Khwāja Šamsu d-Dīn Muḥammad Hāfez-e Šīrāzī, or simply Hāfez was a Persian mystic and poet. He was born sometime between the years 1310 and 1337 in Shiraz, Medieval Persia. John Payne, who has translated the Dīwān Hāfez, regards Hāfez as the greatest poet of the world.
His lyrical poems, known as ghazals, are noted for their beauty and bring to fruition the love, mysticism, and early Sufi themes that had long pervaded Persian poetry. Moreover, his poetry possessed elements of modern surrealism.
Very little credible information is known about Hafez's life, particularly its early part; there is a great deal of more or less mythical anecdote. Judging from his poetry, he must have had a good education, or else found the means to educate himself. Scholars generally agree on the following:
His father Baha'u d-Dīn, who migrated from Isfahan to Shiraz in the time of Atabeks of Fars, is said to have been a coal merchant who died when Hāfez was a child, leaving him and his mother in debt. It seems probable that he met with Attar of Shiraz (Zayn al-Attar), a somewhat disreputable scholar, and became his disciple. He is said to have later become a poet in the court of Abu Ishak, and so gained fame and influence in his hometown. It is possible that Hafez gained a position as teacher in a Qur'anic school at this time.
In his early thirties, Mubariz Muzaffar captured Shiraz and seems to have ousted Hāfez from his position. Hāfez apparently regained his position for a brief span of time after Shah Shuja took his father, Mubariz Muzaffar, prisoner. But shortly afterwards Hāfez was forced into self-imposed exile when rivals and religious characters he had criticized began slandering him. Hāfez fled from Shiraz to Isfahan and Yazd for his own safety.
At the age of fifty-two, Hāfez once again regained his position at court, and possibly received a personal invitation from Shah Shuja, who pleaded with him to return. He obtained a more solid position after Shah Shuja's death, when Shah Shuja ascended the throne for a brief period before being defeated and killed by Tamerlane.
When an old man, Hāfez apparently met Tamerlane to defend his poetry against charges of blasphemy.
It is generally believed that Hāfez died at the age of 69. His tomb is located in the Musalla Gardens of Shiraz (referred to as Hāfezieh).
Hāfez took ear to his immense popularity during his lifetime and agreed with many others (then and now) when he wrote:
- نديدم خوشتر از شعر تو حافظ
- به قرآنى كه اندر سينه دارى
- I have never seen any poetry sweeter than thine, O Hafez,
- I swear it by that Koran which thou keepest in thy bosom.''
Translation by Edward Granville Browne
Legends of Hāfez
Many semi-miraculous mythical tales were woven around Hāfez after his death. Four of them are:
- It is said that, by listening to his father's recitations, Hāfez had accomplished the task of learning the Qur'an by heart, at an early age (that is in fact the meaning of the word Hafez). At the same time Hāfez is said to have known by heart, the works of Jalal al-Din Muhammad Rumi, Sa'di, Farid al-Din Attar and Nezami.
- According to one tradition, before meeting Zayn al-Attar, Hāfez had been working in a local bakery. Hāfez delivered bread to a wealthy quarter of the town where he saw Shakh-e Nabat, allegedly a woman of great beauty, to whom some of his poems are addressed. In the knowledge that his love for her would not be requited and ravished by her beauty, he allegedly had his first mystic vigil in his desire to realize this union, whereupon, overcome by a being of a surpassing beauty (who identifies himself as an angel), he begins his mystic path of realization, in pursuit of spiritual union with the divine. The obvious Western parallel is that of Dante and Beatrice.
- At age 60 he is said to have begun a chilla-nashini, a 40 day and night vigil by sitting in a circle which he had drawn for himself. On the 40th day, he once again met with Zayn al-Attar on what is known to be their fortieth anniversary and was offered a cup of wine. It was there where he is said to have attained "Cosmic Consciousness". Hāfez hints at this episode in one of his verses where he advises the reader to attain "clarity of wine" by letting it "sit for 40 days".
