Thursday, November 27, 2008

Qasidah al-Burdah | Poem of the Mantle | the most-recited and celebrated single poem in human history

Green Dome of Medina Masjid al Nabi Mosque of Prophet1.
early 7th century, Medina,
Prophet's Mosque


It was the dawn prayer congregation at the Mosque of the Prophet in Medina where a poet by the name Ka'b joined that morning. Ka'b ibn Zuhayr was considered one of the most outstanding poet of his time and continued his poetic talent after his father, who was also one of the chief poet of his generation.

After much soul searching Ka'b has decided to take hand with Prophet Muhammad and submit to Divine submission (Islam). This is a man who earlier vociferously rejected the Messenger and the new message of unity and wrote satirical verses against the Prophet. In recent past he was a relentless and vocal offender of the Prophet.

Upon ending prayer Ka'b approached the Prophet and as he made his identity known Prophet Muhammad forgave him instantly. At that point Ka'b recited an ode that he had composed earlier to praise the qualities of Muhammad, the Messenger. It was in the traditional Bedouin style, splendid in diction and highly melodious, with many vivid descriptions of nature; but the gist of it was to ask forgiveness. When he finished, the Prophet drew off his famous stripped Yemeni cloak or mantle and threw it over the shoulders of the poet in recognition of his beautiful eloquence.

It's not surprising that Prophet Muhammad appreciated beauty in the eloquence of poetic expression. One of the famous saying of his is, "Divine is Beautiful and Loves what is Beautiful." Prophet Muhammad's elevated maqams (stations) include the maqam of ceaseless witnessing and affirming of the Jamal (Beauty) of God in all manifestations. May profound divine peace and blessings be upon his perfumed soul.

2.
About 650 years later Prophet Muhammad will bless another poet in the same manner by wrapping his mantle over the poet for his sincere and beautiful words; but this time it will happen in a magnificent dream and the baraka (blessing) of the Prophet will make the very poem the single most celebrated and known poem in any language in human history.

3.
12th century, Maghrib, Misr (Egypt)

Poet Busiri's name is well known not only in his own land but well beyond the continent for his elegance and unparalleled poetic talents. Due to his merit, in earlier part of his life he became a very successful poet patronized by royal courts and secretary of states of the land. Now coming towards more mature age his life took an unexpected turn. By a sudden stoke half of his body became completely paralyzed and the conditions only worsened by every day. Through his serious physical affliction coupled with a deeper spiritual aspiration Busiri turned inward whole-heartedly.

Invoking the help of Prophet Muhammad and his intercession, he fervently prayed to God the Almighty, with tears, repentance and sincerity of purpose, to grant him a speedy relief from the paralysis. With inspiration and love for the Prophet the poetic instinct of Busiri composed a tribute to the Prophet as a hymn (qasidah). He continued reciting the poem with ardent zeal again and again till he fell asleep. In his sleep state Busiri had the most amazing dream unlike any he had ever before.

In that magnificently lucid dream Prophet Muhammad appeared to him and asked Busiri to read the ode the poet wrote for him. When he said, "O Messenger! I wrote many eulogies for you; which one do you wish?" the Prophet indicated the last by reciting the first verse. While Busiri recited the ode, the Prophet listened with pleasure, swaying from side to side. Then as a sign of his approval and reward, the Prophet wrapped his famous mantle around the poet.

The dream came to an end.

Busiri woke up with profound joy. While pleasurably trying to gather the dream together, he realized that his paralysis had vanished, and he was astounded with happiness. Read from the account of the poet himself: "I was suddenly paralyzed down one side of my body by a stroke. I decided to compose this ode, the Burdah. I hoped that it would be a means unto Allah, by which He would cure me. So I recited it again and again, weeping, praying, and petitioning God. I fell asleep, and in a dream, I saw the Blessed Prophet. He moved his noble hand across my face, and placed his cloak upon me. When I awoke, I found that I had recovered my health."

The historical record of the incident continues and as Busiri woke up from the dream near the dawn, the time of morning prayer were approaching. He took ablution (muslim way of baptism before prayer) and started towards the mosque where he saw a sufi dervish. With much surprise to Busiri the dervish wanted to receive the ode he recited in the presence of the Prophet the night before.

