Miracles – One of the Most Misunderstood Subjects
The question of miracles is one of the most misunderstood subjects concerning the prophets and messengers of God.
On the one hand, God’s power is beyond any limitation – He is the sole Author of all the laws operating in the universe, is above them and can, therefore, if He deems it necessary, alter them at His Own Will:
The operation of miracles is not necessarily irrational or illogical. It does by no means constitute a limitation of the Omnipotence of God. The belief in the possibilities of miracles, on the contrary, implies that God’s power is beyond any limitation whatsoever. For it is only logical to believe that the Creator, Who is the sole Author of all the laws operating in the universe, is above them and can, therefore, if He deems it necessary, alter them at His Own Will. We, as humans, cannot possibly attempt to read His Mind, and to fully grasp His Wisdom. (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 489)
God can do anything he wants, even if it breaches the laws of nature:
To reject miracles on the ground that they imply a breach of the laws of nature is a very shallow, well-nigh a stupid argument, inasmuch as God Who is the Author of the universe can, in His Wisdom and Omnipotence, bring any change, no matter how temporary, in the operation of the laws which He Himself has created. (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 489)
All religions have their miracles and mysteries which can’t be explained by scientific theories:
Not only do all religions have their miracles and mysteries, but religion itself, and certain fundamental religious concepts, such as the nature of the Manifestations of God, are far from being explicable by present-day scientific theories. (Universal House of Justice, 1996 Feb 16, Misc. Questions – Talisman, Bahá’í Encyclopaedia, Virgin Birth)
The Manifestations of God have all performed miracles:
The Holy Manifestations are the sources of miracles and the originators of wonderful signs. For Them, any difficult and impracticable thing is possible and easy. For through a supernatural power wonders appear from Them; and by this power, which is beyond nature, They influence the world of nature. From all the Manifestations marvelous things have appeared. (Abdu’l-Baha, Some Answered Questions, p. 99)
Where did a belief in Miracles Come From?
The belief in miracles comes from the study of the Holy Books of old religions. Over the centuries, many miracles were passed on from generation to generation, without their inner significance being understood. On these miracles, many doctrines and dogmas were created, which became barriers between God and man:
The followers of all religions have attributed many miracles to their Prophets, miracles which traditionally are passed on from generation to generation although their inner significances have not been fully understood. Upon these miracles have been built, over the centuries, many doctrines and dogmas which have become mighty barriers between God and man. (Adib Taherzadeh, The Revelation of Baha’u’llah v 1, p. 107)
For example, the followers of a religion have come to regard their own Prophet as one who had a halo of light around his head and carried out supernatural acts to convince people of His station.
Consequently the followers of a religion regard their own Prophet as one who had a halo of light around his head and carried out supernatural acts to convince people of His station. (Adib Taherzadeh, The Revelation of Baha’u’llah v 3, p. 38)
Bahá’í teachers have had to lead those who are strictly and fanatically adhering to these beliefs, to a rational recognition of the divine qualities and spiritual powers possessed by the Manifestations of God:
In the East, at the time of Bahá’u’lláh, when the light of religion was still burning brightly within the hearts of men, the followers of these religions adhered strictly, indeed often fanatically, to their beliefs. Bahá’í teachers had to lead them from blind belief in miracles to a rational recognition of the divine qualities and spiritual powers possessed by the Manifestations of God. (Adib Taherzadeh, The Revelation of Baha’u’llah v 1, p. 107)
In the earlier days of the Bahá’í Faith when religion was still a vital force in society and exerted a far deeper influence upon the hearts of men than it does nowadays, people asked for religious proofs when they took part in discussion with Bahá’ís. One of the major questions was that of miracles. Many people believed blindly in them and the task of the Bahá’í teacher was to explain the reality and true significance of miracles in religion. But when beliefs are held fanatically a mere explanation is not always successful. This is why some of the old teachers of the Faith, when conversing with a dogmatic person whose religious beliefs bordered on vain imaginings, conducted their discussions in such a way as to enable him to first see the hollowness of his ideas, and then to present him with the Message of Bahá’u’lláh. This often helped those who were sincere and pure-hearted to see the light of truth. (Adib Taherzadeh, The Revelation of Baha’u’llah v 3, p. 39)
The Authenticity of Miracles
Religious leaders have endeavoured to emphasize miracles as one of the most important proofs of the authenticity of their faiths, but are they?
