“It is probable that improbable things will occur” – Aristotle
It is amazing how Nigerians gullibly believe miracles of events; too easily if you ask me. It is one thing to believe in miracles (as being possible) but it’s another to believe that just because someone appears to be levitating (flying) that it is a miracle. There are Muslims (perhaps Christians too) who don’t believe in miracles but I am not coming from that angle. I want to address this pernicious and pervasive credulousness that has infested us. The multi-million (Billion) Naira industry of Christian churches that market through miracles is a testament of its viral nature; but there are about 2000 sects of Christian churches in Nigeria so a few are implied here. I hear Lagos state now taxes this religious Market.
The recent headlines, for a few weeks now, has been the birth of a Baby in Lagos miraculously clutching a Quran. You can read the full account here. The jist is that a baby was born to a Christian woman while it was clutching a small Quran. When I read it, I shrugged it off casting my skepticism away especially since I couldn’t see how its truthiness or falsity has a bearing on me as a Muslim. But since then I have met with a number of people who not only believe this story but uses it to affirm their truth for being Muslims. Now that is a problem; even worse than the increasingly vocal ijaz disciples (who use scientific findings not miracles). Before I lose some readers here, let me say I actually believe in Miracles.
When Sunday Vanguard visited where the baby was kept at 1 Shonde Street, Ijeshatedo, Surulere, Lagos, the place had virtually become a tourist centre, with a huge crowd converging to catch a glimpse of the baby. In the crowd were mostly Muslims from different parts of Lagos, chanting “Allahu Akbahu”. – From link above
First let me invoke skeptic thoughts by refering us to some hoax miracles from the past. A simple google search of religious miracles hoax is an entertaining exercise if you have time.
Was it the Quran or the Bible?
I was asked “why wouldn’t the Christians believe this miracle?”, I said it is for the same reason that Muslims gullibly believe it. I’ll explain.
Except for those naturally occurring “miracles” of Arabic names of God (appearing in the sky or shape tree trunk), I think most pro-Muslim and pro-Christian miracle stories are very similar. If we take the Lagos-Miracle-Story and substitute it word-for-word, what will happen; replace pastor with imam, church with mosque and Quran with Bible? Do you think the same believing Muslims will believe the story? Wouldn’t miracle-prone Christians believe it then? Belief in the story has nothing to do with the story but on the components that make the story because both believe they are on the right path to God and find it tasking to question claims about their benevolent God.
If you are interested in the polar reactions from the Muslim and Christian sides click on this link,scroll down and enjoy the comments.
Story telling is an art. Ask Mark Twain or anyone who enjoys a good novel or anyone who has been conned. It’s amazing how so many miracle-stories have a similar plot; not unlike when Nollywood movies used to always end with a pastor defeating a demon. At times an evil guy is shown a miracle who then repents, other times the evil doer gets punished by that miracle, and other times a nice person is shown a miracle so that they are saved. In the 3 mentioned scenarios, the stories appeal to our emotions of hope, vengeance and mercy respectively. I think the Lagos story can be seen as a story of hope or mercy; depending on a Muslim’s view of Christianity. Here are some interesting excerpts:
“I repeatedly tried to abort the baby, but, instead, the baby kept getting stronger by the day, which made me to give up on abortion. Then I started wearing a cross around my waist to protect the baby and myself but the cross kept cutting.” – The Mother
See how this part of the story has basically invalidated Christianity by the overwhelming powers of Islam.
“The amazing thing was that the family of Kikelomo is Christian. It shows that we are one from God, but came into the world to choose and go our separate ways.” – Imam of Ramatu Ishamiya Mosque in Ijeshatedo, Lagos
We hear that a baby was born “clutching” a Quran. Immediately Muslims assume that is a good thing. This may not be influenced by how the story was narrated because even on reading the headlines, we take it to be something auspicious. Or could it be because it is reminiscent of Prophet Isa’s (Jesus) miracle birth? Aren’t these the same Muslims that see birth fluids as impure? The same ones that wouldn’t dare take the Quran into an impure place (like toilets)? But when the Quran comes out as such, it is a miracle? I am surprised Muslims haven’t seen this as an insult to the Quran but I guess “miracles” out shadow religious animosity.
Nigeria has a deplorable journalism standard. Journalist copy and paste (make a few edits), are unoriginal and report rumors as a matter of fact. Many newspapers are actually tabloids filled with celebrity gossips/conflict (politicians are the biggest celebrities in Nigeria). In the least, even if they report a story as unsubstantiated, they do it precisely because they know their audience will be captured by such stories. The audience’ brains conveniently leave out the hints that the story’s not confirmed.
Has anyone followed-up the story? Like government contracts, we celebrate their beginnings. Has anyone bothered to investigate the story following a different channel? Has anyone bothered to confirm the “facts” given in the story?
What You Should Know About the Quran
You think the Quran is a Book? Well, not really. It is only a book insofar as a “book” means a revelation (as is used in the Quran). What the world (including Muslims) call the Quran today, is a book (usually paper) in which words of the Quran are recorded. The Quran is a Message and to limit it being a book is a pity.
There is no doubt that the Quran (as recorded during the time of the Prophet) has been preserved uncorrupted (you can ask respectable orientalists too). But copies of the Quran have their peculiarities even though the content is the same word-for-word. The extra-content may differ: page layout, fonts, page numbers, whether every page ends with the end of a verse, format of table of contents, introduction by publisher, extra supplications at the end etc. These peculiarities are usually unique to a geography e.g. Arabian peninsula may favor a different format compared to the Indian sub-continent or Iran-Turkey. There is in fact some (at least four) chapters of the Quran that are known by two names and so different geographies/publishers use one consistently. This can be checked in table of contents easily because the chapter number doesn’t change.
I am interested to know what is the publisher’s address on the first pages of the “miracle” Quran. I will like to know the format: page layout, page numbering, fonts etc. I will especially like to know which chapter-names (for chapters known with more than one name) appear in its table of contents (if it has one). This information is pertinent to any believer of this miracle; it means the format of this “miracle” Quran is the best since the divinity of this cannot be questioned. Henceforth other formats should be discarded.
Now whether the woman in the story converts to a Muslim or not is another issue. Even from the popular Muslims’ perspective, her soul is saved. But beyond her soul is the soul of the community which further exacerbates the tension between Islam and Christianity; either by Muslims thinking their superiority has been confirmed by God (if she converts) or that Christians knowingly disregard the true religion. I have heard a couple of stories about converts whose conversion shows no sincerity but exposes them to hands willing to help (economically).
If miracles are the occurrence of known physical laws in an unpredictable manner, then the physicists (second law of thermodynamics) know that miracles are not theoretically impossible only improbable. And thus any sensible person knows to make his plans/predictions/inventions on the highly probable premises.
Like I said in the beginning, I believe in Miracles. But in an age of quick-money schemes and religious hustlers, I reserve my right to be skeptical. If I come off as being insensitive and if any of the details are incorrect, may God forgive me… and you the reader should inform me. Peace.