Imam Al Busiri and The Burda



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Introduction

The Qasida Al-Burda (The Poem of the Mantle), known as The Burda, is a poem in praise of The Prophet ﷺ. It was composed by Al Busiri in the 7th century Hijri and is one of the most widely recited and memorised poems in the world. The actual title of the poem is The Celestial Lights in Praise of the Best of Creation (الكواكب الدرية في مدح خير البرية).
It is most widely known by the refrain, often sung between verses:

مَولَاىَ صَلِّ وَسَلِّمْ دَائِمًا أَبَدًا
ِعَلَى حَبِيبِكَ خَيرِ الْخَلْقِ كُلِّهِم


Structure

The Burda consists of ten chapters. Al Busiri starts by expressing his own love for The Prophet ﷺ and then mentions his regret for past errors. The middle chapters celebrate the life of The Prophet ﷺ - his birth, his miracles, the Qur'an, his night journey and martial struggles. The final chapters of the Burda are Al Busiri's plea for The Prophet's ﷺ intercession and Allah's mercy.

The Burda's Story

Al Busiri was affected by a debilitating sickness. He decided to write the Burda as a means of seeking Allah's forgiveness and The Prophet's ﷺ intercession. After composing Burda he saw a dream, where The Prophet ﷺ covered the Al Busiri with his ﷺ mantle (burda). He was cured as from his illness when he woke up.

The Original Burda

Al Busiri's Burda is the most famous poem known as the Burda, but the poem originally known by that name was composed by the poet Ka'b ibn Zuhayr, one of the companions of The Prophet ﷺ. Before accepting Islam, Ka'b used his poetry to slander the Muslims. He later accepted Islam, and recited a poem to The Prophet ﷺ and other companions that he composed to express his remorse over his past actions. When he finished reciting it, The Prophet ﷺ threw his mantle (burda) to Ka'b. His poem was therefore known as the Burda.

The Author

The author's full name is Muhammad b. Said b. Hammad b. Muhsin b. Abd Allah b. Sanhaj b. Hilal b. al-Sanhaji al-Busiri. He was of Berber lineage, but was born in Dallas, Egypt the year 608 AH. He emigrated to Cairo when young and memorised the Qur’an and learned the elementary sciences of the Sharīʿah and the Arabic language. He initially earned his living through writing calligraphy on tomobstones, and was soon sought out for his skill in calligraphy.

Al-Busiri went on to assume several public roles within Cairo and its surrounding areas, and after a while he started working for the Egyptian state as a clerk in the town of Balis in the eastern province, where he stayed for some years. However, he soon clashed with the civil servants around him and felt annoyance at their character after witnessing their faults. As a result, Al-Busiri compiled a number of invective poems against them, exposing their infamies. This earned him the wrath of the political elite, and soon grew weary of public office and removed himself from all government work. He returned to Cairo where he opened a primary school for children.

He then moved to Alexandria, which was a centre of sacred knowledge and Sufism. He focused his efforts on reading the prophetic biographical literature and learning about The Prophet ﷺ. He expended enormous efforts and dedicated all of his poetry and craft to praising The Prophet ﷺ. Al-Busiri passed away in Alexandria in 694 AH at the age of eighty-seven. He was buried there, in a small zawiya that was later transformed into a mosque named after him. May Allah have mercy upon him and grant him a goodly abode.

Other works: As well as the Burda, Al-Busiri also composed the Muhammadiyya and the Hamziyya.


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