The Nineteenth Letter
Miracles related to increasing the amount of available food
SEVENTH SIGN: We mention a few examples of the Prophet’s miracles related to increasing food that have the certainty of tawatur in meaning. But before continuing, some introductory comments are appropriate.
Each miracle related below was transmitted through various—sometimes as many as 16—channels. Most took place before large groups and were narrated by many persons of truth and good repute. For example, one of the 70 people fed with four handfuls of food relates the incident while the rest remain silent (i.e., they do not contradict him). Their silence indicates agreement. This is especially true for the truthful, straightforward, and honest Companions who reject and oppose all falsehood. The incidents given below are narrated by many people and confirmed by the witnesses’ silence, thus making each incident definite to the degree of tawatur in meaning.
Moreover, history books and biographies of the Prophet record that the Companions, next to preserving the Qur’an and its verses, did their best to record and preserve the Messenger’s deeds and words, especially those concerning miracles and Divine Commands, and to confirm their authenticity. They never neglected even an apparently insignificant act or state of the Prophet, as confirmed by the books of Tradition.
While the Prophet was alive, the miracles and Traditions forming the basis of religious injunctions were written down by many Companions, especially the “Seven ‘Abdullahs,” notably ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Abbas (the “Interpreter of the Qur’an”) and ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Amr ibn al-‘As. Some 30 or 40 years later, thousands of Tabi‘un researchers recorded these, and later on the four imams of Islamic jurisprudence and thousands of discerning Traditionists also would write them down and transmit them.
Two centuries after the Prophet’s emigration, the compilers of the six esteemed and most authentic books of Traditions, at the head of whom are Imam al-Bukhari and Imam Muslim, shouldered the task of preserving the Traditions. In the meantime, meticulous critics identified false reports produced by unbelievers or careless and ignorant people. In later centuries, Traditions continued to be distinguished from fabrications and distortions by people of profound learning and such meticulous researchers as Ibn al-Jawzi and Jalal al-Din al-Suyuti, who was honored many times while awake with the presence and conversation of God’s Messenger, as confirmed by those of spiritual realization.
Thus the miracles cited below come down to us through numerous safe and trustworthy hands, for which we thank God, since this is by His grace. No one has the right to doubt their authenticity. Examples of authentically narrated miracles concerning the Prophet’s increasing of food through his blessing are as follows:
FIRST EXAMPLE: Sahih al-Bukhari and Sahih al-Muslim, and the others of the six most authentic books of Tradition, relate that during the feast celebrating the Prophet’s marriage to Zaynab, Umm Sulaym (Anas’ mother) fried a few handfuls of dates and asked Anas to take them to the Prophet. He did so, and was told: “Go and invite so-and-so (naming some people) and whoever else you meet.” Anas did as he was told, and gradually about 300 Companions filled the Prophet’s room and the large hall where the poor, learned Companions lived. The Prophet told them: “Make circles of ten.” Putting his hand on the dates, he supplicated and told the people to help themselves. Each person ate until satisfied. Then he asked Anas to clear the table. Anas later related: “I could not tell if there was more food when I set out the dish or when I removed it.”110
SECOND EXAMPLE: Abu Ayyub al-Ansari, who hosted the Prophet for some months after his emigration, relates: “I made a meal sufficient for two people: God’s Messenger and Abu Bakr. The Prophet, however, told me to invite 30 distinguished Ansaris (Helpers). Thirty men came and ate. He then asked me to invite another 60, which I did. They also came and ate. God’s Messenger then told me to invite 70 more, which I did. They came and ate. There was still food left in the bowl when they finished eating. After witnessing that miracle, all who had eaten took the oath of allegiance. One hundred and eighty men ate food prepared for two.”111
THIRD EXAMPLE: ‘Umar, Abu Hurayra, Salama al-Aqwa, and Abu ‘Amrat al-Ansari report that during a military campaign, the army had no food. The Messenger, upon being informed, told them to gather all of their food. Everyone brought a few dates—the largest amount was a few handfuls— and put them on a mat. Salama relates: “I estimated the amount to be the equivalent of a reclining goat.” God’s Messenger prayed for its increase and called everyone to bring his bowl. They rushed forward, and each soldier’s bowl was filled. Even then, some was food left over. One Companion who was there later said: “I realized from the way the dates became abundant that even if all people on Earth came, there would be enough.”112
FOURTH EXAMPLE: Authentic books of Tradition, including Bukhari and Muslim, report that ‘Abd al-Rahman ibn Abu Bakr related: “We, 130 Companions, accompanied God’s Messenger on an expedition. Dough from four handfuls of wheat was prepared to make bread, a goat was slaughtered and cooked, and its liver and kidneys were roasted. I swear by God that God’s Messenger gave each of us a piece from the roasted parts and put the cooked meat in the bowls. We ate until we were full, and still there was some left over. I loaded it onto a camel.”113
FIFTH EXAMPLE: As recorded in authentic books, Jabir al-Ansari relates under oath: “During the Battle of the Trench or Ahzab, our food seemed to be undiminished even after about 1,000 men had eaten bread made from four handfuls of barley and (meat from) a young cooked goat. The food was cooked in my house. And after everyone ate and left, the pot was still boiling with meat and bread was still being made from the dough. God’s Messenger had put water from his mouth into the dough and into the pot, and then prayed for abundance.”114 Since this event was witnessed by 1,000 people, was related by Jabir with an oath, and no one is reported to have contradicted it, it can be considered as definite as if it were related by 1,000 people.
