The most controversial figure in the history of Islamic mysticism, Abu 'l-Moghith al-Hosain ibn Mansur al-Hallaj was born C. 244 (858) near alBaiza’ in the province of Fars. He travelled very widely, first to Tostar and Baghdad, then to Mecca, and afterwards to Khuzestan, Khorasan, Transoxiana, Sistan, India and Turkestan. Eventually he returned to Baghdad, where his bold preaching of union with God caused him to be arrested on a charge of incarnationism. He was condemned to death and cruelly executed on 29 Dhu 'l-Qa’da 309 (28 March 9I3). Author of a number of books and a considerable volume of poetry, he passed into Muslim legend as the prototype of the intoxicated lover of God.
The wanderings of Hallaj
Hosain-e Mansur, called Hallaj ("the Woolcarder") first came to Tostar, where he served Sahl ibn Abd Allah for two years; then he set out for Baghdad. He made his first journey at the age of eighteen.
Thereafter he went to Basra and joined Amr ibn Othman, passing eighteen months in his company. Ya’qub-e Aqta’ gave him his daughter in marriage, after which Amr ibn Othman became displeased with him. So he left Basra and came to Baghdad where he called on Jonaid. Jonaid prescribed for him silence and solitude. He endured Jonaid’s company for a while, then he made for Hejaz. He took up residence in Mecca for one year, after which he returned to Baghdad. With a group of Sufis he attended on Jonaid and put a number of questions to him to which Jonaid gave no reply.
"The time will soon come," Jonaid told him, "when you will incarnadine a piece of wood."
"The day when I incarnadine that piece of wood," Hallaj replied, "you will be wearing the garb of the formalists."
So it turned out. On the day when the leading scholars pronounced the verdict that Hallaj must be executed, Jonaid was wearing the Sufi robe and did not sign the warrant. The caliph said that Jonaid’s signature was necessary. So Jonaid put on the academic turban and gown, went to the madrasa and endorsed the warrant. "We judge according to externals," he wrote. "As for the inward truth, that God alone knows."
When Jonaid declined to answer his questions, Hallaj was vexed and without asking leave departed to Tostar. There he remained for a year, widely acclaimed.
But because he attached no weight to the prevailing doctrine, the theologians turned envious against him.
Meanwhile Amr ibn Othman wrote letters regarding him to the people of Khuzestan, blackening him in their eyes. He too had grown weary of that place. Casting aside the Sufi garb, he donned tunic and passed his time in the company of worldly folk. That made no difference to him, however, and for five years he vanished. Part of that period he spent in Khorasan and Transoxiana, part in Sistan.
Hallaj then returned to Ahwaz, where his preaching won the approval of the elite and the public alike. He would speak of men’s secrets, so that he was dubbed "Hallaj of the Secrets". After that he dressed himself in the ragged dervish robes and set out for the Sacred Territory, accompanied by many in like attire. When he reached Mecca, Ya’qub-e Nahrajuri denounced him as a magician. So he returned to Basra, then to Ahwaz.
"Now I am going to the lands of polytheism, to call men to God," he announced.
So he went to India, then to Transoxiana, then to China, calling men to God and composing works for them. When he returned from the distant parts of the world, the peoples of those regions wrote him letters.
The Indians addressed him as Abu 'l-Moghith, the Chinese as Abo 'l-Mo’in, the Khorasanians as Abu 'lMohr, the Farsis as Abu 'Abd Allah, the Khuzestanis as Hallaj of the Secrets. In Baghdad he was called Mostalem, in Basra Mokhabbar.
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