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Daniel Ladinsky's Rendition of Hafiz - From Quran to Poetry and Back (to Quran)

"Danny, all Hafiz did was to put the Quran into unique poetry. Hafiz wanted to reveal the heart and soul of the Quran to millions. He wanted God's beauty and love and divine freeing truths --- which were now a part of his own being -- to grace & bless the world for hundreds of years. Do everything you can to help Hafiz achieve that."
~ Eruch Jessawala to Daniel Ladinsky

Hafiz from the city of Shiraz perhaps is the most successfully poet who has used poetry to convey truths about the reality and our relation with the Real that earned him the name: "The Tongue of the Invisible." To Persians, thus the fourteenth century poems of Hafiz are not just classical literature from a remote past, but living presence of cherished love, distilled wisdom, and connection to the Ever Living.

The most beloved poet of Persia Shams ud Din Muhammad Hafiz (1320-1389) was born and spent most of his life in Shiraz. He lived at about the same time as Chaucer in England and about one hundred years after Rumi. The deeper realizations permeated in the poetry of Hafiz that so successfully touch the hearts of people regardless of the readers spiritual station or progress has to do with Hafiz being an enlightened spiritual master in both the exoteric and esoteric sciences of Islam. But above all Hafiz was gifted by God to become one of His Tongue. Daniel Landisky wrote, "People from many religious traditions share the belief that there are always living persons who are one with God. These rare souls disseminate light upon this earth and entrust the Divine to others. Hafiz is regarded as one who came to live in that sacred union, and sometimes in his poems he speaks directly to that experience."(1) Inayat Khan said "the words of Hafiz have won every heart that listens."

Now American born poet Daniel Ladinsky has done something extra-ordinary, something really courageous which can also be easily misunderstood by those who makes logic as the biggest idol in their mind. He has attempted to translate the spirit of Hafiz, he has attempted to translate Light encapsulated in the poetry of Hafiz and expressed them into words in contemporary American language.

The works of Daniel Ladinsky based on the works of Hafiz are not traditional translation from one language to another, changing the metaphor here and there. They are something else. I quote here Daniel Ladinsky himself on his work borrowing texts from a number of his books,

"It is a tremendous venture to translate an "untranslatable" masterpiece such as Hafiz's verse,  with its brilliant whirling synergy of idioms, especially into a language as spiritually young and evolving as English. I believe the ultimate guage of success is this: Does the text free the reader? Doe it contribute to our physical and emotional health? Does it put "golden tools" into our hands that can help excavate the Beloved whom we and society have buried so deep inside?"(2)

"I believe that the adoption of sanctified poetry from one culture to another, such as we are now witnessing on a large scale, heralds the next conscious step of evolution of the adopting language. True art evolves us - opens our arms and weakens our prejudices so that the ever-present seeds of healing and renewal can take root in our soul and sinew, cause joy."(3)

"The word translation comes from the Latin for "to bring across." My goal is to bring across, right into your lap, the wondrous spirit of Hafiz that lifts the corner of the mouth. I view this goal as a primary, no-holds-barred task. And I apologize for any language that may stop the beguine and not let the reader remain in Hafiz's tender strong embrace."(4) 

In the sacred tradition of Islam, through a well-known Hadith narrated by Umar Ibn Al Khattab, the Messenger of Allah said, ‘actions are only by intention, and every man has only that which he intended…’(5).

Daniel Ladinsky's intention / goal being bring across the spirit of Hafiz, and any sensible reader who have read the renditions of Hafiz by Daniel Ladinsky attest to the fact that he has done that so successfully.

