Muhammad and the Daughters of Allah:

A Summation of the Evidence for the Satanic Verses

Sam Shamoun

There are a number of articles on our website which deal with the issue of Muhammad reciting verses which he later retracted and claimed were from Satan, hence the name the "Satanic Verses." According to certain Muslim sources these verses, which were originally part of Sura 53:19-23, centered specifically on the three goddesses worshiped by the pagans of Arabia called Allat, al-Uzza and Manat. Initially Muhammad praised these goddesses by confirming their existence as deities that intercede before Allah. This caused the pagans to bow in worship and also praise Muhammad for speaking highly of their idols. Needless to say, they were not at all pleased with Muhammad when he later claimed that his statements were not from God but from Satan who caused him to slip!

The focus of this paper is to present quotations from both Muslim and non-Muslim sources in order to make it easier for our readers to find these references, especially for those who are engaged in dialogue with Muslims. We will begin by citing references from some of Islam’s leading exegetes and historians and eventually conclude with a list of related articles, some of which deal with this issue more in-depth.

Muslim Sources

Here is the story as narrated by one of the first Muslim biographers Ibn Ishaq:

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)

Al-Tabari, one of Islam’s greatest commentators and historians, relays two versions of the story:

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. Ka'b 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 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 the 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, consoling him and making the matter light for him, informing him that there had never been a prophet or a messenger before him who desired 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 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 canceling 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 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 could 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:

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. (The History of al-Tabari, translated and annotated by W. Montgomery Watt and M.V. McDonald [State University of New York Press (SUNY), Albany 1988], Volume 6, pp. 107-112)

Some Muslim authorities believed that specific Quranic passages were "revealed" in connection with this event such as the following:

And they indeed strove hard to beguile thee (Muhammad) away from that wherewith We have inspired thee, that thou shouldst invent other than it against Us; and then would they have accepted thee as a friend. And if We had not made thee wholly firm thou mightest almost have inclined unto them a little. Then had we made thee taste a double (punishment) of living and a double (punishment) of dying, then hadst thou found no helper against Us. S. 17:73-75 Pickthall

Ibn Sa’ad wrote in connection to the above citation:

… Then the Apostle of Allah, may Allah bless him, 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 setteth", till he reached, "Have ye thought upon Al-Uzza and Manat, the third, the other". Satan made him repeat these two phrases: These idols are high and their intercession is expected. The Apostle of Allah, may Allah bless him, 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 others say: Both did it. They were pleased with what the Apostle of Allah, may Allah bless him, 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, may Allah bless him. He was sitting in his house and when it was evening, Gabriel, may peace be upon him, came to him and REVISED the surah. Then Gabriel said: Did I bring these two phrases. The Apostle of Allah, may Allah bless him, said: I ascribed to Allah, what He had not said. THEN ALLAH REVEALED TO HIM: "And they indeed strove hard to beguile thee (Muhammad) away from that wherewith We have inspired thee, that thou shouldst invent other than it against Us; and then would they have accepted thee as a friend.

And if We had not made thee wholly firm thou mightest almost have inclined unto them a little.

Then had We made thee taste a double (punishment) of living and a double (punishment) of dying then hadst thou found to [sic] helper against Us.

… This prostration became known to people till the news reached Abyssinia and the Companions of the Apostle of Allah, may Allah bless him, that the people of Makkah fell in protraction and joined Islam including al-Walid ... 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. When 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 horsemen said: MUHAMMAD SPOKE WELL OF THEIR DEITIES, SO THEY FOLLOWED HIM, but 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. (Ibn Sa’ad’s Kitab Al-Tabaqat Al-Kabir, English translation by S. Moinul Haq, M.A., PH.D assisted by H.K. Ghazanfar M.A. (Kitab Bhavan Exporters & Importers, 1784 Kalan Mahal, Daryaganj, New Delhi- 110 002 India), Volume I, parts I & II, pp. 237-238; bold and capital emphasis ours)

Al-Bukhari also records the prostration of the pagans after Muhammad recited Sura 53, but doesn’t tell us why they prostrated:

Narrated Ibn Abbas:
The Prophet I 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)

Narrated Abdullah:
The first Sura in which a prostration was mentioned, was Sura An-Najm (The Star). Allah's Apostle prostrated (while reciting it), and everybody behind him prostrated except a man whom I saw taking a hand-full of dust in his hand and prostrated on it. Later I saw that man killed as an infidel, and he was Umaiya bin Khalaf. (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 6, Book 60, Number 386)

These reports provide indirect attestation for the veracity of this event since there was no reason for the pagans to bow at this point in time in light of their outright hostility towards Muhammad and his message. As Christian writer and 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; online edition)

And as this next source also says:

The image of Muslims and pagans prostrating themselves together in prayer in turn links the story of the satanic verses to very abbreviated sujud al-Qur'an (i.e. prostration when reciting the Qur'an) traditions found in the authoritative mussanaf hadith collections, including the Sunni canonical ones of Bukhari and Tirmidhi. Apparently "the allusion to the participation of the mushrikun emphasises how overwhelming and intense the effect of this sura was on those attending. The traditions actually state that all cognizant creatures took part in it, humans as well as demons (jinn)" (Rubin, p. 165).

