Concerning Migration to the Real

Concerning Migration to the Real
(Mantiq al-Tair by Farīd al-Dīn ‘Attār)

P. W. Avery Mantiq al-Tair is one of the masterpieces of Persian literature of which a complete and annotated translation into English is here presented for the first time. The text revolves around the decision of the birds of the world to seek out a king. Their debilitating doubts and fears, the knowing counsel of their leader the Hoopoe, and their choice of the Simurgh as king, is in reality an allegory of the spiritual path of Sufism with its demands, its hazards and its infinite rewards. The poem contains many admonitory anecdotes and exemplary stories, including numerous references to some of the early Muslim mystics such as Rabi’a aVAdawiyya, Abu Sald ibn Abi `I-Khair, Mansur al-Hallaj and Shibli, amongst others. `Attar’s work remains one of the world’s major testaments to the possibility of the fulfillment, or, in a term used by mystics, the fruition of the human spirit— it is above all, as is Sufism as a whole, of an intensely humanistic nature. Not “humanistic” in the sense sometimes given to this word nowadays, but in the sense of mysticism being an intensely personal matter. Peter Avery has not only given us a precise and moving translation, but also ample annotation providing much information to fill in what `Attar would have expected his readers to know. The result is a fascinating insight into a remarkable aspect of Islam: the world of the ecstatic love and ultimate sacrifice of the Persian mystics who, in their wise discernment of the true meaning of life, relinquish all for All.


P. W. Avery

P. W. Avery (1923-2008) P. W. Avery, an eminent British scholar of Persian and a Fellow of King's College, Cambridge, was born in Derby and educated at Rock Ferry High School, Birkenhead and Liverpool University and the London School of Oriental and African Studies, graduating in 1949. In 1952, he published, with John Heath-Stubbs, his first translations of Hafiz. In 1958, he was appointed Lecturer in Persian Language Literature and History at Cambridge University, becoming a Fellow of King's College in 1964. He retired from the Lectureship in 1990 but continued researching and writing as a Fellow of King's College and continued to lead an informal reading group in Persian poetry, despite ill health, until his last months. One of Avery's best known works is a translation (with poet John Heath-Stubbs) of the Persian text of Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, first published in 1979. Other publications include; Modern Iran; The Cambridge History of Iran (ed.) His final work was The Collected Lyrics of Hafiz of Shiraz, published in 2007.


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