Jāmi was not sure if Hafez had studied with a Sufi, but he agreed that the Divān of Hafez is one of the best books that a Sufi could read (Nafaḥāt al-ons, ed. ʿĀbedi, p. 612). Many modern critics (including Moṭahhari and Purjawādi), while not necessarily seeing Hafez as a member of a Sufi order, do see him as a mystic (ʿāref); as such, his statements about wine, sin, music and pleasure are interpreted in an invariably metaphorical, even relentlessly gnostic way, reading the iconology of sin and physical pleasure as an elaborate code of transcendent symbols (Wilberforce Clarke, Meher Baba, Rajāʾi, etc.). In this view, Hafez’s libertine tone and his railing against figures of religious authority, including Sufis, are the trappings of malāmati trends in Sufism (see below).

At the opposite end of the spectrum are critics who take the hedonism more at face value (von Hammer), or even condemn Hafez as an immoral and socially corruptive libertine or as a representative of the idle, mendacious and anti-modern traditions of Sufism (Kasravi). Others take him at his word when he speaks about love of human beauty, but do not see this as irreligious or immoral (Ḵorramšāhi, 1989, pp. 1448-49; Zarrinkub, 1987, 5th ed., preface; Eslāmi-Nodušan, p. 18). Still others (including Bahār, Braginsky, Lescot, etc.; see Rypka, Hist. Iran. Lit., pp. 266-69 and 276, n. 89 for a summary) have seen Hafez as an incipient political activist, protesting the cruelty and hypocrisy of oppression, directing phrases like “the Sufi with the deeds of an Antichrist, in the shape of an infidel—”kojā-st ṣufi-e dajjāl-kiš-e molḥed-šekl (Ḵ. 237:6; henceforth the poems of Hafez are cited in parenthesis by ghazal and line number, as above, or by page and line number for the other genres, following the Divān-e Ḥāfeẓ, ed. Parviz Nātel Ḵānlari, 2 vols., Tehran, 1359 Š./1980, 2nd revised ed., 1362 Š./1984, abbreviated to Ḵ.)—at the bestial cruelty of Timur/Tamerlane (Ḡani, p. 400, n.1, followed by Rypka, p. 85, and Ḵorramšāhi, 1994, p. 160).

Gertrude Bell (pp. 51-4; q.v.) felt that though “an undercurrent of mysticism” can be discerned throughout Hafez, a rigorously mystical, and therefore reductionist, exegesis excises the poet’s humanity. Annemarie Schimmel (p. 288), too, warns that one “cannot derive a mystical system out of Persian or Turkish poetry or see in it an expression of experience to be taken at face value.” The view, attributed early on to Šāh-Šojāʿ, that the verse of Hafez reflected various motives and meandered from mysticism to bacchanalia, from “serious and spiritual to flippant and worldly” (Browne, Lit. Hist Persia III, p. 281) is probably not far from the mark. He thought this undoubted mixing of the spiritual and the physical in Hafez typical of the “character, psychology and Weltanschauung of the people of Persia,” (p. 299) and though such essentialism is out of favor, recent commentators have similarly described the rend of Hafez as “the most evocative symbol of the indefinable ambiguity of the Persian character” (Daryush Shayegan, in Gray, p. 28). Perhaps Hafez deliberately practiced ambiguity as part of his campaign against hypocrisy, as a means of rejecting dogma and ideology in general.

However, the conflicting interpretations of the poet’s message may also be due in large part to our lack of information about the life circumstances of Hafez, the conventional insincerity (or courtesy) of the ghazal form, and the need to state political criticism obliquely (Rypka, Hist. Iran. Lit., p. 85). Efforts to sketch a chronology of the poems and relate them to the life events of the poet and the changing political circumstances in Shiraz during the reigns of Abu Esḥāq, Mobārez-al-Din Moḥam-mad, and Šāh-Šojāʿ have however proved promising (Lescot, Ḡani, Zarrinkub, 1987); deeper mining of the available evidence will perhaps recover further the context and give us a clearer picture of the poet’s beliefs and his maturation as an artist. Indeed, Moḥammad-Reżā Šafiʿi-Kadkani discerns an intellectual development in Hafez from a poet into a rend, an almost Nietzschean “superman” who reflects the paradoxical aspects of the human situation, man’s free will and predestination, his prayerfulness and rebelliousness, asceticism and besottedness, sorrow and joy (p. 430).

In this view, the defining characteristic of Hafez is his “will to freedom” (Šafiʿi-Kadkani, p. 431). His unwillingness to reduce life’s complexity to pretentious dogmas, his refusal to flinch from the ambiguity of the human condition, present the reader with a real freedom of choice (Šafiʿi-Kadkani, p. 434). Similarly, Nāderpur considers Hafez a quintessentially national poet whose Iranian identity stands somewhat in contradistinction to the Islam of the Arabs, and leads him to reject the dichotomy of religion versus heresy in favor of a kind of humanism.

Hafez is constantly combating religious dogmatism, authoritarianism and sterile pietism, often with the impious satisfaction of simple human pleasures and desires. We may agree with Šafiʿi-Kadkani (p. 433) that “no artist has ever been a bigger enemy to hypocrisy” than Hafez.


Hafez sends up or lashes out at the two-faced wherever he sees them. He characterizes and illustrates hypocrisy in many ways, but several words in his usage specifically denote duplicity, including: nefāq (Ḵ. 25:5). This dissimulation and pretense (Ḵ. 206:4), like another kind of deceit (šayd, Ḵ. 150:10), sometimes pairs with zarq to intensify the sense of chicanery. Hafez pledges not to forgive this kind of inauthenticity (nefāq o zarq, Ḵ. 131:7a).