There needs to be a different kind of bond and relationship before one can bring across spirit of an enlightened master or to translate Light into words, and that relationship between Hafiz and Daniel Landisky happened in an other-worldly fashion. This is how Daniel describe that experience:

"I feel my relationship to Hafiz defies all reason and is really an attempt to do the impossible: to translate Light into words — to make the luminous resonance of God tangible to our finite senses. About six months into this work I had an astounding dream in which I saw Hafiz an an Infinite Fountaining Sun, who sang hundreds of lines of his poetry to me in English, asking me to give that message to ‘my artists and seekers’"

Shams ud Din Muhammad is known as Hafiz because he memorized entire Qur'an to his memory. This is something which is still common among Muslims around the world. But its one thing to memorize the Qur'an and totally another thing to internalize it. Hafiz was successful in the both and thus his poetry was deeply inspired by the knowledge, message and wisdom of the Quran Itself.

Daniel Ladinsky's translation of Hafiz began by the grace and encouragement of a man by the name Eruch Jessawala who was one of the most dear and closest disciple of Meher Baba (Founder of Sufism Reoriented). Eruch was well knowledgable about the poetry of Hafiz and once he said to Daniel Ladinsky:

"Danny, all Hafiz did was to put the Quran into unique poetry. Hafiz wanted to reveal the heart and soul of the Quran to millions. He wanted God's beauty and love and divine freeing truths --- which were now a part of his own being -- to grace & bless the world for hundreds of years. Do everything you can to help Hafiz achieve that."

As I read more and more the renditions and translations of Hafiz by Daniel Ladinsky, different verses of the Qur'an will just pop into my mind or I will say to myself, Oh what Daniel just did in this poetry is one of the best way to say this or that particular verse of the Qur'an. The metaphors, the parables and the imagery that Daniel uses in his poetry are so brilliant and the way he will use those metaphors to build up climax and boom at the end you will just laugh or even weep either at the divine humour or because something just touched your heart right then - reading and enjoying them it came to me that the way Hafiz was distilling his poetry from the Quranic wisdom and inspirations, and unknowingly or unconsciously how Daniel was tuning into that, perhaps those connection with the Qur'an can be explored.

Meanwhile Daniel's wonderful friend and agent Nancy Burton did an extra ordinary thing. Knowing my love and appreciation for Daniel's work, she packed all of Daniel's books and sent to my address. They took quite sometime for they had to travel all the world, but finally when they reached, you can imagine my delight. The packed contained:

I Heard God Laughing
The Subject Tonight is Love
The Gift
Love Poems
The Purity of Desire.

I had the book "A Year With Hafiz" previously sent by Nancy as well. So with this full collection of delight at hand, I slowly started to read the renditions and lo and behold almost before reaching many of the poems, a Quranic Sign (Quran call its lines as Signs) will come to my mind and I began to write them down. Let me share some with you here. I have mostly used my teacher Shaykh Nooruddeen Durkee's translation Tajweedi Quran and also the Sahih International (from for the english version of the Qur'anic Signs.

These Poems are all from the Book, "THE GIFT." First I am mentioning the poem in full followed by the Quranic Sign.



Not like

A lone beautiful bird

These poems now rise in great white flocks

Against my mind's vast hills

Startled by God

Breaking a branch

When His foot



Near Me.

And here is the Quranic Sign that comes to mind almost spontaneously as I read the words:

ilayhi yasAAadu alkalimu attayyibu (Quran 35:10)

To Him ascends all words of purity... 


The violin
Can forgive the past

It starts signing.

When the violin can stop worrying
About the future

You will become
Such a drunk laughing nuisance

That God
Will then lean down
And start combing you into


When the violin can forgive
Every wound caused by

The heart starts 

walyaAAfoo walyasfahoo ala tuhibboonaan yaghfira Allahu lakum wallahu ghafoorunraheem (Quran 24:22)

They shall rather pardon and overlook. Would you not love Allah to forgive you? Allah is Ever-Forgiving, the Most Merciful. 


As a myriad things and
Playing a game
Of tag

Has kissed you and said,
"You're it-

I mean, you're Really IT!"