Reciting the first line exactly, the dervish informed that he also witnessed it in a dream recited before the Prophet, who continued moving to and fro like a tender plant, as a mark of his approbation, and then invested the reciter with a 'Mantle'. Hearing the exact description of the dream Busiri gave him the poem. The report of this incident spread out and soon enough the poem would famously be called "Qasidah al-Burdah" or "The Poem of the Mantle".

4.
Full name of Imam Busiri was Abu Abdallah Sharafuddin Muhammad ibn Sa'id ul-Busiri (1211–1296). He was born and lived in Egypt. He himself was a sufi shaykh in the lineage of Shadhiliyya school of sufism. He was a disciple of Imam Abul 'Abbas al-Mursi who was a Khalifa of Imam Abul Hasan ash-Shadhdhuli, the epitome founder of Shadhdhuli sufi order. Busiri and Ibn Atallah as-Iskandari were contemporary and both were student of Abul 'Abbas. May God be pleased with them all.

Originally titled as al-Kawākib ad-Durrīya fī Madh Khayr al-Barīya ("Celestial Lights in Praise of the Best of Creation"), the ode of praise for Prophet Muhammad is more famously known throughout the world as Qasidah al-Burdah (also written as Qasida Burda) or "Poem of the Mantle" because of the blessed dream of the Prophet and his mantle incident associated with the poem. In sufi tradition the symbology of giving someone or blessing someone with personal cloak / mantle is very deep. Often time its associated with highest transmission of wisdom, permission, appraisal and approval.

5.
the single most popular poem in any language

"Historians look at the Burdah, we very soon realize that what we are dealing with is very probably the most influential and the most popular single poem in the history of any language. there simply is no other text from ancient or recent times that has been done in so many languages, not just for some rarefied literary elite but for the people..." - Timothy J. Winter (Abdal Hakim Murad), Cambridge University, UK

Qasida Burdah as a poem has had a unique history. Even in the poet's lifetime it was already regarded as sacred. Over 90 commentaries have been written on this poem by many of the foremost scholars and imams of Islam, including Ibn Hajar, Mulla Ali al-Qari, Ibn Allan, Bajuri, and others. It has been translated into Persian, Urdu, Turkish, Berber, Punjabi, English, French, German, Sindhi, Dutch and other languages. It is recited across the world in sacred ceremonies, mosques, on blessed days even in social gatherings such as marriage etc. The poem is memorized and recited in congregations, and its verses decorate the walls of public buildings and mosques.

From coasts of Senegal to the Philippines, from Russia to South Africa, everywhere Qasida Burdah is recited as a token of love for the Prophet and to ask for blessings. In some circles it is a major and regular practice to recite the Burdah. In Indonesia for example, its a normal routine for the students of religious training to read Burdah on the Friday morning after sunrise or Saturday afternoon. Some having it thrice a week while others may have it the whole week in the early morning. In Java, Burdah is one of their Spiritual Culture.

6.
composition of the Burdah

The Burda is divided into 10 chapters and 160 verses. Each verse ends with the Arabic letter mīm, a style called mīmīya. The 10 chapters of the Burda comprise of Love Yearning for the Prophet, Warnings about the Caprices of the Self, the Praise of the Prophet, his Birth, his Miracles, the Exalted Stature and Miraculous Merits of the Qur'ān, the Ascension of the Prophet, the Chivalrous Struggle of God's Messenger, Seeking Intercession through the Prophet and Intimate Discourse and the Petition of One’s State.

In its ten chapters, the Burda, in essence a madih (loving praise of the Prophet Muhammad) and mawlid (Prophet’s lifestory), expresses the core values, meanings, and sentiments of Islam. Most commonly performed as inshad (musical recitation), especially on the occasion of the Prophet’s birth (12 Rabia al-Awwal), in Sufi rituals, or other devotions, the Burda became the most widely-recited poem in the Muslim world.

7.
miraculous power of the Burdah

The Qasida Burda is revered to both orthodox traditional muslims as well as mystical path oriented sufis. Up to the present time its verses are used as amulets. The Burda is credited with extraordinary spiritual therapeutic and protective power (baraka) stemming from its author’s personal relation to the Prophet (recitation, and miraculous cure), and is believed capable of reproducing such a relation for others who recite it. To some sufi account it is narrated that if one recite the Burdah with pure intention and love for 10 days, one will meet the prophet in one's dream by God's permission. Many have their share of experiences of miracles after reading the Burdah or attending a gathering where Burdah is recited.

