This is the first part of the second 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.
Alhamdulilah, We praise Allah (Exalted is He) for gathering us in the remembrance of Him as well as the remembrance of His Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him). This is from the greatest acts that we can ever do; to gather to remember Allah as well as His Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him). Such a gathering and such a remembrance predicates hilm (clemency) from Allah. The clemency of Allah as Allah describes, “He is the One who will transform all of our bad deeds into good deeds.” As in the tradition that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) mentions on the authority of Anas ibn Malik in the Musnad of Ahmad ibn Hanbal that, “There are no people who will gather together in order to remember Allah for His sake save that a herald from the heavens announces, “Arise and you shall all be forgiven. Allah has transformed all of your sins into good deeds.” This is one of the blessings that we get when we come into the gatherings, the feasts of the souls. Those souls that are going to feast upon mentioning the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), it is a means of procuring the great gift of Allah which is love of Allah and love of His Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him).
We look at the great work of Imam al-Busiri (may Allah have mercy on him) and we endeavour to look at the first chapter of Imam Busiri’s work; the Burdah. Language is divided into poetry and prose and most of the Imams (may Allah be pleased with them), when they want to have their more profound expressions of love unto Allah and especially towards His Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him) they choose the language of poetry. It is built upon a kaafiya, the kaafiya is how you actually make the poem balance. The focus of the kaafiya is the very last letter, in the work of Imam Busiri it ends in a meem. As we know in terms of our religion, Allah always leaves the best to last. The symbolism of that meem, which is called the rawee, it symbolises the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him). That is why Imam al-Busiri has chosen the rawee of the letter meem in order to symbolise the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him). That which lies beneath the meem is called the majrah, it is a kasra. Here what Imam al-Busiri is alluding to in symoblism is the meem, Muhammad, kasra, should break your heart. It should break your heart with love.
In terms of poetry, the Imams always focus on this in order to give higher meaning. Like one of the great Imams of poetry, Abdallah bin Alawi ibn Muhammad al Haddad. He has a beautiful diwan (a collection of his poetry). He used to say, “All of my secrets have been placed in my poetry not the prose.” Not the great books he wrote like; The Book of Assistance, Lives of Man or Counsels of Religion. Great works that Imam al-Haddad wrote in terms of prose but he said all of his secrets have been placed inside of his poetry. Then he said, “Inside of my poetry, it has all been placed within four poems; the ayn’iyaa tul kubra, taa’iyatul kubra, raa’iyatul kubra and meemi’yaa tul kubra. Ayn, taa, raa, meem is itr Muhammad, the family of Muhammad. Nobody loves the family of the Prophet save that love is predicated upon love of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) and nobody loves the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) save that love is predicated upon love of Allah. As the Prophet himself told us inside of Sahih Muslim, “Love Allah because of all the blessings that He consistently nourishes you with. Love me due to your love of Allah. Love my family due to my love.”
This as we heard is an affair of hearts as well as an affair of love and we just pray that Allah gives us and apportions us our due lot, an abundant lot of love for Him and love for His Rasul and His Mahbub (peace and blessings be upon him). And likewise love of the Mahbubeen, those whom the Prophet no doubt shows enough love for; his family.
This is what you call the kaafiya. The traces of what is the intent of the Imam you will find inside this kaafiya.
Is it the memory of neighbours in Dhu Salam (a place between Makkah and Madinah near Qadid)
That you mingle with blood tears shed from your eyes?
Last time we spoke about the two concepts; naseeb and tajreed. These are important to understand in the beginning. Naseeb is how the poet always begins in terms of singling out their beloved and singling out the environment of the beloved; that which reminds them of their beloved. All the great poets whether of jahilliya or of Islam when they take to the naseeb/ghazal they adopt this approach. The second thing that we see is tajreed, and tajreed when speaking about the people of spirituality which clearly Imam al-Busiri is. There are multiple secrets that are going to be immersed inside of the Imam’s poem. We pray that Allah gives us or affords us the opportunity to stumble upon some of them. Of what he does here of tajreed is an out-of-body experience. This is the spiritual way of the Imam which draws from the reality of nabuwwa (prophecy). In that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) more often that not when he approached his beloved, his khalil, who is known as Gabriel (upon him be peace), he more often that not in that experience of Gabriel he would do the nearest thing that we know which is an out-of-body experience where the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) strips his soul from his body as clarified by Ibn Khaldun in his Muqaddima. Likewise, we see that the Imam undergoes the same reality where he is going to strip his body from soul and then he is going to begin to address his soul, especially the lower manifestation of his soul which is known as his hawa.
