The Devil and The Proximity of Distance
articulation of the ineffable force of love of God seems at most times to be
doomed for failure. The mystic
quest strives to reconcile the inherent spiritual paradox of our existence:
the recognition of the unity of God within apparent separation.
Perhaps there has been no other figure in Islamic mysticism to embody
the nature of mystical paradox so completely than Husayn ibn Mansur al-Hallaj
(d. 922). He was one of the great
Muslim pietists of all time, who was later killed for heresy.
As a young man he became a Sufi, and shortly there after he was
rejected by them. He became an
intimate of God, proclaiming, “I am the Divine Truth,” and experienced the
anguish of separation from Him. While
in prison he wrote his greatest work, the Kitab at-Tawasin,, in which
he praised both the Prophet and the Devil, without apparent contradiction.
He was the lover of God supreme and realized his love through
suffering. He asked of his people
to kill him, and went dancing in chains to his own execution, for their
salvation. Hallaj’s life
appears to represent the inherent contradiction of Creation: if God is good,
then why is there evil? Perhaps
within the Qur’anic story of the fall of Iblis, Satan, there lies a key to
understanding the enigma of both Hallaj and Creation.
Sufi theology up until Hallaj would not venture far from Iblis’
outright condemnation by God as the despised one, too prideful to follow His
command to bow to Adam. Iblis was
regarded by many Sufis to have been the teacher of the Angels and the greatest
in devotion to God, only to become the most reviled of God’s creation,
continuously tempting humanity to evil.
Hallaj, Iblis’ refusal to bow stemmed from a strict monotheism, his absolute
love for God. He thus became, a tragic hero for Hallaj and for certain
mystics who came after him, who found in Iblis the model of the perfect
servant. What developed was a
theology that strove to unify the apparent opposites of good and evil within
the ecstatic unveiling of Truth in mystical union with the Beloved.
This was truly a radical spirituality that appeared to be opposed by
many mystics with a more sober inclination.
For Hallaj, it was an integral part of his unitive vision of opposites,
initiating from the pure love of God. However,
there would always exist a tension between the sober presentation of Iblis and
the Hallajian model. It was said
of Hallaj by some Sufis that his enraptured state had caused him to openly
proclaim the hidden secret of love that was not to be uttered in public, and
that because of this unrestrained proclamation, he had not reached the goal
that he had prematurely claimed (Schimmel, Myst. Dim. 73). It is
impossible to say with certainty the final station in which Hallaj departed
from this world. In investigating
the insights of the mystics who were to develop his ideas further, it is
possible to gain some understanding into the meaning of Hallaj’s theology.
Perhaps one the more persistent questions is why did Hallaj want to be
killed? It is apparent that
Hallaj may have courted death for two distinct reasons.
He may have thought, as Massignon seems to think, that in his death he
would shed the final barrier between himself and the Beloved.
Or he may have held that through his death he would incur, like Iblis,
eternal separation from God and thus be rewarded the ultimate gift of grace,
and thus, proximity. In the final
analysis, however, this question still remains, for it seems that the mystery
of Hallaj is inherent to Hallaj himself, and that is, I think, as it should
It is evident that any investigation of Hallaj’s relationship with
Iblis must necessarily incorporate Peter Awn’s masterful work, Satan’s
Tragedy and Redemption. In
it, Awn relates that up until Hallaj, the overwhelming verdict on the figure
of Iblis by Sufi practitioners was: guilty as charged.
Iblis was indisputably an evil influence on the spiritual lives of any
seeker of God (122).
Hallaj would change this rather, up until now, one-sided view of Iblis,
with the writing of the Kitab at-Tawasin, which he wrote in Arabic and
which was later translated by the eminent thirteenth century mystic, Ruzbihan
al-Baqli, who also wrote an extensive commentary on its contents.
Apparently al-Baqli struggled with Hallaj’s understanding of Iblis,
and found the traditional view of Iblis too difficult to reconcile with the
altogether mind-boggling assertions of Hallaj.
In the end Al-Baqli condemns Iblis in no uncertain terms.
