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A Study in Sufi Poetics: The Case of ʿAṭṭār Nayshābūrī

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Throughout his poetic oeuvre, Shaykh Farīd al-Dīn ʿAṭṭār Nayshābūrī (d. ca. 618/1221) repeatedly addresses the question of the relationship between literary-poetic and religio-mystical pursuits. ʿAṭṭār vacillates between denouncing poetic composition as inconsistent with religious orthodoxy, and embracing poetry as the very apex of spiritual practice. This essay explores ʿAṭṭār’s fluid poetics through a comprehensive examination of his stated positions in his four authentic mathnavīs. It concludes that ʿAṭṭār’s contradictory statements regarding the poetic enterprise exemplify the paradoxical position of a Sufi mystic-poet grappling with the tension of literary self-affirmation in the face of spiritual self-annihilation.

Affiliations: 1: New York, N.Y


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