Story of the Cranes (al-Gharaniq) “The Satanic Verses”

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!”

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