Yet this is inherently illogical without the satanic verses in the recitation, given that in the "real" version of verses Q.53:19-23, the pagans' goddesses are attacked. The majority of traditions relating to prostration at the end of Sura al-Najm solve this by either removing all mention of the mushrikun, or else transforming the pathetic attempt of one aged Meccan to participate (who, too feeble to lay down, must instead put dirt to his forehead) into an act of mockery. Some traditions even describe his eventual comeuppance, saying he is later killed at the battle of Badr [1]. Thus "the story of the single polytheist who raised a handful of dirt to his forehead was transformed from a sincere attempt of an old disabled man to participate in Muhammad's sujud... into a sarcastic act of an enemy of Muhammad wishing to dishonor the Islamic prayer". And "traditions which originally related the dramatic story of temptation became a sterilized anecdote providing prophetic precedent for a ritual practice" (Rubin, p. 166). (Wikipedia The Free Encyclopedia, "Satanic Verses"; source, accessed on July 30, 2006; bold and underline emphasis ours)

Here is another verse believed to be "sent down" in response to Muhammad’s lapse:

Never did We send an apostle or a prophet before thee, but, when he framed a desire (tamanna), Satan threw some (vanity) into his desire: but God will cancel anything (vain) that Satan throws in, and God will confirm (and establish) His Signs: for God is full of Knowledge and Wisdom: S. 22:52 Y. Ali

The use of the word desire (tamanna) leaves little doubt that this is referring to the Satanic verses since this term is found in the very Sura which at one time contained these passages:

Now tell me about Lat and Uzzu; And Manat, the third one, another goddess. `What! for you the males and for Him the females?' That, indeed is an unfair division. These are but names which you have named - you and your fathers - for which ALLAH has sent down no authority. They follow naught but conjecture and what their souls desire, while there has already come to them guidance from their Lord. Can man have whatever he desires (tamanna)? S. 53:19-24 Sher Ali

It is no mere coincidence that both passages use the very word (tamanna), one in connection with Satan interjecting something into Muhammad’s desires and the other in reference to the pagans’ worship of the daughters of Allah. What we gather from this is that Satan interjected the desires the Meccans had for these pagan goddesses into Muhammad’s message in order to help the latter fulfill his heartfelt desire to be reconciled with his people. Satan basically took advantage of Muhammad’s feelings since he knew that this was setting Muhammad up for a momentary lapse of faith, which allowed for the enemy to inspire him with the verses praising the so-called daughters of Allah.

In fact, many Muslim commentators readily admit that Sura 22:52 refers to the "Satanic Verses." One such commentator was the renowned Mu’tazila scholar Al-Zamakhshari:

The faithful rendering of the revelation Zamakhshari on Sura 22:52/51

We have never sent any messenger of prophet before thee, but that Satan cast into his fancy, when he was fancying; but God annuls what Satan casts, then God confirms His signs - surely God is All-knowing, All-wise…

The occasion of the sending down of the present verse is the following: As the members of the tribe of the messenger of God turned away from him and took their stand against him and his relatives also opposed him and refused to be guided by what he brought to them, then, as a result of the extreme exasperation concerning their estrangement and as a result of the eager desire and longing that they be converted to Islam, the messenger of God sheltered the wish that nothing would come down to him that could make them shy away. Perhaps he should have been able to use that for the purpose of converting them and causing them to be dissuaded from their error and obstinacy. Now this wish continued in him until the sura called "The Star" (that is, Sura 53) came down. At that time he found himself with this wish in his heart regarding the members of his tribe. Then he began to recite, and when he came to God's words "and Manat, the third, the other" (Sura 53:20), Satan substituted something in accordance with the wish which the messenger of God had sheltered, that is, he whispered something to him which would enable the messenger to announce his wish. In an inadvertent and misleading manner, his tongue hurried on ahead of him, so that he said: "These (goddesses are the) exalted cranes. Their intercession (with God) is to be hoped for"… Yet, the messenger of God was not clear at this point until the protection of God "isma" reached him and he then became attentive again.

Some say that Gabriel drew his attention to it, or that Satan himself spoke those words and brought them to the people's hearing. As soon as the messenger of God prostrated (for prayer) as the end of the sura, all who were present did it with him and felt pleased (that is, the unbelievers felt pleased that their goddesses had been accepted as intercessors with God). (Helmut Gätje, The Qur'an and its Exegesis, Routledge and Keagan Paul, London UK 1976, p. 53-55; bold emphasis ours)

Here, also, are the comments of Al-Jalalayn in relation to Q. 22:52-53:

And We did not send before you any messenger (rasul) - this is a prophet who has been commanded to deliver a Message - or prophet (nabi) - 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'an, 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] surat al-Najm, Have you considered Lat and 'Uzza? And Manat, 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-gharaniq al-'ula) 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 wishes. (Tafsir Al-Jalalayn; source; bold emphasis ours)

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. (source; bold emphasis ours)

And this is what Muslim scholar 'Ali ibn Ahmad al-Wahidi wrote in regards to Q. 22:52:

((Never sent We a messenger or a prophet before thee…) [22:52]. The commentators of the Qur'an said: “When the Messenger of Allah saw that his people were shunning him, he was aggrieved by their rejection of the message he brought them and he secretly wished that Allah, exalted is He, reveals something to him which would bring him and his people closer to each other, keen as he was to see them accept faith. One day, he sat in one of the congregations of Quraysh which attracted a huge number of its members, and he wished that Allah, exalted is He, does not reveal to him on that day anything that might repel them from him. Allah, exalted is He, revealed to him then Surah al-Najm (By the star when it stetteth…) [Surah 53]. The Messenger of Allah recited it but when he reached (Have ye thought upon al-Lat and al-'Uzza, and Manat, the third, the other) [53:19-20], the devil put on his tongue WHAT HE HAD SECRETLY WISHED AND HOPED FOR and said: 'These are the mighty cranes (gharaniq) and their intercession is hoped for'. When the Quraysh heard this, they were very pleased. The Messenger of Allah carried on reciting until the end of the Surah and then prostrated. All the Muslims followed suit and prostrated, and all the idolaters who were present prostrated too. All those who were present, whether Muslim or disbeliever, prostrated except al-Walid ibn al-Mughirah and Abu Uhyahah Sa'id ibn al-'As who were too advanced in age and could not prostrate, but they both grabbed a handful of dust and put their foreheads on it. The Quraysh then dispersed, happy with what they heard. They said: 'Muhammad has mentioned our idols with complimentary terms. We know that Allah gives life and takes it away, He creates and provides sustenance, but these idols of ours will intercede for us with Him. Now that Muhammad HAS ASSOCIATED THEM, we are all with him'. That evening, Gabriel went to the Messenger of Allah and said: 'What have you done? You recited to people that which I did not bring from Allah, glorified is He, and you said what I did not say to you'.) (Al-Wahidi, Asbab al-Nuzul; bold, capital and underline emphasis ours)

