The plight of the true lover is full of paradoxes. Although love leads the soul on to the highest bliss imaginable, the road to be followed is a particularly rough one and leads through an abyss of self-denial and humiliation. The experience of love is often a very painful one. However, such pain should not be avoided but be welcomed as a sign of the beloved's attention. Love is a way of gaining knowledge about the desired object; not by reason, but through a form of intuitive perception often designated as zauq ('taste'). There is also a contradiction in a moral sense. To be really in love amounts to focusing completely on the Beloved without any regard for one's own well-being, even to the point of accepting annihilation through love. At this elevated stage of self-denial the common standards of moral and religious behaviour have become irrelevant. Distinctions between good and bad, or belief and unbelief, are not binding any more on the lover. They refer to values tinged by expectations of reward and salvation that are concerned with the lover's self-interest, and therefore point to aims other than the unconditional surrender to the Beloved's sovereign will.
These fundamental characteristics of love are all reflected in Persian ghazals. As we saw, the search for a perception beyond the boundaries of rational thinking is expressed by various motives related to the drinking of wine. The sufferings caused by the elusiveness of the Beloved and the rejection of the lover's advances are willingly accepted even if many poems are filled with complaints about the dismal condition of lovers. The most striking feature is, however, the open confession by the lover of his being an unbeliever and his disregard of values and rules of conduct which are sacred to the pious Muslim. Mystical ghazals abound with jibes at devout ascetics who keep vigils, fast and recite the Koran in their cells. The point of this criticism is that Sufis who only care for their good name in this world and salvation in the afterlife ignore their true mystical calling, which is the state of love. Like other representatives of official religion, such as divine scholars and preachers, they are under the suspicion of pursuing merely a selfish aim by showing off their piety and thereby soliciting the people's veneration.
The antinomian motives which became such a conspicuous element of mystical ghazals can be linked to a parallel phenomenon in the history of Sufism. In the ninth century a reaction to the predominantly ascetic orientation of the early Sufi sheikhs arose in the eastern Persian province of Khurasan. This tendency became known as the malamatiya, after the central concept of malamat ('blame'). By this, a concern was inferred about the motives behind the commonly practised piety, which was suspected of being no more than 'showing off piety' (riya) directed towards the world. In order to counter this serious danger for the mystical soul the reverse attitude was advocated, namely a behaviour that elicits criticism rather than admiration. The mystic should not only conceal his acts of devotion from the eyes of the people, but should actually behave in such a manner that he becomes the object of their disapproval. The intention of this was to purge love of insincerity. However, the school of blame itself did not remain above criticism. Hujvlrl (d. ca. 1075), an early Persian writer on the theory of Sufism, who admitted that blame had 'a great effect in making love sincere', also pointed out that it might end up in the very position which it tried to avoid:
The ostentatious man purposely acts in such a way as to win popularity, while the Malamatx purposely acts in such a way that the people reject him. Both have their thoughts fixed on mankind and do not pass beyond that sphere.33
In spite of this, the antinomian way continued to attract many who strove after a total renunciation both in their behaviour and their spirituality. From the thirteenth century onwards various groups of dervishes are known who used their blameworthy conduct as a shield against worldly attachments in whatever form. Their scandalising behaviour distinguished them sharply from 'mainstream' Sufism as it was organised and disciplined within the framework of the mystical orders. Nevertheless, the concept of blame as such could be accepted by orthodox Sufis as a respectable attitude as long as it was restricted to a concealment of spiritual virtues which served as a safeguard for the sincerity of the mystic's devotion. Abu Hafs 'Umar as-Suhrawardl (1144— 1234), who was the founder of one of the largest Sufi orders, commented favourably on the Malamatlya in his 'Awarif al-ma'arifCGifts of Insights'), an authoritative textbook of moderate Sufism. However, he strongly condemned those who imagined that, for the sake of the 'well-being of the heart' (tibat al-qalb), they were free to break all the rules of good and pious behaviour. To distinguish them from the former group, Suhrawardl used the term Qalandarlya to denote the latter tendency, but it is not clear whether he meant a specific community actually existing under
that name. Historically, it is uncertain whether groups using this name existed in the early thirteenth century.36
Another uncertainty pertains to the relationship between this phenomenon in the history of Islamic mysticism on the one hand, and Sufi poetry on the other. The earliest use of the word qalandar in mystical texts predates its use as a designation for a particular type of dervish by a long time. The first instances may even go back to the eleventh century, although they are not quite reliable specimens as they occur in the collections of quatrains attributed to Baba Tahir and Abu Sa'ld, the uncertain authenticity of which we have discussed before. In the same period, a Qalandar-nama would have been written if it could be proven that the mystic 'Abd-Allah Ansarl (d. 1089) was really the author as the textual tradition claims. In this little prose text it is told how a qalandar suddenly appears in a theological school. He convinces the students to abandon their books and follow him to what is called 'the place of the chains' (zanjirgah, by which perhaps a madhouse is meant) where he preaches to them on the real demands of a mystical life.
