Thursday, July 8, 2010

L'article du quotidien genèvois Le Temps sur mon bouquin, Iran and CIA; the Fall of Mosaddeq Revisited

jeudi 08 juillet 2010

La chute de Mossadegh, plaie à vif en Iran

Stéphane Bussard

Selon la version dominante, le premier ministre iranien a été renversé par la CIA et le MI6 le 19 août 1953. L’auteur Darioush Bayandor juge cette thèse réductrice.

Après la liquidation de Mossadegh

Publicité Qui a fait tomber le premier ministre iranien Mohammad Mossadegh le 19 août 1953? A considérer l’abondante littérature qui décortique cet événement traumatique de l’histoire d’Iran, dont le dernier exemple est l’œuvre de Mark Gasiorowski, professeur à la Louisiana State University comptant parmi les plus éminents spécialistes de Mossadegh, tout laisse croire que la question est tranchée: la CIA et le MI6, les renseignements américains et britanniques, ont fomenté ce que les Iraniens appellent de façon lapidaire «le coup» perpétré lors de l’opération au nom de code TP-Ajax.

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The Fall Guy, the London Economist review of my book

The Fall Guy
How a prime minister was brought down
May 13th 2010

Iran and the CIA: The Fall of Mossadeq Revisited. By Darioush Bayandor. Palgrave Macmillan; 272 pages; $33 and £20. Buy from,

DARIOUSH BAYANDOR’S account of the toppling of Muhammad Mossadeq, Iran’s charismatic prime minister of the early 1950s, is ruffling expatriate Iranians. A Persian translation will doubtless follow, adding to the clamour. Iranians recall with anguish this episode in their history, when a democratically elected nationalist took on Britain and America and lost. Many link their subsequent political travails, including the 1979 Islamic revolution, to this early defeat.

Mossadeq nationalised the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company in 1951, denting British prestige and prompting fears, especially in America, that his unstable premiership would pave the way for a communist takeover. The putsch that unseated him in August 1953 was carried out in the name of Shah Muhammad-Reza Pahlavi, but the whole seedy plot, it later emerged, had been hatched by the CIA. In 2000, Madeleine Albright, then the American secretary of state, turned the affair into an instrument of mortification, publicly rueing her compatriots’ role in the overthrow of Iran’s “popular” prime minister.

To judge by his book, Mr Bayandor would rather she hadn’t. The author, a former diplomat in the pre-Khomeini government who went on to work for the United Nations before retiring to Switzerland, does not go as far as the shah and his entourage, who presented Mossadeq’s overthrow as a patriotic uprising in no need of a foreign impetus. But he casts doubt on one account of events that was penned by the main CIA plotter, Kermit Roosevelt, a buccaneering grandson of Theodore Roosevelt. Far from snatching victory from the jaws of defeat, as Roosevelt claimed to have done, Mr Bayandor says he and his local assets were largely observers as a constellation of indigenous forces brought Mossadeq down.

Much hinges on the four days that followed the failed coup of August 15th, which, Mr Bayandor admits, was masterminded by Roosevelt. With American plans in disarray, the shah scuttled off to Rome and Mossadeq came under pressure to declare a republic. According to the received wisdom, Roosevelt and his co-conspirators organised a group of army officers to launch a second, successful coup on August 19th, and American dollars were used to bribe crowds to pour onto the streets, giving them cover to act.

Mr Bayandor contests these assumptions. The armed forces, he asserts, acted without American prompting. The CIA “bribe” was a non-event. Mr Bayandor’s scepticism is a useful antidote to Roosevelt’s self-aggrandising, which some later writers have mimicked uncritically, among them Stephen Kinzer, a former New York Times reporter, who in 2003 penned an entertaining account of Mossadeq’s downfall. But the claim over bribes has been contradicted by Marc Gasiorowski, the leading historian of the American side of the coup, who interviewed some of the bribe-givers. All in all, Mr Bayandor’s account may be over-reliant on one of the last surviving coup-makers, Ardeshir Zahedi, son of the general who seized the premiership after Mossadeq’s arrest, who resists depictions of his father as an American stooge.

It is helpful to be reminded that history often needs re-examining. Mr Bayandor might have cast his revisionist net even wider. Some accounts have been too glib in portraying Mossadeq as a democratic paragon when his instinct was to concentrate power in his hands, glossing over his failure to negotiate a solution to the nationalisation crisis when there was still an opportunity to do so.

Mr Bayandor is less wise to dismiss another axiom out of hand: that the 1953 coup, by removing the last effective stay on the shah’s power, led indirectly to Ayatollah Khomeini’s 1979 revolution. Only after Mossadeq’s ejection was the shah able to become a high-octane dictator, though the ousted prime minister had the last laugh with a courtroom performance that undermined the shah’s pretensions to justice and benevolence. In destroying Mossadeq (who died in internal exile in 1967), the shah robbed liberal Iranians of their natural figurehead. They have been looking for a replacement ever since.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010


My interview with Fariba Amini for The the book Iran and the CIA; the Fall of Mosaddeq Revisited.
This interview was published on 15 June 2010: see the link below:

Sunday, May 16, 2010

An Op.Ed. in Intrernational Herald Tribune from a previous incarnation

Look Away From Kosovo to See the Crisis in Central Africa
By Darioush Bayandor
Published: June 22, 1999

The following link to an OP.Ed in Heral Tribune is a keepsake from my days at the United Nations. The reason why it was written was that Kosovo and Balkans , in those days, drew all the world's humanitarian arttention and aid; Congo and the region of Great lakes embroiled in a devastating war were getting precious little attention.

