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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Beheading the Son: Muhammad and Bertran de Born in Inferno 28

  • Author(s): Moudarres, Andrea
  • et al.
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International Public License

In recent years, partly because of the current political resonance of the relationship between Islam and the West, significant attention has been paid to the disturbing portrait of the prophet Muhammad in Inferno 28 and, more broadly, to the issue of Dante and Islam. In this essay I analyze Dante’s depiction of Muhammad in relation to its theological framework, arguing that the Muslims’ rejection of the dogma of the Trinity, which constitutes the central source of doctrinal dissension between Islam and Christianity, allows us to establish a link between Muhammad and Bertran de Born, the other main character in the gallery of sowers of discord presented in Inferno 28. As both sinners severed the tie between father and son, the former breached the principle upon which the unity of the Church is founded, whereas the latter violated the norm that undergirds the dynastic legitimacy of a kingdom. In contrast with Bertran’s and Muhammad’s language of division, Dante conceives his work as a vessel for peace and reconciliation between secular and spiritual authorities.

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