Before Orthodoxy: The Satanic Verses in Early Islam

TitleBefore Orthodoxy: The Satanic Verses in Early Islam
Publication TypeBook
Year of Publication2017
AuthorsAhmed S
PublisherHarvard University Press
CityCambridge, MA
ISBN Number9780674047426
Abstract

Shahab Ahmed, Ph.D. 1999.

One of the most controversial episodes in the life of the Prophet Muhammad concerns an incident in which he allegedly mistook words suggested by Satan as divine revelation. Known as the Satanic verses, these praises to the pagan deities contradict the Islamic belief that Allah is one and absolute. Muslims today—of all sects—deny that the incident of the Satanic verses took place. But as Shahab Ahmed explains, Muslims did not always hold this view.

Before Orthodoxy wrestles with the question of how religions establish truth—especially religions such as Islam that lack a centralized authority to codify beliefs. Taking the now universally rejected incident of the Satanic verses as a case study in the formation of Islamic orthodoxy, Ahmed shows that early Muslims, circa 632 to 800 CE, held the exact opposite belief. For them, the Satanic verses were an established fact in the history of the Prophet. Ahmed offers a detailed account of the attitudes of Muslims to the Satanic verses in the first two centuries of Islam and traces the chains of transmission in the historical reports known as riwāyah.

Touching directly on the nature of Muhammad’s prophetic visions, the interpretation of the Satanic verses incident is a question of profound importance in Islam, one that plays a role in defining the limits of what Muslims may legitimately say and do—issues crucial to understanding the contemporary Islamic world.

Table of Contents

Introduction: How Does Truth Happen?

1. How to Read the Earliest Sources?

2. The Earliest Narrative Reports (Riwāyahs) and Their Transmitters

Riwāyahs 1 to 7: From Muḥammad b. Ka‘b al-Quraẓī

Riwāyah 1: From the Rayy Recension of the Sīrah of Muḥammad Ibn Isḥāq

Riwāyah 2: Abū Ma‘shar’s Report from Muḥammad b. Ka‘b and Muḥammad b. Qays

Riwāyah 3: al-Wāqidī’s Report from al-Muṭṭalib b. Ḥanṭab and the Banū Ẓafar

Riwāyahs 4 to 6: Summary Reports from Muḥammad b. Ka‘b al-Quraẓī

Riwāyah 4: A Summary Report from Muḥammad b. Ka‘b in the Tafsīr of Abū al-Layth al-Samarqandī

Riwāyah 5: A Summary Report from Muḥammad b. Ka‘b in the Tafsīr of Ibn Abī Ḥātim al-Rāzī

Riwāyah 6: A Summary Report from Muḥammad b. Ka‘b in the Tafsīr of Abū al-Shaykh al-Iṣbahānī

Riwāyah 7: From the Maghāzī of Yūnus b. Bukayr

Riwāyahs 8 to 13: From ‘Urwah b. al-Zubayr

Riwāyah 8: From Abū al-Aswad’s Egyptian Recension of ‘Urwah’s Maghāzī

Riwāyah 9: al-Bayhaqī’s Citation of the Maghāzī of Mūsā b. ‘Uqbah, and Ibn Kathīr’s Citation from Ibn Abī Ḥātim of the Maghāzī of Mūsā b. ‘Uqbah

Riwāyah 10: al-Dhahabī’s Citation of the Maghāzī of Mūsā b. ‘Uqbah

Riwāyah 11: Abū Nu‘aym al-Iṣbahānī’s Citation of the Maghāzī of Mūsā b. ‘Uqbah

Riwāyah 12: al-Suyūṭī’s Citation from Ibn Abī Ḥātim’s Tafsīr of the Maghāzī of Mūsā b. ‘Uqbah

