Insofar as a nation can be said to have a heart, then the beating heart of Persia, of modern Iran, is Hafez! Khwāja Shams-ud-Dīn Muhammad Hāfez-e Shīrāzī was a Persian poet who was born in 1325 and died in 1389. A native of Shiraz, the cultural heart of Persia, he lived and died here, hardly venturing outside of the city apart from a short period in Esfahan and Yazd for health reasons related to his writings annoying the rich and powerful!
That his works have had a profound influence on the lives of Persians and modern Iranians is without doubt. His book of verse is to be found in every home of whatever status almost without exception. Modern day Iranians can and do quote his words to fit almost any situation that arises. Little is known of his life and yet the impact of his poetry in Iran and across the globe is profound. From Goethe to Thoreau to Emerson and even Friedrich Engels his influence has been immense.
Hafez was buried in the beautiful Musalla Gardens in Shiraz. The current mausoleum was constructed in the 1930s and it is a place of pilgrimage for aficionados of the word.
The books of his words are treated as a source of inspiration for the future as Iranians open them at random in the belief that whatever page they find foretells the future. As evenings draw in and the loudspeaker system begins to gently paint his poems across the night sky, young lovers can be seen in quiet corners of the gardens checking out their future together by random openings of pages of his verse. Hafez is not to be taken lightly!
When J and I arrived on our ‘pilgrimage’ the very first thing we had to do was have our future foretold by the fortune-telling budgies at the entrance. I have to tell you that the future is good, as you would expect, if you want repeat business.
As we wandered around we became aware of a certain, small party surrounding a cleric. Our enquiries established that he was the member of the all-powerful (unelected) Supreme Council that in this case oversaw the activities of the Ministry of Culture.
Being good old fashioned egalitarians we decided to push the boundaries and join the party. We were astounded to find that mixing in was no problem as we were soon engaged in lively conversation with one of the very few security aides who were escorting the council member around. When you look at the entourage of security that prevents Turkey’s PM, RTE, or the President of the US, from getting close to the people and having a grasp on reality you can understand our amazement.
As if to reinforce the importance of Hafez in the life of Iranians, in the middle of the clerics homage to the poet a guy walked up and started to spout his verses at great length. Everyone sat or stood politely and listened attentively until he was done, offered there appreciation and then carried on.
You can see from the photos that we were right in there with the cleric, his wife and the security bods – amazing in this day and age! Later we rubbed shoulders in the gift shop as we bought nick-knacks together!
Alan in Okçular