”By Logical Thinker”
It’s over 20 years since Salman Rushdie published The Satanic Verses. Muslims around the world were outraged by his publication, followed by the usual violence and threats against anybody who supported the Novelist. Rushdie’s life is still a threat and the fatwa issued by the Ayatollahs on his life remains. This brief article seeks to provide some background information on the issue involved, as most Muslims never really knew what the issue was in the The Satanic Verses. For most, it was just a case of blindly following the Mullahs.
Islam strongly opposes idolatry, polytheism, associating anything or anyone with God. It contrasts sharply with the contention of Muhammad’s Arab contemporaries that God had associates. Some of these associates are even mentioned in the Qur’an, among them three female deities: al-Lat, al-Uzza and Manat. They were even considered to be daughters of God!
The Qur’an, as it now reads, obviously rejects these deities. But, and here comes the issue, did the Qur’an and Muhammad always reject them?
While Muhammad was in
Have you then considered Al-Lât, and Al-’Uzza (two idols of the pagan Arabs) (53:19)
And Manât (another idol of the pagan Arabs), the other third? (53:20)
Then, originally, the verses (known today as the satanic verses) followed:
These are the exalted cranes (intermediaries)
Whose intercession is to be hoped for.
The cranes whose intercession was recognized were, of course, the three deities. After this revelation was completed, Muhammad, his followers and the pagan Arabs all prostrated. Tensions eased, reconciliation was at hand, and all were delighted.
But Muhammad soon retracted the reconciliation—how soon is not clear. For the account continues that Jibril (Gabriel), the angel of revelation, informed Muhammad that Satan had used Muhammad’s desire for reconciliation with the pagan leaders to insert into the revelation of God the verses about the interceding cranes, otherwise called “the satanic verses”. The verses which follow, not the satanic verses, serve as the proper sequence to 53:19,and 53:20 (above):
Is it for you the males and for Him the females? (53:21)
That indeed is a division most unfair! (53:22)
In other words: When you Arabs have sons (whom you prefer to daughters!), how unfair of you to say that God has daughters! The idea of a plurality of gods or goddesses or sons or daughters of God is ridiculous. God alone is God. The three goddesses are false.
Two other passages from the Qur’an are considered to have reference to the compromise between Muhammad and the Arabs, and Muhammad’s eventual rejection of it. The first reads:
Verily, they were about to tempt you away from that which We have revealed (the Qur’ân) unto you (O Muhammad SAW), to fabricate something other than it against Us, and then they would certainly have taken you a friend! (17:73)
And had We not made you stand firm, you would nearly have inclined to them a little. (17:74)
In that case, We would have made you taste a double portion (of punishment) in this life and a double portion (of punishment) after death. And then you would have found none to help you against Us. (17:75)
The second passage is intended to comfort Muhammad:
Never did We send a Messenger or a Prophet before you, but; when he did recite the revelation or narrated or spoke, Shaitân (Satan) threw (some falsehood) in it. But Allâh abolishes that which Shaitân (Satan) throws in. Then Allâh establishes His Revelations. And Allâh is All-Knower, All-Wise: (22:52)
That He (Allâh) may make what is thrown in by Shaitân (Satan) a trial for those in whose hearts is a disease (of hypocrisy and disbelief) and whose hearts are hardened. And certainly, the Zalimûn (polytheists and wrong-doers, etc.) are in an opposition far-off (from the truth against Allâh’s Messenger and the believers). ()
On the basis of these verses especially, the contemporary designation “The Satanic Verses” arises.
From these verses, it is clear that Rushdie did not invent the satanic verses. Moreover, it would seem that Muslims of earlier generations were content to accept that satanic verses could somehow be insinuated into a prophet’s message from God, even into the Qur’an, that God could abolish the satanic verses, and that, as the following passage suggests, God could replace even a verse of His own revelation with a similar or better verse of His own:
Such of Our revelations as We abrogate or cause to be forgotten, We bring (in place) one better or the like thereof. Knowest thou not that Allah is Able to do all things? (2:106 cf. 16:101)
In fact, Islamic theologians of earlier ages carefully sorted out which Qur’anic passages were abrogating and which were abrogated.
Today, many Muslims deny that God could abrogate or change His Word in any way or form. Ironically, they sometimes interpret Qur’an 2:106 (above) to mean that the Qur’an has abrogated the previous Scriptures of Moses and Jesus—despite the fact that the Qur’an clearly attests that these Scriptures also are the Word of God and therefore, presumably, unchangeable! How much more odious, then, to suggest that at least for a period of time, satanic verses actually formed a part of the Qur’an! For many Muslims it is simply inconceivable that Muhammad, even under the severest pressures, would (perhaps even could) compromise with his Meccan enemies, and still more that Satan somehow could “whisper” his thoughts into the substance of God’s holy Word, the Qur’an. That is why even the idea of satanic verses in the Qur’an shocks some Muslims.
The satanic verses and the circumstances surrounding their revelation stems from the reputable Muslim accounts of at-Tabari and Ibn Sa’d. Muslims today who simply dismiss the account of these writers as fabricated and unhistorical must at least answer the question why such reputable persons would report it.
Below is the full Surah (An-Najm), using the Noble Qur’an Translation, with the Satanic Verses included for your analysis of the Surah.
Surah An-Najm (The Star) with the Satanic Verses.
