Khwāja Shams-ud-Dīn Muhammad Hāfez-e Shīrāzī (Persian: شیرازی حافظ محمد الدین شمس خواجه), better known by his pen name Hāfez (حافظ), was one of the most famous Persian poets from the late Middle Ages, and certainly, his fame and his poems have transcended the time and space. According to Diana Darke in 2004, Hāfez’s was “the book in every Iranian home”. He is probably the author with a more profound effect on Persian life and culture in general than any other, although always considering such great figures as Ferdowsi, Saʿdi, or Rumi. Some pieces of his work are still learned by heart, memorised and used for divination purposes and storytelling in Iranian homes, especially in the night of Yaldā, the Winter Solstice celebration (read further about this night by clicking here).
Hāfez and his divan have been object of many different discussions, investigations, analysis and interpretations. He was probably one of the most influential authors in the later Persian writing, and he is known for having mastered the art of the language. Some of his themes are odes to the beloved, the faith and a way to express and denounce hypocrisy.
He was born in Shiraz, where nowadays his mausoleum can be admired. Because of the legend of him memorising the Quran at a very young age, he was given the title of hāfez, “the memoriser” or “the safe keeper”, which he will later on as his own pen name. The precise date of his birth remains unknown, being located by scholars at some point between 1315 and 1319. According to the records of Mawlanā Nūr al-Dīn 'Abd al-Rahmān or Abd-Al-Rahmān Nur-Al-Din Muhammad Dashti (1414-1492), another successful and famous Sufi poet, Hāfez died in 1390.
During his life, he worked under the patronage of many influential and powerful leaders, being Temūr-i Lang the best known of them. Hāfez flourished the most under the rule of Jalal ud-Din Shāh Shojā (شاه شجاع, “the brave shah”) of the Muzaffarid dynasty from 1358 to 1384. Nevertheless, it is claimed that Hāfez fell out of favour with the Shāh for mocking inferior poets inside of the same court and because of his actions he was forced to flee from Shiraz to Isfahan and Yazd. The legend details how Shāh Shojā himself wrote a poem and for this reason, the comments of Hāfez were a kind of a personal injury to him.
Hāfez is, without doubt, one of the outstanding figures of not only Persian poetry, but World Literature as well. He was acclaimed from Persia to other Islamic territories from Baghdad to India. His poems were firstly translated in 1771 by William Jones, thus leaving a mark in Western authors like Goethe, Friedrich Engels and Arthur Conan Doyle, who mentioned it in his Sherlock Holme’s novel A Case of Identity. His tomb and its monumental mausoleum, designed by André Godard in 1935, are one of the most visited monuments inside Iran, and there is a tradition for the lovers to go there and profess their feelings in front of his resting place.
His importance is of that magnitude that the 12th of October has been established as the Hāfez Day in Iran.
|Prince Entertained on a Terrace, from a manuscript of a Divan by Hāfez |
Dated 1523, Shaybanid dynasty
From the Large Jug, Drink
From the large jug, drink the wine of Unity,
So that from your heart you can wash away the futility of life's grief.
But like this large jug, still keep the heart expansive.
Why would you want to keep the heart captive, like an unopened bottle of wine?
With your mouth full of wine, you are selfless
And will never boast of your own abilities again.
Be like the humble stone at your feet rather than striving to be like a
Sublime cloud: the more you mix colours of deceit, the more colourless your ragged wet coat will get.
Connect the heart to the wine, so that it has body,
Then cut off the neck of hypocrisy and piety of this new man.
Be like Hafiz: Get up and make an effort. Don't lie around like a bum.
He who throws himself at the Beloved's feet is like a workhorse and will
be rewarded with boundless pastures and eternal rest.
From: Drunk on the Wine of the Beloved
Translated by Thomas Rain Crowe
|Allegory of Worldly and Otherworldly Drunkenness, |
Folio from the divan of Hāfez ca. 1532-1533
 GRAY, Elizabeth T., trans. (1995). Hafez. The Green Sea of Heaven: Fifty ghazals from the Diwan of Hafiz. Jr. White Cloud Press, pp. 2-4.