Understanding the poem of the Burdah in Sufi commentaries

Rose Aslan


This thesis explores interpretations of the poem of the Burdah composed by Imam al- Būṣīrī, a mystical panegyric poem that is associated with miracles and is believed by some to have healing and talismanic properties. By examining various writings by Sufi scholars on the Burdah, I have shed light on their interpretations of the poem and its mystical qualities in order to come to a deeper understanding of the poem itself, its context, and the impact it has had on Islamicate literature and Sufi practices. Most importantly, I explore the theme of seeking intercession from the Prophet Muhammad and the role that the Burdah plays in this process. A number of commentators I discuss in this study identify their petition to the Prophet as a primary motive for producing their commentaries. I will argue that there are three levels that play out in this process, namely 1. themes in the poem of the Burdah itself that deal with the topic, 2. the story of al- Būṣīrī's composition of the Burdah as a means of seeking intercession from the Prophet and forgiveness from God, and 3. the composition of commentaries by Sufis who by clarifying and interpreting the Burdah, hoped for their sins to be forgiven and for the Prophet to intercede for them as he did for al- Būṣīrī. While there are those who treat the poem merely as another literary text, those who believe in its spiritual efficacy use al- Būṣīrī's biography as a model that they aspire to in order to purify themselves in the spiritual path.