parents sinned," said Jesus, "but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.
-JOHN 9:1-3 NIV
3. Illness can be caused by demons.
Then they brought him a demon-possessed man who was blind and mute, and Jesus healed him, so that he could both talk and see.
SEE ALSO MATTHEW 9:32-34; MARK 7:31-37 NIV
Now that we've looked at physical healing, let's look at a spiritual type of healing---casting out demons.
CASTING OUT DEMONS
Both Muhammad and Jesus spoke about demons in their teachings. The issue I want to address here is what each one did about people who came to them for help against demons.
Muhammad, on the other hand, was not known for casting out demons. In fact, the Quran says that jinn (or demons) came to
listen to Muhammad recite the Quran:
Say (0 Muhammad): "It has been revealed to me that a group of (from three to ten in number) jinn listened (to this Quran). They said: `Verily, we have heard a wonderful Recitation' (this Quran)!
This surah goes on to say that some of the jinn accepted Islam and became Muslims (Surah 72:14). When Muhammad prayed, they crowded around him to listen (Surah 72:19).
So Muhammad's relationship with demons was much different than Jesus'!
However, we do have an example of a woman coming to Muhammad and asking for help because she felt that she was being attacked by demons.
A Muslim woman came to him and told him, "These unclean ones---demons---possess me and torment me and torture me." Muhammad said, "If you are patient in what you are walking through, you will come in Resurrection Day before Allah clean from any sin, and there will be no judgment against you. She said, "I swear in the name of the one who sent you that I will have patience until I meet Allah, but I am afraid that this demon will come and make me take my clothes off (in public)"[that I will be sinning]. Then Muhammad told her, "Every time you feel the demon on you, you must go to Al-Ka'ba and wrap yourself in the fabric that is draped over the Black Stone." Then Muhammad prayed for her.6
Let's think about what Muhammad offered this woman. He did not remove the demon from her. Instead he told her to endure its harassment and said that she might get relief from going to the Black Stone at Al-Ka'ba.
Muhammad's advice to her actually contradicts teaching in the Quran, which says:
And if an evil whisper comes to you from Shaitan (Satan), then seek refuge with Allah. Verily, He is All Hearer, All-Knower.
We can conclude easily that Muhammad did not present himself as being able to cast out demons.
When Jesus encountered a person who was troubled by demons, he told the demons to leave the person's body. A good example is the story of the two crazed men Jesus encountered as they wandered around the tombs in the region of Gadara. They were so violent that people were afraid to travel that way. The demons in these men begged Jesus, "If you drive us out, send us into the herd of pigs." Jesus said to them, "Go!" and the demons came out of the men (Matthew 8:28-34 NIV).
Other examples of Jesus casting out demons include:
In addition to these specific stories, the Gospels often mention in general that Jesus cast out demons when the people came to him for help (Matthew 4:24; 8:16; Mark 1:34, 39 NIV). Jesus said he cast out demons by the power of God (Luke 11:14-28 NIV).
Now let us look at one area where the picture for Muhammad is hotly debated---miracles.
We have already learned that Muhammad was not known for praying for physical healing or for casting out demons. Was he known for doing miracles?
As I mentioned at the beginning of this chapter, this is an area of debate among Muslims. Muslims look to the Quran as the greatest miracle. Aside from that, miracles do not play a major role in the story line of Muhammad. In other words, miracles were not described as drawing crowds to Muhammad. They did not have a big effect on how people treated him or how he spread his message.
With this background, let's look at the references to possible miracles by Muhammad.
A well-known story is the "splitting of the moon," described in hadith as follows:
The people of Mecca asked the Prophet to show them a sign (miracle). So he showed them (the miracle) of the cleaving of the moon.7
The Quran makes reference to this in Surah 54:1:
The Hour has drawn near, and the moon has been cleft asunder.
Many Muslims believe the moon literally split in half and appeared as two pieces in the sky. The date is thought to be in Mecca about five years before hijra. However, no reference is made to this miracle when Muhammad is challenged to deliver a sign. This is an unsolved problem.
All the other examples of miracles appear only in hadith and are not mentioned in the Quran. These include:
Just as Jesus was popular because of his healings, he was also sought after because of miracles that he performed. A good example is when five thousand people came out to the desert to hear him teach, and they stayed so long that they became hungry. The disciples wanted to send them away, but when Jesus found five loaves of bread and two fish, he instructed the disciples to serve the people a meal. The miracle is that this small amount of bread and fish fed all the people. Later Jesus was hounded by people who remembered him multiplying the food (John 6:1-27 NIV).
Other examples of Jesus' miracles include:
Although some of the miracles were performed in the presence of crowds (the miracle at the wedding and the multiplication of food), the other ones were seen only by his closest followers.
So there are accounts of miracles by both Muhammad and Jesus. What was the purpose of these miracles?
Muhammad's purpose for miracles
Some say his miracles were a sign of Muhammad's prophethood, but the Quran declared that the revelations to Muhammad were the only sign that would be given. It is an issue of debate.
Jesus' purpose for miracles
Jesus used his miracles as a sign that he was God, particularly for his followers. For example, Jesus' first miracle was turning water to wine at a wedding. This was an effective demonstration of power to his new followers.
