STORY OF THE CRANES or
"SATANIC VERSES"
by Sh. G. F. Haddad (updated)

Bismillah al-Rahman al-Rahim

1. Ibn Sa`d (d. 230) in his al-Tabaqat al-Kubra
(reprint Beirut: Dar Sadir), vol. 1 said:

[p. 205] Muhammad ibn `Umar(*) narrated to us: (1) Yunus ibn Muhammad ibn Fadala al-Zafari narrated to me: From his father who said: (2) From Kathir ibn Zayd: From al-Muttalib ibn `Abd Allah ibn Hantab who said:-

[(*) Muhammad ibn `Umar al-Waqidi (d. 207), Ahmad ibn Hanbal said of him: "He is a liar." Al-Bukhari and Abu Hatim al-Razi said: "Discarded." Ibn `Adi said: "His narrations are not retained, and their bane comes from him." Ibn al-Madini said: "He forges hadiths." Al-Dhahabi said: "Consensus has settled over his debility." Mizan al-I`tidal (3:662-666 #7993).]

Allah's Messenger - Allah bless and greet him - saw rejection coming from his people, so he sat in isolation, wishing to himself: Would that nothing is revealed to me that would drive them away from me. Thereafter Allah's Messenger - Allah bless and greet him - approached his people again and made overtures to them, and they responded to him. One day he sat with them in one of the usual public gatherings around the Ka`ba and he recited to them "By the Star when it setteth" (Sura 53, al-Najm). When he reached the words:

19. Have ye thought upon Al Lat and Al Uzza? 20. And Manat, the third, the other?
the devil interjected two phrases (kalimatayn) upon his tongue:
"Those are the elevated cranes: truly their intercession is dearly hoped!"

Allah's Messenger spoke these two phrases then went on to finish the entire Sura, then he prostrated and all those in attendance prostrated. Al-Walid ibn al-Mughira took a handful of earth and [applying it to his forehead] prostrated on it, for he was an aged old man who could not prostrate. It is also said that Abu Uhayha Sa`id ibn al-`As was the one who did this.... and some say both did it.

They [the Quraysh] were elated at what Allah's Messenger - Allah bless and greet him - had spoken, saying: "We definitely know that Allah gives life and gives death as well as creates and sustains, but these our gods intercede for us before Him, so if you give them their share, we are with you." This statement of theirs bore heavily on the Prophet - Allah bless and greet him - and he withdrew to his house. When evening came, Gibril came to him and rehearsed the Sura with him, whereupon Gibril said: "Did I bring you those two phrases (al-kalimatayn)?" Allah's Messenger said: "Have I said on Allah's part something He never said?" Whereupon Allah revealed to him [p. 206] the verse: { And they indeed strove hard to beguile thee (Muhammad) away from that wherewith We have inspired thee, that thou shouldst invent other than it against Us; and then would they have accepted thee as a friend.} (17:73)

2. Imam al-Baghawi (d. 510) said in his commentary of the Qur'an entitled Lubab al-Ta'wil fi Ma`alim al-Tanzil (Dar al-Fikr ed. vol. 3) concerning the story of the cranes (qissat al-gharaaneeq):

[p. 293] Ibn `Abbas, Muhammad ibn Ka`b al-Qurazi and others of the commentators of Qur'an said that when the Prophet - Allah bless and greet him - saw the turning away of his people from him and it bore heavily on him to see the distance grow between them and what he brought them on Allah's part, he desired in his soul (tamanna fi nafsihi) that there come from Allah something that would bridge the gap between him and his people, for he was deeply concerned that they should have faith. As he was in a gathering of the Quraysh one day, Allah revealed Sura al-Najm (53), whereupon Allah's Messenger - Allah bless and greet him -- began to recite it, until he reached His saying:

19. Have ye thought upon Al Lat and Al Uzza?
20. And Manat, the third, the other?

whereupon the devil interjected upon his tongue (alqa al-shaytan `ala lisanihi) in connection with that of which he spoke to himself and was hoping for:

"Those are the elevated cranes:
truly their intercession is dearly hoped!"

