In this series I am going to be taking a further look into what is commonly referred to as the “Satanic Verses,” which refers to the time when Satan inspired Muhammad to speak out in praise of the three chief goddesses of the pagan Arabs called al-Lat, al-Uzza and Manat, whom the Arabs worshiped as the daughters of Allah (banat Allah). I will show how Muhammad’s momentary lapse into idolatry raises some major problems regarding Allah being an asexual being who is incapable of engaging in intercourse with anyone.
But first, we start off with the story of the “Satanic verses” itself.
The Episode of the “Satanic Verses”
The following lengthy quotation is taken from the late renowned Islamic scholar Sir William Muir’s biography on Muhammad titled, The Life of Mahomet, Volume II, Chapter 5. Progress of Islam from the fifth to the tenth Year of the Mission of Mahomet, pp. 149-157 http://answeringislam.net/Books/Muir/Life2/chap5.htm. All bold and capital emphasis ours.
The Lapse of Mahomet
The aim of Mahomet had been the regeneration of his people. But he had fallen miserably short of Mahomet it.
He is down-cast and desires a reconciliation with his fellow citizens
The conversion of forty or fifty souls ill compensated the bitter alienation of the whole community. His heart was vexed and his spirit chafed by the violent opposition of the most respected and influential Chiefs. The prospect was dark; to the human eye, hopeless. Sad and dispirited, the Arabian Prophet longed for a reconciliation, and cast about how it could be effected.
Narrative by Wackidi and Tabari
“On a certain day, the chief men of Mecca, assembled in a group beside the Kaaba, discussed as was their wont the affairs of the city; When Mahomet appeared and, seating himself by them in a friendly manner, began to recite in their hearing the LIII. Sura1, The chapter opens with a description of the first visit of Gabriel to Mahomet, and of a later vision of that angel, in which certain heavenly mysteries were revealed. It then proceeds2;-
And see ye not LAT and OZZA,
And MANAT the third besides?
Satan tempts Mahomet to an Idolatrous concession
“When he had reached this verse, the devil suggested an expression of the thoughts which for many a day had possessed his soul; and put into his mouth words of reconciliation and compromise, the revelation of which he had been longing for from God,3 namely;-
These are the exalted Females,
And verily their Intercession is to be hoped for.
The Coreish worship along with him
“The Coreish were surprised and delighted with this acknowledgment of their deities; and as Mahomet wound up the Sura with the closing words,-
Wherefore bow down before God, and serve Him, the whole assembly prostrated themselves with one accord on the ground and worshipped. Waild alone, the son of Mughira, unable from the infirmities of age to bow down, took a handful of earth and worshipped, pressing it to his forehead4.
The people pleased
“And all the people were pleased at that which Mahomet had spoken, and they began to say,- Now we know that it is the Lord alone that giveth life and taketh it away, that createth and supporteth. These our goddesses make intercession with Him for us; and as thou hast conceded unto them a portion, we are content to follow thee. But their words disquieted Mahomet, and he retired to his house. In the evening Gabriel visited him; and the Prophet recited the Sura unto him. And Gabriel said, What is this that thou hast done? thou hast repeated before the people words that I never gave unto thee.
Mahomet disowns the whole proceeding
So Mahomet grieved sore, and feared the Lord greatly; and he said, I have spoken of God that whole which He hath not said. But the Lord comforted His Prophet,5 and restored his confidence, and canceled the verse, and revealed the true reading thereof (as it now stands), namely,
And see ye not LAT and OZZA,
And MANAT the third beside?
What! Shall there be male progeny unto you, and female unto him?
That were indeed an unjust partition!
They are naught but names, which ye and your, Fathers have invented, &c.
The Coreish more bitter than ever
Now when the Coreish heard this, they spake among themselves, saying, Mahomet hath repented his favourable mention of the rank held by our goddesses before the Lord. He hath changed the same, and brought other words in its stead. So the two Satanic verses were in the mouth of every one of the unbelievers,6 and they increased their malice,7 and stirred them up to persecute the faithful with still greater severity.”
This narrative founded on fact.
