‘Attar and Rumi


In the Book of Affliction (Musibat-nama) ‘Attar described forty stages in spiritual progression as a wayfarer asks different creatures how to find God until the ultimate truth is given by the prophet of Islam himself in the ocean of one’s own soul. These stories reflect outwardly the mystical experiences of disciples during forty days of meditation.

Rumi suggested that God uses prophets and saints as mirrors to instruct people while the divine remains hidden behind the mirrors. People hear the words from the mirrors but are ignorant that they are spoken by universal reason or the word of God. Ultimately God will place in people’s hands their books of greed and generosity, of sin and piety, whatever they have practiced. When they awake on that morning, all the good and evil they have done will recur to them. After enumerating their faults, God in the end will grant them pardon as a free gift. To tell an angry person of faults, one must have a face as hard as a mirror to reflect the ugliness without fear or favor. Like ‘Attar, Rumi wrote of the mystic’s attaining annihilation, but he explained that the end and object of negation is to attain the subsequent affirmation just as the cardinal principle of Islam “There is no God” concludes with the affirmation “but God,” and to the mystic this really means “There is nothing but God.” Negation of the individual self clears the way for apprehending the existence of the One. The intoxication of life in pleasures and occupations which veil the truth should pass into the spiritual intoxication that lifts people to the beatific vision of eternal truth.


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