More solid ground is reached at the beginning of the next century when reliable evidence is available. Ahmad Ghazall (d. 1126) illustrates in his Savanih the consequences of malamat to the lover by citing this quatrain:
This is the lane of blame, the field of annihilation;
This is the street where gamblers put all at one stake.
The courage of a qalandar, clothed in rags, is needed
It is debatable whether one should regard the poems which were eventually called qalandariyat, as a separate poetic genre. Although there are indeed many instances of poems entirely devoted to this motif, it also occurs in connection with other elements, especially in the ghazals. Perhaps it is better to regard qalandariyat as the name of a cluster of imagery applied to the theme of blame as one of the basic elements of love. Ahmad
Ghazall gave much weight to it in his theoretical exposition. He compared malamat to a sword by which love should be trimmed until it is reduced to its very essence: first blame manifests itself in the beloved's jealousy which prevents the lover from looking at others; then the jealousy of the 'moment', that is the ecstasy of love, turns the lover away from himself; in the end, love's own jealousy forces the lover to abandon all desire, even for his own beloved, and concentrate on nothing else but love.38
It is this total commitment to love to which the antinomian motives in ghazal poetry refer. One should therefore take care not to read a reflection of reality in these poetic images. Poets such as Sana'I (d. 1131) and Farld ad-Din 'Attar (d. ca. 1220), who used them very frequently in their poetry, were certainly not antinomian mystics, but pious Muslims who put much emphasis on the obedience to God's will as it was laid down in the shariat. Only in the case of 'Iraqi (d. 1289) it may be assumed that there was indeed a relationship between letters and life, that is if we trust the hagiographical tradition that grew up around him. After all, 'Iraqi lived in a period when antinomian mysticism first appeared as a prominent element in Islamic societies.
The central figure, from whom the cluster received its name, is the qalandar; sometimes he is also called qallash. The origin of both words is unknown and so is the real-life model on which the poets moulded their qalandars. In one of the oldest specimens, a quatrain quoted in an anecdote by Abu Sa'id's biographer Ibn al-Munawar, the qalandar is depicted as a tramp playing on a half-broken instrument and begging for wine. He is an outcast whose favourite dwelling-place is the kharabat. Literally this means 'ruins'; the connotation of a 'tavern' or 'brothel', frequented by debauched persons like the qalandars, is a feature taken from reality because such places were often situated in delapidated parts of medieval cities. However, the name could easily be used in a metaphorical sense as well: living in 'ruins' amounted to being in the material world which is full of decay. The attitude of the tramp, symbolising the rejection of any attachment to this world, is the right one in such abject surroundings. This lifestyle is sometimes presented as a 'rite' (a in). The prescriptions are to indulge in all things forbidden. In addition to drinking and sexual excesses, gambling with dice, backgammon or chess is frequently mentioned. The qalandar, the person who puts all on one stake, is the perfect example of the lover who is totally committed to his passion. The kharabat can be pictured as the temple of an imaginary cult exhibiting elements taken from non-Muslim religions, in particular Christianity and Zoroastrianism. To enter this community one should bind oneself with the zunnar, the sign Christians living under Muslim rule were obliged to wear, but at the same time representing the kushti, the girdle bound three times around the middle as a token of the initiation in the Zoroastrian religion. The object of the cult is fire or wine; the officiating priest is called pir-i mughan ('Elder of the Magi'). His tool is the jam-i Jam, the cup said to have been used by the mythical king Jamshld to forecast the future at the Iranian New Year festival.40
In this strange looking glass religion the norms and values of Sufi piety are all reversed. The 'Elder of the Magi' is the counterpart of the Sufi Master and the jibes at the ascetic way of life which we mentioned earlier are an essential part of its repertoire. Once the underlying theme of malamat is recognised, however, the real intention behind this masque is not difficult to grasp. The cult of the 'Magi', in spite of its apparel of debauchery and unbelief, represents nothing but the pursuit of the purged state which is the prerequisite of an unconditional surrender to mystical love. The cup, which is often equated to a mirror, stands for the human heart, the organ for the communication with the Unseen by way of intuitive knowledge.
