University of Cambridge

The Message of Imam Al-Busiri's Qasida Burda

The message of Imam al-Busiri’s Qasida Burda

Y.A. KHAMISSA

“…God said: ‘wait Muhammad, for thy sake I shall create paradise, the world, and a great multitude of creatures, whereof I make thee a present, in so much that whoso shall bless thee shall be blessed and whoso shall curse thee shall be cursed’…”

 (Gospel of Barnabas ch.97.)

A critical appreciation of the Burda.

 Abdul Hakim Murad (formerly Dr Timothy J Winter) of Cambridge University, UK, makes the following reference to Qasida Burda:-

  “…,we very soon realise that what we are dealing with is probably the most influential and most popular single poem in the history of any language…”

Qasida (arabic) etymologically means neck ,symbolizing communication–the brian sends messages to all parts of the body, but terminologically it refers to the arabic poem, usually in monorhyme, that may be satirical, elegiac, threatening or laudatory. Qasida was often panegyric written in praise of a king or nobleman. This kind of Qasida is known as madih meaning praise. Burda (arabic) means mantle. It is an ode of praise for the Prophetﷺ. There are two popular Burda viz. the “Banat Suád” composed by Ka’b ibn Zubair, who lived in the era of the Prophetﷺ and that composed by al- Busiri originally entitled as “Al-Kawakib ad-Durriya fi madh khayr al-Barriya“( “Celestial Lights in praise of the best creation”). The name was changed to “Qasida Burda” (poem of the mantle) because of his blessed dream of the Prophetﷺ and the mantle incident associated with it.

 It can be safely said that al-Busiri’s Qasida Burda is the poetization par excellence of historical data of the Prophetﷺ. Also, it underscores the esoteric aspects of the Prophetﷺ.The verses of the Burda adorned the Rowza Mubarak for many centuries until the anti-sufi and Salafi based Saudi dynasty defaced them(excepting for two verses).

 The manuscripts of the Burda from al-Busiri’s time down to the present printed editions when compared furnish overwhelming evidence of its authencity.

It is  always insisted that the Burda cannot be literally translated because in each line(verse) much is comprehended.I have amended  verses(adding, diminishing and substituting words) to bring out al-Busiri’s sense(I hope) in polished english.In vv 33;35;86;&158 I could not resist the temptation to resort to enjambment.

In Stetkevych’s accusation of al-Busiri’s Burda as polemics there is a tincture of malice. At the time of his Burda he was too great a master of his art to make a blot which may so easily be hit.The Burda lends to the expansion of knowledge and its purpose is not to alter beliefs.

The Burda’s meter and rhyme (both bereft in the present work) create an alluring sweet music when recited. It is easy to argue that al-Busiri’s Burda is one of the best poems of the world .Its language is very expressive, comprehensive & rhetorical.The poem is full of beautiful images, subtle allusions and  symbolism. al-Busiri’s  training in rhetoric is very much in evidence. It is not an exaggeration when it is said that the Burda is the most memorised and the most recited poem in the world, considering its rehearsal on many occasions.

The source of virtue (morality plus piety) of the Burda is Sufism. Also, sufism underpins Burda’s cosmos;the second half of v.33 may be a clue to Busiri’s cosmology.

I have closely studied atleast seven translations (premeditating in macro- perspective each verse and always vigil that I am faithful to the original) to obtain the quintessence of each verse.

The Burda glows like a gem(i.e.its message) enchased in gold(i.e. its  consummate artistry).

 

 

About the author- Al Busiri

The Mamluk period poet Shariatul Din Muhammad al-Busiri was born in Abusir or in Dilas,Egypt.His family was originally from Morocco but he grew up at Busir where he derived his name from (al-Busiri). He was born on 1st Shawwal 608 A.H (7th March 1213). al-Busiri’s poems were collected in his Diwan. This work contains   over fifty poems employing a range of rhymes and meters as well as various literary devices (badi) for clever word plays.

He had many children, a difficult wife and his financial position was insecure and lead an impoverished life. In fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence), he followed the Shafiite school of law.

Towards the end of his life, al-Busiri left his job at the court (see v.142) and lived in Bait-al-Muqadis for over a decade and in Medina for some time. In addition to being a poet, al-Busiri was also a fine calligrapher.

al-Busiri made exntensive scholarly studies on the religions of the world .He read the Hebrew Bible,New Testament,etcetra and his research studies included an immence body of exegetical literature. He showed that the Gospels do not endorse that Jesus is God and that it contained signs of the advent of Prophet Muhammadﷺ.He also pointed out that the Hebrew Bible falsely accuses the Jewish Prophets(God bless them all) of gross obscenenities.

Ironically, though the Burda is divinely sung and revered for hundreds of centuries by a very large number of people there is a dearth of information on its author. 

The anomalous accounts of his life can be harmoniously explained by a timeline framework of reference (i.e. after taking to sufism he became a good muslim).

According to Suyuti he died in 695 A.H (1294-5). He was buried in Alexandria, Egypt. His tomb is near to that of Imam al- Shafi.

 

 

 

 

 

al-Busiri—the enlightened sufi_

al-Busri was drawn towards sufism and joined the Shadhili order under the guidance of  Shaik Abbas al Musri in Alexandria. He underwent a spiritual awakening. He changed his ways as a misanthrope and as a generally unpleasant person.

In the sufi (the best authorities on his life and works) hagiographies, al- Busri is painted as a saint like figure who had reached the high spiritual station of al-ghawthiyyah al – kurba. When he would walk down the street, the young and old would come to greet him and shake his hand. His body was said to have emitted a sweet scent and he wore fine clothes, had a head of snow white hair, a humble smile, was aesthetic in his lifestyle and had a respectable and virtuous character. The callous Kilani’s contribution is negative.

 

 

The composition of the Burda

al-Busri narrated the miraculous circumstances of his inspiration to write the Burda.

