Written and collected by Zia H Shah MD, Chief Editor of the Muslim Times
Abū ‘l-Muġīth Al-Ḥusayn bin Manṣūr al-Ḥallāj was a Persian mystic, poet and teacher of Sufism. Al-Hallaj gained a wide following as a preacher before he became implicated in power struggles of the Abbasid court and was executed on 26th of March 922 after a long period of confinement on religious and political charges. The legend has it that he was killed for saying that I am the Truth, Anāl-Ḥaqq, some thought that he is suggesting that he is god!
I have no desire to be a martyr, yet I have the audacity to declare that I am the second coming of Al Hallaj. Because, I believe that no one has a better commentary of the Al-Haqq attribute of Allah than I do, as I have worked on the ‘Religion and Science‘ theme in Islam and the Quran for more than two decades now: A Century of Scholarship for Quran and Science.
The second coming of Al-Hallaj may be more luminous this time around, because the description that Allah being the Truth will be more poignant, as I present the attribute with scientific and mathematical clarity, given the scientific developments in the last millennium.
Additionally, I want to do better than my first appearance, and learn from his destiny and avoid getting killed by the political elite, who are capable of mixing their religion with their political agenda.
However, this article is not as much about me, as my Muslim readers, as you will get to see in the last paragraph of this article. Please, don’t be carried away by the symbolism or the metaphors in this article.
My fear is that my commentary of the attribute of Al-Haqq can be taken as blasphemy by the established, as it may have implications for their political agenda and ambitions.
So, I just checked which countries have capital punishment for blasphemy charges. The countries that cannot be on my bucket list for traveling and site seeing, for the foreseeable future:
- Afghanistan: Blasphemy law in Afghanistan is defined by the Penal Code of 1976, which addresses “Crimes Against Religions”, but leaves the issue of blasphemy to Sharia. Sharia permits the authorities to treat blasphemy as a capital crime. The authorities can punish blasphemy with death if the blasphemy is committed by a male of sound mind over age 18 or by a female of sound mind over age 16. Anyone accused of blasphemy has three days to recant. If an accused does not recant, death by hanging may follow.
- Brunei: Capital punishment in Brunei was introduced for blasphemy in April 2019, but under heavy international pressure, the sultan of Brunei announced a moratorium on the death penalty while defending the legislation overall. Various offences of the new Sharia-based penal code which could be framed as ‘blasphemy’ include ‘Propagation of religion other than religion of Islam’ (Article 209), printing, disseminating, importing, broadcasting, and distributing of publications deemed contrary to Sharia (Articles 213, 214 and 215), non-Muslims using ‘Allah’ as the name of their god (for example, Bruneian Christians), ‘Contempt etc. of religious authority’ (Article 230), ‘Incitement to neglect religious duty’ (Article 235), amongst other Hudud crimes.
- Iran: The Islamic Republic of Iran has a penal code that is heavily influenced by Sharia. Amongst the religious offences that may be punished with execution are insulting the prophet Muhammad, and moharebeh, usually translated as ‘enmity against God’. The regime periodically executes dozens of prisoners, usually by hanging, by merit of religious offences. In practice, many of the executions seem not so much aimed at nonbelievers or religious dissenters, but at punishing political protests against the theocratic government, which argues that any opposition to its divinely granted authority is opposition to Allah himself, and therefore blasphemous. However, a legal clause provides that if a suspect professes that the insult was a mistake or made in anger, the sentence may be converted to 74 lashes instead of hanging.
- Mauritania: In 2018, Mauritania upgraded its punishment for blasphemy from imprisonment to death and made it compulsory; convicts were no longer given the option of repentance within three days to go free.
- Nigeria: Blasphemy law in Nigeria allows a suspect to be condemned for blasphemy via the Customary system and the Sharia system. Although this prohibition against blasphemy in the Criminal Code and in Sharia is potentially unconstitutional, since the Federal Constitution’s Section 38 entitles every Nigerian to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion, and Section 39 gives every Nigerian the right to freedom of expression, death sentences for blasphemy are frequently carried out in some of the 12 northern states that have implemented Sharia, such as Kano State in 2015 and 2016. Moreover, five Muslim vigilantes who reportedly hacked a Christian woman to death for ‘blaspheming the prophet Muhammad’ on 2 June 2016 were all acquitted of murder by the Sharia court of Kano State.
