Ambassador of the Islamic Republic of Iran Mohommad Zaeri Amirani, University of Colombo Head of Economics Department Prof. Abeyratne, Pathfinder Foundation Executive Director Siriwardena with keynote speaker Dr. Omid Hamedani, Sri Lankan panellists and Iranian academics
The ‘Hafez Centre for Cultural Understanding’ (HCCU) of the Pathfinder Foundation, in collaboration with the Embassy of Iran, organised a Roundtable to commemorate the Hafez Day on Friday at the Iranian Cultural Center. The theme of the Roundtable was ‘Peace, Tolerance, Coexistence and Solidarity, according to Hafez School of Thought’, which was a very timely and a relevant topic in the context of present Sri Lanka.
Khwaja Shams-ud-Din Muhammad Hafez-e Shirazi, known as Hafez or Hafiz, was a Persian poet of early 14th century. Born in the city of Shiraz, Hafez was a natural poet, who gained patronage of a succession of rulers and wealthy noblemen.
He worked as a court poet and a college professor at a religious college founded by one of his benefactors. It is widely known that in the 14th-century city of Shiraz, poets composed, scholars studied, mystics sought hidden truths and ascetics prayed and fasted. That was the world of Hafez, a classical poet, who remains popular not only in his native Shiraz and in modern day Iran, but also among all who love poetry. His highest rated literary work is ‘Divan of Hafiz’.
The keynote speaker at the Roundtable was Dr. Omid Hamedani, an expert in Persian language and literature from the prestigious Ferdowsi University in Mashhad, Iran. Dr. Omid Hamedani shed light and reconstructed the idea of tolerance in the poetic world of Hafiz, taking a holistic approach.
Using his in-depth understanding of the work of Hafez, he expounded on the world view of the great poet, using elaborative examples to explain that he believed that Hafez was not Sufi. He highlighted the facts pertaining the poet and his literary work:
Hafez had given negative undertones to words that his society had given positive undertones and vice versa, which bore immense social significance during his time, and is one of the most striking features of his work to date
He had an element of scepticism concerning human life and death which is demonstrated by what he said. He said that human existence is “like a riddle no one can unravel” and that “sorrow will turn into cups of wine”
Hafez was also pictured as a multidimensional entity, possessing material, sensual and spiritual needs. The poet also expressed the thought that “man is like an animal”
Through his works, he conveyed the view that life must be lived to the fullest, in authenticity, without hypocrisy. The idea that human beings should accept their true nature was also embedded in the above concept
Hafez defined God as absolute and beyond conceptualisation. He said that human race “not seeking the path of truth and reality, went astray”. In this case, Dr. Hamedani interpreted that Hafez world view gives light to the understanding that all religious groups and definitions of God was a fragment of human imagination, and no group should suppress another, promoting the idea of tolerance, that people have the liberty to choose the type of life they want.
Former Sri Lankan Ambassador to Islamic Republic of Iran Omar Kameel spoke on the coexistence and communal harmony in Sri Lanka and how all ethnicities depend on each other in their day-to-day life. He also mentioned that diversity of culture, faith, tradition beautify Sri Lanka, and is advantageous to the island, adding aroma like a bouquet of flowers with variety.
Pathfinder Foundation Director K.D. Liyanage in his presentation revealed certain similarities between ancient Sri Lankan Kingdom and Persian Kingdom. He described many facts that depict Sri Lanka was a contemporary civilisation.
In his detailed presentation, he explained that contemporary civilisations were inter connected through highways spread from Greece to China. Persia is renowned for owing the first highway of the world called ‘Royal Road’ which is linked to Silk Route from East to West. The Royal Road and the Silk Route had helped immensely to the flourishment of trade and the exchange of culture, customs, religion and philosophy.
Avicenna institute for Global Learning Chairman Madani stated that God who is absolute truth is based on two things, namely, love and detachment and highlighted how both these concepts tie into the notion of tolerance. The complexities of globalisation, he explained has given birth extremism and terrorism.
One of the keys of fighting this was through promotion of Hafez’s teachings on tolerance and peaceful coexistence through love towards humanity. Unconditional love, he said, helps people to build themselves in an atmosphere that is destroyed by extremism and radicalism.
He also expressed that as long as one knows who they worship, where they worship is irrelevant but what is important is love without hypocrisy. He also mentioned a study by late Prof. Iman from the University of Peradeniya who had conducted an extensive research on the role of Serendib in Persian Literature.
Pathfinder Foundation fellow Prof. Sirimal Abeyratne chaired and moderated in the roundtable discussion. Hafez was an influential poet only in Middle East but also in Asia and Europe. The senior professor explained the significant role played by language as an effective and a powerful tool to achieve peace, which was especially true, in the case of a skilful poet such as Hafez because through his literary work he was able to change hearts, history, nations and circumstances.
The objective of the roundtable was to promote cultural understanding between Iran and Sri Lanka and to offer a fresh perspective to the teachings of Ḥāfeẓ-e Shīrāzī, who had created a rich multifaceted poetic world.