1. By the star when it goes down, (or vanishes).
2. Your companion (Muhammad SAW) has neither gone astray nor has erred.
3. Nor does he speak of (his own) desire.
4. It is only an Inspiration that is inspired.
5. He has been taught (this Qur’ân) by one mighty in power [Jibrael (Gabriel)].
6. Dhu Mirrah (free from any defect in body and mind), Fastawa [then he (Jibrael Gabriel) rose and became stable]. [Tafsir At-Tabarî].
7. While he [Jibrael (Gabriel)] was in the highest part of the horizon,
8. Then he [Jibrael (Gabriel)] approached and came closer,
9. And was at a distance of two bows’ length or (even) nearer,
10. So did (Allâh) convey the Inspiration to His slave [Muhammad SAW through Jibrael (Gabriel)].
11. The (Prophet’s) heart lied not (in seeing) what he (Muhammad SAW) saw.
12. Will you then dispute with him (Muhammad SAW) about what he saw [during the Mi'râj: (Ascent of the Prophet SAW over the seven heavens)].
13. And indeed he (Muhammad SAW) saw him [Jibrael (Gabriel)] at a second descent (i.e. another time).
14. Near Sidrat-ul-Muntaha [lote-tree of the utmost boundary (beyond which none can pass)],
15. Near it is the
16. When that covered the lote-tree which did cover it!
17. The sight (of Prophet Muhammad SAW) turned not aside (right or left), nor it transgressed beyond (the) limit (ordained for it).
18. Indeed he (Muhammad SAW) did see, of the Greatest Signs, of his Lord (Allâh).
19. Have you then considered Al-Lât, and Al-’Uzza (two idols of the pagan Arabs)
20. And Manât (another idol of the pagan Arabs), the other third?
21. These are the exalted cranes (intermediaries) was replaced by,
21. Is it for you the males and for Him the females?
22. Whose intercession is to be hoped for. was replaced by,
22. That indeed is a division most unfair!
23. They are but names which you have named, you and your fathers, for which Allâh has sent down no authority. They follow but a guess and that which they themselves desire, whereas there has surely come to them the Guidance from their Lord!
24. Or shall man have what he wishes?
25. But to Allâh belongs the last (Hereafter) and the first (the world).
26. And there are many angels in the heavens, whose intercession will avail nothing except after Allâh has given leave for whom He wills and pleases.
27. Verily, those who believe not in the Hereafter, name the angels with female names.
28. While they have no knowledge thereof. They follow but a guess, and verily, guess is no substitute for the truth.
29. Therefore withdraw (O Muhammad SAW) from him who turns away from Our Reminder (this Qur’ân) and desires nothing but the life of this world.
30. That is what they could reach of knowledge. Verily, your Lord it is He Who knows best him who goes astray from His Path, and He knows best him who receives guidance.
31. And to Allâh belongs all that is in the heavens and all that is in the earth, that He may requite those who do evil with that which they have done (i.e. punish them in Hell), and reward those who do good, with what is best (i.e. Paradise).
32. Those who avoid great sins (see the Qur’ân, Verses: 6:152,153) and Al-Fawâhish (illegal sexual intercourse, etc.) except the small faults, verily, your Lord is of vast forgiveness. He knows you well when He created you from the earth (Adam), and when you were fetuses in your mothers’ wombs. So ascribe not purity to yourselves. He knows best him who fears Allâh and keep his duty to Him [i.e. those who are Al-Muttaqûn (pious - see V.2:2)].
33. Did you (O Muhammad SAW) observe him who turned away (from Islâm).
34. And gave a little, then stopped (giving)?
35. Is with him the knowledge of the unseen so that he sees?
36. Or is he not informed with what is in the Pages (Scripture) of Mûsa (Moses),
37. And of Ibrâhim (Abraham) who fulfilled (or conveyed) all that (what Allâh ordered him to do or convey),
38. That no burdened person (with sins) shall bear the burden (sins) of another,
39. And that man can have nothing but what he does (good or bad),
40. And that his deeds will be seen,
41. Then he will be recompensed with a full and the best recompense
42. And that to your Lord (Allâh) is the End (Return of everything).
43. And that it is He (Allâh) Who makes (whom He wills) laugh, and makes (whom He wills) weep;
44. And that it is He (Allâh) Who causes death and gives life;
45. And that He (Allâh) creates the pairs, male and female,
46. From Nutfah (drops of semen male and female discharges) when it is emitted;
47. And that upon Him (Allâh) is another bringing forth (Resurrection);
48. And that it is He (Allâh) Who gives much or a little (or gives wealth and contentment),
49. And that He (Allâh) is the Lord of Sirius (the star which the pagan Arabs used to worship);
50. And that it is He (Allâh) Who destroyed the former ‘Ad (people),
51. And Thamûd (people). He spared none of them.
52. And the people of Nûh (Noah) aforetime, verily, they were more unjust and more rebellious and transgressing [in disobeying Allâh and His Messenger Nûh (Noah)].
53. And He destroyed the overthrown cities [of
54. So there covered them that which did cover (i.e. torment with stones).
55. Then which of the Graces of your Lord (O man!) will you doubt.
56. This (Muhammad SAW) is a warner (Messenger) of the (series of) warners (Messengers) of old.
57. The Day of Resurrection draws near,
58. None besides Allâh can avert it, (or advance it, or delay it).
59. Do you then wonder at this recital (the Qur’ân)?
60. And you laugh at it and weep not,
61. Wasting your (precious) lifetime in pastime and amusements (singing, etc.).
62. So fall you down in prostration to Allâh, and worship Him (Alone).