For the longest time Rumi was my favoritest Sufi poet. He’s funny, daring at times, and never failed to make me feel peaceful when reading his wise words. Well now Hafiz has gone and tied with Rumi for the gold. Hafiz is funny, daring, and makes me feel happy when I read him. What’s a girl to do? I must embrace them both.
Hafiz was born about 100 years after Rumi in about 1320. To put him in a little perspective, he was a contemporary of Chaucer. There is no consensus on how many of Hafiz’s poems we still have, though the experts estimate it is somewhere between 500 and 700 which is only about 10% of his total output.
Hafiz was born to a poor family and was the youngest of three sons. His father was a coal merchant and died when Hafiz was in his teens. Hafiz went to work as a baker’s assistant to help support his family and put himself through the equivalent of night school. He wrote poems even as a child and when in his twenties he received patron support for his work. He was a spiritual student as well and studied many long years before reaching what one might call enlightenment. There is not much more in the way of trusted biography. As one can imagine, a great poet and spiritual teacher is surrounded by lots of mythologizing.
The book of his poems I read is called The Gift. The translator, Daniel Ladinsky, notes that he chose to use very modern language, sometimes even slangy, in order to best convey Hafiz’s meaning and message. While I sometimes found myself wondering if those were Hafiz’s real words, for the most part I think Ladinsky made a good decision.
Because Hafiz was a Sufi master, all of his poems are about God in one way or another. But his God is not an angry God or a God who plays religious favorites. Hafiz’s God is one of pure love and our job as humans is to love each other, because God is within everyone, and to let God love us. The ultimate goal I guess you could say, is to be annihilated in God’s love. It is because Hafiz’s poems are so full of love that I couldn’t help but feel happy when reading them. Even if I began reading them when I was in a bad mood, by the fourth or fifth poem I felt so good.
I posted a couple of poems when I first started reading Hafiz. My book is full to bursting with page points and if you asked me to name one or two favorites I wouldn’t be able to because I wouldn’t be able to decide. Hafiz is one of those poets where you can open to any page and read a poem and like what you have read and even feel like it was speaking directly to you at that particular time. In fact, many people use Hafiz as a sort of I Ching, opening up his poems to a random page for an answer to what ails them.
As a joke, my husband did this to me one evening when I was feeling especially stressed and the poem was so completely relevant I thought at first he was just making it all up. Here’s the poem:
Find a Better Job
All your worry
Has proved such an
Find a better
Hafiz and I Ching kinda seems to work.
One more poem before I wrap up.
Scratching My Back
Can think of Hafiz as a divine
Who just keeps scratching his back
On the Moon.
O, I don’t care about your thoughts
Or what you have ever done,
Just open up this book whenever you are
For I love the way you
Go ahead, open the book. Open it anytime, but especially when you are sad. You will never be sorry.