Early philosophical ŪFISM

The Neoplatonic Thought of Ḥusayn Ibn Manṣūr al-Ḥallāğ

Saer El-Jaichi, New Jersey: Gorgias Press, 2018


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.

(Text from the publisher

Table of contents

Abbreviations and Transliteration
Methodological considerations
The Arabic Neoplatonic Texts
Structure of the book
Chapter I. God’s Unknowability: Tanzīh as Neoplatonic Via Negativa
I.1 The theological debate in medieval Islam regarding the via negativa: a brief overview
I.2 The attributes of God as seen from Ḥallāğ’s perspective
I.3 The inadequacy of human language to express God
I.4 Ḥallāğ’s via negativa and the Neoplatonic account of God’s non-being
I.5 Final remarks
Chapter II. The Theophanic Creator-God: The Muʿill as One and Multiple
II.1 Causation as non-reciprocal dependence
II.2 Contemplation as the principal mode of creation
II.3 Participation as the principle of existence
II.4 Participation in Plotinus and the AP
II.5 Ḥallāğ’s concept the Muʿill and Neoplatonic Self-contemplation
II.5.1 God’s contemplative role in Ḥallāğ’s creation account
II.6 Is Ḥallāğ a pantheist?
II.7 Final remarks
Chapter III. The Experience of Divine Love, Creation and Cosmology
III.1 Context: The One as source and ultimate goal of all beings
III.2 The idea of “the Good”
III.3 The final cause in the Aristotelian context
III.4 God as a final cause in the AP and Ḥallāğ
III.5 Neoplatonic reversion and its repercussions in Ḥallāğ
III.6 Divine ʿIšq: the source, vehicle and goal of divine self-communication
III.6.1 Text in context: the faṣl fīʾl-ʿišq
III.6.2 God’s self-identical solitude
III.6.3 God’s eternal act of self-intellection as self-desire
III.6.4 God’s self-desire as a means of His self-communication
III.6.5 The procession of Intellect due to God’s radiation
III.7 Final remarks
Chapter IV. The Neoplatonic Role of the Primordial Muḥammad in Ḥallāğ’s Cosmology
IV.1 Emanation through the light of the lamp
IV.2 Muḥammad’s primordial participation in God’s nūr
IV.3 Muḥammad’s demiurgic role
IV.4 The archetypal ideal and final purpose of the cosmos
IV.5 Final remarks
Chapter I
Chapter II
Chapter III
Chapter IV



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