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According to the earliest Muslim accounts on Muhammad’s life, Satan deceived Muhammad to recite sentences magnifying the three pagan goddesses of the Arabs, whom they called the daughters of Allah. It wasn’t until Gabriel supposedly came to Muhammad and asked him to recite surah 53 that the latter was told that his praise of the goddesses actually came from the Devil. This event is known as the “Satanic Verses.”

Here’s one particular version of this story:


Muhammad Ibn Umar informed us; he said: Yunus Ibn Muhammad Ibn Fudalah al-Azfari related to me on the authority of his father (second chain) he (Ibn Sa’d) said: Kathir Ibn Zayd related to me on the authority of al-Muttalib Ibn Abd Allah Ibn Hantab; they said: The apostle of Allah had seen his people departing from him. He was one day sitting alone when he expressed a desire: I wish, Allah had not revealed to me anything distasteful to them. Then the apostle of Allah, approached them (Quraysh) and got close to them, and they also came near to him. One day he was sitting in their assembly near the Ka’bah, and he recited: “By the Star when it setteth”[Q. 53:1], till he reached, “Have ye thought upon Al-Uzza and Manat, the third, the other”.[Q. 53:19-20] Satan made him repeat these two phrases: “These idols are high and their intercession is expected”. The apostle of Allah repeated them, and he went on reciting the whole surah and then fell in prostration, and the people also fell in prostration with him. Al-Walid Ibn al-Mughirah, who was an old man and could not prostrate, took a handful of dust to his forehead and prostrated on it. It is said: Abu Uhayhah Sa’id Ibn al-As, being an old man took dust and prostrated on it. Some people say: It was al-Walid who took the dust; others say: It was Abu Uhayhah; while others say: Both did it. They were pleased with what the apostle of Allah had uttered. They said: We know that Allah gives life and causes death. He creates and gives us provisions, but our deities will intercede with Him, and in what you have assigned to them, we are with you. These words pricked the apostle of Allah. He was sitting in his house and when it was evening, Gabriel came to him and revised the surah. Then Gabriel said: Did I bring these two phrases? The apostle of Allah said: I ascribed to Allah, what He had not said. Then Allah revealed to him:

“And they indeed strove hard to beguile you (Muhammad) away from that which We have inspired you, that you should invent other than it against Us; and then would they have accepted you as a friend. And if We had not made you wholly firm you might almost have inclined to them a little, Then had We made you taste a double (punishment) of living and a double (punishment) of dying then had you found no helper against Us.”[Q. 17:73-75]

Muhammad Ibn Umar informed us; he said: Muhammad Ibn Abd Allah related to me on the authority of al-Zuhri, he on the authority of Abu Bakr Ibn Abd al-Rahman Ibn al-Harith Ibn Hisham; he said: This prostration became known to people till the news reached Abyssinia and the Companions of the apostle of Allah that the people of Makkah fell in prostration and joined Islam including al-Walid. Ibn al-Mughirah and Abu Uhayhah who prostrated behind the prophet. The people said: When such persons have joined Islam, who else remains in Makkah? They said: Our relatives are dear to us. So they returned. Where they were at a distance of one hour’s walk from Makkah, they confronted some horsemen of Kinanah. They inquired about the Quraysh and their affairs. The horse men said: Muhammad spoke well of their deities, so they followed him but then they turned apostate. HE BEGAN TO ABUSE THEIR gods and they began to harm him. We left them in this struggle. They discussed that they should return to Abyssinia; but then they said: We have reached here, so let us enter (the town), see the Quraysh and visit our families and then return. (Ibn Sa’d, Kitab Al-Tabaqat Al-Kabir, translator S. Moinul Haq [Kitab Bhavan, New Delhi, n.d.], Volume 1, pp. 236-239; bold and capital emphasis mine)

As a side note, it is interesting to see the Muslim sources admitting that Muhammad was the one who antagonized the disbelievers by abusing their gods and insulting their traditions. Here’s another scholar confirming this fact:

