John Heaton (jheaton) wrote,
John Heaton

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Art on Sunday: The Martyrdom of al-Hallaj

The Martyrdom of al-Hallaj (Allahabad 1017a), 17th century

The Martyrdom of al-Hallaj
The Martyrdom of al-Hallaj
Walters Art Museum, Baltimore

Mansur Al-Hallaj was a Persian mystic executed as a heretic in 10th century Baghdad. Hallaj would frequently drop into trances, during which he would say, "Ana al-Haqq," or "I am God." His followers interpreted these statements as the ultimate expression of humility, that Hallah was saying that he did not exist except to the extent that God's spirit was present within him. The officials disagreed; they imprisoned Hallaj for eleven years, then executed him. (Contemporaneous writings suggest that he was tortured and crucified; this 17th century Indian painting suggests he was hanged.) Sourses agree that he remained calm even during torture, and that he forgave his executioners before dying.

You may recognize the name Hallaj from this Rumi poem I posted two weeks ago:

If you pretend to be Hallaj,
And with that fake burning
Set fire to your friends,
Don’t think that you’re a lover.

You’re crazy and numb,
You’re drinking our blood,
And you have no experience
Of the nearness.

That poem has been on my mind a lot lately. There's a lot of power and truth packed into those eight short lines.


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