Qur'an, Hadith and Scholars:Muhammad and the Satanic Verses

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The Islamic Tradition Itself
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According to orthodox Sunni Islam, the Qur'an as a whole was not the inspired word of a prophet channeling the holy spirit of Allah, but rather the very words of Allah coming our through the lips of his final apostle. As such, every word of the Qur'an, in Allah's own clear Arabic, is not simply divinley inspired, but is literally divine speech. Despite the lofty place of the text of the Qur'an in Islamic theology, according to the Islamic tradition at least one time the holy words of Allah were sullied by the whispers of Satan. In what is known as the Satanic verses incident, or also the Gharaniq (cranes) incident, according to all of the great biographers of the prophet, Satan whispered into the ear of Muhammad, corrupting a divine verse from Allah and turning it into an invitation to shirk, in the form of the worship of the daughters of Allah, deities worshipped by the pagan Meccans in addition to Allah at their shrine, the Ka'bah. This verse endeared Muhammad to the pagan Meccans, who had been dismayed by Muhammad's attacks on their gods and his declarations that their ancestors were in hell, but dismayed his followers who were shocked by this sudden embrace by Muhammad of shirk. Muhammad would later retract the verse, declaring it to be the work of Satan. Later commentators, theologians and scholars have questioned the incident, with modern scholars noting that this incident provides a very good rationale for the doctrine of naskh. Never the less, the incident is well documented in the Islamic tradition, with attestation in ibn Ishaq, Tabari, and Bukhari inter alia.


Surah 53:19-22

Have ye seen Lat. and 'Uzza,
And another, the third (goddess), Manat?
What! for you the male sex, and for Him, the female?
Behold, such would be indeed a division most unfair!
Qur'an 53:19-22

Surah 22:52-53

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:

That He may make the suggestions thrown in by Satan, but a trial for those in whose hearts is a disease and who are hardened of heart: verily the wrong-doers are in a schism far (from the Truth):
Qur'an 22:52-53


Sahih Bukhari

Narrated Ibn Abbas: The Prophet performed a prostration when he finished reciting Surat-an-Najm, and all the Muslims and pagans and Jinns and human beings prostrated along with him.


Ibn Hisham

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 other, 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 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 them from their Lord was true, not suspecting a mistake or a vain desire or a 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 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 Ghariniq 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 but 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.’ Now those two words which Satan had put upon the apostle’s tongue were in the mouth of every polytheist and they became more violently hostile to the Muslims and the apostle’s followers. Meanwhile those of his companions who had left Abyssinia when they heard that the people of Mecca had accepted Islam when they prostrated themselves with the apostle, heard when they approached Mecca that the report was false and none came into the town without the promise of protection or secretly.

Of those who did come into Mecca and stayed there until he migrated to Medina and were present at Badr with him was ‘Uthman b. 'Affan ... with his wife Ruqayya d. of the apostle and Abu Hudhayfa b. 'Utba with his wife Sahla d. of Suhayl, and a number of others, in all thirty-three men.
Ibn Ishaq (d. 768); Ibn Hisham (d. 833), A. Guillaume, ed, The Life of Muhammad [Sirat Rasul Allah], Oxford UP, pp. 165-167, ISBN 0-19-636033-1, 1955, https://archive.org/details/GuillaumeATheLifeOfMuhammad/page/n1/mode/2up 

Al Tabari

Satan Casts a False Revelation on the Messenger of God's Tongue

The Messenger of God was eager for the welfare of his people and wished to effect a reconciliation with them in whatever ways he could. It is said that he wanted to find a way to do this, and what happened was as follows.
Ibn Humayd—Salamah--Muhammad b. Ishaq—Yazid b. Ziyad al-Madani—Muhammad b. Kali al-Qurazi: When the Messenger of God saw how his tribe turned their backs on him and was grieved to see them shunning the message he had brought to them from God, he longed in his soul that something would come to him from God which would reconcile him with his tribe. With his love for his tribe and his eagerness for their welfare it would have delighted him if some of the difficulties which they made for him could have been smoothed out, and he debated with himself and fervently desired such an outcome. Then God revealed:

By the Star when it sets, your comrade does not err, nor is
he deceived; nor does he speak out of (his own) desire ...

and when he came to the words:

Have you thought upon al-Lat and al-'Uzza and Manat, the third, the other?

Satan cast on his tongue, because of his inner debates and what he desired to bring to his people, the words:

These are the high-flying cranes; verily their intercession is accepted with approval.