Riā. Hafez wants to repent of hypocritical asceticism (Ḵ. 126:10, 129:9), or Sufi spiritualism (Ḵ. 238:5b) with its symbols of sham piety (dalq-e riāʾi, Ḵ. 360:2a). Such hypocrisy sets the entire foundation of religion afire (Ḵ. 399:8). Though he himself sometimes stands accused of hypocrisy (Ḵ. 476:8a) or putting on a false façade (hama ruy ast o riā, Ḵ. 319:9a), Hafez hopes to avoid all converse with “the people of hypocrisy” (Ḵ. 262:2a, 347:4a), such as the moḥtaseb who is inebriated by his own false show (Ḵ. 290:7) of piety. In fact, very few people are free of duplicity; the nightingale may sing out of sincere friendship (az sar-e ṣedq, Ḵ. 403:2b), but bold-faced hypocrisy is a quality of the general populace (ruy o riā-ye ḵalq, Ḵ. 357:1b and 358:1b). Hypocrisy is construed as the polar opposite of the honesty or authenticity of drinking wine (Ḵ. 171:8, 191:6, 269:1, 368:2). Indeed, wine washes away the stains of hypocrisy (Ḵ. 373:5), so closing the doors of the wine tavern (mayḵāna) will cause another door to open—that of riā and tazwir (Ḵ. 197:6).

Sālus. As an adjective for “cloak” (ḵerqa, Ḵ. 2:3) or other garments that proclaim the Sufi’s spiritual state (Ḵ. 368:1), it means sham or counterfeit. It also describes chicanery with respect to “miraculous deeds” (Ḵ. 28:7), the hypocritical balderdash of the preacher (Ḵ. 220:1) or just general sanctimoniousness (Ḵ. 462:5, 469:5, 379:4).

Tazwir. All the figures of authority dissimulate to some extent or another (Ḵ. 195:9b), and Hafez cannot be fooled by it (Ḵ. 339:7b). While one may sin with wine and love, the cardinal sin is abusing the Koran to impose a false piety (Ḵ. 9:10).

Zarq. Like sālus, it often applies to clothing (jāma, dalq). It can be a pattern (naqš) of deceit in the fabric (Ḵ. 368:1), a cloak concealing a wine flagon (Ḵ. 145:3), or the social rank signified by a uniform that must be stained with wine to avoid pride (Ḵ. 67:3). Frequently wine is suggested as its antidote (Ḵ. 407:12), or it is likened to dust that must be washed away by wine (Ḵ. 372:9). Hafez pledges not to forgive it (Ḵ. 131:7).

To the above, we may add qalb o daḡal (Ḵ. 194:3b) a kind of counterfeit charade of spirituality to fool the masses, or even God. The zohd-foruš (Ḵ. 25:4) is one who wants to sell you his piety through bold-faced hypocrisy (ruy o riā, Ḵ. 25:4a, 70:2) which is, alas, all too often the motivation for charity (Ḵ. 126:8).

Although it is not ordinarily a word specifically denoting dissimulation and pretense, Hafez almost invari-ably uses the word for “repentance” (tawba) cynically or flippantly in contexts suggestive of hypocrisy. “Repentance” implies forswearing the evil ways of drink and other illicit pleasures, and a reasonable mind finds this hard to contemplate (Ḵ. 292:5). Repentance is fragile (Ḵ. 22:7) and shatters as easily as a wine glass (Ḵ. 18:7a, 20:2; those who preach repentance, such as Shaikh Aḥmad-e Jām [q.v.], were reputed to have smashed countless wine bottles). Hafez observes that those who preach repentance rarely repent themselves (Ḵ. 194:2b). The poet himself has repented in the past out of a sham asceticism (Ḵ. 126:10), but immediately realized that the tree of repentance bears only the fruit of regret (Ḵ. 202:2). Hafez has tried hard a hundred times to repent (Ḵ. 251:5), but the eyes of the sāqi always get the better of him (Ḵ. 255:8), and now he has repented of repenting (Ḵ. 345:1). God forbid (Ḵ. 410:3)! One would have to be crazy (Ḵ. 338:2) to repent!


The figures of religious authority and propriety are all subject to the corruptions of influence and power, sham piety, and the dispensing of sanctimonious counsel. It is a realization that can only be swallowed with a swig of wine (Ḵ. 195:9), nor does Hafez exclude himself from a list of those who, upon close examination, can all be said to be poseurs of one kind or another: the officer of markets and public morals (moḥtaseb), the religious elder (šayḵ), the man of law (faqih), the judge (qāżi), the preacher (wāʿeẓ), the ascetic (zāhed) and even, for the most part, the Sufi, though this character’s role can be somewhat more ambiguous than the other establishment representatives.

Opposed to the above, we find figures of counter-culture and disrepute, including beggars (gadā, faqir, mofles), qalandars, and the characters who haunt the “ruins” (ḵarābāt). These ruins are scenes of illicit pleasure, occupied by drinkers and drunkards, the wine seller and wine server (sāqi), the Magian elder (pir-e moḡān) and Magian ephebe (moḡ-bačča), and the beloved (šāhed,delbar, maʿšuq, etc.). Chief among the anti-establishment figures is the rend, an irreligious alter-ego to Hafez’s more reputable persona, a safety valve saving him from the sanctimonious self-righteousness that characterizes the religious authorities:

Ḥāfeẓ-am dar maḥfel-i dordi-keš-am dar majles-i
bengar in šuḵi ke čun bā ḵalq ṣanʿat mi-konam (Ḵ. 344:8)

I’m a Koran-reciter in one circle and a dregs-drainer in another setting
See how witty it is, how I ply my craft with people!


To what extent, then, is Hafez playing with us? Do we understand the rends, revelers, drunkards and other anti-establishment, antinomian and pre-Islamic figures as literary types symbolic of the true spirituality beyond official, legalistic religion and sham piety? Or do the mythopoetics of Hafez reflect a transformative realism which turns actual social outcasts and outlaws (as well as the Bohemian poet/artist) into folk rebels opposing political and theological conformity through a kind of libertine civil disobedience?

Those who see a higher form of mystical piety in Hafez typically appeal for their interpretation to the malāmatiya, those who, recalling how the Prophet Moḥammad was reviled by his opponents, numbered themselves among those who “do not fear the blame of any blamer” (5:54). The Malāmati approach probably arose in Baghdad in response to the cooptation of the “sober” Sufism of Junayd and the like by the forms of traditional pietism, and seems to have been particularly strong in Khorasan, specifically Nišāpur (Zarrinkub, 1990, pp. 335-36). In malāmati thought, self-satisfaction is regarded as the greatest pitfall in the spiritual quest (Hojwiri, p. 70); conversely, to be an object of blame helps one to achieve sincerity. For the malāmatiya, then, the appearance of immorality, or even the actual commission of illicit actions, guards one against the sin of pride or the potential corruption of religious office (see Zarrinkub, 1990, pp. 335-57).

