In view of this fact, the Leader of Islamic Revolution, Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei, has termed the commemoration of Hafez as the commemoration of Islamic and Iranian culture and pure thoughts. Over the past six centuries, numerous commentaries have been written on the Divan of Hafez in Iran, Afghanistan, Central Asia, and the Subcontinent. His works have been translated into major world languages, including English. Adaptations, imitations and translations of his poems exist in all major languages. Hafez passed away in 1413 AD in his hometown Shiraz.
There is little information on the early life of Hafez, who was born around 727 AH in Shiraz to parents who were from Kazeroun. It seems he lost his father in childhood and was forced to work to earn a living. According to Mohammad Golandam, his friend and the first compiler of Divan-e Hafez, when his financial condition got better, he focused on acquisition of knowledge and started developing his literary talents. Hafez studied religious sciences, memorized the holy Qur’an and excelled in Persian and Arabic literature. He was so well versed in the sciences of the day that he wrote commentary on the exegesis of the holy Qur’an written by the Iranian Mu’tazali scholar, Zamakhshari.
He also attended the classes of Gnostics in Shiraz, but viewed the mystics or Sufis with suspicion, for their hypocrisy and deviation from the path of the Islamic Shari’ah. The themes of his ghazals are thus faith, the Beloved, which is a reference to God Almighty, and exposing hypocrisy. Hafez was supported by patronage from several successive local rulers, such as Shah Abu Ishaq, who came to power while Hafez was in his teens. Later, towards the end of his life, the fearsome Central Asian Turkic conqueror, Amir Timur, became his ardent admirer and patron. Another patron was the strict ruler Shah Mubarez od-Din Muhammad, known as Mubarez Muzaffar. However, the work of Hafez flourished most under the twenty-seven year reign of Jalal ud-Din Shah Shuja. For a brief period, Hafez visited Yazd and Isfahan.
Hafez was acclaimed throughout the Islamic world during his lifetime, with other Persian poets imitating his work, and offers of patronage from Baghdad to India. The far-reaching fame of his poetry brought Hafez an invitation from Ahmad Jalayer, the ruler of Iraq and western Iran, to visit his capital, Baghdad. The reasons why the poet did not go are unknown. Later on, he was invited by Sultan Mahmoud Shah Bahmani of the Deccan to visit his empire in southern India. The Sultan sent a sum of money for the journey through his Iranian minister, Fazlollah Enju Shirazi.
It is said that Hafez journeyed overland to the Strait of Hormuz and on his way in Lar gave the money he had received from the Sultan to a destitute person. On reaching the Persian Gulf he boarded a ship bound for India. The sea was stormy and Hafez asked the captain to take him back to the Iranian shore. He then returned to Shiraz because he preferred his hometown to the vagaries of the sea. Hafez, however, wrote a beautiful ghazal and sent it to Sultan Mahmoud Shah of Deccan. Another admirer of Hafez Shirazi was the Sultan of Bengal, Ghiyath od-Din A’zam Shah in what is now Bangladesh. He was not only a great lover of art and Persian Literature but also a patron of poets and scholars. He invited Hafez Shirazi to visit his court, but this great Iranian poet, thanking him sent a beautiful ghazal instead, one of whose couplets reads: Shekar shikan shavand hameh toutiyaan-e Hind; Zin qand-e Parsi ba Bangala mi ravad. It means: “All the parrots (poets) of India will become sweet-tongued; By virtue of this melodious Persian ode (Hafiz’s ghazal) which is being sent to Bengal.
In the Persian-speaking world, that is Iran, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, parts of Central Asia, Pakistan, India, Iraq, and Turkey, Hafez is generally regarded as not only a great poet, but also as a seer, a "tongue of the mysterious" or “lesan ol ghayb” whose poetry is divinely inspired. Professor Baha’ od-Din Khorramshahi of Iran, who has authored the valuable book “Hafez Nameh”, regards the style of Hafez as unique in ghazal throughout the millennium-plus history of Persian poetry. He says that prior to Hafez, lyric in Persian was written mostly on the earthly beloved and the poet’s longing for the object of his desire.
But Hafez changed that by referring to God Almighty as the Supreme Beloved, and using metaphors to express his love for God and faith in Islam, in a very unique and brilliant manner. Of course, before him Gnostic poets like Mowlana Rumi, Sana’i Ghaznavi, Attar Naishapuri and Sa’di Shirazi had written poems in praise of God and Islamic themes, but these were odes and panegyrics. Hafez, however, used the medium of ghazal to express his Gnosticism, and this was something unique in Persian literature. Another special characteristic of the lyrics of Hafez lyrics is that almost each and every couplet is independent in meaning from the other couplets. No other poet before him had attempted such versatility in Persian ghazal.
Some of the most highly regarded modern editions of the Divan of Hafez are compiled by Moammad Qazvini, Qasem Ghani, who list 495 of his ghazals. Another prominent Iranian researcher, the Late Parviz Natel Khanlari has listed 486 ghazals. The Divan of Hafez was first translated into English in 1771 by William Jones and it left a mark on such western writers as Thoreau, Goethe, and Ralph Waldo Emerson – the last referred to him as "a poet's poet".
Arthur Conan Doyle has his character Sherlock Holmes state that "there is as much sense in Hafez as in Horace of ancient Rome. Friedrich Engels has mentioned Hafez in an 1853 letter to his communist colleague Karl Marx. The West-Ostlicher Divan or the West–Eastern Divan, original is a collection of lyrical poems by the German poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, who was inspired by Hafez Shirazi. Goethe wrote this Divan between 1814 and 1819, and says that he was inspired by correspondence with Marianne von Willemer and the translation of the poems of Hafez by the orientalist Joseph von Hammer. Hafez thus continues to reign supreme despite the passing of over six centuries since his death. He not only inspires Iranians and Persian-speakers but also intellectuals of different lands and different climes.