What are the Satanic Verses?

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We're hearing a lot about "Satanic Verses" these days. This is the title of a book that Salman Rushdie wrote in 1988 and it has caused much fury around the world.


The term "Satanic Verses" is used in modern academic literature to refer to some purported verses of the Quran which according to some Islamic narratives were once recited by our Prophet Muhammad and taken to be a part of the Quran, but later on denounced as having a Satanic origin. To give more details about that the story says that when the Prophet Muhammad was reciting the 53rd chapter of the Quran at a certain point the chapter as it is now in verses 19 to 20, says something like this, Have you not considered Lat and Uzza, which are names of two of the goddesses that were worshiped in Arabia at the time, which Islam comes to denounce, and say there's only one God.


These are pagan goddesses and then it says, Manat, the third one, the other one and then the next verse as it is in the Quran nowadays it says, is that you want sons for yourself, but you want to give the daughters to God? That would be an unfair distribution.


So God is, according to the Quran here I mean, the way that it's worded we can say that God is using their own sort of pre-suppositions against them, they presuppose that boys are better than girls. Not that this is in fact the Quran in fact, shows that this is not correct to think that way.


But the Quran is saying basically, since you think that way, you think that boys are better, why do you want to attribute daughters to God as opposed, and then you want the sons for yourself so that would be unfair.

So that's how the verses read now. In the 51st for 53rd chapter of the Quran starting with the 19th verse. Now, the story about this says that regarding the "Satanic Verses" says that well, the Prophet recited that The third, the other one, then Satan threw in something into his recitation words that say something like this. These are the high flying cranes whose intercession is to be desired or to be expected. So that's what the Prophet recited and people heard and they prostrated as a result because they thought oh, now the Prophet has compromised with us his strict monotheism that bothered us and now is accommodating us with our feminine deities, our goddesses and so they were willing to go along with prostrating praying along with the Muslims until the Angel Gabriel came to the Prophet Muhammad and asked him, "can you recite to me what you were reciting?" So the Prophet recited like that including the verses that praised the goddesses and then Gabriel says, "well, you know what? That part is not from me, that part is from the Shaitan so that has to go." And then obviously it was excised and we have the resulting text now in the 53rd chapter of the Quran, which is a strict monotheistic text criticizing them for thinking that God has daughters. So that is what is referred to as the "Satanic Verses" and of course, it becomes infamous because from a non-Muslim point of view this is very strange, it would look like your Prophet cannot distinguish between what is satanic and what is from God.


Some scholars defended it, some criticized it, but among the Muslims those who defended the story as being authentic would say, "well, of course, it happened, but in the end the Prophet made that distinction and what he gave us in the end is purely from God there's nothing satanic in there. And the Quran, they will cite another verse of the Quran from the 22nd chapter in the 52nd verse which seems according to their opinion to allude to this incident.


This doesn't come from the most authentic sources of Hadith narrating events about the Prophet Mohammad. So in Bukhari's narrative, we have the story just as a straight reading of the 53rd chapter of the Quran at the end of which both the Muslims and the non-Muslims are prostrated. And now the non-Muslim orientalists have looked at this and said, well, it must be true because Muslims would not have invented this. Why would they invent such a story to cast their Prophet in an embarrassing light?

One orientalist John Burton, professor of Islamic Studies at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland wrote many books, but one of his articles deals directly with this and is entitled, "Those Are The High Flying Cranes" and he pauses that two things could explain why Muslims would have come up with this story by themselves or at least embrace it once started to be bandaid about.


One is that Muslims wanted to explain things from the Quran that seemed obscure. So for example I refer to Surah 22 verse number 52, which basically says: "So whenever we have sent a prophet or a messenger Satan always threw something into his." Is the Arabic word Omnia could be his recitation or it could also be his hopes, but scholars took it to be recitation and so they wanna have a story like when did it ever happen that Satan did this? So, they came up with a story like this like an occasion of revelation or at least embrace the story.


The other thing is more complicated to explain. John Burton shows that Muslim scholars had this idea of abrogation that there must have been some verses that were once in the Quran, but no longer there and this story supports that contention that they were verses of the Quran that were removed. Here is a verse or a couple of verses that were removed. To him, it is easy to explain this as a Muslim invention and it's hard to conceive of this happening historically because imagine the Prophet preaching a pristine monotheism then reneging on that to compromise and then going back to the pristine monotheism. He wouldn't be able to convince people that he's genuine, not Muslims are non Muslims.


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