SIXTH EXAMPLE: As related in an authentic way, Abu Talha (Anas’ uncle) said: “God’s Messenger fed 70 to 80 people with a small amount of rye bread that Anas brought under his arm. The Messenger ordered the bread broken into small pieces and then prayed for abundance. Since there was not enough space for everyone, the people ate in shifts of ten. Everyone left satisfied.”115
SEVENTH EXAMPLE: Authentic books of Tradition, including Shifa’ al-Sharif and Sahih al-Muslim, report that Jabir al-Ansari said: “A man asked God’s Messenger for food to feed his family. The Messenger gave him half a load of barley. He and his household ate from it for a long time. When they noticed it was not decreasing, they measured it to see how much it had been reduced. This ended the blessing of abundance, and the barley began to dwindle. When the man told God’s Messenger what had happened, he replied: ‘If you had not measured it, it would have sufficed you for a lifetime.’”116
EIGHTH EXAMPLE: Such authentic books as Sunan al-Tirmidhi, Sunan al-Nasa’i, Dala’il al-Bayhaqi, Shifa’ al-Sharif, and others quote Samura ibn Jundub as relating that a bowl of meat brought to God’s Messenger fed groups of people from morning until evening.117 As explained in this section’s introduction on these Traditions’ authenticity, it is as if everyone present related this event and that Samura related it on their behalf and with their approval.
NINTH EXAMPLE: As related by such reliable and trusted researchers as Qadi ‘Iyad (author of Shifa’ al-Sharif ), Ibn Abi Shayba, and Tabarani, Abu Hurayra says: “God’s Messenger told me to invite poor people of the Suffa118 who used the Mosque’s hall as their home. There were more than 100 of them, and I searched for and summoned them all. One plate of food was put before us. We all ate from it as much as we wished. When we rose, the plate was as full as it had been when placed before us. However, our finger marks on the food showed that we had eaten from it.”119 Although only Abu Hurayra narrates this event, it is as definite as if each member of the Suffa had narrated it, since Abu Hurayra narrates in their name and relies on their confirmation. Would such perfect, truthful people remain silent if the narration were not true?
TENTH EXAMPLE: Imam ‘Ali narrates that God’s Messenger gathered ‘Abd al-Muttalib’s descendants, about 40 people, some of whom could eat a young camel and drink more than a gallon of milk at one meal. But God’s Messenger had prepared only a handful of food. They ate until satisfied, and the amount of food did not decrease. Then the Messenger brought them a wooden bowl of milk that might be enough for only three or four people. They drank until satisfied, and the amount of milk did not decrease.120 This miracle is as definite as ‘Ali’s bravery and loyalty.
ELEVENTH EXAMPLE: At the wedding feast of ‘Ali and Fatima, God’s Messenger told Bilal: “Have some bread made from a few handfuls of flour, and have a young camel be slaughtered.” Bilal narrates: “I brought the food, and he put his hand over it for a blessing. Later, the Companions came in groups, ate, and left. The Messenger prayed for the abundance of the remaining food and sent a full bowl to each of his wives, saying that they should eat and feed whoever came to them.”121 Such blessed abundance was necessary for such a blessed marriage.
