Hallaj, Qasida 10/1 (uqtulūnī yā thiqātī, inna fī qatlī hayātī)


“Islamic Thought” [Reli 890, sec. 042]

Instructor: Carl W. Ernst

Department of Religious Studies, UNC-Chapel Hill

Spring 2009, W 10 am-12:45 pm, GEC 3033 [map]


Links to Online and Multimedia Resources on Hallaj


DESCRIPTION: This course is a graduate seminar devoted to study of major Islamic thinkers and topics, based on original language texts and modern scholarly interpretations. This year the topic will be the writings of al-Husayn ibn Mansur al-Hallaj (d. 922), with special attention to his Arabic poetry. Because the historical research on Hallaj and his writings is so difficult to disentangle from the writings of Louis Massignon, the class will also examine writings by him as well as other scholars who have studied Hallaj. Each week the seminar will spend approximately half the time on modern scholarly interpretations, including critical reflections on Orientalism; it will be followed by close study of the Arabic texts under consideration, together with their translations into other languages. An extensive bibliography will be made available at the beginning of the course.

PREREQUISITES: advanced knowledge of Arabic and graduate standing. Knowledge of French, German, or Persian will also be very helpful.

COURSE OBJECTIVES. The basic goals of the course are:


A research paper on some aspect of the thought of Hallaj (20 pages plus bibliography), accompanied by translations of Arabic texts that provide the basis for the paper (4-5 pages of original language text), due May 6. Each student should make an oral presentation of a summary of this research paper during the last month of the class. 70% of grade.

Participation in weekly seminars including in-class translation of Arabic texts. 30% of grade.


Louis Massignon, Hallaj: Mystic and Martyr, trans. Herbert Mason (Princeton University Press, 1994). ISBN-13: 978-0691019192 (required)

Herbert W. Mason, Al-Hallaj (RoutledgeCurzon, 1995). ISBN-13: 978-0700703111 (recommended, but harder to obtain)

Students will also need to acquire major Arabic writings of Hallaj (Diwan, Akhbar, Tawasin, Tafsir; details available in bibliography) from an Arabic bookseller such as almaktabah.com.


In addition, the following titles will be kept on reserve at the undergraduate library:

Akhbar al-Hallaj; recueil d'oraisons et d'exhortations du martyr mystique de l'Islam Husayn Ibn Mansur Hallaj. Mis en ordre vers 360/971 chez Nasrabadhi et deux fois remanié, ed. Louis Massignon (Paris, J. Vrin, 1957). PJ7745.H3 A5 1957

Herbert W. Mason, Al-Hallaj (RoutledgeCurzon, 1995). BP80.H27 B731 1995

----------. Memoir of a friend, Louis Massignon (University of Notre Dame Press, 1988. BP49.5.M3 M37 1988

Louis Massignon, Essay on the Origins of the Technical Language of Islamic Mysticism, trans. Benjamin Clark (University of Notre Dame Press, 1997). BP189 .M3413 1997

----------. Essai sur les origines du lexique technique de la mystique musulmane (Paris, J. Vrin, 1968). BP189 .M34 1968

----------. The passion of al-Hallāj: mystic and martyr of Islam, trans. Herbert Mason (4 vols., Princeton University Press, 1982). BP80.H27 M3713 1982 v. 1-4

Testimonies and Reflections: Essays of Louis Massignon, trans. Herbert Mason (University of Notre Dame Press, 1989). BP49.5.M3 A25 1989

Edward Lane's Arabic-English Lexicon



1. January 14. Introduction: Hallaj and Massignon

Reading: Jawid Mojaddedi, HALLĀJ, ABU’L-MOGIT HOSAYN, Encyclopaedia Iranica
L. Massignon, "Hallād̲j̲," Encyclopaedia of Islam, 2nd ed. (UNC campus access)
"Louis Massignon," Wikipedia
Massignon, Hallaj, pp. xiii-xxxi, 1-23. What is Massignon's approach to Hallaj?
Riwayat. Read the first sections in red (Riwayat 23-27, 1-3) and glance at the commentary.

2. January 21. Biographical sources: Akhbar al-Hallaj

Reading: Continue with Massignon, Hallaj
Akhbar, nos. 1 (p. 7), 3 (p. 14), 5 (p. 17)
Bibliography of Hallaj's writings from the Fihrist of al-Nadim

3. January 28. Biographical sources: Akhbar al-Hallaj

Reading: Continue with Massignon, Hallaj

4. February 4. Biographical sources: Akhbar al-Hallaj

Reading: Finish Massignon, Hallaj
Akhbar, no.10 (p. 25-26), 15 (pp. 33-34), 16 (pp. 34-35), 17 (p. 36), 24 (p. 46), 25 (p. 47), 41 (pp. 62-63)

5. February 11. Speculative works: Tawasin

Reading: Tawasin, part one (TS of the Lamp)
Massignon's Translation of the Tawasin
Massignon, "The Juridical Consequences of the Doctrines of Hallaj"
Y. Michot, "Ibn Taymiyya's Commentary on the Creed of al-Hallaj"