He said:

‘’I had composed poems of praise to the Messenger, (God bless him and give him peace), among them those that al-Sahib Zayn al –Din Yaqub ibn al Zubayr had suggested to me. Then it happened after that I was stricken with hemiplegia that left me half paralyzed, so I thought of composing this Burda poem, and I did so. And with it I asked for intercession with Allah the Exalted for Him to forgive me, and recited it over and over again, and wept and prayed and entreated (see verse V.82).

Then, when I had fallen asleep, I saw the Prophet (God bless him and give him peace). He stroked my face with his blessed hand, then threw a mantle over me. When I awoke, I found my health restored, so I rose and went out of my house, and I had not told a soul about this. Then a sufi mendicant met up with me and said to me,” I want you to give me the poem which you praised the Messenger (Peace be upon him)”. “Which one?” I replied. “The one you composed when you were sick” he said, and recited the beginning of it and he continued, “By Allah, I heard it yesterday night when it was recited before the Messenger of Allah (God bless him and give him peace) who swayed with delight at it, and threw a mantle over the one who recited it”. So I gave it to him, and the sufi mendicant mentioned this and the dream became widely known.”

The blessings (barakah) inherent in this poem has been proved or established by the poet’s miraculous cure. Its talismanic uses, too, can be understood as a further extension and application of the same principle. In the Egyptian scholar Ibrahim ibn Muhammad al- Bajuri ‘s(d.1860) Hashiyah (gloss) of al-Busairi’s Burda we read the talismanic properties of the verses and the method of their application.  There is a manuscript now housed in Berlin that records the special talismanic properties of the Burda verses (Khawassal Burda) compiled by Ibn Abdal Samad (d.1262).

The 19th century Turkish mufti and Sufi al-Kharputi also positively discussed the efficaciousness of the verses of the Burda as a tool for healing and protection and also for inducing visions of the Prophet ﷺ. This book can be translated as, “The sweet paste of the honeycomb: A commentary of the Burda” (1844).

 

 

Translations of the Burda

 

There are a large number of translations of the Burda both in Muslim languages and in English. Jami (d.1492) translated the poem in Persian in the 15th century. It was translated into Malay in the 16th century. In Turkish, chief judge KemL-Passa Zade’s (d.1534) translation is well known.

The first English translation appeared in 1881 by James W.Redhouse. The English translation by the european Hamza Yusuf has been described by the scholar Rose Aslan as, “—truly a rare feat among translations of poetry in any language.”

Translations into European languages began in 1771 with the Latin version of Johannes Uri. The first German translation was by Rosen Zweig –Schwanau followed by C.A Ralf’s posthumous translation. The great french orientalist Sylvestre de Sacy translated the poem into French in 1822. The french scholar Rene Basset’s translation (1894), “La Burda du cheik al Busiri”gives a useful commentary and explains many of the allusions in which Burda abounds. In Chinense,Ma An-Li’s three volumes translation and the commentary was published in Shanghai in 1890.

 

 

The structure and contents of the Burda

al-Busri’s Burda is an arabic panegyric ode (qasida- al- madih) of the supplicatory variety–the Prophetﷺ is the mamduh to whom the poet is pleading for his intercession on Judgement Day.

The structure of Burda is largely traditional in nature, following the established pattern of the classical arab poets. However the division of the Burda into the thematic sections is a departure from traditional pattern. Criticism of the Burda has always recognised its superlative artistry. It is mono-rhymed in mim  (therefore called mimiyah) and in the meter al -Basit (Mustalfilun failun).

It consists of 161 verses (see note.54) separated into two hemistiches by a caesura–I have ignored the caesura. It is divided into ten sections, comprising(not based strictly on subject matter):

12 verses (lines) on lyrical love yearning (precisely ten on love and two referring to epicureanism)

16 verses on warnings about the passions of the self and its remedy.

31 verses on the essence of the Prophetﷺ (Madih Rasoolillah)

12 verses on the nativity of the Prophetﷺ (Mouloodin-nabi)

20 verses on the miracles and the exalted stature of the Prophetﷺ.

14 verses on the merits of the Quran.

13 verses on the ascension of the Prophetﷺ (Miraj-un-Nabi).

22 verses on the chivalrous struggle of Allah’s Messenger(Jihadin-Nabie)

12 verses on seeking intercession through the Prophetﷺ

9 verses on intimate discourse and petition of his state.

Interspersing the verses is the refrain (translated), “My Master , descend peace and blessings continuously and eternally on your beloved, the best of creation.”

It is recited after every verse or at least after every section.

The ode begins with al-Busiri soliloquizing (talking to oneself) his tales of woes of separation from his beloved whose identity is not disclosed.  By using symbols of references such as Zee Salam, Kazima, willow’s (fragrance) and mount (Hira) we realise that the loved one is none other than Habibullah, “God’s Beloved”.

 

Line one reads:

“Was it the memory of those you loved at Zee Salam that tears mingled with blood are trickling down from the corners of your eyes? “

Line seven reads:

” (I repeat), tears and lovesickness has borne witness to it; the two streaks upon your wetted cheeks caused by the flow of tears that are as red as the ‘arum’ fruit, and a face pallid with death to come. “

The poet condemns the waywardness of his ego’s desires. He lays out the way in which one can engage in ones struggle with the ego (self) but reverts to self-abasement.

 

 

Line 26 reads:

“I seek God’s forgiveness for my saying what I do not do;

It is (as tho’) I’ve claimed a sterile man has (biologically) issue.”

 

 

 

Line 27 reads:

“I preach the practice of virtue to you while not practicing it myself;

 I did not keep to it, what then can be the sequel of my telling you to keep it?”

 

He compares his sinful self with that of the impeccable person  of the sinless Prophetﷺ until he delves into an all-out Madih of the Prophetﷺ and his perfect attributes and his sublime qualities, and then goes on to narrate the biography of the Prophet’s life, starting with his miraculous birth.

 

 

 Line 29 reads:

 “I have disregarded the example of the Exemplarﷺ whose holy feet were swollen and bled due to his continuous standing at night in prayer.”

Line 30 reads:

 “Over his hallowed belly and soft skin he placed a stone, a girdle binding over it to alleviate his cumulative hunger— not by constraint but by choice.”