When Quraysh heard this, they rejoiced and were happy and delighted at the way in which he spoke of their gods, and they listened to him, while the Muslims, having complete trust in their Prophet in respect of the messages which he brought from God, did not suspect him of error, illusion, or mistake. When he came to the prostration, having completed the surah, he prostrated himself and the Muslims did likewise, following their Prophet, trusting in the message which he had brought and following his example. Those polytheists of the Quraysh and others who were in the Mosque likewise prostrated themselves because of the reference [1193] to their gods which they had heard, so that there was no one in the mosque, believer or unbeliever, who did not prostrate himself. The one exception was al-Walid b. al-Mughirah, who was a very old man and could not prostrate himself; but he took a handful of soil from the valley in his hand and bowed over that. Then they all dispersed from the mosque. The Quraysh left delighted by the mention of their gods which they had heard, saying, "Muhammad has mentioned our gods in the most favorable way possible, stating in his recitation that they are the high-flying cranes and that their intercession is received with approval."
The news of this prostration reached those of the Messenger of God's Companions who were in Abyssinia and people said, "The Quraysh have accepted Islam." Some rose up to return, while others remained behind. Then Gabriel came to the Messenger of God and said, "Muhammad, what have you done? You have recited to the people that which I did not bring to you from God, and you have said that which was not said to you." Then the Messenger of God was much grieved and feared God greatly, but God sent down a revelation to him, for He was merciful to him, consol?ing him and making the matter light for him, informing him that there had never been a prophet or a messenger before him who de sired as he desired and wished as he wished but that Satan had cast words into his recitation, as he had cast words on Muhammad's tongue. Then God cancelled what Satan had thus cast, and established his verses by telling him that he was like other prophets and messengers, and revealed:

Never did we send a messenger or a prophet before you but that when he recited (the Message) Satan cast words into his recitation (umniyyah). God abrogates what Satan casts. Then God established his verses. God is knower, wise.

Thus God removed the sorrow from his Messenger, reassured him about that which he had feared and cancelled the words [1194] which Satan had cast on his tongue, that their gods were the high-flying cranes whose intercession was accepted with approval. He now revealed, following the mention of "al-Lat, al-'Uzza and Manat, the third, the other," the words:

Are yours the males and his the females? That indeed were an unfair division!
They are but names which you have named, you and your fathers ...

to the words:

to whom he wills and accepts.

This means, how can the intercession of their gods avail with God?

When Muhammad brought a revelation from God cancelling what Satan had cast on the tongue of His Prophet, the Quraysh said, "Muhammad has repented of what he said concerning the position of your gods with God, and has altered it and brought something else." Those two phrases which Satan had cast on the tongue of the Messenger of God were in the mouth of every polytheists, and they became even more ill-disposed and more violent in their persecution of those of them who had accepted Islam and followed the Messenger of God.

Those of the Companions of the Messenger of God who had left Abyssinia upon hearing that Quraysh had accepted Islam by prostrating themselves with the Messenger of God now approached. When they were near Mecca, they heard that the report that the people of Mecca had accepted Islam was false. Not one of them entered Mecca without obtaining protection or entering secretly. Among those who came to Mecca and remained there until they emigrated to al-Madinah and were present with the Prophet at Badr, were, from the Banu 'Abd Shams b. 'Abd Manaf b. Qusayy, 'Uthman b. 'Affan b. Abi al-'As b. Umayyah, accompanied by his wife Ruqayyah the daughter of the Messenger of God; Abu Hudhayfah b. 'Utbah b. Rabi'ah b. 'Abd Shams, accompanied by his [1195] wife Sahlah bt. Suhayl; together with a number of others numbering thirty-three men.

Al-Qasim b. al-Hasan—al-Husayn b. Daud—Hajja—Abu Ma-'shar—Muhammad b. Ka'b al-Qurazi and Muhammad b. Qays: The Messenger of God was sitting in a large gathering of Quraysh, wishing that day that no revelation would come to him from God which would cause them to turn away from him. Then God revealed:

By the Star when it sets, your comrade does not err, nor is he deceived ...

and the Messenger of God recited it until he came to:

Have you thought upon al-Lat and al-'Uzza and Manat, the third, the other?

when Satan cast on his tongue two phrases:

These are the high flying cranes; verily their intercession is to be desired.

He uttered them and went on to complete the surah. When he prostrated himself at the end of the surah, the whole company prostrated themselves with him. Al-Walid b. al-Mughirah raised some dust to his forehead and bowed over that, since he was a very old man and could not prostrate himself. They were satisfied with what Muhammad had uttered and said, "We recognize that it is God who gives life and death, who creates and who provides sustenance, but if these gods of ours intercede for us with him, and if you give them a share, we are with you."