Renowned Muslim expositor al-Suyuti in his Asbab al-Nuzul, p. 184, states:

Muhammad was in Mecca. He read the chapter of the Star. When he uttered, "Have you seen al-Lat, al-’Uzza, and the other third Manat?", Satan instilled in his tongue, "These are the exulted idols (daughters of God) whose intercession is hoped." The infidels said that Muhammad had mentioned their gods with good words. Then when he prostrated, they prostrated, too. Thus, the above verse 22:52 was inspired. (Behind the Veil, Chapter Ten, The Abrogator and Abrogated Qur’anic Verses; source; bold emphasis ours)

Another leading expositor who affirmed the veracity of this incident was al-Baidawi:

Muhammad desired that a Qur’an which brings his people closer to God and does alienate them may be bestowed on him; thus, Satan ill-whispered these words to him. (Behind the Veil, Chapter Ten)

The great Sunni exegete Ibn Kathir, even though he doubted the veracity of this report, nonetheless had to admit that:

How the Shaytan threw some Falsehood into the Words of the Messengers, and how Allah abolished that

At this point MANY of the scholars of Tafsir mentioned the story of the Gharaniq and how many of those who had migrated to Ethiopia came back when they thought that the idolators of the Quraysh had become Muslims, but these reports all come through Mursal chains of narration and I do not think that any of them may be regarded as Sahih. And Allah knows best ... (Tafsir Ibn Kathir (Abridged) (Surat Al-isra’, verse 39 to the end of Surat Al-Mu’minun), abridged by a group of scholars under the supervision of Shaykh Safiur-Rahman Al-Mubarakpuri [Darussalam Publishers & Distributors, Riyadh, Huston, New York, Lahore, First Edition: July 2000], Volume 6, p. 597; capital and underline emphasis ours)

One Muslim writer S. M. Darsh, who also disagrees that the story is authentic, does mention renowned Muslim scholars such as Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani and Sheikh-ul-Islam Ibn Taymiyya that did believe it, or at least a version of the story which claims that Muhammad didn’t actually recite the passages but that Satan caused the unbelievers to think that he did. The following quotes are taken from Appendix B: Islam Admits Its Sources Record 'Satanic Verses', of Brother’s Mark’s book, A Perfect Qur’an or ‘So it was Made to Appear to them’? (here). All bold and capital emphasis ours:

… Some, like b. Hajar, in his commentary upon al-Bukhari, somehow accept its reliability ... (p. 100)

He [Ibn Taymiyya], then, raises the question: Could the Prophets say that Allah, later on, redresses and rectifies, so that He will abrogate the spurious line that Satan has slipped in and confirm His verses? He answers the question in the light of the predominant views. The overall view recorded by the predecessors (as-salaf) is in agreement with the Quran. The successors did not accept that view and discredited the account given about the addition to the Chapter of an-Najm (The Star): "These are the high flying cranes. And surely their intercession is to be sought" on the grounds that this account was not established as an authentic one. But those who KNOW THAT IT IS WELL-FOUNDED say that this is what Satan has slipped into their ear, and not what the Prophet actually uttered. But the question in still valid notwithstanding the explanation.

Those who confirm the account given by the predecessors say that this is authentically reported beyond any challenge, and that the Quran bears testimony to it in the statement ... (p. 106; bold and capital emphasis ours)

It is clear that B. Taymiya, with his solid traditional background, with his extensive knowledge of the traditions, with his hard attitude against anything that infringes upon the pure concept of Islam and with his awareness of the theological implications of such a story, HAS NO HESITATION IN ACCEPTING ITS AUTHENTICITY. Not only does he accept its authenticity, but he goes on to say that tamanna here, absolutely, recited. For Allah thereafter says that "Allah will suppress what Satan throws in, then will confirm His Verses." This cannot all be the desire of the heart, which the Prophet did not utter" …

This attitude leaves the critics in a very difficult position. While great scholars like al-Tabari, B. Hajar, B. Taymiya accept the story as being authentic, the overwhelming majority brand it as a forgery. Is there any way out of this dilemma? (p. 107)

This same author comments on al-Tabari’s qualifications as a hadith scholar as well as on the veracity of this story’s chain of transmitters:

… He is described in the books comparing Hadith reporter as a trustworthy muhaddith himself. The authorities upon whom he relied in relating the story up to at-Tabioun (the followers of the companions), are deemed by Hadith scholars as trustworthy at least in two chains of narrations. (p. 100)

It seems that those who have accepted the authenticity of the episode of al-gharaniq were mainly interested in the technicality of the chain of reports. Does it satisfy the conditions of an acceptable report? THEIR ANSWER WAS YES. What about its theological implications? Then they started the uphill task of explaining them away. As mentioned earlier, it would have been sufficient for them to drop the episode altogether. It is not worthy of the efforts they have made to corroborate or to explain the story. In fact, there is simply no necessity at all to insert it in order to explain the verse of al-Hajj. The Quranic verse came simply as a consolation to the Prophet at a time when Allah was saying to him: "yet it may be, if they believe not in this statement, that you will torment your soul with grief over their footsteps." {Ch. 18, v.6] (p. 109)