ادبیات سبز Green literature

Green Poetry:
English and French Adaptation of poetry on Neda Agha-Soltani
June 25, 2009

Neda, fille de l'Iran; Neda the daughter of Iran; ندا, دختر ایرا ن

by Darioush Bayandor

ندا, دختر ایرا ن

ندا , ندا , دختر ما
دختر ایرا ن ِ بپا
دختر این حماسها
کشته بدست نا کسا ن
ضجه کشان کربلا
رفته بفردوس ندا
دختر ما , دختر ما
ببین کیها آمده ا ند
شکوه گر از جور خدا
حافظ و رومی بسرا
شیخ اجل برهنه پا
رصد گر ستارها
طو سی آن حماسهای
شاه پا سارگاد بپا
بغض گرفتشا ن صدا
فخر همه - دختر ما
,نترس ندا نترس ندا
ندا , ندا , دختر ما
دختر ایرا ن ِ بپا
دختر این حماسها
برگ گلی است بیریا
خصم بریده ا ش صدا
لیک حما سه ندا
برکند چون سیل ز جا
شر عبا, زهد و ریا

Une traduction très approximative.
Nédâ la Fille de l’Iran

Nédâ, Nédâ, notre fille,
La fille d’Iran soulevé,
La fille de nos épopées,
Tuée par les démons,
Ceux qui pourtant pleurent le Karbela[1].

Elle est montée aux cieux, notre fille, Nédâ.
Et regarde ceux qui viennent l’accueillir. ا
Morne et plaintifs auprès du Dieu,
Le Roi de Pasargades[2] sombre,
Hâfèz et Roumi en larme,
Les étoiles de Tus, de Neyshapour[3] et de Shiraz,
Elles n’étincellent plus.
Mais tous vantent leurs orgueils, de notre fille Nédâ.
Nédâ, Nédâ, notre fille,
La fille de l’Iran soulevé,
Elle était une feuille de fleure,
Douce, belle et innocente,
Que les démons ont déchirés,
Mais les flambées de rage de notre jeunesse.
Leur brûlera les frocs,
Effondrera leur édifice.

A quick English Translation.
Neda, the Daughter of Iran.

Neda, Neda, our daughter,
The daughter of an Iran
Once again on its feet,
The heroine of our epics,
Martyred by demons,
Those who yet howl Kerbela. [4]

She has flown to the heavens, our daughter, Neda.
And look who’s there to greet her?
The king of Pasargadae standing gloomy,[5]
Hafez and Rumi in tears,
The stars of Tus, Neyshapour and Shiraz[6] gleam no more,
They are angry with the God!
Yet all are proud of our daughter, Neda.

Neda, Neda, our daughter,
The daughter of an Iran,
Once again on its feet.
The girl of all our epics,
A delicate blossom she was,
Suave, beautiful and pure,
Torn by demons,
Yet the flames of our rage,
Shall burn their edifice and end the reign of cant.

[1] La tragédie de Kerbela au septième siècle où le petit-fils du prophète Mohamed et ses compagnons, prétendant se sont fait massacrés par le Calife. Les chiites dures
[2] Se réfère au Roi Cyrus le Grand.
[3] Se réfère au Ferdowssi, le père des épopées perses né au Tus en dixième siècle et au Omar Khayyam le grand figure de la science et poésie perse du onzième siècle. L’étoile de Chiraz se réfère au Saadi le grand penseur aphoriste et poète du treizièmes siècle (Hâfès ayant été mentionné par nom).
[4] Refers to seventh century tragedy of Kerbala where the grandson of Prophet Mohammad and his cohorts, claiming the caliphate, were massacred by the Caliph Yazid in the seventh century.
[5] Refers to Cyrus the Great.
[6] Refers successively to Ferdowsi, the tenth century epic poet born in Tus, to Omar Khayyam the great man of science and poetry on the eleventh century and to Saadi the thirteen’s century thinker, aphorist and poet.

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My Book on the fall of Dr. Mohammad Mosaddeq, August 1953

Pleased to announce that my book Iran and CIA: The Fall of Mosaddeq Revisited, Palgrave-MacMillan, was published in March 2010 in London and in New York in April. I reproduce below the one paragraph blurb introduction by Palgrave. Here are the links to Palgrave then Amazon sites: Amazon US:
The book is also available from Amazon UK, France, Germany and an array of distributor world-wide.
Here is the gist of the contents from the Palgrave blurb on the back of the cover:

"In the early 1950s, the frail septuagenarian Iranian prime minister shook the world, challenging superpower Britain by nationalizing the British-run oil industries in Iran. His name was Doctor Mohammad Mosaddeq.
His subsequent downfall in August 1953 changed the course of Iranian history, and remains a haunting memory for the people of Iran today. The British and American governments collaborated in a coup plot to remove Mosaddeq which failed to ignite. However, days afterwards, amid violent street disturbances, Mosaddeq's government did indeed fall. So, for half a century the conventional wisdom attributed the events of 19th August 1953 to foul play by the CIA and a myth of CIA power and success was created that has mesmerized opinion ever since and cast a shadow over Iran's continuingly troubled relations with America.

This path breaking study unearths new documentary evidence to suggest the truth lies elsewhere and that Mosaddeq's fall actually took Washington and London by complete surprise. The author provides compelling evidence to suggest that the toppling of Mosaddeq was rooted primarily in internal Iranian dynamics and that prominent clerics of the time, notably the grand Shiite Marja of the time, Ayatollah Boroujerdi, played a crucial role."

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Hafez: A Face-Off with Virtue

This article was first published by Journal of Middle Eastern and North African Intellectual and Cultural Studies, Volume 4,issue 2, Fall 2006, Binghampton State University of New York.

