Creative Commons: Attar’s ‘Conference of the Birds’

October 24, 2006

Attar Conference of the Birds This image of this painting by Habib Allah (c.1600) “The Concourse of the Birds” is available from the Wikimedia Commons. The original is in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. This is an illustration of the Persian mystic, Faridu’ud-Din Attar’s allegory (c.1100?) “The Conference of the Birds” which I believe is also called Mantiqu’t-Tayr Language of the Birds. This work may have inspired Herman Hesse’s “Journey to the East.” It describes the seeker’s parallel journey to self-discovery, self-actualization, self-realization through the elusive search for God.

Tag clouds, Head in the Clouds, Love and Cyberdelirium

Attar is said to have met Jalálu’d-Dín Rúmí (1207-1273 A.D.) when the latter was still a child enkindling (sp.) him with the insatiable longing for the illusive and unknowable divine essence of all things. (I believe both these Persian mystics, who of course had great impact on Persian literature, also influenced European writers such as the German Romantic poets? Their work is important to me in terms of its philosophical, political and ethical implications during the period of colonization. But that’s another tag cloud.)

And I know she and I share a deep love for the Seven Valleys Haft-Vádí (1860). The Seven Valleys includes references and/or citations from Attar, Rúmí and Layla and Majnun.
According to Wikipedia, Kurdish poet Nezami (1100s?)’s famous adaptation of the story of Layla and Majnun (Leyli and Madjnun) from Arab folklore reads astonishingly like Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. I believe that Layla and Majnin are to the East what Romeo and Juliet are to the West? There is even a suggestion that Eric Clapton’s song Layla was inspired by this Arab-Persian-Turkish-Kurd classic.

My Favourite citations-within-citations from Seven Valleys – Haft-Vádí (1860)

In the ocean he findeth a drop, in a drop he beholdeth the secrets of the sea.

Split the atom’s heart, and lo! Within it thou wilt find a sun.

From the Wikipedia entry on Seven Valleys – Haft-Vádí (1860)

the path of the soul on a spiritual journey passing through different stages, from this world to other realms which are closer to God,[1] as first described by the 12th Century Sufi poet Attar in his Conference of the Birds. Bahá’u’lláh in the work explains the meanings and the significance of the seven stages. In the introduction, Bahá’u’lláh says “Some have called these Seven Valleys, and others, Seven Cities.” The stages are accomplished in order, and the goal of the journey is to follow “the Right Path”, “abandon the drop of life and come to the sea of the Life-Bestower”, and “gaze on the Beloved”.

6 Responses to “Creative Commons: Attar’s ‘Conference of the Birds’”

  1. Dr. Ahmet Ali Arslan, Turkey Says:

    I do belive that Romeo and Juliet is not an original art which was believed and accepted as an original literay succes of Shakespeare. I have a srtong feelings and documents that Romeo and Juliet was adapted from Layla and Majnun of Fuzuli, or Ganjavi Nezami or Firdowsi in time beeing.

    If you find any source referring these sources as major piller of Shakespeare’s work I would be appreciated to have a copy of the said source.

    Best regards
    Dr. Aslan
    Seljuk University
    Konya, Turkey

  2. Thank you for your delightful comment. I encourage you in this useful and vital research. My interest in this story was inspired Baha’u’llah’s reference to this story in Seven Valleys. I am not an expert on literature.

    Most of my references are based on following sources provided by the Wikipedia article “Layla and Majnun.”

    It is timely to reveal Arabo-Islamic contributions to Renaissance arts and sciences. I believe that the Hegelian linear version of western histories based on a cultural river flowing from Greece and Rome, is being revisited. The gradual but persistent convergence of Eastern and Western thought has been one of the real signs of spiritual progress of the 20th century.

    Webliography and Bibliography

    ArRalm. “The Original Legend in Arabic Literature” >> ArtArena. Accessed January 26, 2008.

    Coker, J. T. 2000. “Follow Your Heart: The Story of Layla and Majnun.” Sunrise. June/July. Theosophical University Press.

    Mabillard, Amanda. 2007. “An Analysis of Shakespeare’s Sources for Romeo and Juliet”. Shakespeare Online. Unable to access January 26, 2008.

    Perlm. “Layli and Madjnun in Persian Literature” >> ArtArena. Accessed January 26, 2008.

    Rabbani, Faraz. 2006. “Loss of Meaning.” Islamica Magazine. No. 15.

    Smith, Paul. “Nizami: Layla and Majnun.” [3]

    Symon, Roz. “Romeo and Juliet sources.” Royal Shakespeare Company Play Guide. >> Royal Shakespeare Company. http://www.rsc.org.uk/romeo/about/sources.html >> Royal Shakespeare Company site. Accessed January 26, 2008.

    Wikipedia Layla and Majnun http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Layla_and_Majnun#_note-3 Last accessed January 26, 2008.

  3. Dr. Ahmet Ali Arslan, Turkey Says:

    I thank all respectfull schollars concerning my study whether Romeo and Juliet of Shakespeare was original work of him or an adaptations of “Leyla and Majnun” lived in Arabic Folkliterature dating back the Umayyad era in the 7th Century.

    I reached Western sources say that Shaespeare’s primary source for Romeo and Juliete was Arthur Brook’s “Romeus and Juliete”, first published in 1562, two years before Shakespeare’s birth and reprinted in 1587 about eight years before the first performance of Romeo and Juliet of Shakespeare.

    Best regards

    Dr. Arslan
    Seljuk University
    Faculty of Education
    Department of English Language Teaching

  4. Rupa Abdi Says:

    In the day you shall not find that which you seek.
    for in darkness it hides and in light it cannot be revealed,
    when the veil is thick and the dark night so long,
    it is only Love that that can dispel an ignorance so strong,
    and like mist it will be lifted to reveal the mountain peak,
    and at last you shall become that which you seek……

  5. Dr. Ahmet Ali Arslan Says:

    Dear Maureen Flynn,

    My academic paper on ” A Comparative Study on Layla and Majnun of Fuzuli and Romeo and Juliet of Shakespeare: Was Romeo and Juliet Original?” is accepted by the Conference of “The Slavic University of Baku, Azerbaijan” will be held between 22-23 October, 2010.I will use your comments on the issue you sent me via e-mail on Jan. 27, 2008.

    You encouraged me on the vital study I started. Thank you very much.

    Best regards,
    Dr. A. A. Arslan

  6. Ali Says:

    Nizami is not a Kurdish poet, but a Persian-language Azerbaijani poet. He did have a Kurdish mother, but his father was Azerbaijani.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: