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17. Understanding Islam


Although Christ is not the only Islamic prophet to perform miracles, it is worth our looking at the Qur’anic stories of his miracles as they add to our understanding of the way Muslims see him. Some of the miracles attributed to Christ in the Qur’an also appear in the Gospel (healing the blind, raising the dead) but others do not; some even seem pointless, like making birds from clay. This could be because Mohammed relied on oral tradition and unreliable sources of information. Many of those miracles that are not found in the Gospel appear in some Christian apocryphal and pseudepigraphal writing dating back to the 2nd to 4th century like The Infancy Gospel of Thomas, The Coptic Gospel of the Egyptians, The Gospel of the Nativity of Mary, The History of Joseph the Carpenter, The Syrian Infancy Gospel, etc.

How did Mohammed come to know about these stories? Well, we have already mentioned some of his contacts with Jews and Christians (mainly heretical Christians) earlier in his life, and that one of the people connected to Mohammed at that time was Waraqa, Khaadijah’s cousin who used to translate the Hebrew gospel (which is believed to be the gospel of the Ebionites). People at the time of Mohammed accused him of learning from others, and in fact the Qur’an confirms this, saying:

“And We certainly know that they say, ʽIt is only a human being who teaches the Prophet.’ The tongue of the one they refer to is foreign, and this Qur’an is [in] a clear Arabic language.” (Qur’an 16:103).

Notice the Qur’an says the person teaching Mohammed is foreign, as it reports that the Meccans accused Mohammed of learning from a Roman slave. We are also told by Muslim historians that the Quraysh re-built the Ka’aba during the time before Mohammed declared his prophethood, and used a Coptic carpenter named Bakhum to help with the construction (New Encyclopaedia of Islam). Thus it would have been quite easy for Mohammed to have heard stories told by resident Jews or Christians, travellers, or slaves in the first 40 years of his life before he claimed prophethood.

Here follows then a brief discussion of the main miracles attributed to Christ in Islam (though there were other minor miracles not mentioned below):

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