When the Quraysh heard this, they rejoiced greatly. Allah's Messenger proceeded with his recitation until the end of the Sura, at which point he prostrated, and the Muslims prostrated with him as well as all those of the pagans that were in the mosque. There remained no-one in the mosque, neither believer nor non-believer, except he prostrated, but for al-Walid ibn al-Mughira and Abu Uhayha Sa`id ibn al-`As who took a handful of earth and applied it to their foreheads, prostrating on it, for they were aged old men who could not prostrate. Then the Quraysh dispersed in elation at the way they had heard their gods mentioned, saying: "Muhammad has mentioned our gods in the best way possible." They also said: "We definitely know that Allah gives life and gives death as well as creates and sustains, but these our gods intercede for us before Him, so if Muhammad gives them their share, we are with him." When evening came, Gibril came to Allah's Messenger - Allah bless and greet him - and said: "O Muhammad! What have you done? You have recited to the people something which I never brought you from Allah Exalted and Almighty." Hearing this, the Prophet - Allah bless and greet him - was deeply grieved and feared much from Allah (swt). So Allah revealed to him the following verse in which he consoled him , as He was ever merciful towards him:

{ Never sent We a messenger or a Prophet before thee but when He recited (the message) Satan proposed (opposition) in respect of that which he recited thereof. But Allah abolisheth that which Satan proposeth. Then Allah establisheth His revelations. Allah is Knower, Wise} (22:52)

Meanwhile those of the Prophet's Companions who were in Abyssynia heard the news of the prostration of the Quraysh and the rumor that the Quraysh and the Meccans had accepted Islam, so most of them returned to their kindred. But when they neared Mecca the news reached them that what they had heard of the Islam of the Meccans was false. So no-one actually entered Mecca except under protection or stealthily. When the above verse was revealed, the Quraysh said: "Muhammad regrets his words about the status of our gods before Allah and has now changed them." The two phrases that the devil had interjected upon the tongue of Allah's Messenger - Allah bless and greet him - by then were in the mouth of every idolater, and their hostility increased in intensity against those who had accepted Islam.

3. Al-Tabari (d. 310) said in his commentary entitled Jami` al-Bayan fi Tafsir al-Qur'an (30 vols.) Beirut: Dar al-Fikr, 1405/1985, reprint of the Bulaq 1322-1330/1904-1911 ed. vol. 17:

[p. 186] The sayings concerning the interpretation of the verse:

{ Never sent We a messenger or a Prophet before thee but when He recited (the message) Satan proposed (opposition) in respect of that which he recited thereof. But Allah abolisheth that which Satan proposeth. Then Allah establisheth His revelations. Allah is Knower, Wise} (22:52):

It was said that the reason for which this verse was revealed upon the Messenger of Allah - Allah bless and greet him - is that the devil had interjected upon the Prophet's tongue - Allah bless and greet him - during some of his recitation of the Qur'an as it had been revealed to him by Allah, something which Allah had not revealed. Then this bore heavily on Allah's Messenger - Allah bless and greet him - who became despondent, whereupon Allah Almighty comforted him by revealing to him the above....

[Then al-Tabari proceeds to narrate reports to that effect, all of them weak, but the collective weight of which suggests authenticity as stated by Ibn Hajar in Fath al-Bari (see below).]

[p. 190] The gist of the interpretation of the verse is: "We never sent before you any Messenger nor Prophet except that, when he uttered Allah's Book in recitation, or discoursed and spoke, the devil interjected something into what he uttered of Allah's Book in recitation or into his discourse and speech, { But Allah abolishes that which the devil interjects} , i.e. He removes whatever suggestion the devil interjects upon the Prophet's tongue and nullifies it."

