Allah’s promises to protect Muhammad from the power of Satan

Responding to the assertions of a Muslim Apologist

Sam Shamoun

Bassam Zawadi has written a "response" (*) to my article (*) concerning Allah promising to protect his righteous slaves from harm, specifically from the attacks of Satan and discussed the implications this has on Muhammad being bewitched and reciting verses from Satan which he mistakenly thought were from Allah. In that article I showed how this proves that either Allah isn’t all-powerful and/or unreliable, or that Muhammad was unrighteous since Satan could not control him if he were righteous and pleasing to his deity.

Zawadi begins by saying that,

Even if the story of the Satanic verses were true (it is not, see here) there still won't be a problem, since that story wouldn't contradict what those Qur'anic verses are saying.

First, the evidence overwhelmingly supports the historical veracity of the Satanic verses. For the data which conclusively proves that Muhammad thought that he had recited verses from Satan which he mistakenly thought were from Allah, please consult the following articles (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9).

Second, Satan inspiring Muhammad and Muhammad’s bewitchment do conflict with the promises given in the Quranic texts that we had cited in our article, as we shall now see.

As for Surah 7:11-18; 15:32-44; 16:98-100 & 72:27-28 these verses do not say that Satan cannot influence Muslims to commit sin. Satan's authority and control here refers to him misguiding the individual. Surely Satan can influence us to commit sins, but that is not the authority being spoken about in these passages. Surely, we believe that Satan can even possess an individual! Yet, that doesn't contradict what the verse is saying. What Allah is trying to say in these passages is that Satan can only manage to lead astray from the straight path of Islam the evil doers and not the righteous servants of Allah. That is all.

In the first place, Zawadi’s belief that Satan can possess a person doesn’t solve the problem but further complicates matters. His position either proves that Allah is a consistent failure and powerless against Satan since he cannot even prevent his faithful from being possessed by evil spirits, and therefore does contradict what the Quran teaches. Or, this shows that individuals who do come under demonic-possession are not righteous slaves, otherwise Allah would have protected them from being possessed.

Furthermore, it is apparent that Zawadi didn’t know how to respond to my points and so decided to attack a straw man. The problem is not with Satan influencing individuals to sin. The problem is with Satan controlling Muhammad through magic to such an extent that the latter thought he was having sex with his wives.

Zawadi thinks he has a solution to Muhammad’s mind being affected by magic and sorcery:

The story about the Prophet (peace be upon him) being influenced by magic only shows that it affected him on worldly matters (he imagined he was with his wives when he really wasn't) and didn't stop him from preaching Islam. Thus, this story doesn't contradict Surah 5:67.

This response also raises some uncomfortable questions which we would like Zawadi to answer for us:

The problem is also with Satan inspiring Muhammad to recite verses which the latter mistakenly assumed were from Allah. Satan basically misguided Muhammad into committing shirk, or the sin of associating other gods with Allah, since he caused him to praise the goddesses of the pagan Meccans. The devil further used Muhammad to misguide the disbelievers into thinking that Muhammad’s deity approved the worship of these idols and also accepted the intercession of these goddesses.

In light of this here are some more uncomfortable questions which would like Zawadi to answer in regard to the Satanic verses:

Zawadi thinks he has another explanation which makes sense of Muhammad being duped and inspired by Satan to praise idols:

Now even if we were to assume that the Satanic verses story is true, this wouldn't make Muhammad (peace be upon him) an evil doer, for one version of the fabricated story of the Satanic verses states that Satan placed those words on the Prophet's mouth and eventually Angel Gabriel came to the Prophet later that evening and exposed Satan. So after the Prophet was aware of this, he denounced the Satanic verses. So here we see that the Prophet still remains on the straight path of Islam and is still to be considered a righteous servant of Allah who just underwent a trial from Satan.

This explanation doesn’t fair any better for the following reasons:

Zawadi is surprised by my comments concerning Allah granting Satan respite in order to destroy mankind:

It is surprising to see this kind of argument coming from Shamoun. Both Muslims and Christians alike believe that God created Satan as a test for us and He knew that Satan would try to plunge man into destruction. Yes, this is God's test for us. What is the problem?

Zawadi is comparing apples and oranges since what the Holy Bible teaches concerning God’s purpose for allowing the enemy to test mankind is not the same as what the Quran says regarding this issue. More on this topic is found in the article The Problem of Divine Sovereignty, Predestination, Salvation and Human Free Will.

Zawadi tries to prove that neither Q. 5:67 nor 5:105 has any significance on the story of the satanic verses or Muhammad being affected by magic. And he selectively quotes Islamic sources to show that these references have no bearing on this subject.