The belief in the possibility of miracles has never been rejected in the Teachings. Their importance, however, has been minimized:
The belief in the possibility of miracles has never been rejected in the Teachings. Their importance, however, has been minimized. (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 489)
Miracles are not a conclusive proof of the authenticity of Their Messages:
Bahá’u’lláh also speaks in this Tablet [the Sahifiy-i-Shattiyyih or Book of the River] about miracles which are attributed to the Prophets. He states that one should not deny the performance of miracles by these Holy Souls, but emphasizes that miracles are not a conclusive proof of the authenticity of Their Messages. (Adib Taherzadeh, The Revelation of Baha’u’llah v 1, p. 106)
People tend to deny and refuse to acknowledge them:
We do not need to mention miracles, saying that out of rock water gushed forth, for such miracles and statements may be denied and refused by those who hear them. (Abdu’l-Baha, Baha’i World Faith, p. 273)
Most miracles have an inner significance:
Also, most of the miracles of the Prophets which are mentioned have an inner significance … (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, p. 37)
Many of the miracles of the past have an inner meaning, rather than proving the existence of God:
Also, most of the miracles of the Prophets which are mentioned have an inner significance. For instance, in the Gospel it is written that at the martyrdom of Christ darkness prevailed, and the earth quaked, and the veil of the Temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom, and the dead came forth from their graves. If these events had happened, they would indeed have been awesome, and would certainly have been recorded in the history of the times. They would have become the cause of much troublings of heart. Either the soldiers would have taken down Christ from the cross, or they would have fled. These events are not related in any history; therefore, it is evident they ought not to be taken literally, but as having an inner significance. Our purpose is not to deny such miracles; our only meaning is that they do not constitute decisive proofs, and that they have an inner significance. (Abdu’l-Baha, Some Answered Questions, p. 37-38)
Miracles are proofs for eyewitnesses only; and even they may regard them not as miracles but as enchantments:
I do not wish to mention the miracles of Bahá’u’lláh, for it may perhaps be said that these are traditions, liable both to truth and to error, like the accounts of the miracles of Christ in the Gospel, which come to us from the apostles, and not from anyone else, and are denied by the Jews … Yes, miracles are proofs for the eyewitness only, and even he may regard them not as a miracle but as an enchantment. Extraordinary feats have also been related of some conjurors. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, p. 37)
Why don’t we need miracles?
Miracles only offer proofs and arguments for those who are present and not those who are absent.
But in the Holy Books an especial terminology is employed, and for the Manifestations these miracles and wonderful signs have no importance. They do not even wish to mention them. For if we consider miracles a great proof, they are still only proofs and arguments for those who are present when they are performed, and not for those who are absent. (Abdu’l-Baha, Some Answered Questions, p. 99)
Those who believe miracles one day can become covenant-breakers the next:
Many prominent people of Haifa and ‘Akká who used to attribute miracles to Him in the past now shunned Him and secretly joined hands with Covenant-breakers against Him. (Adib Taherzadeh, The Child of the Covenant, p. 151)
We want to exchange the divinely-revealed verses for our foul, vile and idle desires:
The people derisively observed saying: “Work thou another miracle, and give us another sign!” One would say: “Make now a part of the heaven to fall down upon us”; and another: “If this be the very truth from before Thee, rain down stones upon us from heaven.” Even as the people of Israel, in the time of Moses, bartered away the bread of heaven for the sordid things of the earth, these people, likewise, sought to exchange the divinely-revealed verses for their foul, their vile, and idle desires. (Bahá’u’lláh, Kitáb-i-Iqan, p. 207)
We content ourselves with the stagnant waters of a briny lake, clamouring for guidance while ignoring the guidance we’ve been given:
In like manner, thou beholdest in this day that although spiritual sustenance hath descended from the heaven of divine mercy, and been showered from the clouds of His loving kindness, and although the seas of life, at the behest of the Lord of all being, are surging within the Ridvan of the heart, yet these people, ravenous as the dogs, have gathered around carrion, and contented themselves with the stagnant waters of a briny lake. Gracious God! how strange the way of this people! They clamour for guidance, although the standards of Him Who guideth all things are already hoisted. They cleave to the obscure intricacies of knowledge, when He, Who is the Object of all knowledge, shineth as the sun. (Bahá’u’lláh, Kitáb-i-Iqan, p. 207)
There is a great difference between fact and belief.
There is a great difference between fact and belief. There are things in this life whose existence is proved and no one has ever denied them. For example, the existence of the sea on this planet is a proven fact and no person, including those who have never seen the sea, has ever denied its existence. But having a belief in something with which a number of people may disagree is a different matter. Such a belief may not be used as factual evidence for the simple reason that its authenticity is challenged, even though the belief in itself may be true. Miracles are examples of this. For instance, the followers of Christ believe that He performed many miracles. But since many people have denied the claim, one cannot consider these miracles as a factual reality, although they may well have been performed. (Adib Taherzadeh, The Revelation of Baha’u’llah v 3, p. 39-40)
What miracles do we look for?