8.
the start and the end of the journey is Love

Qasidah Burdah, the ode was originally composed and recited out of deep love for the Prophet - the same tradition continues by those who preserve it. In spiritual tradition, the teacher of the time is the axis of attraction and Prophet Muhammad is the Last Messenger (till the end time before the arrival of second coming of Christ) and Seal of the sacred brotherhood of all messengers of God. He is the pinnacle and pole (Qutub) of all poles. On the rank of the Prophet Muhammad, Rumi wrote: 'Now, you should know that Muhammad is the leader and guide. As long as you don't come to Muhammad first, you won't reach us (saints and friends of God). Jesus is the comrade of Moses and Jonah is the comrade of Joseph, but Muhammad sits alone, 'distinct'. Love is the ocean of deep spiritual meaning, and everyone in the ocean is like a fish. And Muhammad is the pearl in the ocean. Look! I keep revealing this!'

In Islamic path, the love for the Prophet is a pivotal station which every seeker of truth strive to arrive. Quran speaks of it (3:31): "Say (O Muhammad), if you do love God, follow me, God will love you (in return) and forgive." A saying of the Prophet in paraphrase: None of you will enter the mystery of iman (conviction to reality) until I am more beloved to him than his own family, wealth and all the people.

Love is the path and road of our Prophet.
- Rumi

Loving the Prophet is a pathway to open the heart and a signpost towards the divine love. All praise and sending blessing to the Prophet is motivated out of only one cause, which is to be able to generate that pure love in the heart which purifies the being and elevate its human status.

"He (God) loves them and they love Him"
- The Quran 5:54

He who loves Me, knows Me,
and He who knows Me, finds Me.
- traditional sufi saying

There are many virtues and miracles of reading the Burdah but the ultimate aim for one who recites it out of love is to provide the heart with a compass to find the pure love (mahabba) with beloved Prophet Muhammad,who is the Seal and bearer of message of unity.

Grab the cloak of Muhammad, the Messenger,
and hear the call to prayer of Love
every moment from the soul of Bilal.
- Rumi

9.
Qasidah al-Burdah: Online resources

. Audio of the Burdah Shareef
. Qasida Burda by Fez Singers

. A video introducing Qasida al-Burdah of Imam Busiri
A documentary on Shaykh Hamza Yusuf's production of Imam al-Busiri's "The Burda" or "The Poem of the Cloak", an incredibly powerful poem that is famous across the world. Includes commentary by Shaykh Hamza, Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad, and Daniel Abdal Hayy Moore.

[>] Youtube videos with translation: Urdu Qawwali styled, Qasida Burdah Nasheed, al-Burda a beautiful recitation

. Qasidat al-Burdah: An Analogy of Arabic and Urdu Poems by Syed Mohiuddin Qadri
. Full english translation and original arabic text

[>] Audio Samples of the Burdah recitation:
1. Imam Jilani
2. Qasida by Junaid Jamshed
3. Qasida Burdah by Fez Singers
4. Jalwa e Jana by Junaid Jamshed
5. Tunisian Burdah, Indonesian Burdah, Morrocan Burdah
6. More Audios of Qasida Burdah


# Reference:
1. Muhammad: His Life based on the Earliest Sources by Martin Lings
2. Qasidat al-Burdah: An Analogy of Arabic and Urdu Poems by Syed Mohiuddin Qadri
3. Qasida al-Burdah @ wikipedia

.. (picture) the chest that preserves the cloak of the Prophet, chamber of sacred relics, Topkapi Museum, Turkey


# Further: . Complete Burdah in Arabic Script (pdf) . Translation of the Burdah and other resources
. Recitations of Qasida Burdah
. Qasida Burda Hadra @ Osmanli Naksibendi Dergah
. Qasida al-Burdah explanations
. Burdah Night @ Zaytuna
. Qasida Burdah in Arabic

# Related:
. Prophet Muhammad and Poetry appreciation
. Habib Allah: The Mystery of beloved one of Allah
. dreaming the Prophet

.. (photo) the resting place of Imam Busairi in Cairo, Egypt


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