Attar : The Beginning

The Persian Sufi and poet commonly known as Fariduddin Attar had a profound effect on the development of Sufism, and it was his use of a particular poetic form that inspired Mevlana Rumi to write the Masnavi. Very little is known about the personal life of Attar, but from his name it is evident that he worked as an apothecary, giving herbal remedies to the ill. One version of his spiritual journey is that it was the suffering of his patients that brought him to leave the world and seek spiritual truth. But another version tells the following.

Attar, it is said, has a busy and lucrative practice, treating many patients all day long. One day a dervish called at his dispensary and asked for alms, but Attar was too busy with his patients to care for him, and gave no reply. When he took no notice of him on his second polite demand, the dervish remarked, “You are so busy amassing wealth here. How will you depart from this world, being forced to leave everything you have collected here?” Attar replied, “I shall give up my spirit just as you will.”

Hearing this, the dervish lay down on the floor, closed his eyes, recited Kalimah (the prayer Muslims are enjoined to repeat at the moment of death) and passed away.

It is said that the ability of the dervish to leave the world at will made a deep impression on Attar; he immediately gave all his wealth to the poor, closed his dispensary, left his home and began to follow the dervish path.

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