Week 9: On the Mathnawi Style

This digital collage was created as a reflection on The Conference of the Birds, a Sufi epic poem consisting of 4500 lines written in the Mathnawi style, of rhyming couplets. The overall purpose of this epic is to present through a large allegory the Sufi interpretation of the Qur’an. This is especially notable, as the artistic interpretations of the Qur’an – directly through the poeticism of The Conference of the Birds, the further exploration of this piece through other art forms such as dance – are able to encapsulate the physical and spiritual struggles of being human in a way that connects to a person’s soul. This digital piece was inspired by a couple of lines in the epic that really stood out to me:


“We are a wretched, flimsy crew at best,

And lack the bare essentials for this quest.

Our feathers and our wings, our bodies’ strength

Are quite unequal to the journey’s length;”


Followed soon after by:


“No one can bear His beauty face to face,

And for this reason, of His perfect grace,

He makes a mirror in our hearts – look there

To see Him, search your hearts with anxious care.” 


This piece highlights the individual struggles that each of the birds encapsulated, represented by the black and white, rough sketch in the middle of a worn-down bird – each of the birds in The Conference of the Birds has their own individual vices, making them wretched and flimsy. However, the community of religion, as represented by the collection of smaller birds surrounding the larger bird, allows people to explore within and seek elements of spirituality and God within themselves, as is expressed in the second paragraph – which also aligns with the overall Sufi tradition of letting go of materialism and looking within for spiritual enlightenment and a path to God.


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