Pious Mussulmans of after days, scandalized at the lapse of their Prophet into so flagrant a concession to idolatry, would reject the whole story.8 But the authorities ARE TOO STRONG to be impugned. It is hardly possible to conceive how the tale, if not founded in truth, could ever have been invented. The stubborn fact remains, and is by all admitted, that the first refugees did return about this time from Abyssinia; and that they returned in consequence of a rumour that Mecca was converted. To this fact the narratives of Wackidi and Tabari afford the only intelligible clue. At the same time, it is by no means necessary that we should literally adopt the exculpatory version of Mahometan tradition; or seek, in the interposition of Satan and Gabriel, an explanation of actions to be equally accounted for by the natural workings of the Prophet’s mind.
The concession was neither unpremeditated, nor immediately withdrawn.
It is obvious that the lapse was no sudden event. It was not a concession won by surprize, or an error of the tongue committed unawares, and immediately withdrawn. The hostility of his people had long pressed upon the spirit of Mahomet; and, in his inward musings, it is admitted even by orthodox tradition that he had been meditating the very expressions which, as is alleged, the devil prompted him to utter. Neither can we believe that the concession lasted but for a day. To outward appearance the reconciliation must have been consolidated and complete; and it must have continued at the least for some days, probably for many, to allow of the report going forth and reaching the exiles in a shape sufficient to inspire them with confidence. We are warranted therefore in assuming a far wider base and a more extensive action for the event, than are admitted by ex-parte tradition.
Mahomet tempted to it by the hope of gaining over his people.
The circumstances may be thus conceived. Up to this point, the religion of Mahomet was a spiritual system, of which Faith, and Prayer, and the inculcation of virtue, form the prominent features. Though the Kaaba and some of its rites may have been looked upon as founded by the patriarch Abraham, the existing worship as a whole was rejected by reason of its idolatry and corruption.9 Yet to this superstition, with all its practices, the people were obstinately wedded; and, unless permission were given to join more or less the time-honoured institutions of Mecca with the true Faith, there was little hope of a general conversion. How far would the strong expediency of the case justify him to meet half way the prevailing system? How far was it the will of God to admit concession?
Considerations by which he may have been influenced.
Was not the worship of the Kaaba, after all, a Divine institution? The temple was built at command of God; the compassing of it symbolized the circling course of the heavenly bodies, and the obedience of all creation to the Deity. Love and devotion were nurtured by the kissing of the sacred Corner-stone: the slaying of sacrifices, a pious rite in commemoration of Abraham’s readiness to offer up his son, signified a like submission;10 the pilgrimage to Arafat, the shaving of the head, and all the other popular observances were innocent, if not directly religious, in their tendency. But how shall he treat the Images of the Kaaba, and the gross idolatry rendered to them? In their present mind, the Coreish would never abandon these. But if (as they professed themselves ready) they would acknowledge the one true God as the supreme Lord, and look to the Idols as symbolical only of his angels, what harm would result from their bare continuance? Incredible as the concession may appear, and utterly irreconcilable with his first principles of action, Mahomet acceded to it, and consented to maintain the Idols as the representatives of heavenly beings “whose intercession was to be hoped for with the Deity.” The hurried and garbled notices of tradition give no farther insight into the compromise. If Mahomet stipulated for any safeguards against the abuses of idolatry, no trace of them can be now discovered. We only know that the arrangements, of whatever nature, gave perfect satisfaction to the chiefs and people, and produced a temporary union.
Error soon discovered;
But Mahomet was not long in perceiving the inconsistency into which he had been betrayed. The people still worshipped Images, and not God. No reasoning upon his part, no assurance from them, could dissemble the galling fact that the practice of idolatry continued as gross and rampant as ever.
and remedied by a complete disavowal.
His only safety now lay in disowning the concession. THE DEVIL HAD DECEIVED HIM. The words of compromise were no part of the divine system received from God through his heavenly messenger. The lapse was thus remedied. The heretical verses spoken under delusion were cancelled, and others revealed in their stead, denying the existence of female Angels such as Lat and Ozza, and denouncing idolatry with a sentence of irrevocable condemnation. Henceforward the Prophet wages mortal strife with images in every shape. His system gathers itself up into a pure and stern theism; and the Coran begins to breathe (though as yet only in the persons of Moses and Abraham) intimations of an iconoclastic revenge.11
7 It has been explained in a note to chap. i. of the Introduction, that the whole story, as given above, has been omitted by Ibn Hisham. See p. lxxiii. Canon II. L. But that it was contained in Ibn Ishac’s works (which Ibn Hisham professes to follow,) is evident from its being quoted by Tabari expressly from that author. See Sprenger’s Note in the Calcutta Asiatic Journal, where the original passages are quoted at length.
