This is the second 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.
The khayr (good) of this ummah is in preserving whatever is connected to the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him). To this day, the ummah has preserved the water that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) was washed in for his ghusl. What is it that you preserve water that was used to wash the Prophet in his passing 1500 years later? What type of nation is that? That is a nation of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him). “My nation is like rain, I don’t know whether the best of it is in the beginning or at the end,” he said (peace and blessings be upon him). What type of nation preserves his hair? Do you know there are people on this earth, today, they have so much hair of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) that they sit there and comb it? Comb. Not a strand but they have so much that, ma sha Allah, they are grooming the hair of the Rasul (peace and blessings be upon him). What type of nation is that? You see that is like Aisha, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) in iti’kaf would sit in the mosque with his house to the back of Aisha and she would be grooming his hair. May Allah be pleased with her. What is that but an expression of love? What is that if you are able to comb the hair of the Rasul (peace and blessings be upon him) with the same intention that Aisha had? But an expression of love. And what was her intention?
We pray Allah allows us to become the beautiful rain of the latter portion of the ummah of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him). The heart that has the rain of the Rasul (peace and blessings be upon him) enveloping and saturating and attachment and connection to him in every single realm of the human being. One of our teachers had a great way of invoking peace, love on the Rasul (peace and blessings be upon him):
اللَّهُمَّ صَلِّ وَ سَلِّمْ على سَيِّدِنا مُحَمَّدٍ نُورِكَ السَّارِي وَمَدَدِكَ الجَارِي واجْمَعْنِي بِهِ فِي كُلِّ أَطْوَارِي وعلى آلِهِ وصَحْبِهِ يَانُورْ
O Allah I invoke mercy, love and peace upon our Liege Lord Muhammad, Your flowing Light and Your running sustenance, gather me with him in every single realm/dimension/upon my tongue/inside of my mind, heart, soul, secret or inside my nafs even and upon his family and companions, O Light!
As narrated in Tirmidhi, he (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “none of you have perfected faith until your hawa (what the ego does) is in accordance with what I have brought.” What has he brought? Love of him (peace and blessings be upon him).
(Surah 26: Verse 224 – 227)
The Arabs know poetry and they are the greatest poets the world has ever known in jahilliya (pre-Islamic era). Poets to a degree, any genre of poetry you wish to engage in you will find it upon the tongues of those early people. Nowadays, you may see in the culture, you will find people who are good with it like rappers. The ones who are exalted the most are the freestylers. When you look at the Ancient Arabs, they were all freestylers. None of them wrote, it came spontaneously from their hearts, minds and souls. Then when you gage them, 2000-3000 years later, the poems are still studied. Guaranteed nobody will be studying Jay-Z or Biggy Smalls or Tupac, in 800 years time nobody will be studying them. Fleeting; comes and goes. Why? It doesn’t benefit. Those early people benefited. Why? Because they took the art to its pinnacle and many of them when they are speaking about death they open us up to the reality of death. When they are talking about life, they take you to the world of the living. When they are speaking about love, you become the lover and the beloved in union. When they praise, one of them from Banu Tameem said to the Prophet, “When I praise, zayn (beautiful) but when I rebuke you I will disfigure you out.” What is he trying to say to the Rasul? You need me on side. The Prophet says, “That is God not you. The One who when He praises, zayn, and when He scorns, Allah will disfigure you and cast you into the abode of disfigurement known as the hellfire.”
The poets have so much power over the heart of the human being that if they are deviants they will cause someone to go into a state of deviancy. The greatest poet who ever walked the earth, who is that? Imr al Qays. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said about him, “He is the leader of the poets to hell.” Why? Where did he go wrong? He went wrong with content not form. You listen to gangster rap and what have you, he took it to another degree. He took it to its pinnacle. You read that it is like you are listening to modern-day rap in terms of content but he was unparallel in terms of form. If you’re content aint beautiful, then Allah will deviate you to hell. “He allows those to stray, whomever He wills.”
