Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Dante's Inferno, Canto XXVIII - Mohammed and Ali in the Eighth Circle of Hell

I'm going to make a t-shirt out of this one of these days. Muhammed and Ali are in the Eighth Circle, in Malebolge, or Evil Pouch, Nine, the one reserved for "Schismatics." Here's the passage with notes.

I saw one
Rent from the chin to where one breaketh wind.
[split open from chin to ass]

Between his legs were hanging down his entrails;
His heart was visible, and the dismal sack
That maketh excrement of what is eaten.
[The Prophet bowels are dangling from his open abdomen]

While I was all absorbed in seeing him,
He looked at me, and opened with his hands
His bosom, saying: "See now how I rend me;

How mutilated, see, is Mahomet; [Muhammed as spelled in Dante's time]
In front of me doth Ali weeping go,
Cleft in the face from forelock unto chin;

[Ali was Muhammed's nephew and the fourth Islamic caliph. The Shia, or the Party of Ali, trace the beginning of their tradition to his assassination. Ali's son, Hussein the most reverved Shia figure, was killed in Karbala in what is now Iraq.]

And all the others whom thou here beholdest,
Disseminators of scandal and of schism
While living were, and therefore are cleft thus.

Basically, Muhammed is disemboweled. Ali's face is sliced open from his forehead to his chin (notice that Ali does not speak). When the Schematics' wounds heal the demons, the Malebranche, slice them open again with sharp swords. Colorful, eh?

Is this hate-speech? Clearly Dante considers Muhammed and Ali to be evil and that their teachings lead to damnation. They are, after all, near the very bottom of Hell.


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