Riwāyah 13: al-Kilā‘ī’s Citation of the Maghāzī of Mūsā b. ‘Uqbah

Riwāyahs 8 to 13: Conclusions

Riwāyahs 14 and 15: al-Zuhrī from Abū Bakr ‘Abd al-Raḥmān b. al-Ḥārith

Riwāyah 14: Probably from al-Zuhrī’s Tafsīr with a ṣaḥīḥ mursal isnād

Riwāyah 15: Probably from al-Zuhrī’s Kitāb al-maghāzī

Riwāyahs 14 and 15: Conclusions

Riwāyahs 16 to 20: From Abū al-‘Āliyah al-Baṣrī

Riwāyah 16: Cited by al-Ṭabarī with a ṣaḥīḥ mursal Basran isnād

Riwāyah 17: Also Cited by al-Ṭabarī with a ṣaḥīḥ mursal Basran isnād

Riwāyah 18: Cited by al-Suyūṭī in the Durr from the Tafsīrs of al-Ṭabarī, Ibn al-Mundhir and Ibn Abī Ḥātim by an Unspecified ṣaḥīḥ isnād

Riwāyah 19: Cited by al-Suyūṭī in the Durr from the Tafsīrs of al-Ṭabarī, Ibn al-Mundhir and Ibn Abī Ḥātim al-Rāzī

Riwāyah 20: Cited by Yaḥyā b. Sallām al-Baṣrī in his Tafsīr

Riwāyahs 16 to 20: Conclusions

Riwāyahs 21 and 22: From al-Suddī

Riwāyah 21: In the Tafsīr of ‘Abd b. Ḥumayd al-Samarqandī

Riwāyah 22: In the Tafsīr of Ibn Abī Ḥātim al-Rāzī

Riwāyah 23: From Muḥammad b. al-Sā’ib al-Kalbī

Riwāyahs 24 to 26: From Qatādah b. Di‘āmah

Riwāyah 24: Cited by Yaḥyā b. Sallām al-Baṣrī in His Tafsīr

Riwāyah 25: al-Ṭabarī’s Citation of Tafsīr Muḥammad ibn Thawr ‘an Ma‘mar ‘an Qatādah, and of al-Ḥasan b. Yaḥyā’s Citation of Qatādah in the Baghdādī Transmission of the Tafsīr of ‘Abd al-Razzāq al-Ṣan‘ānī

Riwāyah 26: From the Tafsīr of ‘Abd al-Razzāq al-Ṣan‘ānī

Riwāyahs 24 to 26: Conclusions

Riwāyahs 27 to 30: From Muqātil b. Sulaymān

Riwāyah 27: Muqātil’s Commentary on Qur’ān 22:52 al-Ḥajj

Riwāyah 28: Muqātil’s Commentary on Qur’ān 53:19–26 al-Najm

Riwāyah 29: Muqātil’s Commentary on Qur’ān 109 al-Kāfirūn

Riwāyah 30: Muqātil’s Commentary on Qur’ān 39:43–45 al-Zumar

Riwāyahs 27 to 30: Conclusions

Riwāyahs 31 to 33: From Mujāhid b. Jabr

Riwāyah 31: From Mujāhid’s Commentary on Qur’ān 22:52 al-Ḥajj Cited by Ibn ‘Aqīlah

Riwāyah 32: From Mujāhid’s Commentary on Qur’ān 39:45 al-Zumar Cited by al-Wāḥidī

Riwāyah 33: From Mujāhid’s Commentary on Qur’ān 17:73 al-Isrā’ Cited by al-Tha‘labī

Riwāyah 34: From al-Ḍaḥḥāk b. Muzāḥim al-Balkhī

Riwāyahs 35 to 44: Attributed to ‘Abd Allāh b. ‘Abbās

Riwāyah 35: From ‘Aṭiyyah b. Sa‘d al-‘Awfī

Riwāyah 36: From Abū Ṣāliḥ

Riwāyah 37: From ‘Aṭā’ b. Abī Rabāḥ al-Makkī

Riwāyah 38: Cited Directly from Ibn ‘Abbās in the Gharā’ib al-Qur’ān of Niẓām al-Dīn al-Naysābūrī

Riwāyah 39: From Abū Sāliḥ; from ‘Ikrimah the mawlā of Ibn ‘Abbās; and from an Unnamed Source