It is interesting to note here that, according to Michael Sells, Louis
Massignon rejects any idea of final positivity and ultimate redemption of
Iblis, in part because he mistakenly attributed the final condemnation of
Iblis in Al-Baqli’s commentary of the Kitab at-Tawasin.
In this respect Massignon states, “Hallaj shows that the obstinate
quietism of Satan, posing as the perfect Gnostic and boasting of loving God,
ends up by rejecting divine union” (qtd. in Sells 271).
Perhaps this caused, for Massignon, an
underestimation of the importance placed by Hallaj upon Iblis in the role of
spiritual exemplar, thereby confusing Massignon’s final comprehension of the
reasons for Hallaj’s wish to be put to death.
As Peter Awn recounts, Hallaj was a master and forerunner in what Awn
describes as the Sufi “science of opposites.”
Perhaps this is nowhere better depicted than in the famous chapter of
“Tasin al-azal was ’l-ilibas,” “The TaSin of Before–Time and
Ambiguity,” the sixth chapter of the Hallaj’s Tawasin.
Here Hallaj reveals his radical understanding of the mythic figure
Iblis. In referring to some key
verses in the text I have used Michael Sells translation. The first section begins with the concurrence of spiritual
opposites Iblis and Muhammad, who alone are the only ones able to “make
claims “ or preach the Truth. It
That strange and learned master, Abu-Mughith Husayn ibn Mansur al-Hallaj—may
his place of rest—said:
claims is appropriate for no one but Iblis and Ahmad, except that Iblis fell
from the ‘ayn [essence] while
Ahmad—God bless him—had revealed to him the ‘ayn
of the ‘ayn.
Iblis was told: “Bow down!” Ahmad
was told: “Look!” The former
and Ahmad turned neither to the right nor left.
(53:17) “The eye did not swerve nor
did it exceed its bounds.”
Iblis made claims but he returned to his power.
Ahmad made claims and returned from his power.
Hallaj uses the name Ahmad, meaning “the most praiseworthy of those who
praise Allah,” which is a variation of the name Muhammad, meaning “the
most praised one” (Bayrak 143).
As Awn observes, Hallaj equates both Iblis and Ahmad as being essential
elements in the continuation of God’s creation.
They are thus represented as unswerving from their prearranged tasks,
and are seen by Hallaj as equally faithful to God, albeit in two distinct
modes. In lines three and four
above, Iblis returns “to” his power from thousands of years of continuous
worship, while Ahmad returns “from” his power in a state of abject
humility before God. In
al-Baqli’s commentary, he reiterates that Iblis’s pride is to be condemned
and is the cause of his fall from grace; Hallaj, however, makes no outright
ethical judgment against Iblis (Awn 124).
Next, Hallaj clearly proclaims that Iblis was the greatest monotheist
in heaven, and relates that his undivided devotion and love for God was a pure
witnessing, so pure, in fact, that God’s threats of His curse against him
made no difference to him:
Among the inhabitants of heaven, there was no affirmer of unity (muwahhid)
When Iblis was veiled by (ulbisa) the ‘ayn,
and he fled the glances and
gazed into the secret, and worshiped his deity stripped of all else,
8. Only to be cursed when
he attained individuation and given demands when he
9. He was told: “Bow
down!” He said, “[to] no
other!” He was asked, “Even
receive my curse?” He
said, “It does not matter. I
have no way to an other-than-
you. I am an abject lover.”
Hallaj, Iblis’ refusal to bow illustrates the intrinsic force within gnostic
contemplation of the divine, enabling the mystic to transcend the boundaries
of rational thought into an experience of union with the divine (Awn 129).
This is quite explicitly stated in verse twelve:
There can be no distance for me / distancing you from me
When I have achieved certainty / nearness and distance are one
Even if I am abandoned, / abandonment will be my companion.
How can it be abandonment / while love is one?
To you, praise in success, / in the pure absolute
For a servant of true heart / who will bow to no other than you.
Hallaj presents another great paradox, which seems to also refer to his own
life. Awn elegantly describes it
as, “[. . .] the paradoxical truth that condemnation and degradation can be
the emblems of triumph for the mystic who is totally caught up in the
contemplation of the Beloved” (Awn 129).