In every single human emotion or reality, you will find a poet that has beaten another; expressed like no other has expressed it. There is one valley that Allah is concerned about; the valley of faith and the valley of perfection of faith which lies in the love of the Rasul (peace and blessings be upon him). That is why Busiri is eternal. For us, whom is the greatest poet ever? Hassan ibn Thabit; the poet of the Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him). THE POET. Just to be called ‘The Poet’ you gotta be something. He (peace and blessings be upon him) had over 127 poets and from amongst them Abu Bakr, Umar ibn al-Khattab, the great woman Aisha who is the supreme one. Poets upon poets he had (peace and blessings be upon him). Sometimes their genre was kufr (disbelief), sometimes their genre was war, and for a line of poetry of Ka’b ibn Malik the entire tribe of Dows could enter Islam. The power of the poets inside that day and age. That is why the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) employed them. The greatest of them though was Hassan ibn Thabit. Why? Because of content. Not form. Content. What was his content? The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him).
What we hope to engender in our circle is for people to express. The ummah has always expressed its love for the Messenger in language. Why did Allah give you a tongue? What for? To praise the world? Is that it? Have you ever thought about it, why did Allah give me a tongue? The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “The entire world is accursed and accursed is whatever resides therein except the remembrance of God.” Allah is showing you why he gave you a tongue and why He gave you one tongue and why He gave you one heart. That one tongue and one heart should be in unison for the One (Exalted is He) and the one who is at one with the One. “Verily God is one and loves those who are at one with Him.”
Busiri will travel the way of the ancient poets but the good ones, ancient in good function and good meaning . That good meaning is about his love for the Messenger of God (peace and blessings be upon him). You are ill, you are sick, maybe you are chronically ill, what would you do? Situation of al-Busiri is that he has paralysis on one side, he is completely paralysed like a stroke. What would you do if you had a stroke? What Busiri understands to do is compose a poem in praise of the Prophet and perhaps by virtue of that I will achieve healing as well as intercession of the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him). What type of heart did al-Busiri have such that when he composes that poem and goes to sleep and inside the dream state he sees the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) in front of him? And then he recites the entire poem in his dream state. What is that? That is connection. The dream world is a good indication to where your connections lie. Some of us it is football repeated or music repeated or films repeated. It shows where we connect to inside of the wake state. But al-Busiri’s dream state indicates that his wake state is connection to the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) and he has full recall of his poem in the dream state and recites it to the Messenger in its entirety and then the Messenger takes off his cloak and raps Busiri. He wakes up and the paralysis is lifted. What is that? Maybe one of us when we are ill we compose a poem and then in the dream state we have total recall, ma sha Allah tabarakAllah. Maybe even we have the Messenger of Allah but then we wake up we are still as sick as hell. This shows us that there is a spirit that is missing inside of our heart, the heart doesn’t infuse our words with the spirit. Although the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) comes in the dream state, he often comes to show us our deficiencies; our distance from him. That is why when we see him in the dream state we don’t see him as he was (peace and blessings be upon him) but we see him as we perceive him to be. He aint interested in your perception because your perception is faulty, flawed. Peace and blessings be upon him. But his visiting is a healing in the way of showing you your deficiency so that you draw close and you leave all that stuff behind and enter into that beautiful world that is called Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him). He wakes up and he is healed. Then the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) sends a next man to him who says, “Where is that poem that you have?” He says, “what poem?” The man replies, “you know that poem that you composed to the Messenger of Allah?” Busiri is like strange, I never told anyone about that poem. He says, “how do you know about that poem?” He replies, “I heard it being recited to the Messenger of Allah last night, I was in the gathering, give me that poem.” Then he gives the poem over and he realises that at that point it has an affair, the poem has a big affair. and how right was he? You could say, who does he think he is? Everybody who composes a nice piece of work is going to say it has an affair. But I guess, 800 years later, we can say Busiri was right. In the City of the Caves, we are reciting Busiri’s poem. The poem was being recited, how many people understood? We don’t even understand the words but we still sing them. Like back in the day or maybe in the day or maybe today and you were watching the Eurovision song contest and singing along in the funny languages, you just turned it off. I can’t understand what they’re saying. But why is it that you can listen to Busiri over and over and over and over again and you don’t understand what he is saying? What if I took out the Diwan of Ka’b ibn Malik or Ka’b ibn Zuhayr or Abdullah ibn Rawaha? The poets of the Rasul (peace and blessings be upon him).