Regarding the reason for the "revelation" of Sura 22:52, the author mentions:

a. As mentioned earlier, the authenticity of the story was denied by great exegetes and jurists like b. Kathir, Ash-Shawkani, and b. Al-Arabi, but they explained the Quranic verses of al-Hajj 52-55, IN THE LIGHT OF THE REJECTED STORY! They did not advance satisfactory alternative explanations… (p. 111)

Another source, a modern biography of Muhammad, notes in reference to the return of the Muslims from Ethiopia at the news that the Meccans had converted to Islam:

This report appears in the Annals of al-Tabari and in some other works on history and may possibly be a fact. But the reason why such a rumour got currency is stated as follows: "Once the Prophet was offering his prayers in the Ka’ba, when the unbelievers too were there. The Prophet recited the verse: ‘WA MANAT AL-THALITHAT AL-UKHRA’ (And Manat, the third, the last) and Satan made him utter the words: ‘TILKA AL-GHARANIQ AL-‘ULA, WA INNA SHIFA-ATUHUNNA LA TURTAJA’ (These are the exalted idols whose intercession is acceptable of God). The Prophet then made a prostration and the unbelievers did the same. (Here the last portion of this report which is to the effect that once, with the exception of a few unbelievers, all the human beings and the Jinnies made a prostration with the Holy Prophet is correct, as is reported in the Sahih of al-Bukhari, Chapter, Commentary on SURA al-NAJM S)." The rest of this story is evidently an absurd myth that deserves no comment. Most of the great traditionists, for instance al-Baihaqi, Qadi ‘Iyad, al-‘Aini, al-Mundhiri and al-Nawawi have declared it to be false and fabricated. But unfortunately many traditionists have recorded it with reference to the chains of its narrators. Among them more commonly known are: al-Tabari, Ibn Abi Hatim, Ibn al-Mundhir, Ibn Mardauyah, Ibn Ishaq, Musa ibn 'Uqba, and Abu Ma'shar. It is all the more strange that Ibn Hajar, a recognized authority on traditions insists on the truth of this report and says, "As we have mentioned above, three of its chains of narrators satisfy the conditions requisite for an authentic report. These reports are, however, all ‘MURSAL’ traditions, and those who believe the ‘MURSAL’ traditions may argue on their basis." (Sirat-un-Nabi (The life of the Prophet), by Allama Shibli Naumani, renderings into English by M. Tayyib Budayuni [Islamic Bookstore, New Delhi, 2001], Volume 1, pp. 217-218; underline emphasis ours)

Sunni writer GF Haddad provides additional corroboration that scholars like Ibn Hajar accepted the veracity of this report:

[Then al-Tabari proceeds to narrate reports to that effect, all of them weak, but the collective weight of which suggests authenticity AS STATED BY IBN HAJAR in Fath al-Bari (see below).]…

7. Ibn Hajar in Fath al-Bari, 1959 ed. vol. 8:

[p. 439] All the paths of this hadith are either weak or cut off, except for that of Sa`id ibn Jubayr... However, the profusion of the chains show that the story has a basis, furthermore, there are two other "mursal" chains whose narrators are those of Bukhari and Muslim. The first one is that narrated by al-Tabari through Yunus ibn Yazid from Ibn Shihab [al-Zuhri]: "Abu Bakr ibn `Abd al-Rahman ibn al-Harith ibn Hisham narrated to me," etc. The second is what al-Tabari also narrated through al-Mu`tamir ibn Sulayman and Hammad ibn Salama from Dawud ibn Abi Hind from Abu al-`Aliya.... Contrary to what Abu Bakr ibn al-`Arabi and al-Qadi `Iyad have claimed whereby the story has no basis at all.... When the paths of a hadith are many and distinct, it shows that the report has a basis.... So, as I said, there are three sound but 'mursal' chains for it, among them what meets the criteria of the two Sahihs but for the fact that they are 'mursal'. These constitute proof for both those that accept 'mursal' reports as proofs and those that do not, due to the mutual strengthening of the chains. (Haddad, STORY OF THE CRANES or "SATANIC VERSES"; source; bold and capital emphasis ours)

The readers should keep this one thing in mind: These are all Muslim sources speaking about this event! And this is the problem that a Muslim must face and address, the fact that Muslims (not Jews, Christians or Orientalists) originated the story of Muhammad reciting verses from Satan.

Non-Muslim Sources

There is little doubt among Islamic scholars or Orientalists (a term which Muslims use derogatorily), whether Christian or non-Christian, that this story is authentic. For instance, Sir William Muir wrote:

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. Sura , 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 proceeds;-

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, 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. 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.

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, 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, and they increased their malice, 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. 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. (Sir William Muir, Life of Mahomet, Volume II, Chapter 5, pp. 150-154; source; bold emphasis ours)

Another renowned Christian scholar of Islam, William Montgomery Watt, states:

If we compare the different versions and try to distinguish between external facts in which they agree and the motives which the various historians ascribe in order to explain the facts, we find at least two facts about which we may be certain. Firstly, at one time Muhammad MUST HAVE publicly recited the satanic verses as part of the Qur’an; it is unthinkable that the story could have been invented by Muslims or foisted upon them by non-Muslims. Secondly, at some later time Muhammad announced that these verses were not really part of the Qur’an and should be replaced by others of a vastly different import. The earliest versions do not specify how long afterwards this happened; the probability is that it was weeks or even months… The Muslim scholars, not possessing the Modern Western concept of gradual development, considered Muhammad from the very first to have been explicitly aware of the full range of orthodox dogma. Consequently it was difficult for them to explain how he failed to notice the heterodoxy of the satanic verses. The truth rather is that his monotheism was originally, like that of his more enlightened contemporaries, somewhat vague, and in particular was not so strict that the recognition of inferior divine beings was felt to be incompatible with it ... (Watt, Muhammad at Mecca [Oxford University Press, Karachi; second impression, 1993], pp. 103-104; capital and underline emphasis ours)


