Al-Hallaj’s Doctrine

Shaykh Gibril Fouad Haddad







(Faslun fî bayân i‘tiqâd hâdhihi al-tâ’ifa fî masâ’il al-usûl)




[The numbering in brackets corresponds to our forthcoming translation of the paragraph chapters of al-Qushayri’s entire Chapter on Doctrine from the beginning of his Risala (Eds. ‘Abd al-Halim Mahmud and Mahmud ibn al-Sharif. Cairo: Rida Tawfiq ‘Afifi, 1974.)]

AL-HALLAJ is Abu Mughith al-Husayn ibn Mansur al-Hallaj al-Baydawi al-Wasiti (d. 309) the ascetic, he hailed from Persia and was raised in Iraq. He first accompanied al-Junayd, al-Nuri and others then became known in 299. After accusations were raised to the ‘Abbasi Caliph al-Muqtadir Billah he was jailed on charges of heresy, then tortured to death in unspeakable fashion. Many if not most of the Ulema consider him one of the Friends (awliyâ’) of Allah, such as Ibn Khafif who visited him in jail, Abu al-Qasim al-Nasir Abadi, al-Qushayri, Ibn ‘Ata’ Allah, Ibn al-Hajj, Ibn ‘Aqil – who wrote Juz’ fi Nasr Karamat al-Hallaj (“Opuscule in Praise of al-Hallaj’s gifts”) –, Ibn Qudama, al-Tufi, Ibn al-Mulaqqin, al-Munawi, al-Sha‘rani, etc. Among his sayings: “Take care of your ego; if you do not make it busy, it shall make you busy” and “Whoever points to Him is an aspirant-Sufi whereas whoever points on His behalf is a Sufi.”

AL-QUSHAYRI is Zayn al-Islam Abu al-Qasim ‘Abd al-Karim ibn Hawzan ibn ‘Abd al-Malik ibn Talha ibn Muhammad al-Qushayri al-Naysaburi al-Istiwa’i al-Shafi‘i al-Ash‘ari (376-465), the Teacher, “the absolute Imam, jurist, mutakallim, scholar of Principles, Qur’anic commentator, man of letters, grammarian, writer, and poet, the spokesman of his time, leader among his contempo­raries, the secret of Allah in His creation, the Shaykh of shaykhs, the Teacher of the Congregation and most advanced one of the Fold, the goal of those who tread the Path, the ensign of Truth, wellspring of Felic­ity, pole of Leadership, and grace personified. He never saw such as himself nor did any who saw him ever see such as him in his perfection and brilliance. He gathered together the two sciences of Sharî‘a and Haqîqa and explained in the best manner the principles of the Path” (‘Abd al-Ghafir al-Farisi). He was also an expert in horse and swords­manship. His Risala ila al-Sufiyya is the earliest complete treatise of its kind and probably the most respected Sufi treatise in Islam.



[16] Shaykh Abu ‘Abd al-Rahman al-Sulami – Allah have mercy on him! – told us: I heard Muhammad ibn Muhammad ibn Ghalib say: I heard Abu Nasr Ahmad ibn Sa‘id al-Isfanjani say: al-Husayn ibn Mansur said: “You must categorically consider all to be contingent, for pre-existence belongs to Him [alone].

[17] “All that appears through body is necessarily an accident (‘arad).

[18] “That whose assemblage comes about through cause-and-effect (al-adât) is held together through its powers (quwâhâ).[1]

[19] “All that comes together at one time, goes into dispersion at another time.

[20] “All that something else causes to subsist is characterized by dependency.

[21] “All that imagination can possibly apprehend can be pictured.

[22] “All that is contained is subject to ‘where.’

[23] “And all that has a genus is the object of a modality.

[24] “No ‘above’ shades Him – Exalted is He! – nor does any ‘below’ carry Him.

[25] “No limit/direction faces Him (walâ yuqâbiluhu hadd) nor does any ‘at’ (‘ind) beset Him.

[26] “He is not confined by any ‘behind’ nor limited by any ‘before’.

[27] “No ‘before’ caused Him to appear nor did any ‘after’ cause Him to vanish.

[28] “No ‘all’ gathered Him.

[29] “No ‘He is’ brought Him into existence (lam yûjidhu kân).

[30] “No ‘He is not’ can cause Him to be missed (walam yufqidhu lays).

[31] “His description: He has none (wasfuhu lâ sifata lahu).[2]

[32] “His act has no cause (‘illa).

[33] “His being has no duration (amad).

[34] “He is transcendent beyond the states of His creatures: there is not for Him the least deliberation (mizâj) in His creation, nor working (‘ilâj) in His acts.

[35] “He is clearly separate from them by His pre-existence (bâyanahum biqidamih) just as they are clearly separate from Him by their contingent nature (kamâ bâyanûh bihudûthihim).[3]

[36] “If you ask ‘When?’ – His being is before Time.

[37] “Should you say, ‘HÛ’ – the letters hâ’ and wâw are but His creation.

[38] “And if you say, ‘Where?’ – His existence precedes Place.

