They are symbols that instruct us that God is all.
All you have been, and seen, and done, and thought,
Not You but I, have seen and been and wrought:
I was the Sin that from Myself rebell'd:
I the Remorse that tow'rd Myself compell'd...
Sin and Contrition — Retribution owed,
And cancell'd — Pilgrim, Pilgrimage, and Road,
Was but Myself toward Myself: and Your
Arrival but Myself at my own Door...
Come you lost Atoms to your Centre draw,
And be the Eternal Mirror that you saw:
Rays that have wander'd into Darkness wide
Return and back into your Sun subside.
(Conference of the Birds by Attar. Trans. Raficq Abdulla)
'The Conference of the Birds: The Selected Sufi Poetry of Farid Ud-Din Attar'
by Farid Ud-Din Attar (Author), Raficq Abdulla (Translator)
The Conference of the Birds is a twelfth-century Sufi allegorical poem. The story of the quest for a king undertaken by the birds of the world, it also describes the Sufi (or mystical Islamic) path to enlightenment. Though hugely popular and influential in the Islamic world, the poem is still relatively unfamiliar in the West. In this edition, the poet Raficq Abdulla has reinterpreted key extracts to make the wisdom of Sufism accessible to the contemporary reader.
Combining amusing anecdotes and satire with passages of great mystical beauty, the poem uses the birds journey to describe the stages of spiritual experience. From proud hawk to avaricious owl, the birds represent human archetypes with their own, very human, reasons for not setting out on the spiritual path. At the end of the tale, the birds discover that what they are seeking is nothing other than themselves: in Sufism, the way to God is inward and enlightenment is the passionate union of an individual soul with the Divine.
Richly illustrated with illuminations from Persian manuscripts, this is the only modern illustrated edition of The Conference of the Birds. Through his reworking of these important passages and his detailed introduction to the poem, Raficq Abdulla allows readers access to a mystical classic.