Indeed the story is so strange that it must be true in its essentials. It is unthinkable that anyone should have invented such a story and persuaded the vast body of Muslims to accept it. Moreover there is a passage in the Qur'an which describes something of this kind. (Watt, Muhammad: Prophet and Statesman [Oxford University Press, Oxford, U.K., 1975 (1961)], p. 61)

The late Iranian Islamic scholar 'Ali Dashti, referencing Sura 17:73-75, said:

… Furthermore certain Qor'an commentators state that the occasion of the revelation of these verses was an incident - the affair of the cranes - which is reported in many biographies and stories of the Prophet… After these verses [Sam- 53:19-20] came two more verses, which were excised from most of the early copies of the Qor'an because it was thought that Satan put them into the Prophet's mouth and that the Prophet regretted having uttered them… Believers in the Prophet's absolute infallibility deny the possibility of any occurrence inconsistent with that principle. They therefore treated the story as a fabrication and went so far as to excise the two sentences from the Qor'an. Nevertheless the evidence given in well-attested reports and in the interpretations of certain commentators makes it likely that the incident occurred. The two irreproachably pious authors of the Tafsir ol-Jalalayn consider it to have been the occasion of the revelation of verse 51 of sura 22 (ol-Hajj), which they interpret as a sort of divine consolation sent down to relieve the Prophet of the bitter remorse which he felt after his utterance of the two sentences… The Qor'an contains other passages with the same purport, and in several contexts makes it clear that the Prophet was not infallible ... (Dashti, 23 Years: A Study of the Prophetic Career of Mohammad, translated from the Persian by F.R.C. Bagley [Mazda Publishers, Costa Mesa, CA 1994], pp. 31-32)

Another western writer named Maxime Rodinson claims:

There was one incident, in fact, which may reasonably be accepted as true because the makers of Muslim tradition would never have invented a story with such damaging implications for the revelation as a whole… (Rodinson, Muhammad [The New press, NY, 2002; ISBN: 1-5-6584-752-0], p. 106)

Islamicist F.E. Peters refers to al-Tabari’s narration of the Satanic verses and concludes:

Muhammad had had an experience of God, and his passage from identifying the source of that experience first with his "Lord," then with al-Rahman, and finally with Allah is only one example, and not the most striking, of the modification of his beliefs over a period of time. We have already noted the presence of the goddesses al-Lat, al-Uzza, and Manat at Mecca. The same three goddesses appear - and then disappear - in an extremely curious and much-discussed passage in Sura 53 of the Quran. The exact context of the sura is unknown, but Muhammad was still at Mecca and was apparently feeling the pressures of the Quraysh resistance to his message… This is the indubitably authentic story - it is impossible to imagine a Muslim inventing such an inauspicious tale - of the notorious "Satanic verses"… What was first granted and then rescinded was permission to use the three goddesses as intercessors with Allah. It was, as has been suggested, a critical moment in Muhammad’s understanding of the distinction between Allah as simply a "high god," the head of the Meccan or Arabian pantheon where the lesser gods and goddesses might be involved as go-betweens, and the notion that eventually prevailed: Allah is uniquely God, without associates, companions, or "daughters." The goddesses were, as the revision put it, "nothing but names," invented by the Quraysh and their ancestors. (Peters, Muhammad and the Religion of Islam [State University of New York Press (SUNY), Albany 1994], pp. 160-161; bold emphasis ours)

Another leading authority on Islam, Alfred Guillaume says:

Distressed by the estrangement from his townsmen and by the illwill that beset him, Muhammad was led into making a temporary but very small concession to heathenism. In sura 53:19 he recited the words: 'Al-lat, al-Uzza, and Manat are the exalted virgins [the exact meaning of the word is not known] whose intercession may be counted on.' These words immediately won over the Meccans who joined him in prostrating themselves before Allah; but, as the biographer reports, Gabriel came to him and upbraided him for including words which had not been revealed to him, and revealed (sura 22:51): 'Never have we sent apostle or prophet before you but when he allowed his own wishes to predominate Satan interjected words into his desires; but God cancels what Satan interjects.' Critics of tradition have endeavored to discredit the honesty of those who reported this story; but it is impossible to suggest a motive for its invention other than a desire to discredit Muhammad, the Quran, and Islam itself-and such a supposition in regard to sincere Muslims is absurd. In fact the incident is the strongest possible testimony to the sincerity of Muhammad. Of course IT OPENS THE DOOR TO THE ENQUIRY WHETHER HE MAY HAVE BEEN MISTAKEN IN SUPPOSING THAT HIS WORDS WERE INSPIRED ON OTHER OCCASSIONS ALSO; but as the Quran itself rightly says, this has been the possible fate of prophets at all times, and there have been prophets who have not frankly and immediately acknowledged that they were mistaken… All that these interpolated words meant was that the divine or semi-divine beings acted as intercessors with Allah, an office which in Islam is accorded to Muhammad himself. Nevertheless it was a declension from the prophet's doctrine of monotheism inasmuch as the next step would logically be prayer and supplication to the guardian angels or heavenly intercessor…

When Muhammad withdrew these words and asserted that these goddesses had no reality but were mere names, the Meccans were more angry than before ... (Guillaume, Islam [Penguin Books, reprinted edition 1990], pp. 35-36; capital and underline emphasis ours)