Jesus also performed miracles out of compassion, particularly when multiplying food for a crowd.
Jesus called his disciples to him and said, "I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat. I do not want to send them away hungry, or they may collapse on the way."
-MATTHEW 15:32 NIV
HEALINGS AND MIRACLES BY THE FOLLOWERS
The last section of this chapter will look at whether Jesus or Muhammad taught their followers to practice healings and miracles.
Muhammad did not teach his followers to pray for healing or miracles. There is no hadith where Muhammad said, "If one of your relatives or children are sick, pray and ask for healing from Allah." There is no record in Islamic history of any of Muhammad's companions doing healings or miracles. This was not their method of spreading the message of Islam. Instead, after Muhammad's death, they remained organized in a military fashion and continued to spread Islam through jihad.
Jesus expected his followers to do the same healings and miracles that he did and more.
I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.
-JOHN 14:12 NIV
When Jesus sent his disciples out to preach, he told them:
Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received, freely give.
-MATTHEW 10:8; SEE ALSO MARK 3:15; LUKE 10:9
The question is: Were the disciples able to heal and cast out demons like Jesus did? The answer was yes.
They went out and preached that people should repent. They drove out many demons and anointed many sick people with oil and healed them.
-MARK 6:12-13 NIV
The seventy-two returned with joy and said, "Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.
-LUKE 10:17 NIV
The New Testament account after Jesus' death and resurrection describes his followers performing "many wonders and miraculous signs" (Acts 2:43; see also Romans 15:19 NIV). For example:
The people were attracted to the disciples and their message because of the miracles and healings, just as they were attracted Jesus.
Healing and miracles help us to see more differences between Jesus and Muhammad. Jesus' public activity was propelled by healing, casting out demons, and performing miracles. After his death and resurrection, his followers also attracted the people to their message through healing, casting out demons, and miracles.
In contrast, Islamic history records only a few stories of miracles associated with Muhammad and almost no stories regarding healings or casting out demons.
Since healings were the way Jesus effectively spread his message, let us now turn to the most effective way Muhammad spread his message---through jihad, or holy war. [106-122]
1. In the Quran, the word We is often used in reference to Allah. The word is used to convey a sense of greatness, not to imply that there is more than one god.
2. Ibn Kathir, The Beginning and the End, vol. 2, pt 3, p. 190.
3. The Correct Books of Muslim, bk. 26, no. 5432.
4. Ibn Ishaq, p. 280. See also Ibn Hisham, vol. 2, pt. 3, pp. 132-133.
5. The Correct Books of Bukhari, vol. 2, bk. 23, no.390. Narrated by Anas bin Malik.
6. Ibn Kathir in Arabic, The Beginning and the End, vol 3, pt. 6, p. 154. Narrated by Ibn Abass.
7. The Correct Books o f Bukhari, vol. 6, bk. 60, no. 390. Narrated by Anas.
8. Ibid., vol. 4, bk. 56, no. 780.
9. Ibid., vol. 4, bk. 56, no. 779.
10. Ibid., vol. 4, bk. 56, no. 777.
1l. Ibid., vol. 1, bk. 7, no. 340.
12. Ibid., vol. 8, bk. 73, no. 115.
13. Ibid., vol. 1, bk. 8, no. 454.
14. Ibid., vol. 4, bk. 56, no. 783.
15. Ibid., vol. 4, bk. 56, no. 814.
16. Ibid., vol. 3, bk. 39, no. 517.
17. Ibid., vol. 5, bk. 58, no. 227.
*Dr. Gabriel was born in Egypt. When he was five-years-old, his uncle, who was an Imam, worked with him to memorize 2-3 verses of the Quran in classical Arabic, almost on a daily basis. By the time he was 12 years old he memorized the complete Quran.
Dr. Gabriel's academic credentials in Islamic scholarship include:
· Bachelor's, master's, and doctorate degrees in Islamic History and Culture from Al-Azhar University, Cairo, Egypt
· Graduating second in his class of six thousand students for his bachelor's degree. This ranking was based on cumulative scores of oral and written exams given at the end of each school year.
· At 28-years old, he was one of the youngest lecturers ever hired at Al-Azhar University. He started lecturing after he finished his master's degree and was working to finish his doctorate.
· Traveling lecturer. The university sent him to countries around the Middle East as a lecturer in Islamic history.
· As a scholar, he spent thirty years studying Islam and the life of Muhammad.
Al-Azhar University is the most respected, authoritative Islamic university in the world. It has been in continuous operation for more than one thousand years.
In addition to his academic training, Dr. Gabriel had practical experience, serving as the imam at a mosque in the Cairo suburbs.
After Dr. Gabricl became a Christian, in his mid thirty, he pursued a Christian education. His credentials in Christian education include:
· Discipleship Training School with Youth With A Mission in Cape Town, South Africa.
· Master's degree in World Religion from Florida Christian University in Orlando, Florida (2001).
· Doctorate degree in Christian Education from Florida Christian University in Orlando, Florida (2003).
· Induction as a fellow in the Oxford Society of Scholars, September 2003.
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