I.B. Tauris in association with the Institute of Ismaili Studies
Farid al-Dīn ʿAṭṭār (d. 1221) was the principal Muslim religious poet of the second half of the twelfth century. Best known for his masterpiece Mantiq al-tayr, or The Conference of Birds, his verse is still considered to be the finest example of Sufi love poetry in the Persian language after that of Rumi. Distinguished by their provocative and radical theology of love, many lines of ʿAṭṭār’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.
Designed to complement The Ocean of the Soul, the classic study of ʿAṭṭār by Hellmut Ritter, this volume offers the most comprehensive survey of ʿAṭṭār’s literary works to date, and situates his poetry and prose within the wider context of the Persian Sufi tradition. The essays in the volume are grouped in three sections, and feature contributions by sixteen scholars from North America, Europe and Iran, which illustrate, from a variety of critical perspectives, the full range of ʿAṭṭār’s monumental achievement. They show how and why ʿAṭṭār’s poetical work, as well as his mystical doctrines, came to wield such tremendous and formative influence over the whole of Persian Sufism.
Editors' Introduction and Acknowledgements
I. Prose of the Spirit: ʿAṭṭār and the Persian Sufi Tradition
1. ʿAṭṭār, Sufism and Ismailism
2. Of Scent and Sweetness: ʿAṭṭār and his Legacy in Rūmī, Shabistarī and Ḥāfiẓ
3. Narratology and Realities in the Work of ʿAṭṭār
4. Sufi Saints and Sainthood in ʿAṭṭār’s Tadhkirat al-awliyāʾ
5. Words and Deeds: Message and Structure in ʿAṭṭār’s Tadhkirat al-awliyāʾ
II. Flight of the Soul-bird: ʿAṭṭār’s Conference of the Birds
6. Blessed Perplexity: The Topos of Ḥayrat in ʿAṭṭār’s Manṭiq al-ṭayr
7. Flight of the Birds: The Poetic Animating the Spiritual in ʿAṭṭār’s Manṭiq al-ṭayr
8. Illustrating ʿAṭṭār: A Pictorial Meditation by Master Ḥabīballāh of Mashhad in the Tradition of Master Bihzād of Herat
9. Representations of ʿAṭṭār in the West and in the East: Translations of the Manṭiq al-ṭayr and the Tale of Shaykh Sanʿān
III. The Poetics of Passion: ʿAṭṭār’s Lyric and Epic Poetry
10. Some Remarks on Forms and Functions of Repetitive Structures in the Epic Poetry of ʿAṭṭār
Johann Christoph Bürgel
11. Didactic Style and Self-criticism in ʿAṭṭār
Muhammad Isa Waley
12. ‘Without Us, from Us We’re Safe’: Self and Selflessness in the Dīwān of ʿAṭṭār
13. Sufi Symbolism in the Persian Hermeneutic Tradition: Reconstructing the Pagoda of ʿAṭṭār’s Esoteric Poetics
14. Mystical Quest and Oneness in the Mukhtār-nāma Attributed to Farīd al-Dīn ʿAṭṭār
15. On Losing One’s Head: Ḥallāian Motifs and Authorial Identity in Poems Ascribed to ʿAṭṭār
Carl W. Ernst
‘This volume offers the most comprehensive survey of 'Attar's literary works to date, and situates his poetry and prose within the wider context of the Persian Sufi tradition.’
– Fred Rhodes, The Middle East
Leonard Lewisohn is Research Associate at the Institute of Ismaili Studies in London. He specialises in the study of Persian Sufism, and is the author of Beyond Faith and Fidelity: The Sufi Poetry and Teachings of Mahmoud Shabistari (1995).
Christopher Shackle is Professor of the Modern Languages of South Asia at SOAS in the University of London. Among his recent books are Ismaili Hymns from South Asia (1992), Qasida Poetry in Islamic Asia and Africa (1996) and A Treasury of Indian Love Poems and Proverbs (1999).