Aga Khan arrives for award ceremony in Lahore Pakistan

Mawlana Hazar Imam’s References to Simurgh – the Ideal and Perfect King – and Attar’s “Conference of the Birds”; and the Book’s Availability in English

Compiled and introduced by MALIK MERCHANT
Publisher/Editor SimergBarakah and Simergphotos

Simurgh, Simorg, SIMORGH, Conference of the Birds, Aga Khan Museum, Bellerive, SimergPhotos, Photo of the Day by Afraaz Mulji
The Simurgh ceramic vase at the Aga Khan Museum, Bellerive Room.

In our “Photo of the Day” feature published in Simergphotos on June 2, 2021, musician, author and artist Afraaz Mulji picked out the ceramic object Simurgh as his favourite piece among 60 other ceramic works of art that make up the beautiful Bellerive Room at Toronto’s Aga Khan Museum. The collection was gifted by Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan’s widow, Princess Catherine, to honour his memory. The Prince (d. 2003) was a consummate collector who formed one of the great collections of art from the Muslim world.

Bellerive Room, Aga Khan Museum, Toronto. Photo: Malik Merchant Simerg Princess Sadruddin and Princess Catherine
Bellerive Room, Aga Khan Museum, Toronto. Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg.

Looking through Mawlana Hazar Imam’s speeches, we noted that he had mentioned Simurgh in a dynamic and stirring address that he delivered at the inaugural ceremony of the Aga Khan Award for Architecture held in Lahore, Pakistan on October 23, 1980.

Article continues below

Aga Khan arrives for award ceremony in Lahore Pakistan
Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, arrives for the inaugural ceremony of the Aga Khan Award for Architecture held on October 23 1980, in Lahore, Pakistan. Photo: AKDN/Christopher Little.
Aga Khan Award Ceremony AKDN photo Lahore 1980 simerg
Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, presents the Aga Khan Award for Architecture to representatives of the Kampung Improvement Programme (KIP) in Jakarta, Indonesia at the first award ceremony held on October 23. 1980, in Lahore, Pakistan. Photo: AKDN/Christopher Little.

Mawlana Hazar Imam said:

“…..as we celebrate the first Awards and open the way for the forthcoming ones, all these challenges (Please read Speech at AKDN) can help us in defining the attitudes we must develop in thinking of the future and the areas of discovery open to us. It is a task we must accomplish together, fully acknowledging our diversities, but knowing, as well, that there is a Straight Path which is that of our Faith.

“Let me close, therefore, by reminding you of Attar’s great poem, the Conference of the Birds, Mantiqat at-Tayr.

“The birds, you will recall, in huge quantities went in search of the Simurgh, the ideal and perfect king. After many tribulations, thirty of them do reach the end of the journey and come to the gate of the Supreme Majesty. The Chamberlain tests them and then opens the door and they sit on the masnad, the seat of the Majesty and Glory. And, as an inner glow came into them, they realised that it is they together who were the Simurgh and that the Simurgh was the thirty birds.

“Is this not what these Awards mean? From the travails and labours of thousands, humble masons or expensive experts, there have emerged those works made by us and for us which we can present as being, all together, as an aggregate, as a group, the statement of our hopes and of our expectations as much as of our achievements.”

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The Conference of the Birds: Selected Works in English


Afkham Darbandi
and
Dick Davis
From left: Front covers of The Conference of the Birds by Davis, Nott, and Sis. Click on links below for pricing and availability. May we note that there are translation by other writers.

1. Attar’s Conference of the Birds by C.S. Nott has been available for more than 60 years in English, with a newer paperback released in 2016. Please check out C.S. Nott Conference of the Birds on Amazon.

2. Penguin Classics published a highly acclaimed translation in English by Afkham Darbandi and Dick Davis, with an introduction by the latter, in 1984. See Darbandi & Davis Conference of the Birds on Amazon. See also its availability at Chapters-Indigo.

3. More recently Peter Sis, an award winning children’s book writer and illustrator, has offered a beautiful and uplifting adaptation of Attar’s poem which is available in both hardback and paperback formats. See Peter Sis Conference of the Birds on Amazon. See also its availability at Bookoutlet.

Date posted: June 3, 2021.

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Before departing this website please take a moment to review Simerg’s Table of Contents for links to hundreds of thought provoking pieces on a vast array of subjects including faith and culture, history and philosophy, and arts and letters to name a few. Also visit Simerg’s sister websites Barakah, dedicated to His Highness the Aga Khan, and Simergphotos.

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