Biography Farid al-Din Attar

Farid al-Din Attar

photo of Farid al-Din Attar
  • Time Period1119 - 1193
  • Place
  • CountryIran

Poet Biography

Farid al-Din 'Attar was born at Nishapur in northern Persia on November 12, 1119, but sources on his date of death vary from 1193 to 1234. He is one of the most ancient poets of Persia. He has provided the inspiration for Rumi and many other poets. Attar met Rumi at the end of his life when Rumi was only a boy and gave his book Asrarnameh (The Book of secrets) as a present to him.

Attar took his name from his occupation. He was a druggist, perfumist and a doctor in addition to being a poet. Attar saw as many as 500 patients a day in his shop where he prescribed herbal extractions medicine which he made himself.
A legend tells that a dervish induced him to leave his father's profession to study Sufism. 'Attar traveled for 39 years to Egypt, Syria, Arabia, India, and Central Asia before settling in his native Nishapur.

Attar wrote 114 pieces, the same number of suras in the holy book of Koran. About thirty of his works survived. He wrote at least 45,000 rhymed couplets and many prose works. Attar wrote biographies of Sufi saints, but the allegorical Conference of the Birds, completed in 1188, is considered his greatest work. In The Conference of the Birds, Attar explains seven valleys (veils) which the Bird of the Sky goes through and passes to meet Simurgh (God). This is a process that each of us goes through. What we make of ourselves and what we become, good or bad, happy or unhappy, satisfied or dissatisfied, we do ourselves. His Ilahinama (The Book of God) is a collection of quatrains in which, he describes six human capacities and abilities: ego, imagination, intellect, thirst for knowledge, thirst for detachment, and thirst for unity. In The Asrarnama (Book of Secrets), he uses a collection of small stories to elevate the spiritual state of the reader.

According to legend he was killed in 1221 after he was captured by the Mongols of Genghis Khan.; he advised against accepting a ransom of gold as he said he was not worth that, later someone offered a bag of straw for him, Attar told the mongol to accept that as it was what he was truly worth, in a fit of anger the mongol cut of his head.