The Mantle Adorned; Imam Busiri’s Burda: Arabic - English
Author: Imam Busiri/Abdal Hakim Murad
Publishing House: The Quilliam Press (UK)
As Professor Schimmel notes, the ‘Mantle-Ode’ is the favourite poem of Muslims everywhere’. Formally entitled ‘Glittering Stars in Praise of the Best of Creation’, it takes a strongly classical form, beginning with the ancient Arabian theme of the lover soliloquizing amid the remains of his lost beloved’s encampment. Even here, however, we soon realise that the beloved one is not a Bedouin maiden, but is none other than Habibullah. Despite the difficulty of the ode’s very exalted Arabic, the Burda has attaracted more devotional and literary attention than any other Muslim poem. (Some even claim it to be the most widely-memorised poem in the world.) The Mantle Adorned may serve, it is hoped, as an aid to devotion. In the traditional manner, each line, and the nazira lines which follow, should be the subject of an hour’s quite meditation. Blessing the Prophet, and indeed all of the prophets and saints, brings a blessing in to our lives, and stillness to the heart.
‘Whoever blesses me once’, he says, ‘shall have tenfold by God.’’
Muhammad Ibn Sa’id Al-Busiri was born in the Upper Egyptian village of Behnesa in 1212, to a poor family of Moroccan Berber origin. After memorizing the Quran and other holy texts he travveled to Cairo, where he continued his education. Employed as a clerk and magistrate in several towns of the Nile Delta, he wrote several Poems praising local governors, while condemning commercial malpractices and the obstinacy of debtors. His physical feebleness, his many children, and an apparently difficult wife, ensured that his financial situation was often insecure; and when he suffered a stroke in middle age, his situation seemed desperate. Eventually in this state of complete helplessness and despair he composed the Burda expressing the grandeur and excellence of The Prophet (s.a.w). Allah cured him thru the Blessing of that poem. He went on to live a full life, and died in Cairo or Alexandria, perhaps in 1297.