Mantiq al-tair
 'The Logic of Birds

Farid ud-Din cAttar

Painting: "Habib Allah: The Assembly of the Birds:
Page from a manuscript of the Mantiq al-tair (The Language of the Birds)
of Farid al-Din
c Attar  (63.210.11)".
Timeline of Art History. New York:
The Metropolitan Museum of Art,
2000– (October 2006)

Miniature painting: the hoopoe speaks to the peacock.
Mantiq al-tayr of  'Attar. Persian MS. Add. 7735, f. 30v.
Courtesy of the British Library.




Farid ud-Din Abu Hāmid Muhammad ben Ibrāhīm
'Farid ud-Din cAttar'

Farid lived in the 12th century C.E. and he wrote a lot of books in persian language. 'Mantiq al-tair' [1], 'Musibat-name', or 'Asrar-name'.
'Mantiq al-tair' is known as 'The Conference of Birds', but it can also be transcribed as 'The Logic of birds', because Mantiq means not only speaking, but also logic. Attar has written in that philosophic religious poem many little spiritual stories, concealing the big spiritual context.

Mantiq al-tair
 'The Logic of Birds

Farid ud-Din cAttar
 Excerpts ¹ 


"0 Attar! you have scattered on the world the contents of the vessel of the musk of secrets.
The horizons of the world are full of your perfumes and lovers are disturbed because of you.

Your verses are your seal;
and they are known as Mantiq Uttair and Makamat ut-Tiyur.

These conferences and talks and discourses of the birds are the stages of the war of bewilderment;
or, one may say, they are the Diwan of Intoxication.

Enter into this diwan with love. When the horse of your love gallops and you desire something,
act in conformity with Your desire.

Love is the remedy for all ills,
and it is the remedy of the soul in the two worlds.

0 you, who have set out on the path of inner development,
do not read my book only as a poetical work, or a book of magic,

but read it with understanding; and for this a man must be hungry for something,
dissatisfied with himself and this world.

He who has not smelt the perfume of my discourse
has not found the way of lovers.

But he who will read it with care will become active,
and will be worthy to enter the Way of which I speak.

Those of the outer world will be like drowned men as regards my discourse;
but men of the inner world will understand its secrets.

My book is the ornament of its time; it is at once a gift for distinguished men
and a boon for the common.

If a man as cold as ice reads this book
he will shoot forth as fire out of the veil which hides the mystery from him.

My writings have an astonishing peculiarity  -  
they give more profit according to the manner in which they are read.

If you ponder over them often they will benefit you more each time.
The veil of this 'wife of the harem' will be drawn aside for you only gradually in the place of honor and grace.

I have scattered pearls from the ocean of contemplation;
I am thereby acquitted, and this, my book, is the proof.

But if I praise myself too much, you may not approve;
though he who is impartial will recognize my merit, for the light of my full moon is not hidden.

If I am not remembered for myself I shall be remembered until the resurrection
by the pearls of poetry that I have scattered on the heads of men.

The cupolas of heaven will dissolve
before this poem shall perish.

Reader! If you experience some well-being through having read this poem with attention,
remember the writer in your prayers.

I have strewn here and there roses from the garden.
Remember me well, 0 my friends!

Each teacher reveals his ideas in his own special war,
and then he disappears.

Like my predecessors I have revealed the bird of my soul
to these who are asleep.

Perhaps the sleep which fills your life
has deprived you of this discourse;

but, having met it,
your soul will be awakened by the secret which it reveals.

And now my brain is smoked
like a niche where stands a lamp.

I have said to myself: '0 you who talk so much, instead of so much talking
beat your head and search the secrets.

What is the use of all these narrations
to men corrupted with egoism?

What can come out of hearts
taken up with vanity and self-pride?'

If you wish the ocean of your soul to remain in a state of salutary movement
you must die to all your old life, and then keep silence."

The Seventh Valley or the Valley of Deprivation and Death

The Hoopoe continued: 'Last of all comes the Valley of Deprivation and Death,
which it is almost impossible to describe.

The essence of this Valley is forgetfulness, dumbness, deafness and distraction;
the thousand shadows which surround you disappear in a single ray of the ce1estial sun.

When the ocean of immensity begins to heave,
the pattern on its surface loses its form;

and this pattern is no other than the world present and the world to come.
Whoever declares that he does not exist acquires great merit.

The drop that becomes part of this great ocean abides there for ever and in peace.
In this calm sea, a man, at first, experiences only humiliation and overthrow;

but when he emerges from this state he will understand it as creation,
and many secrets will be revealed to him.

'Many beings have missed taking the first step and so have not been able to take the second  -  
they can only be compared to minerals.

When aloe wood and thorns are reduced to ashes they both look alike  -  
but their quality is different.

An impure object dropped into rose-water
remains impure because of its innate qualities;

but a pure object dropped in the ocean will lose its specific existence
and will participate in the ocean and in its movement.

In ceasing to exist separately it retains its beauty.
It exists and non-exists.

How can this be?
The mind cannot conceive it.' ¹

Nishapuri, Shaykh Farid al-Din Muhammad Attar. Mantiq al-Tayr (Maqamat Tuyur). Ed. Seyyed Sadeq Gowharin. Trans. Hamid Dabashi. Tehran: Sherkat Entesharat-e Elmi va Farhangi, 1342/1963.
¹ Attar, Farid ud-Din: The Conference of The Birds, Mantiq al-tair, S.C. Nott, London, 1954
Attar, Farid al-Din. Muslim Saints and Mystics: Episodes from Tadhkirat al-Awliya'. Trans. A.J. Arberry. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1966. Persian Heritage Series.
Atttar, Farid ud-Din. The Conference of the Birds. Trans. Afkham Darbandi and Dick Davis. London: Penguin, 1984

Other books from Attar
Elahi Nameh (The book of God)
Asrar Nameh
Javaher Nameh
Khosrow Nameh
Sharhol Laghab
Mosibat Nameh ('The book of suffer')
Maghamant Tiour
Manteghol Teir,
Mokhtar Nameh.

Tadhkirat Al-Auliya (The Memorial of the Saints), Urdu translation published by Majedi Book Depot, Kanpur, India, in the year 1383 A.H.
Tadhkirat Al-Auliya (The Memorial of the Saints), Urdu translation published by Anwar Book Depot, Delhi India.

R. A. Nicholson, The Tadhkirat’l-Awliya of Shaykh Faridu’d-din ‘Attar. 2 vols. London, 1905-1907.

volker doormann    -  2008