The Satanic Verses

The Satanic Verses Summary and Analysis of Part IX - "A Wonderful Lamp"


Chapter 1

Part IX takes place eighteen months after the Shaandaar Café fire.

It turns out that Saladin had a heart attack as Gibreel was rescuing him, and it took him more than a year to recover from the ensuing bypass surgery. One day, he receives a telegram from Nasreen the Second, informing him that his father is dying quickly. Saladin instantly forgives his father for all their disagreements, and flies home to India. Coincidentally, he sits next to S.S. Sisodia on the plane. Sisodia chatters for the whole flight, and Saladin ignores him by reflecting on the past year’s events.

John Maslama and Pinkwalla were acquitted of the narcotics charges due to a lack of evidence. Jumpy and Pamela died in the community relations center fire, which was likely started to destroy the evidence of witchcraft that Pamela was given. Gibreel produced and starred in two films based on his dreams, The Parting of the Arabian Sea and Mahound, both of which were critical and commercial flops. His fortune is quickly drying up. After her parents’ deaths, Mishal Sufyan had nightmares wherein her mother reprimanded her for her bad life choices. She responded by getting a job, marrying Hanif Johnson, and becoming the owner of the remodeled Shaandaar Café. Anahita was briefly sent to live with a conservative aunt, but intends to move in with Mishal Sufyan once the café renovations are complete.

Saladin wonders if Zeeny will meet him at the airport (he wired her news of his arrival), but she is not there. When Saladin arrives at his old house, Nasreen the Second and Kasturba welcome him back. There is a moment of tension when Saladin learns his father does not know he is dying. Saladin insists Changez should be told, but the women feel he has no right to make demands. Changez asks Saladin to shave him, and they reconcile. Saladin laments that he has only come to know the kind, vulnerable side of Changez so soon before his death.

Saladin and the women prepare Changez for death. They invite all his relatives and friends to a party, at which Changez enjoys himself immensely. They then send for Panikkar, a hospice doctor who at last explains to Changez that he is dying. Changez is not surprised, but he is relieved to learn that the end is unlikely to be painful. A few days later, his health declines sharply, and Saladin, Nasreen, and Kasturba bring him to the hospital, where he dies with an enigmatic smile on his face. Saladin is moved by how bravely and silently his father faced death.

Saladin inherits the lamp his father promised him when he was a boy in Part I. After his father’s funeral, he rubs the lamp and Zeeny suddenly arrives - he assumes she must be his genie. She apologizes for not coming sooner, and they make love, after which he tells her he is changing his name back to Salahuddin. In addition to the lamp, Salahuddin receives a sizeable fortune and an old schoolhouse from his father’s estate - despite their fighting, Changez never disinherited him. He falls back in with Zeeny and Bhupen Gandhi, and together with Bhupen’s new girlfriend, Swatilekha, they attend a demonstration organized by the communist party.

Salahuddin hears rumors that Gibreel is returning to Bombay. His new film will be “a modern-dress remake of the Ramayana story in which the heroes and heroines have become corrupt and evil” (553). Salahuddin becomes strangely nervous when he hears about Gibreel's return, and even more so when he hears that Alleluia has also come to Bombay to climb a nearby peak. She broke up with Gibreel after the Brickhall fires, and remains furious at both men.

On the same day as the communist demonstration, Alleluia and S.S. Sisodia both die under suspicious circumstances – Alleluia falls from the same building Rekha Merchant jumped from, and Sisodia is found in Gibreel’s apartment with a bullet in his chest. While the police search for him, Gibreel arrives at Salahuddin’s house. He rants to Saladin, confessing to the murders and admitting that he still thinks himself an angel. Gibreel explains that Sisodia brought Alleluia to his house, hoping to reconcile the couple so that Gibreel would be amenable to starring in a film Sisodia was producing. However, Gibreel kept hearing the salacious rhymes that Saladin recited about Alleluia on his prank calls, and he killed them both. Just as Gibreel finishes his confession, the police knock on the door, and Gibreel absentmindedly starts rubbing the lamp. Gibreel opens the lamp and pulls out a gun, which Salahuddin realizes his father must have hidden there. Gibreel shoots himself, and Salahuddin leaves the house with Zeeny.


