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Revisiting Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses


By Rashid Samnakay, New Age Islam

28 November 2017

As time progresses, perspectives on various events that had taken place in one’s life do change when one comes across some logical, radical statements and relevant information that throws a different or fresh light on the events.

In the late eighties having read Rushdie’s Satanic Verses with somewhat ‘clouded and prejudiced mind’, a very important aspect of the book had not then registered. Recently on reading the book a second time round and on coming across the following statement in an Urdu book; a penny dropped opening the door to a fresh understanding of Satanic Verses:-

Translation of a few lines from Page 28 brought this change, it said: “If Salman Rushdie is guilty of writing a fiction based on this false ‘Hadis Ghair Matlu’; which Salman named as the Satanic Verses, has he not in fact condemned the impudent Hadith; on the basis of which a Fatwa/Edict of death was issued on him; perhaps because he named the Hadith from Sahi Bukhari as the Devil’s verses?”

The details of the Urdu Book from which the above is taken are as follows:-

‘Hujjat Sirf Quran Hai’- Evidence of argument is only The Quran. (Recommended by late Hussein Amir Farhad, Editor Sautul Haq. Obtainable from Post Box Khair Muhammad Buheyu, vide Nosher and Feroze, Sindh. The author of the Book is Azizullah Buheyu.

Looked at Satanic Verses from the above perspective, the title stands out clearly to demonstrate that Rushdie condemned the “Sahi” Bukhari, Muslim and other so called “Shariff” Apocrypha documents that have cast aspersions, allegations and severely assassinated character of the very person-- the Messenger of God from Arabia whom the Believers of these voluminous Hadith corpus also profess to venerate as a holy prophet! Number of times Salman reiterated that these stories are all from your holy corpus and as such had convinced a bunch of visiting “Islamic scholars”!

Salman therefore stands out as an exemplary sensitive and a ‘good Muslim’ to have called that corpus as Satanic!

There is a parallel case of one called Muhammad Iqbal, a poet philosopher of Subcontinent of undivided India, not even a century before who wrote a similar sensitive poetic complaint named Shikwa addressing God, which annoyed the sensitivity of religious brigade as none approaches God without their agency. He listed in it the sorry plight of Muslims of his time. It caused turmoil in the Muslim world, loud enough for a fatwa of Kufr to be issued against him. Iqbal felt compelled to respond, against his better judgment to write a Jawaab, a response in poet’s words by God to poet’s Shikwa. The clergy somehow accepted his audacity to speak to God.

Would it be appropriate for Rushdie to respond in the similar manner and pen a reply to the Satanic Verses controversy, to silence the religious brigade?

Yet when these derogatory and slanderous allegations, generated from ancient Sasanian Central Asian Imams are read from the pulpits of the Muslim houses of worship, even today, they are shamelessly taken as holy “actions and sayings” of the prophet, reported by what Azizullah Buheyu calls ‘Yazdegardi’ reporters. Nobody dare call them Blasphemous; for which crime the sensitive Muslims clamour for death penalty.

Salman Rushdie’s almost magical dream like complex web of fiction titled Satanic Verses is not easy to fathom even for an unbiased mind on its first reading. The nuanced references to maliciously crafted Hadith however are obvious to detect and therefore for those to whom the corpus is “holy, Shariff and Sahi” must be a cause for concern, a blasphemy and a hurt.

It was perhaps this that caused a supposedly learned Iranian Supreme Spiritual Leader Khomeini to issue a fatwa of death on the author. An edict at that time had influenced a few minds against Salman Rushdie as he being instrumental in causing strife in the larger community of Muslims. As Imam Khomeini was considered a progressive leader, although a priest; his ousting of the Shah in the second revolution was considered as an act of progressive leadership and thus was enough to negate his priestly image.

The first Iranian revolution was staged only a few years before by Dr Muhammad Mussaddiq, prime minister of Iran who had sent the Shah packing to Rome. The Powers to be of the time; in particular the custodian of world democracy, through its CIA, re-imposed the absolute monarchy of the Emperor on the Iranian people!

But a priest like a leopard never changes his spots. As a Quranic scholar he must have known that it is God who had reserved the right for Himself to issue a Fatwa and not even the Apostle is allowed to do so- 4,127. It can therefore be argued that a mere mortal who dares to issue fatwa is playing a lesser god. What is more the Iran’s Supreme Religious body had concluded that since the Mufti, the giver of the edict has passed away the fatwa cannot now be rescinded even if it is warranted.

God’s words, cannot be rescinded as stated in Quran—33, 62 etc. Therefore and perhaps, not even of the lesser gods. Apparently the death penalty remains valid to date.

The British Government often in collusion with their permanent friend the US though has not been squeaky clean in its policy towards Muslims national aspirations, as in Iranian revolution – it is the Oil stupid-- and the so called ‘Arab Spring’ yet it cannot be denied that in some cases such as Rushdie’s it has played a fair game towards its Muslim citizen Salman in according him 24/7 protection when needed most against the fatwa.

As it was with Muhammad Iqbal they have honoured Salman Rushdie with knighthood for what it is worth. The thinking Muslim Nation must be thankful for this act. Both these Knights of the Realm were defending the good name of the Apostle Muhammad in their work.

Although Iqbal has concluded in few words, God’s urging to Muslims:

Were you to be faithful to Muhammad then We (laws of Nature) are with you,

This Universe notwithstanding, the Tablet and the Pen (knowledge tools) would also be yours too.

It remains for Sir Salman as a sensitive Muslim to write something similar, to establish his credentials as good Muslim.

Such is the state of mind of Muslims that had shackled them in the utterances of their Yazgardi Imams! Twelve hundred years of Apocrypha and biased interpretation of Quran has enslaved the Muslim nation to their whims and therefore made them easy pray for manipulation by whoever is willing to harness their ignorance.

It remains to thank Azizullah Buheyu for pointing out such a glaring example of radical thought that it had brought a paradigm change in the readers thought process and has induced them to think outside the box of religious darkness.

Imam Khomeini must also be thanked for having provided the opportunity to reflect on Satanic Verses and as a result unwittingly making Salman Rushdie world famous, which he otherwise would have not have earned a mention, let alone be knighted and made rich.

May be New Age Islam too must be thanked for promoting and providing a forum for diverse expressions. An indication of a new direction in the ‘freedom of speech’ that the Muslim world needs now more than ever.

A regular contributor to www.NewAgeIslam , Rashid Samnakay is a (Retd.) Engineer