Ruba'i of Ḥāfiẓ


This calligraphic fragment includes an iambic pentameter quatrain, or ruba'i, by the famous Persian poet Hafiz (died 791 AH/1388–89). 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.” Hafiz 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 framed by cloud bands on a beige paper covered in gold leaf. The gold leaf has crimped with age. The text panel is framed by several (rather messy) borders and is pasted to a larger sheet of paper backed by cardboard. Although the fragment is neither signed nor dated, a note in English on the fragment's verso attributes the calligraphy to a certain Abdallah Lahuri. This is most likely 'Abdallah Lahuri, a calligrapher active in Lahore during the 18th century. After the death of Aurangzeb (1618–1707), Mughal power was decentralized and royal patronage of calligraphy declined. The rise of new styles emerged in Lucknow, Hyderabad, and Lahore among other cities, where calligraphers such as 'Abdallah sought out patronage from local rulers. The same verses appear on another fragment in the collections of the Library of Congress written by Muhammad Zahir, a calligrapher also active in Lahore during the 18th century, thereby suggesting a relationship between the two pieces.

Last updated: April 27, 2016