Abdul Alhazred is attributed as the mysterious author of the Necronomicon. Like the dark book he is reputed to have written, he was the creation of the fertile mind of Howard Phillips Lovecraft (1890-1937), who invented both Alhazred and the Necronomicon as background details for his terrifying stories of cosmic horror.
Lovecraft wrote that Alhazred was a mad poet of Yemen who in his youth explored the great Arabian desert known as the Empty Space. He traveled widely across the ancient world in search of arcane wisdom, and in his old age wrote a book documenting what he had gleaned in secret places beneath the earth—of strange necromancies, lost cities and god-like races of extraterrestrials so alien they were not even composed of flesh. Alhazred worshiped these gods, and in the year 738, while living out his old age in Damascus, he paid the ultimate price for his hubris. He was caught up into the air in the city marketplace in full view of the throng and devoured piece by piece by an invisible monster.
Alhazred plays no active role in Lovecraft’s stories, but is merely said to be the author of the Necronomicon, which is the focus of the reader’s attention. When I put together Necronomicon (Llewellyn, 2004), I felt Alhazred’s presence constantly at my shoulder, filling my mind with his wanderings and his curious adventures. He does not appear in my version of Necronomicon, save for a brief mention at the very end of the book, but his unseen presence haunts each page. The Necronomicon was based on the knowledge he acquired while wandering the Empty Space and traveling through Egypt, Persia, and other lands. It was written in his old age, as he gazed back over the years into his past.
When I finished Necronomicon, I knew there was another story to tell—the story of Alhazred in his youth, the wonders and terrors he experienced while roaming distant lands acquiring forbidden wisdom, the passion that drove him to venture into the dark caverns at the roots of the world and confront the abominations of nature that dwell there, the circumstances of his life that resulted in his madness on the burning sands of the Empty Space. Whereas the Necronomicon is a gathering of wisdom by the poet in his old age, stripped of human emotion and personal details, the novel Alhazred presents the actual life of the young poet as it is being lived.
Because of youthful indiscretions with the king’s daughter, Alhazred, who had been court poet of Yemen and a favorite of the king, was exiled into the Empty Space. Before his expulsion into the desert, he was punished in ways too horrifying to mention in this essay, ways that robbed him of his love, his humanity, even his very reason. His wanderings detail his efforts to recover what had been so cruelly stripped away from him, and to transform himself from a naked and penniless vagabond into a necromancer. As he travels through lost cities and occult portals unknown to those who walk upright, he learns of the early history of this planet, of the races from the stars who were its masters long before the evolution of mankind, of their terrible wars and the consequences of their inevitable return.
Alhazred does not wander in solitude but moves through the rich world of the Middle East at the close of the Seventh Century, not many decades after the armies of Mohammed swept through Arabia, Syria, Egypt, Persia, and other lands to create the Muslim Empire. He is outwardly a member of the Muslim ruling class, but in his tortured soul he gives no allegiance to the teachings of Mohammed. Alhazred’s gods are the Great Old Ones who came in eons past from beyond the stars, and who continue to maintain a foothold in our world, biding their time until the heavens realign themselves and cease to cast down rays poisonous to their kind.
Against his will, Alhazred is forced to become a spy for the Old One known as Nyarlathotep, who seeks to use him to probe the plots of his enemies. In the Seventh Century, many nameless cults still flourished alongside Christianity and Islam. Much of the world remained unexplored and unknown. Strange worshipers of alien gods conducted dark rituals beneath the moon, and gave sacrifices of human blood. Yet in addition to those who remained loyal to the Old Ones, there were sworn foes that fought them with potent arts.
Alhazred meets these and other wonders in his wanderings, but perhaps the greatest of them all is love. In spite of the horrors committed against him and his madness, which together transform him into something other than human, he is not without companionship and affection, though they take forms that would earn him a sentence of death were they to become known, for his lover is even less human than Alhazred.