Noted historian of the Arab peoples Philip K. Hitti is another authority who accepts the veracity of this event:

Among the urban population of al-Hijaz, and only about seventeen per cent. of the population was such, the astral stage of paganism was reached early. Al-‘Uzza, al-Lat and Manah, the three daughters of Allah, had their sanctuaries in the land which later became the cradle of Islam. In a weak moment the monotheistic Muhammad was tempted to recognize these powerful deities of Makkah and al-Madinah and make a compromise in their favor, but afterwards he retracted and the revelation is said to have received the form now found in Surah 53:19-20. Later theologians explained the case according to the principle of nasikh and mansukh, abrogating and abrogated verses, by means of which God revokes and alters the announcements of His will; this results in the cancellation of a verse and the substitution of another for it (Koran 2:100)… (Hitti, History of the Arabs from the Earliest Times to the Present, revised tenth edition, new preface by Walid Khalidi [Palgrave Macmillan, 2002; ISBN: 0-333-63142-0 paperback], pp. 98-99)

Al-Baydawi, Anwar al-Tanzil, ed. H.O. Fleischer, vol. I (Leipzig, 1846), pp. 636-7; Tabari, vol. xxvii, p. 34, seq., vol. xvii, p. 131. (Ibid. p. 99, fn. 1)

And so does author Benjamin Walker:

In 616 Muhammad, in an attempt to placate his Meccan opponents, spoke favourably of these three goddesses, but he withdrew his approval not long after (see section 5.21)… (Walker, Foundations of Islam: the Making of a World Faith [Peter Owen Publishers, London and Chester Springs], p. 44)

The pressure on Muhammad to make concessions to pagans of Mecca continued to increase, and, according to al-Tabari, he himself was keen to make it easier for the Meccans to accept his message. With this in mind, in 616 he tried to come to some reconciliation with the polytheists in respect of the deities Allat, Ozza and Manat, the three most popular goddesses of Mecca and the neighboring towns, and decided to admit them as worthy of honour.

He went to the Kaaba and, in the presence of the elders of Mecca, recited the verses still found in the Koran (53:19-20) calling attention to three goddesses. He then added the words ‘These are the exalted damsels [gharanik – variously translated as ‘females,’ ‘birds,’ ‘swans,’ ‘herons,’ ‘cranes’] mounting upward to heaven, whose intercession may be sought.’

The idolators were delighted with the new trend in Muhammad’s revelation, which was taken as bestowing divine status upon these deities and authorizing their worship, and, although some scoffed at his so-called monotheism, there was general relief that the tension had been eased. The reconciliation seems to have lasted long enough for the exiles to receive the news in Abyssinia, and for some of them to return to Mecca.

But, after a time (‘the same evening’, according to some; ‘weeks’ or even ‘months’ according to others), Muhammad realized that the compromise was ineffectual. He then retracted what he had said, explaining that the additional verses had been placed on his tongue by Satan and had been uttered by him under delusion. Accordingly the ‘satanic verses’ were excised and replaced by others… In any event, the opponents of Muhammad were not slow to point out that, if the excised verses had been inspired by Satan, how could one be sure that other parts of the Koran, if not the whole of it, were not the result of satanic prompting (wiswas) rather than divine inspiration (wahi)? In response, Muhammad declared that Satan had tampered with the revelations of the past apostles too, but ‘God brings to nought that which Satan has suggested’ (22:51). As for his teachings, he emphasized, they could not be the doctrines of an accursed Satan (81:25).

The story of the satanic verses has been the subject of endless and bitter controversy. Historians and commentators like al-Wakidi, Ibn Hisham, Ibn Saad, al-Tabari, al-Zamakhshari, al-Baydawi and Jalaluddin, are among those who have mentioned the incident. Later theologians began to deem it heretical to believe that Muhammad should have suffered such a lapse, ‘after he had received the truth’, and the incident was seldom recorded in the later biographies of the Prophet and is denied by many Muslims to this day. (Ibid., 5.21 The Satanic Verses, pp. 110-111)

Even Karen Armstrong, a modern author whose biography on Muhammad and book on Islam are praised by Muslims, accepts the historicity of this event:

But tension was growing. In 616, some of the Quraysh attacked the Muslims while they were performing their ritual prayers in one of the glens outside the city. The incident shocked everybody in Mecca, and both sides desperately tried to reach a modus vivendi. This may have led to the notorious incident of the “satanic verses.” The episode is recounted by only two of Muhammad’s early biographers, and some scholars believe it to be apocryphal, though it is hard to see why anybody would make it up. Both historians emphasize the desire for reconciliation in the city at this time. Ibn Sa’d starts his account by saying that in his desire to avoid an irrevocable breach with the Quraysh, Muhammad “sat down by himself, wishing that nothing be revealed to him that would drive them away.”…

One day, Tabari continues, Muhammad was sitting beside the Kabah with some of the elders, reciting a new surah, in which Allah tried to reassure his critics: Muhammad had not intended to cause all this trouble, the divine voice insisted; he was not deluded nor inspired by a jinni; he had experienced a true vision of the divine and was simply telling his people what he had seen and heard. But then, to his surprise, Muhammad found himself chanting some verses about the three “daughters of God”: “Have you, then, ever considered what you are worshipping in Al-Lat and Al-Uzza, as well as Manat, the third, the other?” Immediately the Quraysh sat up and listened intently. “These are the exalted gharaniq,” Muhammad continued, “whose intercession is approved.”