What he is going to engage his faculties in is reminding them about the engagement of the beloved which is the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him). This is as we know is called your dhukr, it is one of the internal senses of man. Imam Busiri is addressing his own dhukr; his own faculty of remembrance. We have external senses as well as internal senses and your internal senses are like; memory, remembrance, reflection and imagination. These four internal senses join, being the fifth, with the external senses such as sight, hearing, taste, smell and touch. Ten senses as the great Imam al-Ghazali mentions. But the Imam wants to remind himself that the lover always engages their beloved with their entire being. It is like Allah says, “If you love Allah (with your entire being – every faculty, every sense, every limb), then follow the Messenger and Allah (with His essence, His attributes and His acts) will likewise display his love for you.” Imam al-Busiri starts with the faculty of dhukr, remembrance. The state of his self is undergoing great pain and what is the cause of that pain? Love. Who is the object of that love? The Prophet himself (peace and blessings be upon him).
So here the reason you are undergoing this pain, is it from remembering past neighbours at Dhu Salam? The only thing that can be special about Dhu Salam, for the lover, is that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) passed by Dhu Salam. That is one of the great instances that we see inside of Sirah (Prophetic Biography). Many mention that it is the first time that we see the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) described inside of his life and time where meets a woman called Umm Ma’bad (may Allah be pleased with her). Her name is Fatika bint Amr al Khuza’eeah. As the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) is making hijrah (migration) from Makkah to Madinah, he passes by a place in the valley of Dhu Salam where he engages this Bedouin encampment. The people of Khuza’ah are beloved to the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) , they are those who took the oath with the forefathers of the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) and because of those people of Khuza’ah he is going to raise an army 10,000 strong in order to invade Makkah. It is in that place, in that valley of Dhu Salam that the Prophet engages this beautiful, elderly woman who is known as Umm Ma’bad. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) is now at a point where they have no more provision, him and those alongside him. Those travelling with him to Madinah they ran out of all provision. So the Prophet goes and asks this blessed woman whether she has any provision and in the narration related on the authority of her brother, a great companion, Hubaysh ibn Amr – they are on the verge of death, they are becoming delirious due to having no more provison. She says that she has nothing and that it is a poor encampment. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) notices an old sheep/goat and asks to take milk from it. She says that it doesn’t give any milk to which the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) thereby goes to it and milks the goat and fills the bowl and allows Umm Ma’bad to bring first and foremost. Then after he fills it a second time, he gives it to his companions to drink. He leaves himself to last (peace and blessings be upon him). That is the nature of the true neighbour as he used to tell us and demonstrate to us (peace and blessings be upon him). “They are not from us the one who goes to sleep at night while his neighbour goes hungry at night.” We see that inside of Madinah al-Munawwara that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) would always ensure that his neighbours always first and foremost drank and were fed. He (peace and blessings be upon him) used to say, “The one who loves me should prepare for poverty.” Because you are going to act like him and part of his nature is preference of the other and especially the neighbour. No neighbour can ask the Prophet such that he would say no. Sayyidina Zayd ibn Thabit, the great compiler of the Qur’an, the great companion of the Rasul, the neighbour of the Rasul, was asked, “Is there anything that you can tell us about the Rasul? He said, “What can I tell you about the Rasul? I was his neighbour and he was never asked such that he would say no.” So the Prophet here dealing with the neighbour of Dhu Salam, and she begins thereafter to describe the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him). She describes him by his physical form; describing his face, his eyes, his nose, his hair, his forehead. Then she begins to describe his character (peace and blessings be upon him). She related all this to her beloved, to her husband, when he returns back. This is the first full description we have of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) inside of Sirah.
