Man has a natural distaste towards submitting to another man unless he is forced to by the latter’s physical strength or his mental superiority, or if he is shown feats far beyond the abilities of any man. In the first two cases, he yields reluctantly, while in the third, he yields because of his belief in a higher force or power defying all human comparison. Therefore, Allaah favored His messengers not only with revelation, but also with miracles, clearly proving to the people the divine origin and truthfulness of their messages. The inability of the people to imitate the miracles of the prophets made them willingly bear witness to Allaah’s unity and obey the commandments of the prophets. Due to the difficulties involved in communication and transportation, the early prophets were sent only to the people among whom they were raised up.
Thus, the miracles which they brought were particularly suited to the areas of knowledge in which their people excelled in order for the miracles to have the maximum effect on them. For example, Prophet Moosaa (Moses), may Allaah’s peace be on him, was raised up among the Egyptians, who were noted for their mastery of the occult arts, sorcery, and magic. Hence, Allaah gave him the miracle of being able to place his hand in his cloak and extract a brilliantly shining hand. And when sorcerers and magicians were gathered to challenge Prophet Moosaa, and the staffs which they had cast appeared to the audience as snakes, Allaah turned Prophet Moosaa’s staff into a huge, real snake that devoured the “snakes” of his opponents. That defeat was sufficient proof for the magicians and sorcerers, who knew that no one could change the nature of a stick as Moosaa apparently had done. They fell on their faces in submission and sincere belief in the God of Moosaa, in spite of the threats on their lives uttered by their master, the Pharaoh.
Another example is that of Prophet ‘Eesaa (Jesus), who was chosen by Allaah from among the Jews. The Jews were especially noted for their exceptional abilities in the field of medicine. Jewish doctors were highly respected and revered for their seemingly magical ability to mend bones, heal wounds, and cure the sick. Thus, Allaah favored Prophet ‘Eesaa with the miraculous ability to make the blind see, the lame walk, and to bring the dead back to life. These abilities were clearly beyond those of the Jewish doctors of that day, and they knew well that no regular man could do them. Yet, Allaah gave Prophet ‘Eesaa an even more dazzling miracle: he was able to mold birds out of clay, breathe on them, and they would fly away.
Since the Prophet Muhammad ((ﷺ) was to be the last of the prophets sent not only to a particular people, but to all of mankind, he was given a miracle which not only amazed people among whom he was raised, but which would challenge and amaze the human mind until the last days of this world. Prophet Muhammad ((ﷺ), like the other prophets before him, was given a number of other miracles whose effects were basically limited to the people of his time; for example, the splitting of the moon upon his tribe’s request for a sign, the outpouring of water from his hands on one occasion when he and his companions were short of water, and the phenomenon of pebbles and rocks giving salaams to him (i.e., greeting him with the phrase: “ as-salaamu ‘alaykum,” meaning, “peace be on you”), just to mention a few. However, the miracle of Prophet Muhammad ((ﷺ) which was consistent with Allaah’s aid to the prophets before him was a literary miracle.
The Arabs had very little in the way of unique skills or accumulated knowledge, but they took great pride in their oratory and literary skills. Yearly contests were held in fairs like that of ‘Ukkaath, in which many lines of speeches and poetry were recited from memory. Their language had reached its peak of development, and eloquence was considered the highest quality a man could possess. In fact, the ten most famous poems were so revered that they were etched in gold and hung in the Ka‘bah for solemn adoration. Consequently, Allaah revealed to His last prophet a book, beginning some parts with unintelligible letters like, “Alif Laam Meem” or “ Qaaf” or “ Noon,” tantalizing the Arab mind, as if to say, “From these letters which you combine to form your daily conversations, as well as great works of prose and poetry, is formed a book whose shortest chapter does not exceed three lines, yet you cannot imitate it, no matter how hard you try!” Thus, his standing miracle was none other then the Qur’aan itself, as the Prophet ((ﷺ) himself stated,
“All prophets were given something which would cause people to believe in them. The thing which I was given is none other than a revelation (the Qur’aan) which Allaah revealed to me. So I hope that I will have the most followers among them on the Day of Judgment.”