al-Hallāj, Abu ʾl–Mughīth al-ḥusain b. Mansur

views updated

al-Hallāj, Abu ʾl–Mughīth al-Ḥusain b. Mansur (d. 922 (AH 309)). One of the most controversial figures in Islam: he was acclaimed as a saint by the masses and condemned as a heretic by the jurists. It is said that he was called Hallāj al-asrar (Carder of Consciences) because he could read the secret thoughts of others. He embraced the doctrine of fanāʾ (extinction of personal consciousness) and other notions such as hulul (union and identity with God). Al-Hallāj aimed to bridge the abyss between humans and God: ‘I am He whom I love and He whom I love is I. We are two spirits dwelling in one body. When you see me, you see Him.’ However, to the jurists of his time, he appeared blasphemously to contradict the Islamic notion of tanzīh (transcendence of God), and even to threaten the social order.

He paid the supreme penalty for his choice. After many years of extensive teaching and travelling throughout Central Asia and India, he was arrested, imprisoned and finally brutally executed in Baghdād. His only work to have survived is Kitāb al-Tawāsīn (902 CE). This contains the famous phrase ʾanaʾ l-Haqq (I am the Truth). It is important to read it in its proper context: ‘If you do not recognize God, at least recognize his signs. I am that sign, I am the Creative Truth (ʿanaʾ l-Haqq) because through the Truth I am a truth eternally.’ (Kitāb al-Tawāsīn, pp. 51–2). Cf. also AL-INSĀN AL-KĀMIL.