Religion of Love

Sufism and Self-Transformation in the Poetic Imagination of ʿAṭṭār

By Cyrus Ali Zargar

Subjects: Sufism, Islam, Poetry, Philosophy Of Religion, Middle East Studies
Series: SUNY series in Islam
Hardcover : 9781438498676, 234 pages, July 2024
Expected to ship: 2024-07-01

Alternative formats available from:

Table of contents

List of Abbreviations

Introduction: The Religion of Love

1. Who Was ʿAṭṭār?

2. ʿAṭṭār's Writings

3. The City and the Saint

Part I: Religion

4. Religion, Then and Now

5. Dīn, Dunyā, and the Pious Life

6. Sciences of Empty Reasoning

7. Beyond the Limits of Intelligence

8. The Religion of Old Women

Part II: Love and Infidelity

9. Love Beneath the Cloak of Infidelity

10. The School of Love in History

11. Metaphorical Spaces of Love and Infidelity

12. Finding the Real in Byzantium

Part III: Union

13. ʿAṭṭār and Mystical Experience

14. Ascents to the Real

15. Celestial Journey Literature

16. Union in The Book of Affliction

17. The Source of Affliction



A groundbreaking study of Farid al-Din ʿAṭṭār, one of Persian literature's greatest poets.


Religion of Love explores the life and work of the Persian Sufi poet and sage Farīd al-Dīn ʿAṭṭār. ʿAṭṭār changed the face of world literature, leaving his impact on all cultures that have valued Persian Sufi writings. Considered for the first time through the lens of religious studies, ʿAṭṭār's oeuvre offers much to contemporary readers. ʿAṭṭār's poems cast a light on the relationship between revelation and the intellect. They also encourage liberation from self-centeredness through the fiery path of love. Thus, Religion of Love considers one of Persian literature's greatest poets as more than just a poet, but also as a thinker and a commentator on moral psychology, ethics, and the intellectual debates of his age, debates that shed light on today's religious complexities.

Cyrus Ali Zargar is Al-Ghazali Distinguished Professor of Islamic Studies and Professor in the Department of Philosophy at the University of Central Florida. He is the author of The Polished Mirror: Storytelling and the Pursuit of Virtue in Islamic Philosophy and Sufism and Sufi Aesthetics: Beauty, Love, and the Human Form in the Writings of Ibn ʿArabi and ʿIraqi.


"Religion of Love is by far the best study we have of what ʿAṭṭār is actually saying, bringing out clearly the religious and spiritual roots of ʿAṭṭār's work and his role as a guide on the path to God. At the same time, it offers an outstanding introduction to poetry's role in effectuating the transformation of the soul that is the goal of the religious quest. It brilliantly contextualizes the imagery of wine, women, song, unbelief, and so on that is the stock-in-trade of Persian, Turkish, and Urdu poetry." — William C. Chittick, Distinguished Professor, Stony Brook University, State University of New York

"This succinct, meticulously researched, and well-written study offers a fresh glimpse into the life and thought of ʿAṭṭār of Nishabur, one of the most influential Sufi authors of all time. Treating ʿAṭṭār's writings as 'a treasure-hunt for the Real that is full of revealed clues and natural signposts,' and utilizing his own knowledge of philosophy and theology, Zargar opens new vistas to rethink concepts such as 'religion,' 'infidelity, 'union,' and more." — Fatemeh Keshavarz, author of Lyrics of Life: Saʿdi on Love, Cosmopolitanism and Care of the Self

"Farīd al-Dīn ʿAṭṭār occupies a crucial place in the history of Sufism. Cyrus Zargar's Religion of Love helps us see the full contribution of ʿAṭṭār as the essential 'merging of the two oceans' through whom the worlds of poetry and Sufism mingled in the ripe and lifegiving form that would continue through the centuries through Rumi and others. Zargar makes a unique contribution by centering the religion of love (Madhhab-i ʿishq) not as a path of sentimentality but a divine journey of transformation. In Zargar, ʿAṭṭār has found a profoundly creative, thoughtful, and sensitive contemporary interlocuter. Most enthusiastically recommended for all!" — Omid Safi, Professor of Islamic Studies, Duke University; Director, Illuminated Courses and Tours

"Religion of Love will be around as an unmatched work for a long time to come. With great lucidity and insight, Cyrus Zargar explains the relevance of the difficult and nuanced teachings and ideas of ʿAṭṭār, deftly relating them to our fundamental lived experience as human beings and probing wider questions pertaining to the meaning of religion in the modern world." — Mohammed Rustom, author of Inrushes of the Heart: The Sufi Philosophy of ʿAyn al-Quḍāt