Sunday, 17 October 2010

The Burda Explained

بسم الله الرحمان الرحيم

My little love for poetry kind of urged me to take the class "the Burda explained" my own lack of knowledge is seemingly more and more obvious to me day by day, I knew and heard of the burda as a poem that sends praises to the beloved prophet (saw), but never would I have imagined the deep and painful ache, the passion, the emotion and the utmost high love that goes with it. Its enough to be embedded in your heart and mind forever. Knowing now that its not just poetry puts me to shame just a little, considering its very famous, recitation of it is also known to be a form of zikr. And of course, when seeking knowledge, the only drive should be the love of Allah and the Prophet (saw), regardless of a love for poetry. Although I think people reach Allah (swt) in different ways, for me, and I know for loads of others, delving into poetry is certainly one of them, (even though I cant write it!).

Imaam Sharafuddin Muhammed Al-Busiri was born in Egypt 608 AH and was known to be a great and extremely talented poet of his time. The typical thing for poets to do at that time would be to compose poems about the king or pharaoh who in return would reward them with riches. Imaam Busiri spent his time composing poems about his love for Allah (swt) and his messenger (saw) showing his deep affection and nobility to islam, thus the reason for his life spent in poverty in terms of riches, however Imaam Busiri was a very rich man indeed, in terms of his good deeds.

The Burda is translated as The Cloak. The composition of the Burda occurred after Imaan Busiri suffered a serious stroke, leaving him partially paralysed and unable to walk. The composition of the Burda thus occurred at a time of weakness and sickness which is one of the times where duas are more likely to be accepted. After Imaam busiri wrote the poem he fell into a deep sleep and dreamt of the prophet (saw), who wiped his paralyzed limbs and placed his cloak over them. After awaking, Imaam Busiris paralysis was cured and he was able to walk. After walking to the market place. he was approached by a man who inquired about the poem of the Burda, to which Imaam Al-Busiri was shocked to find, as he had not told anyone about this poem. He asked the man how he came to know of the Burda to which the man replied that he had seen, in a dream, that imaam busiri was reciting it to the Prophet (saw).

From here the story of the Burda became well known, and very quickly became a famous poem and has spread since across the globe, being translated into all different languages and studied at all levels.

The Burda is split up into ten chapters.

Chapter one: Passionate Love


امن تذكر جيران بذي سلم
مزجت دمعا جري من مقلة بدم

Is it from the remembrance of the neighbours at dhi salam
That you mixed tears that ran from an eye with blood?

The poem opens with a Question. It starts with pain; of someone in love. The setting is that of one person is questioning the person in love, or it may be that he questions himself. There are in theory two types of love: 1) the real thing and 2) metaphoric love. According to the arabian world, the rules of real love are to 1) not to tell anyone you love them and 2) not to tell anyone whom you are in love with. Thus the poet keeps the love hidden, but to the critisiser it is obvious that the lover is in love, he does not open with the question are you in love? thats already obvious, he is. Now we must know the reason.

Why is it obvious that the lover is in love? that you mixed tears that ran from an eye with blood. As is said, tears of happiness are cold and tears of sorrow are hot, thus so intense is the flow of tears of the lover, the more intensity, the more pressure, when too many tears have been cried but the pressure still rises...the lover cries tears of blood.

And so he confronts him, is it because of the remembrance (of your beloved), that you punish yourself by mixing tears with blood?


ام هبت الريح من تلقاء كاظمة
و اومض البرق في الظلماء من اضم

Or did the winds blow from the direction of Kadhima
And the lighting strike in the darkness from Idam?

The critisiser continues in his efforts to extract the truth: Or is it this reason? We know its either that reason or this one so just tell me which. The winds blowing (from the direction of the beloved) emphasis bringing news of the beloved, or maybe it brings the scent of the beloved, or perhaps it is a sign for the lover that the beloved shall return. Again the lighting strike, giving the imagery that the world remains a dark place and any light that shines is perhaps a reminder of the beloved in some way or form.

Kadhima being a valley near madina thus is quite fitting that the winds blow between and from the valley. Idam being a mountain near madina


فما لعينيك ان قلت اخففا همتا
و ما لقلبك ان قلت استفق يهم

Then what is with your eyes; if you tell them "Stop!" they flow freely?
And what is with your heart; if you tell it "Awaken!" it goes wild?

The critisiser continues to make a case against the one who loves as the lover denies being in love. The critisiser argues; "if thats not the case, if you are not in love then tell me what is with your eyes, Why do your eyes do this, (
همتا to flow uncontrollably), what is with your heart, why does it act so? ( يهم to go wild), Why are they out of control? it is because you are in love, you cannot deny". It is almost as if he talks to himself, trying to get the self to confess...