This is the first of several ideas that will later be refined by both
the mystic Ahmad al-Ghazali and his student ‘Ain
Al-Qudat. This refinement,
however, will not truly add anything new to the understanding presented by
Hallaj in verse twelve: that separation is only a further drawing closer to
the Beloved, and through the resulting “distance,” the lover increases his
love, and simultaneously transcends time and space. Thus this implied tension
paradoxically increases the lover’s nearness.
Al-Baqli was, however, apparently unable to accept Hallaj’s
presumption that Iblis was a true monotheist.
If he truly was, he would have realized that Adam was not an
“other,” but simply a reflection of God.
For al-Baqli, Iblis’ did not realize true tawhid,
but had simply become deluded by his own ego while in mystical ecstasy; such
delusion is known as “the sin of ‘I’.’’
Moreover this same mistake, according to al-Baqli, was inherent of Hallaj's
statement “‘Ana ‘l-Haqq’ (‘I
am the Divine Truth’)”(Awn 125-126).
Michael Sells, in the commentary on his translation of chapter six of
the Tawasin, describes Hallaj as, “associating Iblis with the
principle of complementarity” (Sells 271).
Awn refers to this knowledge as “the science of opposites” (Awn
134). Herein lies a key to understanding Hallaj’s use of Iblis as hero.
As we shall see, this idea will become again more refined by ‘Ain
Al-Qudat. However, his
elegant refinement appears to be nothing more than a further articulation of
what is expressed here by Hallaj in its entirety.
Thus, Hallaj reveals one of the great mystical secrets, the necessity
of opposites and thus the primordial function of Iblis to the mystic, for
without the knowledge of one’s own darkness, one could never know the light
of God. In
verses eighteen, Hallaj relates the dual nature of Iblis’s preaching: in
heaven he spoke to the angels about obedience to God, but on earth he
elucidated to humanity the path of Evil.
In verse nineteen Hallaj relates the above-mentioned “science of
[. . .] In heaven he was the proclaimer of the angels, showing them the
and on earth he was the proclaimer of humankind, showing them the
are known through opposites. A
fine garment is woven on a coarse, black
backing. Similarly, the
angel displays the virtues and says to the virtuous:
“Perform them and you will be requited” — symbolically.
Whoever does not
know vice will not know virtue.
Thus, Hallaj does not seem to pose Iblis in
the traditional way as inherently evil, but shows him as a tragic martyr who
has loyally professed the unity of God while lovingly worshiping Him, despite
the hardships Iblis suffers through God’s rejection of him (Awn 126).
[. . .] He said, “All choices, including my own, are yours.
You have chosen for
me, O Originator! If you
forbid me from bowing, you are the Forbidder.
If I err in
speaking, don’t abandon me, All-Hearer!
If you will me to bow before him, I am the
I know no one more knowing of you than me.
Don’t blame me, blame from me is ba’id (far away)
Reward me! Master, for I am wahid
In your true threat, I am made true
Desert in desert, my plight is shadid
Whoever wills a speech, here is my book and testament,
Read it and know I am a shahid
The most eloquent of the tribe were dumbstruck at his gate
The sages failed to appreciate;
He was more perfected than they in the position of prayer
Nearer than they to the one existing
Spending himself in struggle, more giving
More faithful than they in the oaths they would swear
More loyal to the master than they, more near.
They fell before Adam in prayer as a favor
While Iblis, because of his ancient age of witnessing, refused.
is thus shown by Hallaj to have
undergone, in Awn’s words, “emotional turmoil” in regards to his refusal
to bow. This refusal is not
a mere act of compulsion, as is apparently the case with the angels, but the
result of his acquired gnosis from his extensive contemplation or witnessing
of God throughout the ages (Awn 127). Here,
Hallaj seems to be presenting Iblis’ refusal, not in a way of corrupted
pride, as is the traditional presentation, but in light of true spiritual
In the following section of the Tawasin Moses meets Iblis on
Mount Sinai. Moses asks Iblis
what prevented him from bowing. Iblis
answers that it was his proclamation of God’s unity that kept him from it.
