Bismillah was salaatu was salaam ala’ rasool Allah:
Background: In the late 20th Century, a book entitled the Satanic Verses was produced.
The general premise that the author proposes revolves around one particular incident from the seerah of the Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam. In this narration (referred to as qissat al gharaneeq by ulama of the past which is roughly translated as ‘the incident of cranes’), it is said that when the Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam was reciting Surah an-Najm (upon revelation) to the Quraysh, that He (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) recited two verses of praise for Laat and Uzza (two of the idols which the mushrikeen worshipped). At the end of the surah when the command came to make sijdah, the same narration states that everyone- both the muslims and non-muslims- made sijdah.
Later, Allah Azza Wa Jal revealed ayaat in Surah Al-Hajj to rectify this mistake of the Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam and to inform him that those verses were from shaytan, but Allah annuls that which Shaytan casts and established His signs clearly for Indeed Allah is All-Knowing and All-Wise. Since this incident laid the foundation for the underpinnings of the infamous novel, The Satanic Verses, Ahmad and most Western Scholars refer to this incident through that reference. The papers focus was not the book, but rather the incident in seerah and Ibn Taymiyyah’s opinion with regard to it.
Historically, the position of the scholars has been clear on this incident in that it has been rejected on two main principles:
- Authenticity of its narrations (isnads were insufficient in meeting the requisite requirements for authenticity in Hadith Sciences)
- Ismat al-Anbiyah (protection of the prophets from error in interpreting the Divine Intent) and this narrations contradiction of that principle (this is pretty well summarized in the following fatawa: Fatwa)
By the 5th and 6th centuries hijri, this incident had all but been cast out of favor by the overwhelming number of scholars under the above two premises. This is substantiated by looking at the positions of both Fakhr ad-Din ar-Razi (rahimahullah), the famous Shafi’ jurist, and al-Qadi Iyad (rahimahullah), the famous Andalusian Maliki jurist, when expressing their rejection of qissat al-gharaneeq. So fervent were they in these viewpoints that ar-Razi wrote in his ismat al anbiya that anyone who accepts that the Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) would praise idols has committed kufr (unbelief) while al-Qadi Iyad described the mere transmission of al-qissat al-gharaneeq as being from ahlul ahwaa (those who follow their desires) and the acceptors of the incident as apostates (mulhidoon).
Even those who accepted the historicity of the incident generally made some sort of ta’wil on its understanding, either by claiming that it was Shaytan who recited those verses, or some other interpretation intended to reconcile qissat al-gharaneeq with the concept of ismat al anbiya.
Ibn Taymiyyah’s Position (rahimahullah)
This is where the paper really gets interesting. There is no isolated text of Ibn Taymiyyah’s dedicated solely to addressing this hadith. In fact, his opinions are varied across a multitude of texts, but his most prolonged treatment of the subject appears in a work of Ibn Taymiyyah’s that has become known as ‘Kalam ala da’wat Dhil-Nun’ which is a commentary on the dua of Yunus (alayhis salam) from inside the belly of the whale/great fish (Laa Ilaha Illa Anta, Subhaanaka Innee kuntu minath Thaalimeen).
Ibn Taymiyyah’s position is quite clear when it comes to the subject of qissat al-gharaneeq: he accepts it whole heartedly. Ahmad’s work is unique in that he not only outlines Ibn Taymiyyah’s position, but then proceeds to outline his methodology behind its acceptance, starting from its various isnaads to addressing the concept of ismat al-anbiya. He then furthers that discussion into a host of Ibn Taymiyyah’s justifications for this incident, because to him (rahimahullah), this incident was not only consistent with our belief in ismat al-anbiyah, but in fact a substantiation of the veracity (sidq) of Allah’s Messenger, sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam.
In short, qissat al-gharaneeq was a proof for the authenticity of the Prophet’s (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) prophethood, not against it in any way.
To that end, there are some excellent discussions that take place throughout the journal and a number of Shaykh al-Islam’s works are cited.
Personally, I think when you read articles like this you are left with a greater appreciation for ahlul ilm and the tradition of scholarship that existed through the centuries. Today, it has become fashionable to disregard our tradition in favor of modern textual interpretations (largely from individuals completely unqualified to make those interpretations), but subhanAllah our religion is so deep and our scholars were geniuses (like Shaykh al-Islam!).
may Allah have mercy on him and all of those scholars that contributed so heavily into the field of Islamic Thought and may Allah give us the tawfeeq to understand and apply His deen. Ameen.