The Seven Valleys of Love and Religious Tolerance in Attar's Mystical Sufi Poetry

The passionate and truly love-intoxicated 13th century Persian Sufi poet, Shaykh Fariduddin Attar- شيخ فريدالدين عطار نيشابوري is the author of universally admired and best-known classical Sufi masterpiece, The Conference of the Birds or Logic of the Birds--منطق الطير
- a highly elaborate allegory of 30-Sufi dervish seekers [Pilgrim birds] led by a Sufi master [Guiding bird ] embarking on a long pilgrimage or a long spiritual journey through 'Seven Valleys of Love' in spiritual quest of ultimate Sufi enlightenment, annihilation of self and eternal union with God who's depicted as the Persian mythical bird, Simorgh or the immortal Phoenix Bird.

The annihilation of Self or FANA-فنا and eternal abiding in God or BAQA-بقا are not only the two main tenets of Sufism, but also the last spiritual 'Station' or 'Stage' for a Sufi-dervish seeker journeying on the path of Sufi enlightenment. Hence, Attar's Logic of Birds is unanimously considered as one of the greatest poetic manifestations of Sufi teachings and in-depth explanations of Sufism. The 'Seven Valley of Love' that Attar's 'Birds' journey to, are the very foundations of spiritual doctrines and mystical teachings of Sufism.

The conclusion of Attar's heavily Sufi-infused masterpiece, 'Logic of the Birds' is quite astonishing and leaves the reader in awe and amazement: The truly exhausted thirty Sufi dervishes or "Birds", after journeying through all the 'Seven Valleys of Love' and overcoming numerous obstacles and challenges along the arduous spiritual path, finally get to meet the 'Simorgh/Immortal Phoenix Bird' or God only to find out that the Divine Truth they've been seeking all alone is none other than themselves!

Reaching the very end of their spiritual journey, the "Birds" realize that they, themselves, are the clear and true manifestations of Divine Reflections. The ultimate spiritual awakening or realization of Attar's "Birds" lies deeply in the following Sufi teachings: The Ever-Present Beloved/God  dwells deep within the hearts and souls of true lovers/Believers, therefore a true lover is the reflection of the Beloved. Attar's shocking final conclusion might come as a huge surprise, but he did not actually invent any new Sufi teachings concepts. Attar simply reiterated one of the main concepts of Sufism: God created Man in His Own Image.

In his masterpiece, 'Logic of the Birds', Attar also makes reference to the Sufi teachings of 'Mirror of the Heart': as long as the mirror of our heart is not brightly shining and completely polished, the reflection of 'Simorgh' or God will not appear in it. But Attar digs even deeper by forcefully arguing that even if we possess the most shining and spotless mirror, no lover can possibly bear the Beloved's astonishing Beauty and Blinding Light face to face. That's precisely why God has placed a mirror inside our heart, so we can search for a fleeting glimpse of His Beautiful Reflections deep within. To see God, we must possess a brightly shining inner mirror and purified heart.

Attar, through his magnificent allegorical "Bird" tales and spiritual journey through the 'Seven Valleys of Love', also deeply ponders over yet another one of the main Sufi doctrines, 'Wahdat-al-Wujud' or the transcendent 'Unity of Being'--all things exist ONLY within God and are an emanation of All-Encompassing God. The soul of a Sufi is temporarily trapped in the cage of a mortal body in this materialistic world, and it's only through inward journeying, spiritual awakening, and digging deeper within Self that a Sufi seeker can finally find the true essence of his/her soul's attachment and unification with God. Only an awakened soul blessed by the shining Light of God can journey upon the enlightenment path of Sufism in quest of final Self-annihilation and eternal abiding into God. Therefore, in Attar's metaphorical Sufi journey of the 'alone to The Alone', The Creator and His creatures are in reality ONE. All Is God, we're merely non-existence in the protective Shadow of The Absolute Existence. God is the Absolute Reality, we as His humble and perishing creatures are absolutely nothing.

