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Khwāja Šamsu d-Dīn Muḥammad Hāfez-e Šīrāzī ( ), known by his pen name Hāfez (born 1315 - died 1390) was the most celebrated Persian lyric poet and is often described as a poet's poet. His Divan is to be found at the home of most Iranians who recite his poems by heart and use as proverb and saying to this day. His life and poems have been the subject of much analysis, commentary, and interpretation and had influenced the course of post-fourteenth century Persian lyrics more than anyone else has.Hazez E. Yarshater, I. An overview

The major themes of his ghazals are love, the celebration of wine and intoxication, and exposing the hypocrisy of those who have set themselves up as guardians, judges, and examples of moral rectitude.

His presence in the lives of Iranians can be felt through Hafez-reading (fāl-e hāfez, ), frequent use of his poems in Persian traditional music, visual art and Persian calligraphy. His tomb in Shirazmarker is a masterpiece of Iranian architecture and visited often. Adaptations, imitations and translations of Hafez' poems exist in major languages.


Hafez, detail of an illumination in a Persian manuscript of the Divan of Hafez, 18th century
Despite his profound effect on Persian life and culture in general and his everlasting popularity and influence, details of his life are far from known and particularly about his early life there is a great deal of more or less mythical anecdote. Some of the early tazkeras (biographical sketches) mentioning Hafez are often considered unreliable or even purely fictitious. One early document discussing Hafez' life is the preface of his Divān written by an unknown (whose name has been suggested to be Moḥammad Golandām) contemporary writer of Hafez.Hazez B. Khorramshahi and et al., II. Hafez's Life and Times These are reproduced and edited further in the preface of the generally accepted authoritative modern edition of Hafez's Divān known as Qazvini-Ḡani by Moḥammad Qazvini and Qāsem Ḡani.

On the dates of birth and death of Hafez, there are many different proposals by different scholars . However most of the modern scholars, following a proposal by M. Moin, agree that Hafez was born in 1315 and, following an account by Jami, consider 1390 as Hafez date of death.

Scholars generally agree on the following:

It seems probable that he met with Attar of Shiraz, 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 Isfahanmarker and Yazdmarker 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 Mansour ascended the throne for a brief period before being defeated and killed by Tamerlane.

When an old man, Hafez 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 Shirazmarker (referred to as Hāfezieh).

Legends of Hafez

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 ad-Din Muhammad Rumi, Saadi, Farid ud-Din and Nezami.

  • According to one tradition, before meeting Hajji 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 that Shirazi Turk would take my heart in hand
I would give Samarkand and Bokhara for his Hindu mole

With Samarkandmarker being Timur's capital and Bokharamarker 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.

Works and influence

Book of Hafez poetry
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.

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. Ladinsky 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. The fact that Ladinsky's poems do not actually represent Hafez' work was a source of embarrassment for Dalton McGuinty, the Premier of Ontario, when it was discovered that the poem McGuinty had recited from Ladinsky's book at a Nowruz celebration in Toronto had no corresponding Persian original.

There is no definitive version of his collected works (or Dīvān); 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 Iranmarker - 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".

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, Zoroastrianism and Christian mysticism, recited Hāfez's poetry until his dying day.. Today, October 12th is celebrated as Hafez Day in Iranmarker,


The question of whether his work is to be interpreted literally, mystically or both, has been a source of concern and contention to western scholars. On the one hand, some of his early readers such as William Jones saw in him a conventional lyricist similar to European love poets such as Petrarch. Others such as Wilberforce Clarke saw him as purely a poet of didactic, ecstatic mysticism in the manner of Rumi, a view which modern scholarship has come to reject . This confusion stems from the fact that, early in Persian literary history, the poetic vocabulary was usurped by mystics who believed that the ineffable could be better expressed in poetry than in prose. In composing poems of mystic content, they imbued every word and image with mystical undertones, thereby causing mysticism and lyricism to essentially converge into a single tradition. As a result, no fourteenth century Persian poet could write a lyrical poem without having a flavor of mysticism forced on it by the poetic vocabulary itself.. While some poets, such as Ubayd Zakani, attempted to distance themselves from this fused mystical-lyrical tradition by writing satires, Hafiz embraced the fusion and thrived on it. W.M. Thackston has said of this that Hafiz "sang a rare blend of human and mystic love so balanced...that it is impossible to separate one from the other."

For this reason among others, the history of the translation of Hāfez has been a complicated one, and few translations into western languages have been wholly successful.

One of the figurative gestures for which he is most famous (and which is among the most difficult to translate) is īhām or artful punning. Thus a word such as gawhar which could mean both "essence, truth" and "pearl" would take on both meanings at once as in a phrase such as gawharī k'az sadaf-i kawn o makān bērūnast (a pearl/essential truth which was outside the shell of superficial existence.)

Furthermore, Hafiz often took advantage of the aforementioned lack of distinction between lyrical, mystical and panegyric writing by using highly intellectualized, elaborate metaphors and images so as to suggest multiple possible meanings. This may be illustrated via a couplet from the beginning of one of Hafez' poems.

Bulbul zi shākh-i sarw be gulbāng-i pahlavī

Mīkhwānd dōsh dars-i maqāmāt-i ma'navī

This may be translated, roughly, as

Last night, from the cypress branch, the nightingale sang,

In Old Persian tones, the lesson of spiritual stations

The cypress tree is a symbol both of the beloved and of a regal presence. The nightingale and birdsong evoke the traditional setting for human love. The "lessons of spiritual stations" suggest, obviously, a mystical undertone as well. (Though the word for "spiritual" could also be translated as "intrinsically meaningful.") Therefore, the words could signify at once a prince addressing his devoted followers, a lover courting a beloved and the reception of spiritual wisdom.

The Tomb of Hafez

Twenty years after his death, a tomb (the Hafezieh) was erected to honor Hafez in the Musalla Gardens in Shirazmarker. The current Mausolem was designed by André Godard, French archeologist and architect, in the late 1930s. Inside, Hafez's alabaster tombstone bore one of his poems inscribed upon it.


  • 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 (Tehranmarker, Iranmarker, 1362 AH/1983-4).



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