- Pakistan: Blasphemy in Pakistan is criminalised by Penal Code Articles 295 to 298. Only blasphemy under 295-C may be punished with the death penalty. It states: ‘Use of derogatory remarks, etc., in respect of the Holy Prophet: Whoever by words, either spoken or written, or by visible representation or by any imputation, innuendo, or insinuation, directly or indirectly, defiles the sacred name of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) shall be punished with death, or imprisonment for life, and shall also be liable to fine.’ ‘Apostasy’ is sometimes considered ‘evidence’ of ‘blasphemy’ and is then prosecuted as such, even though ‘apostasy’ itself is not a crime in Pakistan.
- Saudi Arabia: Blasphemy is conceived as ‘a deviation from Sunni Islam’ and therefore considered a form of apostasy, and may be prosecuted as such (contrary to other jurisdictions, where apostasy is sometimes considered a form/evidence of blasphemy). Because apostasy carries the death penalty, blasphemers are executed, usually by beheading or crucifixion. It is unclear whether blasphemy itself would be separately punishable if there was no prohibition on apostasy.
- Somalia: Due to the ongoing Somali civil war, the militant group Al-Shabaab is able to impose the death penalty for blasphemy in the areas it controls. On the other hand, the 1963 Criminal Code, which applies in the rest of the country, at most punishes ‘blasphemy’ and ‘defamation of Islam’ by up to two years in prison. The 2012 provisional federal constitution of Somalia and the Puntland and Somaliland regional constitutions, despite acknowledging the freedom of expression, all prohibit the promotion/propagation of religion other than Islam, though the punishment that the internationally recognised government and regional governments would apply for it is not clear.
To me the attribute Al Haq means that Allah is the perfect Truth and nothing but the Truth, falsehood touches him not. Today, I will discuss only three uses of the word الْحَقُّ in the holy Quran among more than a hundred.
Al-Haqq is one of the attributes of Allah, because Allah uses it for Himself in the Quran:
ذَٰلِكَ بِأَنَّ اللَّهَ هُوَ الْحَقُّ وَأَنَّهُ يُحْيِي الْمَوْتَىٰ وَأَنَّهُ عَلَىٰ كُلِّ شَيْءٍ قَدِيرٌ
“That is because Allah is the Truth, الْحَقُّ and that it is He Who brings the dead to life, and that He has power over all things.” (Al Quran 22:6) Please also see 31:30.
This attribute is intimately intertwined with the holy Quran being the truth and a revelation from the All Knowing, based on His knowledge of the secrets of the heaven and the earth:
المر ۚ تِلْكَ آيَاتُ الْكِتَابِ ۗ وَالَّذِي أُنزِلَ إِلَيْكَ مِن رَّبِّكَ الْحَقُّ وَلَٰكِنَّ أَكْثَرَ النَّاسِ لَا يُؤْمِنُونَ
اللَّهُ الَّذِي رَفَعَ السَّمَاوَاتِ بِغَيْرِ عَمَدٍ تَرَوْنَهَا ۖ ثُمَّ اسْتَوَىٰ عَلَى الْعَرْشِ ۖ وَسَخَّرَ الشَّمْسَ وَالْقَمَرَ ۖ كُلٌّ يَجْرِي لِأَجَلٍ مُّسَمًّى ۚ يُدَبِّرُ الْأَمْرَ يُفَصِّلُ الْآيَاتِ لَعَلَّكُم بِلِقَاءِ رَبِّكُمْ تُوقِنُونَ
وَهُوَ الَّذِي مَدَّ الْأَرْضَ وَجَعَلَ فِيهَا رَوَاسِيَ وَأَنْهَارًا ۖ وَمِن كُلِّ الثَّمَرَاتِ جَعَلَ فِيهَا زَوْجَيْنِ اثْنَيْنِ ۖ يُغْشِي اللَّيْلَ النَّهَارَ ۚ إِنَّ فِي ذَٰلِكَ لَآيَاتٍ لِّقَوْمٍ يَتَفَكَّرُونَ
These are the signs of the Scripture. What your Lord has sent down to you [Prophet] is the truth, yet most people do not believe. It is God who raised up the heavens with no visible supports and then established Himself on the throne; He has subjected the sun and the moon each to pursue its course for an appointed time; He regulates all things, and makes the revelations clear so that you may be certain of meeting your Lord; 3 it is He who spread out the earth, placed firm mountains and rivers on it, and made two of every kind of fruit; He draws the veil of night over the day. There truly are signs in this for people who reflect. (Al Quran 13:1-3)
God’s knowledge of the secrets of science that were totally unknown to humanity of the seventh century, when the Quran was revealed, not only serve as a proof of the Quran, but also help us understand science and the creation of the universe, in a realm of the perfect truth or الْحَقُّ:
وَمَا خَلَقْنَا السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضَ وَمَا بَيْنَهُمَا إِلَّا بِالْحَقِّ
“We have created the heavens and the earth and all that is between the two in accordance with the perfect truth and wisdom.” (Al Quran 15:85)
This verse implies that the laws of nature are inviolable and that indeed was the underpinning that set the study of nature and the scientific revolution into motion.
