Ruba'i of Ḥāfiẓ


This calligraphic fragment includes a ruba'i (iambic pentameter quatrain), by the famous Persian poet Ḥāfiẓ (died 791/1388–89). Beginning with an invocation to God as the Glorified (huwa al-'aziz), the verses read: “Those who turn dust to gold by the gaze, / Could they also glance at me from the corner of (their) eyes? / Hiding my pain from pretentious doctors is better. / May they cure (me) from the treasury of the invisible.” Ḥāfiẓ uses the metaphor of al-kimiya (alchemy) to describe a man's painful and ardent desire to witness the realm of God, where earthly dust turns to heavenly, gold-like radiance. The text is executed in black nasta'liq script on a white-and-brown abri or ebru (marble) paper, cut out in cloud bands and outlined in red ink. The text is pasted to another sheet of paper decorated with gold sprinkles, provided with several (rather shoddy) frames, and pasted to a beige sheet backed by cardboard. In the lower-left corner, the calligrapher Muhammad Tahir has signed his work, while a later note in English on the fragment's verso attributes the work to a certain Tahir Lahuri. This is most likely Hafiz Muhammad Tahir Lahuri, a calligrapher of Qurʼans and other texts in Lahore during the 18th century. After the death of Aurangzeb (1618–1707), Mughal power was decentralized and royal patronage of calligraphy declined. New styles emerged in cities that included Lucknow, Hyderabad, and Lahore, where calligraphers such as Muhammad Tahir sought out patronage from local rulers. The same verses appear on another fragment in the collections of the Library of Congress written by 'Abdallah, a calligrapher also active in Lahore during the 18th century, thereby suggesting a relationship between the two pieces.

Last updated: April 27, 2016