Tabari claims that these words were put on his lips by the shaytan (“tempter”). This is a very alarming notion to Christians, who regard Satan as a figure of monstrous evil. The Qur’an is certainly familiar with the story of the fallen angel who defied God: it calls him Iblis (a contraction of the Greek diabolos: “devil”). But the shaytan who inspired this gracious compliment to the goddesses was a far less threatening creature. Shaytans were simply a species of jinn; they were “tempters” who suggested the empty, facile, and self-indulgent yearnings that deflected humans from the right path. Like all jinn, the shaytans were ubiquitous, mischievous, and dangerous, but not on a par with the devil. Muhammad had been longing for peace with the Quraysh; he knew how devoted they were to the goddesses and may have thought that if he could find a way of incorporating the qharaniq into his religion, they might look more kindly on his message. When he recited the rogue verses, IT WAS HIS OWN DESIRE TALKING–NOT ALLAH– and the endorsement of the goddesses proved to be a mistake. LIKE ANY OTHER ARAB, he naturally attributed HIS ERROR to a shaytan.

Muhammad had not implied that the three “daughters of God” were on the same level as Allah. They were simply intermediaries, like the angels whose intercession is approved in the same surah. Jews and Christians have always found such mediators compatible with their monotheism. The new verses seemed a truly propitious gesture and their effect on the Quraysh was electrifying. As soon as Muhammad had finished the recitation, he prostrated himself in prayer, and to his astonishment, the Qurayshan elders knelt down beside him, humbly pressing their foreheads to the ground. The news spread like wildfire through the city: “Muhammad has spoken of our gods in splendid fashion! He alleged in what he recited that they are exalted gharaniq whose intercession is approved!” The crisis was over. The elders told Muhammad: “We know that Allah kills and gives life, creates and preserves, but these our goddesses pray to Him for us, and since you have now permitted them to share divine honors with Him, we therefore desire to unite with you.”

Muhammad was troubled. This was too easy. Were the Quraysh really going to amend their behavior, share their wealth with the poor, and be content to become the humble “slaves” of God? It did not seem likely. He was also disturbed by the jubilant words of the elders: he had certainly not meant to imply that the goddesses “shared divine honors” with Allah. While everybody else was celebrating, Muhammad went home, shut himself away, and meditated. That night Gabriel, the spirit of revelation, came to him: “What have you done Muhammad?” he asked. “You have recited to those people something that I did not bring to you from God and have said what He did not say to you!” MUHAMMAD’S WISH FOR A COMPROMISE HAD DISTORTED THE DIVINE MESSAGE. He was immediately contrite, but God consoled him with a new revelation. All the previous prophets had made similar “satanic” mistakes. It was always a struggle to make sense of the revelations and all too easy to confuse the deeper current of inspiration with a more superficial idea of one’s own. But, the revelation continued, “God renders null and void whatever aspersion the shaytan might cast, and God makes his messages clear in and by themselves.” An important principle had been established. God could alter his scriptures at the time that they were being revealed to a particular prophet. Revelation was progressive: We might say that Muhammad sometimes saw fresh implications in his message that qualified some of his earlier insights.

Now Muhammad had to go back to the Quraysh with a new verse that amended the “satanic” one. Once again God asked: “Have you, then, ever considered what you are worshipping in Al-Lat and Al-Uzza, as well as Manat?” But this time his answer was scathing. Why did they attribute daughters to Allah, when they themselves preferred sons? These so-called goddesses were simply “empty names,” human projections fabricated by the Quraysh and their forefathers. Those who worship them follow “nothing but surmise and their own wishful thinking.” This was a slap in the face that not only eliminated the gharaniq but insulted the revered ancestors. Why did the Qur’an find it impossible to accommodate these three goddesses alongside the angels? Why ruin the chance of peace with this uncompromising rejection of an apparently harmless devotion?

After four years, Muslims could no longer take the traditional religion seriously. For most of the Quraysh, Allah was still a remote high god, who did not impinge on their daily lives. But this was no longer true for Muhammad’s converts. The beauty of the Qur’an had made Allah a vibrant, indeed overwhelming reality. When they listened to their scripture, “a chill creeps over the skins of those who fear their Lord, and after a while, their skins and hearts soften at the remembrance of God.” The word of God was experienced as a powerful reality that could shatter the world: “Had We bestowed this Qur’an from on high upon a mountain,” God told Muhammad, “thou wouldst see it humbling itself, breaking asunder for awe of God.” Allah was NOW completely different from the deity worshipped by the Quraysh and the “satanic verses” were wrong to suggest that Islam was the same as the old religion. It was ludicrous to imagine that the three stone idols of the gharaniq could influence the God of Islam.

The Qur’an NOW began to make this distinction clear. The other deities were as helpless and ineffective as dangerously weak tribal chiefs. They could not provide food for their worshippers, as Allah did, and they would not be able to intercede on behalf of their devotees on the day of reckoning. Nothing was on a par with Allah.

Shortly after the repudiation of the “satanic verses,” the Surah of Sincerity was revealed…

The principle of tawhid (“unity”) became the crux of Muslim spirituality. It was not simply an abstract metaphysical affirmation of the singularity of the divine, but, like all Qur’anic teaching, a call to action. Because Allah was incomparable, Muslims must not only refuse to venerate the idols, but also ensure that other realities did not distract them from their commitment to God alone: Wealth, country, family, material prosperity, and even such noble ideas as love or patriotism must take second place. Tawhid demanded that Muslims integrate their lives. In the struggle to make God their sole priority, a Muslim would glimpse, in the properly ordered self, the unity that was God. It was perhaps at this time that new converts were first required to utter the shahadah, the declaration of faith recited by all Muslims today: “I bear witness that there is no god but Allah and that Muhammad is his prophet.”

