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The Satanic Verses | Quotes


To be born again ... first you have to die.

Gibreel Farishta, Part 1, Chapter 1

The opening line of the novel, and one repeated elsewhere, suggests a main theme of the book: metamorphosis and rebirth. Although the statement has a poetic ring to it, the truth of it is called into question by events of the novel. In fact, many characters seem to be completely transformed, or reborn, by continuing to live. This is one of many paradoxes explored in the novel.


Which was the miracle worker? Of what type—angelic, satanic—was Farishta's song?

Narrator, Part 1, Chapter 1

This question appears early in the novel, suggesting it will be an open-ended exploration throughout in the text. However, as the story progresses, it becomes clear that uncertainty on this issue, not an easy resolution, is part of the point. The inherent contradictions and paradoxes involved in human existence make easy categories such as angel or devil insufficient to describe the complexity of the world.


Some migrants are happy to depart.

Narrator, Part 1, Chapter 2

The narrator suggests that Gibreel Farishta's father was happy to die because he would join his departed wife. However, using the word "migrant" to describe someone who dies suggests that geographical journeys are just one kind of migration.


But when Gibreel regained his strength ... he had lost his faith.

Narrator, Part 1, Chapter 2

Gibreel loses his faith while he is ill, and so the first thing he does is eat a meal entirely of pork. The loss of faith is an important idea in the book, and characters who have lost their faith for one reason or another are peppered throughout the novel.


Our own false descriptions to counter the falsehoods invented about us, concealing ... our secret selves.

Narrator, Part 1, Chapter 3

Falsehoods abound in the lives of immigrants as they reinvent themselves in response to their new culture and its treatment of them. And throughout this experience, this quote suggests, they manage to keep some sense of self.


Question: What is the opposite of faith? Not disbelief. ... Doubt.

Narrator, Part 2

As the narrator introduces Mahound, the businessman, he explores the concept of faith. This quote suggests that a loss of faith doesn't occur when someone stops believing, but when doubts overtake faith.


They have the power of description, and we succumb to the pictures they construct.

Manticore, Part 3, Chapter 3

In the hospital of half-human and mutant people, Saladin converses with a man who has been transformed into a manticore. The manticore explains the mechanism by which they have all been transformed. He tells Saladin "they" describe people, and the people change to fulfill the description. This suggests that when those in charge, such as colonizers or host countries describe people such as natives or immigrants as being inhuman, bestial, or devilish, the people begin to transform to fit the description, a phenomenon that is explored in postcolonial and immigrant theories.


The universe was a place of wonders, and only habituation ... dulled our sight.

Narrator, Part 5, Chapter 2

The narrator explains that Alleluia Cone is ready to believe Gibreel's rather unbelievable story about falling out of the plane because she has seen miraculous things atop Everest. The willingness to believe in wonders even in the face of grim and mundane reality resonates well with the genre of magical realism.


The mountain was diabolic as well as transcendent, ... its diabolism and its transcendence were one.

Narrator, Part 5, Chapter 2

When Alleluia Cone is told she should not try to climb Everest again, she believes it is because, having once reached its heights, she cannot go a second time: "it is not permitted to mortals to look more than once upon the face of the divine." Yet she has a deep desire to climb it anyway. The dual nature of Allie's feelings echoes the mountain's transcendence/diabolism, which echoes the angelic/devilish nature of Gibreel and Saladin. People, nature, and even divine beings contain contradictions and paradoxes that can help postcolonial subjects understand their experience in the world.


Gibreel with open eyes ... detected everywhere the presence of his adversary.

Narrator, Part 5, Chapter 2

Gibreel Farishta's dreams, in which he is the archangel Gibreel, begin to encroach on reality. As visions merge with real life, he begins to think of the devilish Saladin ever more as his adversary.


Salman the Persian got to wondering what manner of God ... sounded so much like a businessman.

Narrator, Part 6

Salman the Persian, a disciple of Mahound, begins to lose his faith in the new religion, Submission, when he notices that God's revelations always sounded like things a businessman would say. Coincidentally Mahound himself was a businessman. This small doubt gives Salman the idea of testing Mahound by altering the words of the recitation. When Mahound fails this test, Salman can no longer believe. Like many other characters in the novel, Salman experiences a loss of faith.


Where there is no belief, there is no blasphemy.

Narrator, Part 6

The narrator explains why Baal and twelve prostitutes could role-play Mahound and his twelve wives without being blasphemous. Since they are not believers, they interact with these religious figures in a purely secular way, as characters. This is similar to the way Gibreel can play all manner of deities—he treats the stories as stories, not as tenets of faith. This line also offers an argument for why The Satanic Verses is not blasphemous. Rushdie, as a secular man who repeatedly states that his stories can either be believed or not, is not capable of blasphemy.


Culture, city, wife; and a fourth and final love ... the love of a dream.

Narrator, Part 7, Chapter 1

Saladin's heart's desires were to go to London, become British, find a wife, and have a child. His recurring dream is of teaching his own son to ride a bicycle. The tragedy of Saladin's story is not that he ends up with none of these things but that he wanted them to begin with. His dream is to be not "other," to be British rather than Indian. Since he is both, and by extension neither, his dream is just that—a dream.


Evil may not be as far beneath our surfaces as we like to say it is.

Narrator, Part 7, Chapter 2

When Gibreel and Saladin meet again in London, Saladin cannot forgive Gibreel's earlier inaction when the police came to Rosa Diamond's house. He decides to get revenge on Gibreel, and finds this decision not so hard to make, not so monumental. The narrator explains that evil may be, in fact, more a part of our nature than we like to admit.


Is he vengeance or forgiveness?

Narrator, Part 7, Chapter 3

As Gibreel wanders the streets of London amidst the unrest, pursuing his adversary Saladin, he is unsure if he is an agent of God's wrath or of God's love—vengeance or forgiveness. Perhaps, as it turns out, he is both.

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