This coda to the London plot sees all of the main characters – Saladin, Gibreel, and Alleluia – return to Bombay. In many ways, The Satanic Verses is an unconventional story. It upends the way literary texts normally deal with causality, character development, and the role of the narrator. However, Part IX includes many elements of the traditional literary conclusion. It includes resolutions for not only the main characters, but also for secondary figures like Mishal Sufyan and Pinkwalla. It also ties the Jahilia and Titlipur plots into the main storyline by explaining that Gibreel made his dreams into movies. When reading them, it is easy to forget that the Mahound and Ayesha stories were all dreams that Gibreel was having.

However, the biggest departure from the rest of the novel lies in the resolution Rushdie provides for Saladin. Over the course of The Satanic Verses, characters have undergone significant change. Most obviously, Gibreel and Saladin transform into an angel and a demon, but these transformations also reveal sides of their personalities that the men had never explored before. However, these changes are not exactly character development – Gibreel and Saladin have no control over what happens to them, and the changes are arbitrary, not responses to things they have learned.

All of this changes in Part IX. In this section, Saladin takes the humility and compassion he has learned from his ordeal, and applies it to his life. He forgives his father Changez after decades of estrangement, and tenderly cares for him during his final days. He also embraces his Indian identity by moving back to Bombay and changing his name back to Salahuddin. As if to confirm that the change is genuine, the narrator starts referring to him as Salahuddin after he reconciles with his father. Saladin also joins his friends Zeeny and Bhupen in the communist demonstration, something he would have looked askance at earlier in the novel. These changes showcase a prouder, less selfish Saladin. The narrator confirms the character’s new maturity by referring to this time in Saladin’s life as ‘childhood’s end.’

However, Saladin is not able to break completely with his past. When he meets Panikkar, he muses to himself silently about this “name the English would mispronounce” (542). Further, when his father dies, he feels uncomfortable with the Muslim custom of putting fabric in the corpse’s mouth and under its eyelids. Although the character has turned over a new leaf, Rushdie makes it clear that his time in England will always influence his thinking and the way he interacts with his native culture. It would be disingenuous for Rushdie to suggest at novel's end that a person can be defined in a binary fashion - as simply 'Indian' or 'not Indian.' Instead, Saladin will remain a complicated mixture of identities; what has changed is that he is able to find peace with that.

Interestingly, Saladin seems to have at least momentarily eschewed acting ambitions in this section, while Gibreel continues to produce and act in films. Considering the way that their vocations suggested their ever-shifting identities, it makes sense that Saladin would seek peace, while Gibreel continues to pursue different identities. It is perhaps Gibreel's inability to accept himself that explains the tumult that leads to his suicide.

Near the end of the novel, Saladin paraphrases Rosa Diamond’s quip from Part III. “Now I know what a ghost is,” he thinks to himself. “Unfinished business, that’s what” (554). This observation resonates with Saladin’s inability to escape his past. Just as he cannot entirely stop thinking the way he did in London, he also cannot cut his ties with Gibreel and Alleluia, try as he might. When Gibreel visits Saladin shortly before committing suicide, he finishes some business by reconciling with his old adversary. However, he also leaves more unfinished business for Saladin by revealing that his prank phone calls in Part VII eventually caused Gibreel to murder Alleluia – a fact that will undoubtedly plague Saladin for the rest of his life. Despite Saladin’s very real character development, the events of the novel were so catastrophic that the character will always have ‘unfinished business.’

This sense of 'unfinished business' also gives some insight into Rushdie's organization for the novel. He explores his themes through myriad variations told over four different plots (the main plot, the Mahound plot, the Ayesha plot, and the short Imam-in-exile plot). The multiple narratives reinforce the novel's idea that our identities are forever in conflict with history - the history of our country, of our religion, of our descent, and of our personal lives. Each of these stories reveal how the past influences the present, and therefore can we never escape it. As soon as we think we understand ourselves, we are confronted by a complication. In exploring how both every man and mankind in general in capable of angelic and satanic possibilities, Rushdie suggests that we only grow more complicated as our history proliferates. No matter how at peace we may become, myriad histories compete to complicate our lives and identities. Our business of self-discovery, therefore, is never complete.