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Early Philosophical Ṣūfism

The Neoplatonic Thought of Ḥusayn Ibn Manṣūr al-Ḥallāğ


This study challenges the conventional image of the tenth-century Sufi mystic Al-Husayn Ibn Manṣūr al-Ḥallāğ (d. 929) as an anti-philosophical mystic. Unlike the predominantly theological or text-historical studies which constitute much of the scholarly literature on Ḥallāğ, this study is completely philosophical in nature, placing Ḥallāğ within the tradition of Graeco-Arabic philosophy and emphasizing, in a positive light, his continuity with the pagan Neoplatonism of Plotinus and Proclus.
Publisher: Gorgias Press LLC
Availability: In stock
SKU (ISBN): 978-1-4632-3917-6
Publication Status: In Print
Publication Date: Oct 30,2018
Interior Color: Black
Trim Size: 6 x 9
Page Count: 232
Language: English
ISBN: 978-1-4632-3917-6
$141.00
Your price: $84.60

This study challenges the conventional image of the tenth-century Sufi mystic Al-Husayn Ibn Manṣūr al-Ḥallāğ (d. 929) as an anti-philosophical mystic. Unlike the predominantly theological or text-historical studies which constitute much of the scholarly literature on Ḥallāğ, this study is completely philosophical in nature, placing Ḥallāğ within the tradition of Graeco-Arabic philosophy and emphasizing, in a positive light, his continuity with the pagan Neoplatonism of Plotinus and Proclus. For anyone interested in the origins of philosophical thought in Ṣūfism, who wishes to understand the vast influence that Greek philosophy has had on the development of medieval Islamic mysticism in its formative period, this study will, therefore, be essential reading. Besides calling attention to several important aspects of Ḥallāğ’s thought that have been underemphasized or neglected altogether in previous studies, this one represents the first of its kind in the exploration of Ḥallāğ as a philosopher, that is, as an exponent of metaphysical and theological ideas. That Ḥallāğ was an astonishing and admirable mystic, a great literary talent and a superb Sufi poet, is undeniable. However, the extended answer, which is my thesis, argues that all of these other facets must be understood in terms of Ḥallāğ’s being as a philosopher, namely, as a thinker incorporating Neoplatonic modes of reasoning and argumentation as a result of his immersion in the Graeco-Arabic renaissance of the ninth and tenth centuries. Thus, rather than treating him as a mystic with no interest in philosophical matters, only driven by an irrational urge to experience a super-sensible reality, this study brings to the fore the Neoplatonic logic in Ḥallāğ’s thought, providing an analytical exposition of the philosophical reasoning and conceptualization underlying his Ṣūfism.

Review

The work is lively and stimulating, and follows a progression, a method of exposition as pedagogical. It emphasizes the philosophical coherence of an author who often describes himself as an ecstatic «ivre», a šaṭṭāḥ, an inst- table. The chapters establish conceptual reports between literary fragments often malaise to understand the fact of their esotericism. They present a new framing, philosophical and competitive, compared to the solid synthesis of Louis Massignon. Declining the lines of division of academic disciplines and sectoral positions, it helps to show that the neoplatonic thought did not only produce the falsafa as it, or contributed to the elaboration of ismaelian teaching, but that it also fecundé le soufisme ancien. The link between the ḥallāǧienne work and the thought of Ibn ʿArabī is similar to that. In this sense, this book remains a source in the studies on the thinking of al-Ḥallāǧ.

- Pierre Lory, Arabica 68, 2021, Translated from the original French.

This study challenges the conventional image of the tenth-century Sufi mystic Al-Husayn Ibn Manṣūr al-Ḥallāğ (d. 929) as an anti-philosophical mystic. Unlike the predominantly theological or text-historical studies which constitute much of the scholarly literature on Ḥallāğ, this study is completely philosophical in nature, placing Ḥallāğ within the tradition of Graeco-Arabic philosophy and emphasizing, in a positive light, his continuity with the pagan Neoplatonism of Plotinus and Proclus. For anyone interested in the origins of philosophical thought in Ṣūfism, who wishes to understand the vast influence that Greek philosophy has had on the development of medieval Islamic mysticism in its formative period, this study will, therefore, be essential reading. Besides calling attention to several important aspects of Ḥallāğ’s thought that have been underemphasized or neglected altogether in previous studies, this one represents the first of its kind in the exploration of Ḥallāğ as a philosopher, that is, as an exponent of metaphysical and theological ideas. That Ḥallāğ was an astonishing and admirable mystic, a great literary talent and a superb Sufi poet, is undeniable. However, the extended answer, which is my thesis, argues that all of these other facets must be understood in terms of Ḥallāğ’s being as a philosopher, namely, as a thinker incorporating Neoplatonic modes of reasoning and argumentation as a result of his immersion in the Graeco-Arabic renaissance of the ninth and tenth centuries. Thus, rather than treating him as a mystic with no interest in philosophical matters, only driven by an irrational urge to experience a super-sensible reality, this study brings to the fore the Neoplatonic logic in Ḥallāğ’s thought, providing an analytical exposition of the philosophical reasoning and conceptualization underlying his Ṣūfism.

