The life of Jesus was the example against which saints were measured, and the lives of saints were the examples against which the general population measured itself. Comparison of Attar's "Muslim Saints and Mystics" with Abdu'l-Bahá's "Memorials."
published in Lights of Irfan, 17, pages 325-345 Wilmette: Haj Mehdi Arjmand Colloquium, 2016
Abstract: This paper presents a mode of suggesting examples of life to a religious community, which is that of hagiography: the story of the lives of the saints. In the Christian world, the life of Jesus was the example against which saints were measured, and the lives of saints were the examples against which the general population measured itself. In the Middle Age hagiography became a literary genre par excellence for teaching a largely illiterate audience.
An example of Muslim hagiography is Tadhkirat al-Awliya, "Muslim Saints and Mystics: Episodes" by the famous poet Attar (c. 1145 – c. 1221). This paper will propose a brief comparison between the two works, using the example of a two biographies in Attar’s work Rābi’a Al-‘Adawiyya and Shaykh Bayazid al-Bistami and two from ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s Memorials of the Faithful, that is Mishkín Qalam, and Shams-i-Ḍuhá, to show that hagiography offers examples for people to imitate.