The Quraysh would not have been shocked by monotheism per se, which was not, after all, a new idea to them. They had long found the religion of the Jews and Christians compatible with their own traditions, and had not been particularly disturbed by the hanifs’ attempt to create an authentically Arabian monotheism. But Muhammad was doing something different. Most hanifs had retained a deep respect for the Haram and had made no attempt to reform the social order. But in attacking the effigies that surrounded the Kabah, Muhammad implied that the Haram, on which the Meccan economy depended, was worthless. The Bedouin tribes did not make the hajj to visit the house of Allah but to pay their respects to their own tribal gods, whose cult was now condemned by the Qur’an in the strongest terms. The Quraysh often invoked the “exalted gharaniq” as they circumambulated the Kabah; now this practice was dismissed as deluded and self-indulgent. Ta’if, where Al-Lat had her shrine, provided Mecca with its food; many of the Quraysh had summer homes in this fertile oasis. How could Ta’if remain on friendly terms with them if they condoned the insult to their goddess? (Armstrong, Muhammad: A Prophet For Our Time [HarperOne, 2006], pp. 57-63; bold and capital emphasis ours)

Christian author Ernest Hahn, in an endnote, mentions some additional sources which affirm the veracity of the Satanic verses:

(This article, originally written in 1989 and here slightly edited, draws freely from 1. A Guillaume, The Life of Muhammad, Oxford, a translation of Ibn Hisham's early Arabic biography of Muhammad; 2. W. M. Watt, Muhammad at Mecca, Oxford, 1953, pp. 101-109. Reference to the topic is also found in a recently published biography of Muhammad by the Iranian Ali Dashti, Twenty-Three Years, translated from Persian by F. R. C. Bagley. Likewise, as to the event's historicity, Shabbir Akhtar’s statement is of interest: "... This potentially damaging event, recorded in detail by a scrupulously honest Muslim tradition, had demonstrated the possibility that the Devil could interfere with the Prophet's reception of the revealed text ... In quoting the relevant passages from surah 53 (vv. 19-23) of the Koran—which retain universal currency and complete textual purity—Rushdie perversely substitutes the original continuation of the passage containing the Satanic contribution (p. 114). Elsewhere the Qur'an clearly declares that God annuls the diabolical suggestions made to the Prophet" ("An Open Letter concerning Blasphemy" in Newsletter, Centre for the Study of Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations, Birmingham, Selly Oaks, May 1989; cf. Shabbir Akhtar, A Faith for all Seasons, Bellew Publishing, London, 1990, p. 59). On the historicity of the event, see also Yaqub Zaki, "The Qur’an and Revelation" in Islam in a World of Diverse Faiths, ed. Dan Cohn Sherbok, St. Martin’s Press, New York, p. 43: "… Satanic inspiration is known by the onomatopoeic wiswas (whispering) and there are two verses in the Qur’an whose source was recognized as satanic and were in consequence struck out immediately." It does seem, however, that "immediately" is questionable. Quranic quotations come from M. Pickthall, The Meaning of the Glorious Koran. I found no reference to the satanic verses in Yusuf Ali's popular Quranic commentary! For a better-researched and more detailed presentation on this topic, please refer to Silas, Muhammad and the Satanic Verses (, -- Ernest Hahn, 2000) (The Satanic Verses:; underline emphasis ours)

John Gilchrist sums up the evidence for the historicity of this incident and addresses the Muslim claims that seek to deny the story:

… The evidences certainly seem to be well-founded and the arguments against them strained to the point of glaring factual inaccuracy. The rejection of the story is clearly motivated by the unpalatable nature of its contents rather than a consideration of its factual historicity. There are numerous other stories relating to Muhammad's life of no better historical foundation than this one which are nevertheless usually admitted. Indeed in many cases incidents with a much weaker claim to authenticity are accepted as genuine. A recent apologist for Muhammad has written a biography in which he makes it plain that he has relied chiefly on the earliest biographies for his facts, in particular Ibn Ishaq, Ibn Sa'd and Waqidi (Lings, Muhammad, p. 349), and has unquestioningly included many stories of no greater authority than the story of Muhammad's concession to the Meccan idolaters. This story, however, is omitted without any reference to it whatsoever. Clearly it is rejected, not because it has a poor historical foundation, but because it records a damaging lapse made by Muhammad during his ten year ministry at Mecca. (Gilchrist, Muhammad and the Religion of Islam, "Satan's Interjection and its Implications", 2. Modern Muslim Reactions to the Story; source)

Finally, here are a few quotes from Wikipedia’s online entrée on the Satanic verses:

The tradition of the Satanic Verses never made it into any of the musannaf hadith compilations, let alone the 6 "canonical" Sunni ones (though see below for truncated versions of the incident). Yet the incident appears in early histories (al-Tabari’s Ta'rikh as well as al-Tabarani's [d. 971] al-Mu'jam al-kabir), and was even more prevalent in exegesis, particularly with regard to verse Q.22:52. In addition to appearing in Tabari's Tafsir, it is used in the Tafsir's of Muqatil, 'Abd al-Razzaq, and Ibn Kathir, as well as the naskh work of Nahhas, the asbab collection of Wahidi, and even the late-medieval al-Suyuti’s compilation al-Durr al-Manthur fi'l-Tafsir bi'l-Mathur

A number of Muslim scholars, notably Fazlur Rahman, have argued that if we are to trust Ibn Ishaq on other matters, we must trust him on this one

Since Muir the historicity of this episode (whether as an actual discrete event, or as a dramatization of a longer process of accommodation and then confrontation with Meccan polytheism) has been largely accepted by Western scholars of Islam. Watt and Guillaume argued for its authenticity based upon the implausibility of Muslims fabricating a story so unflattering to their prophet… (Source, accessed on July 30, 2006; underline emphasis ours)

Further Reading

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