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A Pilgrimage for Poetry: My Trip to Shiraz ... 07/07/2014 Arts

Keywords:#Arabic, #Asia, #Atabak, #Baghdad, #Central_Asia, #Divan_of_Hafez, #Egypt, #Fars, #French, #Goethe, #Golestan, #Hafez, #India, #Iran, #Iraq, #Islam, #Islamic, #Johann_Wolfgang_von_Goethe, #Mitra, #Mongol, #Muslim, #Nations, #New_York, #New_York_City, #Nezamiyeh, #Nowruz, #Persia, #Persian, #Persian_architecture, #Persian_art, #Quran, #Ralph_Waldo_Emerson, #Shamseddin, #Shiraz, #Shirazi_people, #Syria,, #Turkey, #United_Nations

By Wahyuni Kamah on 02:54 pm Jul 06, 2014
“Don’t forget to visit Sa’adi’s tomb. His poems are truly humanist and his works are highly respected around the world,” said the passenger sitting next to me on my flight to Shiraz, Iran.
I could not forget — the express purpose of my trip to the “city of roses and nightingales” was to pay my respects to both Sa’adi and Hafez, the renowned Sufi poets of Shiraz.
As lifelong home of the two poets, the capital of the Fars province is also considered the capital of Persian art, culture and literature. The 1.7-million-strong city is further famous for its beautiful gardens featuring Persian architecture. Two such gardens house the tombs of Hafez and Saadi.
Little is known about the life Hafez, born Shamseddin Mohammad in 1325, though he was greatly legendized following his death in 1389.
A popular and plausible anecdote is that he memorized Al-Quran after hearing his father recite passages, providing the name he is better known by: “Hafez.” The word means guardian, and is attributed to individuals who learn the holy book by heart.
Hafez was a master of the ghazal, or Persian ode. He became a court poet for several rulers and founded the Shirazi literary school.
Divan of Hafez” is a compilation of Hafez’s collected ghazal. He wrote about love, spirituality and hypocrisy – themes which he made relatable to every reader, preserving his relevance over the centuries.
“Most Iranians have Divan of Hafez at home — it is like Al-Quran for us. We read it during Nowruz [Persian New Year],” said Mitra, a young woman of Shiraz.
Mitra’s love for her hometown poet is clearly shared by the rest of the country, which celebrates Oct. 12 as Hafez Day.
Though Hafez’s works were inspired by Islam and are cherished throughout the Muslim world, people of every culture and creed hold him in high regard.
The philologist William Jones brought the works of Hafez to a larger audience in 1771 with the first English translation, and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau count the Sufi poet among their influences.
I went to Musalla Garden in the north of Shiraz to see the tomb of Hafez. The marble tomb and memorial hall sit on a seasonal river in grassy park planted with orange trees, pines, and overflowing flowers. Two poems of Hafez are engraved in calligraphy on his tombstone.
Visiting the memorial site can feel like a spiritual experience. Young and old visitors alike approach his tomb to touch the stone, say a prayer, or recite his poetry.
Although the tomb was originally built in 1773, the current mausoleum was designed in the late 1930s by French archeologist and architect Andre Godard.
The garden is lined with small pools and also houses a library, book club, and shop selling works by Hafez and other Persian poets in both Persian and English.
The tomb of Hafez is clearly a great Shiraz must-see, but as instructed, I did not forget to visit Saadi’s tomb in northeast Shiraz.
Saadi’s mausoleum is situated in a large, lovely garden. The marble tomb, dating back to the 1860s, is inside of an octagonal Persian building with tall columns and an aquamarine dome.
Saadi’s poems cover the walls within the mausoleum as well as his tombstone, where people come to say prayers for him. Lovers of lyricism and literature have made pilgrimages to Saadi’s tomb since the early days after his death, which is estimated have occurred in the early 1290s. The exact date of his birth is also unknown, but is thought to be around the year 1200.
Better known by his pen name Saadi, Abu Muhammad Muslih al-Din Abdallah lost his father as an infant, but traveled to Baghdad with the support of his uncle to study Islamic science, theology and Arabic literature at the renowned Nezamiyeh College.
The Mongol invasion of Persia sent Saadi on a 30-year exile through Turkey, Syria, Egypt and Iraq, even out to India and Central Asia.
The hardships of his wanderings and the richness of his adventures no doubt influenced his poetry about humanity, which he began to write upon his return to Shiraz.
The ruler of the city, Atabak Abubakr Sa’d ibn Zangy, highly respected the poet, to the point that he inspired Saadi’s pen-name.
Saadi’s works are recognized for their depth of thinking about society and morality. His masterpiece, Bustan (The Orchard), depicts the standard qualities of Muslims and reflections of behaviors of Sufis. His other great work, Golestan (The Rose), consists of prose, stories, poems and personal anecdotes.
Saadi’s global impact can be observed at the United Nations in New York City, where one of his poems is inscribed on the entrance to the Hall of Nations:
Human beings are members of a whole,
In creation of one essence and soul.
If one member is afflicted with pain,
Other members uneasy will remain.
If you have no sympathy for human pain,
The name of human you cannot retain.
I was impressed by how sincerely the Shirazi people revere their poets. In the thoughts and hands of great poets, words become immense, momentous and even magical. As a city devoted to its poetry, Shiraz is a testament to that statement.

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