The two verses are said to have been added to the 53rd sura of the Qur’an entitled Suratul Najm (Revelation Order 23) in order to acknowledge the validity of the three goddesses: Allat, Al-Uzza and Manat. The tradition goes on to say that the verses were uttered and later had been withdrawn. This tradition has been narrated in this regard, which has become popular as the story of Gharaniq verses and later denounced as satanic verses. Some Islamic scholars and most non-Muslim Western commentators on the Qur’an have accepted this story of Muhammad’s momentary acceptance of the verses with the possibility of its reference in the 22nd sura of the Quran entitled Suratul Hajj (Revelation Order 103) while many others have repudiated it. These verses were perhaps first named “satanic verses’ by Sir William Muir, a Western Orientalist and later the term was widely adopted by Watt in his book, Muhammad at Mecca. While this event is well documented in the early Islamic sources present days Islamic leaders rarely tell Muslims or the general public about it. However, it is one of the most controversial topics in the Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie published in 1989 being the question of the “satanic verses” themselves. The title of the novel refers to an incident which is on the disputed terrain between fiction and fact.
According to the story, the Prophet had been engaged in reciting Suratul Najm (The Star) in front of the polytheists he had recited these two verses (Quran 53:19-20):
“Have you then considered Al-Lat and Al-Uzza; and Manat, the third, the other one?”
While the Satan also caused him to recite the following two verses, which were not part of Surah:
“These are beautiful, high-ranking birds, and their intercession is anticipated.”
However, the “satanic verses” are, in transliteration from Arabic, ”tilka al-gharaniq al-‘ulaa wa-inna shafa’atahunna la-tur’jaa.”
Hearing this, the polytheists were absolutely thrilled and said: (Muhammad), until today, had never spoken nicely of our gods. At that moment the Prophet went into prostration and they too prostrated. All the polytheists of the Quraish were ecstatic and then went their ways, and the Meccan refugees who had fled to Abyssinia heard of the end of persecution and started to return home. But shortly later Jibra’il descended and informed him: I had not brought for you those two sentences! These were of the inspirations of the Satan! However, what we have in the Quran in this context (Quran 53:19-23):
[53:19] Have you then considered Allat and Al-Uzza;
[53:20] and Manat, the third, the last one?
[53:21] Do you have sons, while He has these as daughters?
[53:22] What a disgraceful distribution!
[53:23] These are but names that you made up, you and your forefathers. God never authorized such a blasphemy. They follow conjecture, and personal desire, when the true guidance has come to them herein from their Lord.
Views of Early Islamic Scholars and non-Muslims
Some early Islamic scholars and most non-Muslim Western commentators on the Qur’an have accepted this story of Muhammad’s momentary acceptance of the verses. The historicity of the incident indicates that Ibn Ishaq, Ibn Sa’d and Al-Tabari all accepted the event as real, and that Bukhari gives a partial account. Therefore, there is no historical reason to doubt that the Satanic Verses happened. Moreover, it has 18-25 independent chains of narration, which is a lot. It was a standard element of the historical memory of the Muslim community in the first two Islamic centuries, i.e., 7th and 8th centuries due to its acceptance by great Islamic scholars. In his highly controversial book, Twenty-Three Years, the Iranian Ali Dashti concludes that the evidence given in well-attested reports and in the interpretations of certain commentators makes it likely that the incident occurred. As evidence for the possibility of such a recitation and its subsequent withdrawal, is cited in the Qur’an (22:52). Since the suras of the Qur’an are traditionally not presented in chronological order, it could be possible that this passage is referring to such a withdrawal. The argument that W.M. Watt from his part, provides for the inarguable authenticity of the verses is that it is inconceivable that any Muslim would invent such a story, and it is inconceivable that a Muslim scholar would accept such a story from a non-Muslim. However, here is the verse which is often cited as evidence for possibility of such event with Arabic text:
[22:52] We did not send before you any messenger, nor a prophet, without having the devil interfere in his wishes (recitation). God then nullifies what the devil has done. God perfects His revelations. God is Omniscient, Most Wise.