(Revile not those unto whom they pray beside Allah lest they wrongfully revile Allah through ignorance…) [5:108 [sic]]. Said ibn ‘Abbas, according to the report of al-Walibi: “They [the idolaters] said: ‘O Muhammad, either you stop reviling our idols or we will revile your Lord’. And so Allah, exalted is He, warned against reviling their idols lest they wrongfully revile Allah through ignorance”. Qatadah said: “The Muslims used to revile the idols of the unbelievers and the latter used to REACT against them. Allah, exalted is He, therefore, warned the Muslims against being the cause which drives ignorant unbelievers, who have no knowledge of Allah, to revile Allah AS A RESULT OF reviling their idols”. Said al-Suddi: “When Abu Talib was dying, [some chiefs of] the Quraysh said: ‘let us go to this man and ask him to forbid his nephew from reviling our idols, for we feel shame to kill him after he passes away and drive the Arabs to say: ‘He used to defend him but once he passed away, they killed him’. And so Abu Sufyan, Abu Jahl, al-Nadr ibn al-Harith, Umayyah and Ubayy the sons of Khalaf, ‘Uqbah ibn Abi Mu‘ayt, ‘Amr ibn al-‘As, al-Aswad ibn al-Bukhturi went to see Abu Talib. They said to him: ‘You are our master and chief, but Muhammad has harmed us and harmed our idols. We would like you to call him and warn him against speaking ill of our idols. And from our part, we will leave him alone to his Allah’. The Prophet went when he was summoned. Abu Talib said to him: ‘These are your people and cousins!’ The Messenger of Allah asked them: ‘What do you want?’ They said: ‘We want you to leave us alone with our idols and we will leave you alone with your Allah’. Abu Talib said: ‘Your people ARE BEING FAIR with you, so give your consent’. The Messenger of Allah said: ‘If I agree to this would you agree to give me one sentence, if you were to utter it, you would rule over the Arabs and non-Arabs alike?’ Abu Jahl said: ‘Yes, by your father, we will give it to you and also give you ten other things like it; but what is it? He said: ‘Say: there is no god but Allah!’ They refused and expressed their aversion at this proposal, upon which Abu Talib said; ‘Son of my brother, ask for something else, for your people are wary of this’. (‘Alī ibn Ahmad al-Wahidi, Asbab al-Nuzul, Q. 6:108; bold and capital emphasis mine)

He said: ‘O uncle, I am not one who would ask for other than that. If they were to place the sun in my hand, I would not ask for anything other than that’. The chiefs of Quraysh said: ‘You would better stop reviling our idols or we will revile you and revile He Who commands you’. And so Allah, exalted is He, revealed this verse”. (Ibid.; bold emphasis mine)

Speaking of al-Wahidi, note his recounting of the “Satanic Verses”:

(Never sent We a messenger or a prophet before thee…) [22:52]. The commentators of the Qur’an said: “When the Messenger of Allah saw that his people were shunning him, he was aggrieved by their rejection of the message he brought them and he secretly wished that Allah, exalted is He, reveals something to him which would bring him and his people closer to each other, keen as he was to see them accept faith. One day, he sat in one of the congregations of Quraysh which attracted a huge number of its members, and he wished that Allah, exalted is He, does not reveal to him on that day anything that might repel them from him. Allah, exalted is He, revealed to him then Surah al-Najm (By the star when it stetteth…) [Surah 53]. The Messenger of Allah recited it but when he reached (Have ye thought upon al-Lat and al-‘Uzza, and Manat, the third, the other) [53:19-20], the devil put on his tongue WHAT HE HAD SECRETLY WISHED AND HOPED FOR and said: ‘These are the mighty cranes (gharaniq) and their intercession is hoped for’. When the Quraysh heard this, they were very pleased. The Messenger of Allah carried on reciting until the end of the Surah and then prostrated. All the Muslims followed suit and prostrated, and all the idolaters who were present prostrated too. All those who were present, whether Muslim or disbeliever, prostrated except al-Walid ibn al-Mughirah and Abu Uhyahah Sa’id ibn al-‘As who were too advanced in age and could not prostrate, but they both grabbed a handful of dust and put their foreheads on it. The Quraysh then dispersed, happy with what they heard. They said: ‘Muhammad has mentioned our idols with complimentary terms. We know that Allah gives life and takes it away, He creates and provides sustenance, but these idols of ours will intercede for us with Him. Now that Muhammad has associated them, we are all with him’. That evening, Gabriel went to the Messenger of Allah and said: ‘What have you done? You recited to people that which I did not bring from Allah, glorified is He, and you said what I did not say to you’. (Asbab Al-Nuzul, Q. 22:52; bold and capital emphasis mine)

