Attar of Nishapur
Born c. 1145 C.E. Nishapur
Died c. 1220 C.E. Nishapur
Honored in Islam
Influences Ferdowsi, Sanai, Khwaja Abdullah Ansari, Hallaj, Abusa'id Abolkhayr, Bayazid Bastami
Influenced Rumi, Hafiz, Jami, Nava'i and many other later Sufi Poets
Tradition/Genre Mystic poetry
Memorial of the Saints
The Conference of the Birds
Abu Hamid bin Abu Bakr Ibrahim (1145-1146 - c. 1221; Persian: ابو حميد ابن ابوبکر ابراهيم), better known by his pen-names Farid ud-Din (فريدالدين) and ‘Attar (عطار - "the perfumer"), was a Persian Muslim poet, theoretician of Sufism, and hagiographer from Nishapur who had an abiding influence on Persian poetry and Sufism.
Information about Attar's life is rare. He is mentioned by only two of his contemporaries, `Awfi and Tusi. However, all sources confirm that he was from Nishapur, a major city of medieval Khorasan (now located in the northeast of Iran), and according to `Awfi, he was a poet of the Seljuq period. It seems that he was not well known as a poet in his own lifetime, except at his home town, and his greatness as a mystic, a poet, and a master of narrative was not discovered until the 15th century.
`Attar was probably the son of a prosperous chemist, receiving an excellent education in various fields. While his works say little else about his life, they tell us that he practiced the profession of pharmacy and personally attended to a very large number of customers. The people he helped in the pharmacy used to confide their troubles in `Attar and this affected him deeply. Eventually, he abandoned his pharmacy store and traveled widely - to Baghdad, Basra, Kufa, Mecca, Medina, Damascus, Khwarizm, Turkistan, and India, meeting with Sufi Shaykhs - and returned promoting Sufi ideas.
`Attar's initiation into Sufi practices is subject to much speculation and fabrication. Of all the famous Sufi Shaykhs supposed to have been his teachers, only one - Majd ud-Din Baghdadi - comes within the bounds of possibility. The only certainty in this regard is `Attar's own statement that he once met him.
In any case it can be taken for granted that from childhood onward `Attar, encouraged by his father, was interested in the Sufis and their sayings and way of life, and regarded their saints as his spiritual guides.
`Attar reached an age of over 70 and died a violent death in the massacre which the Mongols inflicted on Nishapur in April 1221. Today, his mausoleum is located in Nishapur. It was built by Ali-Shir Nava'i in the 16th century.
Like many aspects of his life, his death, too, is blended with legends and speculation.
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