The miracles we pray for on the material plane are often transitory and of no importance to our eternal life:
The outward miracles have no importance for the people of Reality. If a blind man receives sight, for example, he will finally again become sightless, for he will die and be deprived of all his senses and powers. Therefore, causing the blind man to see is comparatively of little importance, for this faculty of sight will at last disappear. If the body of a dead person be resuscitated, of what use is it since the body will die again? But it is important to give perception and eternal life — that is, the spiritual and divine life. (Abdu’l-Baha, Some Answered Questions, p. 100)
Spiritual miracles are more important than physical miracles as this story demonstrates:
As the Master went up the aisle he stopped and greeted Mrs. Dealy lovingly. She reached for his hand and said, “‘Abdu’l-Bahá, please put your hand on my four head, and I know I will see.” “Yes, my daughter,” He answered, “You will see. But you will have to choose. You may have your spiritual sight or your physical sight – which do you desire?” She said with emotion: “‘Abdu’l-Bahá, that is no choice! I would be blind 1000 years before I would give up my spiritual sight!” “Well said, my daughter, well said,” replied the Master as He touched her shoulder, and continued on His way out. Sitting next to her on that bench, Leroy Ioas realized with a chill how in that moment she had decided on her own destiny. She was steadfast. (Earl Redman, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in Their Midst, p. 116)
In the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh there are many references to miracles.
Although there were many wonderful things done by Bahá’u’lláh, we do not recount them, as they do not constitute proofs and evidences for all the peoples of the earth; they are not decisive proofs even for those who see them; and they have an inner significance:
Briefly, my meaning is that many wonderful things were done by Bahá’u’lláh, but we do not recount them, as they do not constitute proofs and evidences for all the peoples of the earth, and they are not decisive proofs even for those who see them: they may think that they are merely enchantments . . . Our purpose is not to deny such miracles; our only meaning is that they do not constitute decisive proofs, and that they have an inner significance. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, p. 37)
Although Bahá’u’lláh forbade His followers to attribute miracles to Him, nevertheless there are many accounts left to posterity by His disciples, describing the circumstances in which He either healed incurables or raised the dead. We don’t consider these supernatural acts to be a proof of the truth of His Cause, because this would amount to the degradation of His exalted station:
Although Bahá’u’lláh has forbidden His followers to attribute miracles to Him, nevertheless there are many accounts left to posterity by His disciples, describing the circumstances in which He either healed incurables or raised the dead. But none of these supernatural acts were considered by His followers to be a proof of the truth of His Cause, as otherwise this would amount to the degradation of His exalted station. (Adib Taherzadeh, The Revelation of Baha’u’llah v 3, p. 360)
Why don’t people believe the miracles they’ve been given?
Miracles are only convincing to a limited number of people:
Miracles are likewise convincing to a limited number only. For instance, a Buddhist would not be convinced by the miracles of Moses which are proofs only so far as the orthodox Jews are concerned, because they love Moses. On the other hand the miracles attributed to Jesus Christ are refuted by the Jews as a whole, saying “No one lives today who has seen these miracles performed, therefore, who can bear testimony to them? (Abdu’l-Baha, Divine Philosophy, p. 43-44)
They have been taken out of context:
The meaning is not that the Manifestations are unable to perform miracles, for They have all power. But for Them inner sight, spiritual healing and eternal life are the valuable and important things. Consequently, whenever it is recorded in the Holy Books that such a one was blind and recovered his sight, the meaning is that he was inwardly blind, and that he obtained spiritual vision, or that he was ignorant and became wise, or that he was negligent and became heedful, or that he was worldly and became heavenly. (Abdu’l-Baha, Some Answered Questions, p. 101)
They blind us to the truth:
They see the sun with their own eyes, and yet question that brilliant Orb as to the proof of its light. They behold the vernal showers descending upon them, and yet seek an evidence of that bounty. The proof of the sun is the light thereof, which shineth and envelopeth all things. The evidence of the shower is the bounty thereof, which reneweth and investeth the world with the mantle of life. Yea, the blind can perceive naught from the sun except its heat, and the arid soil hath no share of the showers of mercy. “Marvel not if in the Qur’án the unbeliever perceiveth naught but the trace of letters, for in the sun, the blind findeth naught but heat.” (Bahá’u’lláh, Kitáb-i-Iqan, p. 207)
On a personal level, often the miracles we’re looking for don’t come until the “eleventh hour” or almost the last possible minute:
He, as well as some of the other friends who are motivated by a great force of faith, believe firmly that God’s miracles will not fail to perform their wonders and at the very eleventh hour the full sum will be collected. (Shoghi Effendi, Extracts from the USBN)
I’m sure the purpose is to develop our patience and trust in God!
What’s been your experience with miracles? Post your comments below!