It does not matter
What you believe or feel

For something wonderful,

Major-league Wonderful
is someday going 


Falam taqtuloohum walakinna Allahaqatalahum wama ramayta ith ramayta walakinnaAllaha rama waliyubliya almu/mineena minhu balaanhasanan inna Allaha sameeAAun AAaleem (Qur'an 8:17)

And you did not kill them, but Allah killed them. And you did not throw when you threw, but rather it was Allah who threw, that He might test the faithful ones with a good test. Surely Allah is Ever Hearing, Ever Knowing.


So much from God
That I can no longer


A Christian, a Hindu, a Muslim,
A Buddhist, a Jew.

The Truth has shared so much of Itself 
With me

That I can no longer call myself
A man, a woman, an angel,
Or even pure

Love has 
Befriended Hafiz so completely
It has turned to ash

and freed 

Of every concept and image
My mind has ever known.

Huwa Allahu allathee lailaha illa huwa al-maliku al-quddoosu as-salamu al-mu'minu al-muhayminu al-AAazeezu al-jabbaru al-mutakabbiru. Subhana Allahi AAamma yushrikoon (59:23)

He is Allah , other than whom there is no deity, the Sovereign, the Pure, the Perfection, the Bestower of Faith, the Overseer, the Exalted in Might, the Compeller, the Superior. Exalted is Allah above whatever concept, form or image they associate with or imagine for Him.


No one could ever paint
A too wonderful

Of my heart

subhanaAllahi wataAAala AAamma yushrikoon (28:68 and many more)

Exalted is Allah and far above what they can compare with Him.

waAAlamoo anna Allahayahoolu bayna almar-i waqalbihi (28:68)

And know that Allah comes between man and his heart.


All this time
The sun never says to the earth,

"You owe

What happens 
With a love like that,
It lights the

Allahu nooru assamawatiwal-ardi mathalu noorihi kamishkatin feehamisbahun almisbahu fee zujajatinazzujajatu kaannaha kawkabun durriyyunyooqadu min shajaratin mubarakatin zaytoonatin lasharqiyyatin wala gharbiyyatin yakadu zaytuhayudee-o walaw lam tamsas-hu narun noorun AAalanoorin yahdee Allahu linoorihi man yashao wayadribuAllahu al-amthala linnasi wallahubikulli shay-in AAaleem. (24:35)

Allah is the Light of the heavens and the earth. The example of His light is like a niche within which is a lamp, the lamp is within glass, the glass as if it were a pearly [white] star lit from [the oil of] a blessed olive tree, neither of the east nor of the west, whose oil would almost glow even if untouched by fire. Light upon light. Allah guides to His light whom He wills. And Allah presents examples for humanity, and Allah is Knowing of all things.


I have made the journey into Nothing.
I have lit that lamp that
Needs no oil.


I have made the journey into Nothing.
I have become that flame that needs
No fuel.

zaytuhayudee-o walaw lam tamsas-hu (24:35)

The lamp... whose oil would glow even if no fire touches it.

And this last poem is not from the book "The Gift" but from "The Subject Tonight is Love."


Like two lovers who have become lost
In a winter blizzard

And find a cozy, empty hut
In the forest,

I now huddle everywhere
With the Friend.

God and I have built an immense fire

We keep each other happy
And warm.

wa Huwa maAAakum ayna makuntum (57:4)

With you is He, wheresoever you may be. 

Sadiq M. Alam
Paribagh, Dhaka


1. The Gift: Poems by Hafiz - Penguin Compass, 1999. pg 3

2. Ibid. pg 4

3. Ibid. pg 3

4. Ibid. pg 5

5. From Collection of Hadith, Bukhari and Muslim

# Further:

* Daniel Ladinsky, on his poetry, spiritual journey and intimacy with Hafiz



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Technology of the Heart: Daniel Ladinsky's Rendition of Hafiz - From Quran to Poetry and Back (to Quran)
Daniel Ladinsky's Rendition of Hafiz - From Quran to Poetry and Back (to Quran)
Daniel Ladinsky's works of Poetry, rendition of Hafiz and the Signs of the Quran that share a similar message.
Technology of the Heart
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