Yet for Attar and genuine practitioners of Sufism, God is both immanent and transcendent. We all possess 'Divine Qualities' since Humans are created precisely in the Divine Image of God. For a Sufi seeker journeying on the enlightenment path of Sufism, the spiritual journey of the “alone to The Alone”, is the journey of a separated 'Divine creature' striving for the ultimate reunion with the 'Divine Infinity'. To summarize it strictly within the Sufi doctrines and teachings, the microcosm (MAN) is the clear and true reflection of the macrocosm (Universe) since both are blessed by the Divine Qualities. Therefore, the 'Universal  Man' or 'Perfect Man' is actually a 'Divine Man'.

Shaykh Fariduddin "Attar" [in Persian, Attar literally means a 'Grocery store owner', 'Drugstore owner' or a 'Perfume seller' all accounts, Attar had a grocery and drugstore business, since he had mentioned writing some of his poetry in his Daru-Khana which literally mean Drugstore...he had a well-stocked 7-Eleven, if you will. Attar was a prolific poet who wrote over a hundred books and was undoubtedly the inspiration of Rumi and virtually all subsequent Persian Sufi poets. He was killed during the 13th century Mongol invasion of Persia. Attar's deeply meaningful Sufi mystical poems had a tremendous influence on Rumi's poetic works. Rumi himself humbly acknowledges Attar's imminence and spiritual superiority:

Attar has already roamed around seven cities of love
I'm barely around the corner of its first alley.

هفت شهر عشق را عطار گشت
ما هنوز اندر خم یک کوچه ایم
حضرت مولانا

There is also a very interesting story of Rumi actually meeting the great Attar when Jalaluddin was still a nine-year-old little kid: The rich and glorious Persian Literature has it that Rumi met Attar as a nine-year-old khorasani boy when his family was forced to abandon his beloved birthplace, Balkh and fleeing for their lives from the onslaughts of Genghis Khan and his dreaded Mongol Army. On their way to finally settling down in Anatolia as   Persian refugees, Rumi's father,حضرت بهاالدين ولد Bahauddin Walad--an imminent and highly respected Sufi master and scholar of his own right also affectionately known as 'Sultan al-Ulama- سلطان العلما' or 'Sultan of all Scholars'--had stopped by to briefly visit and pay his respects to the great Sufi poet of Nishapur, Attar.

The most interesting aspect of this courtesy visit lies in the fact that Attar had immediately recognized and foreseen young Rumi's future spiritual eminence. As he saw Rumi's father walking ahead of his little boy, Attar had commented: "Here comes a sea followed by an ocean...Mark my words: this son of yours [Rumi] will one day set this world on fire...he'll set on fire every heart that burns with love."

Attar had then given a copy of one of his highly mystical Sufi poetry books, Asrar-Namah (The Book of Secrets)--a book about the entanglement of soul in material world--to the nine-years-old Jalaludin Balkhi who was on his way to become a Rumi or a Roman--an inhabitant of Rum or Eastern Roman Empire [The Byzantine Empire or Byzantium].

Attar was definitely right on the target in his prediction, Rumi not only did set the world on fire during his days, but 804 years later, he's still setting on fire the hearts and souls of true lovers of all races, faiths, and nationalities.

Attar's deeply mystical Sufi poetry mainly deals with the 'Pain of Love' and a lover's lifelong task and need to not only continuously suffering for Love, but to also keeping the fire of longing for Love burning deep within the heart. Attar firmly believes that it's only through constant burning by the fire of Love that a Sufi lover can reach the ultimate goal or 'Station' of Sufi enlightenment, annihilation and eternal abiding into Beloved or God. For Attar, true love can only thrive through inextinguishable pain. In a highly mystical and meaningful poem, Attar metaphorically compares lovers as Moths and Love or God as a shining and brightly burning Candle:

In reality, we're all like those three legendary moths
who've already become love legends in the planet of lovers:
The first moth gets close to the shining and brightly burning Candle and says
"I can feel the Heat of Love, now I can tell for fact that Love does burn hot."
The second moth gets a bit more closer, actually burning its wings and says
"I know what burning for Love really means, I just got burned by Love."
The third moth jumps straight into the burning Candle,
getting itself totally annihilated in the Flames of Love.
YES! YES! Now that's the true meaning of Love.

