Works that Shaped the World: The Conference of the Birds

Concourse of the Birds by Habiballah of Sava, 1600 (public domain)

In 2022, the HRC’s Works that Shaped the World public lecture series focuses on religion.

‘Aṭṭar’s 12th century Persian epic of the birds, best known as “the Conference of the Birds” (Manṭiq al-Ṭayr), describes the birds’ quest for their king, the Simorgh, whom they discover in an unexpected way.

However, it is the meaning of the poem and not necessarily its text that has influenced the thinking of those who have sought to understand its message. ‘Aṭṭar’s epic has particularly shaped the world of Sufism because of a single idea that it shares: the beginning and the end are one. It is the appeal of this idea and its correlation with the Christian literary imagination such as Dante’s Divine Comedy—also about a journey inspired by love and led by a guide toward God—that has captured the imagination of its English readership.

In writing the Manṭiq al-Ṭayr ‘Aṭṭar goes further in turning conventional wisdom on its head to suggest—but never confirm—something extraordinary is at work in the seemingly ordinary.


Dr Milad Milani is Senior Lecturer in Religious Studies at Western Sydney University. His work specialises in Sufism and Islam through a comparative religious studies and phenomenology of religion lens. A key area of his research is Persian Sufism and Sufi Poiesis, with particular reference to Attar of Nishapur and Jesus in the mystical imagination of the Sufis.



Works that Shaped the World: The Conference of the Birds

Date & time

Fri 04 Nov 2022, 5–6pm


Online (via Zoom)


Dr Milad Milani, Western Sydney University


HAL Administration


Updated:  14 November 2022/Responsible Officer:  Head, Centre/Page Contact:  CASS Marketing & Communications