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Omar Faruque Mosque and Cultural Centre

Al-Burda: The Prophet's Mantle

Posted by admin on 17/10/2009

The Burda, also called Qasida (hymn) Burda, is an Arabic poem honouring the Prophet(peace be upon him). The name means 'poem of the mantle' or 'of the cloak'. The actual full title of the poem is al-Kawākib ad-Durrīya fī Madḥ Khayr al-Barīya ("Celestial Lights in Praise of the Best of Creation").

It was written in the 11th century by the great Shaykh Imam Sharafuddin Muhammad Al-Busiri Rahmatullahi 'Alaih who was born in Misr (Egypt) in 608 A.H. (1212 C.E) and died in 695 A.H. (1296 C.E). It forms part of a vast body of literature in praise of the Prophet(pbuh) that emerged from an Islamic culture where seeking knowledge of him was encouraged. Imam Al-Busiri both acknowledges this and the shortcomings of describing the Prophet(pbuh) in the poem itself.

He is like the sun, small to the eye when seen from afar, But when glimpsed close up. It dazzles and overwhelms.

The famous Mamluke minister Ibn Hinna, who served under the legendry sultan Barbys, took Imam al-Busiri under his patronage and freed him to write his poems in material security.

However, art often suffers when the artist is freed from suffering, and comes to life when calamities call. His greatest poem would result from a powerful tribulation: he woke up to find he was paralysed; half his body without movement. Suddenly, this man, whose erudition and art had elevated him to the status of prince of poets of his time, was reduced to an invalid unable to rise from his bed. This state of affliction stirred him to write the Burda.

...I began to contemplate writing a poem in the qasida form, and soon after, I did so as a way of interceding by it with the Messenger(pbuh) of God to God, the Exalted, hoping that he might heal me.

I was repeating it often, singing it, calling upon God through it, and seeking intercession with it. During that time, while sleeping, I saw the Prophet, upon him and his family be prayers and peace. He wiped over my face with his blessed hand and thrust upon me his cloak. I immediately got up and left my house. I had told no one of my poem nor of anything I had been doing prior to that.

On the road, I met a fellow spiritual wayfarer, who said to me, "I want you to give me a copy of the poem you wrote in praise of the Prophet, upon him be prayers and peace."

I responded, "which one?"

He said, "The one you wrote during your illness."

He then recited its opening lines saying, "By God, I heard it in a vision last night recited in the presence of God's messenger, upon him and his family blessing and peace. It greatly pleased the prophet, and I saw him thrust his cloak on the one who wrote it!"

I provided him with a copy, and he began telling others of his vision. Thus its news spread far and wide.

Imam al-Busiri died in Alexandria, Egypt in the year 1296 CE. His grave is well known and is connected to a large mosque. His poem embellishes its walls.

The Burda was also engraved on the Prophet's(pbuh) mosque in Madina. There it adorned its walls and reminded believers for centuries before being erased by people who could not comprehend it. There is still one line left that has not been removed:

He is the beloved whose intercession is hoped for As arms against a host of relentless calamities.

More than 90 commentaries have been written on this qasida and it has been translated in Persian, Urdu, Turkish, Berber, Punjabi, English, French and German, among other languages.

The Burda is in 10 parts and has 160 verses all of which end in the Arabic letter Meem, hence it is a "Meemiyya". The 10 parts of the Burda are about

  1. Love for Rasulullah Sallallahu 'Alaihi wa Sallam
  2. A warning against the desires of the nafs
  3. Praise of the beloved Prophet Sallallahu 'Alaihi wa Sallam
  4. Events occuring on his birth
  5. His miracles
  6. Praise of the Glorious Qur'an
  7. The "Isra" and "Mi'raj" of the noble Prophet Sallallahu 'Alaihi wa Sallam
  8. His battles
  9. Repentence, asking forgiveness of Allah Sub'hanahu wa Ta'ala and seeking intercession of the beloved Prophet Sallallahu 'Alaihi wa Sallam
  10. Supplication to Allah Sub'hanahu wa Ta'ala

Reproduced here are verses 34 to 42 from Part 3 in praise of the Holy Prophet, peace be upon him. The translation is by Thoraya Mahdi Allam.

Blessings and Salutations
of Allah be upon him

Muhammad, leader of the two worlds
and of Man and the jinn,
Leader also of the Arabs and
non Arabs and their kin.
Our Prophet, Commander of right,
prohibits evil's way,
Yet no one's speech more gentle could be
than his nay or yea.
Beloved by Allah is he upon
whose pleading we depend
From terrors of the Day of Judgement,
which on us descend.
He summoned people unto Allah,
they to him did adhere,
And clung fast to the rope that none
could ever rent or tear.
In morals and features
he, all prophets did exceed,
None could approach his knowledge,
or his bounty e'er precede.
And thus from Allah's Apostle
they acquired and did gain,
A handful of the vast sea
or a sip of gen'rous rain.
So other prophets in their rightful place
before him stand,
Regarding knowledge and the wisdom
that they understand.
He perfect is in traits concealed,
and features bright and clear,
And Man's Creator chose him
as His most beloved and dear.
Too far above all men is he
to have a partner who
Has equal qualities, because
the essence of virtue
That in him lies is indivisible,
and wholly true


Recitation of Qasida tu'l Burda at the Masjid


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