Views of Present Days Islamic Scholars
The prevailing Muslim view of what is called the “Gharaniq” incident is that it is a fabrication created by the unbelievers of Mecca in the early days of Islam (most people erroneously believe that Muhammad was the founder of Islam) while Haykal commented that afterwards the story arrested the attention of the western orientalists who took it as true and repeated it ad nauseam. The main argument against the authenticity of these two verses is that its incoherence is evident upon the least scrutiny that contradicts the infallibility of every prophet in conveying the message of His Lord. In other words, since Muslims believe Muhammad to have faithfully reported God’s word, it is surprising that Muslim scholars have accepted such a discreditable story, and not at all surprising that it might have been invented by Islam’s enemies. He has also concluded that this story of the goddesses is a fabrication and a forgery, authored by the enemies of Islam after the first century of Hijrah. Zakaria Bashier also shares the same view, though he further argues that even if the verses were to be regarded as being genuine, they would not impugn the Prophet’s infallibility because they were, in fact uttered by Satan. He also refers to the similar observations made by al-Suhayili as well. It is further concluded that if this tradition are to be accepted, it would put a question mark over the infallibility of the prophets, even with respect to receiving the revelation, and would serve to erode away the confidence in them. However, the following arguments, explanations and conclusions are presented in favor of rejecting the authenticity of the Satanic Verses to be lies and fabrications invented by enemies of Islam:
a. At this juncture, before we endeavor to study and critically examine the traditions, we should first separate the text of the verse 52 of Suratul Hajj (The Pilgrimage) from the traditions fabricated in connection with it and see what the verse actually has to say:
1. The text of this verse, disregarding the false annotations, not only does not taint the infallibility of the prophets but on the contrary, is one of the proofs of their infallibility. This is because, it says that whenever they possessed a positive plan and desire (every kind of desire is called but here refers to a positive and constructive scheme for the advancement of their objectives. If it was not constructive, the Satan would never seek to put whisperings into it) the Satan would attack it, but before he could exert an influence upon their will or acts, Allah would nullify the Satanic inspirations and fortify His verses. It should also be noted that the in denotes a sequence without any intervening time internal, i.e. immediately and without any time interval, Allah would annul and eliminate the inspirations and the whisperings of the Satan. The following verse also testifies this statement, which explicitly says:
[17:74] If it were not that we strengthened you, you almost leaned towards them just a little bit.
2. In view of the fact that the following verses indicate that the infidels and the polytheists, by means of their evil insinuations, strived to turn away the Prophet from the divine revelation, it becomes clear that Allah did not permit them to achieve this success by employing their diabolical suggestions:
[17:73] They almost diverted you from the revelations we have given you. They wanted you to fabricate something else, in order to consider you a friend.
[4:113] If it were not for God’s grace towards you, and His mercy, some of them would have misled you. They only mislead themselves, and they can never harm you in the least. God has sent down to you the scripture and wisdom, and He has taught you what you never knew. Indeed, God’s blessings upon you have been great.
3. All the above is applicable if we take to mean desire, plan and scheme sincethe original roots of this word are traced to assumption, supposition and description. However, most of the commentators have taken to mean recitation, and some have even sought to corroborate this by presenting poems of Hasan ibne Thabit.Fakhr Razi too, in his commentary, has stated: according to the lexicon, possesses two meanings: The first meaning is ‘the desire of the heart’ and the second is ‘recitation’.If we were to also take to mean recitation, the meaning of the verse would be that when the prophets used to recite the divine verses and sermons before the infidels and the polytheists, the devils and (those possessing satanic attributes) would insert their words amongst the words of the prophets in order to mislead the people, just as they used to do with the Prophet too that has also reflected in the verse 26 of Suratul Fussilat, which says:
[41:26] Those who disbelieved said, “Do not listen to this Quran and distort it, that you may win.”
In the light of this meaning, the meaning of the next verse 53 of Suratul Hajj also becomes clear when it says:
[22:53] He thus sets up the devil’s scheme as a test for those who harbor doubts in their hearts, and those whose hearts are hardened. The wicked must remain with the opposition.