[Al-Tabari goes on to state that the verses that follow make explicit the fact that the reason for this incident was to test the belief of those who harbored a disease in their hearts and increase the belief of those who were rightly-guided - and this test continues until our time:

22:53 { That He may make that which the devil proposeth a temptation for those in whose hearts is a disease, and those whose hearts are hardened. Lo! the evil-doers are in open schism.}

22:54 { And that those who have been given knowledge may know that it is the truth from thy Lord, so that they may believe therein and their hearts may submit humbly unto Him. Lo! Allah verily is guiding those who believe unto a right path.}

22:55 { And those who disbelieve will not cease to be in doubt thereof until the Hour come upon them unawares, or there come unto them the doom of a disastrous day.}

22:56 { The Sovereignty on that day will be Allah's. He will judge between them. Then those who believed and did good works will be in Gardens of Delight,}

22:57 { While those who disbelieved and denied Our revelations, for them will be a shameful doom.} ]

4. Al-Jassas (d. 370), Ahkam al-Qur'an (5 vols.), ed. Muhammad al-Sadiq Qamhawi (Beirut: Dar Ihya' al-Turath al-`Arabi, 1405/1985) 5:83-84:

Concerning the verse:

{ Never sent We a messenger or a Prophet before thee but when He recited (the message) Satan proposed (opposition) in respect of that which he recited thereof. But Allah abolisheth that which Satan proposeth. Then Allah establisheth His revelations. Allah is Knower, Wise} (22:52):

It was narrated from Ibn `Abbas, Sa`id ibn Jubayr, al-Dahhak, Muhammad ibn Ka`b, and Muhammad ibn Qays that the circumstance of revelation fof this verse was that when the Prophet - Allah bless and greet him recited { Have ye thought upon Al Lat and Al Uzza? And Manat, the third, the other?} (53:19-20), the devil interjected (alqa) into his recitation: "Those are the elevated cranes: truly their intercession is dearly hoped!"

There is difference of opinion over the meaning of "the devil interjected." Some said that when the Prophet - Allah bless and greet him - recited this sura and mentioned in it the idols, the pagans knew that he would vilify them and so one of them said, at the time the Prophet - Allah bless and greet him - reached the words { Have ye thought upon} etc. "Those are," etc. in full presence of the multitude of the Quraysh in the holy Mosque. At that time the generality of the pagans who were far back said: "Muhammad just praised our divinities!" and they conjectured that this was part of his recitation. Thereafter, Allah declared this claim of theirs false, and showed that the Prophet - Allah bless and greet him - never recited it in the first place, but that it was only recited by one of the pagans. Allah named that person "Satan" because he was one of the devils of humankind... "shaytan" being a name for every obdurate rebel among jinn and humankind. It was also said that it is possible that he was one of the devils of the jinn.

5. Al-Tha`alibi's (d. 876) al-Jawahir al-Hisan fi Tafsir al-Qur'an (4 vols.), Beirut: Mu'assasa al-A`lami li al-Matbu`at, 1970?, Reprint of the original 1323/1905 Algerian edition, 3:84:

Al-Qadi `Iyad said [in al-Shifa]: "Suffice it for you that this narration was not documented by any of the scholars of sound hadith, nor have any of the trustworthy narrators related it with a healthy, uninterrupted chain. The only ones to be interested in it are the type of commentators and historians who are interested in every strange matter, blindly compiling from the books everything their hands fall upon, whether it is sound or feeble." Qadi Abu Bakr told the truth.

6. Abu al-Su`ud's (d. 951) Irshad al-`Aql al-Salim ila Mazaya al-Qur'an al-Karim (9 vols.), Dar Ihya' al-Turath al-`Arabi, 6:113:

Concerning the verse:

{ Never sent We a messenger or a Prophet before thee but when He recited (the message) Satan proposed (opposition) in respect of that which he recited thereof. But Allah abolisheth that which Satan proposeth. Then Allah establisheth His revelations. Allah is Knower, Wise} (22:52):

It was said that he [the Prophet - Allah bless and greet him] hoped, because of his yearning that his people should have faith, that there be revealed to him something that would bring them nearer to him, and he persisted in this until he was among them and Sura al-Najm was revealed; whereupon he began to recite it, and when he reached { And Manat, the third, the other} , the devil whispered to him with the result that his tongue tripped in inattention and he said "Those are the elevated cranes: truly their intercession is dearly hoped!" Whereupon the pagans rejoiced and joined him in prostration when he prostrated at the end of the Sura, and there remained none in the Mosque - whether believer or pagan - except they all prostrated. After this, Gibril - upon him peace - warned him of the mistake, then Allah the Exalted rebuked him with this verse. This account is rejected by the scholars of verification.

