Treasure Island

Farīd ud-Dīn Attar Abū Hamīd bin Abū Bakr Ibrāhīm


Conference of the Birds


'Attar began The Conference of the Birds (Mantiq al-tair) with an invocation praising the holy Creator in which he suggested that one must live a hundred lives to know oneself; but you must know God by the deity, not by yourself, for God opens the way, not human wisdom. 'Attar believed that God is beyond all human knowledge. The soul will manifest itself when the body is laid aside. One cannot gain spiritual knowledge without dying to all things. When the birds assemble, they wonder why they have no king. The Hoopoe presents herself as a messenger from the invisible world with knowledge of God and the secrets of creation. She recommends Simurgh as their true king, saying that one of his feathers fell on China.

The Nightingale says that the love of the Rose satisfies him, and the journey is beyond his strength; but the Hoopoe warns against being a slave of passing love that interferes with seeking self-perfection. The Parrot longs for immortality, and the Hoopoe encourages the Peacock to choose the whole. The Duck is too content with water to seek the Simurgh. The Hoopoe advises the Partridge that gems are just colored stones and that love of them hardens the heart; she should seek the real jewel of sound quality. The Humay is distracted by ambition, and the Owl loves only the treasure he has found. The Hoopoe reprimands the Sparrow for taking pride in humility and recommends struggling bravely with oneself. She states that the different birds are just shadows of the Simurgh. If they succeed, they will not be God; but they will be immersed in God. If they look in their hearts, they will see the divine image. All appearances are just the shadow of the Simurgh. Those loving truly do not think about their own lives and sacrifice their desires. Those grounded in love renounce faith and religion as well as unbelief. One must hear with the ear of the mind and the heart.
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