Conference of the Birds

Mantiq At-Tair (Conference of the Birds) is a Sufi fable composed in the 12th century by Persian poet Farid Ud-din Attar. The Sufis follow the inner teaching of The Qur'an and aspire to attain union with Allah. The process of striving for this union is described by Attar in the form of an allegorical poem. The narrative is structured in the form of a mythical quest: conference, excuses, desert safari, seven valleys and finale.

The birds gather to discuss their pilgrimage to their King, the Simorgh. They receive advice on their shortcomings and difficulties. The birds then set out on the journey, and while many drop out or perish because of their weaknesses, only the brave, the patient and the persistent reach their cherished goal.

Each bird-form embodies different characteristics of man: the narcissistic Peacock, the cowardly Sparrow, the forlorn Nightingale with its unrequited love for the rose—all remind us of our frailty and misguided priorities.

As with any great myth or legend, Conference of the Birds has various levels of meaning. It can be read from a purely humanistic point of view as a celebration of man's triumph over his tribulations — the mythical hero is tested and finally comes to a greater understanding about himself. From a spiritual or esoteric point of view, it serves as a reminder of life's mystical dimension, awakening man to the idea that he contains within himself the essence of the Divine. "He who knows himself knows God.

About Farid-Ud-Din Attar

Farid Ud-Din Attar, the author of Mantiq at-Tair, was born near Nishapur in Northwest Persia in 1120 C.E. and died circa 1230 C.E. It is believed that one day, whilst in his youth, Attar was sitting with a friend in the doorway of his father's chemist-perfume shop when a stranger came by. From his attire he appeared to be of a religious nature. When this man neared the shop and smelled the sweet perfumes, he sighed and wept in enjoyment of the scent. Attar, from whose name Attar of the Roses is derived, believed that the stranger was seeking pity and hastened him away.

But the man replied, "Yes, there is nothing to prevent me from leaving the door and saying farewell to this world. All I have is my worn-out cloak. But I grieve for you, Attar. How can you ever turn you mind to death and renounce all these worldly goods?"

Attar retorted that it was his wish as well to end his life in poverty and contentment. He too was going to follow the man's example. "We shall see," said the man and therupon lay down and died.

Conference of the Birds (Vancouver, June 2012)

PRODUCER: Ismaili Council, B.C. Ensemble: Aliyah Amarshi, Khalid Esmail, Faizaan Jaffer, Aliya Jessa, Dr. Omar Kassam, Naushin Lalani, Soraiya Lalani, Karim Lawji, Zahara Mawji, Imran Mitha, Shahira Patni-Tejpar; Mahasen Premji; Ashif Suleman; Aly Sunderji; Shareen Teja; CHORAL DIRECTOR: Hussein Janmohamed; Dances: Shiraz Ali; DESIGN CONSULTANT: Farouk Noormohamed; Costumes: Farida & Alia Noormohamed; PROPS: Zul Kaaba; LIGHTING & SOUND: Adil Jessa & Eric Lotze; PROJECTIONS: Anzoom Nathani; STAGE MANAGERS: Shareefa Jaffer, Tazmin Mitha; PRODUCTION MANAGER: Amyn Jaffer; PHOTOS: Sultan Baloo and Aziz Dhamani.