Hafez1: A Face off with Virtue

Hafez, Iran’s foremost prodigy in lyric poetry, who lived in the14th century Persia, was also the nemesis of religious zealots of his time and beyond. His life-long embroilment with dogmatic clerics – Zahid in his parlance - is widely reflected in his poetry. Furthermore, a fallacy projecting Hafez as a mystic poet has held ground through centuries and has distorted public perception of his message.
While faith-based assaults on Hafez during his lifetime and beyond are easier to comprehend, the process of contortion of the poet’s philosophy and vision are more complex and insidious. In either case, the alluring quality of his work and potency of his message have motivated distortions. The refreshing novelty of his thoughts molded in a rhythmic aligning of words, his mastery of metaphor, trope, and metonymy and above all his aphorism, crafted in plain language, made of Hafez a monument in Persian lyric art as well as a folk idol. Many of the popular epigrams, axioms and bywords in to-day’ Persian language indeed are keepsakes of his literally genius.
This article seeks to portray Hafez, his vision and legacy as they emerge from his poetry2. The translations of selected verses from his sonnets, for which the author takes responsibility, are liberal renditions adapted to English. They do not claim textual exactitude but purport to convey faithfully the broader sense and message. Needless to say, the sublime beauty of his lyrics and subtleties in construction of verses are impossible to capture in translation. A biographical note is provided in annex.
1-Hafez and Ulema

During his life-time, the Shiraz Ulema harassed Hafez not just for his life style – marked by adulation of wine3 and pursuit of earthly pleasures - but more so for his acerbic commentary on precepts and strictures enjoined by clerics. His poetry is replete with passages reflecting this discord.

واعظان کاین جلوه د ر محراب ومنبر میکنن
چون به خلوت میروند آن کارد یگر میکنند
مشکلی دارم ز دا نشمند مجلس باز برس

توبه فر مایان چرا خود توبه کمتر میکنند
گوئیا باور نمیدارند روز دا وری
کاین همه قلب و دغل در کار د اور میکنند

Preachers who shine in virtue,
In altars and pulpits,

In retreat,
Their ways belie what they preach.

I have a query! Asking our mentor why?
The apostles of penance,
Penitent they seldom are.
As if the last judgment they rebut,
The Divinity distorted,
And thrown in a false light.

In another sonnet Hafiz is mocking and insolent:
گر زمسحد به خرا با ت شد م خو رده مگیر
مجلس وعظ درا ز ا ست و زما ن خوا هد شد
ایدل ار عشر ت امر وز به فردا فکنی
مایه نقد بقا را که ضما ن خوا هد شد
ماه شغبان منه ا زد ست قدح کاین خورشید
ا زنظر تا شب عید رمضا ن خوا هد شد
Don’t reprove,
If I leave the mosque for the tavern,
For preaching is long,
And the Time wouldn’t stand idly by.
O’ dear me, if you put off to-day’s pleasures,
Who assures you?
That to-morrow shall ever come.
It’s the month of Sha'ban,4
Don’t let go of wine.
As this grail, like capricious sun,
Could vanish in Ramadan.

In the following sonnet, Hafez confronts pious values of the clergy with his own earthly individualism:
عیب رندا ن مکن ایزاهد پاکیزه سرشت
که گناه دگران بر تونخواهند نوشت
من اگر خوبم و گر بد تو برو خود را باش
هر کسی ا ن درود عا قبت کار که کشت
نا امید م مکن ا ز سا بقه لطف ا ز ل
تو بس برده چه دا نی که
خوبست وکه زشت که
حافظا روزاجل گر بکف ا ری جا می
یکسر ا ز کوی خرا با ت برند ت به بهشت

O’ noble clergy! Torment not free-souls,
Their sins will not maculate thy deeds.
I may be virtuous or vile,
Mind thy gait, not mine.
You know best how,
We all harvest what we sow

Despair me not of divine’s merci,
Beyond that curtain, who knows?
What’s good, what unworthy?
Oh’ Hafez, if before thy dying gasp,
Thou dare one parting shot,
From the tavern,
Straight thy way to the Throne of God.

However, the poet’s gibes were not directed uniquely against the crooked piety of the Zahid. In numerous verses he departs from religious orthodoxy and breaks sacrosanct taboos. The use of sacrilegious metaphors such as “mortgaging the praying rug (saj’ādih سجاده)5” in order to buy wine or, “on the mentor’s behest, maculate the prayer rug with wine stain”, are almost leitmotifs in his strophes. In one of the bolder fits of ecstasy, he sings:
ما مرید ان روی سوی کعبه چون آ ریم چون . روی سوی خانه خمار داردپیرما
We the disciples,
How could we turn towards Mecca6;
It is to the tavern that our mentor has set sight”.
There are certain accounts, handed down chest to chest through centuries, which bear evidence to contemptuous attitude by clerics towards Hafez7. If this contempt only occasionally took on aspects of persecution it must have to do with the nature of the 14th century society in Persia as well as poet’s own social standing and network of personal relations. The widespread influence among the savant of the period of Sufism - with its implied heresy- had already numbed to a certain extent religious sensitivities. Hafez whose fame, according to some accounts, had spread beyond Persia’s central plateau during his lifetime, must have had local following and a network of influential friends. Above all during much of his life, notably the reigns of Abu Isaac Inju (b.d1321-1354), Shah Shuja (1331- 1384) and Shah Mansur, Hafez enjoyed varying degrees of royal patronage.
Some chroniclers have made allusion to refusal of mullahs to bury Hafez according to religious rites; others to desecration of his grave by religious zealots. While the evidence is scant, the plausibility of such behavior could hardly be dismissed. According to a widely cited anecdote8, the bickering over whether or not such rites should be administered was resolved only after resort to bibliomancy. The poet’s own anthology (Divan) would have been used as a guide: It revealed a sonnet, of which the concluding line reads:
قدم دریغ مدار از جنا زه حافظ
که گرچه غرق گناه ا ست میرود به بهشت
“Spare not a few steps behind the coffin of Hafez.
Sinful though he is, to paradise he shall go” 9
The anecdote is apocryphal. The Divan was compiled10 some twenty years after the poet’s death11. The practice of using the Divan in bibliomancy – now a fixture in Iranian folklore -- must have started at later stages. The anecdote however is depictive of misgivings which must have then existed among the zealots and which did not totally disappear through the ages. Sir Percy Sykes (1865-1945), a British historian, stressing this latter point, affirms that he had personally been an eyewitness to desecration of Hafez tomb in Shiraz in 1916.12
One episode of showdown with Ulema, the traces of which is found in Hafez’s own poetry, is fairly well known13. While chroniclers and Hafez scholars differ on the sequence of events and identity of the protagonists, the thrust of the story is uncontested. In one of his poems Hafez had derided the hypocrisy of a religious magnate who pretended to have trained his cat to prostrate with him during the daily praying rites.14 “
ای کبک خوشخرا م که خوش میروی بنا ز
غره مشو که گر به زاهد نما ز کرد
“O, strutting partridge swagger not!”
“The cat of the Zahid knows how to perform prayers.”
According to one version of the story15, clerics found their chance for revenge when sometime later, in one of his verses, Hafez mused about the hereafter:
گر مسلما نی از این است که حا فظ دارد
وای اگرا ز پس امروز بود فردا ئی
“Hafez, your faith so hollow!
Pity on your soul,
Should after to-day…there be a morrow”
This verse was taken as proof that Hafez had cast doubt on the veracity of the ultimate judgment. The ‘Day of Resurrection “ Ma’ād,” being one of the five pillars of the Islam, the offense was deemed an apostasy.16 A frightened Hafez goes in hiding and confidentially consults a jurisprudent friend by the name of Mulana Zeinuddin abu-Bakre who advises him that the statement about the “hereafter” should be attributed to a non-Moslem who, as a matter of course, could not be held to the Islamic strictures. Hafez goes to a retreat and after some brooding, magisterially amends his ode by placing the following lines just before the controversial verse:
این حد یثم چه خوش آ مد که سحرگه میگفت
بر در میکدهای با دف و نی ترسائی

