The Ocean of the Soul: Man, the World, and God in the Stories of Farid Al-Din 'Attar

By Hellmut Ritter; John O'Kane | Go to book overview

CHAPTER TWENTY-FIVE
EARTHLY LOVE AS FREE EMOTION

The conception of love we encounter in ʿ Aṭṭār's worldly love stories differs considerably from that which appears in old Arabic poetry, i.e. in the gallant love adventures of the aristocratic Arab world of pre-Islamic times (e.g. Imraʾ al-Qays) or of the Umayyad period (e.g. ʿUmar ibn Abī Rabīʿa); and no less so from the sentimental effusions which were commonplace in Baghdad circles of the later caliphate, and the anacreontic poetry of the feudal period of the Sāmānids and the following centuries. Similarly, his conception of love differs from the "bourgeois" version of this anacreontic poetry whose representatives (rindīpoets), being more exposed to the criticism of law-revering circles than was the feudal class, seek forbidden drink and the beloved wine-pourer in Magian wine-taverns in the ruins outside the city, are obliged to defend their mode of life against the moralists, and oppose to the moralists' views an ideal of free enjoyment of life which had perhaps been developed by the qalandar dervishes. But the atmosphere of the famous book on love The Dove's Neck-Ring by the Andalusian Ibn Hazm (d. 456/ 1064) is also different from the world of ʿ Aṭṭār. Here a person of great humanity speaks who, from clear observation of reality and personal experience, knows the heights and depths of the human soul, the tribulations of the human heart, its joy and its suffering, who praises one kind of behavior of lovers and reproaches another, examines the causes of love and describes their strongest forms, but also enters into the reasons for love's decline and exhibits understanding for this as well; all in all a man who has taken up a stance outside the magic circle of passion and passes judgements as an informed connoisseur. (Cf. Sawāniḥ pp. II–III).

ʿ Aṭṭār in his stories is not out to depict various empirically attested experiences of the human heart in order then to pronounce judgement on the behavior of the subjects and objects of these experiences. His stories are allegorical and serve solely to proclaim a unique love which alone deserves the name, a love for

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