This is the first part of the first session of a monthly series on the commentary of the Qasidah Burdah delivered by Shaykh Ibrahim Osi-Efa in Nottingham.
In the Name of Allah, Most Merciful and Compassionate
All praise to Allah, Lord of the Worlds. And salutations and greetings upon our Master Muhammad and upon his family and companions.
I intend to study and teach, take and give a reminder, take and give benefit, take and give advantage, to encourage the holding fast to the book of Allah and the way of his messenger, and calling to guidance and directing towards good hoping for the countenance of Allah and His pleasure, proximity and reward, transcendent is He.
Our teachers, they tell us about the religion of Allah, that the affair of religion is an affair of hearts. When a human being distinguished by Allah, not only in terms of his form but his innate or eternal reality. He is distinguished by the heart and likewise what the heart does. One of the things that as we heard Allah has gifted man was man. He was a special man. Peace and blessings be upon him. Ultimately one of the great things that the heart does is shower love on an object that it deems loved.
This is one of the greatest declarations of love that the world has ever witnessed. Authored by one of the great Imams of Islam whose name is Abu Abdullah Muhammad bin Saeed al-Busiri. He came forth in a great period of Islam which was the 7th century of Islam. A century that many Ulema consider as the golden age of Islamic scholarship, not only of books but also of awakening of the heart and the awakening of the soul. He came forth from one of the greatest circles which we know as of Abu’l Abbas al-Mursi. Names that we may not be familiar with but no doubt whatsoever they have gained Allah’s love by loving those realities that Allah desires for man to love.
In a tradition inside Bukhari which is beautiful and gives us insight into those who are mentioned on earth and why we study al-Busiri. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) spoke about the affair of Divine love. “When God loves a slave, He summons the arch-angel Gabriel and says, “Verily I love so and so, so love him.” Gabriel thereby goes to the supreme assembly who are the greatest beings created who live in the highest echelon’s and Gabriel thereby calls out, “Verily God loves so and so, so thereby love him.” When he instructs the mala, it is an instruction on behalf of God. As we know inside those great nights that we seek Allah for His Due Pleasure and Due Love like the 15th Sha’ban or the night of Layla-tul-Qadr. Those nights which Gabriel manifests in true reality and informs all the mala and by extension the entire angelic realm of what Allah has decreed. In this instance, He has decreed love for a specific being on the space of the earth. The Prophet continues, “When they love him, acceptance on the face of the earth is created.” A sign of this is the mention of the person on the tongue of humans and inside hearts of human beings throughout the times.
“What benefits humanity, it remains upon the face of the earth.” We are mentioning Imam al-Busiri 700 years later in a distant land, no doubt, acceptance has been granted for that individual. Imam of the highest degree. From his circles, came Imams of the highest degree. From circle to circle to circle to the supreme circle of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) in which you would find Gabriel himself, Mikael himself, Israfil himself. For one entire year Israfil couldn’t leave the circle of the Prophet as mentioned in the Mustadrak of Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal. If only we knew but a circle which we found the Lord Himself. That is why he is Muhammad. Peace and blessings be upon him. As his grandfather, Abdul-Mutallib said, “Called Muhammad in the hope that he will be praised in the heavens as well as the earth.” He is praised in the heavens and upon the earth. This is just one expression of praise of dedication and love that we see come forth from the ummah of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him).
No doubt, the most-oft recited poem in the history of man; the Qasidah tul-Burdah of Imam Busiri. No doubt, the most commented poem in the history of man, commented upon in virtually every single language of the human being that Islam has spread to. An Imam who is embraced by the Rasul (peace and blessings be upon him) because he understood his purpose in life. Allah creates us for a reason, Allah creates us for a purpose. One of the great realities that He binds His universe together with is this reality known as love.
