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Odes of Busiri The Owner of the Mantle

“Its fame has increased to a degree that people are accustomed to studying it in the mosques and their homes like the Qur’an”

Commendation of the Burdah by al-Hafiz Ibn Hajar al-Haytami, al-Minah al-Makkiyah (p. 4)

Sharaf al-Din, Abu Abdullah Muhammad ibn Saeed ibn Hammad ibn Muhsin ibn Abdullah ibn Sinhaj ibn Hilal al-Sinhaji al-Dilasiri (or al-Dulasi) al-Busiri (d. 1294 or 1298 CE), an acclaimed writer from Abu Sir in Egypt, was the author of two matchless eulogies of the Beloved Prophet of Allah (may Allah give him peace and blessings), the Burdah and Hamziyyah, to which the Muslim world has deeply connected and intimately attached itself for many centuries.

Busiri was a wonder of Allah in writing various styles of poetry. He was not merely a poet but was the most eloquent of poets in Arabic who surpassed his contemporaries in the disciplines of Arabic rhetoric and prosody. Imam al-Qirati (d. 781 H), a top-ranking scholar of the transmitted and rational sciences and first-rate Arabic poet failed in his attempt to produce a qasida similar to the Hamziyyah of Busiri (Haytami, 5). Scholars like Ibrahim al-Bajuri and Khalid al-Azhari have given special attention to analysing the Burdah, for example, according to the laws of Arabic grammar, prosody, and rhetoric in their commentaries, Yusuf Nabhani gave special attention to the meanings of difficult words in the Hamziyyah as he did with the Dalail al-Kahyrat of al-Jazuli, whilst others like Umar ibn Ahmad Kharputi and Shaykh Zaadah gave full-fledged commentaries and found in it secrets of spiritual heeling and remedy. Arab poets began inserting their own verses into the Burdah and used forms such as takhmis (creating a poem with five-line stanzas) and tashtir (“Tucking”) to display their skills and develop ideas of religiosity, mysticism, and love. One of the early extant hymns written on the meter and style of the Burdah is by Sayyid Ibn Ma’tuq (d. 1087 H), though powerfully poetic, it does not reach the deep intimacy of the Burdah (Qadiri, p. 32). Later, Arab poets like Ahmad Shauqi have imitated Busiri’s writing style and authored poems on the meters of the Burdah and Hamziyyah incorporating similar themes and styles of expression.The full names of the Burdah and Hamziyyah are “al-Kawakib al-Durriyah fi Madh Khayr al-Bariyyah” and “Umm al-Qura Fi Madh Khayr al-Wara” and Burdah’s meter is [mustaf ʻilun f a ʻilun mustaf ʻilun f a ʻilun]- al-Bahr al-Baseet.

Annemarie Schimmel (p. 185) explains that non-Arabs too took interest in the Burdah as early as the beginnings of the oriental studies. Leiden in the Netherlands, for example, printed the text for the first time in1761 and thereafter a German translation of it emerged around 1824 and then a French translation in 1822 by the famous orientalist Sylvestre de Sacy.

Busiri’s career of writing poetry began at the royal courts of the Sultan and his Viziers. His conversion of occupation began when he once returned home from the Sultan’s court and was stopped by a noble man who asked him whether he had ever seen the Prophet (may Allah give him peace and blessings) in his dream. This question struck his heart and upon sleeping that night, he was given the blessed vision of the Prophet in his dream. It was then that the love of the Noble Prophet (may Allah give him peace and blessings) sprang from his heart which manifested itself in the form of two of his earliest odes, the Mudhariyyah and the Hamziyyah (Qadiri, p. 22). It is worthy of note too that Busiri was a Shadhili in his spiritual lineage and gave allegiance to the famous Shadhili master, Abu al-Abbas al-Mursi (Haytami, p. 5).

According to the popular narrative, Busiri suffered a stroke and turned to the Noble Prophet (may Allah give him peace and blessings) for healing and wrote his renowned Qasidah Burdah in his honour. As a result, the Prophet came to him in his dream rubbed his right hand over his ailing body and cast his mantle on his chest as he did during his lifetime with Ka’b ibn Zubair after listening to his ode Baanat Su’ad. Busiri woke up healed and found the mantle on his chest! (Qadiri, p. 26, Schimmel, p. 181) For this reason, his ode is also known as al-Bur’a “healing” whereas Burdah is originally the name of the ode of Ka’b. It is also said that the morning following the dream, Busiri met with Abu al-Raja al-Siddique, the Qutb in that vicinity, who began reciting the first line of ode to him and asked him to recite it. Busiri was bewildered at his question since no one knew that he had written this particular ode as of yet so he asked the shaykh about how he knew the first line. He is reported to have replied saying “I heard you sing it before the Prophet, may Allah give him peace and blessings, last night and I saw him sway in happiness like the branches which sway with passing winds” (Qadiri, p. 23; Haytami, p. 4) Haytami (p. 4) added that after writing the poem, Busiri suffered from inflammation in his eyes and recited parts of the Burdah to the Noble Prophet, may Allah give him peace and blessings, in his dream who spat his saliva into his eye by which Busiri was cured in an instance! Some commentators including Qadiri (p. 23) and Tawakkuli (p. 6) have mentioned that the Sultan’s Vizier, Baha’uddin ibn Hinna (d. 677 H), vowed to listen to the Burdah every morning standing barefoot with his head uncovered out of veneration!

