The orientalists allege that the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, was worried about the enmity of the non-believers in Makkah. In such a state of mind one day went to Ka`bah where he recited to the gathering of believers and non-believers Surah An-Najm 53 which is said to have been revealed at that time.
The allegation is that in the course of its recitation and when he uttered the verse 19-20 “Do you see al Lat and al `Uzza and the other third Manat?” Satan threw in the couplet “Those are the swans exalted; verily their intercession is to be expected”.
The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, then completed the Surah and at the end of it went into prostration in accordance with the last verse. All those present there, the believers and non-believers also did so except an old Quraishite leader (Umayyah Ibn Khalaf or Al-Walid Ibn Al-Mughirah or Abu Umayyah) who raised a handful of dust and touched it with his forehead saying that would suffice for him. The Quraishite leaders are said to have given out as reason for their prostration themselves, by saying that now that the Prophet had recognized the position of their goddesses as intercessors with Allah, there was in fact no point of quarrel with him.
Afterwards, in the evening (some versions do not specify any time) Jibril came to the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, and asked him to recite the Surah, which he did, still reciting the “satanic verses”. Jibril protested, saying that those were not what had been revealed. At this, the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, became very sad and apprehensive of Allah’s wrath. Thereupon two separate passages, 17:73-75 and 22-52 were revealed in reassuring the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, and the “satanic verses” were repealed. The Quraishite leaders became angry and renewed their enmity and opposition with increased vehemence. Meanwhile the news of non-believers’ prostration reached Abyssinia in the form of rumour of their compromise with the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, and the Muslims returned to Makkah.
The story is so manifestly absurd and untrue that it ought to have been rejected outright as such and not recorded by the chroniclers and traditionalists. But since some of them have recorded it has often been cited as ground for its genuineness, rather than the obviously discrediting features of the story itself.
Imam Fakhr Ad-Din Ar-Razi correctly points out that those who have critically looked at the story have all rejected it as spurious on the grounds of its conflict with the clear testimony of the Qur’an, the rules governing the genuineness of traditions and the dictates of reason.
The Qur’anic evidence against the genuineness of the story is of three kinds.
There are a number of statements in the Qur’an that show that neither Satan nor anyone else could interfere in the process of coming of the revelation. Nor did the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, ever entertain any intention of making compromise with the unbelieving leaders, nor did he ever interpolate in the text of the revelation.
The passages cited as having been revealed as a sequel to the incident and for reassuring the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, prove to the contrary, showing that he had not made even the slightest move towards making a compromise with the unbelieving leaders.
The internal evidence of Surah An-Najm (53), in connection with the revelation of which the story has been foisted, goes against its spirit and purpose.
THE PASSAGES FROM THE QUR’AN THAT DIRECTLY BELIE THE STORY ARE AS FOLLOWS:
“If he (Messenger) were to invent any saying in Our Name, We should certainly have seized him by the right hand and We should then have surely cut off the artery of his heart”
“Say; It is not for me, of my own accord, to change it (the revelation). I follow naught but what is revealed unto me”
[Qur’an 10:15 ]
“No falsehood can approach it from the front, nor from the rear (i.e. neither directly nor indirectly). It is sent-down from Allah the All-Wise, the All-Praiseworthy.”
“We indeed have sent down the recital (the Qur’an) and indeed are its Protectors (from any interference).”
“In what way (We have revealed it), that We may make your heart firm thereby; and We have dictated it in stages.”
It is seen from the above that the Qur’an repeatedly assures that Allah has protected it against any possibility of being tampered with directly or indirectly, that it is not for the Prophet to change it or add to it anything. If he had done so, Allah’s severe punishment would inevitably and irresistibly have befallen him. These clear and positive statements directly contradict the story, which says that the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, of his own accord or being deceived by Satan introduced something into the text of revelation. Not only that. The alleged interpolation violated the fundamental teaching of the Qur’an – monotheism (Tauhid) and thus constituted the offence of shirk which Allah warns elsewhere in the Qur’an that He shall under no circumstances forgive.
The story is thus quite contrary to the specific statements of the Qur’an and also to the tenor and purport of its entire text. As such the story is totally unworthy of any credence. This is not simply from a Muslim’s point of view, but also from true historian’s point of view.
The two passages of the Qur’an that are said to have been revealed as a sequel to the story are as follows:
“Indeed they were about to divert you from what We revealed to you, in order that you forge against Us something else, and in that case they would certainly have taken you as a friend. And had We not made you firm, you would almost have inclined towards them a little; and in that case we would have made you taste the double (punishment) in death; and then you would not have found for you as against Us any helper.”
These verses were revealed 11 or 12 years after the call to Prophethood.
“Never did We send a Messenger nor a Prophet before you, but that when he formed an intention Satan threw something in his intention; but Allah cancels what Satan throws in and then makes His sign prevail. Allah is All-knowing, All-Wise.
This verse was revealed during the 1st year of Hijrah.
A little careful look at them would at once show that their texts, far from supporting the story, do in fact contradict it.