Hafez does use the word malāmat several times, but in the rather ordinary meaning of “blame.” Drunkards and lovers are blamed for losing control of a public sober demeanor (356:2), but they have been condemned by fate to this disreputable behavior (Ḵ. 24:4, 25:3), as there can be no love without blame (mā raʾayna ḥobban be-lā malāma, Ḵ. 416:5). He therefore tells the blamer (malā-matgar) not to blame him (Ḵ. 77:6), and reminds his own “Hafez” persona not to blame the rendān, among whom he counts himself (Ḵ. 129:9). Only on one occasion can the words of Hafez be plausibly interpreted as suggesting group identity or ideology for those who endure malā-mat, but it is hardly conclusive (Ḵ. 385:3):

Let’s be faithful and endure blame (malāmat), and be happy
For in our brotherhood, it is blasphemy to take offense

Though Hafez does not appear to have been a formal Sufi, or a member of any of the groups of outcasts/dropouts from the social order (such as the qalandars), many commentators maintain that he reflects malāmati principles in his poetry, and not, therefore, agnosticism, libertinism or hedonism. However, a reading of the Divān which suspends judgment on this question might rather see Hafez conducting his persona in arresting and sometimes jolting rhetoric across a continuum, the opposite nodes of which are true spirituality and rebellious non-conformism. We find counsels to be happy and drink, but there is also a profound sadness and pessimism in Hafez. One finds admonitions about the unfaithfulness of the world very similar to what can be seen in ascetic or Sufi poetry (e.g., Divān, p. 1071:1), but the remedy of wine drinking often seems a call to drown all-too-real tears, rather than to transcend the lower world. It is hard to see, for example, how one could interpret the following statement as consonant with any Islamic philosophy: 

Biā tā gol bar afšānim o may dar sāḡar andāzim
Falak rā saqf beškāfim-o ṭarḥ-i now dar andāzim (Ḵ. 367:1)

Come let us strew roses and spill wine in the chalice
We’ll crack the vault of heaven and recast it according to a new plan 

Hafez, in the end, refuses to reveal the real person under his public personae. He gives us a caveat emptor:

If he is rend in the ruins and Koran reciter in the city, he has no better goods (matāʿ) on offer than this (Ḵ. 347:7).


Wāʿeẓān. The preachers (wāʿeẓān) are perhaps the most egregious exempla of hypocrisy, browbeating others with fire and brimstone sermons about the horror of hell (Ḵ. 88:2a), shouting their empty counsels (Ḵ. 339:7a) like so much hot air at hapless victims (Ḵ. 34:1-2, 365:5). The real objective of those who preach repentance (tawba-farmāyān, Ḵ. 194:2b) is not to guide souls, but to bind the feet of the free nobleman (Ḵ. 83:8). While giving fine advice to others, they themselves often fail to practice what they preach:

wāʿeẓān k-in jelwa dar meḥrāb o menbar mi-konand
čon ba ḵalwat mi-ravand ān kār-e digar mi-konand (Ḵ. 194:1)

Preachers give glorious talks from the pulpit;
They find other things to do when in private!
Perhaps they believe they can deceive God on Judgment day (Ḵ. 194:3b)? 

The preachers appear to be invested with the authority of the state’s criminal or political police (šaḥna, Ḵ. 53:7, 222:4), who are not invariably kind (Ḵ. 72:10). On occasion, Hafez even seems to have a specific preacher in mind; he says of “the city preacher,” perhaps of Shiraz (Ḵ. 222:4; see Zarrinkub, 1987, pp. 43ff), that he hasn’t an inkling of the truth (Ḵ. 344:3). Elsewhere, Hafez calls the preacher subhuman for his hypocrisy and sham piety (Ḵ. 220:1-2) and suggests that the preacher will never be a good Muslim unless he learns to drink wine and practice the generous ways of rendi (Ḵ. 220:2 and 4).

Hafez sees himself as the preacher’s antithesis, counseling love, joy, music, wine and rendi, in opposition to the stern and somber warnings of the sermon from the pulpit (Ḵ. 127:7, 252:10, 348:6). Indeed, how could the rend, who is the very absence of righteousness and piety, who listens to the melody of the rabāb, have any ear for the sermon (Ḵ. 2:2)? Why does Hafez leave the preaching of the mosque for the haunts of the wine seller? Because the sermon is long and time is a-wasting (Ḵ. 160:4; cf., 385:7)! It would appear that for Hafez these deadly dull sermon sessions (majles-e waʿẓ) do not happen only in the mosque, but also in the Sufi lodge (ḵānaqāh), so like a clever bird avoiding a trap, he stays away from the lodge (Ḵ. 458:4) as well.

Faqih, mofti, qāżi. We encounter the faqih far less frequently (three times in the ghazals), a scholar of Islamic jurisprudence who, like the mofti, has the authority to write legal briefs, stipulating what constitutes orthodox behavior. He is pointedly associated with the legal domain, in contrast to the domain of the poet, which is the meadow and wine. For Hafez the men of law are particularly associated with the legal college, but not necessarily exclusively with their books. Indeed, the faqih of the following line seems more bothered by those who would accumulate wealth in perpetuity than with those who would drink:

Faqih-e madrasa di mast bud o fatwā dād
Ke may ḥarām wali beh ze māl-e awqāf ast (Ḵ. 45:4)

Yesterday, the scholar in the law college, drunk, issued a ruling:
Wine’s forbidden, but it’s better than the funds from pious endowments 

Perhaps this is because, despite the appearance of propriety, and the social benefits which go with it, the man of law is not immune to the temptations of a good round of wine:

Hafez drank wine, and the Man of Law [faqih] and Shaikh, too! (Ḵ. 302:7)

Unlike the hypocritical preacher, the faqih can be tipped off course with a glass or two: 

w-agar faqih naṣihat konad ka ʿešq mabāz
piāla-i bedeh-aš gu demāḡ rā tar kon (Ḵ. 389:6)

If the Man of Law counsels, “don’t play at love,”
Give him a goblet of wine and tell him to wet his brain. 

