9d. Muhammad’s Satanic Verses

Satanic Verses

When Muhammad was in Mecca, his followers were few, his movement grew painfully slowly and he, too, felt the pain of estrangement from his tribe. According to early and treasured biographical and historical accounts of Muhammad, he longed for better relations and reconciliation with his community. According to many Islamic sources, Muhammad once delivered a revelation in Mecca promoting polytheism. He advocated the worship of Meccan goddesses: Allat, Uzza, and Manat as intercessors with God. Satan put his words in Muhammad’s mouth and he spoke Satan’s words as the word of God. Meccans idolaters who heard this were overjoyed and joined Muhammad in ritual prostration during the recitation of the Surah an-Najm. Tensions eased, reconciliation was at hand, and all were delighted. The Meccan refugees who had fled to Abyssinia heard that persecution of Muslims have ended and started to return home. Later, he claimed that Satan had tricked him into delivering these infamous “Satanic Verses” after angel Gabriel confronted him. This event is documented by the four early biographical writers of Muhammad’s life: Ibn Ishaq, Wakidi, Ibn Sa’d, and Tabari. The Hadith and Qur’an also contain direct references.

Satanic Verses
Q53:19 – Have ye thought upon al-Lat and al-Uzza
Q53:20 – And Manat, the third, the other?
SV53:21 – These are the exalted cranes (intermediaries)
SV53:22 – Whose intercession is to be hoped for.

The cranes whose intercession was recognised were the three female deities Meccans idolaters worshipped. When the revelation was completed, Muhammad, his followers and the Meccans idolaters all prostrated together.

Original verses in Qur’an
Q53:19 – Have you then considered Al-Lât, and Al-‘Uzza (two idols of the pagan Arabs)
Q53:20 – And Manât (another idol of the pagan Arabs), the other third?
Q53:21 – Is it for you the males and for Him the females?
Q53:22 – That indeed is a division most unfair!

Q53:19-22 “Have ye thought upon al-Lat and al-Uzza And Manat, the third, the other? What! For you the males and for Him the females? That indeed is an unfair division”

Q53:21-22 “Why – for yourselves you would prefer only sons, whereas to Him you assign daughters! Behold, this indeed is an unfair division. (You worship female idols and resent having daughters).”

-Satan tampering with revelations.
Q22:52 “Whenever We sent any messenger or prophet before you, and he recited anything [of Our revelation], Satan tampered with it. But God abrogates Satans interjections and then He firmly reaffirms His revelations. God is all knowing and all wise.”

These two verses from the Qur’an are considered to have reference to the compromise between Muhammad and the Arabs, and Muhammad’s eventual rejection of it.

Q17:73-74 – Verily, they were about to tempt you away from that which We have revealed (the Quran) unto you (O Muhammad SAW), to fabricate something other than it against Us, and then they would certainly have taken you a friend! And had We not made you stand firm, you would nearly have inclined to them a little.

Sahih Bukhari – Book 6, Volume 60, Hadith 385
Narrated Ibn Abbas: The Prophet performed a prostration when he finished reciting Surat-an-Najm, and all the Muslims and pagans and Jinns and human beings prostrated along with him.

Sahih Bukhari – Volume 2, Book 19, Hadith 173
Narrated `Abdullah bin Mas`ud: The Prophet recited Suratan-Najm at Mecca and prostrated while reciting it and those who were with him did the same except an old man who took a handful of small stones or earth and lifted it to his forehead and said, “This is sufficient for me.” Later on, I saw him killed as a non-believer.

Sahih Muslim – Book 4, Hadith 1191
Abdullah (b. ‘Umar) reported: The Apostle of Allah recited (Surat) al Najm and performed prostration during its recital and all those who were along with him also prostrated themselves except one old man who took a handful of pebbles or dust in his palm and lifted it to his forehead and said: This is sufficient for me. ‘Abdullah said: I saw that he was later killed in a state of unbelief.

Sunan Abu Dawud – Book 7, Hadith 1401
Narrated ‘Abd Allah (b. Mas’ud): The Messenger of Allah recited Surah al-Najm and prostrated himself. No one remained there who did not prostrate (along with him). A man from the people took a handful of pebbles or dust and raised it to his face saying: This is enough for me. ‘Abd Allah (b. Mas’ud) said: I later saw him killed as an infidel.

Jami’ at-Tirmidhi – Book 1, Hadith 575
Ibn Abbas narrated: “The Messenger of Allah prostrated for it – meaning (in Surat) An-Najm – and so did the Muslims, the idolaters, the Jinns, and the people.”