8 That the scandal of the narrative has been the cause of its rejection is admitted even by orthodox Mahometan writers. The author of the biography Mawahib alladoniya, shows, in opposition to the assertion that the story is heretical, that it rests on unexceptionable tradition, and that the opposing authorities are groundless, being founded only on the suspicion that the facts are unlikely. See note above quoted.
With the foregoing in perspective we are now ready to proceed to the second part of our discussion https://answeringislamblog.wordpress.com/2016/12/01/muhammad-acknowledges-that-his-lord-has-a-consort-pt-2/.
The Quran makes the bold assertion that even if the entirety of mankind and jinn come together to produce something similar to it they will not be able to:
Say: “If the whole of mankind and Jinns were to gather together to produce the like of this Qur’an, they could not produce the like thereof, even if they backed up each other with help and support.” S. 17:88
The Quran also says that Satan is one of the jinn:
Behold! We said to the angels, “Bow down to Adam”: They bowed down except Iblis. He was one of the Jinns, and he broke the Command of his Lord. Will ye then take him and his progeny as protectors rather than Me? And they are enemies to you! Evil would be the exchange for the wrong-doers! S. 18:50
This means that the challenge of the Quran applies equally to Satan, that he too will be incapable of producing anything similar to the Muslim scripture.
Yet, amazingly, Muslim sources say that Satan did meet the challenge by deceiving Muhammad into reciting verses which the latter thought were part of the Quran. Ibn Ishaq, one of the earliest Muslim chroniclers, records the incident:
Now the apostle was anxious for the welfare of his people, wishing to attract them as far as he could. It has been mentioned that he longed for a way to attract them, and the method he adopted is what Ibn Hamid told me that Salama said M. b. Ishaq told him from Yazid b. Ziyad of Medina from M. b. Ka`b al-Qurazi: 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; so that he meditated on the project and longed for it and it was dear to him. 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 others”, Satan, when he was meditating upon it, and desiring to bring it (sc. reconciliation) to his people, put upon his tongue “these are the exalted Gharaniq 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 from their Lord was true, not suspecting a mistake or a vain desire or 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, except al-Walid b. al-Mughira who was an old man who could not do so, so he took a handful of dirt from the valley and bent over it. 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 into his longing. But God will annul what Satan has suggested. Then God will establish his verses, God being knowing and wise”. Thus God relieved his prophet’s grief, and made him feel safe from his fears and annulled what Satan had suggested in the words used above about their gods by his revelation “Are yours the males and His the females? That were indeed an unfair division” (i.e. most unjust); “they are nothing by names which your fathers gave them” as far as the words “to whom he pleases and accepts”, i.e. how can the intercession of their gods avail with Him?
When the annulment of what Satan had put upon the prophet’s tongue came from God, Quraysh said: “Muhammad has repented of what he said about the position of your gods with Allah, altered it and brought something else.” (The Life of Muhammad: A Translation of Ibn Ishaq’s Sirat Rasul Allah, with introduction and notes by Alfred Guillaume [Oxford University Press, Karachi, Tenth impression 1995], pp. 165-167; bold emphasis ours)
The so-called sound narratives provide corroboration that this event took place:
Narrated ‘Abdullah bin Masud: The Prophet recited Surat-an-Najm (53) and prostrated while reciting it and all the people prostrated and a man amongst the people took a handful of stones or earth and raised it to his face and said, “This is sufficient for me.” Later on I saw him killed as a non-believer. (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 2, Book 19, Number 176 http://searchtruth.com/book_display.php?book=19&translator=1&start=0&number=176; see also Number 173)
Narrated Ibn Abbas: The Prophet prostrated while reciting An-Najm and with him prostrated the Muslims, the pagans, the jinns, and all human beings. (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 2, Book 19, Number 177 http://searchtruth.com/book_display.php?book=19&translator=1&start=0&number=177)
Sura an-Najm (53) is the chapter that Muhammad recited when Satan placed the praise of the goddesses upon his tongue, thereby inspiring him to praise the idols of the Meccans! Note that al-Bukhari confirms two elements of Ibn Ishaq’s report: that all the pagans prostrated with Muhammad, and that a man took some dirt or stones and placed it on his forehead.
