Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Study on Mansur Al Hallaj (2)

I have seen my Lord with the eye of my heart, and I said: "Who are You?"

He said: "You."

- Manur Al Hallaj, Diwan al-Hallaj


Now i quote from http://spiritual-health.org website, some thoughts of Dr. Anab Whitehouse.

"The classic example of the contrast between drunken and sober Sufism is found in the pictures drawn of the tenth century figures Hallaj and Junayd. The first became Sufism’s great martyr because of his open avowal of the mysteries of divine union and his disregard for the niceties of Shariite propriety. The second, known as the ‘master of the whole tribe’ (shaykh at-ta’ifa), kept cooly sober despite achieving the highest degree of union with God.."

Commentary: Contrary to the author’s contention in the foregoing quote, Hallaj (may Allah sanctify his soul), the person, did not necessarily openly avow "the mysteries of divine union". While such words as "Ana’l Haq" (I am the Truth) may have issued from his mouth, the "I" and "Truth", to which reference is being made through the words of the mystic, is none other than Divinity.

In fact, there are a number of questions which arise in conjunction with the events surrounding the public execution of this Friend of God. Among other things, one needs to ask whether, or not, Hallaj (may Allah sanctify his soul) was any more blameworthy than the burning bush had been for disclosing Divine secrets to Moses (peace be upon him).

The author of Sufism - A Short Introduction contrasts the spiritually intoxicated condition of al-Hallaj (may Allah sanctify his spirit) with the sobriety of Hazrat Junayd (may Allah sanctify his soul). This choice of individuals is instructive and, perhaps, for reasons other than what the author originally may have intended.

The two mystics were not only historical contemporaries, they knew one another, as well. After Hazrat Mansur Hallaj (may Allah sanctify his soul) completed his study of various exoteric disciplines associated with Islam, he turned his attention to the Sufi Path, and one of his Sufi teachers was Hazrat Junayd Baghdadi (may Allah sanctify his soul).

The process of unveiling which, ultimately, resulted in the problematic utterances of Hazrat Hallaj (may Allah sanctify his soul), took place when he was studying with Hazrat ‘Umar ibn ‘Uthman (may Allah sanctify his soul). Despite instructions from this latter teacher to refrain from such exclamations, the same sort of utterances continued on from time to time, and, eventually, the shaykh ordered Hazrat Hallaj (may Allah sanctify his soul) to leave the vicinity.

Hazrat Hallaj (may Allah sanctify his soul) left Basra and went to Baghdad where he returned to the spiritual center over which Hazrat Junayd (may Allah sanctify his soul) presided and with whom Hazrat Hallaj (may Allah sanctify his soul) previously had received instructions concerning the Sufi Path. Once again, however, there was a spilling over of spiritual intoxication into the public domain through the mouth of Hazrat Hallaj (may Allah sanctify his soul).

On one of these occasions, the shaykh warned Hazrat Hallaj (may Allah sanctify his soul) that, in a very short period of time, the blood of the latter would color the point of a piece of wood - an allusion to a future date with the executioner. Hazrat Hallaj (may Allah sanctify his soul) is reported to have responded by acknowledging the truth of what the shaykh was saying but, also, adding that the shaykh would be required to take off the clothes of a Sufi dervish and wear the attire of a religious cleric in relation to the forthcoming demise of Hazrat Hallaj (may Allah sanctify his soul).

The unfolding nature of subsequent events demonstrated the truth in the words of both individuals. More specifically, a ‘fatwa of kufr’, or proclamation of unbelief, was issued by the court of Baghdad against Mansur Hallaj (may Allah sanctify his soul), and a penalty of death was sought. Eventually, he was imprisoned for about a year while waiting for the final sentence to be declared and carried out.

During his stay in prison, he continued to utter "Ana’l Haq" - I am the Truth. Yet, throughout all of this period, he observed prayers on a regular basis - often staying up entire nights to be engaged in prayer.

The head of government in the area refused to carry out the death sentence unless Hazrat Junayd (may Allah sanctify his soul) agreed with the charges and the penalty to be imposed. The shaykh was asked to make a pronouncement concerning the matter on seven different occasions.

Finally, the seventh request arrived with instructions that the shaykh must answer either ‘yes’ or ‘no’ with respect to the charge and sentence. As Hazrat Mansur Hallaj (may Allah sanctify his soul) foretold, the shaykh removed the attire of the Sufi Path, donned the garb of an ‘Alim - a person representing the community of religious scholars, and wrote: "According to the laws of Shari‘ah, Mansur is liable to a sentence of death, but according to the doctrines of the Secret Truth, God knows best" - thereby, setting in motion the execution which would prove the truth of his earlier words to Hazrat Hallaj (may Allah sanctify his soul).

Could Hazrat Hallaj (may Allah sanctify his soul) have done other than he did? He acknowledged the truth of his shaykh’s warning that the executioner was waiting for him if he did not stop saying: ‘Ana’l Haq", and, yet, he continued to declare the problematic formula.

There is no indication he was disobedient in other matters. For instance, when he was asked by one teacher to leave, he left. When he was in prison, he was devoted to prayer.

Hazrat Junayd (may Allah sanctify his soul) avoided the issue for as long as he was able to do so. When he no longer could delay the matter, he issued a statement that, simultaneously, endorsed both sides of the controversy.

He agreed that under the requirements of Shari‘ah, or the Divine Law which governed communal life, the one making the utterances in question was liable to a penalty of death. Nonetheless, only God knew if these declarations were wrong from the perspective of the Secret of Truth.