The Messenger of Allah felt very saddened and was greatly scared of Allah. And so Allah, exalted is He, revealed this verse, upon which the Quraysh said: ‘Muhammad has regretted what he has mentioned regarding the status of our idols vis-à-vis Allah’. And they became even more antagonistic than before”. Abu Bakr al-Harithi informed us> Abu Bakr Muhammad ibn Hayyan> Abu Yahya al-Razi> Sahl al-‘Askari> Yahya> ‘Uthman ibn al-Aswad> Sa’id ibn Jubayr who said: “The Messenger of Allah recited (Have ye thought upon al-Lat and al-‘Uzza, and Manat, the third, the other) upon which the devil projected on his tongue: ‘These are the mighty cranes and their intercession is hoped for’. The idolaters were pleased. They said: ‘He has mentioned our idols’. Then Gabriel came to the Messenger of Allah and said: ‘Read back to me the speech of Allah’. When he read it to him, Gabriel said: ‘As for this I did not bring; this is from the devil’. And so Allah, exalted is He, revealed (Never sent We a messenger or a prophet before thee but when He recited (the message) Satan proposed (opposition) in respect of that which he recited thereof. But Allah abolisheth that which Satan proposeth. Then Allah establisheth His revelations…)”. (Ibid.,; bold emphasis mine)

Other reputable expositors include:

And We did not send before you any messenger rasūl — this is a prophet who has been commanded to deliver a Message — or prophet nabī — one who has not been commanded to deliver anything — but that when he recited the scripture Satan cast into his recitation what is not from the Qur’ān but which those to whom he the prophet had been sent would find pleasing. The Prophet had during an assembly of the men of Quraysh after reciting the following verses from sūrat al-Najm Have you considered Lāt and ‘Uzzā? And Manāt the third one? 5319-20 added as a result of Satan casting them onto his tongue without his the Prophet’s being aware of it the following words ‘those are the high-flying cranes al-gharānīq al-ulā and indeed their intercession is to be hoped for’ and so they the men of Quraysh were thereby delighted. Gabriel however later informed him the Prophet of this that Satan had cast onto his tongue and he was grieved by it; but was subsequently comforted with this following verse that he might be reassured of God’s pleasure thereat God abrogates nullifies whatever Satan had cast then God confirms His revelations. And God is Knower of Satan’s casting of that which has been mentioned Wise in His enabling him Satan to do such things for He does whatever He will. (Tafsir al-Jalalayn; bold emphasis mine)

Even someone as renowned as Ibn Kathir had no choice but to acknowledge the fact that many Muslim commentators referred to this story of the Devil duping Muhammad into glorifying the false goddesses of Arabia, despite his personal rejection of this event:

At this point MANY of the scholars of Tafsir mentioned the story of the Gharaniq and how many of those who had migrated to Ethiopia came back when they thought that the idolators of the Quraysh had become Muslims, but these reports all come through Mursal chains of narration and I do not think that any of them may be regarded as Sahih. And Allah knows best… (Tafsir Ibn Kathir; bold and capital emphasis mine)


Despite the fact that the story has been transmitted through mursal or so-called disconnected reports, what the readers may not realize is that the episode of the “Satanic Verses” is actually based on sound traditions. And these narratives were relayed by very reliable hadith transmitters according to the Islamic science of authentication. I cite a few examples:

When the Messenger of God was in Mecca, he recited [qara’a] to them: “By the star when it sets.” When he reached: “Have you considered al-Lat, al-‘Uzza and Manat, the third, the other?”, he said: “Indeed, their intercession is to be hoped for [inna shafa ‘ata-ha turtaja]” – the Messenger of God did this unmindfully [wa-saha rasul Allah].

The Mushrikun, “in whose hearts there was sickness [alladhina fi qulub-him marad],” met him and greeted him and were greatly pleased at it. He said to them: “But that was from Satan! [inna-ma dhalika min al-shaytan].” And God sent down: “And we have not sent before you a Messenger or a Prophet, but that when he tamanna, Satan (something) into his umniyyah, then God removes that which Satan cast.”

