Abdul Alhazred

Abdul Alhazred is a fictional character created by American horror writer H. P. Lovecraft. He is the so-called "Mad Arab" credited with authoring the fictional book Kitab al-Azif (the Necronomicon), and as such is an integral part of Cthulhu Mythos lore.

Abdul Alhazred
Cthulhu Mythos character
First appearance
Created byH.P. Lovecraft
Full nameAbdul Alhazred
AliasThe Mad Arab
Date of death738 A.D.


Abdul Alhazred was a pseudonym adopted by Lovecraft after reading 1001 Arabian Nights in his early childhood. The name may have been invented by Lovecraft himself or the Phillips' family lawyer Albert Baker.[1]

Abdul (Abd al) is a common Arabic name component (meaning "servant of the") but never a name by itself. Alhazred may allude to "Hazard", a reference to the book's destructive and dangerous nature, or to Lovecraft's ancestors by that name.[2][3] It might also have been a play on "all-has-read", since Lovecraft was an avid reader in youth.[4]

Another possibility, raised in an essay by the Swedish fantasy writer and editor Rickard Berghorn, is that the name Alhazred was influenced by references to two historical authors: Alhazen ben Josef, who translated Ptolemy into Arabic; and Abu 'Ali al-Hasan ibn al-Haytham, who wrote about optics, mathematics and physics (both authors were known in the Latin West as "Alhazen", although the latter was substantially more popular than the former). Ibn al-Haytham is said to have pretended to be mad to escape the wrath of a ruler.[5]

Abdul Alhazred is not a real Arabic name, and seems to contain the Arabic definite article morpheme al- twice in a row (anomalous in terms of Arabic grammar). The more proper Arabic form might be Abd-al-Hazred or Abdul Hazred. In Arabic translations, his name has appeared as Abdullah Alḥa ẓred (عبدالله الحظرد): Arabic ḥaẓaraحظر = "he fenced in", "he prohibited". Hazred could come from the Arabic word "Hazrat" meaning Great Lord with a twist that makes it sound like "red" and "hazard" both indicative of danger. It is also thought by some to be a corruption of sorts on the phrase "All has read", to imply he has read much, and has immense amounts of knowledge. However Abdul is a common Arabic prefix meaning "Servant" and "Al" is Arabic for "the", and if "hazra" means "he prohibited", "he fenced in" or "Great Lord", then the name would mean "Servant of the Prohibited", "Servant of the Fenced in", or "Servant of the Great Lord" which would make sense considering his role, even if it is not a proper Arabic name.

An explanation that is more in sync with Arabic usage and existing Sufi tradition is that it is a corruption of "Abd-al-Hazra[h]" عبدالحضرة, where "haẓrat" is the Persian and Ottoman Turkish form of the Arabic word "Haḍra[t]" | Hadrat حضرة meaning "presence" used by some speakers as an honorific title before the names of prophets, saints, and also as a mnemonic for the name of Allah, as well as a common honorific title for ordinary people. The final taa marbuta is customarily variably turned into "t" or omitted in spoken Arabic in various varieties. "Haḍra" is also the name of the Sufi Dhikr[6].

The phrase "mad Arab", sometimes with both words capitalized in Lovecraft's stories, is used so commonly before Alhazred's name that it almost constitutes a title. A reference to the "Mad Arab" in Cthulhu Mythos fiction is invariably a synonym for Abdul Alhazred. Later writers sometimes preface Alhazred with words such as "monk" (such as in the Chick parody tract "Who will be Eaten First?" by Howard Hallis) or "scholar".


H. P. Lovecraft

According to Lovecraft's "History of the Necronomicon" (written 1927, first published 1938), Alhazred was:

a mad poet of Sanaá, in Yemen, who is said to have flourished during the period of the Ommiade caliphs, circa 700 A.D. He visited the ruins of Babylon and the subterranean secret of Memphis and spent ten years alone in the great southern desert of Arabiathe Roba El Khaliyeh or "Empty Space" of the ancientsand "Dahna" or "Crimson" desert of the modern Arabs, which is held to be inhabited by protective evil spirits and monsters of death. Of this desert many strange and unbelievable marvels are told by those who pretend to have penetrated it. In his last years Alhazred dwelt in Damascus.