To protect the integrity of community life - including the potential vulnerability of some people who might be misled by such utterances, the shaykh acknowledged the rights of the community in this matter over that of the individual. At the same time, by making reference to the Secret of Truth - over which God had jurisdiction, as well - he went as far as he could - without following in the verbal footsteps of Mansur Hallaj (may Allah be pleased with him) to indicate that there was, indeed, something more to be considered than the exoteric facets of Islam and that God alone would be the judge of this matter.

The fact that Hazrat Junayd (may Allah sanctify his soul) put off making a formal declaration on six previous occasions demonstrates that the issue was neither a simple one, nor one that necessarily pointed toward just one conclusion. The fact that the shaykh qualified his public statement concerning the sentence indicates that not only was there more to the issue than just what was entailed by the aspects of Shari‘ah governing communal life, but that the shaykh was willing to risk the ire of the religious clerics by reminding people, in a very public way, that a sentence of death did not end the matter.

In the Qur’an one finds: "You express your desire for death if you are truthful." (62:6) Hazrat Hallaj did, and he was.

It is reported, through eyewitness accounts, that, upon execution, every drop of blood shed by Hazrat Hallaj (may Allah sanctify his soul) assumed the shape of the Arabic letters that spelled "Ana’l Haq" and, as well, people heard this phrase arising from the blood which had been spilled on the ground. There are further reports that when mud, stained with the blood from the execution, was thrown into the Euphrates, the same phrase was heard arising from the river.

What is the truth of such accounts? As Hazrat Junayd said: ‘Allah knows best’.

What is the contrast between these two friends of God? One observed the adab of sobriety, and one did not.

We do not know whether, or not, Hazrat Hallaj (may Allah sanctify his soul) was operating under Divine compulsion, or whether he was, for unknown reasons, unwilling or unable to comply with the adab of sobriety. Can he be considered to be something of a ‘burning bush’ of his day such that, like the latter, he really didn’t have any control over what was being manifested through him - when what was uttered, was uttered?

We do know that Hazrat Junayd (may Allah sanctify his soul) - who did observe the adab of sobriety - felt comfortable with alluding to the possibility that the acts of the one being condemned may not have been wrong when considered from a Divine perspective rather than a purely human and/or communal one. We also know that from the perspective of Shari‘ah anyone paying the prescribed penalty for a transgression of the law, is considered to be innocent before God on the Day of Judgement in relation to that transgression.

There is an account of a Sufi shaykh who, during the condition of spiritual intoxication, would say things which appeared to be heretical in nature. When the shaykh came out of that condition, his mureeds, or students, informed him about what had gone on.

Upon hearing the testimony of his mureeds, the shaykh agreed that such exclamations were not in accordance with the Shari‘ah. He advised them that if he should make such statements during some future instance of intoxication, the students should take their swords and kill him immediately.

A few days later, the shaykh went into a condition of spiritual intoxication and, again, uttered the same sorts of exclamation. The students proceeded to follow the instructions which, previously, had been given by the shaykh with respect to such circumstances.

They tried to strike the shaykh with their swords. Yet, on each occasion, their swords passed through the shaykh without causing injury or bloodshed.

Is the foregoing account factual? Or, is it merely a piece of embellished folklore? Or, is it a story with truth at its kernel?

For many centuries, due to what some perceive to be the problematic statements issuing from the mouth or pen of this or that Sufi, various jurists, academic scholars, and theologians have been trying to swing their verbal swords through the body of the Sufi Path. Yet, like the students of the shaykh in the aforementioned story, their swords have passed through without, for the most part, doing damage or shedding blood.

The adab of sobriety is observed for a variety of different reasons. Some of this etiquette is observed in order to protect the Secret of Truth to which Hazrat Junayd (may Allah sanctify his soul) referred in his aforementioned quote. In addition, the adab also serves to protect both the community, as well as travelers on the Sufi Path - including people such as Hazrat Hallaj (may Allah sanctify his spirit) if they are able to avail themselves of its protection.

The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) is reported to have said: "Do not give wisdom to other than the people of wisdom for you will be doing the wisdom an injustice, and do not prevent the people of wisdom from obtaining it and, thereby, do them an injustice."

The Sufi Path follows the above mentioned teachings of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), and through the adab of sobriety, the Path seeks not to do injustice to spiritual wisdom by giving it to those for whom it is not intended. On the other hand, the purpose of the Path is to ensure, God willing, that the people for whom wisdom is intended are not prevented from being exposed and opened to that wisdom.

What is the truth concerning the nature of this wisdom? What is the truth of the foregoing story of the intoxicated shaykh and his mureeds? What is the truth concerning what is alleged to have happened following the execution of Hazrat Hallaj (may Allah sanctify his soul)? What is the truth behind his uttering "Ana’l Haq?

Everyone makes his or her own choice about what to believe and what not to believe in relation to such matters. Ultimately, however, "To God belongs the conclusive argument" (6:149), and unless one is acquainted with that argument on a first-hand basis, one might do well to remember the counsel of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him): "There are hidden gems of knowledge unknown to all but those who know God. If they are spoken of, none denies them except those arrogant toward God."

Both Hazrat Hallaj, as well as Hazrat Junayd ,(may Allah sanctify their souls) - each in his own way, spoke of these "hidden gems of knowledge" for they each, in their own way, knew God. One of them observed the adab of sobriety with respect to such knowledge, and one of them did not - although, perhaps, the latter may have been incapable of preventing what was said from being said.

(continues) ... read part 2 here.

Credit ... // ... Previous post on this series.
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