Line 31 reads:

“Lofty mountains proffered to enrich him by turning to gold,

But his nonchalance consented not for the offer.”

al-Busiri describes the Prophet’s miracles (muajizat) that establish his Prophethood and sanctity.  Then al-Busiri narrates incidents of the Prophet’s protecting others in time of need, giving relief to the desperate and how he hopes for his presence and protecting care.

 

 

 

 

 Line 86 reads:

 ” How many patients were healed by his hands’ touch?!

 How many madmen did he release from their chains?!

(How many men duped by sorcery did he redeem?)”

Then al-Busiri revolves anxious(zealous) thoughts on the deep wisdom of the inimitable Quran. The poem then turns to review the Ascension (Miraj), the climax of the Prophet’s career, in which he was conveyed from the mosque of Jerusalem up through the seven heavens into the Divine Presence.

 

Lines 108 & 109 reads:

V.108 “You traversed by night from one Haram to another Haram just as the full moon’s flight through the darkness of the night.”

V.109 ” And throu’ the night you ascended until you gained a stage of Two Bow’s length or even nearer never reached or in the mind’s eye of any.”

Returning from the Miraj, heﷺ risks life and limb by heroically defending his people against the pagans who have attacked their refuge in Medina (Battle of Badr).

Line 119 reads: “News that he was coming (to battle) made the foe tremble,

 Just as an when unfed lion’s roar havocing a soft flock of sheep dumb with fear.”

 

Line 127 reads:

 “She (i.e. muslim ummah) was always taken care of by the Prophetﷺ as her most affectionate sire and as her consort so that no longer she was an orphan and a widow.”

Lines 136 and 137 reads:

 V.136 “And the person who has the help of the Prophetﷺ with him,

 Even if unfed the lions meet him in their den, they humbly yield tßo him.”

  V.137 “And you will never find any friend of the Prophetﷺ who is not assisted by him;

And no foe of his friend wins.”

al-Busiri then laments his transgressions and yearns for the Prophet’s intercession on the Day of Judgement.

He knows that given his ruinous and repeated sins, only God can save him and so addresses the Prophetﷺ, whose prayers and intercessions are, as the Quran and hadith assure us, to be the surest mediator with God.

 

Line 153 reads:

“O most noble of Messengers! To whom but you may I obtest for clemency?

When the dreaded Day of Judgement comes?”

Line 160(salutation to the Prophetﷺ) reads:

V.160 “From You (O Allah) let a cloud of constant blessings rain upon the Prophetﷺ, for ever coming down.”(see comment on  v.160).

 al-Busiri ends the poem with a brief allusion to the arabian scenery with which he began,thus:

 

 “For as long as soft the east wind stirs the willow branches and till the camel driver rejoices his dromedaries with song.”(v.161)

 

 

Notes:

 1.The Salaafi should read v.80 (referring to the Prophetﷺ and Abu Bakr(R.A.) in the cave of Thawr) and the penultimate v.160(see above, salutation to the Prophetﷺ) before laying the charge of shirk on the Burda. Also, on this score v.51 is clear.

 

V80. reads: “God’s guardianship made arts and arms needless,

Neither did they need high castles.”

 

V.51 reads: The most we know of him is that he is human,

And that he is the best of creation.

 

2.It is an apriori assumption that the superlative qualities of the Prophetﷺ were bestowed by Allah upon him,and NOT through his self.

 

3.In al-Busiri’s philosophy Heaven and Hell are a reality and not figments of an imagination.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The translation of the Burda.

                                                                              Section One

Prophetic Nasib (elegiac  prelude); lyrical love yearning (Vv.1-12)

1.Was it the memory of those you loved at Zee Salam

That tears mingled with blood are trickling down from the corners of your eyes?

 

2.Or is it due to the gentle breeze arising from precincts of Kazima?

Or the lightning that flashed in the darkness of Idam?

 

                     3.What has happened to your eyes?

The more you ask them to cease weeping, the more (sanctimonius) tears they shed.

And what about your heart set on fire?

The more you quench its (golden) flames the more it soars high.

 

              4.Reckons the  (blessed )lover that his love shall not be unfolded(to all and sundry – see v.10),

   When tears run down his cheeks profusely and the manifestation of his visaged

Pallidness(both signalling his ardent love of the Prophetﷺ).

              5.But for love, you wouldn’t weep at an abandoned camp, 

              Nor lie awake at night recalling the willow’s (fragrance) and mount (Hira)

  6 .So how can you deny  your love,

When two witnesses of tears and lovesickness have testified against you?                                                                                        

 

 

 7. (I repeat), tears and lovesickness has borne to it: – the two streaks upon your wetted cheeks 

 Caused by the flow of tears that are as red as “anum” fruit ( see V.1) and a face pallid with

 Death to  come.

{In the above soliloquy of seven verses the poet is reassuring himself of his genuine love for the Prophetﷺ}.

 In the following verse(8) he concludes his self-evaluation:

 

8. O!  yes , my loved one’s holy thoughts haunted me, and denied me sleep;

For love ever obstructs pleasures with pain.

 

For a note on Verses 1-8, see commentary to V. 55 below

9. You who unjustly find fault with me for this chaste ‘n holy  love , please listen!

Had you known the ( blessed )source of my strange predicament,

 You would not have reproached me at all!

 

10. Slumberless  pinioned  rumour now divulges my strange predicament;

Ah! I cannot hide my disposition.

My sickness will not leave me.

 

(The poet is separated from the Prophetﷺ by his profanity and therefore the poet decries the waywardness of his ego’s desires)

11. Your advice (to do good deeds) is indeed good,

But of no avail when I am negligent.

Verily, a lover (in the grip of the wild follies of youth and all—v.143) plays by ear the reprovals

 Converging at him.

12. Even the advice of grey- haired persons I held suspect,

 Tho’ grey- haired person is furtherest of all reproaches from suspicion.

 

 

 

Section Two

About the passions of the ego (self) and guiding them through logos(reason), Vv. 13-23.

