“Ana al-Haqq”, “I am the Truth”, proclaimed Mansur Hallaj, the Persian mystic. “The Truth” is one of the ninety-nine names of the Creator as enumerated in the Quran. The Sufis prefer it to all the others, as it indicates a wider conception of Deity than the “Allah” of the Quran.

To-day this conception of personal deification is the fixed pole of theosophy and theology alike. It was not so, however, in the days of Mansur. The devout followers of Islam who heard him indulge in such an utterance looked upon it as rank heresy. This, moreover, was not the only charge of blasphemy brought against him; it was alleged that he dared to preach the doctrines of incarnation, “return” or re-incarnation, and anthropomorphism and that while he himself claimed to be an incarnation of God, he declared that his disciples were incarnations of the prophets. To one he would say “Thou art Noah”, to another “Thou art Moses”, to a third “Thou art Muhammad”, adding “I have caused their spirits to return to your bodies.” How could Muslim orthodoxy tolerate such conceits? What if the preacher were a renowned ascetic, a learned saint, and a master of miracles? Perish he must ere his nefarious gospel should unhinge the minds of the faithful. He was therefore arrested under the orders of the Khalifah of Baghdad and thrown into prison, after having been fastened for a while (though not with nails) to a cross or gibbet, first on one and then on the other side of the Tigris, in the presence of the soldiers of the guard. For nine years his fate trembled in the balance until he was put to death in the year 922 A. D., and what a terrible execution it was! History records no more gruesome instance of manslaughter; after he had been scourged with a thousand stripes, his hands were cut off and then the feet; next his eyes were torn from their sockets, the tongue that had dared to utter such calumnies against God and His apostles was then cut out, and last of all his head severed from the body. Even this was not enough to appease the infuriated spectators; their rage subsided only after the mangled corpse had been burned to ashes and thrown into the waters of the Tigris. But lo! report has it that the blood which gushed forth during the ghastly slaughter transcribed on the ground the very words Ana al-Haqq.

Mansur Hallaj fell a martyr to his faith—a faith that embraces nothing more than the one living truth animating the hearts of mystics in all ages and in all parts of the world. The Persian saints and mystical poets, therefore, constantly refer to his sayings and almost deify him. Al-Ghazali, the “Proof of Islam”, excuses him in his Mishkat-ul-Anwar on the ground that he took this liberty out of excessive love to God. By means of allegorical interpretation he likens Mansur’s saying to expressions such as these in the Quran: “I am he whom I love, and he whom I love is I.” “We are as two souls in one body. When ye see me ye see him and when ye see him ye see me.” Farid-ud-din Attar speaks of him in his Memoirs of the Saints as that “martyr of God in the way of God”, “that lion of the thicket of the search after Truth,” and “that diver into the tempestuous sea.” Jalal-ud-din Rumi, “the glory of religion”, entered his protest against Mansur’s execution in the following couplet:

“Whene’er an unjust judge controls the pen,

Some Mansur dies upon the gibbet then.”

In the fifth book of the Masnavi he offers the following explanation of Mansur’s words:—

“O prattler, Mansur’s “I am He” was a deep mystic saying,

Expressing union with the light, not mere incarnation.”

Again, in his Diwan we find him defending Mansur in the following verses:—

“Ere there was a garden and vine and grape in the world,

Our soul was intoxicated with immortal wine.

In the Baghdad of Eternity we proudly were proclaiming ‘I am God’,

Before the tumult and mystery of Mansur.

Ere this image of the spirit became a builder on water and clay,

Our life was founded in the tavern of celestial truth.”

In fact, before Mansur, whose grandfather is said to have been a Zoroastrian, King Jamshid had ex­pressed the same belief in very similar terms. So, too, Bayazid Bistami, an earlier Muslim mystic, who also is believed to have been a descendant of the ancient Zoroastrian race, had given expression to the same idea, but in much more emphatic and vehement language. Here is an interesting account of the spiritual transports of this saint, as given in the fourth book of the Bible of Persia, the Masnavi of Maulana Rumi:

“Once that famous saint Bayazid came to his disciples,

Saying, Lo, I myself am God Almighty;

That man of spiritual gifts being visibly beside himself,

Said, ‘There is no God beside me; worship me’;

Next morning when his ecstatic state had passed,

They said, ‘You said so and so, which was impious.’

He answered, ‘If I do so again,

Straightway slay me with your knives:

God is independent of me; I am in the body.

If I say that again you must kill me.’

When that holy person had given this injunction,

Each of his disciples made ready his knife.

Again that overflowing cup became beside himself,

And his recent injunctions passed from his mind.

Alienation came upon him, reason went astray,

The dawn shone forth and his lamp paled at its light.

* * * * * *

When the eagle of alienation from self took wing,

Bayazid began to utter similar speeches;

The torrent of madness bore away his reason,

And he spoke more impiously than before.

‘Within my vesture is naught but God,

Whether ye seek him on earth or in Heaven.’

His disciples all became mad with horror,

And struck with their knives at his holy body.

Each one, like the assassins of Kardkoh,

Without fear aimed at the body of his chief.

Each who aimed at the body of the Shaikh,

His stroke was reversed and wounded the striker.