Alhazred rejected the Muslim faith, instead choosing to worship the cosmic entities Yog-Sothoth and Cthulhu.[5][7] In AD 730, while still living in Damascus, Alhazred supposedly wrote a book of ultimate evil in Arabic, al-Azif, which would later become known as the Necronomicon. Those who have dealings with this book usually come to an unpleasant end, and Alhazred was no exception. Again according to Lovecraft's "History":

Of his final death or disappearance (738 A.D.) many terrible and conflicting things are told. He is said by Ebn Khallikan (12th cent. biographer) to have been seized by an invisible monster in broad daylight and devoured horribly before a large number of fright-frozen witnesses. Of his madness many things are told. He claimed to have seen the fabulous Irem, or City of Pillars, and to have found beneath the ruins of a certain nameless desert town the shocking annals and secrets of a race older than mankind. He was only an indifferent Moslem, worshipping unknown entities whom he called Yog-Sothoth and Cthulhu.

August Derleth

August Derleth later made alterations to the biography of Alhazred, such as redating his death to 731. Derleth also changed Alhazred's final fate, as described in his short story "The Keeper of the Key", first published in May 1951. In the story, Professor Laban Shrewsbury (a recurring Derleth character) and his assistant at the time, Nayland Colum, discover Alhazred's burial site.

While the two are heading a caravan from Salalah, Oman, they cross the border into Yemen and find the unexplored desert area that the Necronomicon calls "Roba el Ehaliyeh" or "Roba el Khaliyeh" – presumably a reference to the Empty Quarter or "Rub al Khali".

At the center of the area they discover the Nameless City (the setting of the Lovecraft story of the same name) and in Derleth's text the domain of the Great Old One Hastur. Shrewsbury, an old agent of Hastur and the devoted enemy of Hastur's half-brother, Cthulhu, crosses its gates in search of Alhazred's burial site.

He indeed finds Alhazred's burial chamber and learns of his fate. Alhazred had been kidnapped in Damascus and brought to the Nameless City, where he had earlier studied and learned some of the Necronomicon's lore. As punishment for betraying their secrets, Alhazred was tortured. Then they blinded him, severed his tongue and executed him.

Although the entrance to the chamber warns against disturbing him, Shrewsbury opens Alhazred's sarcophagus anyway, finding that only rags, bones, and dust remain of Alhazred. However, the sarcophagus also contains Alhazred's personal, incomplete copy of the Necronomicon, written in the Arabic alphabet. Shrewsbury then uses necromancy to recall Alhazred's spirit and orders it to draw a map of the world as he knew it. After obtaining the map, which reveals the location of R'lyeh and other secret places, Shrewsbury finally lets Alhazred return to his eternal rest.

Other Appearances

Alhazred is mentioned as the author of "a huge book of spells... bound in human skin... written on the high, distant Plains of Leng" which is in the possession of Flagg, in Stephen King's The Eyes of the Dragon.[8]

See also


  1. Harms, p. 7, The Encyclopedia Cthulhiana.
  2. L. Sprague de Camp, Lovecraft, a Biography. Ballantine, 1976.
  3. Rootsweb page on Lovecraft's family tree, showing his Hazard ancestry.
  4. Pearsall, "Alhazred, Abdul", The Lovecraft Lexicon, p. 55.
  5. Rickard Berghorn, Rickard. "Alhazen och Alhazred" (in Swedish). alephbok.se. Archived from the original on August 12, 2010.
  6. Abu al-Abbas al-Mursi, the Alexandrian Andalusian Sufi from the 13th century CE, is quoted to have said "All universes are slaves subdued for you, and you are the slave of the presence (lit. Abd alHadra)" in Arabic "الأكوان كلها عبيد مسخرة لك، وأنت عبد الحضرة".
  7. Lovecraft, H. P. (1938). "History of the Necronomicon".
  8. The Eyes of the Dragon. Viking. 1987. pp. 60.


  • August Derleth (2000) [1951]. "The Keeper of the Key". Quest for Cthulhu. New York, NY: Carroll & Graf. ISBN 0-7867-0752-6.
  • Harms, Daniel (1998). The Encyclopedia Cthulhiana (2nd ed.). Oakland, CA: Chaosium. ISBN 1-56882-119-0.
  • Lovecraft, Howard P. History of The Necronomicon. West Warwick, RI: Necronomicon Press. ISBN 0-318-04715-2.
  • Pearsall, Anthony B. (2005). The Lovecraft Lexicon (1st ed.). Tempe, AZ: New Falcon. ISBN 1-56184-129-3.
  • Knaut, Andrew (June 2013). Ruby Alsharaf (ed.). Metrom. Blogger. Archived from the original on July 24, 2013.
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