4. Based on the facts as stated above, it has been realized that the verse under consideration (22:52) does not contain anything which is inconsistent with the infallibility of the prophets vis-à-vis errors and deviation rather the verse emphasizes the issue of infallibility as it says that Allah protects His prophets while they receive the revelation or when they intend to perform some other work, from the satanic inspirations and whisperings.
5. However, it is a common practice that when reformers of human societies deliver beneficial and constructive lectures to a section of the society, at times, those with diseased hearts raise an uproar and by means of misleading slogans and satanic expressions attempt to make light of those speeches and obliterate them by means of their futile utterances. And this, in reality, is an examination for the people of the society and it is here that those with diseased hearts swerve away from the path of truth whereas for the Mu’mins, it becomes a means for acquiring greater awareness of the truthfulness of the prophets. This, in turn, would make the people humble towards their invitation to the truth.
[22:54] Those who are blessed with knowledge will recognize the truth from your Lord, then believe in it, and their hearts will readily accept it. Most assuredly, God guides the believers in the right path.
b. Now let us turn to the traditions and myths that have been mentioned in this section and deduce their worth, for things have reached such a stage that lately the devils, for the purpose of creating disturbance in connection with the Prophet have set about writing the book The Satanic Verses.
1. Just as it had been previously stated, not only did the text of the mentioned verses not possess anything which contradicted the infallibility of the prophets, on the contrary, they prove and establish their infallibility. However, traditions found in some of the secondary Sunnite sources state things that are indeed strange in every respect, and therefore ought to be studied and discussed separately. These traditions, which we had presented at the start of this discussion, have been reported, sometimes, from Ibne ‘Abbas, at other times from Sa’id ibne Jubair and occasionally from some other ‘companions’ or ‘followers’.However, these traditions are not to be seen in any of the Shiite sources and, according to some of the Sunni scholars, these are also not to be found in any of the six Sihah of the Sunni. So much so that Muraghi, in his commentary, says: These traditions are undoubtedly a fabrication of the heretics and foreign hands, and have not been found in any of the authentic books. The fundamentals of the religion of Islam reject them and sound intellect testifies to their falsehood and incorrectness…
2. It has been observed this same meaning, although in a different form, in Tafsir Jawahir of Tantawi, wherein he says: These traditions have not been mentioned in any of the Sihah like Muwatta of Malik, Sahih Bukhari, SahihMuslim, Jami’ Tirmidhi, Sunan Abi Dawud and Sunan Nisa’i, and it is for this reason that the book, Tafsir al-Wusul Li Jami’ al-Usul – a collection of all the interpretive traditions of the six Sihah – does not report these traditions while interpreting the verses of Suratul Najm. Thus, it is inappropriate to attach importance to them and talk about them, let alone debate about them… These traditions are just manifest lies!
3. One of the testimonies which Fakhr Razi presents to prove it to be a fabrication is that in Sahih Bukhari it has been reported from the Prophet that when he recited Suratul Najm, the Muslims and the polytheists, the men and the jinn, all fell into prostration; and the tradition bears no mention of the story of gharaniq. Furthermore, this tradition (which has been reported in Sahih Bukhari) has been reported by several chains of narrators and not the slightest mention of the story of Gharaniq meets the eye.
4. Not only the above mentioned commentators, but even others such as Qurtubi in his commentary al-Jami’, Sayyid Qutb in his commentary Fi Dhilal al-Qur’an, other Sunni scholars and all of the distinguished and celebrated Shi’ite scholars have branded this tradition as a fabrication and have attributed it to the enemies of Islam.
c. It is not strange that the enemies of Islam, especially the inimical Orientalists, have publicized this tradition and reported it with a great deal of embellishment. We have also witnessed that recently they have forced a writer, coming from an evil lineage, to author a book under the title of The Satanic Verses, andby means of extremely derogatory and vile expressions in the course of a fictitious and make-believe story, not only question the sanctities of Islam but also exhibit sacrilege towards the great prophets (like Ibrahim), who are looked upon with great reverence by all the Divine religions.
