In this post I will wrap up the case for Satan causing Muhammad to commit shirk by praising the three goddesses whom the pagans worshiped as the daughters of Allah.  

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, NY 1988], Volume 6, pp. 107-112; bold and capital emphasis mine)

Here, again, are the verses that al-Tabari indicates were supposedly sent down as a consequence of Muhammad reciting the words of Satan:

Verily, they were about to tempt you away from that which We have revealed (the Qur’an) unto you (O Muhammad), to fabricate something other than it against Us, and then they would certainly have taken you a friend! And had We not made you stand firm, you would nearly have inclined to them a little. In that case, We would have made you taste a double portion (of punishment) in this life and a double portion (of punishment) after death. And then you would have found none to help you against Us. S. 17:73-75 Hilali-Khan

Never did We send a Messenger or a Prophet before you, but; when he did recite the revelation or narrated or spoke, Shaitan (Satan) threw (some falsehood) in it. But Allah abolishes that which Shaitan (Satan) throws in. Then Allah establishes His Revelations. And Allah is All-Knower, All-Wise: That He (Allah) may make what is thrown in by Shaitan (Satan) a trial for those in whose hearts is a disease (of hypocrisy and disbelief) and whose hearts are hardened. And certainly, the Zalimun (polytheists and wrong-doers, etc.) are in an opposition far-off (from the truth against Allah’s Messenger and the believers). S. 22:52-53 Hilali-Khan

With that in mind, the most authentic and authoritative collection of sunni traditions provides tacit support for the historicity of this event. Imam al-Bukhari records two narratives which attest that all the pagans prostrated along with Muhammad when the latter finished reciting surat-Najm, chapter 53, the very surah that contained Muhammad’s praise of the three goddesses:  

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 Ibn Abbas: The Prophet performed a prostration when he finished reciting Surat-an-Najm, and all the Muslims and pagans and Jinns and human beings prostrated along with him. (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 6, Book 60, Number 385

It makes absolutely no sense to argue, as some Muslims do, that the reason why all the pagans fell down in worship at Muhammad’s recital of surah 53 is because of its beauty and majesty, since they had never done so before or afterwards for any other surah.

The irrationality of such a claim is further seen from the fact that this surah in its current form contains a severe rebuke and condemnation of the pagans for their belief in and worship of female deities. Why, then, would they all bow down after hearing Muhammad renounce them and the three daughters of Allah?

The more sensible explanation is that Muhammad’s recital of surat-Najm initially included the praise of the three goddesses which Satan inspired him to recite:

“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. (John Gilchrist, Muhammad and the Religion of IslamMuhammad and the Religion of Islam, 3. The Nature of Muhammad’s Prophetic Experience, Satan’s Interjection and its Implications)

Moreover, and contrary to the claims of some Muhammadans, there is even solid historical evidence that Ibn Ishaq, the man who wrote the earliest extant biography on Muhammad’s life in the eighth century, e.g., Sirat Rasulullah (“The Life of the Messenger of Allah”), included this incident in his work. And yet, this story of Muhammad’s compromise was subsequently removed by Ibn Hisham, the Muslim who edited and reworked Ibn Ishaq’s sirah in the ninth century AD.

In fact, Ibn Hisham admitted to omitting material from Ibn Ishaq’s sirah that he felt was either weak or too embarrassing to the character of Muhammad:    

“… There is, in the Qarawiyun mosque library at Fez in Morocco, a manuscript entitled Kitab al-Maghazi (Book of the Campaigns) which, among other sources, contains a record of lectures given at one time by Ibn Ishaq on the life of Muhammad which includes the story of the concession made by Muhammad to the pagan Meccans. The narrative is very similar to that in Tabari’s work except that the actual ‘satanic verses’ are only referred to and not actually quoted in the text.” (Gilchrist, Muhammad and the Religion of Islam, pp. 117ff.)

And in support of the statements of Gilchrist, not what the renowned Islamist and the very scholar who translated Ibn Ishaq’s sirah into English, Alfred Guillaume, noted in regards to this manuscript find in the library at Fez:

The Verse Inserted into the Koran at the Instigation of Satan

Ms. fo. 56b; T. pp. 1192f.; S. p. 229; I.H. p. 241; L. p. 161

There can be little doubt that Ibn Hisham cut out some of the text which came to him because he gives no reason for the sudden conversion of the people of Mecca and leaves it unexplained. The full story hitherto has been known only from Tabari’s who quoted Ibn Ishaq on the authority of Salama. In that version it is made clear that it was the prophet’s desire to end the estrangement between him and his people and to make it easier for them to accept Islam that prompted him to yield to the suggestion of Satan and add the words “These are the exalted cranes (gharaniq) whose intercession is to be hoped for” (or, in another version, “approved”).

The manuscript agrees with Salama’s report from Ibn Ishaq that the emigrants returned from Abyssinia because they heard of the conversion of Quraysh in consequence of the concession to polytheism, but strangely enough it does not quote the offending words. Presumable they were deliberately omitted and readers must have known what they were because otherwise the narrative would be unintelligible. Two verses are referred to, but the second is not quoted. In view of its interest I give a translation of the manuscript: “(The emigrants) remained where they were until they heard that the people of Mecca had accepted Islam and prostrated themselves. That was because the chapter of The Star (53) had been sent down to Muhammad and the apostle recited it. Both Muslim and polytheist listened to it silently until he reached his words ‘Have you seen (or, “considered”) al-Lat and al-Uzza?’ They gave ear to him attentively while the faithful believed (their prophet). Some apostatized when they heard the ‘saj’ of the Satan and said ‘By Allah we will serve them (the Gharaniq) so that they may bring us near to Allah’. The Satan taught these two verses to every polytheist and their tongues took to them easily. This weighed heavily upon the apostle until Gabriel came to him and complained to him of these two verses and the effect that they had upon the people. Gabriel declined responsibility for them and said ‘YOU RECITED to the people something which I did not bring you from God and YOU SAID what you were not told to say’. The apostle was deeply grieved and afraid. Then God send down by way of comfort to him: ‘Never did we send an apostle or a prophet before you but when he wished Satan cast a suggestion into his wish’ as far as the words ‘Knowing, Wise’’ (Sura 22:51).

Ibn Kathir gives a fantastic reason for the conversion of the Meccans and says that Ibn Ishaq’s tradition is not sound. He says that he himself has not quoted the story of the gharaniq because there might be some who heard it for the first time and would not be able to take a right view of it.

Suhayli with his customary honesty makes no bones about it. He says that the cause of the return of the emigrants was as we have heard, and he also tells that besides Ibn Ishaq, Musa ibn ‘Uqba handed on the tradition. He says that traditionists reject this hadith, and those who accept it have ways of explaining it. One of these, he says, namely that Satan spoke of the words which were broadcast through the town but the apostle did not utter them, would be excellent were it not for the fact that the tradition asserts that Gabriel said to Muhammad “I did not bring you this”. (Alfred Guillaume, New Light on the Life of Muhammad [Manchester University Press], pp. 38-39; bold and capital emphasis mine)

With the foregoing in perspective, it is abundantly clear that the evidence for the devil moving Muhammad to praise the daughters of Allah, thereby causing him to commit the unforgiveable sin of associating others with the Islamic evidence, is massive and overwhelming. Therefore, Muslims cannot be conveniently brush aside or ignored this story as a fabrication, especially when it originated from within the Islamic community, being taught and passed on by some of Islam’s greatest and earliest scholars.




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