While, I and a very large majority of the scientists believe in the sanctity of laws of nature, the Catholic Church does not, for it has not only condoned exorcism but has held miracles to be supernatural events in violation of laws of nature.
In an article, What’s a ‘miracle’? Here’s how the Catholic Church decides, Dorian Llywelyn writes:
Theologians working for the Congregation assess all aspects of the life of a candidate for canonization. These include the “Promoter of the Faith” (sometimes called “the Devil’s advocate”), whose role was changed in 1983 from finding arguments against canonization to supervising the process.
Separately, a medical board of independent scientific experts is appointed to investigate a claimed miracle. They begin by looking for purely natural explanations as they review the medical history.
The process of canonization has undergone continuous revisions throughout history.
In 2016, Pope Francis initiated reforms in how the church assesses miracles, which are meant to make the process more rigorous and transparent.
Another of Francis’ reforms is that in order for a canonization case to go forward, two-thirds of the medical board are required to affirm that the miraculous event cannot be explained by natural causes. Previously, only a simple majority was needed.
From Catholicism, let us move to Protestantism. My favorite Christian Pastor is Joel Osteen, whom I consider as Prince of optimism and have often promoted his work about human psychology: Videos: Let Joel Osteen Breathe Hope, Optimism and Success in Your Life.
Having said that, his theology can be often unscientific, he not only believes in literal resurrection of Jesus but also believes that Jesus made Lazarus rise from the dead, four days after his death. A few articles about resurrection are in order: Did Jesus Die on Cross — BBC Documentary?, Do Christians Still Believe in the Resurrection of the Body? and Bishop John Shelby Spong, who took resurrection as a metaphor dies at 90.
The above examples are about Christians, but, I could be as easily or more easily on the wrong side of many Muslims from different denominations, because, I recently wrote an article: Is Islam a Religion or a State: Most Muslims Do Not Know?
So, if I want to not be a martyr, many of the Muslim countries need not be my travel destinations or stops: Afghanistan, Brunei, Iran, Mauritania, Nigeria (some northern states), Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Somalia (al-Shabaab-controlled areas).
I have been safe in USA since 1989. But, some caution is in order here as well, as the Supreme Court has started monkeying with the First Amendment: Is this Christian Shariah: Supreme Court Sides With Coach Over Prayers on 50-Yard Line?
There are conflicting reports about the first Al-Hallaj’s most famous saying, أنا الحق Anāl-Ḥaqq “I am The Truth,” which was taken to mean that he was claiming to be God, since Al-Ḥaqq “the Truth” is one of the Ninety Nine Names of Allah. The earliest report, coming from a hostile account of Basra grammarians, states that he said it in the mosque of Al-Mansur, while testimonies that emerged decades later claimed that it was said in private during consultations with Junayd Baghdadi. Even though this utterance has become inseparably associated with his execution in the popular imagination, owing in part to its inclusion in his biography by Attar of Nishapur, the historical issues surrounding his execution are far more complex. In another controversial statement, al-Hallaj claimed “There is nothing wrapped in my turban but God, ” and similarly he would point to his cloak and say, ما في جبتي إلا الله Mā fī jubbatī illā l-Lāh “There is nothing in my cloak but God.” He also wrote:
I saw my Lord with the eye of the heart
I asked, ‘Who are You?’
He replied, ‘You’.
These are poetic descriptions, but, what I find very safe to assume are: The Holy Quran: “His are the Most Beautiful Names!” and We are all living in the Womb of God-the-Mother, 13.8 billion Years Pregnancy.