1. However, it is not strange that the English text of the book, The Satanic Verses was translated with astonishing swiftness into different languages and distributed all over the world. And when Ayatullah Khomeini issued his historical fatwa declaring the author, Salman Rushdie, to have become an apostate and thereby deserving to be compulsorily killed, there arose in Rushdie’s favour, on the part of the colonial governments and enemies of Islam, a tidal wave of support, so great that the world had never seen the like of it before.
2. This amazing phenomenon revealed the reality that Salman Rushdie was not acting alone, and the issue is much more than just authoring an anti-Islamic book. It is, in fact, a conspiracy that has been chalked out by the Western colonial powers and the Zionists with the objective of bludgeoning Islam – a conspiracy which they support seriously and in great earnest.
3. But the firm resistance and perseverance of Ayatullah Khomeini in his fatwa, the continuation of his policy on the part of his successors and the global acceptance of this historical fatwa by the general Muslim public served to foil the conspiracy of the conspirators.
4. And until this date, as we write this, the author of the mentioned book leads his life in total concealment and is scrupulously protected by the colonial governments; it appears that he shall be forced to lead the rest of his life in this fashion and probably he might be killed by his very mentors to extricate themselves from this humiliation.
5. Thus, the ‘creating cause’ for this fabricated tradition also acts as its ‘preserving cause’, i.e. a conspiracy was initiated on the part of the enemies of Islam and now, after more than a thousand years, another group from amongst them strive to continue this conspiracy, although on a much wider scale.
6. As such, we do not deem it necessary to present, for this tradition, explanations and justifications which, for example, appear in great detail in the commentary of Ruhul Ma’ani and concisely in other commentaries. This is because a tradition, which is fundamentally rotten and which has been emphatically branded as a forgery on the part of eminent Islamic scholars, does not need to be explained.
d. However, we only wish to present some other points which shall provide some more clarifications – the relentless, uncompromising and perpetual fight of the Prophet against idolatry, from the beginning of his invitation (to Islam) until the end of his life, is a fact which is not concealed from friend and foe alike:
1. The most important issue for which he was never willing to compromise and exhibit flexibility was this very issue. Despite this, how could he have possibly commended and praised the idols of the polytheists by such words, and spoken of them in good light?
2. The teachings of Islam declare that the only sin that can never be forgiven and overlooked is polytheism, and it is for this reason that Islam has regarded the destruction of centers of idolatry, whatever the consequence, as obligatory, and the entire Qur’an is a testimony to this fact. This very fact is clearly indicative of the fabricated nature of the tradition of Gharaniq, in which idols have been commended!
3. Apart from this, those who have fabricated the story of Gharaniq have overlooked the fact that a cursory reading of the verses of Suratul Najm would be sufficient to prove this myth to be false, and reveal that there exists no harmony between the commendation of the idols by means of the sentence:
These are beautiful, high-ranking birds, and their intercession is anticipated.
4. This is because, in the beginning of this very chapter, it has been explicitly stated that the Prophet does not speak of his own desire and whatever he says in connection with the Islamic beliefs and laws, is divine revelation:
[53: 3-4] Nor was he speaking out of a personal desire. It was divine inspiration.
5. The Qur’an also emphasizes that the Prophet shall never go astray from the true path and never lose himself:
[53:2] Your companion does not err, nor does he go astray.
6. What could be greater deviation than interpolating speeches of polytheism and praises of idols within the verses of monotheism? And as for speaking of one’s desire, what could be worse than adding such satanic words:“These are beautiful, high-ranking birds.”
7. Interestingly, the verses following the verses presently under consideration explicitly criticize and denounce the idols and the idol-worshippers and say:
[53:23] These are but names that you made up, you and your forefathers. God never authorized such a blasphemy. They follow conjecture, and personal desire, when the true guidance has come to them herein from their Lord.
