Hallaj, Hussein ibn Mansur al-

Hallaj, Hussein ibn Mansur al-

Hallaj, Hussein ibn Mansur al-, 857-922, Arabic-speaking Persian Muslim mystic and poet popularly known among Muslims as "the martyr of mystical love." Born a Sunni, he traveled in Persia, India, and Turkistan, and experimented with a number of religious philosophies, including Sufism, Manichaeism, and Buddhism. An ecstatic mystic, his notorious description of his union with God, ana al-haqq [Arab.,= I am the Truth], led to charges of heresy. His involvement in political intrigues lead to his arrest in 913 by the authorities in Abbasid Baghdad. Though released shortly thereafter, his enemies succeeded in re-opening the case against him, and he was tortured and executed.

See L. Massignon, The Passion of Hallaj (4 vol., tr. 1982).

Mansur al-Hallaj (Arabic: منصور الحلاج - Mansūr al-Hallāj; - Mansūr-e Hallāj; full name Abū al-Mughīth Husayn Mansūr al-Hallāj) (c. 858 - March 26, 922) (Hijri c. 244 AH-309 AH) was a Persian mystic, writer and teacher of Sufism most famous for his self-proclaimed divinity, his poetry and for his execution for heresy at the hands of the Abbasid rulers.

Al-Hallaj was born in Persia and was of Persian descent, but wrote all of his works in Arabic.


He was born around 858 in Shushtar (Khuzestan province) of Persia to a cotton-carder (Hallaj means "cotton-carder" in Arabic). Al-Hallaj's grandfather may have been a Zoroastrian. His father (Kurdish descent) 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 Mecca, 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 whom accompanied him on his second and third trips to Mecca. 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.

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, 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 أنا الحق, literally meaning "Truth is me" or "I am 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 controversial statement, al-Hallaj claimed " There is nothing wrapped in my turban but God ", and, again, similarly, he would point to his cloak and say, "Maa Fi Jubbati Illa-Allah" meaning "There is nothing inside/underneath my cloak except God."

These 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, he went to his execution dancing in his chains. He was executed 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 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."

Similarly, other supporters have interpreted his statement as meaning, "God has emptied me of everything but Himself."

His life was studied extensively by the French scholar of Islam, Louis Massignon.


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:

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

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 execution, 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 execution a redemptive significance, believing as he did that his death "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 Afghan scholar Idries Shah suggested that Mansur al-Hallaj, the mystic apostate, might have been the origin of Hiram Abiff character 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 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.


  • 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


See also

his ashes were spread on the sea, the ashes made out the word "i am god"

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