Now for the entire pagan community to bow in worship with Muhammad in light of his scathing attacks on their gods makes absolutely no sense. It does make perfect sense, however, that they would prostate if in fact Muhammad had just praised their goddesses. As Christian apologist John Gilchrist puts it:
“Surat-an-Najm” is the same Surah 53 which Muhammad was reciting according to the narratives we have quoted. What else could have prompted all present, both Muslims and pagans, to prostrate behind Muhammad but the concession made to the Meccan goddesses? One can understand the Muslims following any lead Muhammad gave (see the quote from Ibn Ishaq) but it is hard, if not impossible, to believe that the pagan Meccans would have joined Muhammad in worship at the end of the Surah if he had quoted it as it now stands with such a vehement denunciation of these same goddesses by name. The story does appear to have a compelling historical foundation. (Gilchrist, Muhammad and the Religion of Islam, “Satan’s Interjection and its Implications”, 1. A Compromise in Muhammad’s Ministry http://answeringislam.net/Gilchrist/Vol1/3c.html)
Moreover, notice that Ibn Ishaq said that the following citation was “revealed” to console Muhammad for mistakenly reciting Satan’s words as the words of Allah:
Never did We send a Messenger or a Prophet before you, but; when he did recite the revelation or narrated or spoke, Shaitan (Satan) threw (some falsehood) in it. But Allah abolishes that which Shaitan (Satan) throws in. Then Allah establishes His Revelations. And Allah is All-Knower, All-Wise: S. 22:52 Hilali-Khan
The above text confirms Ibn Ishaq’s story in that it admits that Satan threw something into Allah’s revelation which required the latter to intervene by abolishing what Satan proposed.
But this raises some uncomfortable questions for Muslims and for the challenge of the Quran:
If even jinn are incapable of matching the Quran then how was Satan able to deceive Muhammad into thinking that the verses which the devil put on his tongue were Quranic verses?
Wasn’t Muhammad able to tell the difference between Satan’s words and the verses of Allah?
Couldn’t he see that the verses which Satan composed were vastly inferior in quality to the Quran’s verses?
Couldn’t the rest of the Muslims, as well as the pagans, also see that these verses did not match up to the style of the Quran? After all, if the Quran is inimitable as it claims the people should have been able to immediately spot the difference between what Satan inspired and what Allah had revealed in the Quran.
And doesn’t the fact that neither Muhammad nor the rest of the people were able to see any qualitative difference between what Satan proposed with the rest of the Quran actually prove that the devil was able to meet the Quran’s challenge of producing something like it?
And if Satan did meet Allah’s challenge what does this say about the Quran’s claim of inimitability?
Doesn’t this prove that the Quran can and has been matched, which therefore falsifies its own claim of being unique and/or miraculous?
Moreover, what does this say about Satan’s power seeing that he was able to personally meet the challenge of the Quran without requiring any assistance from the rest of mankind and jinn?
Does this suggest that Satan is somehow all-powerful since he was able to produce statements of equal eloquence as those contained in the Quran?
In a related question, what does this say about Allah’s ability to insure that no one would be able to meet the Quran’s challenge?
Would not Satan’s ability to produce something identical to the Quran prove that either Allah isn’t all-powerful, the devil is his equal, or that the Quran is not from God?
What does this also say about Allah’s ability to protect his messengers from being controlled and inspired by Satan?
Doesn’t this cast doubt on Allah’s ability to protect his messengers and prophets? And if so, how can Allah be trusted to do what he says when his ability to carry out his promises can be thwarted by a finite creature like the devil (that is, unless Satan happens to be all-powerful as well)?
Finally, if Satan could inspire Muhammad what does this say about the rest of the Quran? What guarantee can a Muslim give and what evidence can s/he offer to prove that there are no other parts of the Quran which were actually inspired by Satan?