From an Islamic perspective, Deuteronomy 18:20 is unassailable and Deuteronomy 18:20 gives us two criteria for spotting a false prophet. If someone speaks in the names of other gods, he’s a false prophet. If he delivers a false revelation, he’s a false prophet. Interestingly, Muhammad did both when he delivered the infamous Satanic verses. We learn about the Satanic verses not from Jewish or Christian sources but from early Muslim writings. Let’s read a passage from the history of al-TabarI to see what happened.
The history of al-TabarI volume 6 page 108
When the messenger of God saw how his tribe turned their backs on him and was grieved to see them shunning the message he had brought to them from God, he longed in his soul that something would come to him from God which would reconcile him with his tribe. With his love for his tribe and his eagerness for their welfare, it would have delighted him if some of the difficulties which they had made for him could have been smoothed out, and he debated with himself and fervently desired such an outcome. Then God revealed: By the star when it sets, your comrade does not err, nor is he deceived, nor does he speak out of (his own) desire (that’s the beginning of Surah 53 of the Quran.) and when he came to the words “Have you thought upon al-Lat and al-Uzza and Manat, the third, the other?” (that’s Surah 53:19-20), Satan cast on his tongue because of his inner debates and what he desired to bring to his people, the words “These are the high flying cranes, verily their intercession is accepted with approval” (that last part was originally the next verse of Surah 53).
Al-Lat, al-Uzza and Manat were three pagan goddesses. When Surah 53 was revealed, the Quran called them the high-flying cranes whose intercession is accepted with approval, meaning that Al-Lat, al-Uzza and Manat were like birds that could carry your prayers to Allah. Muhammad bowed down in honor of this revelation and as usual his followers bowed down with him but the polytheists were so delighted that Muhammad had finally approved of their gods, they joined in and prostrated themselves because of the reference to their gods, which they had heard, so that there was no one in the mosque, believer or unbeliever, who did not prostrate himself. So the pagans were bowing down in worship with Muhammad and his followers because Muhammad and the Quran had shown respect for their goddesses.
But Muhammad’s friendly relations with the polytheists didn’t last long. He soon learned that his verses praising pagan goddesses didn’t come from Allah, they came from Satan. Gabriel visited Muhammad and said “Muhammad, what have you done? You have recited to the people that which I did not bring to you from God and you have said that which was not said to you.” This is the angel Gabriel telling Muhammad that he delivered a revelation that didn’t come from God. Saddened to recognize his treachery against Allah, Muhammad lamented “I have fabricated things against God and have imputed to him words which he has not spoken.” Both Gabriel and Muhammad plainly state that Muhammad meets the criteria of a false prophet in Deuteronomy 18:20.
Muhammad remained grief-stricken and anxious until the revelation of the verse “Never did we send a messenger or a prophet before you… to the words… God is knower, wise.” Let’s read the entire verse to see how Allah comforted Muhammad after Muhammad humiliated himself by advocating shirk. The verse reads “Never did we send a messenger or a prophet before you but when he recited the revelation or narrated or spoke, Satan threw some falsehood in it but Allah abolishes that which Satan throws in. Then Allah establishes his revelations and Allah is all knower all-wise.” (Surah 22:52) Allah tells Muhammad “Don’t feel bad about delivering a revelation from the devil. All of Allah’s messengers deliver a revelation from the devil from time to time but don’t worry about it because Allah eventually cleans up the mess.” The next verse explains why Allah allows Satan to trick and deceive his messengers: that he (Allah) may make what is thrown in by Satan a trial for those in whose hearts is a disease and whose hearts are hardened.” (Surah 22:53) Allah lets Satan deliver false revelations through Allah’s true prophets in order to test people.
We’re not just talking about a story from later Muslim sources. Quran verses were revealed in response to the Satanic verses and yet most Muslims claim that Muhammad never delivered the Satanic verses and that the story was made up. The problem is that there are tons of sources reporting various versions of this story. I have 37 Muslim sources reporting the Satanic verses affair and these sources can be traced back to some very important early Muslims. Of the 37 sources we have for this story, six go back to Ka’b al-qarazi, one of Islam’s greatest early Quran scholars, five go back to Urwah ibn al-Zubayr, an early Meccan scholar who’s known as the founder of the study of the life of Muhammad. He was also Aisha’s nephew, Abu Bakr’s grandson and the son of Abu Bakr’s daughter Asma. Two go back to Abu Bakr ibn Abd al-Rahman ibn al-Harith, one of the top scholars in Islamic law during the first century, five go back to Abu al-Aliyah al-Basri, another of the greatest Quran scholars of the first century. He studied the Quran with Caliph Umar, Ubayy ibn Ka’b, Zayd ibn Thabit and Ibn Abbas. Two go back to al-Sudhi, another early scholar who studied with ibn Abbas, one comes from the tafsir of Muhammad ibn al-Sa’ib al-Kalbi, an early commentator who composed the longest tafsir that had been written up until his time, four reports go back to Qatadah ibn Di’amah, one of Islam’s greatest early commentators, one goes back to al-Dahhak ibn Muzahim al-balki, a first century expert in tafsir, one goes back to Ikrima, a slave of ibn Abbas and an expert on the life of Muhammad. We have six reports that go back to ibn Abbas himself, the founder of Quran’s studies and we have several that go back to Sa’id ibn Jubayr, one of the leading Quran scholars of his time and one of the top students of ibn Abbas. Some of ibn Abbas’ narratives go through Sa’id ibn Jubayr.
