In my set of comics based on “The Conference of the Birds,” I tried to pictorially represent crucial moments and metaphors from the story. I was inspired by the direct black-and-white pen-on-paper style of “Persepolis,” but rather than treating a historical/biographical subject as it did, I wanted to try to apply it to a fictional comic book storytelling format, possibly directed at young people living in Islamic societies where figural representation isn’t particularly frowned upon. The important metaphors and historical examples I relied on—all of them mentioned at the conclusion of “The Conference of the Birds”—were the “moth and the flame,” the Simorgh/thirty birds pun climax, the birds reading their sins in the book of judgment, and the martyrdom of Hallaj as an analogy for “fana.”
I know that “fana” is probably one of the most commonly referenced subjects in many of these creative projects—yet it can’t be helped! It’s of absolutely absorbing interest… When the thirty birds seem themselves reflected as the Si-Morgh, I made the Si-Morgh totally dark, to symbolize the annihilating process that the birds have gone through–that “dark night of the soul” of sorts. I also have the shadow of the Si-Morgh superimposed over the flames of al-Hallaj’s funeral pyre, to indicate how that act corresponds to the birds’ own self-sacrifice. Fire and darkness both seem to intertwine in a rather interesting way in these annihilating instances. It seems to me to be a phenomenon I’ve also recognized in descriptions of Christian mysticism or of certain yogic practices and experiences.