The first passage shows that it was the unbelievers who attempted to induce the Prophet to making a compromise with them, not that he ever wanted it. The passage further states that Allah made the Prophet’s heart firm against such attempts of the unbelievers. The emphasis here is on the intensity of the unbelievers’ attempts, and Allah’s special favour upon the Prophet making him immune against such efforts and because of such special favour, the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, did not incline towards the unbelievers even a little. Finally the above verse warns that, had the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, been guilty of slight inclination towards the unbelievers’ proposals, he would have been doubly punished by Allah.
It is strange that the orientalists mention the above verses revealed about 8 or 9 years after the alleged incident as assurance from Allah, because during this period so many major events had taken place, including the Hijrah.
The Internal Evidence of Surah An-Najm (53)
The Surah starts emphasizing that,
“He (the Prophet) does not speak out of his desire. It is naught but Wahy (revelation) communicated to him.” In verses 3-4. The Surah declares that the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, has not gone astray, nor erred, nor does he speak out of his own desire, but what he gives out is only revelation communicated to him. It is impossible to think that the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, would immediately add the alleged two verse within this Surah itself, thus contradicting the very essence of the Surah. Though there are over 15 versions of the allegation, all the versions agree that the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, recited the whole of Surah An-Najm on this occasion and prostrated himself at the end of it.
The alleged verses as follows:
“Those are swans exalted. Whose intercession is to be expected.”
These alleged two verses do not fit in any place in the Surah. If we simply insert them after verse 19 and 20 they will read as follows:
“Have you then considered Al-Lat and Al-Uzza (two idols of the pagan Arabs)
And Manat (another idol of the pagan Arabs), the third?
Those are swans exalted. Whose intercession is to be expected.
Is it for you the males and for Him the females?
That indeed is a division most unfair
They are but names, which you have named, – you and your fathers- for which Allah has sent down no authority. They follow but a guess and that which they themselves desire, whereas there has surely come to the Guidance from their Lord.
Or shall man have what he wishes?
But to Allah belongs the last (hereafter) and the first (the world)”
A simple glance shows that the alleged satanic verses shown in bold above do not fit in any place in the Surah An-Najm. The whole text from verses 19 to the end of the Surah has a unity and continuity on both theme and sequence. There is no giving-in on the question of intercession by anyone; no relaxation of the principle of individual and personal responsibility, no softening down of denunciation of the conduct of the unbelieving leaders and no room given to accommodating their attitudes.
The following additional information should be noted on this insinuation.
The story has come down in about a dozen varying versions and does not have a strong chain of narrators (Isnad). It is technically regarded as Mursal – i.e. its Isnad does not go up beyond the second generation (Tabi`un) after the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him. One of the versions traces back to `Abd Allah Ibn `Abbas as eye-witness, who was born some five years after the alleged event was said to have taken place. Apart from this, all the persons in the Isnad have names who are considered weak, unreliable or unknown.
The report itself suffer from grave differences and disagreements in all the four essential respects, namely:
* The occasion of the incident;
* Nature of the Prophet’s alleged act;
* The wording of the alleged “satanic verses”- as many as 15 different texts;
* The effect or sequel of the alleged incident.
There are reports that say, more significantly, that while the unbelievers heard the alleged “satanic verses”, the believers did not at all hear them. All the versions unanimously show that no objection or uneasiness was expressed by any of the believers at the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, alleged utterance of the verses, nor to his alleged dropping of them subsequently. If such an unusual incident as the giving out of some compromising verses and their subsequent withdrawal had at all taken place, it would have been narrated by some of the many Companions of the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him.
`Abdallah Ibn Mas`ud says that Surah An-Najm was the first Surah, which the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, recited in front of a gathering of believers and non-believers at the Ka`bah compound. When he finished it and went into prostration, all those who were present, believers and non-believers also prostrated themselves. It is an acknowledged fact that the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, and the Muslims could not publicly and in a body perform prayer or recite the Qur’an at the Ka`bah before the conversion of `Umar, may Allah be pleased with him, and the revelation of Sura An-Najm took place after his conversion. Conversion of `Umar, may Allah be pleased with him, was a great gain to Islam.
The Qur’an has the stunning effect on every non-believing Quraishite who heard it and their leaders such as `Utbah Ibn Rabi`ah themselves had confessed to this. As such, the non-believers without realizing what they were doing would have gone to prostration as commanded in the last verse of the Surah, together with the Muslims. Since the Quraishite leaders prostrated themselves or made a show of prostration, they must have been pressed by their followers to explain their act. When they realized what they have done, they would have tried to find a justification for their unintentional act of abiding by the Qur’anic command.
The other fact that needs emphasizing in this connection is that the text of the so-called “satanic verses” was no new composition made on the occasion. It was an old couplet that the Quraishite pagans used to recite in praise of their goddess while circumambulating the Ka`bah. It is also to be remembered that the unbelievers used to create noise and disturbances whenever the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, or Muslims recited the Qur’an publicly. Therefore, it is very likely that when the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, recited the Surah and mentioned al-Lat and al-`Uzza in the course of his recitation and in a denunciatory strain, some of the Quraishite unbelievers instantly interrupted and protested by shouting out the couplets. Significantly enough, some versions of the story clearly state that the “satanic verses” were uttered not by the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, but by Satan or some unbelievers, and they specifically state that the Muslims did not hear it.