 

13. My ill urging ego out of foolishness has paid no heed to the warnings

From the harbingers of grey-hair and riper  years.  

(Grey -hair and riper years are a reminder of man’s mortality and harbinger of death.)

 

14. I did not prepare fair deeds in hospitable welcome

 For a guest (grey- hair) who has taken up residence on my head.

(The poet is ashamed of his arrested moral development and for having clung to the things of the world, “the follies of youth” (V.143) rather than having prepared a store of good deeds for the “guest” (grey- hair) and for the life to come. Vv.13-14 thus  signal a moral and emotional transition.)

 

15. Had I known that I could not honour this guest, I should have tried to veil his arrival,

Now overt, by means of a sanguine dye (see v.7—red  ”anum”  fruit is used in the making of a red dye).

 16. Is there anyone who can control my wayward self,

 As the reins of a horse which curbs its movements?        

 

17. Do you deem you can lull the ego’s odious  avariousness  by  satisfying it ?

Food only increases a gormandizer’s raging appetite!

(note:  lines 17 and 18 are not seamless, read them jointly.)

18. The ego is like a child: now you allow it reprieve , it won’t outgrow its love of suckling,

 Now you wean it, it will stop,now.

19. Pull in the reins of your high desires of the self, lest you allow it mastery over you,

 For where passion reigns, it brings a mortal blow to or tarnishes the character.

 

20.Be circumspect over it as it grazes in the field of its activities(see next verse,21);.

And let it serve the hard apprenticeship of the war against self.

21. Many a delight has it (self/ego) sanctioned which proves fatal,

 Not knowing that the fat contains venom.

22. Be on guard against the pernicious projects of  ravenousness  (extreme hunger)

And  of  gormandism;

 And many times famish maw is a more successful  wile  than  gluttony.

(The Prophetﷺ said: Poverty is conducive to infidelity).

23. Purge (Cleanse) with your tears the eyes feasted with the sight of things forbidden,

 And adhere to a strict diet of repentance.

24. Disobey the ego (self) and the ( dire) fiend;

 Dispute with them;

Do you think you can trust them both?–they  are trained snakish  tricksters!

25. Don’t let them play judge or litigant in your (decision making), for you know the tricks

 That judge (dire devil) and litigant (desires of the self) play.  

26. I seek God’s forgiveness for my saying what I do not do;

Its (as tho’) I’ve claimed a sterile man has (biologically) issue.

27. I preach the practice of virtue to you while not practising it myself;

 I did not abide by it, what then can be the sequel of my telling you to keep it.

28. No works of supererogation have I accumulated ready for my demise;

 Neither have I fasted nor prayed more than the required.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Section three

On the essence the Prophet (Vv. 29-59)

 

29. I have disregarded the example of my Exemplarﷺ whose holy feet were swollen and

 bleeded  due to his continuous standing at night in prayer.

 

30. Over his hallowed belly and soft skin he placed a stone,

 A girdle binding over it, to alleviate his cumulative hunger—not by constraint but by choice.

 

31.  Lofty mountains proffered to enrich him by turning to gold,

But his nonchalance consented not for the offer.

32. His choosing voluntary poverty (in spite of being a prince) only confirmed his alienation

 From worldly needs.

 In fact, worldly needs could not impact his sinlessness  at the least.

33. Yet  think, O think, how could worldly needs tempt  him

 When he chose to alienate himself from worldliness .

(A chiasmus (rhet.);he lived with the world but without the world.)

 Had it not been for him the entire universe would not have been brought from void?

{Had it not been for thee (Oh Muhammad) I would not have created the universe (Hadith Qudsi)}

34. Muhammadﷺ  is the master of both worlds, the master of mankind ‘n jinn, the lord of the arabs and non- arabs.

 

 

 

 

 

35. Our Prophet ﷺ commands us towards the orthopraxy of virtue and forbids us from committing vicious deeds;

(and  he spares the vanquished.)

(The Prophet was taking a rest alone under a tree. A Beduin enemy chief saw this and he came stealithily with a sword unsheathed shouting :”Who  will save thee(O Muhammad) now from me?”The Prophet kindly replied,”God!”. This calm and confident so much upset the chieftain that he began trembling and the sword fell from his hand. The Prophet seized it and said,”Now who will save thee?” ‘’None!” was his reply. The Prophet pardoned him and returned his sword.This impressed his mind so much that he forthwith embraced Islam.)

 (A prodigy of truthfulness) none equals him in his truthfulness of his “Yes”{it was (past); is (present); shall (future)} or “No” {it was not (past); is not (present); shall not (future)}

{The Prophetﷺ, even before his mission was well known among the community for his truthfulness and they referred to him by the name al- Ameen (The trustworthy)}                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          

36. He is the beloved one whose intercession is to be relied  on  for  succour  and redress

 In all failings, calamities and sudden fright (see commentary on V. 81 below).

37. He invited man and jinn to Islam;

Those who followed him took hold to a rope which will never snap.

38. In his physical form and his character he transcends the other Prophets,

 And none reaches the summits of either his knowledge or kindness (an instance, among many, the Prophet’s kindness to the greedy infidel which kindness to him made him cry uncontrollably).

39. Each of them seeks something of God’s Messenger – handfuls from the sea (of his knowledge) or drops off the continuous rain (of his benevolence, for all the gifts are showered upon the Prophetﷺ first and then distributed from him to other people.)

40. Before him do they  stand,

 Aware of their limitations – dots to his knowledge and vowel points to his  wisdom.

41. Too exalted in his beauty (form & virtue) to have a match to his loveliness and virtuousness.

 In him is the perfect beauty. God has chosen him as his beloved.

(I have rendered piety inclusive under category virtue; check the clause, beauty is skin deep i.e. handsome/ pretty but not virtuous.)

 

42. No one in the world can match his piety ‘n his lofty moral qualities ;

The jewel (i.e. his piety and his lofty moral qualities) is inseparable from him (it is his nature).

(By piety I refer to duty to God, duty to your parents and family, duty to his people & C.

