SATANIC VERSES & THE MUSLIM ARGUMENT

Background Al-Tabari, Ibn Sa'd and some other Muslim writers have mentioned (though they vary considerably in the matters of detail) that Prophet Muhammad
(PBUH)

, under Satanic inspiration added two verses to Surah an-Najm [53], which

are as follows:These are the high-flying ones, whose intercession is to be hoped for! The Prophet
(PBUH)

, it is alleged, recited these along with other verses of

Surah an-Najm in the prayer. The idolaters of Makkah who were present in the Ka'bah at that time joined him in the prayer because he praised their deities and thus won their hearts. The story afterwards reached Abyssinia where the Muslims, persecuted by the Makkan infidels, had earlier migrated and many of them returned to Makkah under the impression that the disbelievers no longer opposed the Prophet (PBUH) and the Islamic movement. The story also says that the angel Gabriel came to the Prophet (PBUH) the same evening and told him about the mistake he had committed by reciting verses which were never revealed to him. This naturally worried the Prophet Isra' which read: And their purpose was to tempt thee away from that which We had revealed unto thee, to substitute in our name something quite different; (in that case), behold! they would certainly have made thee (their) friend! And had We not given thee strength, thou wouldst nearly have inclined to them a little. In that case We should have made thee taste an equal portion (of punishment) in this life, and an equal portion in death: and moreover thou wouldst have found none to help thee against Us! [Qur'an 17:73-75]
(PBUH)

and made him apprehensive.

'Admonishing' the Prophet (PBUH), God revealed the following verses of Surah al-

This made the Prophet(PBUH) feel very guilty until God revealed the following consoling verse of Surah al-Hajj: Never did We send a messenger or a prophet before thee, but, when he framed a desire, Satan threw some (vanity) into his desire: but Allah will cancel anything (vain) that Satan throws in, and Allah will confirm (and establish) His Signs: for Allah is full of Knowledge and Wisdom. [Qur'an 22:52] This is the gist of the story mentioned by al-Tabari and some other writers that has been used by the Christian missionaries. The story would, among other things, imply that the Prophet(PBUH) and his Companions(R) took the 'Satanic' verses as a true revelation from God, otherwise nobody would have accepted them. Analysis Let us now examine the story and its contents in the light of internal and external evidence and evaluate it on the basis of criteria of historical criticism. In doing so, first of all one has to find out the chronological sequence in the story and establish whether or not all its details relate to one period and are interconnected. Special attention should be devoted to determining the periods of revelation of the three verses mentioned in the report, which will validate or falsify the episode. It can easily be gleaned from the story that the incident of reciting the 'Satanic' verses and the consequent prostration of the disbelievers in the Ka'bah happened after the first batch of Muslims had migrated to Abyssinia. This migration, according to all the reliable sources, occurred in the month of Rajab of the fifth year of the Prophetic call or about eight years before the Hijrah to Madinah. Therefore, the incident must have happened close to this date and not long after the migration to Abyssinia.

The verses of Surah al-Isra' (17:73-5) which were revealed, according to the story, to 'admonish' the Prophet(PBUH) for allegedly reciting the 'Satanic' verses, in fact were not revealed until after the event of the Mi'raj. The Mi'raj or the Ascent of the Prophet(PBUH), according to historical sources, occurred in the tenth or eleventh year of the Prophetic call, i.e., two or three years before the Hijrah to Madinah. If this is so, then it implies that the 'Satanic' verses were not detected or for some reason no mention was made about the alleged interpolation of the verses for five or six years and only afterwards was the Prophet(PBUH) admonished for it. Can any sensible person believe that the interpolation occurs today, while the admonition takes place six years later and the abrogation of the interpolated verses is publicly announced after nine years. The relevant verse of Surah al-Hajj (22:52) according to the commentators of the Qur'an was revealed in the first year of Hijrah, i.e., about eight to nine years after the incident and about two and a half years after the so-called admonition of the Prophet (PBUH) (17:73-5). Can anybody who knows about the Qur'an, its history and revelation, understand and explain how the incident of interpolation was allowed to be tolerated for six years and also why the offensive 'verses' were not abrogated until after nine years? The implication of this argument is that since the abrogating verses were revealed nine years after the original event, that would mean that for nine years Muslims had been asking Lat, Manat and Uzza for intercession! In other words outright idolatry resulting from compromised monotheistic beliefs. It is therefore quite pretentious to suggest any historicity in the notion that Muslims had been asking Lat, Manat and Uzza for intercession over the span of almost a decade. Watt's theory is that ... the earliest versions do not specify how long afterwards this (abrogation) happened; the probability is that it was weeks or even months.

is nothing but a hypothesis. Had he investigated the chronology of the three revelations relative to the story, he could not possibly have missed the facts related above. Let us now turn to some internal evidence. It has been said in the story that the 'Satanic' interpolation occurred in Surah an-Najm (53:19) which delighted the idolaters present in the Ka'bah and as a gesture of friendship and good-will, they all bowed down with the Prophet (PBUH). In order to comment on the story it would seem necessary to read the verses in the Qur'an, adding the alleged 'Satanic' verses, and find out what is actually meant to be conveyed here. It would read as follows. Have ye seen Lat and 'Uzza, And another, the third (goddess), Manat? [These are the high-flying ones, whose intercession is to be hoped for!] What! for you the male sex, and for Him, the female? Behold, such would be indeed a division most unfair! these are nothing but names which ye have devised,- ye and your fathers,- for which Allah has sent down no authority (whatever). They follow nothing but conjecture and what their own souls desire!- Even though there has already come to them Guidance from their Lord! [Qur'an 53:19-23] If one reads the bold part of the alleged Satanic verses quoted above, one fails to understand how God on the one hand is praising the deities and on the other hand discrediting them by using the subsequent phrases quoted above. It is also difficult to see how the Quraysh leaders drew the conclusion from this chapter that Muhammad (PBUH) as making a conciliatory move and was adopting a policy of give and take. Drawing the conclusions from various reports connected with the story, Watt suggests that ... at one time Muhammad must have publicly recited the Satanic verses as part of the Qur'an; it is unthinkable that the story could have been

