۱۴th-century Persian poet Hafez a guide for today’s Iranian-Canadians

۱۴th-century Persian poet Hafez a guide for today’s Iranian-Canadians

Iranian engineer lectures on how renowned poet Hafez is viewed in the West

By Mary Wiens, CBC News Posted: May 13, 2017 5:00 AM ET Last Updated: May 13, 2017 5:00 AM ET


Nasser Kanani, an Iranian engineer better known for his expertise in electrochemistry: “If you believe that God has designed and engineered our world, then you will understand why Hafez refers to God as an engineer, a designer of our fate and our world.” (Ehssan Taghavi)

Mary Wiens
Journalist/ Producer | Metro Morning

Hafez, the 14th-century Persian poet, still draws a crowd, if the hundreds of Iranians gathering this weekend for several presentations are any evidence.

Nasser Kanani, an expert in electrochemistry, is the guest speaker, better known in engineering circles for his textbook on electroplating, rather than his recently-published two-volume study of the poet called Hafez and His Divan As Viewed By the West.

Unusual mix: Electrochemistry and poetry 

Electrochemistry and poetry aren’t your usual mix of engineering specialties but Kanani says the poems of Hafez transcend the boundaries between the sciences and literature.  

“Everybody believes that he has discovered Hafez for himself or herself,” said Kanani. “And the interpretation will be a never-ending proces .”


A painting of renowned Persian poet Hafez, who lived and died in the 14th Century

As an engineer, Kanani says Hafez gives his readers access to their unconscious mind.

“I am, by education, a scientist and engineer,” said Kanani. “But at the same time, I love music and literature beyond imagination. Somehow I don’t understand myself because on one hand, I think I am an analytical thinking man, but at the same time, I realize that I am following my feelings and my emotions more than my logic and my reason. And this confuses me a little bit.”

But for Kanani, Hafez clarifies these contradictions in himself.

The details of Hafez’s own life remain a mystery, said Kanani. He created 5,000 poems before dying in 1390 in Shiraz, Iran, where he lived all his life.

He was educated in Persian and Arab history and philosophy and Islamic theology. His poems were famous not just in Persia, but throughout the Middle East. Renowned for writing about love, it’s not known if Hafez ever married.

Turning to Hafez in crisis

Kanani says Iranians, along with many other Arabic and Persian speakers, turn to Hafez during moments of crisis or uncertainty, no matter what their background, education or status.

“You take his divan — the book of poetry — and try to concentrate your thought,” said Kanani. “And then you open the divan and read the poem where it opens and try to interpret it for you, yourself.”

Even engineers and scientists, says a smiling Kanani, will consult Hafez in a crisis, as he did when he was struggling to decide whether to stay at MIT to continue his research in fusion reactors, or to return to Germany to teach at a university in Berlin.

“I ask Hafez whether or not I should stay in America,” said Kanani. The book fell open to a poem that Kanani read as encouragement to return to Berlin. “I’m not saying I decided to do that just because Hafez told me,” said Kanani.  “But it was nice to ask him as a friend, as an old man, as a very wise man.”

In his lifetime, the poet’s homeland was ruled by Mongolian forces, whose brutal occupation is echoed today in the atrocities of the terror group, Daesh. The ironic tone of many poems by Hafez is regarded as a template for contemporary Iranian political satire

photo_2017-05-30_18-15-51 (2)

Many Iranians make a practice of “asking Hafez”, said author and engineer Nasser Kanani, when making a decision with far-reaching consequences. (Ehssan Taghavi)


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  1. با سلام و درود خدمت شما من در تورنتو زندگي ميكنم و تمايل دارم كلاسهاي شاهنانه خواني را بطور رايگان براي خصوصا نوجوانان راه اندازي كنم. در اين راه نياز به به همفكري و همكاري يك استاد و كسي كه شاهنامه بداند دارم. اگر جه بزودي اين كلاسها حتي بدون استاد و تنها از روي كتابهاي موجود برگزار خواهد شد ولي حضور يك فرد اگاه در اين زمينه بسيار اثر بخش تر خواهد بود بر روي نسل جوان ما. ايا كسي در تورنتو اگاه به شاهنامه ميشناسيد. سپاسگزار ميشم اگر معرفي بفرماييد.

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