گر مسلما نی از این است که حا فظ دارد
وای اگرا ز پس امروز بود فردا ئی
I was enchanted at daybreak heat,
Meeting a man of Nicene creed,
By the tavern he played reed,
And chanted a mantra, for me to heed:
Hafez your faith so hollow !
Pity on your soul,
Should after to-day…there be a morrow
2- The message of Hafez

For Hafiz the essence of truth lies in pursuit of genuine human instincts, not in their denial. He projects himself a philanderer (نظربا ز), adulating the wine and infatuated with love. He candidly exposes his inner longings for earthly pleasures.
ز حسن روی جوا نا ن تمعتعی بردار
. که در کمینگه عمر ا ست مکر عا لم پیر
Relish that fleeting joy of a young embrace,
The old- age is lying treacherously in wait
To take you in and deface.
For him, the infamy and stigma is better than pietism and what he considered as trumpery of the hereafter. Only fools, he says in one of his memorable poems, leave the palpable for illusory promises:
کنون که میدمد ا ز بوستان نسیم بهشت
من وشرا ب فرحبخش ویا ر حورسرشت
گدا چرا نزند لا ف سلطنت ا مروز
که خیمه سا یه ا بر است وبزمگه لب کشت
چمن حکا یت ا رد یبهشت میگوید
نه عا قلست آ نکه نسیه خرید و نقذ بهشت
As the breeze through meadows,
Blows a heavenly fragrance,
Sitting by the side of a belle with refreshing wine,
Why can’t then the pauper pretend to be the king?
His canopy, the shadow of the clouds,
His banquet, the edge of the mead.

The greenery heralds April,
Only fools cast off the palpable,
And hollow promises they heed,
The Divan is replete with plain or metaphoric assertions of this nature. Their recurrence excludes any contention that they may be less than central to the poet’s outlook. This individuality, stressing the subjective aspect of human existence, is the essence of his philosophy. He rejects the single recipe for salvation proposed by the apostles of the morality and cheerfully admits to be sinful. The creator could not have imparted instincts to humans and punish them for it too.

His light-hearted treatment of tales of creation as told in holly books, reflects a characteristic insouciance, touching at times on insolence. A case in point is a much-acclaimed sonnet of which the first three verses read:
دوش دیدم که ملا یک در میخا نه زدند
گل آ دم بسرشتند و به پیما نه زدند
سا کنا ن حرم ستر عفاف ملکوت

با من را ه نشین با ده مستا نه زدند
کشید آ سما ن با ر اما نت نتوا نست
قرعه فال به نام من دیوانه زدند
I dreamt at dawn17,
Angels were knocking at the tavern.
Of Adam’s clay,
They molded a grail and drank wine
The nymphs of Divine’s harem,
Sat by me, the drifter,
And blithely reveled.

Heavens could not bear the secret;
The burden befell on me, the amok.
Yet, Hafez is concerned with divinity and metaphysics. For him divinity is a mystery beyond the reach of human intellect. This agnostic vision of the universe and the creation is laid out in several of his sonnets. A case in point is the penultimate stanza of one of his famous sonnets - with the typically composite and discursive themes18 – of which selected verses are translated below:
اگر ا ن ترک شیرا زی بدست آ رد دل ما را
به خا ل هندوش بخشم سمرقند وبخا را را
بده ساقی می باقی که در جنت نخوا هی یافت
کنا ر آ ب رکنا با د و گلگشت مصلا را
من ا ز آ ن حسن روزا فزون که یوسف دا شت دانستم
که عشق ا ز برده عصمت برون آ رد ذ لیخا را
نصیحت گوش کن جا نا که ا ز جا ن دوست تر دارند
جوا نا ن سعا دتمند پند پیر دانا را
حدیث ا ز مطرب و می گو و را ز دهر کمتر جو
که کس نکشود و نگشا ید به حکمت ا ین معما را
O’ Turkish belle of Shiraz, 19
Let me into your heart,

As alone for that adorning mole below your lips,
I give away Samarkand and Bukhara 20.
O’ beautiful wine-girl, pour me the eternal wine
As in the Garden of Eden,
Nothing bests21 the side of the Roknabad stream,
Nor the splendor of Mosalla22garden.
From accounts of Joseph’s 23glaring looks
I divined,
That love would blow off,
Zuleikha’s veil of chastity.
Listen dearly to what the old pundit says,
Words he utters are gold:
“Talk but of wine and music,
As mysteries of universe are untold,
Beware! This riddle does not fit,
Into the bounds of human wit.”

