Hafiz Shirazi, Khwaja Shams al-Din Muhammad b. Muhammad b. Muhammad (d. 1390), a poet with the nom de plume of Hafiz. He was a distinguished poet in Persia and a poet of world renown flourishing in the 14th century. He has been given the epithets of Lisan al-Ghayb (Tongue of the Unseen) and Tarjuman al-Asrar (Interpreter of Mysteries). He was born in Shiraz, though his birth date has not been recorded in reliable early sources. [There is no question about the name of his father since it has conventionally been given as his patronymic.] His ancestors were from Kuhpaya, Isfahan. His grandfather departed for Shiraz and settled there under the Salghurid Atabeks. His father, Baha’ al-Din Muhammad, was a merchant and his mother was from the nearby town of Kazurun. Their home was in the Darwaza-yi Kazurun section of Shiraz. Hafiz studied Koranic exegesis, Arabic literature and Islamic sciences at the Shafi’ite seminary in Shiraz, where he mastered theology, philosophy and belles-lettres. He committed the Koran to memory, whence his nom de plume of ‘Hafiz’ (the Memorizer). Historians and biographers disagree on the precise date of his birth. Dhabih Allah Safa and Qasim Ghani state that he was born in 1327 and 1317 respectively. Based on a qit’a (poetic fragment), the distinguished lexicographer Dihkhuda surmises that he was born most probably in 1311. Other estimates place his birth date as late 1320 or 1329. His prime of life was under the reign of Shah Shaykh Abu Ishaq Inju (reg. 1343-1353) in Fars. The Sufi masters and religious authorities of this period, such as Shaykh Amin al-Din Balyani (a master of the Kazuruni Sufi order), Qazi ‘Adud al-Din Iji (eminent scholar from the socially prominent Iji family and author of the major Shafi’ite text, the Mawaqif), and Qazi Majd al-Din Shirazi (a powerful, Sufi-minded judge and leading authority of the Shafi’ite canonical school), were to some extent his educators and patrons. The poet was discontented with the reign of Amir Mubariz al-Din Muhammad Muzaffar (reg. 1353-1358), imbued with prejudice and strict policies, though he got on well with his successors, Shah Shuja’ and Shah Mansur, whom he cited in his poetry, alluding as well to other Muzaffarid Sultans: Shah Yahya, Shah Mahmud and Zayn al-‘Abidin, as well as the Ilkhanid rulers Sultan Uways and Sultan Ahmad, based in Tabriz and Baghdad. His last years were in the time of the conquest of Fars by Tamerlane, whom, according to his biographers, he may have met. Khak-i Musalla, the poet’s burial place in Shiraz, is reportedly a chronogram for his death date in 1390, as recorded by historians and belletrists, such as his contemporary Fasih Khwafi, in his Mujmal-i Fasihi, and the poet/biographer Jami in his Nafahat al-Uns. He died in his hometown, where he had spent his entire life. His poetry reflects his profound spiritual knowledge and insight, expressed in unique metaphor and symbolic language. His divan abounds with references to Shiraz and her ‘good people. In fact, in contrast to his earlier compatriot Sa’di, he left his hometown only twice - on visits to the towns of Yazd and Hurmuz. Nonetheless, he was renowned in his lifetime in cities as far flung as Tabriz and Baghdad to the north and west, extending as far east as India. The ruler of the Deccan, Ahmad Shah Bahmani, even invited him to reside in his court. His relations with the notables of Fars are reflected in his recurrent allusions to rulers, ministers and scholars. Although he composed some elegant qasidas and some short but vigorous poetical pieces, as well as numerous quatrains and fragments, he is most distinguished for his ghazals, which are regarded as the highest of achievements ever in this form of Persian verse. He sings of love, and intoxication, while vigorously deploring hypocrisy. . At the same time, he blends profound teaching in his ghazals of philosophy and gnosis, with a spiritual certitude in contrast to the skepticism of the likes of Khayyam. . There is something of the ecstatic mysticism of Rumi’s Divane Shams poems and of the lyrical perfection of Sa’di’s in Hafiz’s ghazals, but his distinctive innovation is to provide verses independent from one another in outward meaning, inspired by the structure of much of the versification of the Koran, while being tied together by an inward thread of development. Some quatrains have been attributed to him without the greatest reliability. In his edition of the divan of Hafiz, Parviz Natil Khanlari has included some of these quatrains, ten of which are to be found in several manuscripts, though the rest are attested in only one manuscript. Khanlari states, ‘None of the quatrains attributed to him are particularly distinguished in terms of form and meaning and do not contribute to the reputation of this poet par excellence of the ghazal.’ Hafiz is clearly the heir of a noble cluster of predecessors, including Khaqani, Nizami, Sana’i, ‘Attar, Rumi, ‘Iraqi, Sa’di, Amir Khusraw, Khwaju Kirmani and Salman Savaji, but his poetical diction and artistic style, along with the elevated quality of his messages and symbolic manner of conveying them are so far superior that he maybe considered a truly seminal thinker and poet in his own right on the highest plane. . He may have borrowed topes and figurative devices from earlier stylists, but he has worked them into a tapestry of unparalleled genius. Intertwining the forms and devices of his predecessors, he created his own genre, akin to the Iraqi genre, but unique in its departure from all preceding convention. His mode of the independent couplet is seen by some scholars as heralding the Indian genre. His divan comprises some 500 ghazals, a few qasidas, two mathnavis (rhyming couplet poems), and a number of qit’as (fragments) and, quatrains. It is maintained that there exist a good 400 editions of his divan, many in the form of illuminated manuscripts, to be found libraries throughout the world, notably in Iran, Afghanistan, India, Pakistan and Turkey in Asia, along with many Western countries, such that the number excels that of any other Persian divan in number. It is reported that his divan was originally compiled by a friend of his named Muhammad Gulandam, though further ghazals were later added to it. The most significant and reliable edition is that published in Tehran, edited by Muhammad Qazwini and Qasim Ghani. Numerous commentaries have been written in Persian, but the most distinguished classical commentary is the Turkish one (translated into Persian) by Muhammad Sudi Busnawi (from Bosnia). Other traditional commentators include Sururi, Sham’i and Sayyid Muhammad Qunyawi, with the nom de plume of Wahbi. Amongst the many commentaries from the Indian Subcontinent are nine written in the Punjab over the period of a century from the first quarter of the 17th to the first quarter of the 18th, most notably the Marj al-Bahrayn by Khatami Lahuri (1617), and the four commentaries of Mawlana ‘Abdullah Khwishagi Qusuri.
Hafiz’s divan has been translated into Arabic and several European languages, the first of which was German, by Hammer-Purgstall in the 18th century, an edition which inspired Goethe to create his West-Eastern Divan on the basis of it, and afterward the American poet and philosopher Emerson to do his own rendition in English of Hafiz’s poetry after Goethe’s model. The perfection of Hafiz’s poetry and the profundity of his wisdom has caused his divan to be popularly consulted as a source of divination by Persian speakers everywhere. This quality is enhanced by the epigrammatic character of each independent couplet in a given ghazal. A familiarity with Sufi terminology is essential for a true understanding of Hafiz’s meanings, where he employs words like rend (high spiritual person who appears as deceptively ordinary), as well as different words for ‘wine’, each symbolizing a different mystical state. Such terms developed in mystical literature from the 12th century onward, beginning with the works of Sufi poets like Sana’i and ‘Attar. Hafiz’s poetry has invited so many commentaries not for its difficulty of interpretation but because of its depth, the concise elegance of its expression, and the teaching potential in its wisdom.
Asar-afarinan (2: 234-235), Tarikh-i adabiyat dar Iran (3:1064-1089), Chahar-sad sha’ir-i bar-guzida-yi parsi-gu’i (205-219), Danishmandan u sukhansarayan-i farsi (2:119-214), Dayirat al-ma’arif-i farsi (1:827).