This story is all over the early Muslim community. How did so many Muslim scholars get this completely wrong? As a general rule, if you’re going to make up stories about your prophet, you’re going to make up positive stories. You’re going to make up stories about him performing miracles or something. You’re not going to make up stories about him delivering revelations from the devil. The only way Muslim historians would have recorded such an embarrassing story is that they knew it was true and couldn’t deny it. We can see how embarrassing it was to Muslims because as time goes on, the story gets watered down more and more. The earliest versions of the story say that Muhammad delivered the Satanic verses. Later versions say that Satan simply imitated Muhammad’s voice so that people thought Muhammad delivered the Satanic verses. Muslims were embarrassed by the story but the earliest writers just couldn’t avoid it. By the time we get to the major hadith collections centuries after Muhammad, Muslims were actively removing embarrassing material from their records.
What’s interesting is that even the hadith compilers kept parts of the story that they liked while ignoring the part about Muhammad delivering revelations from Satan. For instance, in Sahih Bukhari 4862 we read “Narrated Ibn Abbas: The prophet performed a prostration when he finished reciting Surat An-Najm (Surah 53 which contained the Satanic verses when Muhammad revealed it) and all the Muslims and Al-Mushrikun (polytheists, pagans, idolaters and disbelievers in the oneness of Allah and in his messenger Muhammad) and jinn and human beings prostrated along with him.” Why would pagans and idolaters bow down when Muhammad finished reciting a Surah? Bukhari adds a heading suggesting it’s because Surah 53 concludes with a verse that says “so fall you down in prostration to Allah and worship him (alone).” “alone” isn’t in the Arabic but why would pagans and idolaters, who’ve rejected Muhammad, bow down in response to a Quranic verse telling them to bow down? It doesn’t make sense. They didn’t believe in Muhammad’s revelations so why did they bow down? We know from Muslim sources that came long before Bukhari exactly why they bowed down. They bowed down because Muhammad showed reverence for their gods. They bowed down in honor of Muhammad promoting polytheism. Later he changed it so that it affirms monotheism. Bukhari likes the part about the pagans and idolaters bowing down when they heard the Quran but he doesn’t like the part about why they bowed down so he keeps the part he likes and rejects the part he doesn’t like.
This is exactly what Muslims do today. History is like a buffet to many Muslims if you like something, you take it. If you don’t like something, you leave it. Muhammad delivers a Surah promoting polytheism, then he changes it so that it only promotes monotheism, then Muslim historians record what happened, then later Muslim historians water down the story, then still later Muslim historians erase the story and Muslims today insist that the story is just a lie and they condemn the early Muslims who recorded it because they knew it was true. For those of us who actually want to know what happened, the story of the Satanic verses is as strong as history gets when it comes to the life of Muhammad. If Muhammad’s followers could invent something like this and deceive the entire early Muslim community, how can we trust anything they say about Muhammad? If his followers would invent stories that make him look bad and hurt his credibility, they obviously wouldn’t have any problem inventing more positive stories. In other words, if you’re going to throw the early Muslim community under the bus, that’s the same community that gives us everything we know about Muhammad and it’s the same community that was protecting the Quran. If they were a bunch of liars, there goes Islam.
Based on Muslim sources, we know that the prophet of Islam on at least one occasion delivered a message that didn’t come from God. We also know that Muhammad on at least one occasion spoke in the names of false gods. Putting this together with the criteria for recognizing false prophets in Deuteronomy 18:20 we have the following syllogisms which I call the “deuteronomy deductions”.
If a person speaks in the names of false gods that person is a false prophet. (We know this from deuteronomy 18:20)
Muhammad spoke in the name of false gods. (We know this from numerous Muslim sources)
Therefore, Muhammad was a false prophet.
If a person delivers a revelation that doesn’t come from God, that person is a false prophet. (We know this from Deuteronomy 18:20)
Muhammad delivered a revelation that didn’t come from God. (We know this from numerous Muslim sources)
Therefore Muhammad was a false prophet.