In this series I am going to be taking a further look into what is commonly referred to as the “Satanic Verses,” which refers to the time when Satan inspired Muhammad to speak out in praise of the three chief goddesses of the pagan Arabs called al-Lat, al-Uzza and Manat, whom the Arabs worshiped as the daughters of Allah (banat Allah). I will show how Muhammad’s momentary lapse into idolatry raises some major problems regarding Allah being an asexual being who is incapable of engaging in intercourse with anyone.
But first, we start off with the story of the “Satanic verses” itself.
The Episode of the “Satanic Verses”
The following lengthy quotation is taken from the late renowned Islamic scholar Sir William Muir’s biography on Muhammad titled, The Life of Mahomet, Volume II, Chapter 5. Progress of Islam from the fifth to the tenth Year of the Mission of Mahomet, pp. 149-157 http://answeringislam.net/Books/Muir/Life2/chap5.htm. All bold and capital emphasis ours.
The Lapse of Mahomet
The aim of Mahomet had been the regeneration of his people. But he had fallen miserably short of Mahomet it.
He is down-cast and desires a reconciliation with his fellow citizens
The conversion of forty or fifty souls ill compensated the bitter alienation of the whole community. His heart was vexed and his spirit chafed by the violent opposition of the most respected and influential Chiefs. The prospect was dark; to the human eye, hopeless. Sad and dispirited, the Arabian Prophet longed for a reconciliation, and cast about how it could be effected.
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. Sura1, 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 proceeds2;-
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,3 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. Waild 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 forehead4.
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,5 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,6 and they increased their malice,7 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.8 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.
The concession was neither unpremeditated, nor immediately withdrawn.
It is obvious that the lapse was no sudden event. It was not a concession won by surprize, or an error of the tongue committed unawares, and immediately withdrawn. The hostility of his people had long pressed upon the spirit of Mahomet; and, in his inward musings, it is admitted even by orthodox tradition that he had been meditating the very expressions which, as is alleged, the devil prompted him to utter. Neither can we believe that the concession lasted but for a day. To outward appearance the reconciliation must have been consolidated and complete; and it must have continued at the least for some days, probably for many, to allow of the report going forth and reaching the exiles in a shape sufficient to inspire them with confidence. We are warranted therefore in assuming a far wider base and a more extensive action for the event, than are admitted by ex-parte tradition.
Mahomet tempted to it by the hope of gaining over his people.
The circumstances may be thus conceived. Up to this point, the religion of Mahomet was a spiritual system, of which Faith, and Prayer, and the inculcation of virtue, form the prominent features. Though the Kaaba and some of its rites may have been looked upon as founded by the patriarch Abraham, the existing worship as a whole was rejected by reason of its idolatry and corruption.9 Yet to this superstition, with all its practices, the people were obstinately wedded; and, unless permission were given to join more or less the time-honoured institutions of Mecca with the true Faith, there was little hope of a general conversion. How far would the strong expediency of the case justify him to meet half way the prevailing system? How far was it the will of God to admit concession?
Considerations by which he may have been influenced.
Was not the worship of the Kaaba, after all, a Divine institution? The temple was built at command of God; the compassing of it symbolized the circling course of the heavenly bodies, and the obedience of all creation to the Deity. Love and devotion were nurtured by the kissing of the sacred Corner-stone: the slaying of sacrifices, a pious rite in commemoration of Abraham’s readiness to offer up his son, signified a like submission;10 the pilgrimage to Arafat, the shaving of the head, and all the other popular observances were innocent, if not directly religious, in their tendency. But how shall he treat the Images of the Kaaba, and the gross idolatry rendered to them? In their present mind, the Coreish would never abandon these. But if (as they professed themselves ready) they would acknowledge the one true God as the supreme Lord, and look to the Idols as symbolical only of his angels, what harm would result from their bare continuance? Incredible as the concession may appear, and utterly irreconcilable with his first principles of action, Mahomet acceded to it, and consented to maintain the Idols as the representatives of heavenly beings “whose intercession was to be hoped for with the Deity.” The hurried and garbled notices of tradition give no farther insight into the compromise. If Mahomet stipulated for any safeguards against the abuses of idolatry, no trace of them can be now discovered. We only know that the arrangements, of whatever nature, gave perfect satisfaction to the chiefs and people, and produced a temporary union.
Error soon discovered;
But Mahomet was not long in perceiving the inconsistency into which he had been betrayed. The people still worshipped Images, and not God. No reasoning upon his part, no assurance from them, could dissemble the galling fact that the practice of idolatry continued as gross and rampant as ever.
and remedied by a complete disavowal.
His only safety now lay in disowning the concession. THE DEVIL HAD DECEIVED HIM. The words of compromise were no part of the divine system received from God through his heavenly messenger. The lapse was thus remedied. The heretical verses spoken under delusion were cancelled, and others revealed in their stead, denying the existence of female Angels such as Lat and Ozza, and denouncing idolatry with a sentence of irrevocable condemnation. Henceforward the Prophet wages mortal strife with images in every shape. His system gathers itself up into a pure and stern theism; and the Coran begins to breathe (though as yet only in the persons of Moses and Abraham) intimations of an iconoclastic revenge.11
7 It has been explained in a note to chap. i. of the Introduction, that the whole story, as given above, has been omitted by Ibn Hisham. See p. lxxiii. Canon II. L. But that it was contained in Ibn Ishac’s works (which Ibn Hisham professes to follow,) is evident from its being quoted by Tabari expressly from that author. See Sprenger’s Note in the Calcutta Asiatic Journal, where the original passages are quoted at length.
8 That the scandal of the narrative has been the cause of its rejection is admitted even by orthodox Mahometan writers. The author of the biography Mawahib alladoniya, shows, in opposition to the assertion that the story is heretical, that it rests on unexceptionable tradition, and that the opposing authorities are groundless, being founded only on the suspicion that the facts are unlikely. See note above quoted.
With the foregoing in perspective we are now ready to proceed to the second part of our discussion https://answeringislamblog.wordpress.com/2016/12/01/muhammad-acknowledges-that-his-lord-has-a-consort-pt-2/.