3-The mystification of Hafez
The crushing entry of Hafez into the cultural landscape of the 14th century Persia and beyond was bound to resonate far. It became a turning point that was not going to leave the succeeding generations of intellectuals and religious establishments indifferent. Going by prevalent accounts, already during his lifetime Hafez had gained a certain status in Persian-speaking provinces of the old empire and India24.
A process of mystification of Hafez and inevitable distortion of his message was henceforth set in motion. The plain language of the poet in adulation of life and temporal pleasures was given an esoteric twist; to every metaphor was ascribed a Gnostic sense. The Divan became the Lisān’ul Qeib 25, the language of the hidden. Over the time it became an article of faith in literary circles in Iran to view Hafez as a mystic poet26. Encouraged by clerics and Sufi luminaries, common people came to view Hafez as a Sufi who employed the language of love and wine as symbols of divinity and truth. How has this come about is of course difficult to trace and scientifically document. But one may attempt to draw a historical sketch in which this transfiguration could be understood.
As of the 12th century, Sufism had been the dominant trend among the men of letter and highbrow in Iran and in much of the Moslem world. Great Sufi luminaries, such as Farid-uddin Attar Neyshapouri, (1142- 1221), Mowlana Jalal-uddin Muhammad Rumi known as Molavi (1207- 1273) and Shahab-uddin Sohrevardi (12th century) had all but saturated the intellectual and learning environment of the epoch in which Hafez passed his formative years. They were to be joined, in the coming centuries, by a galaxy of poets, thinkers and writers who belonged to the same spiritual school.
The origins and the content of Sufism are beyond the scope of this writing. Suffice it to recall that it sprang out of Islam in the early centuries and was probably influenced by Greek pantheism as well as ascetic influences from India. In essence, it is a theosophical school believing in unity of the creator and creatures. It emphasizes self-denial in an arduous spiritual journey to reach the creator and attain the verity during one’s lifetime27. Some have seen Sufism as an outlet to escape the rigidity of social precepts of Islam by providing and inner channel to divinity. This has imparted an elitist as well as an esoteric character to the movement of which gnosis or mystic knowledge by the initiated is the hallmark.
While Sufism contains undeniable heretic properties its outward limits does not avowedly transcend Islam28. Hence, despite incessant quarrels which confronted Islamic orthodoxy with Islamic mysticism29, some unwritten pact of coexistence and complicity has existed between the two from the time of Ibn al- Arabi in 12th century to present time.
It is not excluded that in his salad days Hafez may have belonged to a Sufi sect; nor is it totally inconceivable that he might never have formally renounced such affiliation for expediency sake. His learning process must have started in qu’rānic schools, where he learned the holly book by the rote (hence his title “Hafez” or the memorizer). His subsequent tutorship may have occurred under a learned teacher of unorthodox leanings to whom Hafez refers as sage or mentor. Gertrude Bell has identified this master as Sheikh Mahmud Attar, adding that he may not have been a renowned scholar or a model of abstinence30.
Some of the Hafez poems do have mystic overtones, just as others refer to biblical or qu’rānic tales. Still in many other verses he alludes to or makes commentary on social or literary topics of interest to his contemporaries. The frequent usage of amphibology and double-entendre in Hafez poetry could but lend itself to conflicting interpretations of his thoughts. Many authors have pointedly remarked that whatever the readers bent, his poetry caters to it. Few have acknowledged the essentially poetic vocation of such constructions. The following sonnet, with mystical inspiration and fragrance typifies the works of this strain:

سالها دل طلب جا م جم ا ز ما میکرد
آنچه خود د ا شت ز بیگا نه تمنا میکرد
گوهری کز صدف کون و مکا ن بیرون بود
طلب ا ز گمشدگان لب دریا میکرد
مشکل خویش بر پیر مغا ن برد م د وش
کو به تا ئید نظر حل معما میکرد
دیدمش خرم و خندا ن قدح با ده بد ست
وان در آ ن آینه صد گونه تما شا میکرد
گفتم ا ین جا م جها نبین بتو کی دا د حکیم
گفت آنروز که این گنبد مینا میکرد
بیدلی در همه احوا ل خدا با او بود
او نمیدید ش و از دور خدایا میکرد
گفت آ ن یا ر کزو گشت سردا ربلند
جرمش این بود که ا سرا ر هویدا میکرد
فیض روح ا لقد س ا ر با ز مدد فرما ید
مسیحا میکرد د یگرا ن هم بکنند آ نچه

For years, my heart craved the Mythical Bowl31
I had it in me, yet searched all round,
The pearl, out of bounds of time and space,
Looked for its shell amidst sea sands,
Asking the lost seafarers.
I took my quiz to the Magian sage32,
Who solves problems in an instant gaze.
In good spirit he was, with a cup of wine,
His look piercing the Bowl in praise,
“When were you given” I asked,
“This Gnostic Wealth?”
It was, he said, when the welkin was cast!

The torpid man who had the God in him
Could feel nothing and clamored for Him.

