The Story of Gharaniq is False: Tafsir of Surah Al-Najm – Permanent Committee

Q: The following text was mentioned in “Mukhtasar Sirat Al-Rasul” (The Abridged Biography of the Prophet): “The Prophet (peace be upon him) recited Surah Al-Najm in their presence, and when he reached Allah’s Saying (which means), Have you then considered Al-Lât, and Al-‘Uzzâ (two idols of the pagan Arabs) And Manât (another idol of the pagan Arabs), the other third? (Surah Al-Najm, 53: 19-20), Satan threw into his recitation the words: ‘These are the exalted Gharaniq (Cranes), whose intercession is hoped for.’ They (the disbelievers) thought that the Prophet (peace be upon him) really said it, and they rejoiced greatly.” Is this tale true? If yes, does Satan have the power to cast into his recitation the aforesaid words? Please advise, and many thanks to you!

A: The tale of Gharaniq was mentioned by many scholars of Tafsir (explanation of the meanings of the Qur’an) in their interpretation of Allah’s Saying (the meanings of which are translated as), Never did We send a Messenger or a Prophet before you but when he did recite the revelation or narrated or spoke, Shaitân (Satan) threw (some falsehood) in it. (Surah Al-Hajj, 22: 52), and in the Tafsir of Allah’s Saying, Have you then considered Al-Lât, and Al-‘Uzzâ (two idols of the pagan Arabs) And Manât (another idol of the pagan Arabs), the other third? It was narrated through many chains of narration with different wordings.However, all of them are Mursal (with no Companion of the Prophet in the chain of narration), and were never reported through authentic chains of narration, as mentioned by Al-Hafizh ibn Kathir (may Allah be merciful to him) in his Tafsir. After he mentioned this tale through all its chains of narration, he said, “However, all of them are Mursal and disconnected.”

Ibn Khuzaymah said that this tale was fabricated by the Zanadiqah (Heretics); it was also denied by Abu Bakr ibn Al-‘Araby, Al-Qadi ‘Iyad and others, who disapproved of both its Sanad (chain of narrators) and Matn (the text). As for the Sanad, it is due to the above-mentioned reasons. As for the Matn, it is due to what was stated by Ibn Al-‘Araby that when Allah (Exalted be He) sends the Angel to His Messenger, He instills in him (His Messenger) the knowledge that it is the Angel who sends down Wahy (Revelation) to him; Satan can never put on his lips words, which throw him into confusion, and so he recites them as Qur’an. As there is Ijma‘ (unanimous consensus) on the infallibility of the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) and the impossibility of his committing Shirk (associating others with Allah in His Divinity or worship), he could not have said these words by mistake, or thinking that they were Qur’an. He could not have preferred pleasing his people over pleasing his Lord, which made him wish that Allah would not reveal anything to him that might displease them. Moreover, the evidence used to prove the authenticity of this tale, which is inferred from Allah’s saying, Verily, they were about to tempt you away from that which We have revealed (the Qur’ân) unto you (O Muhammad صلى الله عليه و سلم), to fabricate something other than it against Us (Surah Al-Isra’, 17: 73) certainly does not prove its authenticity. Rather, it proves the innocence of the Prophet (peace be upon him) of the accusation of reciting these polytheistic words, as the Ayah indicates denial and negation, not affirmation.It is also evident that Satan merely threw some falsehood into his recitation, but he did put such polytheistic words on his tongue nor inspired these words inside him, which he actually recited, read, or uttered, whether inattentively, by mistake or on purpose, until Jibril (Gabriel) came and corrected him, and he (peace be upon him) grieved over what happened. It was not also proven that the Ayah was revealed to console the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) for what he was afflicted with according to this tale, to prop up such an interpretation with all the errors that it contains.

The Jumhur (dominant majority) of Ahl-ul-Sunnah (those adhering to the Sunnah) agreed with Ibn Al-‘Araby on what he said. They stated that the meaning of the Ayah is: Never did Allah send a Messenger or a Prophet before you (O Muhammad) but when he did recite the revelation or narrated or spoke, a devil from among mankind or jinn would throw during his recitation or speech some false words spoken by that devil and heard by the attendants. Or the devil would whisper evil thoughts to the Kafirs (disbelievers) and hypocrites who thought them to be part of the Wahy, while they are not so. Allah then abolishes whatever words, whisperings or deception which Satan throws in and completely eliminates them, to establish the truth by His Words, for the Perfection of His Knowledge and Profound Wisdom. This is the Way of Allah with His Messengers, Prophets and their enemies, to fulfill the purpose of trying and testing mankind, so that the wicked is distinguished from the good; so that the Kafirs and hypocrites who are to be destroyed through their following the falsehood that Satan casts may be destroyed after a clear evidence, and the people of unwavering faith, whose hearts rest secure in Iman (belief), who are guided to the Straight Path, may live after clear evidence.

Thus, it becomes clear through the previously mentioned that the tale of Gharaniq is false. Satan does not have the power to thrust some falsehood into the mouth of the Prophet (peace be upon him) which he then recites or utters. Satan might have thrown some false words while the Prophet (peace be upon him) was reciting; words which were uttered by Satan and heard by the attendants, or Satan might have whispered some evil inspirations in the soul of the disbelievers and hypocrites, which they thought them to be part of the Wahy, while they are not. Allah then abolishes such Satanic sayings, eliminates misconception and establishes His revelations.

It also becomes clear that the opinion of Shaykh Muhammad ibn ‘Abdul-Wahab (may Allah be merciful to him) is the same of the Jumhur (dominant majority) of scholars, which holds that Satan has thrown some falsehood or evil whispering during recitation, but certainly not on the tongue of the Prophet (peace be upon him), or in his soul, or in the souls of the true believers. It was only in the ears of Kafirs, or inside their souls, which they thought to be part of the Qur’an. The wisdom of Allah entails that He destroys falsehood and establishes His revelations, so that the truth triumphs out of His Mercy to the people. Allah is All-Knowledgeable, All-Wise. The scholars of Islam are unanimously agreed on the infallibility of Messengers in all and everything that they convey from Allah (Glorified and Exalted be He) to mankind.

May Allah grant us success! May peace and blessings be upon our Prophet Muhammad, his family and Companions!

Permanent Committee for Scholarly Research and Ifta’

Member     Member     Deputy Chairman     Chairman
`Abdullah ibn Qa`ud     `Abdullah ibn Ghudayyan     `Abdul-Razzaq `Afify     `Abdul-`Aziz ibn `Abdullah ibn Baz

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