Salman Rushdie wrote a book called The Satanic Verses in 1989. Immediately a fatwa, or religious ruling, was issued calling for the death of Rushdie, and a bounty of $2.5 million was placed on his head by the Ayatollah Khomeini, which remains in effect to this day. What exactly are the Satanic Verses?
Islam strongly opposes idolatry, polytheism, associating anything or anyone with God. In fact, Islam's creed in Arabic begins with a negative: Not is there a god except 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. Each had a shrine in separate places not far from Mecca in Arabia, where Muhammad was born and began his mission.
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 Mecca, his followers were few, his movement grew painfully slow and he, too, felt the pain of estrangement from his tribe. Mecca was a very polytheistic society, and as Muhammad began preaching a new monotheistic religion, the majority of Meccans became hostile toward him and began persecuting Muhammad and his followers. According to early and treasured biographical and historical accounts of Muhammad, authored by competent Muslim scholars (such as writings of at-Tabari and Ibn Sa’d), Muhammad longed for better relations and reconciliation with his community. Thereafter, the accounts continue, God revealed Surah 53 to Muhammad up to and including vss. 19, 20. These two verses read:
Have ye thought upon al-Lat and al-Uzza And Manat, the third, the other? (53:19,20)
Then, originally, the verses (known today as the satanic verses) followed as verses 21-22:
These are the exalted cranes (intermediaries) Whose intercession is to be hoped for.
The cranes whose intercession was recognized were, of course, three deities, specifically female deities. The same accounts tell us that 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 53:19,20 (above):
Are yours the males and His the females? That indeed is an unfair division! (53:21,22)
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.
Problem: Muhammad admitted (by the guidance of Gabriel) to being deceived into inserting these verses into the Qur’an. In other words, Muhammad was unable to discern revelation from Allah with revelation from Satan. The great Islamic historian al-Tabari even records Muhammad's confession:
I have fabricated things against God and have imputed to Him words which He has not spoke. (The History of al-Tabari, Vol. VI, p. 111, SUNY Press, Albany, NY)
Is this possible for one who is truly God’s chosen prophet?
Furthermore, if Satan was able to deceive Muhammad into inserting these verses, how many other verses also have been inserted due to satanic influence?
Muslims are aware of these verses, but have a response to the problem. Muhammad receives another just-in-time revelation absolving him of this small indiscretion:
Sura 22:52 - And We did not send before you any messenger or prophet, but when he desired, the Shaitan [Satan] 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.
In other words, don’t worry Muhammad, all other prophets before you said things attributed to Satan from time to time, but Allah always corrected them.
The problem with this argument, or attempt to rescue Muhammad, is that it is patently false and without merit or proof. In fact, the Bible specifies exactly what must happen to someone who makes a false prophecy or speaks in the name of other gods:
If there arises among you a prophet or a dreamer of dreams, ... saying, “Let us go after other gods’—which you have not known—‘and let us serve them,’ you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams, for the LORD your God is testing you to know whether you love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul... But that prophet or that dreamer of dreams shall be put to death, because he has spoken in order to turn you away from the LORD your God... (Deut. 13:1-5)
In other words, anyone who advocates other gods is a false prophet; do not listen to him. In Deuteronomy 18 we find another test of false prophet:
But the prophet who speaks a word presumptuously in My name which I have not commanded him to speak, or which he speaks in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die. (Deut. 18:20)
Here we have a two-fold test of a false prophet. How does Muhammad measure up to the test?
- If a man speaks a word in the name of God which God did not command him to speak, that man is a false prophet.
- Muhammad spoke words which God did not command him to speak.
- Therefore, Muhammad is a false prophet.
- If a man speaks in the name of other gods, that man is a false prophet.
- Muhammad spoke in the name of other gods.
- Therefore, Muhammad is a false prophet.
Muslims may not like it, but by any definition of a prophet, Muhammad just does not measure up. Indeed, he meets the criteria for a false prophet, and therefore must be rejected as a messenger of God.
The other problem with these Satanic verses is this: Muhammad, by his own admission, could not discern between revelation from God and that from Satan. How then is anyone to trust anything written in the Qur'an? Perhaps all of it came from Satan -- Muhammad certainly was in no position to discern genuine divine revelation.
Muslims need to abandon the Qur'an as God's word, for this and a multitude of other reasons, and come to the book that truly is inspired by the one true God - the Holy Bible.
This incident is no doubt embarrassing for Muslims, and some will, and indeed have, attempted to dismiss the entire incident as hearsay or a legenary story concocted by Muhammad's enemies. There are two problems with taking this position.
First, the story is well documented is authoritative Islamic sources. Ibn Ishaq, Ibn Sa'd, and al-Tabari all document this incident, and none of these had axes to grind against Muhammad. If it had been considered heresay or legend in their day, surely they would have excised the account from their writings of Muhammad.
Second, if this account is to be considered a fabrication, then the context has been removed for a verse in the Qur'an, rendering the verse unintelligible. Why would Muhammad have received Sura 22:52, to exonerate him from Shaytan putting words on his tongue, if the incident never happened in the first place?
Muslims must own up to the fact that Muhammad was not a prophet in the line of Biblical prophets. He was merely a man with perhaps a grandiose imagination. There was a good reason the Jews of Yathrib rejected him as a prophet; he simply did not rise to the level of other prophets they knew.