Hallaj continues with Iblis saying:
[. . .] If I had bowed
down in prayer before Adam, I would have been like you.
called one time to ‘look at the mountain!’ and you looked.
I was called a thousand times to ‘bow down! bow down!’ but I did
not bow, held back by the meaning of my proclamation”
He said, “You abandoned the command!”
He replied, “That was a
test, not a command.”
He said, “Of course he deformed you.”
He answered, “Musa, that and that is masquerade.
The condition is unreliable; it will
change. Knowing remains as
sound as it was before, unchanged; only the figure has been
Musa said, “Do you remember him now?”
Musa,” he replied, “remembrance does not remember.
I am the remembered and he
is the remembered. His remembrance is my remembrance, my remembrance, his.
two rememberers be anything but together?
My serviced is now purer, my moment freer, my
remembrance greater. Formerly
I served him out of concern for my own lot; now I serve out
of concern for his.” (Sells
goes on to relate to Moses all of the various ways he was seemingly tragically
exiled and isolated from the “pure hearted” by God as a consequence of his
pure worship. Iblis then
He [. . .] abandoned me
because of my unveiling, unveiled me because of my union,
made me one with him because of my separation, cut me off because of
the preclusion of my
By his reality! I have not
erred concerning the designing (tadbir)
nor rejected the
destining (taqdir) nor
concerned myself with the change in imaging (taswir),
nor am I in such
measures the one to be judging! Even
if he torments me with his fire forever and beyond, I
will not bow before any other than him, abase myself before a figure
and a body, or recognize
a rival or offspring. My
proclamation is the proclamation of those who are sincere, and in
love I am triumphant. How
to Awn, both al-Baqli and Ibn Ghanim construe Iblis’ dialogue with Moses to
be a deception. Indeed, Sufis
have traditionally held that Iblis’ greatest threat is his ability to appear
in an infinite array of guises in order to sow confusion and doubt within the
minds of the mystics and even the prophets, thus distracting them from their
remembrance of God. As such
al-Baqli cannot condone a positive role for Iblis, or imagine any good coming
from a meeting with him, no matter how compelling and “tragic” his
argument. Thus, for al-Baqli,
Iblis’ apparent distinction to Moses between “command” and “test” is
a complete ruse. For al-Baqli,
Iblis’ distorted form is a sure sign of his deceitful nature.
He calls to mind the story of Joseph as proof, for Joseph’s
attainment of divine knowledge caused both his interior and his exterior to be
made beautiful. Therefore, Iblis
is a liar whose only desire is to conceal God’s glory by claiming to be
God’s intimate, and his personal deformity attests to this (Awn 132).
al-Baqli’s position can be seen as a sound and practical vision for the
novice mystic. Certainly, the
responsibility felt by masters to their students upon such a dangerous path as
that of mysticism (spiritually as well as politically) must have been great.
Perhaps, this responsibility did not allow for the revealing of such
divine secrets as the paradox of Iblis, even if the masters were aware of its
inherent truth. Indeed, Attar
relates that Hallaj had perpetrated the highest mystical transgression by
revealing the secret of love (Schimmel, Myst.
Dim. 64). The unfathomable
and extreme mystery of Hallaj’s life, however, seems to retain a notable
contradiction in later mystics. To
Awn, this contradiction appears as “schizophrenic attitude” of more sober
minded mystics, such as al-Baqli, who express a great reverence for Hallaj,
but at the same time cannot accept Hallaj’s entire doctrine, particularly
the paradoxical position of Iblis (Awn
125). I think, however, that
Awn’s perception might be premature and possibly over simplifying the
situation. In my mind, those who
were less intent on being killed or causing great upheavals within the
normative religious mode needed to exhibit necessary caution in these
this tension between praise of Hallaj and rejection of the Hallajian mode of
Iblis as spiritual exemplar is most apparent in the work of Jalaluddin Rumi
(d.1273). As Annemarie Schimmel
points out in I Am Wind, You Are Fire, in all of Rumi’s work no name
appears more than that of Hallaj, which is used to symbolize perhaps the
highest position of all intoxicated love mystics, “the true lover of God”
(132). Rumi differs decidedly
from al-Baqli, in his estimation of Hallaj’s utterance “Ana’l-Haqq.”
