Mansur al Hallaj: Taking ‘I’ to Yourself

Mansur al Hallaj was a Persian mystic, born around 858 CE and executed on the banks of the Tigris on March 26th 922.  He is most famous for having said, in a moment of ecstasy, ‘Ana ‘l Haqq!‘ – ‘I am the Truth,’ a statement that offended the religiously orthodox, since ‘Haqq’ is one of the Names of God, and it could appear that Hallaj was claiming to be divine.  He was denounced for this, but a jurist refused to condemn him, saying that he did not have jurisdiction over mystical utterances.  Nevertheless, Hallaj lived in turbulent times, and his preaching seems to have inspired an unsuccessful rebellion in Baghdad, and eventually he was arrested and imprisoned.  After nine years of confinement under varying conditions, he was finally condemned to death, perhaps for political motives but allegedly for having called for the destruction of the Kaaba when he said, “The important thing is to proceed seven times around the Kaaba of one’s heart.”

It is said that on the day of his execution, the Devil came to Hallaj and asked him, “Why is it that you proclaimed ‘I’ and you are saved, and I proclaimed ‘I’ and I am damned?”

Hallaj replied, “You have taken the ‘I’ to yourself, and I have released myself from any ‘I’.  You relate ‘I’ to your being and I have freed myself from any images of ‘I’.”

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