- In one famous tale, the famed conqueror Tamerlane angrily summoned Hāfez to him to give him an explanation for one of his verses
- اگر آن ترک شیرازی بدستآرد دل مارا
- به خال هندویش بخشم سمرقند و بخارا را
- If the belle of Shiraz, grabs a hold of my heart,
- just for her Hindu-like mole, I would give
- All of Samarkand, all of Bokhara...
's capital and Bokhara
his kingdom's finest city. "With the blows of my lustrous sword," Timur complained, "I have subjugated most of the habitable globe... to embellish Samarkand and Bokhara, the seats of my government; and you, would sell them for the black mole of belle of Shiraz!" Hāfez, so the tale goes, bowed deeply and replied "Alas, O Prince, it is this prodigality which is the cause of the misery in which you find me".
So surprised and pleased was Timur with this response that he dismissed Hafez with handsome gifts.
Translated by Clarence Streit
Works and influence
Not much acclaimed in his own day and often exposed to the reproaches of orthodoxy, he greatly influenced subsequent Persian poets and has become the most beloved poet of Persian culture. It is said that if there is one book in a house where Persian is spoken, it will be the Dīwān of Hāfez. Much later, the work of Hāfez would leave a mark on such important Western writers as Ralph Waldo Emerson and Goethe. His work was first translated into English in 1771 by William Jones.
There is no definitive version of his collected works (or Dīwān); editions vary from 573 to 994 poems. In Iran, his collected works have come to be used as an aid to popular divination. Only since the 1940s has a sustained scholarly attempt - by Mas'ud Farzad, Qasim Ghani and others in Iran - been made to authenticate his work, and remove errors introduced by later copyists and censors. However, the reliability of such work has been questioned (Michael Hillmann in Rahnema-ye Ketab, 13 (1971), "Kusheshha-ye Jadid dar Shenakht-e Divan-e Sahih-e Hafez"), and in the words of Hāfez scholar Iraj Bashiri.... "there remains little hope from there (i.e.: Iran) for an authenticated diwan".
The history of the translation of Hāfez has been a complicated one, and few English translations have been truly successful, in large part due to the fact that the figurative gesture for which he is most famous is ambiguity, and therefore interpreting of him correctly requires intuitive perception. Most recently, The Gift: Poems by Hafez the Great Sufi Master, a collection of poems by Daniel Ladinsky published in 1999 by Penguin Books, has been both commercially successful and a source of controversy. Ladinsy does not speak or read Persian, and critics such as Murat Nemet-Nejat, a poet, essayist and translator of modern Turkish poetry, have asserted that his translations are Ladinsky's own inventions.
Though Hāfez’s poetry is influenced by Islam, he is widely respected by Hindus, Christians and others. The Indian sage of Iranian descent Meher Baba, who syncretized elements of Sufism, Hinduism and Christian mysticism, recited Hāfez's poetry until his dying day.
The (instructive) poetry of Sufi schools (for reasons shared with other hermetic schools), liberally employ metaphorical language to mask the real meaning intended for a select audience, under a strict pedagogical spiritual regime in which the seeker is (sometimes literally) subject to the pir "master".
Hāfez' poetry is no exception in this regard and is heavily laced with coded phrases (wine, wind, hand), objects and instruments (cups, reeds, harps), places and occupants (tavern, winekeeper, cup-bearer), and of course a variety of flowers and birds (rose, narcissus, nightingale) etc.
Various content matter directly fix the semantic context of his work in both the Abrahamic traditions and Scripture, and, related metaphysical schools (specially references to the Magi). The cup, cup-bearer, wine and the tavern are frequent features of his poetry. Hāfez also clearly subscribes to a notion of apparent and hidden (occult) 'Teaching', and in one part, even claims "he was crucified for disclosing secrets". One aspect of the genius of his work then was his ability to weave such understanding in verses that afforded a variety of meaning, from the base (debauchery) to the sublime (drinking the holy wine and entering into holy intoxication.)
