by Dr Leonard Lewisohn
Professor Christopher Shackle
London: I.B. Tauris in association with The Institute of Ismaili Studies, 2007.
ISBN (Hardback): 9781845111489
This collection of papers comprises selected papers from the proceedings of the international conference entitled ‘Farid al-Din ‘Attar and the Persian Sufi Tradition’ organised in 2002 in collaboration with The Iran Heritage Foundation, The Institute of Ismaili Studies and The Centre of Near and Middle Eastern Studies (now incorporated into The London Middle East Institute) at The School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), The University of London. The conference, convened by Leonard Lewisohn and Christopher Shackle, was the centrepiece of a number of musical, poetic and artistic events in London to celebrate Persian mysticism and the literary contributions of Farid al-Din ‘Attar.
Farid al-Din ‘Attar (d. 1221 CE) was the principal Muslim mystic poet of the second half of the 12th century, whose formative influence was acknowledged by his great successor Jalal al-Din Rumi. Best known for his often-translated masterpiece Mantiq al-tayr or The Conference of the Birds, his verse is still considered to be the finest example of Sufi poetry in the Persian language after that of Rumi. Distinguished for his provocative and radical theology of love, many lines of ‘Attar’s epics and lyrics are cited independently of their poems as maxims in their own right. These pithy, paradoxical statements are still known by heart and sung by minstrels throughout Iran, Afghanistan, Tajikistan and wherever Persian is spoken or understood, such as in the lands of the Indo-Pakistani Subcontinent.
‘Attar composed six important works of poetry and one major prose work. His great prose work comprises the monumental compendium in Persian of biographies of famous Sufis, called Tadhkirat al-awliya’, or Memoirs of the Saints. If his least known poem is the Book of Mysteries (Asrar-namah), which strings together a series of unconnected episodic stories, his most famous epic poem is the Conference of the Birds (Mantiq al-tayr), which is consecrated to the tale of the spiritual quest of thirty birds to find their supreme sovereign, the Simurgh. This work was modelled on the Treatise on the Birds composed half a century earlier by another Sufi master, Ahmad Ghazali (d. 1126 CE), founder of the ‘school of love’ in Sufism. This epic masterpiece (to which five essays in chapter two of the present volume are devoted) has also enjoyed several musical and theatrical adaptations in the West, while its stories are common subjects of illustration in Persian miniature painting. ‘Attar’s Book of Adversity (Musibat-namah) recounts the Sufi path in other terms, following the voyage of the contemplative wayfarer or ‘Pilgrim of Thought’ (salik-i fikrat) through the mineral, vegetable, animal, human, and angelic realms. Asking questions along the way, he appeals in turn to forty different cosmic or mythical beings for help, until at last he is directed to the Prophet Muhammad, who gives him the answers he needs to set him on the right road.
‘Attar’s Divine Book (Ilahi-namah) relates the story of a king who asks his six sons what they most desire. They all ask for worldly things, and the king exposes their vanity in a series of anecdotes. The Book of Selections (Mukhtar-namah) is a collection of over 2,000 quatrains (ruba‘i) arranged in 50 chapters according to various mystical themes, and his Collected Poems (Diwan) contains some 10,000 couplets which are notable for their depiction of visionary landscapes and heart-rending evocations of the agonies and ecstasies of the via mystica. These poems are notable not only for their thematic unity, with usually just one mystical idea, or a series of related concepts from first verse to last line being elaborated progressively, but also for their esoteric hermeticism and unconventional religious values. The attribution of the Book of Khusraw (Khusraw-namah, a romance of the love between a Byzantine princess and a Persian prince, with almost no mystical content) to the poet has been rejected, on convincing stylistic, linguistic and historical grounds, as spurious.
‘Attar’s works had such an impact on both the Sufi community and the literate public at large that his fame soared soon after his death. He became rapidly imitated, so that today there are some twenty-three works falsely attributed to ‘Attar, proven by modern scholars to be spurious or of doubtful authenticity. If we take merely the works that are unquestionably his, comprising a good 45,000 lines, the achievement is monumental.
