When Hallaj (d. 922) spoke the (in)famously provocative words Ana’l-haqq (I am the Real/Truth), he was not only severely criticised – it led to his trial and execution in Baghdad. In this talk we will be looking at how this oft-quoted saying came to be understood by other Sufis and how it might be relevant to us today. What do people mean when they claim identity with the Divine? What exactly do we take to be true or real? In particular, we shall try to go beyond the common images of Hallaj by meditating on some of his poetry, which was so influential on later generations including Ibn ‘Arabi.
Stephen Hirtenstein is a long-time student of Ibn ’Arabi: he is co-founder of Anqa Publishing, editor of the Ibn ‘Arabi Society Journal, and translator of Ibn ‘Arabi’s work. He runs courses on Islamic mysticism at Oxford University, most recently a 5-week course on early Islamic mystical poetry.