Al-Hallaj’s praise of Pharaoh and Iblees
Mansoor ibn Husayn ibn Hallaj who was executed and declared apostates by the scholars of his time wrote in his Famous book “At-Tawasin” as translated by the Sufi Aisha Bewley:
“The Ta-Sin of Before Endless-Time and Equivocation (for he who understands, in the understanding of the understanding relative to public discourse as to what is legitimate in regard to intentions.)
1. The Master Abu’l-Mughith, may Allah be merciful to him, said: ‘There is no established mission except that of Iblis and Muhammad, peace be on him, only Iblis fell from the Essence while Muhammad perceived the Essence of the Essence.’
2. It was said to Iblis: ‘Prostrate yourself!’ and to Muhammad – ‘Look!’ But Iblis did not prostrate himself, and Muhammad did not look, he did not turn to the right or the left, ‘his eye swerved nor, nor swept astray.’
3. As for Iblis, having announced his mission, he did not return to his first power.
4. And when Muhammad announced his mission he returned to his power.
5. With this statement, ‘It is in You that I am transported and on You that I fling myself,’ and also, ‘Oh You who turn the hearts’ and ‘I do not know how to praise You as You should be praised.
6. Among the inhabitants of heaven there was no unitarian or worshipper like Iblis.
7. For Iblis there appeared the Divine Essence. He was prevented from even a blink of the eye of awareness, and he began to worship the Adored One in ascetic isolation.
8. He was cursed when he reached the double isolation, and he was questioned when he demanded the ultimate solitude.
9. Allah said to him: ‘Prostrate yourself!!’ He said: ‘Not before another than You.’ He said to him: ‘Even if my curse falls on you?’ He said: ‘It will not punish me.’
10. ‘My denial is to affirm your purity and my reason remains disordered in You. And what is Adam compared to You and who am I, Iblis, to differentiate from You!’
11. He fell into the Sea of Majesty, he became blind, and said: ‘There is no path for me to other-than-You. I am a humble lover.’ He said to him: ‘You have become proud.’ He said: ‘If there was one glance between us, it would have been enough to make me proud and imperious, but I am he who knew You in Before Endless-Time, “I am better than Him” because I have served You for a longer time. No one, in the two types of beings, knows You better than I do! There was an intention of Yours in me, and an intention of mine in You, and both of them preceded Adam. If I prostrated before another than You or if I did not prostrate it would be necessary me to return to my origin, since You created me of fire, and fire returns to fire, according to an equilibrium and choice which are Yours.
12. There is no distance from You for me, since I became certain that distance and nearness are one.
For me, if I was left, your desertion would be my companion, so how much more are desertion and love truly one!
Glory to You in Your Providence and in the Essence of your Inaccessibility for the pious worshipper who does not prostrate before any other than You.’
13. Musa met Iblis on the slope of Sinai and said to him: ‘Oh Iblis, what prevented you from prostrating?’ He said: ‘That which prevented me was my declaration of a Unique Beloved, and if I had prostrated I would have become like you, because you were only called upon once to ‘look at the mountain’ and you looked. As for me, I was called upon a thousand times to prostrate myself to Adam and I did not prostrate myself because I stood by the Intention of my Declaration.
14. Sayedina Musa said: ‘You abandoned a Command?’ Iblis said: ‘It was a test. Not a command.’ Sayedina Musa said: ‘Without sin? But your face was deformed.’ Iblis replied: ‘Oh Musa, that is but the ambiguity of appearances, while the spiritual state does not rely on it and does not change. Gnosis remains true even as it was at the beginning and does not change even if the individual changes.’
15. Sayedina Musa said: ‘Do you remember Him now?’ ‘Oh Musa, pure mind does not have need of memory – by it I am remembered and He is remembered. His remembrance is my remembrance, and my remembrance is His remembrance. How, when remembering ourselves, can we two be other than one? My service is now purer, my time more pleasant, my remembrance more glorious, because I served Him in the absolute for my good fortune, and now I serve Him for Himself.’
16. ‘I lifted greed from everything which prevents or defends for the sake of loss as well as gain. He isolated me, made me ecstatic, confused me, expelled me, so that I would no mix with the saints. He put me far from others because of my jealous for Him alone. He deformed me, because He amazed me, and amazed me because He banished me. He banished me because I was a servant and put me in a forbidden state because of my companionship. He showed my lack of worth because I praised His Glory. He reduced me to a simple robe of ihram because if my hijya. He left me because of my union, He unified me because he cut me off. He cut me off because He had prevented my desire.
