The Demand of Miracles from the Holy Prophet
Many miracles and signs of Allah had already appeared before the disbelievers (Kuffar) of Makkah. The Holy Prophet ﷺ graced this world as an orphan. Unschooled and untutored, he lived his whole life as a total Ummiyy (unlettered). He was born in a land with no scholar or institution of learning, near or far. For a full forty years of his blessed age, he lived before the eyes of the entire people of Makkah in this state of chaste tutorlessness. Then, after forty long years, it was all of a sudden that there gushed forth from his blessed speech such mind-boggling stream of words the eloquence of which challenged and silenced the masters and authorities of Arab diction forever. Besides being wisdom and meaning at their sublimes, its far reaching insight covered pragmatic human needs too right unto the day of Qiyamah. Along with these, he gifted to the world a practical system for the nurture and flowering of the perfect universal man. No human ingenuity or effort can ever achieve something like this. And the system he brought was no exercise in pure theory for others to build upon, for he himself demonstrated it practically and succeeded in proving that it worked. Thus, the human multitude of his time which had taken to eating, drinking, sleeping and waking as the purpose of their lives likes bulls, goats, horses and donkeys, to them he gave their essential lesson in humanity. He changed their orientation. He made them look up to the high purpose for which they were created. Thus, every period in the blessed life of the Holy Prophet ﷺ and the great events which took place during it, were all a miracle in their place, and very certainly, a sign of Allah. In such a background, there was no room left for anyone just and reasonable to demand any sign or miracle.
But, the disbelievers from among the Quraysh, despite this, demanded that miracles of a different kind be shown to them according to their own wishes. Of the miracles demanded by them, there were some Allah Almighty showed to them clearly. They had demanded that they would like to see the moon parted in two. The well-known miracle of Shaqqul-Qamar (the parting of the moon) was witnessed, not only by the Quraysh, but by a great number of people living in the world of that time.
But, they kept sticking to their disbelief, obstinacy and hostility despite the manifestation of such a miracle at their own request and ignored the sign of Allah by saying: إِنْ هَـٰذَا إِلَّا سِحْرٌ يُؤْثَرُ,(this is nothing but a continuous magic), that is, it was a magic which has been there forever. They saw, they understood, yet they kept on asking for ever-new miracles as mentioned earlier (verse 37): لَوْلَا نُزِّلَ عَلَيْهِ آيَةٌ مِّن رَّبِّهِ ۚ قُلْ إِنَّ اللَّـهَ قَادِرٌ عَلَىٰ أَن يُنَزِّلَ آيَةً وَلَـٰكِنَّ أَكْثَرَهُمْ لَا يَعْلَمُونَ that is, they ask if Muhammad ﷺ is really the Messenger of Allah, why is it that no miracle has been shown through him? In answer, the Qur'an asks the Holy Prophet ﷺ to tell them that Allah does have everything within his power. He has Him-self manifested many miracles and signs without their asking for them. Similarly, He is quite capable of manifesting miracles they de-manded. But, they have to know that there is a customary practice of Allah in this matter. When a people are shown the miracle they have demanded, and then, when they do not come to believe in it, they are seized by a sudden punishment. Therefore, it was in the very interest of those people that the miracles demanded by them should not be manifested. But, there are many people who still do not understand the wisdom of this action and keep insisting that they be shown miracles of their choosing.
In the present verses, the questions asked and demands made by these people have been dealt with in a particular manner.
The disbelievers of Makkah had presented three demands before the Holy Prophet ﷺ on different occasions: (1) If you are really a Messenger of Allah, bring to us the treasures of the whole world through the power of miracle; (2) If your are really a Messenger of Allah, tell us about everything good and bad going to happen to us in the future, so that we can arrange to acquire what is good and abstain from what is bad beforehand; and (3) Explain to us for we cannot understand how can someone who is a human being like us, is from us, was born from a mother and father like us, and does things like eating, drinking, and walking around in streets and bazaars as we do, all of a sudden become a Messenger of Allah. Had this been an angel, whose creation and attributes would have been more distinguished than ours, we would have accepted him as a Messenger of Allah, and our leader.