The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said to Abdullah ibn Rawaha, “Abdullah, what has brought you?” He replied, “it is something that intermingles in the depth of my very soul and manifests upon my tongue.” That is what poetry is. That is Abdullah ibn Rawaha. May Allah be pleased with him. Hassan ibn Thabit as well, years later we remember them. We ask Allah that he places us inside of their great company.
The best craft of man are lines of poetry. At the masjid of the Rasul (peace and blessings be upon him) there was a “mimbar” which can be translated as throne or pulpit, it was placed just for Hassan ibn Thabit to stand up and recite poetry. In the mosque of the Rasul (peace and blessings be upon him). Any mosque that we have that doesn’t have some type of facility for poets to manifest praise of the Prophet, that mosque is deficient and disconnected from the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) because that pulpit with Hassan above it is what brings Gabriel. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “Recite O Hassan, (Ruh al-Quddus) Gabriel is alongside you when you are reciting.” Which one of us has ever wanted to be a poet? For real! People want to be doctors, lawyers, dentists. People want to be footballers. You want to kill a ball, is that all you want to do for the rest of your life? Which one of us has ever wanted to be a poet where we can express our love for the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him)? That is Hassan ibn Thabit. That is all he has on the Day of Judgement. Look at him when the Messenger places him inside of the fortress guarding women at the battle of Khandaq. Safiyyah bint Abdul Mutallib says, “Hassan, do what the Messenger of Allah has sent you to do!” He looks over and says, “I’m a poet not a warrior. My craft is poetry.” She takes his sword, pushes the man aside and goes beyond the fortress and slays the enemy. She’s like I’ll do it, you keep on reciting your poetry.
Banu Tameem come at one time and shout, “Out, Out, the battle is on.” The Messenger comes out and walks past them, what battle? He prays so they stand in the masjid and they say, “it is on.” Thabit ibn Qays is then called for and Banu Tameem stand on the mimbar of the Messenger and start to speak in prose, then Thabit stands on the mimbar of the Messenger and speaks in prose and they realise he’s got the language. Then the Prophet says it is poetry now so Hassan ibn Thabit is called for and they go to his house and say, “O Hassan, the Messenger of God wants you to recite poetry.” He starts reciting and they say, “not here, get to the mosque!” The entire tribe of Banu Tameem enters Islam. Do you understand that? From poetry and prose, an entire tribe enters Islam. You understand that?
1. Is it from remembering past neighbours in Dhu Salam [a place between Makkah and Madinah near Qadid]
That you mingle with blood tears shed from your eyes?
Here of the first things that the Imam introduces us to is a different realm. A human being is complex such that the entire cosmos is inside of man. Complex. There is nothing that exist without save it also exists within the human being. From among them are the senses that we have, in English we speak about five, in Islam we speak about ten (internal and external). Here Imam Busiri employs tadhakkur, which is done with the heart. He wants to now see the reality of someone’s dhukr which is the sense of remembrance that the human being has. Imam al-Busiri has something called tajreed. It is one of the realities of Prophecy. It is like an out-of-body experience, when the soul is stripped from the body and you are still living. Normally when the soul departs the body, you call it sleep or death. By extension, higher beings not in a spiritual religious sense but they have a sensitivity to their soul. Allah can give it to whomever he wants, regardless of faith. Don’t think this is in the imagination of al-Busiri.
For many of us, the way of training the soul is to have an imaginary second person, to undergo the actual process of speaking to this imaginary second person about issues which relate to the self. That imaginary second person being “the reality of your nafs.” The primary way it is reared is when you hold a conversation with it; day after day, night after night, week after week, month after month, year after year until it is settled and disciplined. In the beginning, you aint got real contact with your nafs. You aint got that. But as one of them said, “Imitate if you are not from amongst them because imitation is still success.” Right now we are all pretending to be religious. Many of us. It is a pretence. And we’ve gotta pretend and pretend and pretend until Allah makes it real, makes us real folk, real people. Pretence is from us, reality is from God.
Ibn Khaldun said, “The highest form of revelation is when the Prophet engages Gabriel in the world of Gabriel.” When the Companions saw that, they would take the cloak of the Prophet and cover his head and he would just be shaking beneath it. When his body was still, they would remove it and wait for him to speak. Peace and blessings be upon him.
