|Farid ud-Din Attar
Iran/Persia (1120? - 1220?) Timeline
Muslim / Sufi
Poems by Farid ud-Din Attar
Books - Links
As a younger man, Attar went on pilgrimage to Mecca and traveled extensively, seeking wisdom in Egypt, Damascus, India, and other areas, before finally returning to his home city of Nishapur.
The name Attar means herbalist or druggist, which was his profession. (The profession can also carry implications of being an alchemist.) It is said that he saw as many as 500 patients a day in his shop, prescribing herbal remedies which he prepared himself, and he wrote his poetry while attending to his patients.
About thirty works by Attar survive, but his masterpiece is the Mantic at-Tayr (The Conference of the Birds). In this collection, he describes a group of birds (individual human souls) under the leadership of a hoopoe (spiritual master) who determine to search for the legendary Simurgh bird (God). The birds must confront their own individual limitations and fears while journeying through seven valleys before they ultimately find the Simurgh and complete their quest. The 30 birds who ultimately complete the quest discover that they themselves are the Simurgh they sought, playing on a pun in Persian (si and murgh can translate as 30 birds) while giving us an esoteric teaching on the presence of the Divine within us.
Attar's poetry inspired Rumi and many other Sufi poets. It is said that Rumi actually met Attar when Attar was an old man and Rumi was a boy, though some scholars dispute this possibility.
Farid ud-Din Attar was apparently tried at one point for heresy and exiled from Nishapur, but he eventually returned to his home city and that is where he died.
A traditional story is told about Attar's death. He was taken prisoner by a Mongol during the invasion of Nishapur. Someone soon came and tried to ransom Attar with a thousand pieces of silver. Attar advised the Mongol not to sell him for that price. The Mongol, thinking to gain an even greater sum of money, refused the silver. Later, another person came, this time offering only a sack of straw to free Attar. Attar then told the Mongol to sell him for that was all he was worth. Outraged at being made a fool, the Mongol cut off Attar's head.
Whether or not this is literally true isn't the point. This story is used to teach the mystical insight that the personal self isn't of much real worth. What is valuable is the Beloved's presence within us -- and that presence isn't threatened by the death of the body.
Poems by Farid ud-Din Attar
- A slave's freedom
- The Dullard Sage
- The moths and the flame
- The Valley of the Quest
- The pilgrim sees no form but His and knows
- The Simurgh
- God Speaks to Moses
- God Speaks to David
- The Pupil asks; the Master answers
- The Nightingale
- A dervish in ecstasy
- How long then will you seek for beauty here?
- Look -- I do nothing; He performs all deeds
- The Hawk
- The Lover
- The peacock's excuse
- All who, reflecting as reflected see
- I shall grasp the soul's skirt with my hand
- Looking for your own face
- The angels have bowed down to you and drowned
- The Birds Find Their King
- The Eternal Mirror
Poet: Farid al-Din Attar - All poems of Farid al-Din Attar
The Conference of the Birds and Ilahi Nama on-line, but you have to sign up to read it.
Attar - Persian Poetry and Iranian Poetry at Best Iran Travel.com
Brief biography of Attar, samples of his poetry, photos of his tomb in Iran.
Forum: Farid al- Din Attar Neishaburi-Remembered
A fascinating article posted to the Poetry Chaikhana Forum about how Attar is remembered and celebrated in Iran today.
Farid al-Din 'Attar
A biography and exploration of the poetry of Attar.