In This Article Ḥusayn ibn Manṣūr al-Ḥallāj

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Works by Louis Massignon
  • Other Translations
  • Other Studies of al-Ḥallāj
  • The Historical Afterlife of al-Ḥallāj
  • Modern Artistic Explorations

Islamic Studies Ḥusayn ibn Manṣūr al-Ḥallāj
by
Ahmet T. Karamustafa, Jonathan Allen
  • LAST MODIFIED: 10 March 2015
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195390155-0222

Introduction

Few figures in the history of early Sufism are as captivating or controversial as that of Ḥusayn ibn Manṣūr al-Ḥallāj (b. 244 AH/857 CE, d. 309 AH/922 CE). From the time of his life and death onward, he has been an object of debate, creative inspiration, and spiritual insight—or an example to be learned from but not imitated. Although he was certainly a figure of importance in the history of Sufism, his fame in modern times has heavily rested on the work of one Western scholar, Louis Massignon. Massignon took up al-Ḥallāj as his life’s work and indeed cultivated a relationship with the martyred Friend of God that passed beyond the merely scholarly. It was through the genuinely monumental labors of Massignon that al-Ḥallāj truly entered into the consciousness of modern Western scholars of Islam; the reinvigoration of his fame (or notoriety, as the case may be) among modern Muslims has also been at least in part due to Massignon’s influence. Massignon, however, has not been the only one to explore the various dimensions of al-Ḥallāj’s life, textual corpus, and historical afterlife: others have carried out new explorations that in some cases challenge or push beyond the arguments established by Massignon. The material included here is mainly concerned with al-Ḥallāj as a primary focus; not included here are the many works on Sufism and Islamic history more generally that merely include some material on al-Ḥallāj. Such a list would be massive and would encompass any good introduction to Sufism, as well as most specialized studies concerned with one aspect or another of the formative period taṣawwuf. In a similar vein, also not included here are the many Sufi texts that mention al-Ḥallāj in some way. A good introductory list of such works can be found in Omid Safi’s brief biographical entry, while of course much more material is listed and described in other works listed herein. The sources here are in three broad categories: translations of al-Ḥallāj’s works; articles and monographs dealing with some aspect of al-Ḥallāj’s life, ideas, and historical afterlives; and contemporary artistic productions inspired by al-Ḥallāj.

General Overviews

The sources included here are all good introductions to the study of al-Ḥallāj: Massignon 2014, and Mojaddedi 2003 provide encyclopedia articles of considerable depth, while Safi 2005 provides both a summary of al-Ḥallāj’s life along with a short historiographic essay on modern works. Finally, Mason 1995 is a good book-length introduction to al-Ḥallāj, drawing heavily upon Massignon, as well as some more recent scholarly work. O’Leary 1951 is less useful than the preceding texts but interesting from a historiographic perspective.

  • Mason, Herbert. Al-Hallaj. Curzon Sufi series. Richmond, UK: Curzon, 1995.

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    Mason’s short monograph is intended as an accessible introduction to al-Ḥallāj; as such, it assumes relatively little about the reader’s prior knowledge of the subject or of al-Ḥallāj’s background. It is useful, but it adds little in the way of new interpretation or material.

  • Massignon, Louis. “al-Ḥallādj.” In Encyclopaedia of Islam. 2d ed. Edited by E. van Donzel, B. Lewis, and Ch. Pellat. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2014.

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    Massigon’s entry largely follows the form and content of his four-volume work on al-Ḥallāj, and as such serves as both an introduction to al-Ḥallāj and Massignon’s work on him.

  • Mojaddedi, Jawid. “Ḥallāj, Abū’l-Mogiṭ Ḥosayn.” In Encyclopedia Iranica. XI/6, 589–592. New York: Encyclopaedia Iranica Foundation, 2003.

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    A shorter, less comprehensive treatment than Massignon’s article but still useful, offering a somewhat different perspective. Mojaddedi does add a useful discussion of al-Ḥallāj’s historical afterlife in Persian Sufism and of the role of Massignon in bringing al-Ḥallāj to the fore of Islamic studies.

  • O’Leary, De Lacy. “Al-Hallaj.” Philosophy East and West 1.1 (1951).

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    Although now thoroughly outdated, O’Leary’s brief overview article is interesting as an example of both a much older historiographic style and conventions, as well as a view of al-Ḥallāj without Massignon’s monumental work having been taken into consideration.

  • Safi, Omid. “Al-Hallaj.” In the Dictionary of Literary Biography: Arabic Literary Culture, c. 500–925. Edited by Shawkat Toorawa and Michael Cooperson. 114–120. Detroit: Gale, 2005.

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    Safi provides an excellent short summary of al-Ḥallāj’s life alongside a good bibliographical treatment of works on Sufism relevant to the martyred saint.

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