Poetry and Prayer: Islamic Manuscripts from the Walters Art Museum

Poetry and Prayer

Islamic Manuscripts from the Walters Art Museum

Poetry Ritual Prayer Recitation Calligraphy Personal Piety Digital Books

Divan-i Hafiz (Collected Works of Hafiz)

Iran, dated a.h. 946/a.d. 1539

If that lovely maid of Shiraz would accept
my heart, I would give for the mole on her
cheek the cities of Samarkand and Bokhara.
—The Divan of Hafiz, 8:1
(Translated by W. Jones)


These are the illuminated opening pages of the Divan (or collected works) of the Persian poet Hafiz (1310–85). It is often said that every Iranian home should have two things: first the Qur’an and then Hafiz. Like many of the Persian poet Sa‘di’s lines from the Gulistan, the verses of Hafiz have become proverbs that many recite by heart. Hafiz is known for his short lyric poems on love, known as ghazals, which may refer to an earthly or divine beloved. His Divan, referred to as lisan al-ghayb (“Tongue of the Unseen”), is also used to seek insight into the future by opening the text at random and interpreting the verses. Like Sa‘di’s tomb, Hafiz’s grave in Shiraz, set in a lush rose garden, is a site for pilgrimage.

Paper with ink, paint, and gold
W.631, fols. 3b–4a, acquired by Henry Walters