Hafez Day

Monday, October 12, 2009

October 12 is the day in which Hafez is honored in Iran. Hafez Day gives us an opportunity to analyze the relationship between his viewpoints and our culture and tradition.
In addition to Iran, the ceremonies to commemorate Hafez are held in 61 countries, which is an international effort to appreciate the great Iranian poet, in Iran's and world literatures, who lived in the 8th century A.H. or 14th century A.D.
The poet's pen name 'Hafez' means one who has memorized a book. He was given the title because he could recite the holy Qur'an completely by heart in 14 different ways, but he believed his own interpretation would naturally bring justice, freedom and cheerfulness into people's everyday life and reduce depression, chaos and unhappiness. He also had memorized many of the works of his hero, Saadi, as wells as Attar, Rumi and Nizami.
Very little credible information is known about Hafiz's life, particularly its early part. Immediately after his death, many stories, some of mythical proportions were woven around his life.
His full name is Shamseddin Mohammad and Hafiz or Hafez is his pen name. He was born between years 1310-1325 A.D. or 712-727 A.H. in Shiraz.
His father who was a coal merchant who died, leaving him and his mother with much debt. Hafiz and his mother went to live with his uncle (also called Saadi). He left day school to work in a drapery shop and later in a bakery.

While still working at the bakery, Hafiz delivered bread to a wealthy quarter of town and saw Shakh-e Nabat, a young woman of incredible beauty. Many of his poems are addressed to Shakh-e Nabat.
In pursuit of reaching his beloved, Hafiz kept a forty-day and night vigil at the tomb of Baba Kuhi. After successfully attaining this, he met Attar and became his disciple. Early twenties to early thirties became a poet of the court of Abu Ishak and gained much fame and influence in Shiraz. This was the phase of 'Spiritual Romanticism' in his poetry. Hafiz married in his twenties, even though he continued his love for Shakh-e Nabat, as the manifest symbol of her Creator's beauty.
Up to the age of 69 when he died, he composed more than half of his ghazals, and continued to teach his small circle of disciples. His poetry at this time, talk with the authority of a Master who is united with God.

Some 500 ghazals, 42 Rubaiyees, and a few Ghaseedeh's, composed over a period of 50 years. Hafiz only composed when he was divinely inspired, and therefore he averaged only about 10 Ghazals per year. His focus was to write poetry worthy of the Beloved.
Hafez died in late 1388 or early 1389 A.D. or 791 A.H. at the age of 69. He is buried in a Tomb in Musalla Gardens, along the banks of Ruknabad River in Shiraz, which is referred to as Hafezieh and is pantheon of world lovers, literates and scholars.
Renowned Iranian Hafez expert Baha’eddin Khorramshahi has said that Hafez is our memory. This is an important point that should be clarified.

It is obvious that many thinkers and intellectuals reflect the spirit of their culture. For example, Shakespeare illustrates an important part of British culture and through his works we can understand some aspects of the tradition in which he grew up. Other luminaries have reflected some elements of their cultures, but the position of Hafez and a few other Iranian luminaries in depicting the characteristics of our tradition is incomparable.

We can see the viewpoints of many poets and thinkers of Iranian culture in Hafez’s poems. In addition to their mystical, religious, cultural, and psychological aspects, the views of some philosophers like Farabi and Avicenna are also evident in his poems. Molana Rumi, Saadi, al-Ghazali, Ferdowsi, and Razi are some Iranian poets, scholars, and philosophers whose views are found in Hafez’s poems.

Some norms of Iranian practical wisdom are also reflected in his poems and statements. He shows us some important layers of the Iranian spirit. This is why Hafez is not just a poet. He is the essence of our culture. He reflects so many aspects of Iranian culture and tradition. So when it is said that Hafez is our memory, it means that he has embedded some important aspects of our identity in his poems.

He not only gathers the entire body of wisdom of his own culture but also represents the practical knowledge of his tradition. Although we cannot forget his incredible statements, Iranians’ adoration of his poetry can only be explained by the fact that he speaks in the spiritual language of their culture.

Some continental philosophers like the existentialists believe that there is a deep link between memory and identity. In their approach, the human being does not have entity, but rather he/she has historical identity. And the historical identity is acquired through memory. One who does not have a good memory does not have a good identity. When it is said that Hafez is our memory, it means he is our identity.

Identity relates to our picture of human beings, the world, and society, and Hafez shows the Iranian picture of them. If Iranians praise his poems, it is not merely for their beautiful form. Iranians have read his poetry for centuries because he speaks about their identity and lifestyle. They empathize with these poems because of this common identity. This is the other meaning of the statement that some poets and thinkers definitively represent their cultures. They focused on the characteristics of identity and the memory of that identity.

Some intellectuals say our world has an identity crisis. This means we lose our memory in order to establish a rational and spiritual relationship with our historical identity. In this domain, some luminaries like Hafez for the Iranian culture, Buddha for the Buddhist culture, and Plato for the Western culture, can help us solve this problem. They tried to connect us with some basic elements of these cultures.

So when it is said that Hafez is our memory or Plato is the Westerners’ memory, it puts emphasis on the important role luminaries and poets play in connecting us to our historical identity. This is the first step for resolving the identity crisis. If there is a serious problem of identity in our world, it is because of our inability to establish a good intellectual relationship with our poets and luminaries.

It should be called an “identity problem” rather than an identity crisis because it is obvious that when the people of a culture establish a good relationship with their luminaries, they do not have an identity crisis.

The term “identity problem” can illustrate the cultural condition of our world. We have Hafez, Plato, and Buddha in our worlds, and we can establish a dialogue with their texts, so we should not have an identity crisis. These luminaries are our memory and we can reconnect to our history with their help. They guarantee the existence of our identity. Indeed, they reaffirm our identity.

The following is a poem from the Divan of Hafez translated by Gertrude Bell

The bird of gardens sang unto the rose,
New blown in the clear dawn: "Bow down thy head!
As fair as thou within this garden close,
Many have bloomed and died." She laughed and said
"That I am born to fade grieves not my heart
But never was it a true lover's part
To vex with bitter words his love's repose."

The tavern step shall be thy hostelry,
For Love's diviner breath comes but to those
That suppliant on the dusty threshold lie.
And thou, if thou would'st drink the wine that flows
From Life's bejewelled goblet, ruby red,
Upon thine eyelashes thine eyes shall thread
A thousand tears for this temerity.

Last night when Irem's magic garden slept,
Stirring the hyacinth's purple tresses curled,
The wind of morning through the alleys stept.
"Where is thy cup, the mirror of the world?
Ah, where is Love, thou Throne of Djem?" I cried.
The breezes knew not; but "Alas," they sighed,
"That happiness should sleep so long!" and wept.

Not on the lips of men Love's secret lies,
Remote and unrevealed his dwelling-place.
Oh Saki, come! the idle laughter dies
When thou the feast with heavenly wine dost grace.
Patience and wisdom, Hafiz, in a sea
Of thine own tears are drowned; thy misery
They could not still nor hide from curious eyes.

Source: Tehran Times & Persian Mirror

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