A Study in Sufi Poetics: The Case of ʿAṭṭār Nayshābūrī

in Oriens
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Throughout his poetic oeuvre, Shaykh Farīd al-Dīn ʿAṭṭār Nayshābūrī (d. ca. 618/1221) repeatedly addresses the question of the relationship between literary-poetic and religio-mystical pursuits. ʿAṭṭār vacillates between denouncing poetic composition as inconsistent with religious orthodoxy, and embracing poetry as the very apex of spiritual practice. This essay explores ʿAṭṭār’s fluid poetics through a comprehensive examination of his stated positions in his four authentic mathnavīs. It concludes that ʿAṭṭār’s contradictory statements regarding the poetic enterprise exemplify the paradoxical position of a Sufi mystic-poet grappling with the tension of literary self-affirmation in the face of spiritual self-annihilation.

A Study in Sufi Poetics: The Case of ʿAṭṭār Nayshābūrī

in Oriens

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6

F.D. LewisRūmī: Past and Present East and West (Oxford: Oneworld2000) 174.

27

As e.g. by ṢafāTārīkh865.

67

See A.O. LovejoyThe Great Chain of Being (Cambridge: Harvard University Press1953) 59 for the classic formulation. To my knowledge Leonard Lewisohn is the only scholar to have referred explicitly to this idea with regard to ʿAṭṭār though he does so only in passing (see Lewisohn “Sufi Symbolism” 273 & 301 fn. 62).

79

See Al-Qārīal-Asrār179; also cited in Sells Unsaying 245.

116

AN vv1112–5 & 1122.

123

SellsUnsaying12. See also 3: “It is in the tension between the two propositions that the discourse becomes meaningful.”

126

SellsUnsaying9. On the same page he says that the “Meaning event indicates the moment when the meaning has become identical or fused with the act of predication.”

127

SellsUnsaying35. The foregoing paragraph has of course compressed a great deal of theoretical groundwork laid out gradually throughout Sells’ work. For a summary of the principles involved however see 207–209.

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