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Muḥammad in Hell

Muḥammad in Hell

Chapter:
(p.178) Muḥammad in Hell
Source:
Dante and Islam
Author(s):
Karla Mallette
Publisher:
Fordham University Press
DOI:10.5422/fordham/9780823263868.003.0010

This essay studies Inferno 28, Dante’s portrait of the Prophet Muhammad, from the perspective of an ancient, important Islamic tradition: the sharḥ or opening of Muhammad’s chest. In the Inferno, Dante’s Muhammad is tormented by having his body split open. Medieval Islamic legends, and more subtly the Qur’an, describe an episode in which Muhammad’s chest is mystically opened and prophetic knowledge is embedded in his heart in order to signal his prophetic vocation. The essay compares this Islamic tradition to Dante’s portrayal of Muhammad and proposes contemporary Latin works (Mark of Toledo’s translation of the Qur’an, Riccoldo of Monte Croce’s anti-Islamic polemics) which might have conveyed the broad outlines of the sharḥ episode to Dante.

Keywords:   Muhammad, The Qur’an, Riccoldo da Montecroce, Mark of Toledo, Liber Scale

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