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....