ايحسب الصب ان الحب منكتم
ما بين منسجم منه و مضطرم

Does the lover believe that love is hidden;
That which is between a part of him that flows and a part that burns?

Here the criticiser turns away from the lover and no longer speaks to him directly, rather he speaks either to himself or to the audience. As if to say "does he really believe his love is hidden (when it is so obvious)" he shows how foolish the lover is to think that. From that which burns (inwardly) and thus flows (outwardly i.e tears mixed with blood) how obvious it is. Love has signs, that which cannot be hidden.

الصب a word which is a stage of love (in arabia there are ten scales of love). It is derived from the word Sabba meaning "to pour" which shows the depth of love, to pour ones heart, to pour ones tears for the beloved.


لَو لاَ الْهَوَي لَمْ تُرِقْ دَمْعاً عَلَي طَلَلِ
وَ لاَ اَرقْتَ لِذِكْرِ الْبَانِ وَ الْعَلَمِ

Where it not for your love, you would not have poured tears over the ruins,
Nor would you have been sleepless from the remembrance of the Cypress tree and the mountains.

To continue his case, he gives proof that it is because of his love that he " poured tears over the ruins" The ruins indicating places that remind him of the beloved, or indicating the own body of the lover, الْهَوَي a love level derived from the word Hawa "to fall" meaning making the lover fall into ruin.

The cypress tree - comparisons of the beloved are made with this tree because of its sweet smell, its beautiful form and aesthetic structure. The mountain indicating the place where the beloved was last seen, the time that was spent together, or the beloveds favorite place, also indicating the might and the strength of the Prophet (saw).

to be continued....

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Companions of the Cave

“Or dost thou reflect that the Companions of the Cave and of the Inscription were wonders among Our Sign?” Quran 18:9

“Consider thy breast as a cave, the place for the spiritual retreat of the friend; If though art really the “Companion of the cave,” then enter the cave, enter the cave!” Mevlana Rumi

Notes to consider: The cave of Mount Hira was a place that the Prophet (peace be upon him) used to meditate and reflect upon life even before his time of prophethood.
When the blessed Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him), first received revelation in the cave of Mount Hira, out of fear he fled to his wife Khadija (RA) and asked her to cover him. This was his retreat, this was his friend. Little did he (peace be upon him) know that the cave that he fled from would be a great friend and an even greater retreat that would aid what would become the fastest growing religion of all time.

We may look at Surah Al-Kahf (The Cave), tells us the story of the “companions of the cave”, of a number of male youths who took refuge in a cave from the tyrant emperor of Jordan who threatened to kill believers of that time. The cave for some is a place of uncertainty, dark and threatening, uncomfortable and dangerous, as it can be the home of snakes and other reptiles. The youths feeling no different, make dua to Allah and hold their trust firm in Allah, “Behold, the youths betook themselves to the Cave: they said, "Our Lord! Bestow on us Mercy from Thyself, and dispose of our affair for us in the right way!" 18:10

Refering back, what Rumi portrays in his poetry that if you truly are the “companion of the cave” then to embrace it as you would the breast of a friend, i.e. the true believer would trust in Allah and find solace. In another way of looking at it, we can see that Rumi is perhaps portraying the cave as a choice, you have a choice to choose the luxury of the world, or if you truly believe in Allah and are content with him, then enter the cave, enter the cave!

We see in this surah, that the companions of the cave, because of their belief in Allah and their duas, Allah then protected them in every way, and reflecting on this in itself is a clear sign for us, as the cave in which they retreated to was situated in such a way that they were away from the sun during the day, thus shaded from the heat, and during the cooler sun set they were still able to benefit from the warmth of the sun:

“Thou wouldst have seen the sun, when it rose, declining to the right from their Cave, and when it set, turning away from them to the left, while they lay in the open space in the midst of the Cave. Such are among the Signs of Allah: He whom Allah, guides is rightly guided; but he whom Allah leaves to stray, for him wilt thou find no protector to lead him to the Right Way. 18:17

“Then We draw (a veil) over their ears, for a number of years, in the Cave, (so that they heard not)” 18:11. The youths were said to have slept for over 300 years, thus the mercy of Allah, of not only protecting them from the tyrant but ensuring their comfort throughout, and after they awake the story continues which can be read. Here we shall delve a little deeper into the Cave itself…

