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The Satanic Verses

In the religion of Islam, The Satanic Verses refer to a short passage of text purported to have existed in an early draft of the Koran. Islamic scholars today disagree as to whether these verses ever actually existed, or if their history is a fable.

Translated from Arabic, the satanic verses are "these are exalted females whose intercession is to be desired" in the 53rd sura[?] of the Koran, Surat-annajm ("The Star"). The females referred to were the goddesses Lat, Manat, and Uzza[?], who were popular deities in pre-Islamic Arabia. According to legend, Mohammed originally accepted these verses as part of the Koran, until a visit from the angel Jabril revealed that the verses were actually a deception planted in Mohammed's head from Satan, and they were therefore not the authentic word of Allah.

The events surrounding the Satanic Verses were documented by the four earliest biographers of Mohammed; Ibn Ishaq, Wakidi, Ibn Sa'd, and Tabari. Additionally, the Hadith and the Koran both contain passages that can be interpreted as referring to these events.

In a completely separate definition, The Satanic Verses is a novel by Salman Rushdie, inspired thematically in part by the historical incident that Mohammed experienced. It caused much controversy upon publication in 1989, as many Muslims considered it to contain blasphemous references.

Shortly after, a fatwa was placed on the author by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini promising his execution. Rushdie was condemned not for insulting Islam per se, but rather for comitting apostasy, or attempting to leave the faith, as Rushdie communicates in the novel that he now believes Islam is a sham. Committing apostasy is usually recognised as being a crime that carries the death sentence under Islamic law.

The book, like many others of Rushdie's, concerns Indians living in England, and Indians imbued with English culture[?] returning to India. It opens with a terrorist attack by supporters of a Sikh homeland on an aeroplane above the English Channel (based upon real events). The two protagonists miraculously survive the fall about the explosion; indeed, feel they are reborn: Gibreel Farishta grows angelic wings and Saladin Chamcha later, to his dismay finds himself growing horns on his head.

The controversy arose over Rushdie's portrayal of Prophet Mohammad as a fallible human character and more so, the interpretation of the Satanic Verses as evidence that the Quran was not infallibly divine. ISBN 0312270828

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