 Piety ‘n morality are dichotomous terms– for example, an atheist displaying morality yet impious or a man of valour deserting his father in his last necessity.)

43. Set aside the claim the Christians made of their Prophet (God’s choicest blessings be upon him),

Then compose what praises of him you wish, and do so well.

44. To his character assign whatever you will of sublimeness;

To his greatness assign what greatness you will.

45. For the merit of God’s Messenger cannot be fathomed;

And  is beyond telling.

(Formulating  hypothesis (e.g. V.45). Telling you the action to take to show its tenability (e.g. Vv. 43 &44) and then in conclusion its verification of the hypothesis (eg V.91)– that is the rhythm of this ode.)

46. If his miracles stood in proportion to his greatness the very mention of his name would revive dry bones.

(For instance, Jesus (God’s choicest blessings be upon him) resuscitated a man long gone from his tomb. The poet means to say that the Prophetﷺ is so superior to Jesus that his name, rather than his person suffices to resuscitate the dead.)

47. In Islam we are free from unreasonable ‘n stupid doctrines that baffle the mind– great was his concern for man ‘n jinn to be muslims– so we neither doubted or strayed (see V138 and note to V.125)

(The faith of Islam has no mysteries nor does it present doctrines not acceptable to common sense. For instance, in Christianity 1X3 =1; in Judaism God was tired after creating the world and rested on the 7th day, in Hinduism, the Suttee custom, etc.)

48. Contemplating his perfect qualities of virtue exhausts the human mind;

 Near (contemporaries of the Prophetﷺ) and far are mute and amazed at his virtuous character.

(When the Quraish were making plans to put an end to the Prophet’s life and he was about to flee to Medina, he sent for Ali and gave him all those trusts which were in his custody, to be carefully handed over to their real owners. When the Quraish were brought to fight against him at Badr most of them felt ashamed and said: “Woe be upon you, you who are out to fight against that noble soul who managed to give you back your precious trusts even at the time when you were surrounding his house to kill him. They were thunderstruck at his displaying such honesty and truthfulness.)

49. He is like the sun: to the eye at a distance it seems small,

 But when near it dazzles the sight (because of the extraordinary shine)

(We who are 1400 years away from the Prophetﷺ, the Prophetﷺ seems (because of the distance away) small. To the Sahaba who were living in the Prophet’s time (because they are near) were dazzled by his extraordinary shining qualities, concrete and abstract. Hence, that is why the Hadith says, “He who omits one tenth of the Law in the beginning of Islam will be dammed; but he who accomplished one tenth of the Law at the end of Islam will be saved.” This does not refer to quantity (e.g. 1/10 of the fard  namaazes or 1/10 of the Ramadaan fasts) but to quality. For instance it is recorded in the Hadith (and there are many similar incidents) that when Hazrath Umar(R.A.) ,a close companion of the Prophetﷺ, should read his namaaz a noise like the boiling water in a cauldron could be heard for a long distance away.  Compare our absent minded namaaz.)

 

50. How can his reality be  grasped  in this world by a people who are asleep,

 Distracted from him by dreams (i.e. reducing the Prophetﷺ to their own statistical abilities)?

51.The most we know of him is that he is human,

 And that he is the best of creation.

(Charcoal and diamond evolved from the same source (trees) – the Prophetﷺ is the diamond and the others charcoal.)

52. Every miracle which  the noble Messengers (God bless them all)

 Brought was derived from his munificence(See V. 39).

53. He is the pious sun of guidance and they  are stars (which give lights of guidance when there is no sun).

Light flowed from them during the darkness and thus people were provided with guidance {(of course, there were deviators who impeded the light, (see next verse, 54)}

(In the Gospel of Barnabas, chapter 124, we read: “Verily I say unto you that if the truth had not been erased from the Book of Moses, God would not have given David the second, and if the Book of David had not been contaminated God would not have committed the Gospel to me, seeing that the Lord our God is unchangeable and had spoken one message to all men. Wherefore, when the Messenger of God shall come, he shall come to cleanse away all wherewith the ungodly have contaminated my book…”)

 

 

54. Then this pious sun appeared in the universe spreading enlightenment over all the world and bringing the nations to the life again (by providing the correct teachings of the previous Prophets(God bless them all) which the leaders had interpolated, and by providing a comprehensive code of guidance.)

(The above V. 54 not in first manuscripts which gives us 160 verses).

 

 

 

55. How noble are the physical qualities of the Prophetﷺ adorned with unblemished character;

And thus he was handsome in the superlative enhanced further by his ever smiling  countenance .(Hadiths provide empirical evidence for this (V.55). Verses of the Burda manifest  al- Busiri’s intensive study of hadith literature and this (his in-depth study of hadiths) is responsible for his remarkable love for the Prophetﷺ evinced in the first section, Vv. 1-8)

56. He is like the flower in delicacy (displaying qualities of lovingness and kindness), as the full moon in honour (shewing  majesticness  and dignity), like the sun in generosity (munificence), as persistent as time (intrepid courage).

 (These are inborn qualities of the Prophetﷺ (See V. 42), continuously renewed in vigour, growing from the pygmy to the gigantic in size).

 

 

57. Even when alone on account of his majestic awe,

Chivalrous knights ‘n brawny guards seem to stand around him.

58. His hallowed teeth are as pearls in oysters,

 And his graceful mouth is an (inexhaustible) mine of sweetness, full of smiles.

 

59. No perfume can rival the hallowed earth that contains his body (bones= body, synecdoche);

(Three, four times) blessed are they that breathe its fragrance or kiss it.

 {By extension, the blessedness of kissing the thumb nails at the mention of the Prophet’s name and rubbing them on the eyes, a practice of the Prophet Adam (A.S.) & Abu Bakr Siddique (R.A)}

 

                                                               

Section 4

                                               

On the nativity of the Prophet (Vv. 60-71)

 

60. His birth heralded the coming of truth and purity.

 Pure was his beginning (noble ancestry, scion of Abraham’s line) ‘n pure was his ending (being sinless)

61 The Persians when they heard of the birth of the Prophetﷺ,

 Were terrified ‘n became sad and despondent and sensed the descent of defeats ‘n retribution (to requite them for their wrong doings).