An interesting and meaningful aspect of his work is that each poem contains his name. Sometimes Hāfez expresses an opinion, and sometimes, the learned voice of the meter instructs the author: "Oh Hafez, when you learn that your concern is the Wine and not the Cup, then will you become a King in both Realms".
Hāfez expressed a strong statement regarding the illusory nature of our earthly existence. This existence is generally coded veeraaneh or "the ruins", symbolizing the ultimate end of materiality. He then paints a picture of the seeker, himself, having 'homes' in both 'the ruins' and in the other realm. As a mystic, Hāfez is a very interesting figure, displaying a restlessness in conjunction with his innate (spiritual) repose, which was literally manifested in his life in both his obsession (with the Houri of the ruins, Shakeh Nabat) and his steadfast resolve on the path. That he expects discipline from himself (and in his station of mystic tutorage of his readers) is clear: "Do not complain to us! The Kingdom for he who will work for it".
The following ghazal (# 360 per Mr. Shahriari) is a fitting summation of the 'works' of Hafez by Hafez himself, indicating a clear goal and function to his poetic output -- the office of the said activity being in the MeyKhaaneh (the tavern) -- and the happy news of the achievement of his primary purpose -- "returning" to his "home" and "birthplace" -- with help from the "minister" of the "king" of his Vataan (or nation):
گر از این مـنزل ویران بـه سوی خانـه روم
دگر آن جا کـه روم عاقـل و فرزانـه روم
زین سـفر گر به سلامت به وطـن باز رسـم
نذر کردم کـه هـم از راه بـه میخانـه روم
تا بگویم که چه کشفم شد از این سیر و سلوک
بـه در صومـعـه با بربـط و پیمانـه روم
آشـنایان ره عـشـق گرم خون بـخورند
ناکـسـم گر بـه شکایت سوی بیگانه روم
بـعد از این دست من و زلف چو زنـجیر نـگار
چـند و چـند از پی کام دل دیوانـه روم
گر بـبینـم خـم ابروی چو مـحرابـش باز
سـجده شـکر کـنـم و از پی شکرانه روم
خرم آن دم کـه چو حافـظ بـه تولای وزیر
سرخوش از میکده با دوست به کاشانـه روم
The meaning behind the poetry of Hāfez must, as with all art, be decided by the patron and observer of the work. Though credited as being "The Interpreter of Mysteries," there remain many mysteries regarding Hāfez that have yet to be solved. As the poet himself had said:
- Am I a sinner or a saint,
- Which one shall it be?
- Hafez holds the secret of his own mystery...
One of Hāfez' greatest fondnesses was for wine, so when the Muzaffarids
captured Shiraz in 1353 and declared prohibition it is no surprise that Hafez wrote a mournful elegy for the loss:
- اگرچه باده فرحبخش و باد گلبيزست
- به بانگ چنگ مخور مى، كه محتسب تيز است
- Though wine gives delight, and the wind distills the perfume of the rose,
- Drink not the wine to the strains of the harp, for the constable is alert.
- Hide the goblet in the sleeve of the patchwork cloak,
- For the time, like the eye of the decanter, pours forth blood.
- Wash the wine stain from your dervish cloak with tears,
- For it is the season of piety, and the time for abstinence.
- در آستین مرقع پیاله پنهان کن
- که همچو چشم صراحی، زمانه خونریز است
- به آب دیده بشوییم خرقهها از می
- که موسم ورع و روزگار پرهیز است
Translation by Edward Browne
Four years afterward, finding prohibition unfeasible for the wine-loving people of Shiraz, the ruler Shah Shuja repealed that act and for that reason Hafez immortalized his name in verse.
Of course, Hāfez' fondness for wine was overshadowed by that of love:
- I said I long for thee
- You said your sorrows will end.
- Be my moon, rise up for me
- Only if it will ascend.
