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The Satanic Verses

One of the most controversial novels ever published during the modern era, The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie is a masterpiece. Set in a modern world filled with "mayhem and miracles," the novel tells three stories; the main one is the tale of Gibreel and Saladin, two Indians who miraculously survive a terrorist bombing of a London-bound plane. Magically, Gibreel takes on the personality of the Archangel Gibreel and Saladin of the devil.
One man's breath was sweetened, while another's, by an equal and opposite mystery, was soured. What did they expect? Falling like that out of the sky: did they imagine that there would be no side-effects? Higher Powers had taken an interest, it should have been obvious to them both... (137)
After their fail, they struggle to get their lives back together and deal with what they now embodied: good and evil. The second story re-tells some stories of the Prophet Muhammad, based partly on historical fact (Ibn Ishaq's biography of Muhammed, The Life of Muhammad) and on Rushdie's imagination. It is partly recounted through Gibreel's eyes in the city of Jahilia (Mecca) about the founding of Islam- when Muhammad had his conversations with the archangel Gibreel about the will of Allah. As history goes, the people of Mecca were not open to conversion - Rushdie writes, "There is a god here called Allah (means simply, the god). Ask the Jahilians and they'll acknowledge that this fellow has some sort of overall authority, but he isn't very popular: an all-rounder in an age of specialist statues." (101) Here, you can see the satire and humor that permeates most of the novel. Rushdie has stated that The third story is about Ayesha, an Indian peasant girl who claims that archangel Gibreel has directed her to lead her village on pilgrimage to Mecca by foot, claiming they will be able to walk through the Arabian Sea.
It was really difficult for me to get into the novel in the beginning. Part I is the lives of Gibreel and Saladin before they were on the plane, and I was very confused by what was going on. But once you get through Part I, the story picks up.
Question: What is the opposite of faith?
Not disbelief. Too final, certain, closed. Itself is a kind of belief.
Doubt. (9)
There has been criticism that Rushdie wrote the novel intending to stir controversy, and an international incident did erupt over the novel. The controversy was in relation to story #2, the title The Satanic Verses "refers to an incident in the life of Mohammed, recorded by two early Arab historians (al-Waqidi, A.D. 747-823, and at-Tabari, A.D. c. 839-923), discredited by later commentators on the Koran, but taken up in Western accounts as the 'lapse of Mohammed' or his 'compromise with idolatry.'" (xAyatollah Khomeini, a Shia Muslim leader, issued a fatwā calling for the death of Rushdie and his publishers. Rushdie had to live under armed guard until it was rescinded. Nonetheless, it is still an impressive, beautifully written (albeit complex) novel. Rating: ★★★★★

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