TWELFTH EXAMPLE: Imam Ja‘far al-Sadiq related that Fatima cooked enough food only for herself and ‘Ali. She sent ‘Ali to invite God’s Messenger to eat with them. He came and told them to send a dish of food to each of his wives and then put the remaining food aside for him, ‘Ali, Fatima, and their children. Fatima says: “When we removed the pot, it was still full to the brim. By God’s Will, we ate from it for quite a long time.”122 I wonder why you do not believe this miracle as if you yourself had seen it, for it reaches us through such an illustrious and respected line of narrators. Even Satan could not dispute it!
THIRTEENTH EXAMPLE: Such truthful Tradition authorities as Abu Dawud, Ahmad ibn Hanbal, and Bayhaqi narrate from Dukayn al-Ahmad ibn Sa‘d al-Muzayn, from Nu‘man ibn Muqarrin al-Ahmad al-Muzayn, who along with his six brothers was a Companion, and from Jarir the following incident originally reported by ‘Umar and transmitted through various channels: “God’s Messenger once commanded ‘Umar: ‘Provide food for 400 horsemen of the Ahmasi tribe for their journey.’ ‘Umar responded: ‘O Messenger of God, all the provisions put together are about the size of a young camel sitting down.’ The Prophet told him to give it to them. From half a load of dates, ‘Umar gave them an amount that satisfied 400 horsemen. He would later say when reporting this event: ‘The food did not decrease.’”123 This miracle is confirmed by the witnesses’ silence. Do not ignore such narrations just because they are related by only two or three individuals, for confirmation by silence gives their meaning the authority and certainty of tawatur by meaning.
FOURTEENTH EXAMPLE: As narrated by authentic books of Tradition, including Bukhari and Muslim, Jabir’s father died while deep in debt to Jews. Jabir gave all of his father’s possessions to the creditors, but they were not satisfied. The fruits in his orchard would not pay off the remaining debts for years. God’s Messenger said: “Pick the fruits and heap them up.” He did so. The Messenger then walked around them and prayed. After Jabir had paid his father’s debt, fruit equal to the orchard’s annual yield still remained. According to another narration, what remained was equal to what he had given the creditors. This greatly astounded the Jewish creditors.124 Since this miracle is related on behalf of its witnesses, its meaning has the assurance of tawatur.
FIFTEENTH EXAMPLE: Such meticulous researchers as Tirmidhi and Bayhaqi quote Abu Hurayra as saying: “During a battle (“During the Battle of Tabuk” according to another narration) the army ran out of food. God’s Messenger asked: ‘Isn’t there anything at all?’ I answered: ‘I have a few (“15” in another version) dates left in my saddle bag.’ He told me to bring them, which I did. Putting his hand in the bag, he took out a handful of dates and prayed for abundance while putting them on a plate. Then he called the army in groups of ten. After everyone had eaten, God’s Messenger, said to me:
‘Take that (bag) which you brought, hold on to it, and do not turn it upside down.’ I took the bag, put my hand into it, and found therein as many dates as I had brought. Later, during the time of the Prophet and then of Abu Bakr, ‘Umar, and ‘Uthman, I ate from those dates.” (In another version, Abu Hurayra said: “I gave many loads of them in the way of God. When ‘Uthman was martyred, the dates and the bag were plundered.”125)
Abu Hurayra was a constant and important student and disciple at the Suffa, the sacred school of God’s Messenger, the teacher of the universe and the pride of creation. Moreover, the Prophet had prayed for Abu Hurayra to have a strong memory. This miracle, which took place before many people, therefore must be regarded as definitive as if it had been related by the whole army.
SIXTEENTH EXAMPLE: Accurate books of Tradition, Bukhari included, relate that Abu Hurayra was once hungry and followed God’s Messenger into his home. Seeing a bowl of milk that had been brought as a gift, God’s Messenger told him to invite the people of the Suffa. Abu Hurayra relates: “I said to myself: ‘I could drink all of this milk, as I am most in need of it.’ But since it was the Prophet’s order, I fetched them all—more than 100 people. The Messenger told me to offer the milk to them. I gave the bowl to each, one by one, and each of them drank until satisfied. Finally the Prophet told me: ‘We two have been left. You drink first!’ As I was drinking, he repeatedly said to me: ‘Drink more,’ until I said: ‘I swear by the Majestic One Who sent you with the truth that I am too full to drink anymore.’ Then the Prophet drank the rest, saying: ‘In the Name of God’ and praising Him.’”126
This miracle, as pure and sweet as milk itself, is related in all six authentic books of Tradition, above all by Imam Bukhari, who memorized 500,000 Traditions. In addition, it is narrated by Abu Hurayra, a loyal, celebrated student of the Prophet’s sacred school of the Suffa and a Companion with a keen memory. He represented all other students of that school, and so his report has the certainty of tawatur. How could such a truthful person, who devoted his life to Islam and the Prophetic Traditions, who heard and related the Tradition that: “Whoever tells a lie concerning me on purpose should prepare for his seat in the Fire,” relate an unfounded incident or saying? Doing so would harm the value and authenticity of all the Traditions he had memorized and make him a target of contradiction by the people of the Suffa!
