It is said that, as a younger man, Attar went on pilgrimage to Mecca and then traveled extensively through Egypt, Syria, India, and other lands, before finally returning to his home city of Nishapur.
The word Attar means herbalist, which was his profession. It is said that he wrote his poetry while attending to his patients in the shop.
Several sources confirm that he lived about 100 years, and that he was killed by Mongol invaders. His tomb is in Neishabur, a city located in the Khorasan region, northeast of Iran.
About thirty works by Attar survive. Manteq-ot-Tayr (The Conference of the Birds) is well known as his masterpiece in poetry.
In this book, he describes a group of birds under the leadership of a hoopoe who determine to search for the legendary Simorgh bird. The birds must confront their own individual limitations and fears while journeying through seven valleys before they ultimately find the Simorgh and complete their quest. The thirty birds who ultimately complete the quest discover that they themselves are the Simorgh they sought, playing on a pun in Persian (si and morgh can translate as 30 birds) while giving us an esoteric teaching on the presence of the Divine within us.
Tazkirat al-Awliya, literally Biographies of the Matured Ones, is a 72-chapter book written by Attar, about the life of famous Sufis and their miraculous deeds. This is the only surviving work of Attar written as prose. It starts with a biography of Imam Jafar Sadiq, the Sixth Imam of Shia and ends with one of Mansur Al-Hallaj's, the Sufi Martyr.