- گفتم غم تو دارم، گفتا غمت سرآید
- گفتم که ماه من شو، گفتا اگر برآید
- I said, from lovers learn
- How with compassion burn
- Beauties, you said in return
- Such common tricks transcend.
- گفتم ز مهرورزان رسم وفا بیاموز
- گفتا ز خوبرویان این کار کمتر آید
- Your visions, I will oppose
- My mind's paths, I will close
- You said, this night-farer knows
- Another way will descend.
- گفتم که برخیالت راه نظر ببندم
- گفتا که شبروست او، از راه دیگر آید
- With the fragrance of your hair
- I'm lost in my world's affair
- You said, if you care, you dare
- On its guidance can depend.
- گفتم که بوی زلفت گمراه عالـمم کرد
- گفتا اگر بدانی هماوت رهبر آید
- I said hail to that fresh air
- That the morning breeze may share
- Cool is that breeze, you declare
- With beloved's air may blend.
- گفتم خوشا هوایی کز باد صبح خیزد
- گفتا خنک نسیمی کز کوی دلبر آید
- I said, your sweet and red wine
- Granted no wishes of mine
- You said, in service define
- Your life, and your time spend.
- گفتم که نوش لعلت ما را به آرزو کشت
- گفتا تو بندگی کن، کو بندهپرور آمد
- I said, when will your kind heart
- Thoughts of friendship start?
- Said, speak not of this art
- Until it's time for that trend.
- گفتم دل رحیمت کی عزم صلح دارد
- گفتا مگوی با کس تا وقت آن درآید
- I said, happiness and joy
- Passing time will destroy.
- Said, Hafez, silence employ
- Sorrows too will end my friend.
- گفتم زمان عشرت دیدی که چون سرآمد؟
- گفتا خموش حافظ کاین قصه هم سرآید
Translation by Shahriar Shahriari.
- I have learned so much from God
- That I can no longer call myself
As with many poets, there are also allusions to love for a beautiful boy, though it is not always clear whether these are based on life or on literary convention (ultimately derived from Theocritus):
- My sweetheart is a beauty and a child, and I fear that in play one day
- He will kill me miserably and he will not be accountable according to the holy law.
- دلبرم شاهد و طفل است و به بازی روزی
- بكشد زارم و در شرع نباشد گنهش
- I have a fourteen year old idol, sweet and nimble
- For whom the full moon is a willing slave.
- چارده ساله بتی چابک و شیرین دارم
- که به جان حلقه بگوش است مه چارده اش
- His sweet lips have (still) the scent of milk
- Even though the demeanor of his dark eyes drips blood. (Hafez, Divan, no 284)
- بوی شیر از لب همچون شکرش می آید
- گرچه خون میچکد از شیوه چشم سیهش
- And about the Magian baccha:
- If the wine-serving magian boy would shine in this way
- I will make a broom of my eyelashes to sweep the entrance of the tavern. (Divan, no 9)
- گر چنين جلوه كند مغبچهى بادهفروش
- خاكروب در ميخانه كنم مژگان را
- Without the beloved’s face, the rose is not pleasant.
- Without wine, spring is not pleasant.
- گل بىرخ يار خوش نباشد
- بىباده بهار خوش نباشد
- breezing in the prairie and going around the garden.
- Is no fun without a blushed beauty.
- طرف چمن و طواف بستان
- بىلالهعذار خوش نباشد
- Dance of Cypress, form of a flower.
- Is no fun without a nightingale's singing.
- رقصيدن سرو و حالت گل
- بى صوت هزار خوش نباشد
- being with a sweet lips, knock out beauty,
- Is no fun without making out.
- با يار شكرلب گلاندام
- بىبوس و كنار خوش نباشد
- Any painting made by wisdom,
- Is no good if it is not a painting of the sweetheart.