The stylistic development of Persian ghazals in the course of its long history is a subject which cannot possibly be dealt with here properly. It should be admitted that the subject itself still escapes the grip of literary scholarship, and it will continue to do so until the time when the works of at least the most important masters of the ghazal will have been investigated in sufficient detail. The main obstacles facing the researcher are the enormous size of the material to be studied, the length of the tradition and, above all, the fact that, over the centuries, the poetic language and the stock of imagery and motives used in these poems appear to have undergone very little change. In order to describe a development of style, which undoubtedly must have taken place, one has to examine closely the interplay of all these linguistic and literary elements within the works of successive generations of poets.
Nevertheless, a few general lines of development can easily be detected, and have been mentioned in critical studies with a considerable degree of unanimity. The most important of these is the trend towards a greater concentration in the application of the conventional elements of ghazal poetry. By the fourteenth century, this development had advanced to a remarkable degree. In Hafiz's ghazals, in particular, a kaleidoscopical density of imagery can be found which presents a major problem to the interpretation of the works of this often elusive poet. Several studies have focused on the question of whether or not it is possible to find the rules of composition lending unity to the seemingly random sequence of images and lyrical motives in a typical Hafizean poem. A.J. Arberry, borrowing a line from the eighteenth century translator William Jones, has subsumed this question in the phrase 'Oriental pearls at random strung'. Denying the view, sometimes held by Western scholars, that these ghazals show little internal coherence, Arberry argued that it is indeed possible to see the links between a number of themes in one of Hafiz's most famous poems.
To demonstrate the peculiarity of Hafiz's style we examine here another specimen, namely a poem which is not only illustrative of the shifting imagery in the art of Hafiz, but also of his use of mystical motifs. As we want to adhere as closely as possible to his original words, no attempt is made at a 'literary' translation; instead, a presentation of the Persian text in transcription is followed by a more or less literal paraphrase in English prose which, of course, cannot provide any impression of the aesthetic values of the original.
The poem (number 79 in the edition by P.N. Khanlarl) is a ghazal of eight lines and opens with a piece of nature poetry:
bulbuli barg-i guli khush-rang dar minqar dasht v-andar-an barg-u nava khush nalaha-yi zar dasht guftam-ash dar 'ayn-i vast in nala-u faryad chist guft md-ra jilva-yi ma'shuq dar in kdr dasht
'A nightingale holding a colourful rose petal in his bill/ uttered bitter complaints in the midst of these riches.// I said to him: 'Why this complaining and lamenting when you have reached unity itself?'/ He said: 'It was the revelation of the beloved which made me do this!'.
If they are isolated from the rest of the poem, these lines form a unit enclosed within itself comparable to the tight structure of a quatrain: a little scene (the highly conventional picture of the nightingale singing to the rose) elicits an exchange of words between the poet and the bird, the outcome of which is an explanation of the paradox between the possession of the rose petal and the song of the nightingale, who continues to express his longing for the rose. There are two motifs mentioned which point to the meaning of these lines as parts of a more extensive composition dealing with ghazal themes and, therefore, contain the clue to tracing their connection to the rest of the poem. The first is marked by the use of the word vasl, 'unity', or 'unification' with the beloved, which on the list of Kay Ka'us cited above was mentioned among the principal themes of a love poem. The other is jilva-yi ma'shuq, the 'manifestation of the beloved'. To the nightingale, the rose petal is not the rose itself but merely points to the beauty of the latter, which is still unattainable to him. The manifestation by means of not more than a petal is really no more than a 'witness' of the transcendental beauty. Instead of fulfilling the bird's desire, the possession of the rose petal only heightens the pain of his love.