6. February 18. Speculative works: Tawasin

Reading: Tawasin, continued (Ruspoli secs. 4-6, pp. 321-3, = I.9-17; Tasin al-Azal, Ruspoli secs. 28-42, 345-359 = VI.1-36, VII.1-4). Note that Ruspoli has inserted VI.27-29 after VI.12 (secs. 31-32).
C. Ernst, "On Losing One's Head: Hallajian themes in works attributed to `Attar." In Attar and the Persian Sufi Tradition: The Art of Spiritual Flight, ed. Leonard Lewisohn and Christopher Shackle (London: I. B. Tauris, 2006).
C. Ernst, “Muhammad as the Pole of Existence.” In The Cambridge Companion to Muhammad, ed. Jonathan Brockopp (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, forthcoming 2009).

7. February 25. Speculative works: Tawasin

Reading: Tawasin, continued (Ruspoli, secs. 42-51, pp. 359-367)
C. Ernst, "From Hagiography to Martyrology: Conflicting Testimonies to a Sufi Martyr of the Delhi Sultanate," History of Religions XXIV (May, 1985), pp. 308-27.
Annemarie Schimmel, "The Martyr-Mystic Ḥallāj in Sindhi Folk-Poetry: Notes on a Mystical Symbol," Numen, Vol. 9, Fasc. 3 (Nov., 1962), pp. 161-200

8. March 4. Scriptural commentary: Tafsir

Reading: Hallaj, Tafsir
Alan Godlas, "Sufi Qur'an Commentary: Sufi Tafsir"
Annabel Keeler, Sufi Hermeneutics part 1, part 2

9. March 18. Scriptural commentary: Tafsir

Reading: Hallaj, Tafsir
Ruzbihan part 1, part 2
(Skim the whole, but study closely a section corresponding to your last name, i.e., A = pp. 1-50, B = 51-100, C = 101-151, T = the rest)

10. March 25. Poetry: Diwan

Reading: Samah Selim, "Manṣūr al-Ḥallāj and the Poetry of Ecstasy," Journal of Arabic Literature, Vol. 21, No. 1 (Mar., 1990), pp. 26-42
M. M. Badawi, "Seven Poems by Al-Ḥallāj (c. 858-922)," Journal of Arabic Literature, Vol. 14 (1983), pp. 46-47 (muqatta`at 34, 8, 35, 37, 57, 51, 31)
C. Ernst, "Ruzbihan Baqli on Love as 'Essential Desire.'" In Gott is schön und Er liebt die Schönheit/God is Beautiful and He Loves Beauty:
             Festschrift für Annemarie Schimmel
, ed. Alma Giese and J. Christoph Bürgel (Bern: Peter Lang, 1994), pp. 181-89.

The following poems from the Diwan:

qasida 3 (ya mawda` al-naziri min naziri)
qasida 9  (`ajibtu minka wa minni)
qasida 10 (uqtuluni ya thiqati inna fi qatli hayati)
muqatta`a 1 (wa ayyu ardin yakhlu minka hatta    ta`alu yatlabunaka fi al-sama')
muqatta`a 5 (subhana man azhara nasutahu)
muqatta`a 6 (katabtu ilayka wa-lam aktub wa-innama)
muqatta`a 10 (ra'aytu rabbi bi-`ayni qalbi    fa-qultu man anta fa-qala anta)

11. April 1. Poetry: Diwan

Reading: continue poems from last time.
D. P. Brewster, "Four Poems of al-Ḥallāj," Journal of Arabic Literature, Vol. 9 (1978), pp. 65-66
qasida 6 (Q6), muqatta`at nos. 11, 51, 55 (see Concordance for first lines)
compare Brewster's translation of M51with Badawi's.

12. April 8. Poetry: Diwan

Khalil I. Semaan, "Al-Ḥallāj,": A Poem by ʿAbd al-Wahhāb al-Bayātī, Journal of Arabic Literature, Vol. 10 (1979), pp. 65-69
Michael Sells, Epilogue: "If Only They Knew" from the Diwan attributed to al-Hallaj," in Early Islamic Mysticism: Sufi, Qur'an, Mi'raj, Poetic and Theological Writings (Paulist Press, 1995), pp. 302-3 (= M1, M15, M12; compare with Arabic originals)
Further poems: M5, M6, M20, M25, M50, M59, M61, Y2, Q2; the riddle poems M27, M49

13. April 15. Poetry: Diwan

Reading: qasida inna kitabi (al-Shaybi, p. 95; Wazin, p. 284), not accepted by Massignon
Reuven Snir, "A Study of 'Elegy for al-Ḥallāj' by Adūnīs," Journal of Arabic Literature, Vol. 25, No. 3 (Nov., 1994), pp. 245-256

14. April 22. Conclusions

Hasan ud Din Hashmi, "Al-Hallaj between Reality and Misunderstanding," Jusur 3 (1987), pp. 61-81