That evening Gabriel came to him and reviewed the surah with him, and when he reached the two phrases which Satan had cast upon his tongue he said, "I did not bring you these two." Then the Messenger of God said, "I have fabricated things against God and have imputed to Him words which He has not spoken." Then God revealed to him:

And they indeed strove hard to beguile you away from what we have revealed to you, that you should invent other than it against us ...

to the words:

and then you would have found no helper against us.

He remained grief-stricken and anxious until the revelation of the verse:

[1196] Never did we send a messenger or a prophet before you ...

to the words

... God is knower, wise.
When those who had emigrated to Abyssinia heard that all the people of Mecca had accepted Islam, they returned to their clans, saying, "They are more dear to us"; but they found that the people had reversed their decision when God cancelled what Satan had cast upon the Messenger of God's tongue.[1]
al-Tabari (d. 923), M. V. McDonald; W. Montgomery Watt, eds, The History of al-Tabari [Ta’rikh al-rusul wa’l-muluk], vol. VI, SUNY Press, pp. 107-112, ISBN 0-88706-706-9, 1988, https://archive.org/details/HistoryAlTabari40Vol/History_Al-Tabari_10_Vol/page/n1577/mode/2up 
أبو جعفر الطبري, تاريخ الرسل والملوك, vol. 2, al-Maktabah al-Shamilah, p. 337-341, https://app.turath.io/book/9783 

Ibn Sa'd

Account of the Causes of the Return of the Companions of the Prophet, from Abyssinia

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: Kthir 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 sets", (1) till he reached, "Have ye thought upon Al-Uzza and Manat, the third, the other". (2) 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 other 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.""(1)

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 know to people till the news reached Abyssinia and the Companions of the apostle of Allah that the people of Makkah fell in protraction 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.""

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; he said: "They entered Makkah and none entered it except under (some one's) protection; Ibn Masud stayed for a short time and returned to Abyssinia."

Muhammad Ibn Umar said: "They had left (Makkah) in the month of Rajab in the fifth year. There they remained in the months of Shaban and Ramadan. The incident of prostration took place in Ramadan, and they returned in Shawwal in the fifth year."[2]

Al Waqidi

"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 53 Sura.... "

"And see ye not Lat and Ozza, and Manat the third besides?"

"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, namely;

"These are the exalted Females, and verily their intercession is to be hoped for"

"The Coreish were surprised and delighted with this acknowledgement 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. Walid 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 forehead."

"And all the people were pleased at that which Mahomet had spoke, and they began to say, "Now we know that it is the Lord alone that give life and takes it away, that created and supports. These our goddesses make intercession with Him for us; and as thou has 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 has done? Thou has repeated before the people words that I never gave unto thee". So Mahomet grieved sore, and feared the Lord greatly; and he said, "I have spoken of God that which He had not said." But the Lord comforted His prophet, and restored his confidence, and cancelled 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, etc."[3]



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 (s) 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? [53:19-20] 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.

That He may make what Satan has cast a trial, a test, for those in whose hearts is a sickness, dissension and hypocrisy, and those whose hearts are hardened, namely, the idolaters, [hardened] against acceptance of the truth. For truly the evildoers, the disbelievers, are [steeped] in extreme defiance, [in] a protracted feud with the Prophet (s) and the believers, for his tongue uttered mention of their gods in a way that pleased them, and yet this was later nullified.
Surah 22 Ayah 52-53
Tafsir al-Jalalayn, trans. Feras Hamza, Royal Aal al-Bayt Institute for Islamic Thought

See Also

  • Satanic Verses - A hub page that leads to other articles related to Satanic Verses


  1. Al-Tabari (838? – 923 A.D.), The History of al-Tabari (Ta’rikh al-rusul wa’l-muluk), Vol. VI: Muhammad at Mecca, pp. 107-112. Translated by W. M. Watt and M.V. McDonald, SUNY Press, Albany, NY, 1988, ISBN: 0-88706-707-7, pp. 107-112.
  2. Ibn Sa'd's "Kitab al Tabaqat al Kabir" (Book of the Major Classes), Volume 1, parts 1 and 2, pp. 236 - 239, translated by S. Moinul Haq, published by the Pakistan Historical Society.
  3. "The Life of Mahomet", Volume 2, pp. 150 - 152, by W. Muir, quoting "Kitab al-Wakidi", published in London.