This tendency to tipple holds true for the mofti (Ḵ. 290:1) as well, though the latter knows nothing of love’s proper rituals (203:6, 420:4), unless he be a mofti, not of law, but of love (Ḳ 254:4).

The judge (qāżi) may be the most dangerous of the men of law, as an official appointed by the king who has direct decision-making power over commercial and personal matters on a daily basis. The qāżi can punish the lover, and his decrees are backed up by the local Sultan’s penal officers (Ḵ. 355:9b), but Hafez calls for wine to wash away his fear of the judge (Ḵ. 355:9a). The judge, in his turn, is not as stern as all that, and has a drink now and then with the shaikh (Ḵ. 280:3a).

Moḥtaseb. Meanwhile, the vice officer, the moḥtaseb, enforces fair business practices and ensures that public morality is not violated by drinkers or lovers. For Hafez, the moḥtaseb is the feared (Ḵ. 278:4, 290:7), sharp-eyed (Ḵ. 42:1) spoiler of the pleasures of wine (Ḵ. 144:4) and smasher of the chalice (Ḵ. 146:7). The moḥtaseb is guilty of posing (Ḵ. 195:9) and being drunk with hypocrisy (riā). He is to be fearlessly defied (Ḵ. 290:7), as in the example (Ḵ. 280:2b) of the Sufi who sees the moḥtaseb confiscate the pitcher of some drinker, and decides therefore to plop down right next to the keg of wine. Hafez, the rend, refuses to bow to the weight of the moḥtaseb’s authority (Ḵ. 338:1), though he rejoices at release from fear of the moḥtaseb when wine is decriminalized (354:4). It has been suggested that Mobārez-al-Din Moḥammad, who killed their beloved patron Abu Esḥāq, suggested the character of ʿObayd-e Zākāni’s ruthless cat in his Muš o gorba, and of Hafez’s moḥtaseb (Ṣafā, Adabiyāt 3/2. p. 1083; Javadi, p. 73 and 110; see also Zarrinkub, 1987, p. 43).

In Hafez’s Shiraz, the moḥtaseb sometimes patroled with the royal political police (šaḥna, Ḵ. 48:9) against wine, though the poet dismisses the latter as ineffectual (Ḵ. 73:4), even beseeching the “constable of the convivium” (šaḥna-ye majles) to prevent Hafez’s beloved from drinking with any rival (Ḵ. 116:11). Another official, the night watchman, or ʿasas, also interrupts lovers’ trysts (Ḵ. 261:5), a duty he shares with the moḥtaseb (Ḵ. 338:1a, 355:8).

Zāhed. The zāhed is a sinner in the book of Hafez, and his asceticism is often characterized by duplicity (zohd-e riā, Ḵ. 129:9, 171:8, 226:1, etc.), desiccation (zohd-e ḵošk, Ḵ. 112:5) or bitterness (zohd-e talḵ, Ḵ. 270:1). The zāhed denies himself and others the joie de vivre, holed up with his prayers (Ḵ. 154:6a) in his hermitage (ṣawmeʿa, Ḵ. 70:11, 75:8), holding out for the palaces (qoṣur) of paradise, with their wine (kawṯar, Ḵ. 66:8a) and dark-eyed beauties (ḥur, Ḵ. 249:5). Here on earth, he denounces the “daughter of the grape” as “the mother of corruption” (Ḵ. 5:9) and harangues the imbibers (Ḵ. 22:5) whenever he has the chance, scattering the thorns of blame in the path (Ḵ. 366:7a) of those who appreciate a pretty face (Ḵ. 70:3), fearing that casual contact with the handsome (šāhedān, Ḵ. 192:1) or the antinomian (Ḵ. rendān) will corrupt him (Ḵ. 177:5). So, like the preacher, the ascetic can also mount a soapbox and pull a woolen robe (paš-mina-puš) over his head; Hafez has had many unpleasant encounters with such a zāhed, and much prefers the silken threads of the musician (Divān, p. 1088, 45:2). Hafez would rather forgo the paradise on high (ḵold) to which the ascete calls him, for a beloved in an earthly rosebower (Ḵ. 411:5), since the creed of Hafez is love and wine (Ḵ. 30:6). Hence, free-thinking (rendi) is contrasted, as a mode of piety, to asceticism (zāhedi), and though neither guarantees a good end (Ḵ. 191:4), Hafez is willing to wager his wine over the ascetic’s piety (taqwā, Ḵ. 115:4).

The zāhed’s view is ignorant (bi-ḵabar, Ḵ. 290:7) and selfish (zāhed-e ḵᵛod-bin, Ḵ. 197:2a, 201:4a, 258:8a), and he is fixated on outward appearances (zāhed-e ẓāher-parast); he deceives people as though they were children (Ḵ. 324:7), so his remonstrations should not be taken to heart (Ḵ. 72:1). The ascetic’s attitude leads to pride (Ḵ. 84:7) and Hafez warns the zāhed that by faulting the rend, he will stain his own pure abstemiousness with sin (Ḵ. 78:1). Being raw, the ascetic would condemn the drinkers, but a dose of raw wine would cure him of this half-baked ideas (Ḵ. 146:6), and the flame of abandon and true worship would set alight his harvest of rational righteousness (Ḵ. 364:2). Such cost-benefit analysis of one’s portfolio of salvation is beyond the dervish, so Hafez cannot tell what the ascetic harbors in his heart (Ḵ. 457:4-5) and will not complain about his spiteful nature (Ḵ. 458:5). And if the zāhed fails to understand Hafez, no matter, for do not demons flee from one who recites the Koran (Ḵ. 188:11)?

It should be noted that the zāhed represents the showy asceticism of official establishment religion, and it is this, not asceticism per se, that Hafez condemns. Elsewhere, Hafez speaks admiringly of genuine purity (pār-sāʾi,Ḵ. 483:2b), as exemplified by truly pure holy men (pārsāyān, pārsā) who are not part of the social order (Ḵ. 475:10).

