Little is known with exactitude about the life of the great poet Hafiz, born Shams al-Din Muhammad. Even the outlines of his biography are uncertain, and rather few details may safely be accepted from the historical works and literary studies that deal with his age. Hafiz’s own work has been examined for hints and allusions that would reveal more about his personal circumstances or his station in society. Some poems contain dedications, which would indicate some of the political figures to whom they were addressed; some works conclude with chronograms, by which numerical values assigned to characters yield certain dates. Nevertheless, such evidence may be gleaned only from some writings, mainly from the middle period of the author’s life. The entire problem has been exacerbated by the incompleteness of existing manuscript texts, the earliest of which were transcribed possibly twenty years after the poet’s death; other texts date from thirty to sixty years or more after Hafiz’s own time. In its turn, the lack of a single accepted body of work limits the usefulness of biographical research based on Hafiz’s own writings. Tantalizing suggestions, which can be neither proved nor disproved, add an aura of the legendary to the rather sparse data that have been established beyond doubt.
It would seem that the poet’s father was a merchant who moved from Isfahan to Shrz under conditions suggesting family circumstances of relative poverty. The author was probably born about 1320, the date most often mentioned by the pertinent authorities, though some works cite 1317 and others suggest 1325 or 1326. When he was quite young, Hafiz’s father died; nevertheless, he evidently received a thoroughgoing education. To his given name, Shams al-Din Muhammad, was added the epithet Hafiz, which is bestowed on those who have learned the Qur՚n by heart. In his poetry, there are enough learned references to Arabic theology and Persian literature to suggest that he gained familiarity with classical...
(The entire section is 817 words.)