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COLLECTIONEncyclopedia articles
AUTHOR 1Robert Stockman
NOTES Written for possible inclusion in The Bahá'í Encyclopedia. Posted with permission of both the author and of the editor of the Encyclopedia project. Mirrored with permission from
TAGSEyewitnesses; Miracles; Pilgrims notes
CONTENT     A miracle is any event for which a natural explanation is seen as inadequate. All religions have a position regarding them, and until the last few centuries, few questioned the existence of miracles. The Bahá’í scriptures generally restrict miracles to supernatural events connected with the life of a Manifestation of God; miracles performed by saints are not denied, but they are not discussed. `Abdu’l-Bahá asserts that "the Holy Manifestations are the sources of miracles and the originators of wonderful signs. For Them, any difficult and impracticable thing is possible and easy" (Some Answered Questions, 100). The Bahá’í scriptures single out Jesus’s virgin birth as "a miracle and a sign of His Prophethood" (Shoghi Effendi, High Endeavors, 68). Shoghi Effendi describes the martyrdom of the Báb as involving a "miracle" (God Passes By, 56). Bahá’u'lláh, `Abdu’l-Bahá asserts, performed "numerous" miracles (Some Answered Questions, 37); He particularly singles out Bahá’u'lláh’s tablets as miracles (`Abdu’l-Bahá, quoted in God Passes By, 144). There is also a famous story of Muslim `ulamá in Iraq challenging that Bahá’u'lláh perform a miracle to prove His claim to be a Manifestation of God. Bahá’u'lláh agreed to perform a miracle if the `ulamá would first designate the miracle they wanted Him to perform, and would sign a document stating that if He succeeded, they would publicly acknowledge the truth of His mission (The Promised Day is Come, 84-85; God Passes By, 144).

         Notwithstanding the Bahá’í acknowledgement that Manifestations perform miracles, the general tendency in Bahá’í scripture is to minimize the importance of miracles: "miracles are proofs for the eyewitness only, and even he may regard them not as a miracle but as an enchantment. Extraordinary feats have also been related of some conjurors" (`Abdu’l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, 37). In addition to minimizing the reliability of miracles in the physical realm, the spiritual significance of physical miracles is downplayed: "the outward miracles have no importance for the people of Reality. If a blind man receives sight, for example, he will finally again become sightless, for he will die and be deprived of all his senses and powers" (`Abdu’l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, 101). The Bahá’í scriptures also exhibit a tendency to reinterpret accounts of physical miracles as metaphors for the more important spiritual miracles. Speaking of the New Testament stories of Jesus’s miracles, Bahá’u'lláh states that

through Him [Jesus] the leper recovered from the leprosy of perversity and ignorance. Through Him, the unchaste and wayward were healed. Through His power, born of Almighty God, the eyes of the blind were opened, and the soul of the sinner sanctified. Leprosy may be interpreted as any veil that interveneth between man and the recognition of the Lord, his God. Whoso alloweth himself to be shut out from Him is indeed a leper (Gleanings, 86).

         In addition to the theological understanding of miracles explained above, the Bahá’í scriptures use the word "miracle" as a metaphor or a powerful adjective. `Abdu’l-Bahá, referring to the great material and spiritual progress of the twentieth century, says "truly this can be called the miracle of centuries" (Foundations of World Unity, 16). `Abdu’l-Bahá also referred to the powers of science and technology as a "miracle" (Promulgation of Universal Peace, 309, 351). Shoghi Effendi noted that the Bahá’í Holy Places in Palestine, during the Arab-Jewish conflicts of the 1930s were "vouchsafed a preservation little short of miraculous" (Advent of Divine Justice, 5).

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