O Lord, for the sake of the blessing You have bestowed on Your
Messenger, bestow abundance on the favors You have provided for us!
AN IMPORTANT POINT: Weak things become strong when joined together. Fine twisted threads become a strong rope and, when wound, strong ropes cannot be broken. Now, from 15 kinds of miracles we have shown only one kind, which deals with the blessing of abundance. The 16 examples cited so far constitute only one part of this kind. Each example is strong enough to prove Prophethood. If, however—supposing the impossible—some were regarded as weak, still we could not properly call them such, for whatever is united with the strong also becomes strong.
When considered together, the 16 examples mentioned above indicate a great and strong miracle with the definitive strength of tawatur in meaning. And this miracle, when joined with the 14 other parts of the miracles of abundance not yet cited, manifests a supreme miracle as strong as the most unbreakable cable. Finally, add this supreme miracle to the other 14 kinds of miracles and see what a definite, decisive, and irrefutable proof they provide for Muhammad’s Prophethood.
Thus the pillar of his Prophethood, formed by such a collection of proofs, is as strong as a mountain. You may understand the doubts of those who do not believe in his Prophethood as the doubts of those who regard the sublime and established heavens as feeble or fragile because they do not have visible pillars. These miracles of abundance illustrate that Prophet Muhammad was such a beloved envoy and honored servant of the All-Compassionate and All-Munificent One that He, Who supplies the provisions of creation, changed His usual way of acting whenever necessary and sent him banquets from the Unseen—as He creates from nothingness.
Arabia suffers scarcities of water and agriculture. And so its people, especially the Companions in the earliest period of Islam, were exposed to frequent food and water shortages. As a result, some of his greatest miracles were connected with food and water. Rather than proving Prophethood, these wonders were responses to need, a Divine gift, a favor of the Lord, and a banquet provided by the Most Merciful One for those who confirmed his Prophethood before witnessing any miracles. When the miracles occurred, their belief and conviction became even stronger, brighter, and more vivid.
110 Bukhari, 4:234; Bayhaqi, Dala’il, 3:465; also related by Muslim.
111 Al-Shifa’, 1:292; related by Tabarani, Ibn Kathir, and Bayhaqi.
112 Muslim, no. 1729, also related by Bukhari.
113 Muslim, no. 2057; Hakim, 2:618; also related by Bukhari and Ibn Hanbal.
114 Muslim, no. 3029; Bukhari, 5:138; Ibn Hanbal, Musnad, 3:218.
115 Bukhari, 4:234; Muslim, no. 2040; Bayhaqi, 6:88; Ibn Hanbal, 3:218.
116 Shifa’, 1:91; Muslim, no. 2281; Bayhaqi, 6:114.
117 Tirmidhi, no. 2629; also related by Darimi, Hakim, and Ibn Hanbal.
118 The people of the Suffa were the poor Muhajirin (emigrants to Medina) who lived in the mosque’s hall and devoted themselves to Islam, particularly to preserving Prophetic Traditions. The Messenger provided their livelihood. (Tr.)
119 Shifa’, 1:293; Bayhaqi, 6:101; also related by Tabarani and Ibn Hanbal.
120 Majma‘ al-Zawa’id, 8:302, related by Ibn Hanbal, Bazzar, and Tabarani.
121 Shifa’: 1:297; Bayhaqi, Dala’il, 3:160.
122 Shifa’, 1:294; Ibn Hajar, al-Matalib al-‘Aliya, 4:73. The chain of transmission is as follows: from his father Muhammad al-Baqir, from his father Imam Zayn al-‘Abidin, from ‘Ali.
123 Majma‘ al-Zawa’id, 8:304; Bayhaqi, 5:365; Ibn Hanbal, 5:445.
124 Bukhari, 3: 210; Abu Dawud, 1:17; also related by Ibn Hanbal and Nasa’i.
125 Shifa’, 1:295, related by Ibn Hanbal, Bayhaqi, and Tirmidhi.
126 Tirmidhi, no. 2479; Bukhari, 8:120; Hakim, 3:15; Bayhaqi, 4:101.