Winner of the Global Humanities Translation Prize
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.
The Global Humanities Translation Prize is awarded annually to a previously unpublished translation that strikes the delicate balance between scholarly rigor, aesthetic grace, and general readability, as judged by a rotating committee of Northwestern faculty, distinguished international scholars, writers, and public intellectuals. The Prize is organized by the Global Humanities Initiative, which is jointly supported by Northwestern University’s Buffett Institute for Global Studies and Kaplan Institute for the Humanities.
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.