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Mahound or Mahoun is a variant form of the name Muhammad, often found in Medieval and later European literature. The name has been used in the past by Christian writers to vilify Muhammad.[1] It was especially connected to the Christian belief that Muhammad was a god worshipped by pagans, or that he was a demon who inspired a false religion.[2][3]

Pejorative connotations

The perception that Muslims worshipped Muhammad was common in Medieval Europe. According to Bernard Lewis, the "development of the concept of Mahound started with considering Muhammad as a kind of demon or false god worshipped with Apollyon and Termagant in an unholy trinity [in the song of Roland]. Finally after reformation, Muhammad was conceived as a cunning and self-seeking imposter."[4]

A similar belief was the claim that the Knights Templar worshipped a god called Baphomet, also widely interpreted as a variant of the name "Mahommet".[5]

In literature

The name appears in various medieval mystery plays, in which Mahound is sometimes portrayed as a generic "pagan" god worshipped by villains such as Herod and the Pharaoh of the Exodus. One play depicts both Herod the Great and his son Herod Antipas as worshipping Mahound,[6] while in another play Pharaoh encourages the Egyptians to pursue the Israelites into the Red Sea with the words: Heave up you hearts ay to Mahound.[7]

In Scottish popular culture the variant form "Mahoun" was also used as the name of the devil, who was called Old Mahoun.[8] Robert Burns wrote

"The Deil cam fiddlin thro' the town,
And danc'd awa wi' th'Exciseman;
And ilka wife cries auld Mahoun,
I wish you luck o' the prize, man."[9]

G. K. Chesterton uses "Mahound" rather than "Mohammed" in his poem Lepanto.[10] More recently, Salman Rushdie, in his novel The Satanic Verses, chose the name Mahound to refer to Muhammad as he appears in one character's dreams. However, he is not identified as Satan in that work.

See also


  1. Esposito, John L. (1999). The Islamic threat : myth or reality? (3rd ed.). New York, NY: Oxford Univ. Press. p. 250. ISBN 0-19-513076-6.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. Annemarie Schimmel, Islam: An Introduction, 1992.
  3. William Montgomery Watt,Muhammad: Prophet and Statesman, Oxford University Press, 1961, p. 229
  4. Bernard Lewis (2002), p. 45.
  5. Barber, Malcolm, The New Knighthood: A History of the Order of the Temple, Cambridge University Press, 1994, p. 321.
  6. N-Town Cycle: The Death of Judas, and the Trials of Christ Before Pilate and Herod, line 165.
  7. The York Cycle: The Israelites in Egypt, the Ten Plagues, and Passage of the Red Sea, line 404.
  8. The Nuttall Encyclopedia: Mahoun.
  9. Robert Burns, The Deil's Awa Wi' Th' Exciseman.
  10. G. K. Chesterton, Lepanto.

External links