Now you see the heart of al-Busiri is attaching now to the form as well as the character of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him). This is what procures love, the reason why we love. A human being loves himself, it is the nature of the human being. Allah created the human being inside of intrinsic love of himself but likewise there are other reasons why the human being will love. Like Imam al-Ghazali who deals with it in his book of love, intimacy and yearning/desire inside of his Ihya. He mentions five reasons why a person loves:
- We have an intrinsic love of self
- We love those who do good to us
- We love those who do good to people regardless of whether we are the recipient or not
- We love those who are intrinsically beautiful
- We love those whose souls are aligned with our souls – as the Prophet said in al-Bukhari, “ Souls are arrayed soldiers.”
Our intrinsic love of self should lead to a love of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) because we are by virtue of him. As Allah says in the Hadith of Tabarani to Adam and by extension each and every single one of us as his offspring, “Yes O Adam, if it was not for him (Muhammad) I would not have created you.” So your love of your self has to lead to a love of the Prophet because by virtue of him we are. Then we look at the Prophet, look at all the gifts that Allah has extended unto us by virtue of him (peace and blessings be upon him) as in Bukhari, “Allah is the Giver and I am the distributor.” Not just distributing directly unto you but all of the creation of Allah through the Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him). Umm Ma’bad notices the Prophet taking the milk is from Allah because the livestock was giving no milk. It comes directly from Allah and here is the Prophet distributing to Umm Ma’bad, a gift from Allah. Distributing to Abu Bakr as-Siddiq, a gift from Allah. To them, first and foremost, before he even thinks of himself. She said that it is as if they are on the verge of death.
Then you see those who now follow the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) like the Banu Ummaya, like Ikramah ibn Abi Jahl and others. Those of the companions from Banu Makhzum when they are at the battle of Yammama and they are at the verge of dying. They take water to the first one, Ikramah ibn Abi Jahl, and he says “my brother over there has greater need of water over me.” So they take to him and then when it reaches him, “my brother over there has greater need of water over me.” So they take it to him, and he says, “my brother over there (meaning Ikramah) has greater need of water over me.” They get back to Sayyidina Ikramah and he has died, they get back to the second and he has died, they get back to the third and he has died. Where did they learn these attributes from? Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him). They learnt it from him. Based upon their love and attachment to him, they took his attributes.
Umm Ma’bad describes him abstract beauty. As Aisha would say about the physical form of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), “Those women of Zulakha, had they seen him (peace and blessings be upon him), they would have rather ripped out their hearts than slit their wrists.” They aint seen beauty. When the Prophet saw Yusuf, he saw half of it, as narrated in the hadith of Muslim. “There was Yusuf on the fourth sky and he was given half of beauty.” This was measured according to the standard of the Rasul (peace and blessings be upon him). Abstract beauty procures love. Likewise if your souls is arrayed with his soul, that is the beauty of being Abu Bakr as-Siddiq. His soul is martialed with the soul of the Rasul and that is why he has profound and delirious love for the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him). A type of love that Imam al-Busiri could only dream about experiencing because this is in poetry though we believe it is a reality of Imam al-Busiri. But it is definitely the reality of Abu Bakr as-Siddiq and it is not poetry. He spent his nights awake yearning for the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him). The realities of the poets speak about the burning of the liver of Abu Bakr as-Siddiq out of yearning and love of the Prophet. They could smell burning liver upon his breath. That is a soul that is martialed. Like the soul of Umar ibn al-Khattab, that is a soul that is martialed. Like the soul of Jesus son of Mary and the Prophets themselves, they are souls that are martialed. Souls which are arrayed and aligned with the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) such that they have enough love for the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him). There are people who love him although they know nothing about him. That is a martialed soul and we ask Allah that he renders our souls martialed with his soul (peace and blessings be upon him).
What type of pain is that someone who is crying tears of blood? What is that? That is torment. In the hadith in the Musnad of Ahmad ibn Hanbal, the Prophet spoke about the greatest torment that a human being can ever experience and no doubt Busiri is drawing upon that. What is the greatest torment? Inside of the hellfire and in the hadith the people of hell will cry and cry and cry tears. Then the tears will begin to turn into blood up until they gauge upon the cheeks ditches upon the cheeks of the people who are in excess of 100ft in height. Huge beings recreated for that eternal abode. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said that in the ducts created upon their cheeks, ships could sail. That is the torment of the people of the hell and the love of the Rasul (peace and blessings be upon him) could create that type of torment. Separation from the Prophet is more dire to them than hellfire. It is worse than hell to be separated from the Rasul. That is part of the meanings in Sahih al-Bukhari, when the Prophet says, “that is the one who has tasted the sweetness of faith from amongst them he would rather be cast into hell than be rendered of those ungrateful.” What does it mean for the lover to be separated from the beloved?