The above version appears in al-Tabari’s Tafsir, 17:189, with the following transmission: Yunus b. ‘Abd al-A’la al-Misri (170-264) – ‘Abd Allah b. Wahb al-Misri (125-197) – Yunus b. Yazid al-Ayli (d. 160) – Muhammad b. Shihab al-Zuhri (51-124) – Abu Bakr b. ‘Abd al-Rahman b. al-Harith (23-95).

It is also cited by Abu Ja’far al-Nahas al-Misri (d. 328) in al-Naskh wa al-mansukh (1:448-449 and 2:527-528) with the following chain: Al-Layth b. Sa’d al-Misri (94-175) – Yunus b. Yazid – al-Zuhri – Abu Bakr b. ‘Abd al-Rahman.

What makes the above narrative significant to our discussion is that it is deemed a sahih mursal report, i.e., a narration in which the transmitters are reliable but which doesn’t go back to a companion of Muhammad, but to one of their followers.

Al-Suyuti cited this from al-Tabari and also from ‘Abd b. Humayd al-Kissi/al-Kishshi/al-Kashshi al-Samarqandi (170s-249) (Al-Durr, 6:66), stating that they are mursal sahih al-isnad.

The leading 9th century AH hadith scholar Ibn Hajar al-‘Asqalani also gave the same verdict (Fath al-bari fi Sahih al-Bukhari [Shirkat al-Taba’ah al-Fanniyyah al-Muttahidah, Cairo, Egypt], 18:40). Even the late renowned Salafi hadith scholar Al-Albani, Majaniq, 9, accepted this assessment, despite rejecting its historicity due to the fact that it is a mursal report.

And here is another version of the same event:

The Messenger of God recited [qara’a]: “Have you considered al-Lat, al-‘Uzza and Manat, the third, the other?” and Satan cast onto his tongue [fa-alqa al-shaytan ‘ala lisani-hi]: “Those (are the high) flying cranes: there intercession is to be hoped for! [tilka al-gharaniq al-‘ula wa shafa’atu-hunna turtaja].”

And the Mushrikun were greatly pleased by this and said: “He has mentioned our gods.”

So Gabriel came to him and said: “Recite to me [iqra’ ‘alayya] what I brought you!” And he recited: “Have you considered al-Lat, al-‘Uzza and Manat, the third, the other? Those (are the) high-flying cranes: their intercession is hoped for!” He (Gabriel) said: “I did not bring you this! This is from Satan [ma ataytu-ka bi-hadha hadha ‘an al-shaytan]”; or he said: “This is from Satan! I did not bring you these” [aw qala hadha min al-shaytan lam ati-ka bi-ha].

So God sent down: “We have not sent before you a Messenger or a Prophet but that when he tamanna, Satan cast something into his umniyyah,” to the end of the verse.

This narration is quoted from the Tafsir of Ibn Mardawayh (323-410 AH) in a later hadith collection, namely the Mukhtarah of al-Diya’ al-Maqdisi (537-634), with a chain going back to Ibn Abbas:

Ahmad b. Musa Ibn Mardawayh al-Isbahani – his father, Musa b. Mardawayh al-Isbahani (d. 360) – Ibrahim b. Muhammad b. Mattawayh al-Isbahani (d. 302) – Muhammad b. ‘Ali al-Muqri’ al-Baghdadi (d. 300) – Ja’far b. Muhammad al-Tayalisi al-Baghdadi (d. 282) – Ibrahim b. Muhammad b. ‘Ar’arah al-Basri al-Baghdadi (d. 231) – Abu ‘Asim al-Nabil al-Dahhak b. Makhlad al-Makki al-Basri (d. 212) – ‘Uthman b. al-Aswad al-Makki (d. 150) – Sa’id b. Jubayr – Ibn ‘Abbas. (Diya’ al-Din Abu ‘Abd Allah Muhammad b. ‘Abd al-Wahid b. ‘Abd al-Rahman al-Hanbali al-Maqdisi, al-Ahadith al-mukhtarah aw al-mustakhraj min al-ahadith al-mukhtarah mim-ma lam yukhrij-hu al-Bukhari wa Muslim fi sahihay-hima, edited by ‘Abd al-Malik b. Abd Allah b. Duhaysh [Maktabat al-Nahdah al-Hadithah, Mecca], pp. 1990-1993)

Al-Suyuti also cites this hadith both directly from Ibn Mardawayh, claiming that its chain is made up of reliable transmitters (sanad rijalu-hu thiqat; cf. al-Durr 6:65), and from al-Diya al-Maqdisi’s citation of Ibn Mardawayh.