7. Ibn Hajar in Fath al-Bari, 1959 ed. vol. 8:

[p. 439] All the paths of this hadith are either weak or cut off, except for that of Sa`id ibn Jubayr... However, the profusion of the chains show that the story has a basis, furthermore, there are two other "mursal" chains whose narrators are those of Bukhari and Muslim. The first one is that narrated by al-Tabari through Yunus ibn Yazid from Ibn Shihab [al-Zuhri]: "Abu Bakr ibn `Abd al-Rahman ibn al-Harith ibn Hisham narrated to me," etc. The second is what al-Tabari also narrated through al-Mu`tamir ibn Sulayman and Hammad ibn Salama from Dawud ibn Abi Hind from Abu al-`Aliya.... Contrary to what Abu Bakr ibn al-`Arabi and al-Qadi `Iyad have claimed whereby the story has no basis at all.... When the paths of a hadith are many and distinct, it shows that the report has a basis.... So, as I said, there are three sound but 'mursal' chains for it, among them what meets the criteria of the two Sahihs but for the fact that they are 'mursal'. These constitute proof for both those that accept 'mursal' reports as proofs and those that do not, due to the mutual strengthening of the chains.

This said, it is required to interpret the incident and address what appears to be reprehensible, namely the statement "the devil interjected upon the Prophet's tongue - Allah bless and greet him - the words 'Those are the elevated cranes: truly their intercession is dearly hoped.'" Such a thing is precluded from being accepted in literal terms for it is impossible for the Prophet - Allah bless and greet him - to add something to the Qur'an that does not belong to it whether deliberately (`amdan) or erroneously (sahwan). ...

[p. 440] Al-Qadi `Iyad did well when he said: "It is possible the Prophet - Allah bless and greet him - was mentioning the belief of the pagans by way of derision, noting that at that time it was permitted to speak in the midst of prayer. To this position leaned Ibn al-Baqillani. It was also said that when he reached the words { Have ye thought upon Al Lat and Al Uzza? And Manat, the third, the other?} the pagans feared lest he would add something to mock their gods, so they hastened to interject and jeer so as to cover up what was coming next, as was their habit stated in the verse { Those who disbelieve say: Heed not this Quran, and drown the hearing of it; haply ye may conquer} (41:26). This act on their part was attributed to the devil as it was he that inspired it to them. Or, what was meant by the devil was the devil of humankind.... It was also said that the Prophet - Allah bless and greet him used to recite the Qur'an slowly, so that the devil lay in wait for one of the pauses and uttered the words in question with the same timbre of voice. Those that were near him heard it as if coming from the Prophet - Allah bless and greet him - and attributed it to him. This is the best of all interpretations."

Ibn al-`Arabi also approved of the latter interpretation, saying: "This verse [{ Never sent We a messenger or a Prophet before thee but when He recited (the message) Satan proposed (opposition) in respect of his amaniyya (="that which he recited thereof")} (22:52)] is an explicit proof-text, in our school, to the innocence of the Prophet - Allah bless and greet him - of what was imputed to him. The meaning of 'amaniyya' in the verse being: 'recitation'. Allah Almighty therefore informed us in this verse that His way with His Messengers is that when they say something, Satan adds something to it on his part. This is an explicit proof-text that it is Satan that conveys this statement inside the Prophet's words - Allah bless and greet him - and it is not the latter that says it. A precedent for this view was given by al-Tabari, in keeping with his high erudition, vast learning, and perspicuous analysis, and HE DECLARED IT THE CORRECT INTERPRETATION, AND SETTLED ON IT."

--

There are two recent booklets from the late Nasir Albani's printing house, al-Maktab al-Islami out of Beirut, on the topic:

1- Nasb al-Majaniq li-Nasf Qissat al-Gharaniq ("The Hoisting of Catapults for the Destruction of the Story of the Cranes") by M. Nasir al-Albani, 3rd ed. 1996.