Riwāyahs 40 to 44: Sa‘īd b. Jubayr from Ibn ‘Abbās

Riwāyahs 40, 41 and 42: ‘Uthmān b. al-Aswad ← Sa‘īd b. Jubayr

Riwāyah 40: In the Mukhtārah of al-Ḍiyā’ al-Maqdisī with a Deficient isnād

Riwāyah 41: In the Tafsīr of Abū al-Layth al-Samarqandī with an Unacknowledged ṣaḥīḥ isnād

Riwāyah 42: In the Asbāb al-nuzūl of al-Wāḥidī with an isnād Stopping at Sa‘īd b. Jubayr

Riwāyahs 43 and 44: Shu‘bah ← Abū Bishr ← Sa‘īd b. Jubayr ← Ibn ‘Abbās

Riwāyah 43: Cited from Yūsuf b. Ḥammād al-Baṣrī in the Musnad of al-Bazzār with Two Cautionary Remarks

Riwāyah 44: Cited from Yūsuf b. Ḥammād al-Baṣrī in the Mu‘jam al-Kabīr of al-Ṭabarānī and in the Tafsīr of Ibn Mardawayh, with an Interesting Remark

Riwāyahs 35 to 44: Conclusions

Riwāyahs 45 to 47: From Sa‘īd b. Jubayr without Attribution to Ibn ‘Abbās

Riwāyah 45: Cited by al-Ṭabarī from Sa‘īd b. Jubayr via Shu‘bah and Abū Bishr Ja‘far b. Abī Waḥshiyyah

Riwāyah 46: Cited by Ibn Abī Ḥātim al-Rāzī from Sa‘īd b. Jubayr via Shu‘bah and Abū Bishr Ja‘far b. Abī Waḥshiyyah

Riwāyah 47: Cited by al-Suyūṭī in the Durr without an isnād

Riwāyahs 40 to 47: Conclusions

Riwāyah 48: From ‘Ikrimah, the mawlā of Ibn ‘Abbās

Riwāyahs 49 and 50: From al-Ḥasan al-Baṣrī

Riwāyah 49: Cited from al-Ḥasan al-Baṣrī in al-Nukat wa-al-‘uyūn of al-Māwardī

Riwāyah 50: Cited from al-Ḥasan al-Baṣrī in Aḥkām al-Qur’ān of al-Jaṣṣāṣ

Conclusions: The Satanic Verses, Riwāyahs 1 to 50

3. Why Did the Early Muslim Community Accept the Satanic Verses Incident as Truth?

Bibliography

Acknowledgments

Index

Reviews and Endorsements

“[Ahmed] was not concerned with whether the Satanic Verses incident really occurred or not. His topic is instead what people believed to have occurred. The results are all the more perceptive (and valuable) for that.”—Bruce Fudge, The Times Literary Supplement

“[Ahmed] offers the most systematic, critical study of an especially important tradition from early Islamic history, the so-called incident of the Satanic verses.”—S. J. Shoemaker, Choice

“The battle over Islamic orthodoxy continues to rage on today, making this work of contemporary relevance… A valuable piece of in-depth scholarship on the formation of the early Islamic community and its discourses about Muslim beliefs and practices.”—Publishers Weekly

“Well organized and clearly written, this work is based upon an exhaustive examination of the sources. The analysis is meticulous, the book sober in its conclusions. Ahmed’s goal is to explain one aspect of the formation of Islamic orthodoxy by investigating ‘how truth happens.’ He makes an important distinction between the three types of source material that make up historical memory discourse: sirah or biography; tafsir or Quranic exegesis; and hadith or prophetic exemplum. Ahmed asks good questions—and he answers them in a convincing manner.”—David Powers, Cornell University

“This has been a long anticipated book, and the wait has been worth it. It is an excellent study of a complicated theological problem in Islamic religious history that has persisted due to the nature of the sources and the role it plays in defining and redefining the character of Muhammad and the nature of revelation. Both a study on what is arguably one of the most fascinating stories about Muhammad and a primer to the field of Islamic studies and the debate on early sources, this will be an instant classic.”—Walid Saleh, University of Toronto