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Love and Devotion: From Persia and Beyond

Love and Devotion: From Persia and Beyond

Conference of the birds

Farid al-Din ʿAttar’s best-known work, Mantiq al-Tayr (Conference of the birds), conveys the idea of the journey towards spiritual perfection through a group of birds setting out with their leader to find the mythical Simurgh, regarded by them as a symbol of the Divine. In a clever play on words, 30 birds (si murgh in Persian) achieve their goal after a lengthy journey only to realise that they were the Simurgh all along; divinity lay within each of them.

Two hundred years later, Geoffrey Chaucer chose a similar title for his Parliament of fowls, an allegorical vision that transcends everyday concerns.

Chaucer’s work, and Dante’s Divina commedia before it, demonstrate that medieval Europe and Persia used comparable literary conventions to describe journeys of the spirit. The Persian poet Sanaʾi had foreshadowed such mystic aspiration a generation before ʿAttar.

All may have drawn inspiration from the Qurʾanic account of the Prophet’s night journey, Israʾ, and Ascent, Miʿraj, in which he travels upwards through the heavenly spheres towards spiritual union with the Divine.

Love & devotion in the UK

The Bodleian Libraries is showing its own presentation of the Love and devotion exhibition at the Exhibition Room, Bodleian Library, in Oxford, England, between 29 November 2012 and 28 April 2013.

Learn more about how you can visit this exhibition on the Bodleian Libraries website.


Love and devotion: Persian Cultural Crossroads

This two-day conference held in April 2012 featured distinguished international guests and Australian specialists exploring cultural convergences in literature, the arts and architecture, history and philosophy within Persia's cultural sphere and Europe, from the 11th century to the present day.

For information on keynote speakers & topics discussed, visit our conference page

Visit the exhibition

The Love and devotion exhibition took place from 9 March to 1 July 2012. In-depth information about the exhibits and themes can be found on this website.

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