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Conference of the Birds

For this blog post, I chose to use photography as an outlet again and use myself as the subject. This time, I used the imagery from The Conference of the Birds to inspire this shot I had a friend of mine take. I then used photo editing to create the reflection that relates to the part of the story where the birds learn that the leader they were looking for was within themselves all along.

Some time ago we focused on a story entitled The Conference of the Birds. It is a piece of Persian literature by the poet Farid ud-Din Attar. In this epic poem, the birds of the world all gather and realize that they must decide who will be their new leader, as there currently is none. After intense discussion the hoopoe, a bird known for his wisdom, suggests that they find the Simorgh – a bird of legend. One line from the poem mentions that, “If Simorgh unveils its face to you, you will find that all the birds….are but the shadows cast by that unveiling.” In order to find the Simorgh, the hoopoe warns that the birds must journey through seven valleys that all include various trials and tests. Numerous birds end up embarking on the trip and they encounter each valley one by one, but only thirty birds make it to the end. At the conclusion of this journey, the birds learn that the leader they were looking for was within themselves all along. This is communicated through the imagery of the birds looking at their own reflections in the lake of the dwelling place of the Simorgh.


I found this story to be most impressive in its ability to tell so many different sub stories which are all connected so well. The poem manages to effectively teach a large amount of lessons in a single text. In some ways, I think that this story has also helped me to reflect on my understanding of Islam as I navigate this course. I think that one of the most important things I’ve learned of this religion is its ability to inform so many different kinds of conversations. However, what differs in this comparison is the sometimes contradictory nature of certain conclusions drawn from a belief informed by an Islamic perspective. I think that this was made especially evident in the discussion we had in class today about the Sufi rock performer, Salman Ahmad, who could not understand how the mullahs and himself had reached such polarizing positions on the matter of the role of music in Islam.




ʻAṭṭār, Farīd al-Dīn, et al. The Conference of the Birds. Penguin Books, 1984.

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