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About the author: The path of mysticism branches off into many separate manners and traditions; however, all the followers of this path seek the fundamental truth behind the beauty of divine love and power and devote their whole lives to the pursuit of union with God. Our friend, Junaid, is from the UK. He has a keen interest in the way of the mystics, particularly the Sufi mystics of Iran, and has read into their history. His teacher, a devotee of Sufism, introduced him to the life stories and quotes of the mystics from a young age. He believes that he has been inspired and humbled by them ever since. He has written this article for ‘Visit Our Iran’ audience after traveling to Iran and experiencing “its unfathomable beauty” in 2019. Junaid has also written an article to introduce some of the most prominent mystic figures in Iran.
*Please note that some of the historical references and claims in this article might be a matter of debate among different sects of Islam and is the author’s personal opinion.
The Most Prominent Mystical Figures of Iran
The Influence of Mysticism on Literature and Poetry
A key feature of the Persian language is the fact that little has changed over the more than a thousand years of its existence as a literary language. Therefore, the poems of Roudaki, the famous early Persian poet, who left this world in the year 941 CE, are understood by even the modern reader. Persian literature has also been dominated by poetry, and Sufism in particular inspired a vast array of mystical poetry. Almost every great lyric poet in classical times was a follower of Sufism. The impact of Sufism on Persian literature was so fundamental that Persian literature would have likely remained for many centuries confined to court literature.
Sufi mystics would express their experiences, states, and teachings in Persian and much poetry was derived from the Persian language. The works of Hafez Shirazi, Saadi Shirazi, and Fariduddin Attar enabled the lower classes to be heard and given a voice in literature.
He was born in Nishapur, Northeast Persia (in the Iranian province of Khorasan) in around 1142. He worked as a healer and is considered one of the greatest mystical poets. It is said that he saw as many as 500 patients a day in his shop prescribing herbal remedies prepared by himself. He left his profession to travel and focus on the ultimate purpose of discovering oneself. This was after encountering an enlightened Sufi shaykh in his shop, ultimately inspiring him to perform a spiritual pilgrimage.
His greatest work Mantiq al-Tair (The Conference of the Birds), is a symbolic story of the soul’s search for truth and is considered a masterpiece of Persian literature. In this book, he outlines the human’s journey towards perfection and unity with God through a mystical account of birds attempting to undertaken journeys through 7 valleys (each representing a human vice) to meet Simorgh, a mythological leader of Birds.
Attar also wrote Tazkirat al-awliya, a hagiographic collection of Muslim saints and mystics. Attar trusted that the blessed influence of the saints might be vouchsafed to him and bring him into happiness; he occupied himself with their sayings and life stories in the hope that he could himself resemble them. He is now buried in Nishapur and is a source of tranquility for many devotees and readers.
Some of his most famous quotes are outlined below: