International Journal of Humanities and Social Science

ISSN 2220-8488 (Print), 2221-0989 (Online) 10.30845/ijhss

Religious Language and the Charge of Blasphemy: In Defence of Al-Hallaj
Mustapha Abdul-Hamid

On the 24th of March 922CE, a Muslim mystic was executed in Baghdad for the alleged crime of blasphemy. Husayn Al-Mansur better known by the nickname Al-Hallāj had his hands and feet struck off and hanged on a gibbet in the full glare of the public. He was also decapitated and his body burnt and his ashes thrown into a river. This ended the earthly career of a famous Muslim mystic. His crime was that he had uttered the words. “Anal Haqq”, (I am the truth). Al-Haqq (the truth) is one of the names or rather attributes of Allah. To have said that he is the truth meant that he was Allah. This paper revisits this Hallājian statement in the light of modern theories of language and conceptions of religious language. This paper posits that Al-Hallāj meant that his “I” is God and not that he is God. The crux of this paper’s argument is that God is not a known object, but a transcendent reality beyond our apprehension. Religious language is borrowed language. We borrow literal language and change it into metaphors of God. We may not move the other way and translate religious metaphors into literal propositions, which is what the religious authorities in Baghdad did in the case of Al-Hallāj. The paper therefore concludes that there was a travesty of justice in the case of Al-Hallāj since he spoke metaphorically and not literally.

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