However, the most important aspect of ‘Attar’s thought lies in the fact that all of his works are devoted to Sufism (tasawwuf) and throughout all of his genuine collected works, there does not exist even one single verse without a mystical colouring; in fact, ‘Attar dedicated his entire literary existence to Sufism. The wide range of papers included in this collection is itself testimony to the stature of ‘Attar as one of the greatest figures in the glorious tradition of Persian Sufi poetry. Bringing together for the first time the work of both senior and younger scholars from three continents, the volume offers a stimulating overview of ‘Attar and his extraordinarily varied literary creations from a whole series of different viewpoints, which build on the findings of earlier scholarship to offer many novel perspectives.
Designed to take its place alongside The Ocean of the Soul, the classic study of ‘Attar by Hellmut Ritter, this volume is a comprehensive survey and study of ‘Attar’s literary works and mystical doctrine to date, situating his poetry and prose within the wider context of the Persian Sufi tradition, upon which his writings wielded such a tremendous formative influence. The essays in this volume, grouped in three sections which deal respectively with ‘Attar and the Persian Sufi tradition, with The Conference of the Birds, and with ‘Attar’s lyrical and epic poetry, feature contributions by sixteen scholars from North America, Europe and Iran written from a variety of critical perspectives that attempt to illustrate the full range of ‘Attar’s monumental achievement.
List of Plates
List of Contributors
List of Abbreviations
Editors’ Introduction and Acknowledgements
I. Prose of the Spirit: ‘Attar and the Persian Sufi Tradition
1. ‘Attar, Sufism and Ismailism
2. Of Scent and Sweetness: ‘Attar and his Legacy in Rumi, Shabistari and Hafiz
3. Narratology and Realities in the Work of ‘Attar
4. Sufi Saints and Sainthood in ‘Attar’s Tadhkirat al-awliya’
5. Words and Deeds: Message and Structure in ‘Attar’s Tadhkirat al-awliya’
II. Flight of the Soul-bird: ‘Attar’s Conference of the Birds
Blessed Perplexity: The Topos of Hayrat in ‘Attar’s Mantiq al-tayr
8. Flight of the Birds: The Poetic Animating the Spiritual in ‘Attar’s Mantiq al-tayr
9. Illustrating ‘Attar: A Pictorial Meditation by Master Habiballah of Mashhad in the Tradition of Master Bihzad of Heart
10. Representations of ‘Attar in the West and in the East: Translations of the Mantiq al-tayr and the Tale of Shaykh San’an
III. The Poetics of Passion: ‘Attar’s Lyric and Epic Poetry
10. Some Remarks on Forms and Functions of Repetitive Structures in the Epic Poetry of ‘Attar Johann
11. Didactic Style and Self-criticism in ‘Attar
Muhammad Isa Waley
‘Without Us, from Us We’re Safe’: Self and Selflessness in the Diwan of ‘Attar
13. Sufi Symbolism in the Persian Hermeneutic Tradition: Reconstructing the Pagoda of ‘Attar’s Esoteric Poetics
14. Mystical Quest and Oneness in the Mukhtar-nama Attributed to Farid al-Din ‘Attar
15. On Losing One’s Head: Hallajian Motifs and Authorial Identity in Poems Ascribed to ‘Attar
Carl W. Ernst
Persian Texts and Translations of Farid al-Din ‘Attar
Asrar-nama, ed. Sadiq Gawharin. Tehran, 1338 Sh./1959.
Asrar-nama, ed. Muhammad Ibrahim. Tehran, 1376 Sh./1997.
Asrar-nama, tr. C. Tortel, as Le Livre des Secrets, présenté et traduit du persan. Paris, 1985.
Diwan-i ‘Attar, ed. Sa‘id Nafisi. Tehran, 1339 Sh./1961.
Diwan-i ‘Attar, ed. Taqi Tafadduli. Tehran, 1345 Sh./1967.
Haylaj-nama, ed. Ahmad Khwushniwis. Tehran, n.d.
Ilahi-Name: Die Gespräche des Königs mit seinen sechs Söhnen. Eine mystische Dichtung von Faridaddin ‘Attar, ed. Hellmut Ritter. Istanbul, 1940; repr. Tehran, 1359 Sh./1980.
