The Institute’s latest publication comprises a collection of papers on the poetry and mystical ideas of the celebrated Persian poet, Farid al-Din ‘Attar. Edited by Dr Leonard Lewisohn and Professor Christopher Shackle and entitled ‘Attar and the Persian Sufi Tradition: The Art of Spiritual Flight, this publication provides in English, an overview of ‘Attar’s monumental contributions to Persian literature and a gateway to his literary and poetic genius.

Farid al-Din ‘Attar (d. 1221 CE) is regarded as the principal Muslim mystic poet of the second half of the 12th century. He is best known for his often-translated masterpiece Mantiq al-tayr or The Conference of the Birds, a tale of the spiritual quest of thirty birds to find their supreme sovereign, the Simurgh. This new publication brings together the work of scholars from three continents, offering an overview of ‘Attar’s extraordinarily varied literary creations, with the aim of building upon the findings of earlier scholarship. It is a comprehensive survey of ‘Attar’s literary works and mystical doctrine, 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 are grouped in three sections which deal respectively with ‘Attar and the Persian Sufi tradition, with The Conference of the Birds, and ‘Attar’s lyrical and epic poetry. It features contributions from sixteen scholars from North America, Europe and Iran, written from a variety of critical perspectives that strive to illustrate the full range of ‘Attar’s achievements.

At the book’s official launch at the Ismaili Centre, London, the book’s editors spoke about the international conference that preceded this publication, which was organised in 2002 as a collaborative effort between The Iran Heritage Foundation, The Centre of Near and Middle Eastern Studies at The School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), The University of London, and The Institute of Ismaili Studies. 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.

After the formal presentations by the editors, there was a performance of traditional Iranian music by Dr Soroush Homayouni, playing the violin, accompanied by Mr Ali Torshizi, playing the Tonbak.