Review

The work is lively and stimulating, and follows a progression, a method of exposition as pedagogical. It emphasizes the philosophical coherence of an author who often describes himself as an ecstatic «ivre», a šaṭṭāḥ, an inst- table. The chapters establish conceptual reports between literary fragments often malaise to understand the fact of their esotericism. They present a new framing, philosophical and competitive, compared to the solid synthesis of Louis Massignon. Declining the lines of division of academic disciplines and sectoral positions, it helps to show that the neoplatonic thought did not only produce the falsafa as it, or contributed to the elaboration of ismaelian teaching, but that it also fecundé le soufisme ancien. The link between the ḥallāǧienne work and the thought of Ibn ʿArabī is similar to that. In this sense, this book remains a source in the studies on the thinking of al-Ḥallāǧ.

- Pierre Lory, Arabica 68, 2021, Translated from the original French.

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ContributorBiography

Saer El-Jaichi

Saer El-Jaichi holds a PhD in Islamic Studies from the University of Copenhagen, where he also lectures in various aspects of classical and contemporary Islamic thought.

Table of Contents (v)
Preface (vii)
Abbreviations and Transliteration (ix) 
Introduction (1)
   Methodological considerations (8) 
   The Arabic Neoplatonic Texts (10) 
   Structure of the book (12)
Chapter I. God’s Unknowability: Tanzīh as Neoplatonic Via Negativa (15) 
   I.1 The theological debate in medieval Islam regarding the via negativa: a brief overview (18)
   I.2 The attributes of God as seen from Ḥallāğ’s perspective (23)
   I.3 The inadequacy of human language to express God (27)
   I.4 Ḥallāğ’s via negativa and the Neoplatonic account of God’s non-being (35) 
   I.5 Final remarks (46)
Chapter II. The Theophanic Creator-God: The Muʿill as One and Multiple (49)
   II.1 Causation as non-reciprocal dependence (51)
   II.2 Contemplation as the principal mode of creation (59)
   II.3 Participation as the principle of existence (62)
   II.4 Participation in Plotinus and the AP (65)
   II.5 Ḥallāğ’s concept the Muʿill and Neoplatonic Self-contemplation (76)
   II.5.1 God’s contemplative role in Ḥallāğ’s creation account (79)
   II.6 Is Ḥallāğ a pantheist? (84)
   II.7 Final remarks (91)
Chapter III. The Experience of Divine Love, Creation and Cosmology (93)
   III.1 Context: The One as source and ultimate goal of all beings (96)
   III.2 The idea of “the Good” (102)
   III.3 The final cause in the Aristotelian context (104)
   III.4 God as a final cause in the AP and Ḥallāğ (108)
   III.5 Neoplatonic reversion and its repercussions in Ḥallāğ (114)
   III.6 Divine ʿIšq: the source, vehicle and goal of divine self-communication (128) 
      III.6.1 Text in context: the faṣl fīʾl-ʿišq (133)
      III.6.2 God’s self-identical solitude (134)
      III.6.3 God’s eternal act of self-intellection as self-desire (138)
      III.6.4 God’s self-desire as a means of His self-communication (142)
      III.6.5 The procession of Intellect due to God’s radiation (144)
   III.7 Final remarks (148)
Chapter IV. The Neoplatonic Role of the Primordial Muḥammad in Ḥallāğ’s Cosmology (155)
   IV.1 Emanation through the light of the lamp (157)
   IV.2 Muḥammad’s primordial participation in God’s nūr (162)
   IV.3 Muḥammad’s demiurgic role (167)
   IV.4 The archetypal ideal and final purpose of the cosmos (174)
   IV.5 Final remarks (179)
Conclusion (183)
   Chapter I (183)
   Chapter II (183)
   Chapter III (184)
   Chapter IV (185)
Bibliography (189)
Index (219)

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