There are several problems with Zawadi’s desperate appeal to authority and his selective sourcing of Muslim scholars. First, Zawadi doesn’t see his own dilemma since if Allah could protect Muhammad from being harmed by human beings then surely he could have protected his messenger from being inspired by Satan and controlled by a sorcerer. In fact, the Quran says that magicians will never be successful:

"And throw that which is in your right hand! It will swallow up that which they have made. That which they have made is only a magician's trick, and the magician will never be successful, no matter whatever amount (of skill) he may attain." S. 20:69 Hilali-Khan

But this is not what happened since Satan duped Muhammad and a sorcerer was so successful against Allah's "messenger" that his magic had such control over his mind that he had Muhammad actually believing that he was having sex with his wives, when he wasn't, for nearly a year! This either means that Allah failed and isn’t powerful enough, or Muhammad wasn’t righteous and therefore Allah handed him over to be disciplined by Satan.

Secondly, nothing that Zawadi cited from his Muslim authorities denies that these texts can also apply to Allah protecting his messengers from Satan and his minions.

Thirdly, there are other Muslims who do see how these verses are relevant to these stories:

Thus, if seen in the perspective of the Qur'an, there is not even a hint of any information, on the basis of which it could be said that the Prophet was ever under any magical spell. The Qur'an, on the contrary, leads us to believe that because of God's close guard over the Prophet (pbuh), no such harm could have befallen the Prophet (pbuh).

However, there are a few Hadith, which inform us that the last two Surahs of the Qur'an were revealed at a time when the Prophet (pbuh) was under a magical spell. Two of the important points in the information given by these Hadith are:

It is quite obvious that the information given in these narratives is not only against the stated verses of the Qur'an, but also creates serious doubts about the infallibility of the prophets of God. After all, if God and His appointed angels could not (or did not) protect the Prophet (pbuh) against such a magical spell then what exactly is the implication of God's declaration mentioned in Al-Jinn 72: 27 - 28 and His promise mentioned in Al-Maaidah 5: 67? (Was the Prophet (pbuh) ever a Victim of a Magical Spell?; source; underline emphasis ours)

And in trying to reconcile Q. 72:27-28 and 5:67 with the fact that Muhammad suffered physical injuries the Understanding Islam website states:

As for the times in which the Prophet (PBUH) got hurt, I do not see these as negative. On the contrary, they may be viewed as positive. This has many reasons. The fact that a person is able to come on the battle field and strike the Prophet (PBUH) so hard and yet not kill him must surely have been utterly displeasing to the Prophet's (PBUH) enemies. They came so close so often and yet remained so far. It also showed the people's great rebellion; that they not only reject a Messenger of God after he made the truth as clear as day light but actually go as far as injuring him and attempting to murder him. They did indeed get what was coming to them. Furthermore, this was an occasion of testing the believers to see how they would react. There were some that lost all hope and began to flee but then there were others that remained firm. What is important to notice here is that none of these injuries did anything to message of God or its safe deliverance.

However, when we talk of the Prophet (PBUH) being cast under spells, I think that this would probably affect the Message. The Hadith that refer to him being under a spell for six months would in my opinion most certainly have affected the Message. So, while the Prophet (PBUH) getting physically harmed does not contradict the cited verses of the Qur'an, the spiritual damage to him (through spells) in my opinion would. (Magical Spell on the Prophet (pbuh); source; underline emphasis ours)

In fact, there were Muslims in the past such as the Mu’tazilites who used Q. 5:67 to disprove the story of Muhammad’s bewitchment, so this is not simply a modern position:

I In commenting on this Suhayli asserts that the tradition is sound and is accepted by the traditionists. He found in the Jami’ of Mu‘ammar b. Rashad (a work which I cannot find mentioned by Brockelmann) the statement that the spell lasted a year. He adds that the Mu‘tazila and Modernists REJECTED THE TRADITION ON THE GROUND THAT PROPHETS COULD NOT BE BEWITCHED OTHERWISE THEY WOULD COMMIT SIN and that would be contrary to the word of God ‘And God will protect thee from men’ (5.71). He finds the tradition unassailable. It is properly attested and intellectually acceptable. The prophets were not preserved from bodily afflictions in which category sorcery falls. (The Life of Muhammad, A Translation of Ibn Ishaq’s Sirat Rasul Allah, with introduction and notes by Alfred Guillaume [Oxford University Press, Karachi, Tenth Impression 1995), p. 240; bold and capital emphasis ours)

Zawadi thought that he understood the Quran correctly and assumed that his eisegesis refutes my understanding and application of the Quranic verses. However, as is his consistent habit, Zawadi has simply misunderstood and even distorted what the Quran says and cited sources which he erroneously assumed agreed with his position, and yet conveniently ignored and didn’t address those Muslims who used passages such as Q. 5:67 and 105 to prove that Muhammad could not be bewitched.

In conclusion, the evidence conclusively shows that not only was Muhammad bewitched but he also had Satan inspire him to recite his verses which he only later realized did not come from Allah. This means that, according to the Quranic passages we referenced in our original article, Muhammad was either unrighteous and Allah therefore decided to hand him over to the power and control of Satan; or Allah wasn’t powerful enough to save his messenger in time.

Recommended Reading

Rebuttals to Bassam Zawadi
Articles by Sam Shamoun
Answering Islam Home Page