Shaikh. Theshaikh, or venerable elder, makes frequent appearances as well, though not nearly so many as the pir (whom Hafez often identifies as the Magian elder dispensing wine and true wisdom). The pir is cast almost everywhere in the Divān in a positive role, in contradistinction to the shaikh (Ḵ. 141:8), who is a more ambiguous figure. Sometimes the shaikh is kind, and sometimes not (Ḵ. 72:10b), though Hafez generally has more respect for shaikhs than religious figures in official positions. In the Divān of Hafez, šayḵ at times signifies a Sufi pir, at others a respected member of the orthodox ʿolamāʾ (Ḵ. 304:4b), while at others it merely signifies old age as opposed to youth (Ḵ. 257:1b, 413:1b). A shaikh might lack an appointment in a ḵānaqāh, and so delight in the ceremonies of the tavern (Ḵ. 123:4). Yet, Hafez elsewhere apologizes to a shaikh in relatively deferential terms for impious behavior (Ḵ. 5:12), and contrasts the kosher sustenance (nān-e ḥalāl) of the shaikh to his own illicit nourishment (āb-e ḥarām; Ḵ. 11:5). The poet’s own shaikh gives him advice that tends to please (Ḵ. 48:4), or so Hafez pseudo-naively interprets it (Ḵ. 213:5b).

In some cases, however, the shaikh makes common cause with the preacher (Ḵ. 410:4), the man of law (Ḵ. 302:7) or the judge (Ḵ. 280:3a). This is the shaikh of officialdom who fails to fulfill his promises (Ḵ. 141:8), counsels the poet not to play at love (Ḵ. 345:6a), or nags him to attend to his prayer beads (Ḵ. 459:3). One suspects it is such “wayward shaikhs” (Ḵ. 409:3) that Hafez would have drenched in earthly wine (Ḵ. 158:5) for their ungodly unkindness to the rendān (Ḵ. 438:5). Sometimes, specific shaikhs are singled out; the Shaikh of the city (šayḵ-e šahr), presumably of Shiraz, is once mentioned apprehensively (Ḵ. 127:6). Shaikh Ṣanʿān figures as one who did not hypocritically fear ill repute, but pawned his cloak to the wine seller (Ḵ. 79:6b). Elsewhere (Ḵ. 7:8b) we find a probable allusion to Shaikh Aḥmad-e Jām (q.v.).

Sufis. The Sufi, like the sheikh, can be a sotted hypocrite. The Sufis of the cloister (ṣawmeʿa) with their ceremonious attire proclaiming a sham spirituality (jāma-ye sālus, Ḵ. 368:1a, ḵerqa-ye sālus, Ḵ. 2:3a) are just as guilty of hypocrisy (riā, Ḵ. 238:5b) as the preachers. Yet Sufis are sometimes pledging their cloaks (ḵerqa) at the wine tavern, where a vintage that lays a Sufi low is sold (Ḵ. 483:5). It is as if the said cloaks were superficial sym-bols of superstition (Ḵ. 366:1), their patchwork mantle of poverty (dalq) not worth more than a round of wine (Ḵ. 141:1b). The mysteries of love (asrār-e ʿešq-bāzi) cannot be contained within the walls of the Sufis’ lodge (ḵāna-qāh), but only in the Magian wine goblet (Ḵ. 150:4). Fortunately, the retreat of the Sufi and the ascetic (ṣawmeʿa) is not so very far from the Magian cloister (dayr-e mogān, Ḵ. 75:8). If the Sufi can be possessed to smash wine jugs and drinking bowls, yet with one gulp of wine he can be quickly brought back to his senses (Ḵ. 165:3) and redeemed.


The dispossessed. Hafez describes himself more than once as a beggar (gadā). He is the beggar who retreats from society to sit alone in a corner (gadā-ye guša-nešin, Ḵ. 278:9). He is the beggar about town (gadā-ye šahr), transformed into a host of high society (mir-e majles, Ḵ. 163:4) and possessor of treasures (Ḵ. 341:6) by the patronage of “the friend” (dust). On the social scale, beggars occupy the lowest rung, and as such are often contrasted to the king (pādešāh, šāhān,ṣolṭān, ḵosrovān, etc.; see Ḵ. 6:1, 54:3, 79:3, 108:4, 114:2, 194:8-9, 196:5, 278:9, 403:5b, 405:9, 483:9, etc.), as well as to Korah, proverbial possessor of treasure (Ḵ. 5:10, 285:9).

The work of pleasure and drunkenness (ʿayš o masti) earns the beggar’s way from penury (tangdasti) to riches (Ḵ. 5:10). He who begs at the Sufi hermitage (ḵānaqāh) may find within the Magian monastery (dayr-e moḡān) what enriches and empowers the heart (Ḵ. 194:8). The beggar of love is in no need of the reward of the eight levels of paradise (Ḵ. 36:4), so both rend and gadā will settle for the Magian monastery (Ḵ. 262:3), rather than accumulate the good works (pādāš-e ʿamal) that guarantee entrance into the palace of heaven (qaṣr-e ferdows). Once in the tavern (maykada), wine makes the beggar ruler of the celestial spheres (Ḵ. 342:6), and so, though kings enjoy their treasures of gold, beggars enjoy everlasting contentment (Ḵ. 108:4).

But the beggar (gadā) should not just indiscriminately demand baksheesh. The beggars in the ḵarābāt must not forget God and his blessings in a rush for alms (Ḵ. 177:7), but must honor true patrons with faithful service (bandagi, Ḵ. 174:3). True poverty (faqr) is a state of equilibrium and dignity, a freedom from pretension, which Hafez longs to attain (Ḵ. 53:5).

Others are to be pitied for their poor estate: the faqir, the meskin, the mofles and the lover. The faqir in his poverty lacks not only money, but also social status, and thus is on the opposite end of the social scale from the respected (moḥtašem, Ḵ. 407:2) and wealthy (ḡani, Ḵ. 407:9). Though he is weak and emaciated, one should not look upon the faqir with contempt, for he holds the position of true power (Ḵ. 117:6), inasmuch as those covered by the dust of true poverty (faqr) and contentment possess a greater kingdom (Ḵ. 479:7) than all the dust that alchemy could turn to gold (Ḵ. 442:9).