2- Al-Gharaniq: Qissatun Dakhilatun `ala al-Sirati al-Nabawiyya ("The Cranes: A Story Interpolated into the Prophetic Sira") by Albani's student Salih Ahmad al-Shami, 1st ed. 1998.

The first work argues for the invalidity of the story from the viewpoint of isnad, a weak argument as shown in the preceding discussion.

The second work argues for the invalidity of the story from the viewpoint of chronology, a strong and conclusive argument from the face of it, making the following points:

- Surat al-Najm (in which the disputed verses were purported to belong) was revealed in one whole in the tenth year of the Hijra.

- The First Hijra to Abyssinia took place in the fifth year, between Rajab and Shawwal.

- How then could the revelation of Surat al-Najm and the subsequent events - prompting the rumors of mass conversion in Mecca - that all took place in the tenth year, be a cause for the return of the Abyssinian Emigrants in the fifth?

- The true reason for the return of the Muslims from the first Abyssinian Emigration was alienation and difficult conditions as spoken by Asma' bint `Umays in the narration of al-Bukhari in his Sahih: "Asma' bint `Umays went in to see Hafsa the wife of Rasulullah Sallallahu `alayhi wa Alihi wa Sallam, and she was one of those who had emigrated to the Negus. Whereupon `Umar came in to see Hafsa while Asma' was with her. He asked who she was and Hafsa told him. `Umar said: She is the Abyssinian? The one from accross the sea? Asma' said yes. `Umar said: We all [emigrants to Madina] made Hijra before you all [emigrants to Abyssinia], so we are more entitled to the Messenger of Allah than you - Allah bless and greet him. She became angry and said: Not at all, by Allah! You were with the Messenger of Allah - Allah bless and greet him - at a time he fed your hungry ones and admonished your ignorant ones, while we were in the abode of alienation and detestation (dar al-bu`ada' wa al-bughada') in Abyssinia, all for the sake of Allah and for the sake of Rasulullah! And, by Allah, I shall not eat one morsel of food nor drink one drop of water until I mention what you said to Rasulullah! And how much did we suffer, and how we lived in fear! But I shall mention this to the Prophet! Etc."

- All the above does not preclude the fact that the Meccan unbelievers did prostrate upon hearing Sura al-Najm exactly as it was revealed, due to its majesty and the fear caused in them by the invocation of punishment pronounced towards its end. One needs only to imagine them gathered together with the Muslims before the Ka`ba as the Prophet - Allah bless and greet him - himself recited this newly-revealed Sura to them from beginning to end. Similar examples are the reactions of the unbelievers at the invocations of punishment they heard from the believers. For example, `Utba ibn Rabi`a's reaction when he heard the verse { If they turn away, tell them I have warned you of a destruction similar to that of `Ad and Thamud} (Fussilat 13). Upon hearing this `Utba placed his hand on the mouth of the Prophet - Allah bless and greet him - so that the threat of punishment would be averted. And when Khubayb ibn `Adi pronounced a similar threat, Abu Sufyan lied down on the ground together with his son Mu`awiya to deflect its harm.

Al-Shami also makes note of the book "Hadha al-Habib" by the late Abu Bakr al-Jaza'iri in which the author advocates the position that the story did take place and that the Prophet - Allah bless and greet him - was in fact mislead. This is the same man who used to sit in the Haram of Madina attacking the Awliya and Sufis, and who wrote that the father and mother of the Prophet - Allah bless and greet him - are in Hellfire. He was refuted among others by the two Moroccan authors of the book Wa`izun Ghayru Mutta`iz ("A Heedless Admonisher").

The late al-Sayyid `Abd Allah Siraj al-Din al-Halabi (died this March 2002 rahimahullah) also has a long, extremely detailed treatment of the story of the cranes in his masterful book _Hady al-Qur'an al-Karim ila al-Hujjati wal-Burhan_ 2nd edition, 1994, p. 155-182. He too concludes that it is a forgery.

WAllahu ta`ala a`lam.
Blessings and salutations of Allah on the Prophet, his Family, and all his Companions. Praise belongs to Allah, Lord of the Worlds.

Hajj Gibril
GF Haddad ©





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