This is an article from our monthly newsletter. Sign up to the mailing list.
The Burda is a poem penned by Imam Al Busiri, expressing his love for The Prophet ﷺ. It follows the classic qasida pattern and 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. Here's a chapter by chapter overview, with some selected verses.
Chapter 1: The beginning of a qasida is called the nasib. This is the nostaligic opening in which the poet reflects on the past. In this way, Al Busiri begins the poem without explicitly mentioning the subject of the poem.
Chapter 2: In this chapter Al Busiri warns about the ego: he speaks of his actions being inconsistent with his old age. He then ends with his regret for not performing good deeds.
Do not try to thwart unlawful desires by satisfying them,
For food only increases a glutton’s desires.
Chapter 3: Only in Chapter 3 Imam Al Busiri mentions the subject of his poem: The Prophet ﷺ. He mentions how The Prophet ﷺ abstained from worldly indulgences, and called people to worship One God. Al Busiri then talks about the excellent attributes of The Prophet ﷺ and also mentions the difficulty of his task of writing the poem:
For the worth of Allah’s Emissary has no limit
That could be expressed by a human mouth.
The middle part of this poem then turns to the life of The Prophet ﷺ.
Chapter 4: Al Busiri then moves into the supernatural incidents that occurred at the time of the Prophet's ﷺ birth and predicted his important mission.
Chapter 5: This chapter is about the miracles of The Prophet ﷺ. He then singles out a few of many miracles that supported the truth of his mission.
Chapter 6: This chapter is about the greatest miracle of The Prophet ﷺ: the glorious and inimitable Qur'an. Talking about the verses of the Qur'an, Imam Al Busiri says:
Their marvels can neither be counted nor numbered,
And frequent repetition never gives rise to tedium.
Chapter 7: This chapter talks about the ascension of The Prophet ﷺ to the heavens, ending with the more praise of the ranks The Prophet ﷺ climbed.
Chapter 8: This chapter discusses the martial struggles of The Prophet ﷺ and of his noble disciples, who assisted him ﷺ with their military achievements in support of his mission.
Chapter 9: At this stage Imam Al Busiri again reflects on his past life and regrets the time he spent eulogising other people. He makes amends by devoutly offering the poem to The Prophet ﷺ and tenders his apology, feeling confident in the generosity of The Prophet ﷺ.
For I have a protective covenant with him owing to my name—
Muhammad—and he is the most loyal of mankind to covenants
Chapter 10: In this chatper, Imam Al Busiri invokes the promised intercession of The Prophet ﷺ on his behalf on the Day of Judgement for the pardon of his sins. After a short prayer for himself, he finishes the poem by invoking the eternal blessings of Allah on The Prophet ﷺ, his followers and his posterity. At the end of this chapter are some verses (beginning with the praise of the four khalifas) that were not part of the original poem. They were added by later scholars.