62. By night, the vault of the lofty palace of Kisra rends.

 Likewise the army disarrayed never to be gathered again.

 

63. The blasphemous fire breathed its last due to sorrow.

 Out of anxiety the Euphrates dried up.

64. The people of Sawah (a city of evil doers whose lake is said to have dried up at the Prophet’s birth) were grief stricken by the drying up of its lake.

 The thirsty who sought water there returned in rage.

 

65. As though fire itself from grief was wet as water.

While water (for the same reason) blazed like fire.

 

 

 

 

 

 

66. Jinn called out. (During the birth of the Prophetﷺ supernatural  voices of the jinn were heard announcing the birth of the Prophetﷺ on the mounts of Hajun and Abu Qubais)

Lights shone dazzling (metaphorical reference of the predictions in former scriptures of the birth of the Prophetﷺ).

Truth became twofold triumphant;

 Viz., in word (i.e. announcement by jinns) and in fact (i.e. prophecies made by previous Prophets about the coming of the Prophetﷺ).

67. Unmindful, blind and deaf were the unbelievers,

 So the good news announced went unheard, while the lightning flashes of warning went Unforeseen.

68. This even tho’ the seers made evident to  all the signs and portents

 That freighted the doom of their religion.

 

69. And even tho’ their mortal vision beheld on the horizon great meteors falling

 As the idols on earth  were toppling down (in ruin).

70. Until the devils fled one after another

 From the Revealation road (I.e. the road by which Gabriel used to come to the Prophetﷺ from Heaven. It was now shut up against the devils, and such as ventured to approach were driven headlong by shooting stars).

71. Fleeing  just as the team of Abraha;

Or like the host pelted with pebbles from his holy hand .

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Section Five

On the Prophet’s miracles (VV. 72-91).

 

72. They (the pebbles) sang glory (praises of Allah) in his hands,

 And then were cast like the glorifying Jonah (God’s choicest blessings be upon him)

 Cast from the whale’s belly.

(Note: Lines 71 and 72 not seamless. Read  v.72 as a continuation of v.71.)

 

73. The trees came prostrate before him when beckoned (ala  (similar  to) angels prostrating by Allah’s command to Noori -Muhammad),

The arborous trunks walking to him they had no legs.

74. As the trees came along their boughs  were writing lines.

 The boughs made the finest calligraphy.

75. The trees protected the Prophetﷺ from intense summer’s heat

 Ala  the cloud that floated over his head to protect him from the red hot heat at noon.

76. I swear by a sacred oath that it is true

 That the moon split in twain has a link with his heart (i.e. washing of the Prophet’s heart by angels after dividing it in two parts).

77. Remember how the cave embraced “excellence” and “generosity”,

And how their persecutors notwithstanding seeing them espied (caught sight of) them not.

 

78. They were saying that there is none coop’d within the cave,

Because belief (Prophetﷺ) in the cave and the believer {Abu Bakr( R.A.)} were invisible(to them) .

 

79. (Also) they were doubly misled;

They reasoned that because the  dove had not left her nest (a startled dove flies out forsaking her eggs or her loud nestlings) and  by the spider weaving a web at the entrance of the cave

 For the best of creation, they concluded there was no one there.

 

80. God’s guardianship made arts and arms needless;

 Neither did they need high castles.

 

81. In my dolefulness, I seek his help (Wasila/Intercession);

 His help do I find–and  my  dole is sooth’d (see V 36).

{To fight a legal battle you go to a lawyer, to cure your sickness you go to a doctor, etc., but to ask anything from God you go to the Prophetﷺ (Wasila/ Intercession).

 The Quran says: “And if only when they have wronged themselves they had to come to you and ask forgiveness of Allah, and the Messenger had asked forgiveness for them, they would have found Allah,Relenting, Merciful” (4:64)}

82. I did not implore him for mundane benefits (Nowhere in the poem he invokes for a physical cure), yet ( subsequent to this poem ) I received a glorious gift(Holy Mantle) from the best hand that was ever kissed.

 

83. Deny not the revelations in his dream-visions,

 For his was a heart which slumbered not, though his eyelids turned down to sleep (i.e. spiritually awake 24 hours a day because he never lost the spiritual connection with Allah).

84. And this happened immediately before he proclaimed his Prophethood;

And the dreams of a mature man (chronologically, see V.12) are not gainsaid.

 

85. Blessed is God! Revelation (Wahi) is not obtained by effort.

 This is bestowed by God only  on those whom he chooses.

86. How many patients were healed by his hand’s touch?

 How many madmen did he release from their chains?

(How many duped by sorcery did he redeem?)

 

87. He revived starving year of famine through his orison

 With such abundant crops that that year resembled a white spot on black times (I.e. this year became a notable and conspicuous event due to its greenery).

 

88. All by a storm breaking, pouring rain ‘n hail or you would think the arid vales were

 Engulfed  by the sea, or by a deluge of Aram’s burst dam water.

89. Leave me alone describe his miracles which are as when hospitable nocturnal fires

 Lit on hillocks to guide travellers wandering  astray in the darkness of night.

90. Gems sparkle more brightly when on a diadem,

Yet are no less  precious when they are separate.

 

91. The praise giver reaches high,

 But cannot reach the innate qualities and graces which he  possesses (see Vv. 43, 44, 45 and the note).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Section six

Merits of the Quran Vv.92 to 105.

92. Though the verses of the Quran from the All Merciful were newly heard they precede time itself,

Their quality is that of Him – Eternal.

93. The verses of the Quran are not for a time, but for all time and space.

They give us news of Judgement Day, of Ad, ‘n of Iram.

94. Constantly with us, above every miracle of the Prophets  of the old,

 Which miracles came and went.

 (For example, Moses (God’s choicest blessings be upon him) split the Red sea – it is past;

 The  Quran– the greatest miracle of the Prophetﷺ– is still with us.)

