One of the books you can find in every Iranian house is the poem book of “Divan-e Hafez”. The great Iranian poet who can touch your soul and get into your heart only by reading a couple of verses. You can see all kinds of figures of speech in his elegant poems. His poetic talk can make you fall in love, be positive, have hope, recover after a heartbreaking situation, and most of all: live the moment.
Life of Hafez
Despite his profound effect on Persian life and culture and his enduring popularity and influence, few details of his life are known. There are different ideas and comments about the early life of this great Shirazi poet and there is not a single source to rely on. However, what can one be sure of is that he lived in the 8th century, one of the most chaotic times in history. The reason he is named “Hafez” is that he memorized the Quran in his young ages. In Persian language Hafez means someone who memorizes and he used this title as his pen name later. He was influenced by the best writers of the literature of his time especially Khayyam.
He knew all the science, religion, language, and literature of his time, he played a musical instrument and most important of all, Hafez was a socialist and critic. That is why he mostly cared about society more than his poems. He didn’t copy the work of writers and poems before him but he was influenced by them; just like a bee which flies over different flowers and gets their nectar and at the end makes the most delicious honey. That is truly what he is. He is the honey of the Iranian literature and when someone reads Hafez, that person had read one era of Iran’s literature.
A Mystic’s Poems
Hafez primarily wrote in the literary genre of lyric poetry, known as Ghazal, which is the ideal style for expressing the ecstasy of divine inspiration in the mystical form of love poems. He has the best use of ambiguity in his poems. Ambiguity means using a phrase or a word which has two or more meaning. Hafez delicately uses this art of literature all over his poems that is the main reason that his poems cannot be read easily and if you read them, you have to think about each word.
Ghazal is used for love poems but Hafez didn’t use it for that purpose. He used it in a way to force the reader to think about it not just read and pass. Hafez was really obsessed with his poems and he kept changing them. Although everyone believes that his poems were inspired to him by God, he actually spent a lot of time on them to look godly.
You can even find history in his poems. He mentions the attack of Timur, the problems of Shiraz at the time, and he even mentions the names of some of the governors and politicians; some as praise of their bravery and some as a critic. One of the things he criticizes in his poems is Sufis and Hermits. He believed that some people tried to fool people with the name of religion and God. He mainly targets the dishonesty and hypocrisy of these groups.
Thoughts of Hafez
Every soul believes that Hafez was a real mystic but the truth is he wasn’t. Mystic is said to someone who goes through spiritual progress and all that person cares about is God. Hafez was a mystic but he didn’t go all the spiritual progress like Rumi to be called a true mystic man. He just seeks the perfect human being and he makes a character in his poems and calls him “Rend”: a free human which has high beliefs which are out of the rules of the society but without any dishonesty. Hafez is the Rend in real life because this is exactly how he wanted to be.
Hafez knows love as a path to reach God and the universe. He believed that love was the reason that God created the universe and Adam and the only living creature which can feel this love is Human. Love has no limit in the poems of Hafez, it is eternal and it lasts as the main goal of the human’s life until the moment of death. Hafez understands love as the reason for everything.
Hafez is not a teacher but he insists on moral principles such as patience, faith in God, seeking happiness, the praise of time, and living in the moment. He mentions many times in his poems that life is short and we don’t have that much time so we have to live the moment, there may be no tomorrow. In his own words:
“We have not come into this exquisite world
to hold ourselves hostage from love.
We have not come here to take prisoners,
but to surrender ever more deeply to freedom and joy.”
Influence of a Great Poet in Iranian’s Lives
You can see Hafez’s influence in Iranian’s everyday life. People use his poems in Persian traditional music, visual art, and Persian calligraphy. He was the influence of post-14th-century Persian writing. He is very popular among all the Iranians and literature followers all around the world. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, the great German writer is one of the people who praise Hafez borderless. October 12th is celebrated as Hafez Day in Iran which the scholars and writers from all over the world travel to Iran and celebrate this day in his mausoleum, reading his poems, admitting how great he was in poem writing, and how he mirrored the 8th century to many generations after that.
The book of Hafez is very precious to Iranians. Many Iranians use Divan-e Hafez for fortune telling. Every Iranian family has it in their house, and when they get together during the Nowruz or Yalda Night, they open the Divan to a random page and read the poem on it, which they believe to be an indication of things that will happen in the future or it shows how a person feels at the moment.
Hafezieh- Tomb of Hafez
Twenty years after his death, Hafezieh was erected to honor Hafez in the Musalla Gardens in Shiraz. The current mausoleum was designed by Andre Godard, a French archeologist and architect, in the late 1930s. The tomb is raised up on a dais amidst rose gardens, water channels, and bitter orange trees. Inside, Hafez’s alabaster sarcophagus bears the inscription of two of his poems. His tomb is always crowded with devotees who visit this site. The atmosphere is festive with visitors singing and reciting their favorite Hafez poems.
Unfortunately, there are some words and feelings in his poems which cannot be translated. The figures of speech he uses cannot be translated in any language, that is how unique his work is. As a scholar says, “Hafez lauded the joys of love and wine but also targeted religious hypocrisy”. He amazes everyone with his poems both literally and mystically. Read his poems to your lover, read it to yourself and just dive into the world of beauties and meaning out of this mortal world.
“I caught the happy virus last night
When I was out singing beneath the stars
It is remarkably contagious
So, kiss me.”
Shiraz, Fars Province, Iran
Persepolis, Fars Province, Iran
Yazd, Yazd Province, Iran
Karim Khan Citadel, District 8, Shiraz, Fars Province, Iran
Fars Province, Bishapur Ancient City, Iran
Tange Reghaz, Fars Province, Iran
Firuzabad, Fars Province, Iran
Shiraz, Fars Province, Iran