There is a tradition that the ulema make mention of in regards to whether the tradition holds true although they say the meaning no doubt holds true. In it Allah was meant to have said, “I was a hidden treasure and I loved to be known.” Here when we look at the tradition in of itself, we see the reality of the Divine. We see in a tradition that once the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) was sitting inside one of those golden circles, those opportune moments that Allah affords man to not only connect with Him but to connect with His Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) through Him. We see in a tradition then that there was a companion by the name of Imran bin Husayn. He said, “I am sitting in a circle of the Prophet and the people of Yemen come forth.” It is important because likewise the Prophet narrates in the tradition of Bukhari and Muslim some of the unique realities of the people of the Yemen. “They have come unto you, they have the most tender of hearts and softness of souls.” Qualities that are essential from the distinguishing realities of the human being as we said to be given a heart and a special spirit. The spirit of man and all those extended facets of the spirit whether you call it heart, intellect or ego. It separates man from the entire connection, its highest reality is when it is soft and tender. Imran bin Husayn said, “when they enter that golden circle of the Prophet, he said, O People of Yemen take the glad-tidings after Banu Tameem have refused it. They said, “We accept O Messenger of God.” Then they asked a question about God and his first words were, “God was and there was nothing besides God.”
The origin who is Allah was and there was nothing besides Him. Then we see the affair of man and his purpose is to worship Allah. What binds the worship of man with the reality of God? Love. That is why the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) will stress the affair of the heart and the affair of the working of the heart. In Arabic, they say “any reality that bears several names it only serves to indicate the nobility of that essence.” Here we speak about love and one of the great lovers of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him).
Human beings like sprite have ways of expressing love. They both inhabit a small entity called earth and differ in that the sprite excel in poetry. They speak normally through poetry. Language is of prose or poetry. Qur’an is neither because it is not human speech. Sagacity always expresses itself through poetry. When man begins to utter realities through this great medium known as poetry, that is no doubt regardless of context, it renders someone to be of a high intellect and disposition.
That is why we see the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) was sent amongst very special people. It is nobility that we are from the same stock as the Prophet. If we only but knew when you gaze in the mirror and see a face, you should praise Allah for a face. Why? Because the Prophet had a face. When you look inside that face and see eyebrows and eyes and eyelashes and you see a nose, cheeks, lips. But if you see it, praise Allah that you see it. Why? Because the Prophet had it. Imams will go further and say when you gaze into your realities and you see something that resembles his even more so such as eyes like the Prophet. Then praise Allah even more because He has given you a greater portion of the Prophet. Peace and blessings be upon him.
What does ar-Rahman (The Most Merciful) mean to you? Imam Qastalani said Rahman is the Bestower of Love; Bestower of Grand Love. Though there is more subtle love that He gives through His name ar-Raheem. That is why the Imams say we should find Divine Favour and Grace bestowed upon us when we find that we have shared any qualities with the Prophet. This is about re-attachment to the Divine. The only way you re-attach to God is through the Prophet. Peace and blessings be upon him.
Beauty of this ummah is that anything that connects to the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) is still preserved. The words of al-Busiri is about a mantle; a reality which clothed his form. In the narration of Abdur-Rahman ibn Awf, we hear of an extremely beautiful woman who makes a beautiful shirt for the Messenger of God (peace and blessings be upon him) with her own hands and goes unto him amongst his companions and says, “Verily I made this shirt for you to wear.” So he immediately arises, enters his house and leaves wearing the shirt. She addresses the Prophet and says, “O Messenger of God, I said you can wear it not keep it. Give me my shirt back.” He smiles and simply enters his house, folds it neatly and returns it to this woman. What did this woman desire? Something that cloaked the Messenger of God. What is inside of our heart? Then we personalise it because maybe our journey is a personal journey. The nature of our relationship with Allah is a personal relationship. If our relationship with Allah is personal then likewise our relationship with His Beloved, His Habib has to be personal. What is inside of her heart and what is inside of our hearts? What is inside of your heart? When you hear the name of the Prophet, what happens inside of your heart? A litmus test. What happens upon your tongue? “Your tongue is a good indication of what is going on inside your heart.”