That other mate, hoisted in gallows,33
What was his crime? Betraying the unspoken!
True, should the Holy Spirit intercede,
Others could do what Messiah did.
While mystic properties are present, nothing in this and other similar poetry amount to a direct expression of opinion on the part of the poet. What is striking here is the beauty of his lyrics (in the original Persian) and the way he has remolded, in a superior construction, leitmotivs in Persian and Arab literature.
The key to understanding his philosophy and outlook may be to stop interpreting and start listening to what he says in plain unabashed language. This boils down to an avowal of ignorance about divinity and metaphysics, temporal pleasures that must be grasped with no qualms about hereafter, adulation of wine and tavern not just as an escape or a source of pleasure but also as the antipode to the cant and false piety of clerics and Sufi luminaries.
These themes are ever-present in Hafez poetry. Needless to say, they run counter to basic tenets of Sufism34. The Sufi’s indubitable faith in unison of man with divinity implies certitudes that Hafez humbly disowned. Moreover, the penchant in Sufism for abstinence, if not outright asceticism, is so clearly out of character with Hafez that it stretches credulity to place him within their ranks. But once again let his poetry take the witness stand. On several occasions Hafez berates the hypocrisy in Sufi’s conduct:
نقد صوفی نه همه صا فی و بیغش با شد ای بسا خرقه که مستوجب آ تش با شد
The Sufi’s gold is not always unalloyed35.
Loads the woolen garbs36which deserve to be burned.”
Or elsewhere:
صوفی بیا که که خرقه سا لوس بر کشیم
وین نقش زرق را خط بطلا ن بسر کشیم
بیرون جهیم سرخوش و ا ز بزم صوفیا ن
غارت کنیم با ده و شا هد به بر کشیم

Sufi, come along
Let’s shed this hypocritical cloak,
And recant all cant,
Let’s dash out blithely of the Sufi’s feast,
Loot all wine jars and embrace beauties.
In another verse he clearly says that sophism as a school has nothing to offer.
در میخا نه ام بگشا که هیچ از خا نقه نگشود
گرت باور بود ورنه سخن ا ین بود و ما گفتیم

I say what I have to say, take it, as you will:
Open me the tavern’s door,
Since no doors could be opened in the temple of Sufis 37

The use of Sufi nomenclature and mystic imagery has no doubt brought grist to the mill of those who have sought to sanctify Hafez despite the poet’s unabashed avowal of sinfulness even depravity. In a versified remark to a preacher he retorts:
“ O’ preacher, stop your gibberish and leave me alone,
I am not to fall for your cant.
This is how fate wanted me cast,
Earthly pleasures I embrace, never recant.” 38
As referred to earlier, moralists assigned an occult meaning to every thing that in their lexicon denoted a sin. Thus, wine symbolizes the truth and love refers to adulation of the divinity39. Just as the rabbinate managed to project the erotic scenery in the Old Testaments’ “La Cantique des Cantiques,” as divine adulations by Salomon, so did the Iranian mystics distorted the message of Hafez and called the star poet one of their own.

4- Panegyric Poetry by Hafez.
Some detractors have sought to smear Hafez for his panegyric poetry.
It is inappropriate to seek to shield Hafez against the criticism that he indulged in sycophancy in his poetry to please the reigning monarchs and key figures in their entourage. During his career as poet, he lived under six rulers40 of whom at least three accorded him their patronage. For his livelihood Hafez depended on this benefaction as poetry per se did not generate income. A job that he purportedly held as a teacher in the Shiraz College, other than having been tenuous41, is unlikely to have provided enough to cater to his life-style and largesse. His poetry reveals that he had difficult episodes where he felt the squeeze due to lack of attention on the part of his patrons. Other than resorting to plain flattery, in some of his odes, Hafez made hints, no doubt for the ears of his benefactors, referring to his financial problems. In most cases, Hafez has merely added one line or two, usually at the end of an otherwise normal sonnet, meant to be palatable to a benefactor. On one occasion, through a versified missive to a confidant of the ruler Hafez requests his correspondent to find an opportune moment during a one- to-one audience with the ruler and having first sweetened his mood by a pleasantry, remind his master of Hafez’s stipends42.
The above said, it must be underscored that Hafez by no means had the vocation of a courtier poet and the panegyric share of his poetry constitutes a small portion of his works43. Moreover, it appears that in most cases Hafez genuinely liked personalities whom he lauded in his poetry. This was no doubt the case with Shah Abu Isaac, about whom he wrote, to his own peril, nostalgic songs posthumously. Abu Isaac had indeed been overthrown and publicly executed by his successor Emir Mubarez Mozaffar44. A large share of panegyric poetry is addressed to the latter’s son and successor Shah Shuja, under whose patronage Hafez spent the longest stretch of his poetic career. It was to Abu Isaac however that Hafez was most genuinely attached. In one verse, Hafez lauds the defunct king and four of his lieutenants for the prosperity that Shiraz had known during his reign. In another elegy for the slaughtered king, he evokes his souvenirs with nostalgia:
یاد با د آنکه سر کوی توا م منزل بو د
د یده را روشنی از خا ک درت حا صل بود د راست چون سوسن و گل ا ز ا ثر صحبت پا ک
بر زبا ن بود مرا آ نچه ترا در د ل بود
آ آ ه ا ز این جور و تطا ول که در ا ین دا مگه ا ست
آ آ ه ا ز آ ن سوز و نیا زی که دز ا ن محفل بود
در دلم بود که بی دوست نباشم هرگز
چه توا ن کرد که سعی من و دل با طل بود
را ستی خا تم فیروزه بوا سحا قی
خوش درخشید ولی دولت مستعجل بود
د یدی آ ن قهقه کبک خرا ما ن حا فظ
که ز سر پنجه شا هین قضا غا فل بو

O’ cherished memories,
Of days when my abode was near yours,
And the dust from your doorstep,
Lightened my days.