17. By His Truth I was not in error in respect to His decree, I did not refuse destiny. I did not care at all about the deformation of my face. I kept my equilibrium throughout these sentences.
18. If He punishes me with His fire for all of eternity I would not prostrate myself before anyone, and I would not abase myself before any person or body because I do not recognize any opposite with Him! My Declaration is that of the Sincere and I am one of those sincere in love.’
19. Al-Hallaj said: ‘There are various theories regarding the spiritual states of Azazyl (Iblis before his fall). One said that he was charged with a mission in heaven, and with a mission on earth. In heaven he preached to the Angels showing them good works, and on earth preaching to men and jinn showing them evil deeds.
20. Because one does not recognize things except by their opposites, as with fine white silk which can only be woven using black fabric behind it – so the Angel could show good actions and say symbolically “If you do these you will be rewarded.” But he who did not know evil before cannot recognize good.’
21. The Master Abu ‘Umar Al-Hallaj said: ‘I deliberated with Iblis and Pharon on the honor of the generous. Iblis said: “If I had prostrated myself I would have lost my name of honor.” Pharon said: “If I had believed in this Messenger I would have fallen from my rank of honor.”
22. I said: “If I had disavowd my teaching and my speech, I would have fallen from the hall of honor.
23. When Iblis said: “I am better than him,” then he could not see anyone other than himself. When Pharon said “I know not that you have other Divinity than me,” he did not recognize that any of his people could distinguish between the true and the false.
24. And I said: “If you do not know Him, then know His signs, I am His sign (tajalli) and I am the Truth! And this is because I have not ceased to realize the Truth!”
25. My companion is Iblis and my teacher is Pharon, Iblis was threatened with the fire and did not retract his allegation. Pharon was drowned in the Red Sea without retracting his allegation or recognizing any mediator. But he said: “I believe that there is no Divinity but He in whom the tribe of Israel believe, ” and don’t you see that Allah opposed Jibril in His glory? He said: “Why did you fill your mouth with sand?”
26. And I was killed, crucified, my hands and feet cut off without retracting my assertion.
27. The name of Iblis was derived from his first name, Azazyl in which were changed: the ‘ayn representing the amplitude of his endeavor, the zay, representing the growing frequency of his visits, the alif – his way in His rank, the second zay – his asceticism in His rank, and the ya – his wandering walk to his agony, and lam – his obstinacy in his pain.
28. He said to him: “You do not prostrate, oh contemptible one!” He said, “Say rather – lover, for a lover is despised, so you call me despicable. I have read in a Manifest Book, oh All-Powerful and Steadfast, that this would happen to me. So how could I lower myself before Adam when you created him of earth and me from fire? These two opposites cannot agree. And I have served you longer, and have a greater virtue and a vaster knowledge and a more perfect activity.
29. Allah, may He be praised, said to him: “The choice is mine, not yours.” He said: “All choices and my choice itself are yours, because You had already chosen for me, oh Creator, If you prevented me from prostrating before him You were the cause of the prevention. If I err in speech You do not leave me because You are the All-Hearing. If You had willed that I prostrate before him, I would have been obedient. I do not know anyone among the Wise who knows you better than I do.”
30. Do not blame me, the idea of censure is distant from me, reward me then, my master, for I am alone. If, in being a promise, Your promise is truly the Truth in principle, the principle of my vocation is strong indeed. He who wishes to write this declaration of mine, read it, and know that I am a martyr!
31. Oh my brother! He was called Azazyl because he was dismissed, dismissed from his primitive purity. He did not return from his origin to his end, because he did not go out from his end, he left, cursed from his origin.
32. His attempt to go out miscarried because of the fixity of his kindling. He found himself between the fire of his resting place and the light of his high position.
33. The source on the plain is a low-lying lake. He was tormented by thirst in the place where there was abundance. He cried his pain because the fire burned him, and his fear was nothing but simulation and his blindness is vanity and – here he is!
34. Oh my brother! If you have understood, you have considered the narrow pass in its very narrowness and you have represented the imagination to yourself in its very unreality, and you have returned distressed and full of anxiety.
35. The most alert of the Knowers remained silent on Iblis and the gnostics did not have the strength to explain that which they had learned. Iblis was stronger that them in adoration and nearer than them to the Presence of the Essence. He exerted himself more and was more loyal to the covenant and was closer to them than the Adored.
36. The other Angels prostrated before Adam for support, and Iblis refused, because he had been in contemplation for a long time already.
37. But his case became confused and his thought went astray, so he said: “I am better than him.” He remained in the veil and did not value the dust, and brought damnation on himself for the After-Endless-Time of After-Endless-Time.