Ilahi-nama-i Shaykh Farid al-Din ‘Attar-i Nishapuri, ed. Fu’ad Ruhani. Tehran, 1339 Sh./1960.
Ilahi-nama, tr. John Andrew Boyle as The Ilahi-nama or Book of God of Farid al-Din ‘Attar. Manchester, 1976.
Jawhar al-dhat, ed. Muhammad Mir Kamali. Tehran, 1936.
Jawhar al-dhat. Tehran, n.d.; repr. Tehran, 1380 Sh./2001.
Mantiq al-tayr, ed. Garcin de Tassy. Mantic uttaïr ou le langue des oiseaux, poëme de philosophie religieuse par Farid-Uddin Attar. Paris, 1857.
Mantiq al-tayr, ed. Muhammad Javad Mashkur. 3rd ed., Tehran, 1968.
Mantiq al-tayr, ed. Sadiq Gawharin. 10th repr., Tehran, 1374 Sh./1995.
Mantiq al-tayr, Guzida, ed. Husayn Ilahi Qumsha’i. 2nd ed., Tehran, 1377 Sh./1998.
Mantiq al-tayr, ed. Muhammad Rida Shafi‘i-Kadkani. Tehran, 1383 Sh./2004.
Mantiq al-tayr, tr. Afkham Darbandi and Dick Davis as The Conference of the Birds. Harmondsworth and New York, 1984; tr. Peter Avery as The Speech of the Birds, Concerning Migration to the Real, The Mantiqu’t-Tair. Cambridge, 1998; tr. Margaret Smith as The Persian Mystics: ‘Attar. London, 1932; tr. R.P. Masani as The Conference of the Birds, a Sufi Allegory, being an abridged version of Farid-ud-Din Attar’s Mantiq-ut-Tayr. London, 1924; tr. C.S. Nott as The Conference of the Birds, Mantiq ut-Tair, A Philosophical Religious Poem in Prose, Rendered into English from the Literal and Complete French Translation of Garcin de Tassy. London, 1954; French tr. Garcin de Tassy as Mantic uttaïr ou le langage des oiseaux, poëme de philosophie religieuse. Paris, 1863; Swedish tr. Erik Hermelin as Mantiq-ut-tayir. 2 vols., Stockholm, 1929, critically reviewed by Rypka in Archiv Orientalni, 4, (1932), pp. 149–160; Urdu tr. Agha Muhammad Ashraf, as Lisan al-tayr. Lahore, 1933; Turkish tr. Abdülbaki Gölpinarlı as Mantıku’l-tayr. 2 vols. Istanbul, 1944–1945; Arabic tr. Badi‘ Muhammad Jum‘a, as Mantiq al-tayr li-Farid al-Din ‘Attar al-Naysaburi. Beirut, 1980; Indonesian tr. Hartigo Andangdjaja, as Musyawasah burung. Jakarta, 1983.
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Mazhar al-‘aja’ib, ed. Taqi Hatimi Nishapuri. Tehran, 1966.
Mazhar al-‘aja’ib wa Mazhar al-asrar, ed. Ahmad Khwushniwis. Tehran, 1370 Sh./1991.
Mukhtar-nama: majm‘a-i rruba‘iyyat athar-i Farid al-Din-i ‘Attar-i Nishapuri, ed. M.R. Shafi‘i-Kadkani. 2nd ed., Tehran, 1375 Sh./1996.
Musibat-nama, ed. Nurani Wisal. Tehran, 1354 Sh./1975.
Musibat-nama, tr. Isabelle de Gastines as Le livre de l’épreuve (Musibat-nama). Paris, 1981.
Pand-nama, tr. J.H. Hindley as Pendeh-i-Attar: The Counsels of Attar. London, 1809; tr. Erachsha F. Karani and Mahumed Gows Abdul Kadir Aga as Pund Nameh Fariddodin Attar. Bombay, 1912; French tr. A.I. Silvestre de Sacy as Pend-namèh, ou, Le livre des conseils de Férid-eddin Attar. Paris, 1819; Urdu tr. ‘Abd al-Ghaffur Nassakh, as Chashma-i fayd. Calcutta, 1862.