A peer of the poor faqir is the pitiful meskin (Ḵ. 324:2). The stranger has no social network to rely upon, and hence is a helpless outsider (meskin ḡarib ,Ḵ. 15:1, 376:1). Likewise, if those to whom you turn in appeal do not come to your aid (faryād-ras, Ḵ. 172:4, 309:9a), you are left lowly and alone (meskin), through no fault or sin of your own (Ḵ. 33:5, 94:6); even though sometimes falling in love makes one pitiful ʿāšeq-e meskin, Ḵ. 172:4b, 271:8b), lovers have no recourse but to be pitiful (475:4b). Frequently Hafez appeals to our sense of pity by describing his own heart or persona as meskin (e.g., Ḵ. 41:9a, 347:8b, 458:2a), though it is only the sāqi who takes pity (meskin-navāz) and ministers to the meskin with liquid caresses (Ḵ. 392:4).

The mofles, on the other hand, is a tragic figure, done in by venial sin. Frequenting the house of wine (maykada) may reduce one to the sotted rags of a mofles (Ḵ. 163:8, 413:6), or unrequited love may reduce one to wretchedness (ʿāšeq-e mofles, Ḵ. 71:4a, 117:9a). Hafez is made poor in his pursuit of the ruby-lipped beauties of Shiraz (Ḵ. 329:5b), like a hobo (mofles) hoping for Korah’s treasure (Ḵ. 55:9). Of course, it is not simply a failure to attain high estate that mars the lover’s reputation. The pious blame not only drunkards, but those madly in love, for both types of inebriation threaten the sober stability of the social order. However, Hafez has a guru in love (moršed-e ʿešq) who has given him carte blanche to be at the ruins (ḵarābāt), so we should not blame him (malāmat ma-kon) for his ruined state (ḵarābi), whether brought on by wine or a winsome face (Ḵ. 24:4).

Wine and the characters at the ḵarābāt. Drinking is of course forbidden in Islam, but the prohibition against wine was not always observed by all members of all classes (for the legal and symbolic status of wine in Islamicate societies, see Wensinck, Kueny, Kennedy, and McAuliffe); the wine banquets of shahs and sultans are celebrated from the earliest period of Persian poetry, and travelers to Iran between the Safavid period and the 19th century, such as Tavernier, confirm that there was no shortage of wine in Persia. The semiotics of wine was important to poetry composed in Islamic lands at least since the Abbasid period, assuming a special importance in Sufi verse. Hafez himself bitterly rails against the closing of the wine taverns under Šāh-Šojāʿ, so wine would seem to be a politically and mystically charged, as well as illicit, beverage in the poetics of Hafez.

Wine drinking takes place outside the city walls, beyond the pale of the civilized world, in the ruins, ḵarābāt, which house the wine taverns (may-ḵāna, may-kada). Though in ʿAbbasid poetry (especially Abu Nowās) the ruins were often a Christian space of wine sellers, Hafez associates the ruins primarily with Zoroastrians and/or antinomian Muslim characters. For Hafez, the ruins are a Magian domain (ḵarābāt-e moḡān, Ḵ. 10:2a, 327:1a), and in the Magian cloister (dayr-e moḡān) one drinks undiluted wine (Ḵ. 2:3), enjoys the languid eyes (narges-e mast) and presence of the beloved (yār,Ḵ. 23:1), and warms the heart with the eternal flame of love (Ḵ. 26:8). This dayr-e moḡān is a paradisiacal pagan realm where the poet can enjoy good fortune and release (Ḵ. 40:4), where he surpasses the state of the Sufi in his holy cloister (ṣawmeʿa, 353:5) and in which, ironically, he sees the very light of God (Ḵ. 349:1).

The proprietor of the convivial atmosphere of the wine tavern is the pir-e moḡān, Magian elder, and the one who pours the libations is the moḡ-bačča, the Magian ephebe. Perhaps this reflects a residual memory of soma, the ritual intoxicant of ancient Zoroastrianism, but more directly, it is the paradise on earth, achieved through the pre-Islamic and native national religious tradition which does not outlaw wine. Just as the mosque is the antithesis of the wine hall (Ḵ. 10:1), the Magian ruins are the opposite point on the religious compass from Mecca. Since their Pir prays in the direction of the vintner’s house (ḵāna-ye ḵammār), it would not be right for his disciples to face the kaʿba (Ḵ. 10:3). Hafez brings problems encountered along the spiritual path to the Magian elder, who solves them by gazing in the crystal wine goblet (136:3), as had the mythical Jamšid. It has been commented that almost no poet after Ferdowsi had focused so much on pre-Islamic themes as Hafez (Eslāmi-Nodušan, p. 12) and the political symbols of pre-Islamic Iran in the sāqi-nāma (esp. lines 3-15, Divān, pp. 1052-3) are indeed particularly striking, though other poets writing in this genre also feature the iconology of pagan Iran (cf. the sāqi-nāma of Ḵvāju Kermāni).

The Magian elder issues fatwas (Ḵ. 360:1) according to his own creed or school (maḏhab, Ḵ. 193:6), and Hafez listens to his advice, almost drinking in his words (Ḵ. 332:8b). This pir-e moḡān overlooks the disciples’ faults (199:2), and it is for his sake that they say their lauds and matins (werd-e ṣobḥgāh, Ḵ. 54:1). Therefore, though it be blasphemous, you should dye your prayer carpet red with wine (Ḵ. 1:3), if the Magian elder so directs, for the threshold of his sanctuary is holy enough for thee (Ḵ. 263:4).

Hafez’s suspicion toward Shaikh and Sufi does not cloud his attitude toward the Pir or Moršed, sages unencumbered by the trappings of institutional religion in the ḵānaqāh or ṣawmeʿa, whose guidance is necessary for spiritual or mystical progress (Ḵorramšāhi, 1989, pp. 96-7). The sage whose advice Hafez admires and hands on lacks the trappings of status (zar o zur) and flouts the rules of the religious establishment by draining his drink to the dregs in the wine tavern (pir-e mayḵāna, Ḵ. 177:8; pir-e paymāna-kaš-e man, Ḵ. 380:6). But such a person is blessed by and blesses with the hand of God (119:3), and so Hafez makes himself the disciple (morid, Ḵ. 141:8a) of just such a Magian sage (moršed, Ḵ. 70:9a).

