Updated: Jan 28, 2021
Every human being is preoccupied with three simultaneous quests. Knowing oneself, their relationship with their fellow beings and his or her relationship with an all knowing, all powerful super being we usually call 'God'. A God who will answer all our prayers, make our fantasies come true, cater to all our wants and free us from fear and distress.
We have come to seek God in the most absurd of places. We look for God everywhere in our world, in crucifixes, shrines, stones, temples, idols, books etc. and even other beings without success.
Most humans find it very inconvenient and uncomfortable to live without an all powerful, all knowing, God. So we create or adopt a God. When God is a creation of our minds, it is not the truth. Thus much of humanity remains in darkness, attaching ourselves to shadows and mirages believing them to be the truth.
Then where do we find the truth?
Not outside of our being, but within, for each one is part of that same Creation and we are all part of that same God. This realisation, this awakening is what we all are unknowingly waiting for.
Mansur al-Hallaj (858 - 922 C.E.), a Sufi saint and teacher from Persia (Iran) was one of the awakened ones, who became one with Creator and Creation.
In pursuit of meaning and Truth, Mansur became the disciple of Junayd Baghdadi. Great souls become disciples but never followers. Mansur was guided by the voice of God rather the voice of Man, and anyone who does this infuriates and becomes the enemy of organised religion and the powerful in society.
Mansur Al-Hallaj taught people to find God inside their own souls. He preached without the traditional Sufi cloak and used language familiar to the local population. Many Sufi masters felt that it was inappropriate to share mysticism with the masses, yet Mansur openly did so in his writings and through his teachings.
He dared to criticise the many wrongs that were happening in the rule of the Abbasid Caliphate and this infuriated the political and government. Thus Mansur thus not only caused a stir amongst the Sufi teachers but enraged the priestly and political class.
Mansur for his efforts to share the truth and awaken humanity, was repeatedly incarcerated and punished, but rather than break him, Mansur emerged stronger. He used the time to pray and meditate sharpening his mind and enriching his soul, and grew even bolder in his duty to Man and God.
Against Junayd's advice Mansur went on pilgrimages to Mecca and travelled far beyond the frontiers of Islamic lands. Mansur returned from a visit to India, clad only in a loin cloth and a patched garment over his shoulder and uttered the famous words "An Al Haq" meaning 'I am the truth'. This was considered blasphemous by the priests and the government, because it meant that Mansur claimed he was one with God, an impossibility for them to understand.
Mansur was again incarcerated for 9 years. Rather than getting destroyed, he rejoiced and used the time to meditate, realising that he and God were but one. When he emerged from his cell he kept uttering the the words, "An Al-Ḥaq" (I am the Truth)
When Mansur steadfastly refused to recant, the powers that be of that time had enough of Masur and he was finally condemned to death. Not only was Mansur to be killed, but executed in such a manner that it would destroy the hope of all those who believed in him and sought the Truth.
Thousands of people witnessed his execution on the banks of the Tigris River. He remained defiant even as he was led to the executioner's scaffold.
Mansur was first punched in the face by his executioner, then lashed until unconscious, and then decapitated.
Witnesses reported that Al-Hallaj's last words under torture were "All that matters for the ecstatic is that the Unique should reduce him to Unity," after which he recited the Quranic verse 42:18.
To prevent Mansur from becoming a martyr or his tomb becoming a shrine, his body was doused in oil and set alight, and his ashes were then scattered into the river Tigris.
The war between Truth and falsehood rages on, in every society and religion, within each organisation and within each family and most of all within the mind and heart of every individual. To end this conflict within, all we need is sincerity and the courage to awaken to the truth. Unfortunately as the life and death of Mansur Al Hallaj reveals that, the Truth is terribly inconvenient both for society and the individual and that is why we dare not awaken.