ydr agar nanshast ba ma nist jay-i i'tiraz padishahf kamran bud az gadayan 'ar dasht dar namxgxrad niyaz-u ndz-i ma ba husn-i dust khurram an k-az nazaninan bakht barkhurdar dasht
If the companion did not sit down with us, there is no reason to protest:/he was a mighty ruler who felt ashamed by the beggars.// Our prayers and our flattery have no effect on the beauty of the friend ¡/happy is he who found his luck with the coquettes.
The poet's voice goes on to consider the reasons why the Beloved behaves in such an evasive way, changing over to the image of the king who shuns the company of beggars. He stresses the uselessness of the lover's begging. He may regard himself as lucky if he is treated to the whims of the coquette beauties of this world who as 'witnesses' of the eternal Beloved play their games with the helpless lover.
khiz ta bar kilk-i an naqqash jan-afshdn kunim k-xn hama naqsh-i 'ajab dar gardish-i par gar dasht
Arise! Let's offer our lives to the pen of that painter/who conjured all these wonderful images within the compass of the circle.
Here, a significant turning is made in two respects. Grammatically, the poet changes over to the imperative, that is he addresses his audience exhorting them to a total commitment to the cause of love. Further, there is a difference of orientation in as far as an unquestionably religious motif is brought into play. Behind the image of the painter hides the Divine Creator to Whom all the wordly beauties (i.e. the 'coquettes') owe their existence.
gar murid-i rah-i 'ishqT fikr-i badnamx makun shaykh-i San an khirqa rahn-i khana-yi khammar dasht vaqt-i an shirin qalandar khush ki dar atvar-i sayr zikr-i tasbih-i malak dar halqa-yi zunnar dasht
If you are an adept of the path of love, don't care about a bad reputation:/the sheikh from San an pawned his habit in the house of the wineseller. // Blessed are the hours of the sweetvoiced Qalandar who wherever he roamed, / continued to praise God like the angels using the belt of his unbelief as a rosary. _ •
The consideration of the lover's duty to submit himself completely to his Beloved's will brings the poet almost automatically to antinomian themes. The true follower of the Path of Love is equal to the qalandar dervish who is eager to sacrify his good name as a pious Muslim for the sake of his total submission to the Beloved. As Farld ad-Din 'Attar tells in his Mantiq at-tayr ('The Conference of the Birds'), the Sheikh of San'an was a pious Sufi master living in Mecca. When he was tempted by the love of a Christian girl he forsook his piety altogether to become her slave and commit all that was forbidden by Islam. This descent into a sinful life, however, rescued him from the false self-esteem which was the last obstacle on his road toward the mystical goal.41 In this manner, the zunnar, the belt worn by Christians as a sign of their inferior status, could serve him as a rosary in an angelic commemoration of the Divine Name.
chashm-i Hafiz zir-i bam-i qasr-i an Huri-sirisht shiva-yi 'janndt tajri tahtaha al-anhar' dasht
Under the palace-roof of the one with the nature of a maiden of Paradise Hafiz's eyes/ were enthralled by the 'Gardens under which the rivers flow'.
With this clasp-theme the poem culminates in a suggestion of paradise, quoting even directly from the Koran.42 There can be no doubt that his statement encompasses love in all its aspects. The change of the imagery, ranging from a scene in an earthly garden to a glimpse of Paradise, helps the poet to talk about so much in so few words. He tells about the inaccessibility of the Beloved, of the manifestations of the absent One which are open to the eyes of the lover everywhere in the world; he refers to the demands put upon the true lover. There are, finally, several references to religious concepts like the dependence of the world on its Creator, the attitude of antinomian mystics and eternal happiness. Yet, in the final analysis, the question lingers on whether he talks about the supernatural only for its own sake, or still manages to keep the balance suspended between the sacred and the profane. Even if the possibility of such an ambiguity is left open, it could still be maintained that Hafiz fulfilled the fundamental requirements of the genre of the ghazal to the highest degree.
Was this article helpful?