Abram Van Engen
Literature and the Question of Relgion
Short Engagement Paper: Satanic Verse
"They mock us everywhere, and you call us dangerous," he cried. Now Hamza looks worried. "You never worried about their opinions before. Why now? Why after speaking to Simbel?" Mahound shakes his head. "Sometimes I think I must make it easier for the people to believe." An uneasy silence covers the disciples; they exchange looks, shift their weight. Mahound cries out again. "You all know what has been happening. Our failure to win converts. The people will not give up their gods. They will not, not." He stands up, strides away from them, washes by himself on the far side of the Zamzam well, kneels to pray.” (Rushdie 111)
This quote from the novel takes place during one of Gabreel's dreams after he has fallen out of the plane that was taken over by Sikh terrorists. He has the vision of Mahound, a prophet, who tells his people that they must accept three other goddesses into their once monotheistic religion. Although this angers many of Mahound's followers, he explains that they must accept these goddesses if they want to be accepted into the community.
At first look this seems like a very simple request by the prophet Mahound. However, after some analysis, one can decipher that Mahound actually represents Muhammad, the prophet for the religion of Islam. Thus, when Mahound states that there is not only one god, Allah, its almost as if Muhammad is saying that Islam is not a monotheistic religion. When Mahound acts like business man rather than a prophet by suggesting that his people must accept the other three goddesses just to be included in the society, it is as if Muhammad is acting like a business man. This is one of the main reasons that this book critiques the Islamic religion. Rushdie suggests that Muhammad was barely a prophet and was only trying to gain acceptance for his people, not actually preaching the words of God or the arch angel.
There is also the fact that no one knows if it was God that told Mahound that he should accept the other goddesses into his religion, or if it was Satan. Many of Mahounds disciples do not believe Mahound's word and believe that he is either making up his prophecy or that it is the word of Satan. Again, by connecting Mahound to Muhammad, Rushdie can make a claim that perhaps Muhammad's prophecy was not actually God either. Muhammad could have made up his prophecy and or even based Islam on the word of Satan. All in all, by finding the connection between Mahound and Muhammad, one can easily see how Rushdie is able to critique Islam in Satanic Verses.