World View and Essential Philosophy
In the Sufi Poetry of Hafiz
A systemic representation of key concepts in the
Mystical poetry of Hafiz

S. M. Haghi 

1) The man and his work

Shams-ud-din Mohammad Hafiz Shirazi is a well known mystic-poet philosopher of the 14th century Iran (approximately 1320-1389).  He is known as Khajeh Hafiz (The Master Memorizer of Quran), Losan-ul-ghyb (The Tongue of The Hidden), Tarjomanul-Asrar (The Interpreter of Secrets).

Hafiz entitled also as "The Poet of The Poets".  He is the supreme master of lyric-love-poetry.  His collected works -Divan- (collected by Mohammad Golandam after Hafiz's death) mainly consists of lyric-love-songs of utmost subtly of poetic expressions, unprecedented richness of inner contents, inexhaustible depth of meanings, as well as, a very novel and revolutionary existential perspectives.

2) Allusion, Equivocation and indirect communication

Hafiz is a "magical poet" (shaer-e sahir) who can capture and actually did capture- the heart and mind of numerous people of different ranks and from widely separated walks of life.

Such magical uniqueness of Hafiz lyrics mainly is due to his mastery of the art and the science of the language of allusion (Zaban-e isharat).  The language of indirect communications by using metaphors and equivocations to induce multiplicity of meanings and imagination

3) Gist and distillation of traditional wisdom of Iran

In terms of rich content, Hafiz poems represents a synthesization of numerous aspects of traditional wisdom of Iranian culture; religious and theological, philosophical, mystical and spiritual, and last but not least, Hafiz own contribution designated by himself as ishq-o-rendi (love and slyness).  For such reasons Divan-e Hafiz destined to become the book of Oracle (fal-e-Hafiz) for those sincere friends of him who seek guidance and direction.

4)  "Love", "slyness", and "purity of heart"

Three focal key concepts of Hafiz's existence and the spiritual dimension of his world view.  He teaches that hypocrisy does not provide the "purity of heart" and for this reason he is going to select the "Path of slyness and love."

5)  "Love and slyness"

Love and slyness are virtues the acquisition of which may seem easy at first but actually are very hard and burning consequently.

6) "Sly" and "slyness"(rend-wa-rendi)

Both terms have negative connotations in English and Persian.  Hafiz's innovation was to change the semantic content of a term with negative charge and transform it into a positive meaning.  Furthermore, he was able to create a myth of human perfection under the rubric of the term "rend".  The term represents even the highest climax of human actuality in Sufi terminology, namely, the concept of "Vali", The Saint: in a verse Hafiz identifies rend and vali as one and the same.

7) "Rend" or "sly"

"Rend" or "sly" has at least three levels and gradations of meanings:

  1. The lowest level with the negative charge, which is identified as "lustfulness" of youth.
  2. The middle level or gradation within which the Hafiz concept of "sly" is nothing but the "sly Hafiz".  It is at this level that we can delineate characterology of "sly" as a main existential posture Hafiz wished to be in and made proclamation for (I will return to this shortly).
  3. The highest rank or "vali", the "guide" or "guru" toward whom he looks upward for blessing and guidance.

8) Characterology of sly

A "sly person" according to Hafiz has the following characteristics:

  1. Detachment from fame, honor, and prestige.
  2. Joyfulness at the midst of affliction and suffering.
  3. Seeking salvation without having any unnecessary worry.
  4. Anti-Hippocratic.
  5. Balance, posture, and anti-extremist.
  6. Criticalness of social-religious norms.
  7. Permissiveness and "anti-moralism"
  8. Not trusting in "Piety" and "knowledge"
  9. Concerned deeply with love and inner sincerity.
  10. Blamer Sufi.

9) Detachment and blame

Historically, the concept blame (Malamat) developed in Khurasan around 3d -9th century due to the fact that sincere Sufis tried to exercise "purification of intentions"(ikhlas).  These Sufis tried their best to have a "pure heart", and, consequently lost their interest in the opinion of others let me list some major dimensions of blame as one can delineate in verses of Hafiz:

  • Blame is the result of "true love". [The master] told me: blame will arise if you get involved with love.  I do swear to God; we have not seen love without blame.
  • A blamer Sufi is "faithful", suffers the blame of others and "happy" and paradoxically does not suffer at all!

10)  "Love"
The concept "love" in Hafiz poems is the center key and should be analyzed independently.  Lets go over the many dimensions synoptically.

  1. Ineffability of love-experience- One can not speak at this sanctity domain of love because one has to be all-hearing all-seeing.
  2. "Creation and cosmogenesis"' is a byproduct of love.  Adam and Fairy the byproducts of love exercise intent to attain the eternal bliss and happiness.
  3. Love, itself is due to Divine self manifestation in pre-eternity.
  4. The path of love is a "danger", a "destiny", a "limitless" path.
  5. Effort vs. Grace- In love effort is necessary but not sufficient to attain the puritan and unity with the Beloved.
  6. A true lover is detached and totally emancipated.
  7. Affliction and suffering and no complaining in the path of love.
  8. Love transcends reasoning and rationality.
  9. In the path of love one needs spiritual direction.
  10. Pantheism and Unitarianism of Love.
  11. Love is the ultimate refuge, the alchemy of eternal happiness.
  12. Hafiz perceives "love" as the best souvenir remaining under the rotating dome of the temporal universe.
This article has been provided to Iran Online by Iranian Cultural Center of Orange County (ICCOC), California, USA.