In fact, Ja’far b. Muhammad al-Tayalisi al-Baghdadi, Ibrahim b. Muhammad b. ‘Ar’arah al-Basri al-Baghdadi, Abu ‘Asim al-Nabil al-Dahhak b. Makhlad al-Makki al-Basri, and ‘Uthman b. al-Aswad al-Makki are considered to be impeachable as transmitters and seem to have been muhaddithun (hadith scholars). ‘Uthman b. al-Aswad was also known for studying under two prominent mufassirun (commentators), namely Mujahid b. Jabr and ‘Atiyyah b. Sa’d al-‘Awfi.

Moreover, Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani considered this particular transmission to be the most reliable of all the chains narrating the Satanic verses (cf. Takhrij ahadith al-Kashshaf, p. 114).

Other sources include:

Al-Bazaar and Al-Tabarani and Ibn Mardaweh and al-Ziya’ have narrated through a chain of all trustworthy (Thiqa) narrators by the way of Saeed Ibn Jubayr, from Ibn Abbas that Prophet recited the words of Surah Najm in the following manner:

“Have you then considered the Lat and the Uzza And Manat, the third, the last? These are the lofty (idols), verily their intercession is sought after.”

Mushrikin became delighted on hearing this from Holy Prophet and said that their idols have also been mentioned in the Quran. Then Jibril came and said to the Prophet: “Recite same revelation and Quran which I have brought.” The Prophet again recited the words:

“Have you then considered the Lat and the Uzza And Manat, the third, the last? These are the lofty (idols), verily their intercession is sought after.”

Jibril said: “I had not brought these words, these are from Satan.” Then the following verse was revealed:

“And We did not send before you any messenger or prophet, but when he desired, the Shaitan made a suggestion respecting his desire; but Allah annuls that which the Shaitan casts, then does Allah establish His communications, and Allah is Knowing, Wise.” (Q. 22:52) (Jalal al-Din al-Suyuti, Tafsir Dur al Manthur, volume 6, p. 65, Surah Hajj, verse 52)

Jalal al-Din al-Suyuti records similar versions of this incident from several other Sahih chains, for example:

“Ibn Jarir and Ibn al-Munder and Ibn Abi Hatim and Ibn Mardaweh have narrated through Sahih chain by the way of Saeed Ibn Jubayr who said…”

“Ibn Jarir, Ibn al-Munzir and Ibn Abi Hatim narrated with Sahih chain from Abi al-‘Aliyah…”

“Abd bin Hamid and Ibn Jarir by the way of Yunis, from Ibn Shahab narrated… with Mursal Sahih chain.” (Ibid.)

Despite the fact that he rejected this episode, Qadhi Thanaullah Pani Patti Uthmani in his commentary of Q. 22:52 had to nonetheless admit:

“… However the tradition we previously mentioned from Saeed bin Jubayr by Bazar, Ibn Mardaweh and Tabarani is indeed successive [Mutawatur] and strong [Qawi]. Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani has stated that from the abundance of traditions reported, it is deemed that there is some truth in it…” (Tafsir Mazhari (Urdu), Volume, 8, p. 94)

Here’s what Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani actually wrote:

لكن كثرة الطرق تدل على أن للقصة أصلاً مع أن لها طريقين صحيحين

“However, various versions mean that the story has an origin although there are two authentic versions.” (Fatah al-Bari Sharh Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 8, p. 439)

Ibn Abi Bakar al-Haythami is another Sunni scholar who affirmed that the episode concerning the satanic verses is Sahih:

رواه البزار والطبراني وزاد إلى قوله : { عذاب يوم عقيم } يوم بدر ورجالهما رجال الصحيح

“Al-Bazar and Tabarani narrated it and they added ‘the penalty of a Mighty Day’ in the day of Badr. The narrators are the narrators of Sahih.” (Majma al-Zawadi, Volume 7, p. 248, Number 11376)

Surprisingly, even the renowned Muslim authority Ibn Taymiyya, the premiere scholar of Salafi Muslims, affirmed and defended the historicity of Muhammad being inspired by Satan to recite verses praising the three pagan goddesses of the Meccans!

