Sunday, March 4, 2012

Discovering Hafiz I

There is something to be said about ancient languages and how I wish for the eloquence of past masters to express myself without making a fool of myself. If I had enough style, I wouldn't really mind making a fool of myself.
Very little is known of the life of the great poet and all that is known comes from oral tradition or biographies that are not totally reliable. A lot of fabulous stories are associated with the poet and, true or not, they are inspiring.
It is said that from his father recitation of Quran he learnt the entire Quran by heart at a very early age, and hence the name Hafiz (or Hafez) which literally means one who has memorized the whole Quran. He is also credited with memorizing Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi, Saadi, Farid ud-Din and Nizami.
Hafez at an early age was employed at a bakery and once he saw a woman of great beauty and knowing that this union was improbable sat on a mystic vigil to try and make it probable. During this vigil, he had a vision where a divinely beautiful woman identified herself as an angel led him on the path of spiritual union with the divine. Hāfez hints at this episode in one of his verses where he advises the reader to attain "clarity of wine" by letting it "sit for 40 days".

One of the most entertaining incidence of his life for me was when Hafiz was summoned to Shiraz by Timurlane as he was displeased with one of verse:
اگر آں ترک شیرازی بدست ارد دلے مارا 
بخال ہندوش بخشَم ثمرقند و بخارا را 
Agar aaN turk-e-shiraazi badast aarad dil-e-ma raa
bakhaal-e-hinduwash bakhsham samarqand o bukhara ra

If that Turkish beauty of Shiraz agrees to hold my heart in her hand
I swear by the mole of Indian beauty that adorns her face, I will endow Samarkand and Bukhara to her.

Timur asked Hafez, "Do you have any idea of the amount of lives I have put to this sword to win these towns, and you say you will endow it to someone who catches your fancy"

Hafez bowed and said, "Sire, it is because of these extravagance that Hafez has been reduced to this state of poverty".

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