Arts & Entertainment

Iran’s enduring devotion to Persian poets

By Jaime León

Shiraz, Iran, Apr 24 (EFE).- There is a saying in Iran that every household has a copy of the Quran and a book by the poet Hafez, and for once this saying is not far from reality.

The 14th-century Persian poet remains to this day a cultural icon who evokes mass devotion.

The Tomb of Hafez, situated in a complex of serene rose gardens in the southern city of Shiraz, has become a spiritual and borderline religious pilgrimage point for devotees.

“His poems are sacred to me,” Shahrzad Mohammad, a woman dressed in elegant white, tells Efe between poetry recitals on the steps of the tomb, where she is joined by two friends.

Around the Tomb of Hafez, a pen name for Khwāje Shams-od-Dīn Mohamad, devotees take selfies, pay their respects to the literary figure and recite his poetry aloud while others simply stroll around the gardens to catch a break from the hustle and bustle of vibrant Shiraz.

This is Shahrzad’s fourth visit to the tomb from her home in Tehran, Iran’s capital city.

“Reading Hafez is like returning to myself,” she says.

Soheila Qhazvune, 46, tells Efe she learned the complete works of Hafez by heart as a teenager.

She went on to study literature at university, married a calligrapher who reproduces the poems of Hafez and now teaches literature at a high school.

“I live with Hafez each day, for me it is a spiritual experience,” she adds.

Before the pandemic, around 7,000 people visited the mausoleum on a daily basis, numbers that during holidays such as Nowruz, the Persian new year, swelled to 70,000, the tomb’s administrator Amin Tajalee, tells Efe.

“In Hafez, people find something that they have lost. It’s something beyond time and space,” Amin adds.

This spiritual notion was a common theme in the conversations Efe held with those gathered at the Tomb of Hafez.

It is encapsulated by the practice known as faal, whereby a person looking to solve a problem or dispel their worries, will close their eyes, open their book of Hafez poetry at random and take direction from the verses that appear before them.

Iran’s passion for literature extends beyond Hafez to three other giants of Persian poetry — Ferdowsi, Saadi and Rumi.

The nearby tomb of Saadi Shirazi, a poet from the 13th century, is similarly surrounded by visitors milling around and paying their respects.

“It’s our culture,” says Payam, a young man in the midst of his obligatory military service who preferred to remain anonymous when talking to Efe.

“Other countries have other arts, we have poets,” he adds.


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