Khaje Shamseddin Mohammad Hafez-e Shirazi was born around 1325 C.E. in Shiraz, in south-central Persia. “Hafez” is a title given to those who memorize the Qoran. It is said that Hafez-e-Shirazi had done this in fourteen different ways. He memorized the Qoran by listening to his father's recitations of it. He also memorized many of the works of his hero, Saadi, as well as those of Attar, Rumi, and Nezami. Hafez’s father, a coal merchant, died when his son was in his late teens, leaving him and his mother with much debt. Hafez left day school to work in a drapery shop and later in a bakery. While still working at the bakery, Hafez delivered bread to a wealthy quarter of town and saw Shakh-e Nabat, a young woman of incredible beauty. Many of his poems are addressed to Shakh-e Nabat. Even after Hafez married, his love for Shakh-e Nabat continued, and she functioned in his poetry as the manifest symbol of her Creator's beauty.

While still in his mid-twenties, Hafez was appointed poet at the court of Abu Ishak and gained much fame and influence in Shiraz. This is the phase of spiritual romanticism in his poetry. In his late forties, after having fallen in and out of favor at court several times and having penned a number of protest poems, Hafez fled to Esfahan for his safety, and went into self-imposed exile for five years. His poems from this period speak of his longing for Shiraz, for Shakh-e Nabat, and for his spiritual master, Attar of Shiraz (not the famous Farid-eddin Attar of Neishabur, who predated Hafez by a couple of centuries). The poet’s exile ended when Shah Shoja relented, invited him to return to Shiraz, and reinstated him to his post. Hafez’s final phase as a poet was inspired by a vigil he undertook at age sixty. On the morning of the fortieth day of his vigil, which was also the fortieth anniversary of his acquaintance with Master Attar, he drank a cup of wine that Attar gave him and attained a state that he identified as cosmic consciousness, or God-realization. From that point until his death, Hafez composed more than half of his qazals (collection of five to twelve couplets) and continued to teach his small circle of disciples. His late poetry speaks with the authority of a master who is united with God.


Hafez died in 1389 C. E., in Shiraz.  His tomb, which is referred to as Hafezieh, is the primary destination of most visitors to Shiraz.