- هر نقش كه دست عقل بندد
- جز نقش نگار خوش نباشد
- جان نقد محقر است حافظ
- از بهر نثار خوش نباشد
Translation by Henry Wilberforce-Clarke
The Tomb of Hafez
Twenty years after his death, an elaborate tomb (the Hafezieh) was erected to honor Hafez in the Musalla Gardens in Shiraz. Inside, Hafez's alabaster tombstone bore one of his poems inscribed upon it - "profoundly religious at last" (Durant):
- مژدهى وصل تو كو كز سر جان برخيزم
- طاير قدسم و از دام جهان برخيزم
- Where are the tidings of union? that I may arise-
- Forth from the dust I will rise up to welcome thee!
- My soul, like a homing bird, yearning for paradise,
- Shall arise and soar, from the snares of the world set free.
- به ولاى تو كه گر بندهى خويشم خوانى
- از سر خواجگى كون و مكان برخيزم
- When the voice of thy love shall call me to be thy slave,
- I shall rise to a greater far than the mastery
- Of life and the living, time and the mortal span.
- يارب از ابر هدايت برسان بارانى
- پيشتر زانكه چو گردى ز ميان برخيزم
- Pour down, O Lord! from the clouds of thy guiding grace,
- The rain of a mercy that quickeneth on my grave,
- Before, like dust that the wind bears from place to place,
- I arise and flee beyond the knowledge of man.
- بر سر تربت من با مى و مطرب بنشين
- تا ببويت ز لحد رقصكنان برخيزم
- When to my grave thou turnest thy blessed feet,
- Wine and the lute thou shalt bring in thine hand to me;
- Thy voice shall ring through the fold of my winding-sheet,
- And I will arise and dance to thy minstrelsy.
- گرچه پيرم، تو شبى تنگ درآغوشم كش
- تا سحرگه ز كنار تو جوان برخيزم
- Though I be old, clasp me one night to thy breast,
- And I, when the dawn shall come to awaken me,
- With the flush of youth on my cheek from thy bosom will rise.
- خيز و بالا بنما اى بت شيرينحركات
- كز سر جان و جهان دستفشان برخيزم
- روز مرگم نفسى مهلت ديدار بده
- تا چو حافظ ز سر جان و جهان برخيزم
- Rise up! let mine eyes delight in thy stately grace!
- Thou art the goal to which all men's endeavor has pressed,
- And thou the idol of Hafez's worship; thy face
- From the world and life shall bid him come forth and arise!
Translation by Gertrude Bell
Nowadays, the Hāfezieh is visited by millions each year and regarded by countless people to be a veritable shrine.
- E.G. Browne. Literary History of Persia. (Four volumes, 2,256 pages, and twenty-five years in the writing). 1998. ISBN 0-7007-0406-X
- Will Durant, The Reformation. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1957
- Jan Rypka, History of Iranian Literature. Reidel Publishing Company. 1968 . ISBN 90-277-0143-1
- Hafiz, Dikter, translated by Ashk Dahlén, Umeå, 2006. 91-85503-04-5 / 978-91-85503-04-9 (Swedish)
- Hafiz, Divan-i-Hafiz, translated by Henry Wiberforce-Clarke, Ibex Publishers, Inc., 2007. ISBN 0-936347-80-5
- Peter Avery, The Collected Lyrics of Hafiz of Shiraz, 603 p. (Archetype, Cambridge, UK, 2007). ISBN 1901383091
Note: This translation is based on Divān-e Hāfez, Volume 1, The Lyrics (Ghazals), edited by Parviz Natel-Khanlari (Tehran, Iran, 1362 AH/1983-4).
- Note: This photo set contains some very rare photographs of Shiraz taken during the reign of Nasser al-Din Shah Qajar and Mozaffar al-Din Shah Qajar, including those of the old cemetery of Shiraz (, , — cf. ), later renamed the Mosallah Gardens of Shiraz, also known as Hafezieh. The set contains also the photograph of Bagh-e Takht (, — built some 900 years ago), of which no trace survives in today's Shiraz, as well as Rabindranath Tagore's photograph () taken in Shiraz in the spring of 1932 (1311 AH).