Straight we were like young flower stalks,
So pure were our souls,
And from my mouth flowed,
Words coming from your heart.
Look at the snare that lurked along our path,
And remember our solicitudes and fervors,

In my heart, I yearned not to be,
The day my soul-mate was no more.
Alas, hollow was my vow
And feckless my resolve.
True, the glimmer of Isaac’s turquoise,
Was dazzling but alas short lived.
O’ Hafez did you hear not,
The laughter of strutting partridge,
Insouciant of claws of the falcon?45

Inversely, Hafez shows contempt for Emir Mubarez who upon accession to power instituted a puritanical society the like of which were only to be seen a century latter in Savonarola’s46 ephemeral theocracy in Florence.
Poems of Hafez during this period are replete with reproach, anger and nostalgia. In one passing remark, Hafez shows his disdain for the turncoats who seemingly scurried to the court to pay allegiance to the new king. Although no evidence to this effect exists, it could well have been written after the execution of Shah Abu Isaac. He writes:
حا فظ برو که بند گی پا د شا ه وقت
گر جمله میکنند تو با ر ی نمیکنی
“Let others crawl and bow,
To the majesty of the incumbent Shah,
Hafez thou shalt never grovel in awe”.

As the advent of Emir Mubarez cast a pall over his hometown Shiraz, Hafez composed a poetic lamentation yet to be matched in Persian lyrics. (Selective verses)

یا ری اند ر کس نمی بینم یا را ن راچه شد
د و ستی کی آ خر آ مد د وستدا را ن را چه شد
لعلی ا ز کا ن مروت بر نیا مد سا لها ست
تا بش خو رشید و سعی با د و بارا ن را چه شد
شهریا را ن بو د و خا ک مهر با نا ن ا ین د یا ر
مهربا نی کی سر آ مد شهریا را ن را چه شد
صد هزا را ن گل شگفت و با نگ مرغی بر نخا ست
عند لیبا ن را چه پیش آ مد هزا را ن را چه شد
حا فظ ا سرا ر الهی کس نمیدا ند خمو ش
از که میپر سی که دور روزگا را ن را چه شد

Amity no more! Where are the friends?
How did human bonds whither,
And friendships perish?
Of abundant generosity which existed yore,
It’s been years,
No token came to fore,
What of the beams of sunshine?
The bluster of winds,
ََََAnd the plenitude of rains?
This was the citadel of love, the land of caring,
When did fraternity expire?
Where are the kings gone47?
One hundred thousand flowers bloomed,
Yet no bird sang;
What came of nightingales?
Where are the sparrows gone?
Hafez, divine’s secrets are unknown!
To whom you then turn in vain?
To lament this bane.

5- The Legacy
Hafez needs not be idolized. Assigning him virtues that he disowned will not make of him a greater poet. His songs mirror the essence of human nature in its purest form, driven by passion of living and a yearning for earthly pleasures in an acute awareness that death is lurking to bring it all to an end.
بمی عما رت دل کن که ا ین جها ن خرا ب
بر آ ن سر ا ست که ا ز خا ک ما بسا زد خشت
With wine nourish your soul,
As the Time prowls,
To herald your doom,
Molding bricks,
From the ashes of your tomb.
But in him, death inspires no excessive awe. Hafez greets death with serenity of men of his ilk. In a moving valedictory sonnet, he comes eye- to -eye with death. ( Selected verses).
حجا ب چهره حا ن میشود غبا ر تنم
خو شا د می که ا زین چهر ه پرد ه برفکنم
چنین قفس نه سزا ی چو من خوش ا لحا نی ا ست
آ روم به گلشن رضو ا ن که مرغ آ ن چمننم
عیا ن نشد که چرا آ مد م چرا رفتم
د ر یغ درد که غا فل ز کا ر خویشتنم
Like a layer of dust,
My body veils my soul;
Blissful the moment when comes the call,
And curtains fall.
Unfit this cage is to arrest my soul,
So to Eden I fly,
I am the bird of that garden.
Pity, it didn’t come to light at last,
Why did I come, why didn’t it last?
Alas, I bow out benighted,
Blind to mysteries of existence.
Hafez is conscious that his poetry and legacy is a gift to humanity that death could not take away: He wrote.
هرگز نمیرد آنکه دلش زنده شد بعشق . ثبت ا ست در جریده عالم دوام ما
“Never expires the one whose heart was lit with flame of love,”
“My eternity is heralded in annals of the Time”.
To the posterity he presciently wrote:

از سر تربت من چون گذ ری همت خوا ه
که زیارتگه رندا ن جها ن خو ا هد بو د
برو ا ی زا هد خو د بین که ز چشم من و تو
راز این پر ده نها ن ا ست و نها ن خواهد ما ند When you pass by my grave,
Make a wish, seek ardor and verve,
For my tomb shall become a pilgrimage site,
For free-souls world over.
Beware! O’ self-righteous clergy,
Your eyes and mine,
Could not behold the hidden,
Behind that curtain.

