al-Hallaj (c. 858 - March 26, 922) was a Persian
mystic, writer and teacher of Sufism. His full name
was Abu al-Mughith Husayn Mansur al-Hallaj. Although
he was of Persian descent, he wrote all of his works
in Arabic, the language of the Qur'an.
He was born around 858 in Tur, Persia to a cotton-carder
(Hallaj means "cotton-carder" in Arabic).
Al-Hallaj's grandfather may have been a Zoroastrian.
His father lived a simple life, and this form of lifestyle
greatly interested the young al-Hallaj. As a youngster
he memorized the Qur'an and would often retreat from
worldly pursuits to join other mystics in study.
Al-Hallaj later married and made a pilgrimage to Makkah,
where he stayed for one year, facing the mosque, in
fasting and total silence. After his stay at the city,
he traveled extensively and wrote and taught along the
way. He travelled as far as India and Central Asia gaining
many followers, many of which accompanied him on his
second and third trips to Makkah. After this period
of travel, he settled down in the Abbasid capital of
his early lifetime he was a disciple of Junayd and Amr
al-Makki, but was later rejected by them both.
other Sufis, al-Hallaj was an anomaly. Many Sufi masters
felt that it was inappropriate to share mysticism with
the masses, yet al-Hallaj openly did so in his writings
and through his teachings. He began to make enemies,
and the rulers saw him as a threat. This was exacerbated
by times when he would fall into trances which he attributed
to being in the presence of God. During one of these
trances, he would utter Ana al-Haqq ??? ????, meaning
"Truth is me" or "I am God" and
also, "In my turban is wrapped nothing but God,"
which was taken to mean that he was claiming to be God,
as Al-Haqq is one of the Ninety Nine Names of Allah.
In another statement, al-Hallaj would point to his cloak
and say, "Maa Fil Jubbati Illa-Allah" meaning
"There is nothing inside/underneath the cloak except
utterances led him to a long trial, and subsequent imprisonment
for eleven years in a Baghdad prison. In the end, he
was tortured and publicly crucified (in some accounts
he was beheaded and his hands and feet were cut off)
by the Abbasid rulers for what they deemed "theological
error threatening the security of the state." Many
accounts tell of al-Hallaj's calm demeanor even while
he was being tortured, and indicate that he forgave
those who had executed him. According to some sources,
[attribution needed] he went to his execution dancing
in his chains. He was executed on March 26, 922.
Views on al-Hallaj
His writings are important to Sufi groups. Thelemites
also make use of his teachings, especially in terms
of his identification as God - a central gnostic principle.
His example is seen by some as one that should be emulated,
especially his calm demeanor in the face of torture
and his forgiving of his tormentors. Many honor him
as an adept that came to realize the inherent divine
nature of all men and women. While some theological
universalists theorize that Hallaj was a reflection
of God's truth in much the same way Christians view
Jesus, others continue to see him as a heretic.
Rumi wrote on the claim "I am God" three centuries
later: "People imagine that it is a presumptive
claim, whereas it is really a presumptive claim to say
"I am the slave of God"; and "I am God"
is an expression of great humility. The man who says
"I am the slave of God" affirms two existences,
his own and God's, but he that says "I am God"
has made himself non-existent and has given himself
up and says "I am God", that is, "I am
naught, He is all; there is no being but God's."
This is the extreme of humility and self-abasement."
His life was studied extensively by the French scholar
of Islam, Louis Massignon.
His most well known written work is the Kitab al Tawasin
, or Ta Sin al Azal, which includes two brief chapters
devoted to a dialogue of Satan (Iblis) and God, where
Satan refuses to bow to Adam, although God asks him
to do so. His refusal is due to a misconceived idea
of God's uniqueness and because of his refusal to abandon
himself to God in love. Hallaj criticizes the staleness
of his adoration (Mason, 51-3).
His method was one of "universalist mystical introspection:
It was at the bottom of the heart that he looked for
God and wanted to make others find Him. He believed
one had to go beyond the forms of religious rites to
reach divine reality. Thus, he used without hesitation
the terminology of his opponents, which he set right
and refined, ready to make himself hostage of the denominational
logic of others." (Massignon: "Perspective
Transhistorique", p. 76) Even beyond the Muslim
faith, Hallaj was concerned with the whole of humanity,
as he desired to communicate to them "that strange,
patient and shameful, desire for God, which was characteristic
for him." (Massignon, p. 77) This was the reason
for his voyage beyond the Muslim world (shafa'a) to
India and China.
meaning of the pilgrimage to Makkah
In the trial that led to his execution, he was accused
of preaching against the pilgrimage to Makkah (the Hajj),
which he, however, had performed three times. In reality,
his concern was more with the spiritual meaning of Hajj,
and he thus "spoke of the spiritual efficacy and
legitimacy of symbolic pilgrimage in one's own home."
(Mason, 25) For him, the most important part of the
pilgrimage to Makkah was the prayer at Mount Arafat,
commemorating the sacrifice of Abraham in an offering
Re-interpretation of the tawhid and desire for unification
Whereas for most, especially legalistic, Muslims, the
unity of God, tawhid, meant that God was inaccessible
to man, al-Hallaj believed that it was only God who
could pronounce the Tawhid, whereas man's prayer was
to be one of kun, surrender to His will: "Love
means to stand next to the Beloved, renouncing oneself
entirely and transforming oneself in accordance to Him".
(Massignon, 74) He spoke of God as his "Beloved",
"Friend" "You", and felt that "his
only self was (God)", to the point that he could
not even remember his own name." (Mason, 26)
He wanted to testify of this relationship to God to
others, even at the price of his own life, thus even
asking his fellow Muslims to kill him (Massignon, 79)
and accepting his martyrdom, saying that "what
is important for the ecstatic is for the One to reduce
him to oneness." (Massignon, 87) He also referred
to the martyrdom of Christ, saying he also wanted to
die "in the supreme confession of the cross"
(Olivier Clément. Dio è carita, p. 41)
Like Christ, he gave his martyrdom a redemptive significance,
believing as he did that his martyrdom "was uniting
his beloved God and His community of Muslims against
himself and thereby bore witness in extremis to the
tawhid (the oneness) of both." (Mason, 25) For
his desire of oneness with God, many Muslims criticized
him as a "'crypto-Christian' for distorting the
monotheistic revelation in a Christian way." (Mason,
25). His death is described by Attar as a heroic act,as
when they are taking him to court,a sufi asks him:"What
is love?". He answers: "You will see it today,
tomorrow, and the day after tomorrow." They killed
him that day, burned him the next day and threw his
ashes to the wind the day after that. "This is
love," Attar says. His legs were cut off, he smiled
and said, "I used to walk the earth with these
legs, now there's only one step to heaven, cut that
if you can." And when his hands were cut off he
paints his face with his own blood, when asked why,
he says: "I have lost a lot of blood, and I know
my face has turned yellow, I don't want to look pale-faced
(as of fear)...".
In his book The Sufis, the Indian scholar Idries Shah
suggested that Mansur al-Hallaj, the mystic martyr,
might have been the origin of Hiram Abiff character
in the Freemasonic Master Mason ritual. The link, he
beliefs, was through the Sufi sect Al-Banna ("The
Builders") who built the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the
Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. This
fraternity could have influenced some early masonic
guilds which borrowed heavily from the Oriental architecture
in the creation of the Gothic style.