8. Which intellect would be given to believe that a wise and intelligent person, occupying the rank of prophethood and in the process of reciting Divine revelation would, in one sentence, praise the idols while two sentences later deprecate them with such vehemence and intensity? How can this blatant contradiction in two consecutive sentences be explained and justified?Here we have to acknowledge that the cohesion of the verses of the Noble Qur’an are such that any impure addition made to it on the part of inimical and tendentious individuals is thrown out, and they clearly reveal it to be a patch which is inharmonious and an addition that is unrelated. This is the fate which the tradition of Gharaniq suffers from amidst the verses of the Noble Qur’an.
e. At this juncture, how is it that an issue, so baseless and unsubstantiated, has come to acquire such popularity?The answer to this question is not very difficult and intricate; the popularity of this tradition is, to a great extent, indebted to the efforts of the enemies of Islam, who imagine that they have managed to lay their hands on a good pretext to blemish the infallibility of the Prophet and the authenticity of the Qur’an:
1. However, its popularity amongst the Islamic historians, according to some of the Islamic scholars, stems from the fact that many of the historians are always on the lookout for new, exciting and exceptional issues – however much there may exist a question mark over their historical authenticity – so that they can make their books more interesting and tumultuous.
2. Since the myth of gharaniq is unprecedented in the life of the Prophet, they, without examining the weakness of its chain of narrators and the baseless nature of its contents, record it in their books of history and traditions and subsequently, others dwell upon it with the intention of subjecting it to a critical examination and study.
3. The historicity of the incident is disputed by some of the early Muslim historians, especially (Muhammad ben Yasar) Ibn Ishaq (d. 768 CE), (Muhammad Abu ‘Abdullah Ibn Umar) al-Waqidi (747-822 CE), (Muhammad Ibn Muslim Ibn Shihab) al-Zuhri (d.741 CE), Muhammad Ibn Sa’d (d. 845 CE), al-Tabari (c. 839-923 CE), Ibrahi. Ibn Hisham, Ibn Ishaq’s editor, omits the passage.
4. Now it becomes plain and clear that not only do the verses of the Qur’an not contain anything which contradicts the infallibility of the prophets, rather, these very verses, which have been imagined to be contradicting it, contain clear indications that accentuate the rank of infallibility for them.
f. Since Muslims believe that Muhammad has faithfully reported God’s word, it is not surprising that how Muslim scholars have accepted such a discreditable story, and not at all surprising that it might have been invented by Islam’s enemies. Now it is obligatory for all the scholars to disregard them and refrain from wasting their time in explaining and interpreting them, especially in view of the fact that trustworthy narrators have explicitly declared them to be lies and fabrications.
In the first two Islamic centuries, the Satanic verses incident constituted a standard and widespread element in the historical memory of the early Muslim community. However, the historicity of the incident is disputed by some of the early Muslim historians while the present days Islamic scholars have rejected the incident to be a fabrication and a forgery, authored by the enemies of Islam after the first century of Hijrah. The main argument against the authenticity of the two verses in its incoherence is evident upon the least scrutiny and the contradiction of the infallibility of every prophet in conveying the message of His Lord but it is preserved as a quotation from al-Tabari, in Guillaume’s translation of Ibn Ishaq and the Iranian Ali Dashti.
Despite their arguments, explanations and derivatives against the historicity of the incident in the views of the prevailing Muslim scholars, there is ample evidence to believe that the Satanic Verses happened as many famous Muslim scholars accepted that it did happen. Those who reject it do so because they believe the prophet could not sin this way. Then, this is to edit history to make it fit our view of Muhammad that we must not do for the sake of truth. There is no doubt that Muhammad has faithfully reported God’s word under His protection (Quran 17:73-74, 4:113) but our view of Muhammad should come from history and not from what we would like him to be. Even the verses are to be regarded as being genuine, they would not impugn the validity of the Quran as they are not part of the Quran being satanic inspirations except Muhammad’s momentary acceptance of the verses, and the verse as referred with the possibility of the incident (Quran 22:52) is a warning to protect us from idolizing any of them raising their status to heavenly persona (Quran 3:79, 6:82) as no messenger or prophet is infallible has been confirmed with a reminder of the Satan to be the ardent enemy for all.
Peaceful Friday, salaam and God bless.