جملگی در حكم سه پروانه‌ایم
در جهان عاشقان، افسانه‌ایم
اولی خود را به شمع نزدیك كرد
گفت: آی، من یافتم معنای عشق
دومی نزدیك شعله بال زد
گفت: حال، من سوختم در سوز عشق
سومی خود داخل آتش فكند
آری آری این بود معنای عشق
شيخ عطار

Attar repeatedly urges true lovers to keep on enduring the 'Pain of Love':

If you're a worshiper of Faith of Love
journeying upon its Path,
then seek pain, more pain and even more pain.

گر تو هستي اهل عشق و مرد راه
درد خواه و درد خواه و درد خواه
شيخ عطار

Attar prefers the 'Pain of Love' over the 'Healing of Love':

What's Love?
Going completely out of your own Self,
drowning deep into the blood filled Ocean of Love.
My soul is burning deep for the pain of Your Love.
Give me more pain and don't let me get healed by Your Love.
If Your Love is the poison, then my soul rather get poisoned by Your Love.
I'd rather endure the pain of Your Love,
rather than being healed by Your Love.

عشق چيست از خويش بيرون آمدن
غرقه در درياي پرخون آمدن
درد عشق تو که جان مي‌سوزدم
درد برمن ريز و درمانم مکن
گر همه زهر است از جان خوشترست
زان که درد تو ز درمان خوشتر است
شيخ عطار

Attar also teaches us that for a Sufi seeker journeying on the path of Sufi enlightenment, there are Seven 'Cities' or 'Valleys' of Love which a Dervish must travel to and spend some spiritual quality time at, before reaching the ultimate spiritual destination, the Divine Convent of Love:

It's said that there are Seven Valleys on our Path.
Once we get to travel though all those Seven Valleys,
then we'll finally reach the cherished Convent of Love.
To begin with, the very First Valley is the Valley of Quest and Yearning.
Then comes the vast and borderless Valley of Love.
The Third Valley is the Valley of Mystical Knowledge.
The Fourth Valley is the Valley of Total Detachment.
The Fifth Valley is the Valley of Pure Unification.
The Sixth Valley is the Valley of Spiritual Astonishment.
The Seventh Valley is the Valley of Spiritual Poverty and
Annihilation of Self into God.
After the annihilation of Self, there is no more journeying.
At that final Stage, your spiritual searching and seeking comes to an end.
Once getting totally annihilated, you'll be absorbed entirely into Love.
You'll become another pure drop in the vast Ocean of Unification.

گفت ما را هفت وادی در ره است
چون گذشتی هفت وادی،درگه است
هست وادی طلب آغاز کار
وادی عشق است از آن پس ، بی کنار
پس سیم وادی است آن معرفت
پس چهارم وادی استغنا صفت
هست پنجم وادی توحید پاک
پس ششم وادی حیرت صعبناک
هفتمین وادی فقر است و فنا
بعد از این روی روش نبود تو را
در کشش افتی روش گم گرددت
گر بود یک قطره قلزم گرددت
شيخ عطار

Just like virtually every other Persian Sufi poet, Attar also forcefully urges us to let go of our historical hatred and religious prejudices against the non-Muslim believers of other faiths and beliefs. Attar beautifully explains in the following two highly mystical and meaningful poems how the true lovers of Love are beyond this superficial, full of hatred and divided world of Islam and Infidels:

What does Love have to do with Islam and Infidels?
A true lover never thinks even for an instant
about any false notion of Islam and Infidels.
How could true lovers possibly think that way
if their souls are entirely filled with Love?
A true lover never argues over the reality or fiction of Love.
On the Path of Love, good and bad are always the same.
When truly in Love, a lover is neither good nor bad.
Once Your Love is finally mingled deep with with my soul,
I no longer think about Your Heaven or Hell!