In answer to these questions, it was said:
قُل لَّا أَقُولُ لَكُمْ عِندِي خَزَائِنُ اللَّـهِ وَلَا أَعْلَمُ الْغَيْبَ وَلَا أَقُولُ لَكُمْ إِنِّي مَلَكٌ ۖ إِنْ أَتَّبِعُ إِلَّا مَا يُوحَىٰ إِلَ
Say, "I do not say to you that with me are the treasures Allah, nor do I have the knowledge of the Unseen, nor do I say to you that I am angel. But, I follow that which is revealed to me."
In other words, the Holy Prophet ﷺ is saying that he can only be asked to prove what he claims, that is, he is a Messenger of Allah. He conveys the guidance given by Him to human beings, and follows it personally and asks others as well to do so. There is no dearth of proofs in this matter for they are many.
So, to prove his prophethood, it is not necessary that the messenger of Allah should become the owner of all the treasures of Allah, nor is it necessary that he should possess the knowledge of everything, big or small, which lies in the domain of the Unseen (al-ghayb), nor is it necessary that he be an angel having attributes other than human. Instead of all that, the mission and office of a messenger of Allah is simply to follow the Wahy (revelation) sent from Allah Ta` ala - which includes his own acting in accordance with it as well as inviting others to follow it.
These are precise rules of Guidance. They not only clarify the reality of the office of a Messenger of Allah (Rasul) but also help erase the false notions about a Messenger entertained by the disbelieving people. And as implied here indirectly, Muslims too have been instructed that they should not take their Messenger to be God as the Christians do, nor assign proprietary rights in Godhood to him. The realization of their greatness, and love for them, demands that Muslims should not slide into attitudes of excess or deficiency like the Jews and Christians - for the Jews did not hesitate from even killing their prophets while the Christians turned their messenger into a God.
Regarding the meaning of the word: خَزَائِنُ (treasures) appearing in the statement made in the first sentence, that is, ` I do not say to you that with me are the treasures of Allah,' scholars of Tafsir have named many things. But, the Holy Qur'an itself, wherever it has mentioned the treasures of Allah, has said: وَإِن مِّن شَيْءٍ إِلَّا عِندَنَا خَزَائِنُهُ (there is not a thing the treasures of which are not with Us -15:21). This tells us that the sense of ` the treasures of Allah' encompasses everything in this world and cannot be definitely applied to some particular things. As for commentators who have named particular things, they are doing so as an example. Therefore, there is no contradiction here. Finally, let us bear in mind: When this verse clearly declares that the ` treasures of Allah' are not even in the hands of the one foremost among prophets and messengers, Sayyidna Muhammad al-Mustafa ﷺ . how can we assume that a Buzurg (pious elder) or Wall (man of Allah) of the Muslim Community could do what they wished and grant anything to anyone as they chose? This is sheer ignorance.
In the third sentence of the answer given in verse 50, was: وَلَا أَقُولُ لَكُمْ إِنِّي مَلَكٌ which means ` I do not say to you that I am an angel' - because they refused to accept him as a Messenger based on his human identity. [ The pattern of this sentence is the same as the first ] However, the pattern of the sentence has been changed in the sentence which appears in the middle of these two where the text does not say something like - I do not say to you that I know the Unseen - and what was said actually was: وَلَا اَعلَمُ الغیب (nor do I have the knowledge of the Unseen).
In his Tafsir al-Bahr al-Muhit, Abu al-Hayyan has pointed out to a subtle justification for this change in diction. According to him, being or not being the possessor of all Divine treasures; and similarly, the likelihood of a person being or not being an angel are things which are related to observation. The addressees of the answer knew it all, they knew that the entire treasures of Allah are not in his hands nor is he an angel. Their demands were simply based on malice and hostility. In reply to them, it would have been enough to say that ` I have never claimed that I am the owner of the treasures of Allah', or that ` I am an angel.'