Here, in comparison with the Pharaoh’s claim, “I am your highest
Lord,” Rumi states, “The ‘I’ of Mansur surely became grace; / That
of Pharaoh became a curse, look!” (qtd in Schimmel, I
Am Wind 134). Moreover, he
writes in the Mathnawi:
the famous utterance “I am the Divine Truth.”
Some people consider it a great pretension.
But “Ana’l-Haqq” is in fact great humility. . . .He has
annihilated himself and given himself to the winds.
He says, “I am the Divine Truth, “ that is “I am not, He is all,
nothing exists but God, I am pure not-being, I am nothing. . . (qtd in
Schimmel, I Am Wind 134).
however, held the same traditional view of Iblis as that of al-Baqli.
In the Mathnawi he
relates that Iblis’ sin is an inherent aspect of his nature, and thus
there is no hope for his redemption (Awn 118).
however, did catalyze a less sober tradition that allowed itself the
indulgence, as it were, to speculate about the valuable aspects of Iblis’
nature. For these mystics Iblis
came to symbolize the paragon of the mystic martyr who sacrifices everything
for the love of God. As mentioned
above, the mystic ‘Ain al-Qudat (d. 1131) developed a rich understanding of
Iblis, based on the ideas of Hallaj. His ideas on Iblis, when looked at in comparison with
Hallaj’s, offer keen insights into the heart of what Hallaj was attempting
to express. ‘Ain al-Qudat saw
Iblis as the guardian of the “Divine Presence.”
He was rewarded this noble status because of his long worship and
submission to God. Iblis’
embittered and jealous stance towards humanity serves as a safeguard of divine
intimacy, protecting its entrance from the unworthy. Thus the mischief of
Iblis serves as the greatest test for the mystic; only the most adept can pass
through his obstacles and penetrate the inner chambers of the Beloved (Awn
‘Ain Al-Qudat, Iblis both preserves the purity of
the path while serving as the catalyst of divine will, continuously
facilitating the unfolding of the divine plan.
Like Hallaj, ‘Ain Al-Qudat sees Muhammad and Iblis as being divinely
connected as instruments of God’s will.
They both represent the positive and negative poles of spiritual
attainment: Muhammad draws
humanity close to God, while Iblis distances humanity from God.
Both Muhammad and Iblis are submitted servants of God. ‘Ain Al-Qudat
describes Muhammad’s nature as that of the pure light of Truth,
whereas Iblis is its diametric counterpart, black light. As Awn states, “Only in the unknowable essence of the
Absolute is the tension between these two opposites resolved [. . .]”, the
mystic must pass through the one to know the other (Awn 136-137). Moreover,
the essential natures of Muhammad and Iblis originate through the divine
“essence” or “attribute.” ‘Ain
Al-Qudat relates how each pole fulfills and sustains the other.
could never exist without blackness; the heavens without the earth would not
be right; substance could not be conceived without accident;
Muhammad could never exist without Iblis.
Obedience could not exist without disobedience, nor unbelief without
faith. And in the same way with all opposites: ‘Things manifest
themselves through their opposites. (qtd in Awn 142).
there is a direct correlation to verse nineteen (above) of Hallaj’s “The
TaSin.” It is thus through the opposites that all existence and
ultimately God is known. When God
is finally known, however, the opposites are resolved within God’s unity.
Thus, according to ‘Ain Al-Qudat, the
convictions of both atheism and religion are annihilated once divine union is
attained. He states, “ Unbelief and faith are two veils beyond the Throne
between God and the servant, because man must be neither unbeliever nor
Muslim” (qtd in Awn 141).
is here where we begin to understand the paradox of Hallaj a bit more plainly.