Busiri received acclaim among the greatest scholars of Islamic tradition. Those who benefitted from his knowledge and took his poems from him include Imam Abu Hayyan al-Andulsi, Imam al-Ya’muri, Abu al-Fath Ibn Sayyid al-Nas, al-Izz ibn Jama’ah and others (Haytami, p. 4). Scholars of hadith have particularly given their students permits to narrate the Odes of Busiri. Ibn Hajar Haytami, for example, was given permission to narrate the Hamziyah from Shaykh al-Islam Zakariyya al-Ansari, who narrated it from al-Hafiz Ibn Hajar Asqalani who narrated it from three of his major teachers, Siraj al-Din al-Bulqini (d. 805 H), Siraj al-Din Ibn al-Mulaqqan (d. 804 H), Zayn al-Din al-Iraqi (d. 806 H), who all narrate it from al-Izz Ibn al-Jama’ah, the teacher of all three and grand teacher of al-Hafiz Ibn Hajar, the commentator of Sahih al-Bukhari. This chain reveals that Busiri occupies a high degree among the scholars of transmission for which reason Ahmad Riza Khan referred to him as “a giant Imam and shaykh of some of the greatest scholars” in Inba al-Hay (p. 322) and thus warned people from assuming that his odes were merely intimate expressions of a poet and hence of poetical significance only. Commentaries on the Burdah outnumber the commentaries on the Hamziyyah by far and Haytami (p. 6) asserted in his commentary of the latter that he did not know any commentary on it other than that of his grand shaykh al-Shams al-Jawjari.

The far-fame and acceptance Busiri’s odes received from the major scholars of Islamic tradition and the wider Muslim community at large is a firm indicator that Sunni Muslims agreed with him in his expressions of love and pronunciations of creed. He made eloquent professions of faith in both of his poems, clarifying that the Beloved Prophet (may Allah give him peace and blessings) was a matchless human, the best of creation whose praise was impossible by human language, no Prophet came near his stature, he is the helper of Muslims at moments of need and that tawassul with his noble essence was a righteous act, his light was created before creation and his reality is unknown to mankind, nothing would have come into being if he was not created and his birth was the purest of births, his knowledge encompassed all of that which is scribed on the Sacred Tablet and there is not a single virtue from Allah in this world except that it is given through his noble person (upon him peace and blessings)!

The Burdah and Hamziyyah of Busiri continue to survive through teaching and studying and most prominently by recitations in various melodies around the Muslim globe. The Ahl al-Sunnah wa al-Jama’ah uphold the odes of Busiri as a hallmark of their identity and express their love and emotion for the Noble Prophet (may Allah give him peace and blessings) in the words of Busiri that survive today as powerful vehicles of medieval Prophetology.

M. Monawwar Ateeq

8th Jamadi al-Thaniyah 1431 H

(Completed in a Single sitting)

Sources Consulted:

Haytami, Ibn Hajar (d.ca. 1566). Undated (Rare print). Al-Minah al-Makkiyah fi Sharh al-Hamziyah. Egypt. [Note: The Minah received a 1-volume edition at Dar al-Fikr and 3-volume edition by Bassam Jabi – with courtesy to Shaykh Gibril Haddad].

Khan, Ahmad Riza (d. 1921). 2002. Inba al-Hay anna Kalamahu al-Masun Tibyan li-Kulli Shay. Lahore: Mu’assasat Ridha.

Qadiri, Abu al-Hasanaat. (d.ca. 1961) 1998. Teeb al-Wardah Sharh al-Qasidah al-Burdah (Urdu). Lahore: Zia al-Qur’an Publications.

Schimmel, Annemarie. 1985. And Muhammad is His Messenger; The Veneration of the Prophet in Islamic Piety. US: The University of North Carloina Press.

Tawakkuli, Nur Bakhsh. 2003. al-Umdah Fi Sharh Qasidat al-Burdah (Arabic). Mubarakpur: al-Jamiat al-Asharfiyyah.

Visit the following website for an excellent English translation of the Burdah:

http://www.mantleadorned.com/index.htm

Filed under: Biographies, Chains of Transmission, General

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