Attar is one of the most famous mystic poets of Iran. His works were the inspiration of Rumi and many other mystic poets. Attar, along with Sanaie, were two of the greatest influences on Rumi in his Sufi views. Rumi has mentioned both of them with the highest esteem several times in his poetry. Rum praises Attar as such: “Attar roamed the seven cities of love – We are still just in one alley.”
Attar was a pen-name which he took for his occupation. Attar means herbalist, druggist and perfumist, and during his lifetime in Persia, much of medicine and drugs were based on herbs. Therefore, by profession he was similar to a modern-day doctor and pharmacist.
Farid od Din Attar was born in Nishapur and lived about 1119-1220 (Another source mentions he lived about 1136-1230). He lived close to 100 years and was killed by the Mongol invaders. His tomb is in Nishapur.
Different stories are told about the death of Attar. One common story is as follow: He was captured by a Mongol. One day someone came along and offered a thousand pieces of silver for him. Attar told the Mongol not to sell him for that price since the price was not right. The Mongol accepted Attar's words and did not sell him. Later someone else comes along and offers a sack of straw for him. Attar counsels the Mongol to sell him because that is how much he is worth. The Mongol soldier becomes very angry and cuts off Attar's head so he dies to teach a lesson.
Attar is one of the most ancient poets of Persia. His work has been the inspiration of Rumi and many other mystic poets of Persian Empire. Rumi considered Attar the spirit and Sanai the eyesight , both of whom his poetic masters. Attar met Rumi at the end of his life when Rumi was only a boy and gave his book Asrarnameh as a present to him.
Attar took his name from his occupation. He was a druggist, perfumist and a doctor in addition to being a poet. Attar saw as many as 500 patients a day in his shop where he prescribed herbal extractions/medicine which he made himself.
In his shop, he also wrote while seeing patients. Attar wrote 114 pieces, the same number of suras in the holy book of Koran. About thirty of his works survived. To name a few of his works are love stories, biographies of saints, Asrarnameh ("The Book of Secrets"), a collection of quatrains, Illahinameh ("The Book of God") and the last not the least, his most well known masterpiece of Mantiq at-Tayr ("The Bird of the Sky") known as "The Conference of the Birds"
In The Book of God, he describes six human capacities and abilities: ego, imagination, intellect, thirst for knowledge, thirst for detachment, and thirst for unity. In The book of Secrets, he uses a collection of small stories to elevate the spiritual state of the reader.
In "The Conference of the Birds," Attar explains seven valleys (veils) which the "Bird of the Sky" goes through and passes to meet Simurgh (God). This is a process that each of us goes through. What we make of ourselves and what we become, good or bad, happy or unhappy, satisfied or dissatisfied, we do ourselves.
THE POETRY OF ATTAR
Looking for your own face
Your face is neither infinite nor ephemeral.
You can never see your own face,
only a reflection, not the face itself.
So you sigh in front of mirrors
and cloud the surface.
It's better to keep your breath cold.
Hold it, like a diver does in the ocean.
One slight movement, the mirror-image goes.
Don't be dead or asleep or awake.
Don't be anything.
What you most want,
what you travel around wishing to find,
lose yourself as lovers lose themselves,
and you'll be that.
translated by Coleman Barks, "The Hand of Poetry: Five Mystic Poets of Persia"
From each, Love demands a mystic silence.
What do all seek so earnestly? Tis Love.
Love is the subject of their inmost thoughts,
In Love no longer "Thou" and "I" exist,
For self has passed away in the Beloved.
Now will I draw aside the veil from Love,
And in the temple of mine inmost soul
Behold the Friend, Incomparable Love.
He who would know the secret of both worlds
Will find that the secret of them both is Love.
from Essential Sufism, by James Fadiman & Robert Frager
"I shall grasp the soul's skirt with my hand
and stamp on the world's head with my foot.
I shall trample Matter and Space with my horse,
beyond all Being I shall utter a great shout,
and in that moment when I shall be alone with Him. "
Please report any failed links to Richard
Back to top