But, the problem of 'Ilm al-Ghayb' (the knowledge of the Unseen) was not something of that nature - because they already had this kind of belief about their astrologers and soothsayers: That they know the Unseen. So, having this kind of belief about the Messenger of Allah was not unlikely - specially when they had also heard many news of the Unseen through the blessed speech of the Holy Prophet ؓ and had witnessed that they happened as told. Therefore, at this place in the text, a simple negation of the claim and saying was not considered enough. In fact, what was negated was the actual act. He said, " وَلَا أَعْلَمُ الْغَيْبَ " (nor do I have the knowledge of the Unseen). By saying so, also removed was their misunderstanding that a certain knowledge of things Unseen given to an angel or a Rasul (Messenger) or a Wali (man of Allah) through Wahy (revelation) or Ilham (inspiration) from Allah Ta` ala, cannot be called ` Ilm al-Ghayb (the knowledge of the Unseen), or its knower, the ` Alim al-Ghayb (one who has the knowledge of the Unseen), in accordance with the terminology of the Qur'an.
Right from here also comes the clarification that no Muslim can doubt the fact that Allah Ta'ala had blessed the Holy Prophet ﷺ with the knowledge of many things of the Unseen, so many as would surpass the combined knowledge of angels and human beings from the first to the last. This is the belief of the entire Muslim Ummah. Of course, right along with it, according to countless statements of the Qur'an and Sunnah, it is also the belief of all early and later Imams that the All-Encompassing Knowledge (al-Ilm al-Muhit) of the whole universe is the exclusive attribute of none but Allah Ta` ala. Neither can an angel or messenger be equal to Him in being the Khaliq (Creator), the Raziq (Provider) and Al-Qadir Al-Mutlaq (Absolutely Powerful); similarly, nor can anyone be equal to Him in His All-Encompassing Knowledge. Therefore, no angel or prophet, despite having the knowledge of a great many things of the Unseen, can be called ` Alim al-Ghayb (the Knower of the Unseen).
But, about the many excellences of our master, Muhammad al Mustafa ﷺ ، we can simply say: بعد از خدا بزرگ تویٔ قصہ مختصر Ba` d az Khuda buzurg tuee qissah mukhtasar! After God, you are the revered one that is all!
His excellence in knowledge is ahead of angels, prophets and messengers, but is not equal to the knowledge of Allah Ta` ala. Claiming such equality is the path of excess taken in Christianity.
At the end of the verse (50), it was said that the blind and the sighted cannot be equal. It means that they should get rid of their selfish concerns, leave obstinacy and hostility, and see reality as it is so that they may no longer be counted among the blind. For them, the need was to start seeing, to wise up, for they could have their missing sights back with them with a little thought and concern (for what is right and true).
In the next and the last verse (51), the Holy Prophet ﷺ has been instructed that, after all these clear statements, if they still remain obstinate, he should draw a line, stop all debate, and get busy with his real mission, that is, the duty of Tabligh, the real mission of prophet-hood. And onwards from there, let him turn the focus of his call to faith and warning against its rejection to people who believe in being produced before Allah Ta` ala to give an account of their deeds on the Last Day of Qiyamah - for example; the Muslims - or those who are, at least, no deniers, even if that is in a certain degree of being probable, for they would at least have the apprehension that, perhaps, they may have to be answerable for their deeds.
To sum up, there are three types of people who believe or do not believe in Qiyamah: (1) Those who believe in it as being certain; (2) Those who doubt or waver; and (3) Those who reject it totally. Though, the blessed prophets have been commanded to convey their call and warning to all these three classes of people, as evident from many statements of the Holy Qur'an. But, as the likelihood that the call will be more effective among the first two classes of people is more pronounced, instruction has been given in this verse to pay special attention to them: وَأَنذِرْ بِهِ الَّذِينَ يَخَافُونَ أَن يُحْشَرُوا إِلَىٰ رَبِّهِمْ (And warn, with it, those who have the fear of being gathered before their Lord).