Tears of great men like Safina, he is crying in front of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), that when he thinks about the next life – what is the purpose inside because I think about me and you and when the day comes, you die and I day. Then I think who are you and who am I (Safina)? Allah will place you way above in paradise but there I am but separated. What is paradise if it means separation from the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him)?
Like the Imam of the way, Sayyidina Imam Ali bin Muhammad al-Habashi, “ I have never yearned for paradise save by virtue of the fact that my beloved is inside of paradise.” The reason I want to be in paradise is that it gives me union/connection/companionship of the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him).
Or is it the wind blowing from the direction of Kazimah (the name of an area near Madinah)
And the lightning flashing in the black night from Mount Idam (a mountain near Madinah)?
Kazimah is a place by the city of Busra, between Busra and Makkah. It is a place that although the Prophet never physically stood upon, he saw it and gave Prophecy of that place to his companions when he (peace and blessings be upon him) was inside Tabuk waiting to battle the Romans. The fact that it was upon his tongue is something likewise that reminds us of the Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him). Just the mere mention of a place that he mentioned should stir the love inside of your heart. It should bring tears to your eyes so bad that you cry profusely such that those tears turn to blood due to your torment of separation from your beloved (peace and blessings be upon him).
Idam is a valley just outside of Madinah al-Munawwara. A mountain. A place where flesh touched flesh. The flesh of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) touched the flesh of somebody called Rukana ibn Abi Yazid; a great undefeated wrestler of Arabia. He threatened the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) and he declared that he would kill him. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) heads for Rukana. Here is the Rasul, as Umar ibn al-Khattab said, “He is the most courageous of all people.” If somebody threatens him, he heads straight for them, alone. We hear multiple narrations when the flesh of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) intermingles with the flesh of Rukana. Every time Rukana is asking the Prophet, “let’s go again.” A man who is undefeated in wrestling and this was in the darkness of Idam where you see a lightning flash. As the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said in a hadith in the Mustadrak of Ahmad ibn Hanbal, “Allah allowed the angel to speak in the best of voices and he allowed the angel to smile in the best of smiles. When you hear thunder, that is the angel speaking in the best of voices. When you see the flash of lightning, that is the angel smiling in the best of smiles.” Look at the angel smiling when the Prophet time after time and time after time, his flesh is intermingling with the flesh of Rukana and placing him upon the ground. Look at the angel smiling at Idam’s darkness when the only intention behind this man called Rukana is to allow his flesh to touch the flesh of the Rasul. Maybe these are things that we don’t connect to like in the great narration of Sayyidina Su’ad who was there at the battle of Uhud and the Prophet lines up the army for battle. There is Sayyidina Su’ad and he is out of line, on purpose, because he knows what happens next! The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) takes out his stick and sticks it into his chest and pushes him into line. He says, “You have hurt me, O Messenger of Allah. I want retribution.” The companions can’t contain themselves but we ask because of the lack of adab of Su’ad or they can’t contain themselves because of the bravery of Su’ad? What does Su’ad want? He wants flesh with flesh. When the Prophet say, “Let it be. Give Su’ad the stick. Seek your retribution.” He says, “O Messenger of Allah, don’t you see that I am bare-chested? Take your shirt off.” He (peace and blessings be upon him) takes off his shirt and then Sayyidina Su’ad goes flesh with flesh. He begins to embrace the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) flesh with flesh. The Prophet then says in order to teach the companions that are present and to teach us likewise who are present. “What is that which made you do that, O Su’ad?” He said, “O Messenger of God, if this war now is my last contract of life I want my last contract to be flesh to flesh with you.”
Part 2 to follow.
Any mistakes, errors or misinterpretations of words are from me. Please correct me when you spot any mistakes.