Arabian Poetry, by W. A. Clouston, , at sacred-texts.com
Cet ouvrage est si fort estimé parmi les Mahometans, que plusieurs l’apprennent par cœur, et en citent les vers comme autant de sentences. Plusieurs aussi l’ont paraphrasé et commenté; et on en trouve un grand nombre de versions Persiennes et Turquesques, tant en prose, qu’en vers.—D’Herbelot: Bibliothèque Orientale.
THIS Poem was composed by Abū-‘Abdi-’llāh Muhammad, son of Sa‘īd, of Būsīr, in Upper Egypt (whence his surname of "Būsīrī"), whose cognomen was Sherefu-’d-Dīn (Honour of Religion). His prænomen of Abū-‘Abdi-’llāh merely states, as is usual with Arabians, that he had a son named ‘Abdu-’llāh (Abdallah), and would seldom be used by any but very intimate friends. Generally, he is known as Sherefu-’d-Din Muhammad, El-Būsīrī. He is said to have been born a.h. 608 (a.d. 1211), and to have died between 691 and 700 (a.d. 1291-1300).
The exact date of the Poem is not known; but it would appear to have acquired celebrity while a certain Bahā’u-’d-Din was the Vazīr of El-Maliku-’t-Tāhir, one of the Mamlūk (slave) Kings of Egypt, successors to the dynasty of the great Salāhu-’d-Dīn (Saladin).
Various reasons have been assigned by commentators, without any better foundation than surmise or tradition, for the composition of the Poem. The author himself, however, in verse 140, gives the most satisfactory account of what prompted him to undertake the task: "by which I seek pardon for the sins of a lifetime passed in poetry and services." It was a doxology and a prayer composed in old age by a pious man who repented and regretted the futilities in which his years had been spent.
With regard to the title of the panegyric, "The Mantle Poem," as many opinions have been expressed as separate commentaries have been written. This title legitimately belongs solely to the eulogy pronounced on Muhammad, the great Arabian reformer and lawgiver, in his presence, by
[paragraph continues] Ka‘b, the son of Zuhayr, which was recompensed by the bestowal of the great teacher's mantle on the eulogist then and there, as is detailed in the Preface to the translation of that Poem, as given in the present volume. But the title has been also conferred by the public voice on the Poem of Būsīrī; and commentators have sought to account for this more or less reasonably. One relates that the Poet was stricken with palsy, and obtained his recovery of God through the Prophet's intercession at the invocation contained in the Poem. Seine have thought that the Poem was thence named the "Bur’a Poem," the word bur’a signifying "a cure," "a recovery;" afterwards corrupted, by ignorance or design, into the well-known name of the "Burda Poem"—the word burda signifying "a plaid wrapper." Another commentator relates that the Prophet appeared to the sick man in a dream, assured him of his recovery, and threw over him his own plaid or mantle, which the Poet saw spread upon his bed when he awoke and found himself whole.
The entire Poem, and also selected portions of it, are much used as chanted recitations in cases of sickness; and even when a corpse is being prepared by ablution for interment, as is mentioned in Lane's "Modern Egyptians" (p. 513, l. 12. edition of 1860, Murray, London); also during the funeral procession (p. 517, l. 12). They are used, too, as charms or amulets, to avert evil and to secure blessings, by being written out and suspended, in frames, in rooms, &c., or, in cases, on the person. The Poem is known everywhere in the world of Islām, and enjoys a much greater veneration than the original eulogy by Ka‘b, since it recites in detail most of the chief acts of Muhammad's life, and of his highest titles.
J. W. REDHOUSE.
LONDON, August, 1880.