عشق را با کفر و با ايمان چه کار
عاشقان را لحظه‌اي با جان چه کار
لحظه‌اي نه کافري داند نه دين
ذره‌اي نه شک شناسد نه يقين
نيک و بد در راه او يکسان بود
خود چو عشق آمد نه اين نه آن بود
عشق تو با جان من در هم سرشت
من نه دورخ دانم آنجا نه بهشت
شيخ عطار

In the following highly meaningful poem, Attar specifically points his accusing finger straight at his fellow Muslims, admonishing and urging them to let go of their historic prejudices and hatred against non-Muslim who're often referred to in a highly derogatory and demeaning term as 'Kuffar' or 'Infidels':

O Muslims!
I'm that fire-worshiping Zoroastrian who has just finished building a huge Idol-Temple!
I'm that Idol-worshiper who climbed up on the rooftop of my Temple-Idol,
proudly shouting out loud to the four corners of this world:
"I've indeed built an Idol-Temple"!
O Muslims!
I'm that non-Muslim who loudly and openly informs
you all that I'm damn proud to be an Infidel!
I'm that Infidel who's standing steadfast in his Faith
and devotedly dusting and polishing his Idols!
I was also born form a Virgin, that's why they call me Jesus!
I'm that little baby Jesus sucking the breast-milk of my Virgin Mother!
If they want to burn poor Attar just for being a Zoroastrian,
SO... BE... IT!
But just let them know this: I've already annihilated Self in me!

مسلمانان من آن گبرم كه بتخانه بنا كردم
شدم بر بام بتخانه درين عالم ندا كردم
صلاي كفر در دادم شما را اي مسلمانان
كه من آن كهنه بتها را دگر باره جلا كردم
به بكري زادم از مادر از آن عيسيم مي‌خوانند
كه من اين شير مادر را دگر باره غذا كردم
اگرعطار مسكين را درين گبري بسوزانند
گوه باشيد،اي مردان كه من خود را فدا كردم.
مصيبت نامه? يا منطق الطير? شيخ عطار

'Getting Drowned Into The Ocean Of Love' is also one of the Sufi themes and teachings which Attar frequently refers to throughout his deep Sufi mystical teachings:

Love is a vast Ocean and I've drowned myself deep into it,
hoping to find the Friend I've been searching all along.
Any lover who's not deeply burning for Love,
has nothing to do with searching for the mysteries of Love.
There are only three ways which lead you to the World of Love:
Fire, Tears and Blood.

عشق دريايي‌ست من در قعر او
غرقه‌ام تا آشنايي پي برم
هر که او در عشق آتشبار نيست
ذره‌اي با سر عشقش کار نيست
سه ره دارد جهان عشق اکنون
يکي آتش، يکي اشک و يکي خون
شيخ عطار

Attar is not only a devout lover and worshiper of Love par excellence, but he's also a seasoned spiritual traveler who has already roamed the Seven Cities of Love as Rumi so humbly acknowledges. I conclude my brief homage to the great Sufi master of love, Attar by sharing my humble translation of one of his most beautiful Love-filled poems explaining Love in details and teaching us all what Love really means; and how a lover should truly fall in Love with  the Beloved:

Last night, the charm of His Love entered my soul, saying:
"Love does have a place for you if you're truly annihilated."
Once annihilated in Love, you leave no trace behind,
as every single part of you body gets dissolved into Love.
Your selfish heart and soul get replaced by body parts filled with Love.
How could your intellect possibly know anything about Love pains?
You will never decipher the Mysteries of Love through mere intellectual reasoning.
Intellect is just a tiny drop in the vast Ocean of Love.
How could a simple drop possibly know
the entire meanings and mysteries of a vast Ocean?
How could you possibly suffer from Love pains
If your soul is still acting so selfish and detached from Love?
The Task of Love is the lifelong task of your heart.
Open the eyes of your heart and look how a lover's soul
gets totally intoxicated by a fleeting glimpse of Love.
Any lover who's not totally bewildered by Love
can not calculate the price to be paid for dealing with Love.
Love requires a restless soul, constant internal revolt,
and loud and painful Love uproars from a lover.
How could those lovers who're still hanging on to their  existence today,
possibly appreciate the true worth of Love tomorrow?
A lover needs clear vision of Love in order to clearly see
those hundreds of thousands of journeying lovers
constantly wandering in the Desert of Love.
In the Desert of Love, the souls of the lovers
are like a thick cloud pregnant with Love showers.
A drop of rain from the soul cloud of lovers
is always filled with pain and lamentation for Love.
As soon as Attar's heart was illuminated by the shining Sun of Love,
It left Attar and headed straight towards the Desert of Love!
All those falsely proud and fake lovers of this material world
shall be humiliated like the dust under the feet of Love.
This material world is also filled with true passionate lovers,
but any lover out there who's still not genuinely love-frenzied
by the burning passion of Love,
is not a true lover.
Only true lovers know the true essence and values of Love.
How would you possibly know anything about Love
if you were never educated in the School of Love?!
It's high time you open the eyes of your heart for Love,
so you can clearly see the wonders of Ocean of Love.
Take solace at the depth of the Ocean of Non-existence,
so Beloved can pull you up to the highest Throne of Love.
Once you annihilate your own Self in this material world,
then you can truly manifest your deep affections for Love.
You're no more than a small shrub on the Path of Love.
Listen up good to the King of Love
so you can fully grasp the meanings of Love.
Listen up good so the revealed Secrets of Love
can start illuminating your whole entire being.
So you, yourself, can also become
one of the most shining and illuminating lights of Love.
O Attar, get up and sacrifice your own soul for Love.
In this loveless world, you're the master preacher of Love!

