All of God’s Prophets came bearing miracles, which were signs of God’s existence and absolute proof that they were messengers of the Almighty. Islam defines a miracle as an extraordinary act or event that goes against the laws of nature and can only come about through the direct intervention and will of God.
Miracles are not magical, in that they are not only tricks or illusions. Acts of Magic are evil acts performed with the help of devils. Miracles, by contrast, can be performed only by Prophets. Past Prophets performed them as irrefutable evidence that their Prophethood was, in fact, a matter of truth. The Prophets were supported by miracles that reflected their nation’s areas of specialty and expertise, so that the acts would be more convincing, understood, appreciated and identified by the people of that nation--and not perceived as just magic.
For instance, the people of Egypt excelled in magic and sorcery and even consorted with Jinn (spirits) to play tricks and illusions on others. Thus, God provided Prophet Moses with types of miracles that were related to illusions, such as the power to transform his staff into a snake right before his people, strike the Nile with his rod to transform the river into blood, and part the Red Sea. All were meant to humble his people and remind them that the power, control, and might of God is true and not just an illusion of the eyes.
Likewise, during the time of Prophet Jesus, the Romans prided themselves in boasting the best medicines, healing, cures, and doctors in the land, and at a time when medical science was at its height. Thus, God sent Prophet Jesus with several miracles of nature, which could not be justified by medical science. These miracles included the miraculous birth of Prophet Jesus from a virgin, as well as the ability to heal leprosy, cure the blind, and resurrect the dead--all with the permission and will of God.
In the time of Prophet Muhammad, the Arabs--although predominantly unlettered--were masters of the spoken word. They were people that excelled in the art of eloquence and knowledge. Their poetry and spoken word were considered a model of literary excellence, and they valued words and speech. Thus God revealed to his final nation, the best and the most eloquent of all speeches, the Holy Quran, the eloquence of which left the people of Prophet Muhammad astounded. The book was revealed to a Prophet who was unlettered, unable to read, write or calculate, to prove to the people that said Prophet was not its author. Billions of people since the advent of this miracle have witnessed its majesty, believing its truth and its miraculous nature in terms of its style, content and spiritually uplifting message.
The Holy Quran mentions recounted stories of previous nations that received Prophets and Messengers to convey God’s message. But the people rejected, disobeyed, and denied the truth.
God sent Prophet Noah to his people, where he preached for 950 years. He called people to worship one God and follow his commandments, but only a few believed his words. His people denied and mocked him. Most seriously, Prophet Noah was sent by God with a clear warning that many denied. After the denial, the people that disbelieved were destroyed in a flood.Prophet Hud (Eber in English) was sent to an ancient tribe called Ad, who is believed to have made their home in the curved sand hills of Oman and Yemen. They worshiped idols as gods, which they believed would provide them with happiness and wealth and protect them from evil, harm, and all catastrophes. The people of Prophet Hud were very tall, strong, and well built. They were arrogant people who would boast about and tyrannize people with their huge size. They were known to build lofty towers; thus their land became known as the land of a thousand pillars. God blessed them with fertile land and abundant agriculture, many children, an ample supply of livestock, and easy access to water resources. They mistakenly believed that the purpose of life was to accumulate wealth, prestige, and live in luxury. Prophet Hud commanded them to fear God and be righteous. Their Prophet advised them to seek God’s forgiveness for their heedlessness and arrogance, saying that God would reward this act by increasing their power, strength and wealth. However, seeing themselves as the most powerful nation in existence, the people rejected their Prophet’s Message.
Soon afterward, the people of Hud suffered through a three-year famine and drought which devastated the once green, fertile and abundant land. The burning heat changed to furious violent winds, which God imposed on them for seven nights and eight days. The winds ripped apart their homes, possessions, and even the skin on their bodies. Their crops were swallowed and buried by the sands of their desert. Only Prophet Hud and his small band of believers were saved and are believed to have migrated to the Hadramaut area.
This brings us to an important question: Why did past nations reject, hide, deny, and bury the Message of the Prophets and Messengers? This can be explained by a number of reasons. The Message that the Prophets delivered went against everything that these nations were raised to believe. It went against the beliefs of their forefathers. These people had a strong attachment to the customs of their forefathers and were very sensitive with regard to the good name of their fathers. They took pride in following their footsteps, whether right or wrong. They grew up worshipping idols before the Prophets came along and told them they were wrong; that only Allah alone is worthy of worship without partners and sons. The polytheists (idol worshippers) felt that the Prophets wanted to dethrone their gods and did not tolerate the Muslims’ rejection of their lifelong beliefs; reacting to the attempt with serious harassment and abuse.
The disbelievers of some nations rejected their Prophets because they were mere mortals who ate, drank, and walked the markets like everyone else. To be convinced of Prophethood, they arrogantly wanted God to send an angel down from heaven to accompany him. Some of the nonbelievers accused their Prophet of incorporating into alleged revelation myths, legends, and fables of the past.
Certain nations believed in many gods and they dedicated some of their cities to these false gods. They allowed people everywhere to come to worship their idols. If they bought into the Islamic belief that they were wrong, that Allah is the only God that should be worshiped, and all other gods are false, their city would decline in visitors and revenue. This belief would mark the end of their political and economic domination. So, they rejected the truth; and in the end, greed, selfishness, money, and power got the best of them.
The Prophets came to nations beset with immense difficulties and adverse conditions. This call to true Islam took the slumbering men by surprise. These people’s customs and habits were low and base in nature. Adultery, liquor, gambling, violence, stealing, dishonesty, murder and all sorts of illicit practices were widespread among them. These were all condemned by Islam, and embracing Islam meant leaving all of these foul practices behind and adopting a new mode of life which many did not desire; as unwilling as they were to change their wicked old habits. In addition, their desire for worldly things made them slaves to their own desires. Nothing could move them from this, not even the command of God. The faith of Islam was sent down to free people from their own desires, and their constant needs for material goods that will never bring permanent happiness.
God the Almighty has mentioned the stories of perished nations and their wrongdoings in the Holy Quran to warn our nation against making the same mistakes that they did. The repeating of their mistakes can lead to the same outcomes. This is why it is unfortunate that the current average Muslim rarely studies the Quran with deep reflection and contemplation over its significant verses and inherent signs. By comparing the past nations to our nation, they would come to a conclusion that our nation is in serious danger. The same sinful deeds that were committed in the past, are being repeated by today's Muslims. God has given our nation warnings that if we repeat the errors and sins of past nations, we too will be punished.
God destroyed nations that disobeyed and denied the truth; and even today, ruins of civilians, cities, and nations, can still be seen as a reminder, proof, and a sign to mankind of His immense power. God is the most Merciful and the most Forgiving being; however, God is also Just--and His warnings should not be ignored, rejected or denied, because His punishment can be rapid and severe.