Islamic Garden

Islamic Garden
Islamic Garden in Lausanne, Switzerland

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Mansur al-Hallaj and al-Fatiha

I was stunned to read the following description of the execution of Mansur al-Hallaj which appeared in one of three lectures delivered at the School of Oriental Studies, the University of London in the summer of 1922 by Reynold A. Nicholson, Lecturer in Persian in the University of Cambridge, formerly Fellow of Trinity College:

"Ibrahim ibn Fatik relates as follows: When Husayn ibn Mansur al-Hallaj was brought to be crucified, and saw the cross and the nails, he laughed so greatly and violently that tears flowed from his eyes. Then he turned to the people and seeing Shibli among them said to him, "O Abu Bakr, hast thou thy prayer-carpet with thee?" Shibli answered, "Yes, O Shaykh!" Hallaj bade him spread it out, which he did. Then Hallaj stepped forward and prayed two rak'as on it, and I was near to him. In the first rak'a he recited the Fatiha, and a verse of the Koran, namely,

Every soul shall taste of death. Ye shall
be given your full rewards on the day of
Resurrection, and whoso shall be put far from
Hell-fire and caused to enter Paradise, happy
is he! The present life is but the goods of vanity.
(Sura 3:182)

In the second rak'a he recited the Fatiha and a verse of the
Koran, namely,

We will surely try thee with somewhat of
fear and hunger and loss of wealth and lives
and fruits. And bring a message of joy unto
the patient who say, when an affliction befalls
them, "lo, we belong to God and to Him we
shall return" Those are they upon whom
are blessings from their Lord and mercy, and
those are in the right way.
(Sura 2:150-152).

And when he had finished, he uttered a prayer of which
I remember only these words:

...O Lord, I beseech Thee to make me
thankful for the grace Thou hast bestowed
upon me in concealing from the eyes of other
men what Thou hast revealed to me of the
splendours of Thy radiant countenance which
is without a form, and in making it lawful
for me to behold the mysteries of Thy inmost
conscience which Thou hast made unlawful to
other men. And these Thy servants who are
gathered to slay me, in zeal for Thy religion
and in desire to win Thy favour, pardon them
and have mercy upon them; for verily if Thou
hadst revealed to them what which Thou hast
revealed to me, they would not have done
what they have done; and if Thou hadst
hidden from me that which Thou hast hidden
from them, I should not have suffered this
tribulation. Glory unto Thee in whatsoever
Thou doest, and glory unto Thee in whatsoever
Thou willest.

Then he remained silent for a time, communing with his Lord,
until Abu'l-Harith, the executioner went and smote him on the
cheek, breaking his nose with the blow, so that the blood
gushed out. Thereat Shibli cried aloud and rent his garment
and fell in a swoon, and so did Abu'l-Husayn al-Wasiti and
a number of well-known Sufis. And it almost came to riot."
(1964, pp. 45-47)

~ Excerpted from "The Idea of Personality in Sufism" by
Reynold A. Nicholson.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Sigmund Freud on Sura 1:7 and Nabi Musa

After returning to Santa Barbara from my visit to the Freud Museum in London on 09-09-09, I was compelled to read "Moses and Monotheism." This was on the heels of reading Yosef Hayim Yerushalmi's book "Freud's Moses - Judaism Terminable and Interminable" which I had bought at the Freud Museum gift shop. "Moses and Monotheism" was to be Freud's last book. In it he considers the role of Moses in the history of Judaism and the possible causes for the lasting influence that Moses had on his people. This might be considered Freud's commentary on Sura 1:7:

"Let us agree, therefore, that the great man influences his contemporaries in two ways: through his personality and through the idea for which he stands. This idea may lay stress on an old group of wishes in the masses, or point to a new aim for their wishes, or again, lure the masses by other means. Sometimes - and this is surely the more primitive effect - the personality alone exerts its influence, and the idea plays a decidedly subordinate part. Why the great man should rise to significance at all we have no doubt whatever. We know that the great majority of people have a strong need for authority which they can admire, to which they can submit, and which dominates and sometimes even ill-treats them. We have learned from the psychology of the individual whence comes this need of the masses. It is the longing for the father that lives in each of us from his childhood days, for the same father whom the hero of legend boasts of having overcome. And now it begins to dawn on us that all the features with which we furnish the great man are traits of the father, that in this similarity lies the essence, which so far has eluded us, of the great man. The decisiveness of thought, the strength of will, the forcefulness of his deeds, belong to the picture of the father; above all other things, however, the self-reliance and independence of the great man, his divine conviction of doing the right thing, which may pass into ruthlessness. He must be admired, he may be trusted, but one cannot help also being afraid of him. We should have taken a cue from the word itself: who else but the father should in childhood have been the great man?

Without doubt it must have been a tremendous father imago that stooped in the person of Moses to tell the poor Jewish labourers that they were his dear children. And the conception of a unique, eternal, omnipotent God could not have been less overwhelming for them: he who thought them worthy to make a bond with him promised to take care of them if only they remained faithful to his worship. Probably they did not find it easy to separate the image of the man Moses from that of his God, and their instinct was right in this, since Moses might very well have incorporated into the character of his God some of his own traits, such as his irascibility and implacability. And when they killed this great man they only repeated an evil deed which in primeval times had been a law directed against the divine king, and which as we know, derives from a still older prototype." (1939, pp. 139-141).

~ Excerpted from "Moses and Monotheism" by Sigmund Freud.