Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department

Religious Studies

Major Professor

Kathleen Malone O'Connor, Ph.D.


Iblis, Shaitan, Islam, Angel, Adam


Salman Rushdie's The Satanic Verses created a major controversy when published in 1988, much like the controversy that Nikos Kazantzakis's novel The Last Temptation of Christ caused in 1951. Kazantzakis's work upset many Christians due to the controversial characterization of Jesus, who in the novel engages in sexual activities and other behaviors that many Christians find offensive. The Satanic Verses caused a similar uproar in the Umma, or Muslim community, resulting in book burnings, death threats, and even a murder. Most of the controversy focused on some the problematic characterizations of the Prophet Muhammad and his wives, such as using their names for a pimp and twelve prostitutes living in a brothel. Another offense was that Ibrahim was called "bastard" for abandoning Hagar and Ismail (Ishmael), in the desert. In The Satanic Verses, Rushdie pulls on the historical threads of Pre-Islamic Arabia and uses them to insinuate that Islam, rather than being a total breach from the Pre-Islamic traditions, was not an immediate break from the past but a slow process of change from the former belief system. By re-imagining these historical threads, Rushdie suggests that there is a plurality of possibilities that canonical Islam does not accept. The plurality that Rushdie suggests is anathema to the normative view of Islam, which is a monolithic Islam. These possibilities cast doubt on the purity of the Prophet, which some fear can cause ordinary Muslims to doubt the truth claims of Islam. These doubts can damage the faith of the believers and the unity of the Umma. These and other Islamic themes in the novel remain unexplored in contemporary scholarship of the novel, particularly the theme of struggle between good and evil. Gibreel Farishta, the co-protagonist in the novel, will be the center of this inquiry. I will explore the notion that the plight of Gibreel Farishta in The Satanic Verses is similar to the suffering of Iblis in Sufi Islam.