We have one of the great Imams, Imam Malik ibn Anas. We are trying to test hearts now because we look at the hearts of great people and begin to see where our heart is at. Imam of Madinah. He only leaves once for Hajj. In that city, he never wore sandals out of respect for the soil. What type of heart is that? In that city, he never answers the call to nature, he goes beyond the city. He can’t put his extraneous entities inside of the city of Madinah. When he sits in front of his teachers, he has to experience the reality himself. He would sit in front of them and wait for one thing, one thing alone, what was that? Just to hear the name of the Prophet, when he heard it, he would look inside the teacher for reaction. If there was no reaction, he would get up and walk. “This is no teacher for me.” When you look at the likes of the teachers of Imam Malik b. Anas you see strange qualities, like the great Muhammad ibn Munkadir. Why is Malik respecting the soil of Madinah? Because he would find his teacher rolling inside the dirt of Madinah and they’d ask why? He would respond, “the earth in which the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) trod upon.” What does that mean? If you can’t get the shirt, at least get the earth.
From the beautiful gifts we have been given is the preservation of these realities of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) in every shape and form. His burdah still remains; multiple burdahs. They couldn’t get that woman’s burdah, they made their own. Allah says, “Above every one of knowledge is someone of knowledge.” Abdur-Rahman ibn Awf asked to wear it and she agreed. He returned it when she asked just like the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) did. We have to enter into the wondrous hearts of the companions. Don’t think he is just giving back the shirt! What is his intention? Following the Prophet; just as he gave it back I also intend to follow. It is worshipping Allah in higher degrees. He is possibly one of the richest men to walk the earth to the point he believed that if he turned over a rock in Madinah he would find gold. You would find more than gold O Abdur-Rahman, you would find the earth of the Rasul, peace and blessings be upon him! When he died, they had to bring axes for his money. He just had blocks of gold. From his intelligence, in his will he placed that he wanted to be buried in that shirt which that women allowed him to wear. (His thoughts were) Let us see what she is going to do when I am six feet under the ground, she can’t ask for it back. So it came to pass.
You begin to think why the ten who are guaranteed paradise are guaranteed paradise. Why is Abu Bakr guaranteed paradise? Understanding this will give you a pathway to paradise. What is it? What did they have? What did Umar have? What did Uthman ibn Affan have? What did Ali bin Abi Talib have? What did Talha, Zubayr have? What did Abdur-Rahman, Sa’ad and Sa’eed have? The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “Abu Bakr doesn’t race ahead of you with a lot of prayer or a lot of fasting or a lot of charity.” Note, he has a lot of these. In one of his poems he wrote, “What is wrong with your eyes? It is as if they have an injury with them.” Meaning he does not go to sleep at night. He couldn’t keep up his lower garment because he was so thin. He used to eat once every seven/eight days. That isn’t the reason the Prophet said, he said, “It is something Allah cast into his heart.” What do you think was cast into his heart? What was cast into the heart of Abdur-Rahman ibn Awf?
In a gathering, someone gifted the Rasul (peace and blessings be upon him) a shirt, all the men and women were seeking proximity. The strangest is you would find women wearing something like a hood upon their head, they would cover their faces and sit at the feet of the Rasul. Peace and blessings be upon him. No-one knew whether they were men or women, they just wanted proximity. A great woman, Umm Darda, was one of them. Men to the right, left and behind but she is up close and that is all she cares about. Abdur-Rahman says, “Give me the shirt.” We don’t get it because for someone to speak in the presence of the Prophet is difficult. It was as if birds were perched upon their heads. Once he said, “ask me” and he kept on asking until they were all weeping. The only thing that ultimately prevents him from continuing is Umar bin al-Khattab raising his voice and saying, “We are pleased with God as our Lord, Islam as a religion and Muhammad as a Messenger.” When he heard this, he fell silent. When the Rasul heard Abdur-Rahman ibn Awf, he goes inside his house and everyone knows what he is going to do. He never refused the one who asks. The companions jumped on Abdur-Rahman ibn Awf and say, “how dare you could ask?” Stop for a moment and get into their hearts. They were thinking, “man I wanted that shirt.” Nobody needs that shirt more than the Prophet. Go into his wardrobe, he didn’t have one. He had one of everything and when he gives one away, he doesn’t have any more. Peace and blessings be upon him. Abdur-Rahman ibn Awf responded to the companions, “By Allah, I only wanted it so I can be buried in it.”
Part 2 to follow.
Any mistakes, errors or misinterpretations of words are from me. Please correct me when you spot any mistakes.