Sufi Symbols in the Poetry of Hafiz by Peter Booth


PETER BOOTH is a Hafiz scholar and translator and the coauthor of Dante / Hafiz. In the recently published book, The Illuminated Hafiz (Published by Sounds True, November 2019), Peter Booth contributed as one of the main translator and shared a Glossary of Terms comprising of symbols and imageries used in the poetry of Hafiz. I am hereby sharing a selection from the Glossary.




Beloved. The personification of God by endowing Him/Her with perceivable attributes such as beauty, coquettishness, elegance, grace, love, and compassion. In Hafiz, the Beloved has the attributes of both masculine and feminine beauty; and the third-person singular, when used to refer to the Beloved, can be read as masculine, feminine, or both, depending on the context.

Breeze. Plays the role of messenger in Hafiz’s poetry. Most frequently, it is the morning breeze from the north- east that carries a message between the Beloved and lover after a night of supplication. The arrival of this message from the Beloved indicates the lover’s advancement to a higher spiritual state of greater intimacy.

Candle. Well suited to Hafiz’s imagery as it is an individual light whose existence depends on its own annihilation—that is, to light itself the candle burns down into nothing, as does the lover, on fire from his love for the Beloved. Over and over in Hafiz, the light of the candle/lover is seen being consumed by the dawn light of the Sun/Beloved, signifying God-realization.

Cup, Wine Cup. Just as a shell is necessary to create and carry a pearl, so, too, the wine cup or goblet is necessary to contain the wine representing Divine Love. Moreover, as all of Hafiz’s imagery is “open ended,” with images flowing into and expanding the meaning of one another, the wine cup, throughout his poetry and Persian history, represents the pure heart of the lover, where not just the face of the Beloved can be reflected as in a mirror, but where all of creation and all events—past, present, and future—can be viewed as well.

Night. Frequently associated with dawn in Hafiz’s poetry, suggesting not just that night ends in the dawn of a new spiritual state—in some cases even God-realization—but also that God as Love exists out of the framework of time. Nightingale. Represents the lover or, in Hafiz, the tongue of the Beloved, who, inspired by the Beloved’s beauty (represented by the rose), sings in joyous ecstasy.

Ocean. Used variously in Hafiz with three meanings: the limitless existence of the Beloved as Love, the vast expanse of the spiritual path, and also the vastness of creation.

Tress, Hair, Curl. In general, Hafiz uses the Beloved’s tresses or curls as chains that trap and bind the lover’s heart. Elsewhere, however, they are the spiraling ascending curves of the spiritual path with all of its twists and turns. The most common setting involving curls is the bird of the soul or the heart, attracted by the beauty mark on the Beloved’s cheek, becoming caught in them. These bindings then draw the heart/soul from illusion to Reality represented by the Beloved’s cheek and His/Her lips.

Union. The ultimate state of lover and Beloved. The Persian mystics presented the allegory that every particle of man was composed of dust and the wine of God’s love carefully kneaded by the angels under God’s instructions over a forty-day period. This process expressed the descent of man’s soul into the chalice of God’s covenant—the human form. It is the undoing of this process (the spiritual path) that is the ascension of man’s soul back to its source with God. This culmination is termed Union with God, or God-realization. The unfoldment to Union is the subject of Hafiz’s poetry.

Veil. In mystical traditions, a covering over the human eye. One remains “veiled” until such time as, by the grace of a God-realized Master, the soul sees the divine effulgence of God. In Islam, the veil hiding the radiance of the Divine is composed of seventy thousand layers of light and darkness.


- Credit -

The Illuminated Hafiz: Love Poems for the Journey to Light



PETER BOOTH, translator of The Illuminated Hafiz and co-author of Hafiz/Dante: Readings on the Sigh, the Gaze, and Beauty, studied Sanskrit and sacred Indian texts at Georgetown University in his teens, received a B.A. in English Literature from Bard College, and attended Harvard Graduate School in Persian Language and Literature, studying with Annemarie Schimmel and Wheeler Thackston. He then studied studied Persian Literature at Ferdowsi University of Mashhad, on a scholarship from the Shah of Iran. For 32 years he was a resident in Avatar Meher Baba’s home, Meherabad, in rural India, where he helped build water and electrical systems, roads, and carried out extensive afforestation. He’s currently completing a detailed study of the poetry of Hafiz, The Incomparable Hafiz.


# Related Resources:

* On the Symbolism of Religious Poetry

* Sufi Poetic Imagery by Inayat Khan

* A Beginners Take on Sufi Poetry (PDF)

* Jami on Divine Love and the image of wine

* Symbolism, Theme and Message in a Persian (Sufi), English (Anglican) and Burmese (Buddhist) Poems Written Throughout the Centuries

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Technology of the Heart: Sufi Symbols in the Poetry of Hafiz by Peter Booth
Sufi Symbols in the Poetry of Hafiz by Peter Booth
In the recently published book, The Illuminated Hafiz (Published by Sounds True, November 2019), Peter Booth contributed as one of the main translator and shared a Glossary of Terms comprising of symbols and imageries used in the poetry of Hafiz. I am hereby sharing a selection from the Glossary.
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Technology of the Heart
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