Execution of Husain Ibn Mansur Al-hallaj

Execution of Ḥusain Ibn Manṣūr Al-ḥallāj Outside the Gates of Baghdad in 922

Tarjuma-i Thawāqib-i manāqib (A Translation of Stars of the Legend), in Turkish
The translation was ordered in 1590 by Sultan Murād III (r. 1574–95) from the Persian abridgement of Aflākī.

Iraq, Baghdad
175 x 138 mm

Purchased by Pierpont Morgan, 1911

MS M.466, fol. 99v
Item description: 

Al-Ḥallāj (858–922), an early Sufi mystic, was condemned for heresy on account of the ecstatic utterances of "I am the Truth," or "I am God." The real reason had to do with political and religious rivalries among the Muslim orthodoxy and Sufis. The dervish in the foreground points to the group on the left, the ulama (religious, as opposed to spiritual, authorities), perhaps implicating them. Rūmī, however, said that al-Ḥallāj was executed because he questioned Muḥammad's judgment in not mediating for non-Muslins during his mi˓rāj (night ride to heaven). Al-Ḥallāj, in brown robes, is led to the gallows by two men wearing the tall red hats of executioners. In the text he asks for Muḥammad's pardon, who grants it in exchange for his head. Before the gallows Al-Ḥallāj said, "I know who asked for my head and I accept it." The Sufi spin, however, suggests that the gallows represent good tidings, promising the union that only death can achieve.

This miniature is part of a sixteenth-century manuscript account of the life and miracles of the Persian poet and mystic known as Rūmī. It is a Turkish translation of an abridged version of the original fourteenth-century Persian account by the dervish known as Aflākī.

Exhibition section: 

Rūmī, Persian Mystic And Poet
The sixteenth-century miniatures presented here concern the life and miracles of Jalāl al-Dīn Rūmī, called Mē vlāna (Our Master), the most famous member of the Mevlevī order and Persia's greatest Sufi mystic and poet. He was born in Balkh in 1207, but his family emigrated after his father foresaw the Mongol conquest. They eventually resettled in Konya, Turkey, then the capital of Anatolian Rūm (thus Rūmī), where the poet died on 17 December 1273.

Several Persian accounts of Rūmī's life have been written, the first by his son, Sultan Walad. The third, laden with moralizing miracle stories, was ordered by Rūmī's grandson Ulu ˓Ārif Chelebi. It was written by the dervish Shams al-Dīn Aḥmad, called Aflākī (d. 1360). Aflākī also incorporated verses from Rūmī's works, notably his six-volume Masnavī (a poetical form of rhyming couplets) and the Dīvān-i-Shams al-Dīn Tabrīzī, named after Shams of Tabriz, the mystic who changed Rūmī's life and transformed him into a poet when they met in 1244.

In 1590—three and a half centuries after Aflākī wrote his life of Rūmī—the Ottoman sultan Mūrad III ordered a Turkish translation of a 1540 abridged version of Aflākī's text entitled Tarjuma-i Thawāqib-i manāqib (Stars of the Legend). The translator was Darvīsh Mahmud Mesnevī Khān of Konya. Two illustrated copies of the Murād translation, both made in Baghdad, survive. One, dated 1599, is held by Topkapi Palace, Istanbul, and has twenty-two miniatures. The other, richer manuscript is held by the Morgan. It dates to the 1590s and includes twenty-nine miniatures. They are all featured here, along with two folios from other collections that are believed to have once been part of the Morgan manuscript.