This painting illustrates the beginning of Attar's mystic allegory where the birds begin their pilgrimage in search of the Simurgh (representing ultimate spiritual unity). Under the leadership of the hoopoe (perched on a rock at center right), who exhorts them to be steadfast and unwavering in their joint quest, the birds ultimately learn that they are identical to the Simurgh (which means 'thirty birds').
This illustration depicts a scene from the mystical poem 'Mantiq al-tair' ('The Language of the Birds'), composed by the twelfth-century Iranian Farid al-din `Attar. The birds symbolize individual souls in search of the Simurgh (a mystical bird representing ultimate spiritual unity) and are assembled here to begin their pilgrimage under the leadership of the hoopoe (perched on a rock at center right). The idyllic landscape in which the birds have congregated appears to be in harmony with the late-fifteenth-century Timurid miniatures in the manuscript, except for the presence of the hunter carrying a firearm, invented about 1600, who has no place in the narrative. The painter, Habib Allah, who signed a rock in the near foreground (now faint), became a court painter to Shah `Abbas in Mashhad and later followed him to Isfahan, where the Safavid capital moved from Qazvin in the late sixteenth century.