The title of the novel is taken from a line from a seventeenth-century poem called “Kabul,” written by the Persian poet Saib-e-Tabrizi
One could not count the moons that shimmer on her roofs,
Or the thousand splendid suns that hide behind her walls.
Laila’s father quotes these lines as the family is about to leave the war-wracked city of Kabul to another land. Through the imagery of suns and moons, the lines evoke a feeling of timelessness and a connection to the mythology of ancient Persia, as well as a heavenly beauty that stands in poignant contrast with the rubble and blood of the city at war.
The moons and suns may be interpreted as the citizens of Kabul, with the male head of each household represented by a shimmering moon on its roof.
The reference to “a thousand splendid suns that hide behind her walls” likely refers to the women of Kabul, glowing beauties cloistered in hearth and home, tantalizingly hidden from the outside world but nonetheless providing vital life-giving warmth to Afghan society. The powerful image of women as “splendid suns” ties in with the author’s theme of women’s strength and importance to the Afghan society.