 

95. Doubtless that it (Quran) is the direct Revealation of God, and certain it is that its literary Refinement ‘n elegance is inimitable and its scientific, historical, etc. information never proved false,

The verses of the Quran leave no doubt to be stirred up by the mischievous, and none will

 Meet its challenge.

 

96. Whenever attacked,

The most bitter of its foes return from opposing it begging to submit.

(Vv. 96&97 are not seamless . Historical  incidences  implied in v.96 give empirical evidence for v.97).

97. Their (verses of the Quran)  eloquence  routs  its enemys’  aim and intent to battle with it,

 As a jealous man protects his trembling spouse from an assailant.

98. Meanings they (verses) have like the wide sea’s waves (quantity),

They are far precious than the hidden treasures of the ocean (quality).

(Professor Bruce Lawrence says ” … (Quranic verses) signify meaning, layered with meaning, light upon light, miracle after miracle”- Bruce Lawrence, The Quran: A Biography, P8.)

99. The superb attributes of the Quran are beyond count and are a miracle,

 And you may read it over and over with much delight and as much instruction.

 

100. It delighted the soul and sense of him who recited it;

 So I told him, “Yours is God’s rope- so hold on tight!”

101. If you recite it in fear of the  blazing  Fire then the coolness of the running water of its Recitation shall quench that infernal fire and heat.

 

102. Like the pool of paradise (Kauthar) they make the sinner’s face shine,

Tho’ they had come to it as black as charcoal.

 

 

 

 

103. It (Quran) is like the bridge over Hell (Pulsiraat) and the scale of Justice;

Without it equity cannot be established among the peoples of the world.

(The Pulsiraat and the Scale of Justice will establish justice in the next world. The Quran also contains  secular  statuetes for the smooth running of family life and society. )

 

104. Do not be amazed at the dastard who trivialises its worth.

 (But in the sly) feigning oblivion tho’ he is politic .

 {For instance, to rationalise his contrary behaviour to the instructions of the Quran to read his five daily namaazes and to fast in the month of Ramadaan he contends that the Quran is not for the current times, though he is aware that it is for all times and places (see Vv. 93 and 117)}

 

105. A sick eye alienates from the light of the sun;

 A sick mouth disdains  limpid  water .

 

 

 

Section 7

                                                The night journey and ascension of the ProphetVv. 106 to118 .

 

106. O best of those  whose courtyard  is sought by the needy;

They run or ride the backs of tireless camels.

107. O greatest sign of God for a  considerate  thinker(see v140 & v126& the note).

 O you to whom ad infinitum bounties God bestowed to be for those who seek

 To gain something out of it (see V.39 and the note)

 

108. You have traversed  by night from one Haram to another Haram

 Just as the full moon’s flight through the darkness.

 

109. And thro’ the night you ascended until you gained a stage of Two Bows length or even closer,

 Never reached or in the mind’s eye of any.

110. There (Masjidul Aqsa) all the Prophets (Ambiya) and Messengers (Rasools) gave you precedence As domestic servants give way to their master.

111. You passed the seven-tiered skies with them (angels) behind you,

 In a procession where you were the standard  bearer (until Sidratul Muntaha).

112. You  then  advanced from (Sidratul Muntaha) alone to spaces no one else could.

 No one attained such closeness to Allah.

113. All the other  ranks  lay far and away antecedent to you when you were invited by Allah

 To this unique and  majestic  position (of closeness to Allah), your noun alone His object.

114. You  were invited so that all secrets might be known to you;

 And Allah by His Grace revealed all that was hidden.

115.Nonparalleled  are your endless proud honours.

 Also, you rose to the most exalted position without any rivals or difficulty.

116. How glorious the precious ranks you were granted;

How difficult to comprehend your (voluminous) bounties, so vast in

Their dimensions (length,breadth ,and depth).

117. Good news for us, people of Islam.

 For we possess a pillar (Quran) by God’s grace that shall not be outdated in time and space (See V.94).

118. He who called us towards the obedience of God was called by Him as, “The best of Prophets”.

 So, by virtue of our relationship with him we are the best of all the nations of the world.

 

                                                                               

 

 

 

 

Section eight

                                            On the chivalrous struggle of God’s Messenger, VV 119-140

 

119. News that he was coming (to battle) made foe tremble,

 Just as when a lion’s roar havocing a soft flock of bleating sheep.

 (Note well: In Islam wars are permitted only for defence purposes – Quran, 12:39)

 

120. On every battlefield they did not shy to meet them,

 Until their swords made them seem like flesh upon a butcher’s block.

121.They  longed to run away (rather than to battle with the paragons of virtue (piety plus morality = virtue, see notes to Vv.41 and 42)– it is clear from Hadiths that the pinnacles of piety and morality had been reached among the Muslims of the Prophet’s era.),

(Hopeless of flight and more hopeless of reiief) they were jealous of the carrion borne by hawks  starwards.

(The enemies were despondent of the victory before the fight though they outnumbered the muslims by far)

122. The nights kept passing,

 But their minds psychologically repressed them excepting those of the sacrosanct months.

 

123. As tho’ the muslim army were a guest come upon their  gate,

 And the hunger of these formidable  muslim  soldiers could only be appeased by flesh and blood.

124. Mounted on fast-running neighing steeds

 The army of Muslim soldiers was like a great surging ocean.

125. Volunteers for God, hoping for His reward,

 Heroic and bold in defending Islam. 

{Note well: There is no compulsory conversion in Islam – (Quran 2:256)}

 

 

 

126. The Prophetﷺ  completely  metamorphosed   his people,

 Who had been divided into multifarious jarring factions (with unrelenting hostility), into a

 Lasting united people , resembling one human body(rising as one man).

(The Hadith literature abounds with narratives where a Sahabah prefers the life of another Sahaba to his own life. A miracle of unity wrought by the Prophetﷺ amongst  a people who were at violent and at implacable loggerheads amongst themselves.)