Clearly, Hallaj realized this “science of opposites” in his
mystical states of ecstatic union. Here
the conceptual notions of unbelief and faith vanished before the divine
presence. The great work of
God’s unity enlightened him, thus annihilating the dualism of all paths;
here there was only God and all apparent things, good and evil, were only
reflections of Truth.
must take pause here and ask, if Hallaj’s mystical insight was thus, why did
he have to suffer? According to Herbert Mason in his work entitled, Al-Hallaj,
Hallaj teaches “[. . .] that God gives humans His grace of closeness in the
form of anguish, through their desire to risk even the forbidden to know and
serve Him more fully” (Mason 59). Again
the insights of ‘Ain Al-Qudat are helpful in understanding the nature of
anguish for the mystic of love:
(God) said, ‘If you lay claim to My love, there must be a sign.’
He (God) laid out for him the touchstones of affliction and oppression,
blame and humiliation. He
accepted in an instant, and these two touchstones testified that the mark of
his love was faithfulness. Will
you never grasp what I say? In love there must be persecution, and there must
be fidelity, so that the lover becomes thoroughly ripened by the gentle
kindness and the oppression of the Beloved.
Otherwise he remains raw, and nothing comes from him.
(qtd. in Awn 142)
for Iblis, and also apparently for Hallaj, the curse of God is the highest of
His gifts. Through God’s curse
the mystic is purified and marked, as it were, with this “sign.”
Therefore God’s curse is a test for the truly faithful, as with
Iblis: he accepts this test without question or complaint. Iblis’ willingness to be rejected and deformed, all the
while fulfilling his task in gratitude, is the highest act of love.
As Awn relates ‘Ain Al-Qudat’s understanding:
offers himself as sacrifice; when God torments, he accepts; when God
oppresses, he increases his love. ‘Ain Al-Qudat recalls that it was for such
unswerving dedication to God that Al-Hallaj eulogized Iblis and Ahmad.
For each, his personal joy and suffering were of negligible concern in
comparison with his desire to conform to the will of God [. . .]
Al-Qudat relates that the most weighty suffering placed upon Iblis was that of
separation from the Beloved. As
Awn observes, separation is the most difficult test for the mystic lover,
whose only yeaning is union. The
combination of separation and yearning “work together to inflict the most
wrenching of agonies upon the tormented soul [. . .]” (Awn 144).
to Ahmad al-Ghazali, separation was the highest level of mystical attainment,
even higher than union itself. The
state of separation only comes after union, and thus contains a point of
“dynamic tension” which is absent from the fulfillment of union, thus
always causing the mystic’s soul to strive continuously for God.
Awn astutely observes:
perfection needs no fulfillment through a mystical relationship with man. The state of separation, therefore, more aptly reflects the
eternal tension between God’s transcendent perfection and the dynamism of
the human spirit’s yearning in love for intimacy with the divine Other.
The ultimate goal, separation, is attained only by the very few whose
long experience of union prepares them sufficiently for the excruciating
torment that characterizes its every aspect.
This honor was not accorded Iblis until he had proven himself through
eons of faithful dedication to the divine will. [. . .]
Ahmad Al-Ghazali relates that, in recognition of this extraordinary
achievement, which was won only after ages of strenuous ascetical training,
Iblis was granted the title of Lord of the Separated Ones. This title attests to all creatures that Iblis has been
especially chosen by the Beloved to be the recipient of His choicest gift, His
curse, which Iblis will cherish for all eternity. (Awn 145)
‘Ain al-Qudat, the ultimate gift of separation from God is attainable to the
mystic who is able to integrate the greatest paradox: God’s curse of
separation is the supreme attainment on the path towards God (Awn 146).
concludes by stating that, “The seeds of this attitude are buried in the
paradoxes of Al-Hallaj [. . . ]” (An 146).