What is he addressing himself with him? Look at the state of his heart, his soul and his body as it relates to the object of his love. This is traditional poetry of the Arabs what he employs. It called naseeb, in the beginning of their poetry they speak about their loved one. Maybe it is imaginary for the Arabs and for those who enter the fold of Islam it becomes real. When Ka’b ibn Zuhayr stands in front of the Prophet, as Imam Bajuri says this is the burdah and the work of Imam al-Busiri should be called shifa (the healing). Even Busiri didn’t call it the burdah, people started calling it that and he was like “Oh you mean my poem!” The burdah is the poem of Ka’b ibn Zuhayr according to Imam Bajuri.
His father (Zuhayr ibn Abi Sulma) was a famous poet; considered of the seven greatest poets. They could freestyle poetry and it was so good amongst poets and people of language that they would take the entire poem and write it in gold ink and hang it upon the Ka’bah. He sees a beautiful dream with a ladder coming out of the sky and he sees himself ascending towards it in the heavens and just as he is about to grab hold of the first rung he wakes up. His family asks what it means. He says, “The ladder coming out of the sky was the ladder of Prophecy and that rung was the last Prophet and my inability to grab it means I won’t live to meet him.” What type of spirit is that to be able to interpret a dream like that? He told his sons that if they meet him to believe in him (peace and blessings be upon him). Zuhayr ibn Abi Sulma is the greatest of the jahilliya poets in terms of content.
The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) then summons to Prophecy and Bujayr says, “stay here with the sheep. I’ll go check it out and come back to see you.” He aint going back nowhere, I’m with the Rasul, connected. He left his brother with sheep. All he does is write a letter to Ka’b saying this is the one and he is vexed when he receives the letter and responds with a long poem with similar language in Surah Qiyamah. He says, “Will anybody convey my letter to Bujayr? Woe to you in that which you have said. Woe to you, may you be destroyed. The trustworthy one has just intoxicated you.” It has an omni-meaning. What did he say? There is no God but God. Bujayr goes straight to the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) and recites the poem to him. Why would you do that? Your brother is going to be in trouble? The Prophet listens and when it gets to calling the Prophet a trustworthy one and a magician; a paradox. He stops and says, “By God, I am the trustworthy one. Whoever meets Ka’b ibn Zuhayr, kill him.” The tradition is that Ka’b runs for dear life until he gets news of who the Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him) is. Like Ali bin Abi Talib said, “Whoever meets the Messenger at a distance, suddenly fear him. But when you drew close to him out of knowledge of him you would fall in love with him.” Ka’b realises that he just has to get inside of the sphere and it’ll be all good. From me to him and back again. He goes balaclava’ed up and says, “if Ka’b ibn Zuhayr comes to you seeking forgiveness will you forgive him for what he said.” The Prophet says, “I’ll forgive him.” He says, “I’m Ka’b!” He then says to Abu Bakr, “time for poetry, time to celebrate.” Abu Bakr recites the poem of Ka’b which got him in trouble, he’s like the Rasul can forgive you but I aint forgiving you. Ka’b says, “No, you got it wrong, it don’t go like that. I said you are the magician, you are the one who drugged everybody, you are the one who drugged my brother.” The Ansar now jump up and unsheathe their swords but he is like you strike my neck, I will strike yours with my tongue so he starts reciting poems against them. Why would he do that? Because it is like love from me to him and back again. I am protected, don’t you see I’m protected? I’m in the sphere of the Rasul, you aint doing nothing to me. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) motioned to the Ansar to sit and told him to use the gift for good and freestyles for the Ansar who are sitting back. He turns towards the Rasul and composes 50/60 lines about him. When he says, “the Messenger is the sword from whom we seek light. He is the best of all swords unsheathed.” At that point the Prophet stands up and takes off his burdah and just guards Ka’b ibn Zuhayr inside it.
That (of Ka’b ibn Zuhayr) is the burdah. This (of Imam al-Busiri) is the shifa.
We ask Allah for tawfiq and take this as an introduction.
Any mistakes, errors or misinterpretations of words are from me. Please correct me when you spot any mistakes.