The Conference of the Birds by Farid ud-din Attar


1. Take a section from the assigned readings and do the following in an essay:a. Identify the allegorical players in at least one of the parables told. b. Explain what each of the significant players in the parable represents

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i. What is the parable suggesting? What is its controlling theme?

ii. How is the soul’s journey being blocked from its path to God?

iii. What answer is the parable giving in reference to the hoopoe’s advice? How does this help the soul’s journey on its path?

2. Be mindful of the editor’s suggestions about interpretation on pages xv-xviii

a. “Two themes in particular are diffused throughout almost the entire poem—the necessity for destroying the Self, and the importance of passionate love” (xviii);

b. “If there are two main actors in any given story, it’s a good bet—it doesn’t always work but it does most of the time—that one of them represents the human soul and the other God” (xvi);

c. “…often in Sufi tales it is the socially inferior person who represents God or the divine. This is the part of the Sufi love of paradox, a way of jolting the reader out of his normal expectation of the world” (xvii);

d. Objects and individuals don’t maintain allegorical significance from one story to another, so the meanings of the symbols in each story have to be worked out anew” (xviii);

e. “…if a tale seems resistant to interpretation, the first thing to do is to turn the page back and reread the hoopoe’s initial words” (xv).

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