Tadhkirat al-awliya’, ed. R.A. Nicholson. 2 vols. London and Leiden, 1905–1907; repr. Tehran, 1361 Sh./1982.
Tadhkirat al-awliya’, ed. M. Isti‘lami. 6th ed., Tehran, 1370 Sh./1991.
Tadhkirat al-awliya’, Guzida, ed. M. Isti‘lami. 3rd ed., Tehran, 1370 Sh./1991.
Tadhkirat al-awliya’, Guzida’ha az, ed. Faridun Badra’i. Collected by A.J. Arberry. Tehran, 1377 Sh./1998.
Tadhkirat al-awliya’, tr. A.J. Arberry, as Muslim Saints and Mystics: Episodes from the Tadhkirat al-Auliya’ (Memorial of the Saints) by Farid al-Din Attar. London, 1966; Italian tr. L. Pirinoli as Farid ad-Din al-’Attar: Parole di Sufi. Tadhkirat al-awliya’. Intr. Pietro Nutrizio. Milan, 2001.
Ushtur-nama, ed. Mahdi Muhaqqiq. Tehran, 1960; repr., Tehran, 1979.
Waslat-nama. Tehran, 1957.
‘Attar Apocrypha: Majmu‘a’i az athar-i Farid al-Din Muhammad ibn Ibrahim ‘Attar
Nishapuri: Bisar-nama, Bulbul-nama, Si fasl, Pand-nama, Nuz’hat al-ahbab, Bayan-i irshad, ed. Ahmad Khwushniwis. Tehran, 1984.
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Selected Critical Studies of ‘Attar
Akhtar, Muhammad Salim. ‘Ta’thir-i ‘Attar-i Nishapuri dar shibh-qarra-yi Hind’, in Haft guftar darbara-i Sana’i wa ‘Attar wa ‘Iraqi. Tehran, 1375 Sh./1996, pp. 129–142.
Anvar-Chenderoff, Leili. ‘Le genre hagiographique à travers le Tadhkerat al-Awliya de ‘Attar’ in de Boccard, ed., Saints Orientaux: Hagiographies médiévales comparées. Paris, 1996, pp. 39–54.
Ansari, ‘Ali Mir. Kitabshinasi-yi Shaykh Farid al-Din ‘Attar Nishapuri. 2nd ed., Tehran, 1372 Sh./1993.
Argyriou, Astérios. ‘La conversion comme motif littéraire dans l’épopée byzantine de Digénis Akritas et dans La Conférence des Oiseaux de Farid Uddin Attar’, Byzantinische Forschungen, 25 (1999), pp. 143–151.
Ashrafzada, R. Hikayat-i Shaykh-i San‘an. Tehran, 1373 Sh./1994.
–Tajalli-yi ramz wa riwayat dar shi‘r-i ‘Attar-i Nishapuri. Tehran, 1373 Sh./1994.
–Farhang-i karburd-i ayat wa riwayat dar ash‘ar-i Shaykh Farid al-Din ‘Attar Nishapuri. 1373 Sh./1994.
Avery, Kenneth. ‘The Theme of the Sufi Master and the Tavern in the Lyric Poetry of ‘Attar’, Sufi, 48 (2000–2001), pp. 8–13.
Bausani, Alessandro. ‘Considerazioni sulla Tadhkiratu l’auliya’ di ‘Attar’, in, Colloquio italo-iraniano sul poeta mistico Fariduddin ‘Attar. Rome, 1977, pp. 71–88.
Bertels, E.E. ‘Neva’i i ‘Attar’, in V.V. Bartold, ed., Mir-Ali-Shir. Leningrad, 1928, pp. 24–82; Persian tr. S. Izadi as ‘Nawayi wa ‘Attar’ in Bertels, Tasawwuf wa adabiyat-i tasawwuf. Tehran, 1979, pp. 519–589.
