Is there a differentiation between Miracles of the Prophets and Magic? How would a non-Muslim differentiate between Magic and the Miracles of a Prophet? The Person may think all Prophets were magician.
When we try to understand the magics and miracles, aka signs, we see that both are some anomaly in the continuum of nature. So, by nature, they are the same. So simply by observation, we cannot detect the difference.
It is much like finding the difference between belching and yawning- both expels air through the mouth, both actions are involuntary. Without a medium to carry the sounds, both will look similar.
You can only understand the differences when you enter the world of magics and miracles. When you enter, these points are clear:
magic requires knowledge vs miracle requires none.
ie, a magician requires some knowledge to perform the magics. But a miracle happens. The performer of the miracle has no control over the miracle.
magic can be countered, but not a miracle (user689’s argument)
Because, there may be someone who knows the exact opposite knowledge of a magician, who can nullify his magics. But miracle, since it happens, and no one has control over it, goes un-countered.
magic can be learned or taught, miracle cannot
Since magic is knowledge based, it can be learned by someone, or be taught to someone. But miracle not.
Now, how to know if the performer of the miracle is a prophet or not?
- prophets come to fulfill past prophecies. They also come with their own future prophecies. All prophets were prophesied in the past by another prophet. This recursion goes to the first human being, who was again a prophet. As of now, no one can be prophet, because the last prophet prophesied of no-next-prophet.
But here comes a problem: a magic/miracle is always an anomaly without faith. You cannot enter the world of them without having faith in them.
Miracle differ from the magic as usually it comes coupled with the challenge: The prophet/Imam challenges everybody in his time to do what he did. While it is possible (or probably usual) to have two (or more) magicians at the same time that are able to do the same thing, it is not possible for a miracle.
Also miracles has limits that magic can't reach, for example: a magician can't bring the Dead back to life, (he can only deceive the eyes of people to "think" he did, but this doesn't last for a long time)
As Allah says:
He said, "Rather, you throw." And suddenly their ropes and staffs seemed to him from their magic that they were moving [like snakes].20:66
In short, a magician can (and is) always be defeated because there is always someone who knows the exact same knowledge as him. And there are many cases through history in which people making false claims are proven wrong.
And when they had thrown, Moses said, "What you have brought is [only] magic. Indeed, Allah will expose its worthlessness. Indeed, Allah does not amend the work of corrupters.
There are differences between the two, reminding you that I am not a scholar these are to some extent what I have understood of my readings regarding the issue:
Both are knowledge, but the nature of these knowledges are different. Indeed if you have studied philosophy you should know in this world only things are created and exist that are exist-able (ممکنالوجود). However, the only independent existence is Allah, the creator, and the rest of existences all depend on His Existence. All the existence then belong to Him and one can study the universe in different levels, the unique existence level (وحدةالوجود) in which everything relates to Him in its existence, and the level of complexities and distinctions (عالمالکثرة) in which the different existences are related to each other via some rules, say, rules of physics or biology and etc. According to these rules for example one can expect a gathering of mineral elements and organic compounds to form the body of a living animal, but no one can expect a stick to instantaneously become a snake (a miracle of Moses), or no one can expect a piece of rock to become a camel (miracle of Salih), or no one can expect a small amount of mud formed in the form of a bird to become a real bird and fly (a miracle of Jesus). However, having knowledge about the science of uniqueness of existences these are possible. The sets of physical and biological rules are teachable but the knowledge of uniqueness comes from Allah and is given to anyone that He wishes. In other words, according to common rules of nature a small amount of mud becoming a bird is not impossible but needs several in-between stages and maybe a long period of time for them occurring, tracing the mud particles in such stages being beyond the usual capabilities of the human being, however, it is possible, a bird coming out from an amount of mud doesn't really contradict any basic rule of this universe, so the process is existable and Allah can do this. The Miracles being however against the common occurring of processes in nature is why a miracle is also called rip-of-habits (خرقالعادة). Therefore, what a magician does is using the common rules of nature to do things that is odd or difficult to person. This can and in many of the examples does include exploiting the knowledge and power of Jinns, but can also be done independently of jinns if the required knowledge is available to the magician. As other examples, bringing back to life a death with corrupted body is not possible according to usual customs of nature, however, it is not impossible either so can be done by Allah and a man having enough knowledge of uniqueness can do this, as Jesus peace be upon him did and others have done this as well after Islam. A Jin said he can bring the seat of Belqays to Solomon from Yeman but it would take e.g. a few hours, but the son of Barkhiya did this in a glance as he had some knowledge of the uniqueness.
Another point us that sometimes miracles also include tricks which is never true about miracles.
And last point is that when a miracle is done Allah will make people understand it, so that if they deny or try to justify the counter probabilities they will be Kafir:
... سَيُرِيكُمْ آيَاتِهِ فَتَعْرِفُونَهَا ۚ وَمَا رَبُّكَ بِغَافِلٍ عَمَّا تَعْمَلُونَ
... will soon show you His Signs, so that ye shall know them"; and thy Lord is not unmindful of all that ye do. [An-Naml, 93]