Sunan an-Nasa’i – Book 11, Hadith 959
It was narrated from Ja’far bin Al-Muttalib bin Abi Wada’ah that: His father said: “The Messenger of Allah recited Surat An-Najm in Makkah and prostrated, and those who were with him prostrated. I raised my head and refused to prostrate.” At that time Al-Muttalib had not yet accepted Islam.

Ibn Ishaq – Sirat Rasulullah, Page 165-167
Now the apostle was anxious for the welfare of his people, wishing to attract them as far as he could. . . . When the apostle saw that his people turned their backs on him and he was pained by their estrangement from what he brought them from God he longed that there should come to him from God a message that would reconcile his people to him. Because of his love for his people and his anxiety over them it would delight him if the obstacle that made his task so difficult could be removed. . . . Then God sent down “By the star when it sets your comrade errs not and is not deceived, he speaks not from his own desire,” and when he reached His words “Have you thought of al-Lat and al-Uzza and Manat the third, the other”, Satan, when he was meditating upon it, and desiring to bring it to his people, put upon his tongue “these are the exalted Gharaniq [Numidian cranes] whose intercession is approved.” When the Quraysh heard that, they were delighted and greatly pleased at the way in which he spoke of their gods and they listened to him; while the believers were holding that what their prophet brought them from their Lord was true, not suspecting a mistake or a vain desire or a slip, and when he reached the prostration and the end of the Sura in which he prostrated himself the Muslims prostrated themselves when their prophet prostrated confirming what he brought and obeying his command, and the polytheists of Quraysh and others who were in the mosque prostrated when they heard the mention of their gods, so that everyone in the mosque believer and unbeliever prostrated . . . Then the people dispersed and the Quraysh went out, delighted at what had been said about their gods, saying, “Muhammad has spoken of our gods in splendid fashion. He alleged in what he read that they are the exalted Gharaniq whose intercession is approved.”

The news reached the prophet’s companions who were in Abyssinia, it being reported that Quraysh had accepted Islam, so some men started to return while others remained behind. Then Gabriel came to the apostle and said, “What have you done, Muhammad? You have read to these people something I did not bring you from God and you have said what He did not say to you.” The apostle was bitterly grieved and was greatly in fear of God. So God sent down (a revelation), for He was merciful to him, comforting him and making light of the affair and telling him that every prophet and apostle before him desired as he desired and wanted what he wanted and Satan interjected something into his desires as he had on his tongue. So God annulled what Satan had suggested and God established His verses, i.e. you are just like the prophets and apostles. Then God sent down: “We have not sent a prophet or apostle before you but when he longed Satan cast suggestions in his longing. But God will annul what Satan has suggested. Then God will establish his verses, God being knowing and wise.”
It does seem that the story was included in Ibn Ishaq’s original work as in the other early biographies. A point that also strengthens this conclusion is the fact of the return of the emigrant Muslims which is credited by Ibn Hisham to the Meccan conversions in his reclension of Ibn Ishaq’s original Sirat: “The apostle’s companions who had gone to Abyssinia heard that the Meccans had accepted Islam and they set out for their homeland”.

TABARI – volume 6, page 107
The messenger of God was eager for the welfare of his people and wished to effect a reconciliation with them in whatever ways he could. It is said that he wanted to find a way to do this, and what happened was a follows. (170)
Ibn Humayd – Salamah-Muhammad b. Ishaq – Yazid b. Ziyad al-Madani – Muhammad b. Ka’b al-Qurazi: When the messenger of God saw how his tribe turned their backs on him and was grieved to see them shunning the message he had brought to them from God, he longed in his soul that something would come to him from God which would reconcile him with his tribe. With his love for his tribe and his eagerness for their welfare it would have delighted him if some of the difficulties which they made for him could have been smoothed out, and he debated with himself and fervently desired such an outcome. Then God revealed: (171)
“By the Star when it sets, your comrade does not err, nor is he deceived; nor does he speak out of (his own) desire…”
and when he came to the words:
Have you thought upon al-Lat and al-Uzza and Manat, the third, the other?
Satan cast on his tongue, because of his inner debates and what he desired to bring to his people, the words:
“These are the high flying cranes; verily their intercession is accepted with approval. (172)
When Quraysh heard this, they rejoiced and were happy and delighted at the way in which he spoke of their gods, and they listened to him, while the Muslims, having complete trust in their prophet in respect of the messages which he brought from God, did not suspect him of error, illusion, or mistake. When he came to the prostration, having completed the surah, he prostrated himself and the Muslims did likewise, following their prophet, trusting in the message which he had brought and following his example. Those polytheists of the Quraysh and others who were in the mosque (173) likewise prostrated themselves because of the reference to their gods which they had heard, so that there was no one in the mosque, believer orunbeliever, who did not prostrate himself.


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