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Hafiz of Shiraz is one of the most revered poets in Islamic history. From 14th century Persia to the present day, his expressions of divine love and spiritual longing have continued to ignite the Sufi tradition of mystical verse. You may have come across proverbs and sayings without realising that they stem from the words of Hafiz!

Over the next 3 days, we will be sharing one of his ghazals (poems) every day to give you a glimpse into his collected works. Keep your eyes peeled for these literary gems!

The Collected Ghazals of Hafiz is a compilation of the 573 poems written by the poet, beautifully translated into English alongside the original Farsi script. For more information and to order, click the following link: https://beaconbooks.net/p…/collected-ghazals-hafiz-volume-1/

#Day 1- Ghazal 59

One of the most well-known legends about Hafiz is the experience that led to his path to Sufism. When he was working as a young baker in a wealthy district of Shiraz, he encountered a beautiful woman known as Shakh-e-Nabat, with whom he fell madly in love. Hafiz knew he had little chance of marrying her due to his low social standing so he began to write romantic verses of poetry hoping to woo her- but to little effect.

However, Hafiz knew of a legend which said that anyone who spent 40 sleepless nights at the tomb of Baba Kuhi, a famous saint, would be granted his heart’s desire. Thus Hafiz staggered every night for 39 nights to keep this sleepless vigil, until on the last night he stumbled upon his beloved Shakh-e-Nabat on his path, pledging passionate love for him. But Hafiz struggled past her towards the tomb, swearing to himself that he would complete the full 40 nights as he had pledged.

At dawn the next day, the angel Gabriel appeared to Hafiz, asking him ‘What is your heart’s desire?’ Hafiz, overwhelmed by the beauty of Gabriel and filled with awe at the thought of God’s beauty, replied, ‘I wish God.’ He was thus directed to Attar, renowned Sufi poet, under whose tutelage he became one of the most famous Sufis of all time.

The following ghazal embodies the spiritual transformation Hafiz underwent:

‘My heart’s fire burnt in my chest; for the beloved it is longing,
It was such a fire in the heart, that the whole house it was consuming.

In separation from that heart-ravisher, my very body melted utterly,
In love with the beloved’s face, my very life was burned completely.

Whoever’s sight the hair tip of that Pari-faced beauty enchained,
For love-mad me, they will by the heart’s distress be consumed.

The heart’s burning, how in tears of fire it burns, see,
So that last night of love the candle burnt like a moth for me.

That compassionate one is my friend and certainly no stranger to me,
Since I went out myself, even strangers behave compassionately.

The water of the wine house carried away the cloak of austerity,
The fire of the wine house then burned up my reason rapidly.

The cup of my heart was broken, when repentance became mine;
My liver’s like an empty fiery tulip, with neither tavern nor wine.

Critic- enough palaver! Draw back and see how the pupil of my eye,
Pulled religion’s cloak off and burnt it with a grateful sigh.

Hafiz, leave convoluted converse and for a while just drink the wine,
It stole sleep last night, and burnt up the candle of this life of mine.’

  • Hafiz

#Day 2- Ghazal 54

It’s interesting to note that despite being a Sufi poet, Hafiz’s ghazals are not confined to aspects of the Divine but are also very much concerned with the world around him. He depended on his poetic talents to seek the patronage of rulers and early on in his career he enjoyed great success as a poet in the royal court of Shiraz. However in 1356, the country was captured by Amir Mubarez, a ruthless and religious zealot who opposed artistic expression and oppressed people in the name of Islam. For this reason, many of Hafiz’s ghazals are highly critical of tyrannical rulers and the hypocrisy of religious fanatics. The following poem perfectly captures his attitude towards them:
‘O pious man, so pure, condemn not us love-crazy drunkards,
After all, you will not be charged with another’s crime afterwards.
Whether I am good or bad, look to yourself;
We will each reap what we have sown our self.
In sobriety or intoxication, the beloved is sought by all,
Mosque or church or synagogue, every place is love’s hall.
On the brick at the foot of the tavern door, my head I submitted.
Critic, if this seems strange, best take a brick to your own head.
Of grace, given before time began, make me not despair,
Who is right or wrong, on the screen, are you aware?
I am not alone in this, letting fall the veil of piety,
Father’s hand also let slip paradise’s timeless purity.
If you are well-disposed to this then what a goodly disposition,
And if your nature is so inclined then excellent your inclination.
O Hafiz, if on the day of death you reach for a wine cup,
From the tavern’s street to paradise, they will snatch you up.’
– Hafiz

#Day 3- Ghazal 55

Today’s ghazal relates to an astonishing legend ascribed to the death of Hafiz. Upon his death, there was apparent disagreement as to how he should be buried. Due to the constant references to love, wine and human beauty in his poems, many orthodox Muslims objected to his work and felt he was undeserving of an Islamic burial as they had doubts about his faith. To resolve the conflict, it was agreed that his collection of poetry would be used as a form of guidance. The many poems were divided into separate verses and placed in a container. A young child was brought forward to pull one out at random. Amazingly, the verse pulled out was the last verse of ghazal number 55, which states: ‘From the brier of Hafiz do not withdraw your foot, He goes to paradise even though in sin, head to foot.’ As a result of this, he was buried in the Islamic way as a Muslim, and he is revered as such to the present day.

Here is the complete ghazal:

‘Now from the rose garden the scent of paradise is wafted by the breeze,
Uniting joy-giving wine, me, and my beloved who is pure as the Houris.

To boast of his kingdom, today, the beggar may surely be allowed,
His banquet hall, the big field, his pavilion the shade-giving cloud.

The lawned garden reveals spring’s pleasant, present, story,
To prefer a promise, to cash in hand, is the ignorant man’s folly.

Don’t expect, from the enmity of this world, fidelity or a dim light,
A synagogue’s lamp the candle of true worship will not ignite.

Let wine expand the house of the heart, for in this narrow backyard,
The ruined world intends to make a brick from our dust in the graveyard.

Do not scold a drunk like me for the black marks recorded,
Who can say what destiny has written on one’s own forehead?

From the bier of Hafiz do not withdraw your foot,
He goes to paradise even though in sin, head to foot.’

  • Hafiz