Attar of Nishabur
Abū Ḥamīd bin Abū Bakr Ibrāhīm (c. 1110 – c. 1221); known by his pen-names Farīd ud-Dīn or Aṭṭār , was a Persian Muslim poet, theoretician of Sufism, and hagiographer from Nishabur who had an immense and lasting influence on Persian poetry and Sufism.
Information about Attar’s life is rare and scarce. He is mentioned by only two of his contemporaries, `Awfi and Tusi. However, all sources confirm that he was from Nishabur, a major city of medieval Khorasan (now located in the northeast of Iran), and according to `Awfi, he was a poet of the Seljuq period.
According to Reinert: It seems that he was not well known as a poet in his own lifetime, except at his home town, and his greatness as a mystic, a poet, and a master of narrative was not discovered until the 15th century.At the same time, the mystic Persian poetRumi has mentioned: “Attar was the spirit, Sanai his eyes twain, And in time thereafter, Came we in their train and mentions in another poem: “Attar has traversed the seven cities of Love, We are still at the turn of one street”.
`Attar was probably the son of a prosperous chemist, receiving an excellent education in various fields. While his works say little else about his life, they tell us that he practiced the profession of pharmacy and personally attended to a very large number of customers. The people he helped in the pharmacy used to confide their troubles in `Attar and this affected him deeply. Eventually, he abandoned his pharmacy store and traveled widely – to Baghdad,Basra, Kufa, Mecca, Medina, Damascus, Khwarizm, Turkistan, and India, meeting with SufiShaykhs – and returned promoting Sufi ideas.
`Attar’s initiation into Sufi practices is subject to much speculation. Of all the famous Sufi Shaykhs supposed to have been his teachers, only one – Majd ud-Din Baghdadi a disciple ofNajmuddin Kubra- comes within the bounds of possibility. The only certainty in this regard is `Attar’s own statement that he once met him. In any case it can be taken for granted that from childhood onward `Attar, encouraged by his father, was interested in the Sufis and their sayings and way of life, and regarded their saints as his spiritual guides. At the age of 110, Attar died a violent death in the massacre which the Mongols inflicted on Nishabur in April 1221.Today, his mausoleum is located in Nishabur. It was built by Ali-Shir Nava’i in the 16th century.
According to Edward G. Browne, Attar as well as Rumi and Sana’i were all Sunni Muslims and their poetry abound with praise for the first two caliphs Abu Bakr and Umar ibn al-Khattāb. According to Annemarie Schimmel, the tendency among Shia authors to include leading mystical poets such as Rumi and Attar among their own ranks, became stronger after the introduction of Twelver Shia as the state religion in the Safavid Empire in 1501.
In the introductions of Mukhtār-Nāma and Khusraw-Nāma Attar lists the titles of further products of his pen:
• Manṭiq-uṭ-Ṭayr , also known as Maqāmāt-uṭ-Ṭuyūr
• Šarḥ al-Qalb
He also states, in the introduction of the Mukhtār-Nāma, that he destroyed the Jawāhir-Nāma’ and the Šarḥ al-Qalb with his own hand.
Although the contemporary sources confirm only `Attar’s authorship of the Dīwān and the Manṭiq-uṭ-Ṭayr, there are no grounds for doubting the authenticity of the Mukhtār-Nāma and Khusraw-Nāma and their prefaces.One work is missing from these lists, namely the Tadhkirat-ul-Awliyā, which was probably omitted because it is a prose work; its attribution to `Attar is scarcely open to question. In its introduction `Attar mentions three other works of his, including one entitled Šarḥ al-Qalb, presumably the same that he destroyed. The nature of the other two, entitled Kašf al-Asrār and Maʿrifat al-Nafs , remains unknown.