The “Magian child” or ephebe, on the other hand, is a wine seller (moḡ-bačča-ye bāda-foruš, Ḵ. 9:3 and 414:2) or wine server and appears in the same semiotic field as the sāqi. It is far more regularly the sāqi, though, upon whom Hafez calls to fill his glass, often in the beginning of a poem (Ḵ. 1:1, 3:2, 11:1, etc.), and sometimes a trifle impatiently (Ḵ. 66:1). The sāqi pours out a wine of many hues (Ḵ. 32:4a, 95:5a, 161:5a) like a doctor administering medicine (Ḵ. 141:7) that can soothe the poet (55:6), but also revive and whet his appetites.

If one has youth and is accompanied by a musician (moṭreb) and a friendly saqi (sāqi yār) who flirtatiously winks (Ḵ. 14:5b)—and is preferably also a šāhed (Ḵ. 4:5a), beautiful to look upon (48:8)—then one is fully equipped for a whole season of pleasure (mawsem-e ʿayš, Ḵ. 14:2). Indeed, the flirtatious eye of the sāqi robs Islam of pious followers and scatters the prayer beads, tempting the believers to the pleasures of wine (Ḵ. 183:4) and the flesh (Ḵ. 202:8). This is not to say that the sāqi and the beloved are necessarily and always one and the same (see, e.g., Ḵ. 86:1 and 129:3, where they appear differentiated), but in the servers of wine—the magian ephebe or the androgynous sāqi—desire (197:5) and beauty (165:4) and the joy of music (290:6) are incarnated. The gender of the sāqi is not usually specified, but we may assume from the homoerotic conventions of the ghazal, the masculine connotations of moḡ-bačča (magian boy more than child), and the ḵaṭṭ (downy hair on the jawline) of the sāqi (Ḳ 145:2, 155:6), that he is a not yet hirsute adolescent boy—an ephebe. The poet admires the sāqi’s hair (Ḵ. 180:3), bright cheeks (ʿāreż, 87:6; roḵ, 107:3b and 9b), lips (206:1), chubby chin (ḡabḡab, 198:2), eyebrows (90:7), eyes (48:6, 165:7), and even bare forearms (sāʿed) and alabaster legs (simin sāq, 202:8). The poet longs to pluck the rose of the bright-faced sāqi’s beauty before masculine maturity makes him an illicit object of desire (224:3-4). In the semiotics of the ruins and wine taverns, the poet evokes a Koranic image of paradise, with endless flowing wine, cushions to recline upon and bodies with beautiful eyes to be enjoyed. Hafez advises the angels to say their lauds at the “wine tavern of love,” for that is the locus where Adam’s flesh was pressed like wine (194:6)

While Hafez acknowledges that asocial drinking is illicit, he nevertheless suggests that drinking with a companion (nadim)—as per the Greek symposion—is no sin (Ḵ. 360:1). The “fatwa of his Magian elder” gives the poet a pseudo-legal pretense to pass his time at the wine tavern for many years (Ḵ. 360:3b). Though the Magian wine is sometimes undeniably a transcendentally significant vintage, above and beyond the bootleg, home-fermented variety (šarāb-e ḵānagi), the poet also seems to have tasted the latter (Ḵ. 287:2). He often talks of wine in terms of its bouquet and flavor almost as a connoisseur would (Ḵ. 303:6), and the wine and music that induce or accompany ṭarab (pleasure) throughout the Hafezian corpus do not uniformly impress us as symbolic constructs of the imagination. He asks his own heart (161:5): What could possibly be better than a safe location (jā-ye amn), ruby wine and a kind sāqi as friend (yār)? It is hard to read this as other than an earthly paradise. While the wine chalices and rosy cheeks of some ghazals convey a clearly mystical meaning, in other poems they are more generally metaphorical or archetypal, and in others actually quite mundane (Ḵorramšāhi, 1988, pp. 677-80 and 685-89, gives an example of each category).

The qalandar. The qalandar roams from the ḵārābāt into the civilized sphere bringing with him disruption and disorder. Hafez tends to associate the qalandar with the Sufi, but within the ranks of heterodoxy the qalandar ranks above the Sufi: “With one Sufi-slaying wink, make me a qalandar” (389:8b). The qalandar is an asocial figure, a wandering dervish with shaven head, who does not buy into the values of the establishment. Even so, not all who wear the guise of the qalandar are genuine: “Not every shaved head knows how to be a qalandar” (174:7b). The true qalandar blasphemes by mixing the prayer symbols of Muslims and Zoroastrians (79:7b), and stands in hierarchical opposition to the Sultan, as suggested by the paradoxical pairing of king and qalandar (442:6). The word qalandar is twice used as an adjective describing the rendān (366:2 and 479:3a), to whom are brought the tattered cloak of the visionary mystic Bāyazid Besṭāmi (q.v.), and who bestow the royal reign at the tavern door.


Rend, variously translated in English as “rake, ruffian, pious rogue, brigand, libertine, lout, debauchee,” etc., is the very antithesis of establishment propriety. The word originally signified something like a thug or mercenary gangster (e.g., Tāriḵ-e Bayhaqi, p. 234), and during the era of Hafez neighborhood warlords (kolu, pahlavān) in Shiraz, commanding local urban militias of ronud (pl. of rend), played an influential role in stabilizing or destabilizing the ruler. This rend of the market-place—and Hafez does use the phrase rend-e bāzāri (Ḵ. 186:6b—followed a mafioso code and tended to ignore many of the rules of the šariʿa, such as the prohibition on drinking (Zarrinkub, 1987, pp. 3-5). In Konya as well, the word rend (pl. ronud) continued to hold this meaning of hoodlum, even among the mystically-oriented Mevlevis, as late as Hafez’s own century (Āšuri, pp. 288-90).