–—‘Darbara-i sharhi bar ghazal-i ‘Attar’, in his Tasawwuf wa adabiyat-i tasawwuf, tr. S. Izadi. Tehran, 1979, pp. 483–491.
de Blois, Francois. ‘Farid al-Din ‘Attar’, in his Persian Literature: A Bio-bibliographical Survey, vol. 5, Part 2: Poetry ca A.D. 1100–1225. London, 1994, pp. 270–318.
de Bruijn, J.T.P. ‘Comparative Notes on Sana’i and ‘Attar’, in Leonard Lewisohn, ed., The Heritage of Sufism, I, Classical Persian Sufism from its Origins to Rumi. Oxford, 1999, pp. 361–379.
Chalisova, Natalia. ‘Hallaj az nigah-i ‘Attar’, Kayhan-i Farhangi, 12 (1374 Sh./1995), pp. 34–35.
Correale, Daniela Meneghini and Valentina Zanoll. ‘Attar: Concordance and Lexical Repertories of 1000 Lines. Venice, 1993.
Davis, Dick. ‘The Journey as Paradigm: Literal and Metaphorical Travel in ‘Attar’s Mantiq al-Tayr’, Edebiyat, 4 (1993), pp. 173–183.
Diyanati, Muhammad. Yik tapish-i dirang: Shinakht-i mutanaqid-nama (paradox) wa suwar-i khiyal-i paraduksi dar shi‘r-i Mawlawi wa ‘Attar. Tehran, 1381 Sh./2002.
Fadili, Qadir. Farhang-i mawdu‘i adab-i parsi, mawdu‘bandi wa naqd wa barrasi, 1–2: Mantiq al-tayr wa Pand-nama; 3–4: Asrar-nama wa Haylaj-nama; 5–6: Musibat-nama wa Mazhar al-‘aja’ib. Tehran, 1374 Sh./1995.
–Andisha-i ‘Attar: tahlil-i afaq-i andisha-i Shaykh Farid al-Din ‘Attar Nishapuri. Tehran, 1374 Sh./1995.
Faydizada, T. Darbara-i dastan-i ‘arifana-i Shaykh Sana‘an: gustardigi-yi damina-i nufudh-i an dar adabiyat-i jahan ba-vizha dar adabiyat-i farsi, turki wa kurdi (dar hama lahajat). Tabriz, 1365 Sh./1986.
Furuzanfar, B. Sharh-i ahwal wa naqd-u tahlil-i athar-i Shaykh Farid al-Din Muhammad ‘Attar-i Nishapuri. 2nd ed., Tehran, 1374 Sh./1995 (several editions).
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Garcin de Tassy, J.H. ‘Episode de la vie de San’an, d’après le poëme persan de Fariduddin Attar, intitulé Mantic uttaïr’, Revue de l’Orient, N.S. 2 (1856) pp. 362–367.
–La poésie philosophique et religieuse chez les Persans d’après le Mantic uttaïr ou le langage des oiseaux de Farid-Uddin Attar et pour servir d’introduction à cet ouvrage. Paris, 1856.
Hadidi, J. ‘‘Attar et les poetes francais’, in H. Beikbagan, ed., Actes de deaux colloques internationaux sur: ‘Abd al-Rahman Jami, Farid al-Din ‘Attar et Omar Khayyam. Tehran, 2002, pp. 97–111.
Haydarkhani, Husayn. Andishaha-yi ‘Attar dar Lisan al-ghayb wa Waslat-nama wa Miftah al-irada. Tehran, 1997.
Knapp, Bettina L. ‘‘Attar (1120–1230): The Conference of the Birds – A Sufi’s Mystical Experience and Dehumanization Process’, in her A Jungian Approach to Literature. Carbondale and Edwardsville SC, 1984.
Meier, F. ‘Der Geistmensch bei dem persischen Dichter ‘Attar’. Eranos-Jahrbuch, 13 (1945) pp. 283–353; tr. R. Manheim as ‘The Spiritual Man in the Persian Poet ‘Attar’, in Joseph Campbell, ed., Spiritual Disciplines: Papers from the Eranos Yearbooks. Princeton, NJ, 1985, pp. 267–304.
Mir-Afdali, Sayyid ‘Ali. ‘‘Aya Mukhtar-nama az ‘Attar ast?’, Nashr-i Danish, 17 (1379 Sh./2000), pp. 32–43.