127. She (personification of the muslim ummah) was always taken care of by the Prophetﷺ

 As her most affectionate sire and as her consort so that no longer she was an

 Orphan and a widow.

128. Mountains were they; ask those who collided with them what they saw in them in

 The combat.

129. Ask Huneyn, ask Badr, ask Uhud (the scenes of battle).

 And they had such crops of death which transcended the plague.

130.The withdrawn  shining steel blades shone red

After it struck deep into the stalwart chests of the infidels.

131. The Muslims used to kill their enemies with whizzing (sound)  arrows

When they were not near enough to slay them with their beamy  ponairds.

132. They were armoured like their opponents

 But they had distinctive marks which set them apart (i.e. distinctive marks of piety on their foreheads, warlike, bold, disiciplined,  fearlessness, gracefulness, perfume emanating (See V133) etc.,) just as the distinctive hue and odour alienates rose from acacia mimosa.

 

 

133. The (Your) profuse fragrance further ennobles your victory (O you muslim soldiers) so

That we would think each of you to be an ambrosial (soft petalled) flower exhaling perfume.

 {The muslim soldiers following the example of the Prophetﷺ never failed to besmear their attire with perfume (athaar).}

 

134. On horseback, they sat as firm and strong as trees on hills,

 They did not care for saddles ‘n stirrups, such courageous well trained riders they were.

135. Their undauntedness  in war made their enemies’ chill blood run  backwards in the vein

 So that they could hardly distinguish betwixt a timorous lamb and despondent warrior (see V 121 and the note).

136. And the person who has the help of the Prophetﷺ with him,

Even if unfed  lions meet him in their den, they humbly  yield to him.

137. And you will never find any friend of the Prophetﷺ not assisted by him,

 And no foe of the Prophet’sﷺ friend wins.

138. In the stronghold (fort) of the religion of Islam is where he set his people,

 Like a lion which lodges its cubs in the optimal place.

139. How often has  God’s  word  (i.e. Quran) felled those who opposed  him,

And how many a debater has been defeated by the convincing  proofs of the Quran.

140. Erudition in an unlettered one is a miracle enough – an orphan in an uncivilised and

 Ignorant  milieu, becomes a scholarly teacher.

 

Section nine

On seeking intercession through the Prophetﷺ Vv.141 to 152.

141. By these encomiums have I served  him,

 Hoping to be redeemed from the sins of a life of writing invective poetry

 And poetry in flattery  of patrons (to gain favours).

 

142. These two loathsome ordurous errors which my frailty had yielded to until now has

 Enchained me in such a way as tho’ I  were a ritual lamb destined for slaughter.

143. In both did I (oh, wretched me!) obey the  wild  follies  of  youth ;

Ergo I reaped nothing but sins and sorrow.

 

144. Such a loss to my soul was the deal  I struck!

 It did not buy the next world at this world’s price.

145 Those persons who sell the Hereafter for material gains will be disappionted

      In their deals and dealings.

 

 

 

146. Yet despite me deeply buried in sins I do not have a defeatest attitude

Because I hold onto the unbreakable rope of the true religion (see v.37)

 And the truth of the Prophetﷺ (see V35 and the note ).  

147. I have hope of redemption, simply because my name is Muhammad ,

 And because the Prophetﷺ  is both very hospitable and very scrupulous in fulfilling his plights.

(The Prophetﷺ said he will intercede for the person whose name is Muhammad.)

148. In the afterlife, if he takes not my better hand kindly

 Then my feet will slip–( which  ,O, I dread)– what a fatal loss I shall behold!

149. Never, never will he deprive the hopeful of his propitiations;

He is not one who dispacthes his suppliants disappointed or dishonoured.

 

150. Since I devoted my thoughts to praising him, I have found the best source by which I

 May attain salvation on the Day of Judgement.

151. His thundering propitious powers will not refuse aid to profaned hands;

 Showers bring lush green to an arid vale.

152. And yet I do not emption the worldly flowers

 Which the hand of Zubair once bought by praising (King) Harim.

{ In the mercantile scenario of Vv. 144, 145 &152— V145 is the major premise, V144 is the minor premise ( an instance of his personal life experience)and V152 is the conclusion of the syllogism by which he now abides by}.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Section Ten

In Communion (Vv. 153-161)

153. O most noble of Messengers! To whom but you may I obtest for clemency?

When the dreaded Day of Judgement comes?

 (Note well: The tenability of the above rhetorical evocation is substantiated by Hadith.)

154. O God’s Messenger! Your worth shall not diminish to help me when the Generous God  appears With the name Avenger.

155. For indeed both this world and the next world

 Are created as a present  from  God  for you.

(See  excerpt  from Gospel of Barnabas, Chapter 97, on the first page above.)

And part of your (sum) knowledge is of the Pen and the Tablet.

156. Oh my soul! Despair not of major faults!

 Great sins resemble little ones, in God’s forgiveness.

157. It may be when my Lord (God) distributes His Mercy,

 That it will come to my lot in proportion to my sins.

158. My Lord (Allah)! Let not my hope in you fail;

Nor break to pieces the faith that I reposed in Your Mercy.

( Let me  go unavenged.)

159. Pity Your slave (al-Busiri), O Kindly One, in both the worlds

Because when buffetings pounce on him, his patience ebbs.

 

160. From You (O Allah)  let a cloud of constant blessings rain upon the Prophetﷺ

 For ever  coming  down.

(In the above verse (160) al-Busiri appeals to Allah to send his(al-Busiri’s) blessings to the Prophetﷺ ;al-Busiri does not send his blessings directly to the Prophetﷺ because he is unworthy to do so. )

161. For as long as the soft east wind {bearing the fragrance of the place where the poet’s beloved dwells (see v.2)} stirs the willow branches (a trope of the beloved, see v.5) and till the camel driver

 ( pilgrim to the holy lands of Mecca and Medina) rejoices his dromedaries with song (madih nabawi/naaths).

(The poem completes a cycle;it starts with gentle breeze of kazima (v 2) and it ends with the same gentle breeze).

—-The End—

 

 

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