The Attack on Salman Rushdie

Salman Rushdie’s the Satanic Verses was controversial from the very beginning. Either because of the content of the book or because of its politicization. This book, like many other fiction books, is a product of imagination that primarily borrows its elements from other sources.

The initial seed of Salman Rushdie’s imagination is an old story in Islamic traditions called Gharaniq that is narrated by a large number of prominent ancient commentators and hadith scholars, including Tabari, Ibn Hajar, Ibn Taymiyyah, and Siyuti. There has been a difference of opinion about the validity of this narration since ancient times, but considering the consequences of this story, today’s people prefer to read it as baseless and unreliable. The story of Gharaniq is related to verse 52 of Surah Hajj, which says: Satan makes suggestions in the wishes of the prophets, and God cancels those suggestions. According to Gharaniq’s narration, at the moment when the Prophet of Islam was reciting verses from the Qur’an against the polytheists of Quraysh, Satan spoke words praising the gods of the polytheists, and this pleased the polytheists. This narrative has become the basis of Salman Rushdie’s work to expand a fictional story, and he named it the Satanic Verses. Although he did not specifically mention the Prophet of Islam in his book Satanic Verses, one of the fictional characters in his story is depicted in such a way that it evokes the character of the Prophet of Islam in readers’ views and perspectives, which caused and is still causing anger of Muslims.

Criticism of the contents of the book, both in terms of the art of story writing and in terms of historical reliability, is one side of this story, and its noisy political edges, which depict one of the aspects of the clash of civilizations, is the other side. The murder of several publishers and translators and the attempted murder of its author have raised deep philosophical questions about the principles of coexistence in the Earth Village. The emphasis on basic human rights, including the right to freedom of speech and thoughts, and on the other hand, the emphasis on respecting the sanctities of others, with the controversy over the boundaries of sanctities and why and how to respect them are the topics to be elaborated and discussed in this special circumstances.

What is Islam’s view on this? If someone insults the Prophet of Muslims, are they obligated to treat him violently? The Qur’an does not say such a thing, and not only it has not order the believers to be harsh, but also has advised the Prophet to be patient and forgiving in the face of critics who called him a liar, a priest, and a sorcerer. For the first time in the history of Islam, the decree and fatwa of punishment against those insulting  the Prophet of Islam was issued by the prominent leader of the Salafists, Ibn Taymiyyah in the 8th century of Hijri, who wrote a treatise on this subject entitled “Al-Sarim al-Maslul Ala-Shatam al-Rasoul.” The Fatwa declares death sentence to anyone insulting the Prophet of Islam.  This fatwa is the basis of the work of most extremist groups in the present era and is considered one of the basic sources for issuing harsh fatwas.

The reflection of such acts of violence in today’s world has made the position of Muslims morally weak and vulnerable and has given a tangible and solid reason to those who consider Muslims to be intolerant, bigoted and violent. According to them, an attack on the life of a writer is a sign of helplessness in the field of logic and reasoning. Isn’t it better that instead of attacking on Salman Rushdie’s life, one should read and criticize the traditional heritage of the past and look for a way to get rid of the superstitions accumulated in it and argue his points of view logically and professionally?