In Islam, the Cave has been a symbol for the heart and thus access to Allah. “The Divine is not within the human but every human has the ability to reach him through the spirit.” The Dome of the Rock is probably one of the most well known pieces of architectures for many religions, not forgetting its spiritual and religious values that draw people to it. In itself, it can symbolise many things for many people, from gain to loss, from hope to fear. It is believed that beneath the Dome of the Rock, lays a cave. For those who are not familiar with the story of miraj of the Prophet (peace be upon him), it is believed that Buraq, the horse that carried the Prophet (peace be upon him) on his night journey, stood upon “the Rock” and before Buraq left to fly to heaven, the rock pleaded Buraq to take it with him, thus the movement of the rock to heaven, left an empty space which we know today as the cave that lies beneath the Dome of the Rock.

For every mosque there is a focal prayer point of which is called the mihrab. The Mihrab is con-cave (yes like a cave), it is known for its decorative calligraphy concentrated in this area especially. Common shapes can be found within these structures, e.g. the main archway is usually made up of a straight rectangular shape on the bottom joined to a circular shape on top as shown:

The bottom rectangular part represents the terrestrial world whilst the circular part represents the heavenly world as the circle is infinite, as is the hereafter.

Like the cave the mihrab also symbolises the inward heart. Above the Mihrab sits the Dome. The Dome has two amazing symbolisms from two view points, looking up from the inside is a symbol for the gateway to the heavens as it is ascending into the sky. As the dome sits directly above the Mihrab this means that it is essentially the heart that leads us to heaven, which makes sense, as this should be the destination for every pure heart kept with good intention. The second symbol looking from the outside, the Dome shape is a symbol for Allah’s Rahma being sent down to us to our heart, again making much sense, as any love we feel from the heart for another person/animal/plant, is essentially from the origins of Allahs Mercy, and those who show compassion to others, Allah showers his mercy upon them also.

We may remember the story of the Idols that were destroyed in the Kaba, which may also have deeper meaning to the destruction of the ego within the hearts of the arrogant people of that time. As we know, the heart leads to the spirit, and thus to the divine. So, praying towards the mihrab, which is towards qibla and thus the Kaba, becomes a symbol of praying inwardly to the heart towards the spiritual realm. It is not just a matter of praying horizontally, the mihrab so to speak, curves it back to us, (as you would expect from a con-cave structure), from one heart to another, it offers another dimension, a gateway to access our lord, if only we try to.

It is quite hard not to notice the beauty of many mosques, however reflecting a little on the meanings behind the beauty gives them a profound depth that has the ability to touch your heart, feed your spirit and hopefully increase your worship and bring you that much closer to your lord. So let us strive to be "companions of the cave."

Saturday, 10 April 2010

Mevlana Rumi

The famous spiritual author, sufi mystic and poet.

“Listen to the Reed flute how it wistfully sings,
Crying of separation, Complaining.”
- Song of the Reed (Mevlana Rumi)

The calligrapher’s pen is made of Reed, the same material that flute is carved from. The flute sings with music, the notes it produces when blown, the pen sings with writing, the letters made by the calligrapher.

Mevlana Rumi associates the reed flute with the soul. As the Reed is plucked from the reed beds and subsequently carved into a tool, flute or pen, as is our soul, plucked from its origins and put into the bodies we have now, they long to return.
….To Allah we belong and to him we shall return…

The calligrapher’s pen is not only a tool for him/her to express themselves, it holds special depths and spiritual meaning, thus the calligrapher always keeps his/her pen protected, respected and looked after, i.e. they avoid dropping it on the floor, it is kept clean and pure and kept in the dhikr of Allah…as should the soul.

On further reflection, the Qur'an swears by the pen in surah Qalam, thus the fact that the Almighty Allah (swt) has made an oath by it, gives it its higher rank in status. Surely this shows that it is one of the most powerful tools used by mankind, not just today, but for centuries.

The Truest and Best Love

“Ben dostlarımı ne kalbimle ne de aklımla severim.
Olur ya kalp durur, akıl unutur.
Ben dostlarımı ruhumla severim.
O ne durur, ne unutur...” (MEVLANA RUMİ)

I love the beloved not with my heart nor my mind,
The heart stops and the mind forgets,
I love the beloved with my soul (ruh),
It does not stop, it does not forget.

Note: Beloved i.e. Allah and his prophet (saw), your friends and family.
Note: The Ruh is ongoing; it is present in this life and the hereafter (eternity). To love with your Ruh means your love is not just temporary; it means to love on a whole different level...

Acknowledge: My good friend in body and soul, Zahra.H.