Farid al-Din 'Attar (d. 1221) was the principal Muslim religious poet of the second half of the twelfth century. Best known for his masterpiece "Mantiq al-tayr", or "The Conference of Birds", his verse is still considered to be the finest example of Sufi love poetry in the Persian language after that of Rumi. Distinguished by their provocative and radical theology of love, many lines of 'Attar's epics and lyrics are cited independently of their poems as maxims in their own right. These pithy, paradoxical statements are still known by heart and sung by minstrels throughout Iran, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, and wherever Persian is spoken or understood, such as in the lands of the Indo-Pakistani Subcontinent. Designed to take its place alongside "The Ocean of the Soul", the classic study of 'Attar by Hellmut Ritter, this volume offers the most comprehensive survey of 'Attar's literary works to date, and situates his poetry and prose within the wider context of the Persian Sufi tradition.
The essays in the volume are grouped in three sections, and feature contributions by sixteen scholars from North America, Europe and Iran, which illustrate, from a variety of critical prespectives, the full range of 'Attar's monumental achievement. They show how and why 'Attar's poetical work, as well as his mystical doctrines, came to wield such tremendous and formative influence over the whole of Persian Sufism.
Leonard Lewisohn is Research Associate at the Institute of Ismaili Studies in London. He specialises in the study of Persian Sufism, and is the author of Beyond Faith and Infedility: The Sufi Poetry and Teachings of Mahmoud Shabistari (1995). Christopher Shackle is Professor of the Modern Languages of South Asia at SOAS in the University of London. Among his recent books are Ismaili Hymns from South Asia (1992), Qasida Poetry in Islamic Asia and Africa (1996) and A Treasury of Indian Love Poems and Proverbs (1999).