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Khedmate Khaajeh
Soul-searching with Hafez Shirazi

June 17, 2001
The Iranian

Never had I felt such peace and calm. I had left my other self and all the baggage outside the gates. Internet, George Bush, Axis of Evil, immigration, Tehran, deed-o-bazdeed, traffic, heat ... all gone. For a short while.

I visited the tomb of Khajeh Shamseddin Mohammad Hafez Shirazi, in the heart of beautiful Shiraz. A mere 200 tomans (25 US cents) will get you inside those gates where all else seems like another dimension. For a few precious minutes, you feel peace and calm.

Hafez seems to be an integral part of most, if not all, Iranians. I can not remember a single trip, event, get-together, feast or funeral without some reference to Hafez. We grew up with him. We live with him.

I was a less than 3-years old when I last visited Hafez - a picture in front of his tomb with my cousin serves to remind me of that trip. That was 33 years ago (Noruz 1348 - March 21, 1969).

I sat for about an hour on the stairs adjoining the tomb and just watched. People came to visit and pray. They came to seek guidance. They seemed to worship him.

Since Hafez is not a religious figure, connecting with him does not require a certain set of rules and procedures. It is not a sin to touch his tomb. You can do as you will.

Some stood and watched. Others touched the stone and read a "faate-he" for him. Some had flowers for him. Others read from his Divan and hoped for a ray of his wisdom.

I could not help but shed a few tears for no particular reason. All that we are seemed to be summarized by him yet he does not restrict one to that summary. It was in front of him, Hafez, an everlasting family member, that you could bare your soul and leave behind all that is not you and just present your core.

He does not need your prayer, flowers or visits, yet he gracefully receives. He is in the heart of every Iranian in one form or another, worldwide.

It was a magical feeling. I felt whole. It came about literally out of the blue skies of Shiraz. Along with the warm rays of the sun and the singing of the birds. And the colorful cornucopia of "shamdooni" flowers all over his garden.

Pleasant music played on the loudspeakers, recitings of his poems. I traversed time and existence and felt detached from both. Memories paraded in front of my eyes yet all I could see were the flowers, his tomb, the people going up to visit, children tapping on his grave with their small hands and the singing of the birds. His presence, larger than reality, validated my existence.

My soul was cleansed from all that ought not be there.

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