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  • 4/17/2005

Farid o-Din Attar

14 April, the Memorial Day

(1119-1220 CE)

Farid o-Din Attar was born in Nishapour and lived about 1119-1220 CE (another source mentions he lived about 1136-1230 CE). He lived close to 100 years and was killed by the Mongol invaders. His tomb is in Nishapour.

Attar is one of the most mystic poets of Iran. His work has been the inspiration of Rumi and many other mystic poets of Iran.Mevlana Rumi considered Attar the spirit and Sana"i the eyesight, both of whom his poetic masters.

Attar took his name from his occupation. He was a druggist, perfumist and a doctor in addition to being a poet. Attar saw many patients a day in his shop where he prescribed herbal extractions and medicine which he made himself.

Attar wrote 114 pieces, the same number of suras in the holy book of Qur"an. 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"Illahinameh", he describes six human capacities and abilities: ego, imagination, intellect, thirst for knowledge, thirst for detachment, and thirst for unity. In"Asrarnameh", he uses a collection of small stories to elevate the spiritual state of the reader.

In"Mantiq at-Tayr", Attar explains seven valleys which the "Bird of the Sky" goes through and passes to meetPhoenix (Legendary Bird symbol of 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.

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 Poetry

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 ofPersia"

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