“What occurred with suratul-Najm (Q. 53) and its recitation, ‘These are the lofty (idols), verily their intercession is sought after,’ is well known amongst the Salaf; that this was recited by the messenger of Allah and then Allah abrogated it.” (Ibn Taymiyya, Minhaj Sunnah, Volume 2, p. 409

The following modern Muslim writer candidly admits:

Given this background, and given the consistent assertion throughout the Qur’an is that God alone should be worshipped, many Muslim scholars have rejected the validity of the report about the so-called “Satanic Verses.”  This report claims that due to the distress the Prophet felt because of the severe persecution of his followers, he was susceptible to the suggestion of Satan to interject a verse into Sura al-Najm suggesting that the celestial goddesses al-Lat, al-‘Uzza, and Manat are “high flying cranes whose intercession is approved.” This validation of the beliefs of the Meccans was said to have pleased them so that they stopped their persecution of the Muslims. However, Gabriel appeared to the Prophet and made him aware of his mistake and revealed the verse,

We have not sent a prophet or a messenger before you except that when he longed for something Satan cast suggestion into his longing. But God will annul what Satan has suggested, then God will establish his verses; indeed God is All-knowing, Wise, (Hajj; 22:52)

For the majority of Muslim scholars, this report does not meet the standard established by hadith criticism because it lacks a valid isnad and its content contradicts the belief of the majority of Muslims that prophets are infallible. A minority of scholars, however, most notably the Syrian Hanbali scholar Ibn Taymiyya (d. 728/1328), accept the validity of these reports.

Ibn Taymiyya agreed with the majority that all prophets are infallible; however, he understood this infallibility not as preventing prophets from ever committing errors but as preventing them from persisting in them once committed. The commission of such errors is part of God’s wisdom to allow them an opportunity to repent and perfect their character. (Ingrid Mattson, The Story of the Qur’an: Its History and Place in Muslim Life [Wiley-Blackwell, Second edition 2013], pp. 54-55; bold emphasis mine)


The incident of Muhammad being inspired by the Devil to glorify the three pagan goddesses of Northern Arabia is as certain as any other reliable event in Muhammad’s life. It comes from the earliest documented sources of Islam, and was accepted by nearly all of the early prominent Muslim scholars.

The late Shahab Ahmed was the leading Muslim scholar in respect to the “Satanic Verses,” having done the most research into this subject. He concluded his research as follows:

The Satanic verses incident constituted a standard element in the historical memory of the Muslim community in the first 150 years of Islam, and was recorded by almost all prominent scholars working in the fields of tafsir and sirah-Maghazi. (Shahab Ahmed, The Satanic Verses Incident in the Memory of the Early Muslim Community – An Analysis of the Early Riwayahs and their Isnads, A dissertation presented at Princeton University, 1999, p. i; bold emphasis mine)

[We have] repeatedly dated the reports of the Satanic Verses incident to the late 1st and early 2nd centuries; in other words, to what seems to have been the earliest period of systematic collection and organization of historical memory materials in the Muslim community. As regards the discourses of which these reports formed a part, we have found that all the reports were transmitted by late 1st/early 2nd century sirah-maghazi and tafsir scholars. (Ibid., p. 258; bold emphasis mine)

The Satanic verses were being transmitted in almost every important intellectual centre in the Dar al-Islam: Madinah, Mecca, Basrah, Kufah, Baghdad, Missisah, Rayy, Balkh, Samarqand, San’a’, Fustat and Qayrawan. (Ibid., p. 260; bold emphasis mine)

The Satanic verses incident is narrated in numerous reports (between 18 and 25, depending on how one reckons an independent riwayah) scattered in the sirah nabawiyyah and tafsir literature originating in the first two centuries of Islam. The indications are that the incident formed a fairly standard element in the historical memory of the early Muslim community regarding the life of its founder. (Ahmed, Ibn Taymiyyah and the Satanic VersesStudia Islamica, no. 87, 1998, p. 70; bold emphasis mine)

Hence, the event of the “Satanic Verses,” is one of the strongest proofs that Muhammad was an imposter and could not be a true prophet sent by the true God like the ones mentioned in God’s true Word, the Holy Bible.





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