In the post-Mongol period, the influence of folk literature and popular entertainments, such as the shadow plays of the magic lantern (fānus-e ḵayāl) may have given further impetus to the rend character. As observed in the 19th century, the hero of these shadow plays was typically Pahlavān Kačal, a character described by Aleksander Borejko Chodz´ko (q.v.) as a well-educated and literate “hypocrite,” who may even be a poet, but who most of all likes to make mullas look ridiculous, and pays inordinate attention to women and young boys (Cej-pek, pp. 688-89). The folk theater tradition also included a kind of commedia dell’arte, or “buffoon show” (mas-ḵara) at annual festivals, in which jesters (masḵara-bāz) perform acrobatics, dance, music, and satiric skits, often including couplets or songs portraying the stock character of a luṭi uncowed by authority figures (Cejpek, pp. 687-88). Whether or not these indeed represent a continuous tradition stretching back to the Hellenistic mime, as Cejpek speculates (p. 686), such farces often depict an incorrigible and rakish fondness for wine (an important aspect of the rend character in Hafez) and may indicate the great extent to which this type permeates not only Persian literature but also the Iranian folk cultures.

In written literature, however, several character types perhaps lent elements of their personality to the figure of the rend. These would include, to an extent, the picaresque hero of the Maqāmāt genre as practised by Badiʿ-al-Zamān Hamadāni (d. 398/1007) and Ḥariri (d. 516/1122) in Arabic, and in Persian by Qāżi Ḥamid-al-Din (d. 559/1163-64); the riot-inciting beloved of the šahr-āšub poems and the qalandariyāt (see de Bruijn); as well as the mystical rend in poets like Sanāʾi (pp. 26, 627, etc.) and ʿAṭṭār. By the time of Saʿdi and Salmān-e Sāvaji, we find the vivacious humanism of the rend commonly juxtaposed with the mortifications of the ascetic (Ḵorramšāhi, 1989, pp. 405-7), a topos particularly prominent in the Hafezian rend, who may lack the piety of the piety-minded but is nevertheless more rightly-guided than they (Ḵ. 84:7), and is, indeed, virtually beatified (Ḵ. 93:3). This is because the rend of Hafez functions as a trickster, a Dionysian reveler who overturns conventions and stands outside the social hierarchy. Because he cannot be tempted by the rewards of the system, he exposes the hypocrisy of the established order and questions its values. Writing in the same period and place as Hafez, ʿObayd-e Zākāni’s humorous dictionary and his moṭā-yabāt, as well as his Muš o gorba (“Cat and Mouse”), demonstrate that social and political criticism through satire and allegory or poésie à clef, were considered timely. Even the poets are sent up with Bosḥāq Aṭʿema (q.v.) and his collection of pastiche poems on culinary dishes. Exposés of the pretense and hypocrisy of the prestigious and powerful had apparently become a major preoccupation of the litterateurs of the era.

For Hafez, the rend is (e.g., Ḵ. 31:9, 47:9a, 321:2) a pursuer of eros (ʿāšeq), amorous glances (naẓar-bāz) and wine drinking (may-ḵvāra), all the derelict behaviors that are often associated with youth (šabāb), that lead one astray (sar gašta), turn one from working for the common weal (Ḵ. 271:4), dissipate one’s health and prospects (rend-e ʿāfiat-suz,Ḵ. 174:6), and reduce one to a beggar (gadā, 262:36). In fact the rends need wine for their health (181:1) and get to the abode of peace through their abject neediness (84:7). The rend is a wino (may-ḵvāra, šarāb-ḵvār Ḵ. 241:8, 342:8b) who cannot forsake his goblet or his ephebe (Ḵ. 338:1), whose pleasure-seeking is the polar opposite of enforced piety (zohd-foruši, 25:2; taqwā, 2:2). The chessboard upon which the rend plays out the game of life is not fit for a king (Ḵ. 72:3).

In short, there is nothing that does not go on wherever the rendān gather, but the truth of it should remain hidden (Ḵ. 74:11), or people will come around counseling them to mend their ways (145:6). Take note, though, you busybodies (fożul, Ḵ. 183:1) and ascetics: there is no way out of the rends’ lane to safety, it leads only to infamy (Ḵ. 177:5). The rend is stigmatized by ill repute (bad-nāmi, Ḵ. 306:4a) and doesn’t care (lā obāli, Ḵ. 454:11), and if you sit with him once, you will also become infamous (Divān, p. 1107). Love is the way of the rends, they are fated to love (145:6) and willing to suffer for it (155:4). Hafez openly admits (Ḵ. 305:2a) to being a drunken rend of blackened repute (196:2), and he challenges us to show him one person in town who isn’t (Ḵ. 47:9b). He also maintains that the rend, through his purity of heart (and absence of tazwir, 9:10), opens doors with his prayers (Ḵ. 197:3). The tomb of Hafez will be a shrine to which the rends of the world make pilgrimage (Ḵ. 201:3). Lest we conclude that this rendi is then, after all, a symbolic libertinism, Hafez elsewhere tells us that sometimes others understand his acts of rendi and nevertheless forgive his sins and cover his faults (Ḵ. 281:9).

More than any other character encountered in his Divān, the rend encapsulates the message of Hafez, and comes closest to projecting the poet’s own weltanschauung and his heroic ideal (Ḵorramšāhi, 1989, pp. 25-8, 403). Dāryuš Āšuri (p. 287) emphasizes the literary pedigree of the rend and calls it a fundamental mystical-poetic trope in Sufi literature and in Hafez. Ḵorramšāhi sees the rend in Hafez as a mythological or archetypal figure, like the Magian elder (pir-e moḡān) or the Grail of Jamšid (jām-e Jam), composed of various strains which Hafez has sculpted into transcendent form. Hafez’s rend is a composite of the Perfect Man of gnostic Sufism, the impoverished beggar in the road, the libertine, and the political rebel who refuses to bow the knee to hypocrisy and values imposed by force. He is the antithesis of the ascetic (zāhed), a would-be free spirit enjoying the pleasures of life who sees it his mission to combat inauthenticity in all its forms. For Āšuri (p. 297-300) the distinctive development in Hafez’s concept of rendi is that the rend does not strive to slay the lower passions (nafs) as in the eastern Iranian mystical-ascetic tradition, but to live in harmony and equilibrium with them, without pretense or hypocrisy. The rend is thus a new spiritual ideal, a reconciliation of the Perfect Man (ensān-e kāmel) with the human condition. Hafez, then, if not a perfect man, is perfectly human (Ḵorramšāhi, 1994, p. 235).



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(Franklin Lewis)

Originally Published: December 15, 2002

Last Updated: March 1, 2012

This article is available in print.
Vol. XI, Fasc. 5, pp. 483-491