[39] “So letters are His Signs (fal-hurûfu âyâtuhu);[4]

[40] “His existence is the affirmation of Him (wujûduhu ithbâtuh);[5]

[41] “Gnosis of Him is the upholding of His Oneness (ma‘rifatuhu tawhîduh);[6]

[42] “and His Tawhîd is to distinguish Him clearly from His creatures.

[43] “Whatever you imagine in your imaginings, He is different from that (mâ tusawwiru fil-awhâmi fahuwa bikhilâfih).

[44] “How can that which He Himself began analyze Him? (kayfa yahullu bihi mâ minhu bada’ahu).[7]

[45] “Or how can that be part of Him which He Himself gave rise to? (aw ya‘ûdu ilayhi mâ huwa ansha’ahu).

[46] “The pupils of the eyes cannot see Him.

[47] “Nor can conjectures apprehend Him.


[49] “His nearness is His generosity (qurbuhu karâmatuhu).

[50] “His distance is His contempt (wabu‘duhu ihânatuhu).

[51] His elevation is without ascent (‘uluwwuhu min ghayri tawaqqul).[8]

[52] His coming is without displacement (wamajî’uhu min ghayri tanaqqul).[9]

[53] (He is the First and the Last and the Manifest and the Hidden) (57:3), the Near (al-qarîb), the Far (al-ba‘îd),[10] (There is nothing what­soever like unto Him, and He is the All-Hearing, the All-Seeing) (42:11).

[1]“Such as life, death, poverty and wealth” (Sidi Mustafa Basir).

[2]Al-Tabari narrates in his Tafsir on verses 39:67 and 114:1 from Sa‘id ibn Jubayr, as well as Ibn al-Mundhir, Ibn Abi Hatim, Abu al-Shaykh in al-‘Azama, and al-Suyuti in al-Durr al-Manthur: “A group of Jews came to the Prophet – Allah bless and greet him – and asked him: ‘O Muhammad! Now, Allah created creation, but who created Him?’ At this the Prophet – Allah bless and greet him – became angry so that his color changed and he upbraided them on behalf of His Lord, whereupon Gibril – upon him peace – came and calmed him, saying: ‘Lower your wing [of mercy], O Muhammad! for the answer came to me from Allah to what they are asking about. Allah says: [Say: He is Allah, the One! Allah, the eternally Besought of all! He begets not nor was begotten. And there is none comparable unto Him] (112:1-4).’ When the Prophet – Allah bless and greet him – recited it to them they said, ‘Describe for us your Lord, what is His physical appearance, how are His arms and upper arms?’ At this the Prophet – Allah bless and greet him – became even angrier than before and upbraided them again, whereupon Gibril came again and told him the same thing as before, bringing him as the answer to what they had asked: (And they esteem not Allah as He has the right to be esteemed. The whole earth is His handful on the Day of Resurrection and the heavens are rolled in His right hand. Glorified is He and High Exalted from all that they ascribe as partner (unto Him)) (39:67).”

[3]“I.e. he completely differs from them because (There is nothing whatso­ever like unto Him) (42:11)” (Sidi Mustafa Basir).

[4]“I.e. [letter are] the material of which are made His verses and evidences revealed to His Prophet Muhammad – Allah bless and greet him –” (Mahmud and Sharif).

[5]“I.e. It is not enough to believe He exists, but the evidence for its firm proof must be shown up and established” (Mahmud and Sharif).

[6]“I.e. Gnosis of Him with His Attributes is produced by upholding His Oneness” (Mahmud and Sharif). “Sidi ‘Abd al-Salam ibn Mashish said: “O Allah, my Lord! Snatch me up from the quicksands of Tawhîd and drown me in the wellspring of the ocean of your Unicity” (Allâhumma anshilnî min awhâli al-tawhîdi wa’aghriqnî fî ‘ayni bahri wahdâniyyatik) (Sidi Mustafa Basir). Cf. Shaykh Nuh Keller, trans., Invocations of the Shadhili Order (p. 77-78): “And pluck me from the mires of affirming unity, to the infinite space of singularizing the One, transcendently beyond absoluteness or conditionedness; And drown me in the very sea of Oneness” (wanshulnî min awhâli al-tawhîdi ilâ fadâ’i al-tafrîdi al-munazzahi ‘an al-itlâqi wal-taqyîdi wa’aghriqnî fî ‘ayni bahri al-wahda), cf. Awrad al-Tariqa al-Shadhiliyya (p. 77-78).

[7]“I.e. the mind” (Sidi Mustafa Basir).

[8]“I.e. His elevation is over His slave and consists in majesty and greatness, not an elevation of place” (Mahmud and Sharif).

[9]“I.e. the coming of His favor and descent of His command is without [His] movement or displacement” (Mahmud and Sharif).

[10]“I.e. from the disbelievers as proven by the verse [Allah is the Protecting Friend of those who believe. He brings them out of darkness into light. As for those who dis­believe, their patrons are false deities. They bring them out of light into dark­ness](2:257)” (Sidi Mustafa Basir). This is also in the sense of bâ’in as already stated.