The Satanic Verses | Study Guide

Salman Rushdie

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The Satanic Verses | Part 6 : Return to Jahilia | Summary



Gibreel dreams of Jahilia a quarter of a century later (than Part 2 of the novel). Jahilia and its inhabitants (excepting Hind, who seems to maintain her youthful vivacity) have become increasingly mediocre and poor. In contrast, Mahound and his religion, Submission, have become more famous and influential.

One night a home intruder tells the now-50-year-old Baal that Mahound is coming. The intruder turns out to be Salman the Persian, who had been one of Mahound's closest friends but who is now disenchanted by Submission's growing emphasis on regulations. "Salman the Persian got to wondering what manner of God this was that sounded so much like a businessman." Salman reveals that a dream gave him an idea with which to test Mahound. One of Salman's jobs had been to act as scribe for Mahound. So Salman began to make small changes in the text of the recitation as he recorded it. Mahound never noticed the changes, causing a crisis of faith for Salman. He soon left Yathrib for Jahilia, putting Mahound and his religion behind him, but now Mahound is coming to Jahilia. Salman is afraid for his life. He passes out, leaving Baal to think about what he just learned.

Mahound travels to Jahilia with his army, and Grandee Simbel surrenders the city and converts to Mahound's faith. Led by Khalid, Mahound's army destroys all the idols in the temple. One by one, the citizens convert, including, reluctantly, Hind. Baal eludes capture, because he cleverly hides in a brothel called The Curtain that is notoriously difficult to navigate. Disguised as a eunuch at the brothel, he is able to overhear news of the world outside. News of Mahound's twelve wives gives him an idea: the twelve prostitutes of The Curtain should role-play the twelve wives of Mahound as a gimmick to enhance their business. The idea is a hit. After a while, the prostitutes decide to "marry" Baal. When Mahound decides to crack down on the city's brothels, Baal and the prostitutes at The Curtain are arrested and executed.

A short time later, Mahound becomes ill and on his deathbed has a vision of Al-Lat, who tells him that she caused his sickness out of revenge.


This section focuses on belief and unbelief as it pertains to religious belief. Specifically, it focuses on Islam; the new religion is called "Submission," and the meaning of the Arabic word Islam is "submission." This occurs through the characters of Salman the Persian and Baal, both of whom lose their faith in this section.

Baal, previously devoted to the polytheism of Jahilia, ceases to believe in any gods at all since he cannot believe in Mahound's God, but he doesn't see any evidence of the gods of Jahilia fighting back.

Salman's difficulty with the new religion begins when he notices how much they resemble the rules and regulations of a businessman. Then he remembers Mahound was a businessman, and he begins to question whether the revelations are truly divine. In addition, the new revelations begin to seem too tailored to Mahound's personal preferences. For example, Ayesha, the wife of Mahound, had complained that he had so many women. But just then, the angel Gibreel had announced to Mahound that he was allowed to have as many women as he pleased. It all just seems too convenient. This raises a question of whether, and to what extent, religious systems arise in a culture to support or enforce norms that are advantageous to persons in power.

Furthermore, Rushdie uses this subplot to explore, often humorously, the unintended consequences of a restrictive and authoritarian religious system. For example, a black market for goods prohibited by Submission, such as pork and alcohol, explodes. The brothel becomes popular to a degree never seen before because men can come and live out a fantasy of having sex with Mahound's wives. Rushdie also uses the name of the brothel, The Curtain or Hijab, to suggest an erotic connection between the brothel and the modest clothing worn by Muslim women.

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