Annex I,
Hafez: A biographical note.
For the Persian-speaking people in Iran and elsewhere in the region, Hafez is a household name. Beyond a literally acclaim of unsurpassed scale, his poetry is viewed by masses with an aura of unearthly magnetism. His anthology, divan,48 is consulted by common folks for inspiration and guidance in crucial crossroads of their lives through the age-old practice of bibliomancy.
Little wonder that his biography, just as his vision and philosophy, has fallen prey to fantasizing and mystification. Legends have sought invariably to sanctify Hafez or ascribe to him mystic dispositions. In one of the more sapid tales, he is projected as a poor orphan who illicitly auditioned schools and learned to recite Koran by heart while working as an errand boy in a bakery. He then fell hopelessly in love with a woman of high society and went to meditation and contemplation until one magic night when he was bestowed with the heavenly gift of poetry.
وش وقت سحر از غصه تجاتم دادند وان د ر آ ن ظلمت شب آ ب حیا تم دا دند د
“The herald finally arrived at dawn,
And in the murky night,
I was offered the epitome of life”.
Scholarly research however places Hafez in a middle class Shiraz family that saw to his early schooling and no doubt higher learning in the style of the fourteen- century Persia Born around 1315-1749 in Shiraz, Hafez grew to become an erudite and highly polished young man no doubt helped by innate intellectual faculties. Not only he learned to recite by rote the Koran in “fourteen versions,50 but he was well versed in Arab and Persian literature, in history, philosophy and astronomy. He is said to have given courses on Koranic studies in the great Shiraz college, using as his main text a book authored by Zamkhashri titled Sharh-i Kash’shāf,51.
Hafez soon became a favourite of King Sheikh Abu Isaac Inju for whom he wrote posthumous poetry with nostalgic undertones as he held him in genuine affection. Inju who ruled from 1334 to 1354 over the provinces of Fars and Isfahan was, according to the Arab explorer ibn Batuta, a kind-hearted and well-liked monarch. Other chroniclers however have underscored his lack of political savvy and portrayed him as a carefree man given to excessive depravity. Much of his tenure was wasted in vain campaigns against his rival Amir Mubarezuddin Mozaffar. The latter, subsequently established the Mozaffarid dynasty in Shiraz after he finally defeated and beheaded Inju in 1354. Hafez was in Shiraz at the time of the execution of his former patron and may have watched the public execution in the town’s main square.
Amir Mubarezudin Mozaffar was an excessively strict and religiously dogmatic man who pledged nominal allegiance to the deposed Caliph in Cairo, and established a puritanical regime, ordering taverns closed to the chagrin of Hafez. The new ruler went on to conquer Azerbaijan and Arak, before being arrested and blinded by his own sons. During his reign, an embittered Hafez wrote sarcastic and melancholic sonnets denouncing the hypocrisy of the pious and the absurdity of the strictures they imposed.
Shah Shuja who replaced his father as the king restored Hafez to his earlier prominence and patronized him in a similar fashion as Inju. Some authors have maintained that the poet held administrative (divani) functions under Shah Shuja52.
Hafez gained a certain recognition and esteem already during his early years as evidenced by his close ties with the Shiraz royal household. Progressively, his poetry must have travelled and his fame spread to remote provinces of the old empire. Anecdotic accounts refer to invitations extended to him by the king of Deccan in India and by Sutan Ahmad Jalayer in Baghdad but Hafez was not a keen traveller. The only travel that he is known to have undertaken was to Yazd in the central plateau of Iran. This happened when his relations Shah Shuja had turned sour following a spat.53 He appears to have also had embroiled in a civil lawsuit 54which may explain his two years absence from Shiraz. The ruler of Yazd to whom Hafez had turned as a possible benefactor did not turn out to be a generous mecena and Hafez, nostalgic about Shiraz, returned there under the protection of the grand vizier Touranshah.55 Hafez regained the king’s favour but his poetry suggests that his financial situation remained fragile.
The final decade of Hafez’s life and career coincided with a period of political turmoil marked by irredentist wars. This was in part due to Shah Shuja’s premature death in September 1363. His crown prince Yahya was not of the same calibre and the Mozaffarid princes declined him allegiance. King Mansur, (Shuja’s nephew) who grabbed hold of power at the expense of Yahya, reigned for a few years but soon had to face the awesome challenge by the Uzbek conqueror Tamerlane (1336-1405). The latter occupied Shiraz a first time in 1388 and again in 1391. Tamerlane second expedition to Shiraz followed an epic battle with Shah Mansur who gambled a heroic face- to- face with Tamerlane and was killed in action after having inflicted heavy casualties on the invading force.
Hafez had developed friendly ties with Shah Mansur but wars and rapid turns of fortune left him in a precarious financial situation at his old age. The account of his encounter with Tamerlane, referred to in the main text, underscores this precariousness56. Yet it also underlines the attainment by the poet of a certain status and recognition.
While Hafez poetry is cited in some 14th century manuscripts, his name was only parsimoniously mentioned in texts written by his contemporaries. It is from 15th century onwards that full recognition was accorded to him. His anthology, Divan, was compiled by one of his presumed disciples 57some two decades after the poet’s death which happened in 1389. The introduction written by the compiler provides some clues about the poet’s personality and character traits. He is depicted as an outgoing and affable man who sat with the rich and the poor, the learned as well unlettered common folks and enjoyed the company of the youth. Hafez must have been a tender and affectionate individual who got attached to his surroundings58 and was averse to causing pain to others.
مبا ش در پی آزار و هر چه خوا هی کن
که د ر شر یعت ما عیر ا زین گناهی نیست

Do what you wish in life save hurting others,
In my canon, there is no sin but this one.
Hafez married once and had a son from this marriage. It is not clear at what stage of his life this marriage took place. It is known, however, that both the wife and his son died at a young age. Hafez refers affectionately to both in his poetry and laments their death.
قره العین من آ ن میوه د ل یا د شباد که چه آ سان بشد و کار مرا مشکل کرد
آه و فریا د که ا ز چشم حسود مه چرخ
د ر لحد ما ه کمان ا بروی من منز ل کرد
The light of my eye, the pearl of my heart,
Cherished be her memory,
How easily I lost her and how hard it was to bear.
Cry shame!
The bad omen of the moon’s envious eye59;
Befell on her and rapt my belle in a shroud.

Referring to his son, he writes:
دلا د یدی که آ ن فرزا نه فرزند
چه دید اند ر خم ا ین طا ق رنگین
بچا ی لوح سیمین د ر کتارش
فلک بر سر نهادش لوح سنگین
O’ my bleeding heart,
What a fate for that cherished son!
Instead of a belle by his side,
He got a ledger on his head.
Hafez is known in literally circles outside Iran and his poems have been translated to several languages. Among the earlier non-Iranian Hafez scholars Ahmad Sudi Bosnavi deserve a special mention. His Commentary on Divan, was written circa 1595 and published in Istanbul in 1834. The Austrian diplomat Von Hammer translated Hafez into German (1815-1819), which may have inspired Goethe's "Westöstliche Divan.
Finally, a special tribute is due to Gertrude Bell, a leading British female orientalist who as a young explorer traveled to Iran in the eighteen nineties and made a full translation of Hafez into English. None of the translations, including tit-bits done by the author of present article, has done justice to the sublime beauty of the Hafez poetry and subtleties, both in form and substance.