No stroke took effect on that man of spiritual gifts,

But the disciples were wounded and drowned in blood.

Each who had aimed a blow at his neck,

Saw his own throat cut, and gave up the ghost;

He who had struck at his breast,

Had cleft his own breast and killed himself.”

What this miracle means, and from what spiritual plane the saint must have given expression to the beliefs which he himself condemned while on the terrestrial plane, may be left to the adepts to explain. For our present purpose we may consider a few more specimens of the same ecstatic exposition of the Sufi’s self.

In the Gulshan i Raz, Shabistari gives the follow­ing answer to the question, “To what fruit belongs the aphorism ‘I am the Truth’?”

“Verily, ‘I am the Truth’ is a revelation of absolute mystery;* Save ‘The Truth’, who can say ‘I am the Truth’?

All the atoms of the world, like Mansur,

You will take to be drunken and heavy with wine;

Continually are they singing this song of praise,

Continually dwelling on this mystic verity.

* * * * * *

When you have carded ‘self’ as cotton,

You, like the wool-carder, will raise this cry.

Take out the cotton of your illusion from your ears,

Hearken to the call of The One, The Almighty.

This call is coming to you from ‘The Truth’,

Why are you tarrying for the last day?

Come into the valley of Peace, for straightway

The bush will say to you, ‘Verily, I am allah’.

The saying ‘I am The Truth’ was lawful for the bush,

Why is it unlawful in the mouth of a good man?

* * * * *

Every man who as a void is empty of self,

Re-echoes within him the cry ‘I am The Truth’;

He takes his eternal side, ‘other’ perishes,

Travelling, travel, and traveller all become One.

Incarnation and communion spring from ‘other’,

But very unity comes from the mystic journey.

That which is separate from ‘The Truth’, is phenomenal existence,
Neither does ‘The Truth’ become a creature, nor is a creature united with Allah.

Incarnation and communion are here impossible,

For duality in unity is clearly absurd.”

Since the glory of The Truth admits no duality, Jalal-ud-din sings:

“I am the Gospel, the Psalter, the Quran,

I am Uzza and Lat — Bel and the Dragon,

* * * * * *

Thou knowest what are fire, water, air and earth?

Fire, water, air and earth, all am I.

Lies and Truth, good, bad, hard and soft,

Knowledge, solitude, virtue, faith,

The deepest ground of hell, the highest torment of the flames,

The highest paradise,

The earth and what is therein,

The angels and the devils, spirit and man am I.

What is the goal of speech, O tell it, Shamsi Tabrizi!

The goal of sense? This; the world-soul am I.”

We hear a not-too-distant echo of this in the following verses of the great American mystic, Emerson:

“I am the owner of the sphere,

Of the seven stars and the solar year,

Of Cæsar’s hand and Plato’s brain,

Of Lord Christ’s heart and Shakespeare’s strain”.

In one of his odes Maulana Rumi re-echoes the idea in the following verses:

“What is to be done, O Muslims? for I do not recognize myself,

I am neither Christian nor Jew, nor Gabr nor Muslim,

I am not of the east, nor of the west, nor of the land, nor of the sea.

I am not of nature’s mint, nor of the circling heavens.

I am not of earth, nor of water, nor of air, nor of fire;

I am not of the empyrean, nor of the dust, nor of existence, nor of entity,
I am not of India, nor of China, nor of Bulgaria, nor of Saqsin;
I am not of the kingdom of Iraqain, nor of the country of Khorasan,
I am not of this world, nor of the next, nor of Paradise, nor of Hell.

I am not of Adam, nor of Eve, nor of Eden and Rizwan.

My place is the placeless, my trace is the traceless,

’Tis neither body nor soul, for I belong to the soul of the Beloved,
I have put quality away, I have seen that the two worlds are one;

One I seek, One I know, One I see, One I call,

He is the first, he is the last, he is the outward, he is the inward;

I know none other except ‘Ya Hu’ and ‘Ya man Hu’.

This was the negative side of the poet’s mystical exposition of his being. It is supplemented by an equally characteristic description of its positive side:

“If there be any lover in the world, O Muslims,—’tis I.

If there be any believer, infidel, or Christian hermit,— ’tis I.
The wine-dregs, the cup-bearer, the minstrel, the harp, and the music,
The beloved, the candle, the drink and the joy of the drunken,—’tis I.

The two-and-seventy creeds and sects in the world

Do not really exist: I swear by God that every creed and sect—’tis I.
Earth and air and water and fire, knowest thou what they are?
Earth and air and water and fire, nay, body and soul too—’tis I.
Truth and Falsehood, good and evil, ease and difficulty from first to last,
Knowledge and learning and asceticism and piety and faith—’tis I.

The fire of Hell, be assured, with its flaming limbs,

Yes, and Paradise and Eden and the Houris—’tis I.

This earth and heaven with all that they hold,

Angels, Peris, Genies and Mankind—’tis I”.

For an exalted expression of the same idea one may turn to Abu Sa’id:—

“In my heart Thou dwellest—else with blood I’ll drench it,

In mine eye Thou glowest—else with tears I’ll quench it.

Only to be one with Thee my soul desireth,

Else from out my body, by hook or crook, I’ll wrench it.”