Blog Post 4, based on The Conference of the Birds

AIU 57 Blog Post Image _ Conference of the Birds


Why should any person worship God? Is worship to be a means to escape eternal damnation or a means to satiate one’s own pleasures? According to 8th century Muslim, Rabia al-Adawiyya, worshipping God should be the for the sole purpose of honoring God, not for escaping eternal fire of hell or even meeting one’s pleasure needs. Worshiping God for the purpose of honoring God, according to Sufism, requires that the individual be united in a loving relationship with Allah through Sufi worship practices like singing qawwali or whirling dance. In these practices, the individual seeks to re-unite with Allah as in “the day of alast,” when creation responded to unite with and submit to Allah. Such themes as pursuit of an inner self, union with Allah, and journeying into another realm of being are explored by Farid al-Din Attar in his novel, The Conference of the Birds.

In The Conference of the Birds, a collection of birds renounce their many pleasures and hindrances to join the hoopoe in journeying to meet the king of all the birds, the mythical Simorgh. I capture one of these birds in my artwork, a cut out cardboard of a bird mounted on a clay dough stand. My bird has beautifully colored feathers – blue, green, and orange feathers – which could be reason for much pride and contentment with itself. In this fashion, my bird is much like the birds in Attar’s work, who had much to comfort themselves with and take pride in. But, like the birds in Attar’s novel, the bird in my artwork, if it seeks to really realize its inner self and be united with its Creator, must renounce the pride in its beautiful feathers and mount on worship practices that can recreate the day of alast. The clay dough mount is also symbolic of the shariah, which, though part of Islam, is only a ground for progressing toward the haqiqah, according to Sufism.

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