invented later by Muslims or foisted upon them by non-Muslims. Secondly, at some later time Muhammad announced that these verses were not really part of the Qur'an and should be replaced by others of a vastly different import. Watt's suggestion that Muhammad (PBUH) replaced the 'Satanic' verses with some others of a vastly different import is pure speculation. If one takes the 'Satanic' verses to be true, it would imply that the verses to be found in 53:19 onwards, were not revealed in the same period. Watt's suggestion also implies that Muhammad(PBUH) and his followers read the 'Satanic' verses in place of or in addition to the verses found in the Qur'an for 'weeks and even months' and that when Muhammad(PBUH) later realized that these verses could not be correct, then the true version and continuation of the passage was revealed to him. This supposition is again pure speculation and is not based on any historical data. The story which we have summarized in the beginning suggests that Muhammad(PBUH) did not realize his fault until God admonished him six years later and that the matter was rectified perhaps another two and a half years after. In the meantime the Muslims were supposedly asking Allat, Manat and Uzza for intercession! Had the genuine state of affairs truly been this ridiculous, it would have been impossible for Muhammad loyal following. It is obvious that Watt and other Orientalists accept part of the story and reject the related parts along with their destructive implications, apparently because they are unable to find any link or sequence. Had there been any element of truth in the story, it could have caused a great scandal against Islam and the Prophet(PBUH) and every detail of this scandal must have found its place in the Hadith literature. Why is the authentic Hadith collection conspicuously silent about the scandalous part of the story? Does it not lead to the conclusion, contrary to the established fact, that Hadith literature itself is very defective as it failed to record such an important event which led the Prophet
(PBUH) (PBUH)

to have maintained such a

and his

Companions(R) to read 'Satanic' verses for weeks, months or perhaps even years

without realizing the error, all the while asking for the intercession of Lat, Manat and Uzza? In fact, al-Bukhari, Muslim, Abu Dawud, Nasa'i and Ahmad b. Hanbal all record the story, but only to the extent that was true. They all mention that the Prophet(PBUH) did recite Surah an-Najm and that, at the end when he prostrated, the idolaters present were so overawed that they also joined him in prostration. These leading Muhaddithun do not mention the blasphemous story which other sources have recorded. Conclusions It is quite clear that the nature of the story is absurd and it cannot stand the external and internal criticism. It is even clearer from the Qur'an that it is not possible for the Prophet (PBUH) to accept anything in the Qur'an from any external source. If this is so, then how can one take seriously, let alone believe in the socalled story of the 'Satanic' revelation? This is why the leading traditionalists and the exegetes in Islam have regarded this story as malicious and without foundation. It is unfortunate that an eminent historian like al-Tabari mentioned this story in his Tarikh al-Umam wal-Muluk and did not make any comment on its authenticity except to mention that he had faithfully transmitted whatever he received. Although there is great advantage in such a methodology (See reference 2 above) there are also risks. Unscrupulous people, i.e., the Christian missionaries, may take advantage of this and try to concoct something as they indeed did in the fabrication of the malicious story of the 'Satanic' verses. The fact that al-Tabari, Ibn Sa'd and others have recorded this story in their works does not prove that the story itself is true. The missionary entertains a challenge to the Muslims: 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 fabricate it. The question is not new. But, it seems, a serious Muslim response is hard to find. What the fellow is desperately pleading for is the source of the story. We have already witnessed that neither al-Tabari nor Ibn Sa'd is responsible for producing these stories. While the missionary himself conveniently attributes the accounts of al-Tabari and Ibn Sa'd with historical legitimacy, at least with regards to this particular incident, he is directing a sort of challenge to the Muslims who reject the historicity of the account. Thus, if the Muslims, not to mention Orientalists, dismiss the story as having no historical basis, then the missionary demands to know where the story came from, i.e. who is the individual responsible for concocting such an outlandish story. Somehow, he feels as though this is an uncomfortable question. However, an answer to this silly challenge is, what does it matter what the source is of such an absurd rumour? Rumours with even the most powerful effects of credulity have rarely seen their source discovered. Yet, we are not aware of any Muslims that actually believe the aforementioned story, and this position is cogently justified on the grounds of rigorous historical criticism. However, episodes of fabulous rumors followed by a credulous following are quite common outside the history of Islam. For example, it was rumoured that Jesus
(PBUH)

traveled to India. It was rumoured that St.

Matthew actually wrote the Gospel According to St. Matthew. It was rumoured that Islamic fundamentalists were responsible for the Oklahoma bombing. It was rumoured that UFOs visited Roswell, New Mexico. However, just because we do not know the individuals responsible for these rumours, does this mean that the rumours are true? Is the absence of an identified source of these rumours supposed to be construed as some sort of threat? The naïve implications of this method of inquiry should bring shame upon anybody who entertains them. Finally, in light of the above, it can quite effortlessly be concluded that the Christian missionaries' attempt to answer to the inimitability of the Qur'an, by building upon the poor scholarship of a fellow missionary, is thus nothing other than a product of gross ignorance and sheer tomfoolery.

And Allah knows best!

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