Sunday, January 29, 2006

Sunday Poem: Attar

From The Jawhar Al-Dhat

The whole world is a marketplace for Love,
For naught that is, from Love remains remote.
The Eternal Wisdom made all things in Love.
On Love they all depend, to Love all turn.
The earth, the heavens, the sun, the moon, the stars
The center of their orbit find in Love.
By Love are all bewildered, stupefied,
Intoxicated by the Wine of Love.

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.

[Translated by James Fadiman and Robert Frager, in Essential Sufism.]

I came across this poet and poem purely by bibliomancy--in an effort to find the right poem for this morning. I was hoping to find a poem that might amplify yesterday's post on integral relationship, and this one seems to offer the mystic's view from the inside, the dissolving of ego into the Beloved. A fitting poem it seems.

From the Wikipedia entry on Attar:
Farid ad-Din Attar (Persian:فریدالدین عطار; ca. 1142 – ca. 1220) was born in eishapour, in the Iranian province of Khorasan, and died in the same city. Some scholars believe he was killed during the raid and destruction of his city by the Mongol invaders. His tomb is in Neishapour.

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. Rumi 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 town doctor and pharmacist.

He is one of the most prolific figures of Persian literature. He wrote over a hundred works of varying lengths from just a few pages to voluminous tomes. About thirty of his works have survived. His most well-known and popular work is Mantiq at-Tayr (The Conference of the Birds). His other popular works include Assrarnameh (The Book of Secrets) and Tadkhirat al-Awliya, (Biographies of the Saints) which contains biographies of many Sufi mystics. Generally speaking, most of his books are popular and relatively easy to read.

A brief story about how Attar began his life as a mystic suggests that he was visited one day in his pharmacy by a wandering fakir. The fakir was dirty and ragged-looking, so Attar, feeling uneasy about his safety and fearing the fakir might try to steal something, asked the man to leave his store. The fakir replied, "I have no difficulty with this," pointing to his ragged cloak, "to leave; but you, how are you, with all this, planning to leave!" Attar was shaken by the fakir's words and thought about them for many days. Finally, he decided he would sell his shop and join the followers of Shaykh Rukn al-Din Akkaf of the Kubraviyyah order. He then commenced upon a life of wandering and writing.

The quote from Rumi, cited above, refers to a work by Attar, called "The Seven Valleys of Love." It can be read at Iraj Bashiri's site on Attar (scroll all the way down).

From what I have read, Attar's experience of God is an experience of an all-embracing love, a complete and total dissolving of ego into the divine Beloved. This is the essence of mystical Islam as practiced by the Sufis--the idea of nonduality as Eros.

Attar online:
Explication of The Seven Valleys of Love
Sufi Poetry
Poet Seers
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