Moayyad, Heshmat. ‘Sar-gudhasht-i zan-i parsa-yi ‘Attar’, Iranshinasi, 9 (1376 Sh./1997), pp. 427–442.
Morris, James Winston. ‘The Basic Structure of ‘Attar’s Conference of the Birds: An Introduction’. Sufi: A Journal of Sufism, 7 (1990) pp. 10–13.
Nafisi, Sa‘id. Justuju dar ahwal wa athar-i Farid al-Din ‘Attar-i Nishapuri. Tehran, 1320 Sh./1941.
Nasr, S.H. ‘The Flight of Birds to Union: Meditations upon ‘Attar’s Mantiq al-tayr’ in his Islamic Art and Spirituality. Ipswich, 1987, pp. 98–113.
Nawbar, Ahmad Shawqi. Guft: An Yar … Shakhsiyyat-i Hallaj wa baztab-i an dar ash‘ar-i panj sha‘ir-i buzurg (Sana’i, ‘Attar, Mawlawi, Hafiz wa Sa’ib). Tabriz, 1377 Sh./1998, pp. 72–75.
Purjavadi, Nasru’llah. Bu-yi jan: maqalaha-yi darbara-i shi‘r-i irfani-yi farsi. Tehran, 1372 Sh./1993.
Purnamdariyan, Taqi. Didar ba Simurgh: haft maqala dar ‘irfan wa shi‘r wa andisha-i ‘Attar. Tehran, 1374 Sh./1995.
Reinert, B. ‘‘Attar, Shaykh Farid al-Din’, Encyclopaedia Iranica, vol. 2, pp. 20–25.
Reisner, Marina. ‘Ma‘ani-yi qissa-i Hallaj dar ghazaliyyat-i ‘Attar’, Kayhan-i Farhangi, 12 (1374 Sh./1995) pp. 32–33.
Ritter, Hellmut. ‘Philologika 14’, Oriens, 11 (1958), pp. 36–60.
–‘Philologika 16’, Oriens, 13 (1961), pp. 195–238.
–‘‘Attar, Farid al-Din Muhammad ibn Ibrahim’, EI2, vol. 1, pp. 752b–755a.
–Das Meer der Seele: Mensch, Welt und Gott in den Geschichten des Fariduddin ‘Attar. 2nd ed., Leiden, 1978; ed. and English tr. John O’Kane with Bernd Radtke, as The Ocean of the Soul: Men, the World and God in the Stories of Farid al-Din ‘Attar. Leiden, 2003; Persian tr. ‘Abbas Zaryab-khu’i, Mihr-afaq Baybardi as Darya-yi jan: sayri dar ara’ wa ahwal-i Shaykh Farid al-Din ‘Attar Nishapuri. Tehran, 1377 Sh./1998.
Sabzawari, Rida Mustafawi. ‘‘Attar dar shibh-qarra-yi Hind (Pazhuhishi dar nuskhahayi khatti wa chapi wa sharhha-yi athar-i ‘Attar)’, Qand-i Parsi, 8 (1373 Sh./1994) pp. 1–126.
Sarimi, Suhayla. Mustalahat-i irfani wa mafahim-i barjasta dar zaban-i ‘Attar. Tehran, 1373 Sh./1994.
–Sima-yi jam‘a dar athar-i ‘Attar. Tehran, 1382 Sh./2003.
Sattari, Jalal. Pazhuhishi dar qissa-i Shaykh San’An wa dukhtar-i tarsa. Tehran, 1381 Sh./2002.
Shafi‘i-Kadkani, M.R. Zabur-i Parsi: nigahi bi zindagi wa ghazalha-yi ‘Attar. Tehran, 1378 Sh./1999.
Shaji‘i, Puran. Jahanbini-yi ‘Attar. Tehran, 1994.
Zarrinkub, ‘Abd al-Husayn. Sada-yi bal-i Simurgh: darbara-i zindagi wa andisha-i ‘Attar. 3rd ed., Tehran, 1380 Sh./2001–2002.
Content Date: January 2007