For Hallaj knowingly
provoked both God’s wrath and those Muslims concerned with upholding the
law, by uttering heretical statements while he counseled the people to kill
him for his blasphemy, thereby seeking the death of his own “accursed”
self (Awn 146). Awn’s notion
echoes Mason’s statement when he states that, “Hallaj himself bowed down
before questionable and corrupt authorities in his final acceptance of
martyrdom in order to draw the Community together against him and, in this
sense, against the satanic self that retained a measure of separateness from
God” (Mason 58). But if Ahmad al-Ghazali, and ‘Ain al-Qudat
are correct in their perception that God’s greatest gift to the
mystic is separation, a perception that seems to be analogous to, and, as we
have seen, stemming from Hallaj’s own writings in the Tawasin,
then one question remains: why did Hallaj want to die, if dying meant
reuniting with the Beloved? Did Hallaj believe that he was to be damned in hell, like
Iblis? Or did he yearn to reunite with the Beloved by finally shedding the
last barrier between them? Massignon
does mention the former as a theory regarding the result of Hallaj’s
Qur’anic text usually applied in the case of the criminal convicted of
zandaqa [Manichean dualism] was the following (Qur’an 5:33):
“Verily, the reward of those who make war against God and His
messenger and create corruption in this world will be that they will be killed
or crucified or have their hands and feet cut off, or will be banished from
Muslim lands. Such will be their degradation in the world, and in the
Hereafter theirs will be an awful punishment.”
also mentions that, “In the particular case of Hallaj, his strange desire to
be put to death anathematized for Muslims helped to contribute to a certain
Hallajian theory concerning Hallaj as ‘the disciple of Satan up to and
including damnation,’ ‘the saint in Hell” (Massignon 206).
Massignon himself, however, appears to have held more to the later
idea, that it was the ultimate sacrifice of the human body, or “material
Temple” that would “hasten its resurrection,” stating, “It is a death
from love that resuscitates [. .
.]”(Massignon 172). However, as
we have seen, this idea could have been influenced by Massignon’s mistaken
attribution of al-Baqli’s commentary for the actual words of Hallaj. The idea, however, that Hallaj wished for death in order to
be reborn united with the Beloved, is very close to the words attributed to
Hallaj, himself, who stated, “So kill me now, my faithful friends / For in
my killing is my life. My death
would be to live, / My life would be to die.
To me removal of my self / Would be the noblest gift to give [. . .]
(Mason 73). Conversely, it is
also possible to view this statement from the “satanic” standpoint, as
posed by Ahmad al-Ghazali, of damnation being the ultimate closeness to God.
This is a paradox that cannot be reconciled by rational speculation.
Did Hallaj die thinking he
would gain eternal damnation, and thus receive the greatest gift from God?
Or did he believe that the ultimate grace was in union with the
Beloved, thus diminishing the notion of grace through separation?
Or finally, was Hallaj, as the mystic Hujwiri stated simply, “not
firmly settled” (qtd. in Schimmel, Myst.
Dim. 73)? In the end,
however, it is my humble opinion, that the pure light of Muhammad still reigns
supreme over the black light of Iblis, for Iblis serves God only insofar as to
guide humanity on the straight path, personified in the being of Muhammad. It is in this that we may ponder the final paradox: that in
the human struggle on earth, we as humans in material form are inherently
separated from God, as was Muhammad himself.
To bear the burden of this separation in gratitude without longing for
death, while trying to do what is right and struggling against our own souls
and satanic whisperings seems to be, at least on a small level, analogous to
the inherent anguish felt by Iblis who has been cursed by separation.
In the end, however, it is agreed upon by all Sufis that for those who
spend their time wisely on earth, the trial of separation is a profound grace,
which for the human being is the only trial that is counted.
Perhaps it is through the anguish of separation from our Beloved that
humanity and Iblis share a common bond, and grace.
Perhaps this is why many of the noble Sufi masters chose to keep their
ecstasy sober, so they could
endure the trial, and “secret” blessing of the anguish of separation as
long as possible.
Satan’s Tragedy and Redemption: Iblis In Sufi Psychology.
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Tosun. The Most
Beautiful Names. Putney:
Threshold Books, 1985.
Curzon P, 1995
Louis. Hallaj: Mystic
and Martyr. Trans.,
Ed. Herbert Mason. Princeton:
Annemarie. I Am Wind
You Are Fire. Boston:
Shambhala Pub, 1992
Dimensions Of Islam. Chapel
Hill: UNC P, 1975
Michael A. ed.
Early Islamic Mysticism. Mahwah:
Paulist Press, 1996.