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Mansur Al-Hallaj

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Hallaj

Execution of Mansur Al-Hallaj

Mansur al-Hallaj (Persian: منصور حلاج - Mansūr-e Hallāj; Arabic: منصور الحلاج - Mansūr al-Hallāj; full name Abū al-Mughīth Husayn Mansūr al-Hallāj) (c. 858 - March 26, 922) (Hijri c. 244 AH-309 AH) was a Persian[1] mystic, revolutionary writer and pious teacher of Sufism most famous for his apparent, but disputed, self-proclaimed divinity, his poetry and for his execution for heresy at the orders of the Abbasid Caliph Al-Muqtadir after a long, drawn-out investigation.[2]

Early life

He was born around 858 in Fars province of Persia to a cotton-carder (Hallaj means "cotton-carder" in Arabic). Al-Hallaj's grandfather was a Zoroastrian[3]. 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 in the city, he traveled extensively and wrote and taught along the way. He traveled as far as India and Central Asia gaining many followers, many of whom accompanied him on his second and third trips to Makkah. After this period of travel, he settled down in the Abbasid capital of Baghdad.

During his early lifetime he was a disciple of Junayd Baghdadi and Amr al-Makki, but was later rejected by them both. Sahl al-Tustari was also one of Al-Hallaj's early teachers.[4]

Teachings, arrest and imprisonment

Among 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. This was exacerbated by occasions when he would fall into trances which he attributed to being in the presence of God. During one of these trances, he would utter أنا الحق Anā l-Ḥaqq "I am The Truth," which was taken to mean that he was claiming to be God, since al-Ḥaqq "the Truth" is one of the Ninety Nine Names of Allah. In another controversial statement, al-Hallaj claimed "There is nothing wrapped in my turban but God," and similarly he would point to his cloak and say, ما في جبتي إلا الله Mā fī jubbatī illā l-Lāh "There is nothing in my cloak but God."

These utterances led to a long trial, and his subsequent imprisonment for 11 years in a Baghdad prison. He was publicly crucified on March 26, 922.

Contemporary 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 who came to realize the inherent divine nature of all men and women. While many Sufis theorize that Hallaj was a reflection of God's truth in much the same way Christians view Jesus, scholars of the well-established Islamic schools of thought continue to see him as a heretic and a deviant.

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.[5]

Similarly, other supporters have interpreted his statement as meaning, "God has emptied me of everything but Himself." [6] His life was studied extensively by the French scholar of Islam, Louis Massignon.

Works

His best known written work is the Kitab al Tawasin (Arabic: كتاب الطواسين) 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). Al-Hallaj stated in this book[7]:

If you do not recognize God, at least recognise His sign, I am the creative truth -Ana al-Haqq-, because through the truth, I am eternal truth. My friends and teachers are Iblis (Satan) and Pharaoh.

Beliefs and principles

Mystical universalism

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.

Spiritual meaning of the pilgrimage to Mecca

In the trial that led to his execution, he was accused of preaching against the pilgrimage to Mecca (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 Mecca was the prayer at Mount Arafat, commemorating the sacrifice of Abraham in an offering of oneself.

Re-interpretation of the tawhid and desire for unification with God

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)

Socialistic humanism

Hallaj was an avowed humanist and rebel of his time. On every front he opposed exploitation of masses by the ruling caliphs. He preached the concept of universal brotherhood and equality. He used to taunt rich people by calling them 'the blood suckers of the poor'. His ideology greatly influenced Shah Inayatullah, a socialist Sufi from Sindh, and Faiz Ahmed Faiz, a communist activist from Pakistan.

Possible influence on masonic guilds

In his book The Sufis, the Afghan scholar Idries Shah suggested that Mansur al-Hallaj, the mystic apostate, might have been the origin of the character Hiram Abiff in the Freemasonic Master Mason ritual. The link, he believes, was through the Sufi sect Al-Banna ("The Builders") who built the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem. This fraternity could have influenced some early masonic guilds which borrowed heavily from Oriental architecture in the creation of the Gothic style.

Notes

  1. John Arthur Garraty, Peter Gay, The Columbia History of the World, Harper & Row, 1981, page 288, ISBN 0880290048
  2. Glasse, Cyril, The New Encyclopeida of Islam, Alta Mira Press, (2001), p.164
  3. Jawid Mojaddedi, "ḤALLĀJ,ABU’L-MOḠIṮ ḤOSAYN b. Manṣur b. Maḥammā Bayżāwi" in Encyclopedia Iranica [1]
  4. Mason, Herbert W. (1995). Al-Hallaj. RoutledgeCurzon. pp. 83. ISBN 070070311X. 
  5. Van Cleef, Jabez L. (2008). The Tawasin Of Mansur Al-Hallaj, In Verse: A Mystical Treatise On Knowing God, & Invitation To The Dance. CreateSpace. ISBN 1438224931.  Quoted on the back cover of the book. See 'look inside' on Amazon page.
  6. Encyclopedia of Islam and the Muslim World, Thompson Gale, (2004), p.290
  7. Kitaab al-Tawaaseen, Massignon Press, Paris, 1913, vi, 32.

References

  • E. G. Browne. Literary History of Persia. (Four volumes, 2,256 pages, and twenty-five years in the writing). 1998. ISBN 0-7007-0406-X
  • Herbert Mason. Memoir of a Friend: Louis Massignon. Notre Dame 1983: University of Notre Dame Press.
  • Louis Massignon. "Perspective Transhistorique sur la vie de Hallaj," in: Parole donnée. Paris 1983: Seuil, p. 73-97.
  • Jan Rypka, History of Iranian Literature. Reidel Publishing Company. 1968. ISBN 90-277-0143-1
  • Idries Shah. The Sufis. W.H. Allen: London. 1964
  • Jawid Mojaddedi, ḤALLĀJ,ABU’L-MOḠIṮ ḤOSAYN b. Manṣur b. Maḥammā Bayżāwi in Encyclopedia Iranica [2]

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