گزيده ابياتي از اشعار شيخ فريدالدين عطار نيشاپوري در شرح و مدح عشق

دوش درآمد به جان دمدمه‌ی عشق او
گفت اگر فانی‌ای هست تو را جای عشق
چون اثر او نماند، محو شد اجزای او
جای دل و جان گرفت جمله‌ی اجزای عشق
عقل کجا پی برد شیوه‌ی سودای عشق؟
باز نیابی به عقل سّر معمای عشق
عقل تو چون قطره‌ایست مانده ز دریا جدا
چند کند قطره‌ای فهم ز دریای عشق؟
چون که نیست از عشق جانت را خبر
عشق چو کار دل است دیده‌ی دل باز کن
جان عزیزان نگر مست تماشای عشق
   کی بود هرگز تو را پروای عشق
هر که دایم نیست ناپروای عشق
   او چه داند قیمت سودای عشق
عشق را جانی بباید بیقرار
   در میان فتنه سر غوغای عشق
جمله چون امروز در خود مانده‌اند
   کس چه داند قیمت فردای عشق
دیده‌ای کو تا ببیند صد هزار واله
    و سرگشته در صحرای عشق
هست درین بادیه جمله‌ی جانها چو ابر
قطره‌ی باران او درد و دریغای عشق
تا دل عطّار یافت پرتوِ این آفتاب
گشت ز عطّار سیر، رفت به صحرای عشق
بس سر گردنکشان کاندر جهان
    پست شد چون خاک زیرپای عشق
در جهان شوریدگان هستند و نیست
   هر که او شوریده شد شیدای عشق
عاشقان دانند قدر عشق دوست
   تو چه دانی چون نه‌ای دانای عشق
چشم دل آخر زمانی باز کن
   تا عجایب بینی از دریا عشق
در نشیب نیستی آرام گیر
   تا برآرندت به سر بالای عشق
گر ز خود و هر دو کون پاک تبرّا کنی
راست بود آن زمان از تو تولای عشق
کمتر از چوبی نه‌ای در راه عشق
گوش کن معنیّ آن از شاه عشق
تا که گردد روشنت اسرار عشق
بعد از آن گردی تو خود انوار عشق
خیز ای عطار و جان ایثار کن
زانکه در عالم تویی مولای عشق
شيخ عطار
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Thank you for visiting Maulana Rumi Online, a blog dedicated entirely to the life, works and teachings of Maulana Jalaluddin Muhammad Balkhi better known simply as Rumi here in our beloved America. Just as a memory refresher, all articles, e-books, images, links and reading materials listed in this Blog are solely for Educational purposes. This Blog is designed and maintained by yours truly, your comments, critiques or suggestions are quite welcome and greatly appreciated. As for my own Rumi Translations, you are welcome to copy and use them as long as it's not for commercial purposes. For best viewing, please try this Blog on Google Chrome Browser. This is a very long Blog though, so please make sure to use the Scroll To Top or Bottom Buttons at the left side, or Back To Top Button at the bottom right corner of your screen for smooth navigation. If you have any question, comment, critique or suggestion, please contact me by clicking the Contact Box embedded at the right middle corner. As Rumi would say, "Come, come, whoever you are, come back again.."!

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