Mainstay: A Commentary on Qasida Al-Burda
Abdul Aziz Suraqah, translation
THE FIRST-EVER COMPLETE COMMENTARY ON ISLAM’S MOST FAMOUS POEM
Ever since its composition in the seventh Islamic century, by the poet, scholar and spiritual master Muhammad b. Saʿīd al-Buṣīrī, al-Kawākib al-durriyya fī madḥ Khayr al-Bariyya (‘The Celestial Lights in Praise of the Best of Creation’), more commonly known as the Burda, has been a mainstay of the Muslim choral tradition from East to West. It is the quintessence of devotional praise and expression of passionate love for the Prophet (Allah bless him and give peace), for both the expert and layman. It adorns architecture throughout the Muslim lands and also found a place on the walls of the Prophet’s Mosque in Medina.
Dozens of commentaries and glosses on the poem have been written, by such luminaries as Ibn Ḥajar al-Haytamī, ʿAlī al-Qārī, al-Bājūrī and Shaykh-Zādah. This indicates its widespread acceptance within the mainstream Muslim scholarly tradition and unquestionably dispels the doubts that some have raised about the poem’s content. While a plethora of material exists in Arabic, Urdu and Persian, no complete commentary on the Burda has hitherto been written in or translated into English.
Inspired by this rich heritage of his predecessors, Shaykh Ibn ʿAjība d.1224 AH [1809 CE] in al-ʿUmda fī Sharḥ al-Burda (‘The Mainstay: a Commentary on Qaṣīda al-Burda’) beautifully elaborates on the poem taking the reader to the heart of the author. He comprehensively explains the meanings of each couplet and gleans beneficial spiritual lessons from it. For every reference in the Burda to events in the Prophet’s life, the author cites the primary texts that mention them and offers valuable details and enlightening clarifications of areas of possible confusion. It further offers the reader beautiful imagery and aesthetic refinement that perfectly complement al-Buṣīrī’s ode.