About 3 months after the migration to Abyssinia, the sahabi who went returned to Mecca. Now why would they come back after only 3 months, to the land which had oppressed and persecuted them for their beliefs? The reason was because of a single rumour, and that was that the entirety of the Quraish had become Muslim. Now of course, this was not true, but the migrants had no way of verifying this and out of their homesickness jumped on the rumour and began making their way back to Mecca. It was only halfway through the journey that they found out that this was false, and so they turned back. But what was the basis of said rumour? This is where we come onto the incident of the satanic verses.

An important side note: the term satanic verses is not found in the Islamic scriptures, but was instead coined by a western researcher of Islam (called an orientalist) called Sir William. There are two stories of the Seerah that are very sensitive and problematic, and they are often used by non-Muslims to attack Islam and the prophet Muhammad . The first incident is this, and the second is that of the marriage of Zainab binti Jahsh with the prophet; and so it is important that we fully understand these incidents and their nuances, so that we may have the tools to defend our faith when it is under attack.

The main controversy with this incident arises from the fact that there are 3 main versions to this story, and the authenticity of their sources comes into question. Unfortunately, there are major Islamic scholars supporting each version, so it is tough to come to a definitive answer.

The first version is narrated in Sahih Bukhari, so is certainly authentic. It narrates that in the 5th year of the dawah, the prophet recited the entirety of Surah An-Najm in public. And it was such a powerful Surah, and it was so beautiful, and it built up so much momentum that when the final ayat called the listeners to do sajood to Allah, the prophet fell into prostration followed by the Muslims and then even the Quraish present. And thus for the first time everyone – Muslim and kuffaar alike – communally worshipped Allah directly behind the prophet. And this story was extrapolated and eventually reached the Abyssinian Muslims as the rumour that the Quraish had accepted Islam, and so they began making a return journey to Mecca when they found out that it was actually untrue.

Now, this story is authentic and makes sense without the need for the other versions, as the Quraish themselves had previously shown that they found the recitation of the prophet exceedingly beautiful, so much so that they had to invent lies against the prophet – such as him being a magician or in league with Jinns – just to explain away the magnificence of the Quran. As well as that, Surah An-Najm is an exceedingly powerful Surah, and so it is perfectly feasible that the Quraish were so moved by the prophet’s recitation of it that they fell into sajood alongside the Muslims. However, despite this explanation there are two other versions to this story.

Version 2 is not found in the rigorously authenticated books of hadith, nor in Ibn Hishaam. Instead it is found in the books of non-critical collectors, such as At-Tabari whose simple goal was to accumulate every story that that he heard, authentic or not. And this version goes back to Urwah ibn Zubayr, who was a tabi’in but not a sahabi, so the isnaad is incomplete. And he narrates that when the Surah was being recited and the prophet reached ayat 19 and 20 – ‘Have you seen Al-Laat and Al-Uzzah? And Manaat, the third of them (this is referring to the goddess idols that the Quraish worshipped as intercessors between them and Allah)?’ Iblis cried out and added, ‘These idols are the mighty cranes, and their requests will be granted,’ but only the mushrikoon heard this and not the Muslims. And so they believed that finally Muhammad had come to a compromise and accepted their idols, and so when he fell into sajood so did they. 

The third version is the hardest to accept, but it is still found in some early Islamic sources. It claims that when the prophet reached the 19th and 20th ayat, Iblis said those two satanic verses and the prophet, thinking that it was Jibrael coming with revelation, recited them out loud with his own tongue. And so when he finished the mushrikoon fell into sajood with him; however then Jibrael came down to him and asked him what it was he had said. And the prophet recited with those two verses when Jibrael stopped him and said, ‘This is not what I had brought down,’ and so the prophet became very distressed and hurt that he could not tell the difference between Jibrael and Iblis. And then Allah revealed Surah Hajj verse 52 and 53:

Never did we send before you a prophet or a messenger, except that when he recites [or wishes] Shaitaan adds into his recitation [or wish], and then Allah abrogates his addition and affirms his own ayats [or signs], for Allah is full of wisdom and knowledge. (52)

So that what Shaitaan adds becomes a fitna for those who have a diseased hard or a hard heart. And indeed, the wrongdoers are in extreme dissention. (53)

So according to this version Shaitaan actually succeeds in changing the recitation and deceiving the prophet, after which Allah corrects the recitation and the true ayat are revealed, and so the Quraish who initially agreed to follow the prophet turn back and reject the message of Islam.


Dr.Yasir Qadhi’s Seerah of The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) 016