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ISBN 978-0-8101-3736-3

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ISBN 978-0-8101-3735-6
Publication Date
July 2018
Page Count
272 pages
Trim Size
6 x 9


Poems of a Sufi Martyr
Translated from the Arabic by Carl W. Ernst

Hallaj is the first authoritative translation of the Arabic poetry of Husayn ibn Mansur al-Hallaj, an early Sufi mystic. Despite his execution in Baghdad in 922 and the subsequent suppression of his work, Hallaj left an enduring literary and spiritual legacy that continues to inspire readers around the world. In Hallaj, Carl W. Ernst offers a definitive collection of 117 of Hallaj’s poems expertly translated for contemporary readers interested in Middle Eastern and Sufi poetry and spirituality.

Ernst’s fresh and direct translations reveal Hallaj’s wide range of themes and genres, from courtly love poems to metaphysical reflections on union with God. In a fascinating introduction, Ernst traces Hallaj’s dramatic story within classical Islamic civilization and early Arabic Sufi poetry. Setting himself apart by revealing Sufi secrets to the world, Hallaj was both celebrated and condemned for declaring: “I am the Truth.”

Expressing lyrics and ideas still heard in popular songs, the works of Hallaj remain vital and fresh even a thousand years after their composition. They reveal him as a master of spiritual poetry centuries before Rumi, who regarded Hallaj as a model. This unique collection makes it possible to appreciate the poems on their own, as part of the tragic legend of Hallaj, and as a formidable legacy of Middle Eastern culture.
About the Author

HUSAYN IBN MANSUR AL-HALLAJ was born in the ninth century and became a major writer and thinker of the Sufi movement.

CARL W. ERNST is William R. Kenan, Jr., Distinguished Professor of Islamic Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and codirector of the Carolina Center for the Study of the Middle East and Muslim Civilizations. He is the author of How to Read the Qur’an: A New Guide, with Select Translations and many other scholarly works.


“'Before Rumi there was Hallaj.' Carl Ernst makes this astute observation is his Hallaj: Poems of a Sufi Martyr, to date the most thorough study in English of the verse of al-Husayn ibn Mansur al-Hallaj, a seminal figure of Islamic mysticism. Ernst provides a rigorous introduction to the writings of Hallaj, followed by carefully crafted translations based on his insightful readings of over a hundred poems ascribed to this early Sufi poet." —Th. Emil Homerin, author of Principles of Sufism

“This translation of al-Hallaj's poetry by a specialist in Sufism comes at the right time. With the increasing interest in Sufism, al-Hallaj's poetry responds to many queries with respect to Sufism, its itineraries, idioms, and basic conceptualizations that lay the ground for later scholarship. Carl Ernst mobilized his devotion, tact, and artistry to convey sense and sound of the poetry of a great Sufi master.” —Muhsin al-Musawi, author of The Medieval Islamic Republic of Letters

"Ernst has lovingly prologued the poet’s life and work, paying homage to a poet we’d otherwise never have known. He advances the cause of Islam and poetry, illuminates the Qur’an; and dialogues with this poet about the meanings and manners of poetry held in a special time and place that’s now sustained as a living thing." —The Washington Independent Review of Books

"As the modern Indian novelist, Vaikom Muhammad Basheer, wrote about Hallaj in his short story collection Anargha Nimisham . . . his enemies may eliminate Hallaj’s body but they cannot extinguish his voice. This book amplifies Hallaj’s voice in a new language." —Reading Religion