Stetkeyvich, Suzanne Pinckney (trans) Mantle abic Praise Poems to the Prophet Muhammad, The
The Mantle Odes
Arabic Praise Poems to the Prophet Mu ˙hammad The Mantle OdesA r a bic Pr a ise P oe m s t o t h e Proph et M u h. a m m a d Su z a n n e Pi nc k n e y S t et k ev yc h Indiana University Press The paper used in this publication meets the minimum requirements ofthe American National Standard for In- formation Sciences—Permanence ofPaper for Printed Library Materials, ANSI Z39.48-1992.
Introduction · 1
¿Alqamah’s A Heart Turbulent with Passion: The Poem as Ransom Payment · 3 2. Al-Nābighah’s O Abode of Mayyah: Transgression andRedemption · 12 3.
Ka¿b ibn Zuhayr’s Su¿ād Has Departed · 30The Conversion Narrative · 33The Conversion Ode · 38 Part 1: Lyric-Elegiac Prelude (Nasīb) · 38 Part 2: Desert Journey (Raƒīl) · 42 Part 3: Praise (Madīƒ) · 46 Mythogenesis: The Donation of the Mantle · 62
Conclusion · 66¥assān ibn Thābit’s At …aybah Lies a Trace · 66 two Al-Būs. īrī and the Dream of the Mantle
Introduction · 70Poetic Genre · 71Poetic Style: Classical and Post-Classical Badī¿ · 73The Poet and His Times · 81The Miracle and the Poem · 82 ¿Umar ibn al-Fāriæ’s Was That Laylá’s Fire · 88
The Mantle Ode · 90
The Beginning of the Supplicatory Pattern: Parts 1–3 · 92The Structure of al-Bū»īrī’s Burdah · 90 Part 1: Prophetic Nasīb · 92 Part 2: Warning against the Desires of the Self · 95 Part 3: Praise of the Noble Messenger · 97 The Sīrah-Derived Passages: Parts 4–8 · 106 Poeticization and Polemicization · 107 Part 4: The Birth of the Prophet · 111 Part 5: The Miracles of the Prophet · 117 Part 6: The Noble Qurƒān · 121 Part 7: The Night Journey and Ascension · 127 Part 8: The Messenger’s Jihād and Campaigns · 132 Completion of the Supplicatory Pattern: Parts 9–10 · 141 Part 9: Supplication and Plea for Intercession · 142 Part 10: Fervent Prayer and Petition · 144 Conclusion · 148 three Ah. mad Shawqī and the Reweaving of the Mantle
Introduction · 151Aƒmad Shawqī and the Nahæah · 151Poetic Precedents · 153 Authorizing the Text: The Khedive, the Shaykh, and theAdīb · 156 The Colonial Double Bind · 160
Shawqī’s Nahj al-Burdah: The Thematic Structure · 163
Chapter 1 closes with a brief look at another poem to the Prophet, the elegy of ¥assān ibn Thābit, to demonstrate how the supplicationritual and the exchange of poem for prize in this world (i.e., the exchange of Ka¿b’s poem for the Prophet’s mantle) can be translated, after thedeath of the Prophet, to the next world. By inter-preting these poetic works in light of the structural elements of the sup- plicatory ode, by highlighting the performative function of the odes asspeech acts with transformative power, and by viewing them as part of the ritual exchange of poem for prize, The Mantle Odes demonstrates whythese praise poems to the Prophet have continued through the centuries to inform the poetic and religious life of the Arab and Islamic world.
Ac k now l e d gm e n t s
I owe a debt of gratitude as well to the institutions whose financial and material support were essential to the completion of this book. Finally, my thanks are due to the Library of Alexandria, Egypt, and especially its manuscript collection director, Professor Youssef Zeidan, forgranting permission and providing the photograph of the Takhmīs Qa»īdat al-Burdah manuscript page that graces the cover of my book, and I wouldlike to express my appreciation to Koninklijke Brill N.
No t e on T r a nsl at ion a n d T r a nsl i t e r at ion
With a view to a smooth English reading of both poetry and prose translations, I have not used square brackets [/] forminor interpolations that are simply a matter of clarification or style, but rather only in cases where the interpolation is open to doubt, such as theidentification of the antecedent of a pronoun. In addition, as the full repetition of the honorific of the Prophet Muƒammad, »allá Allāhu ¿alayhi wa-sallama (“God bless him and give him peace”) proves cum- bersome to the English reader, I have used the standard English abbre- viation “pbuh” (peace and blessings upon him) in all translations,whether the original has the Arabic siglum or the full phrase.
A bbr ev i at ions
For if the poet threw himself at the mercy ofhis mamdūƒ (the recipient of his praise, the patron) in verses 21–23, here he sets out the terms of the contract of allegiance and the exchange ritual K a¿ b i b n Z u h ay r a n d t h e M a n t l e o f t h e P r o p h e t · 11 that will confirm it: the poet is performatively giving his gift of praise— the poem; what he asks in return is the generous release of the captiveShaƒs. The key elements of the Supplica- tory Ode are likewise in evidence in the Loss expressed in the abandoned K a¿ b i b n Z u h ay r a n d t h e M a n t l e o f t h e P r o p h e t · 19 campsite of the nasīb, the elements of Self-Abasement in the poet’s ex- pressions of fear and hope, the Praise of King al-Nu¿mān for might andgenerosity, and the Supplication itself, the poet’s plea for the king’s for- giveness.
The transition from the nasīb to the raƒīl is signaled in the clearest and most classical fashion in verses 17–18 by the imperative ¿addi ¿an (turn away
As we saw in al-Nābighah’s treatment of the same raƒīl theme, the contrast between passive suffering and energeticattack against the hounds reiterates the psychological transition of the poet-passenger himself from the nasīb to the raƒīl, and we are to under-stand that it is just this psychological transformation and act of will and determination on the poet-passenger’s part that guarantees the successof his quest, that is, his journey to the patron. Zuhayr then makes a dramatic poetic move: rather than rounding out the raƒīl by returning to the subject of the simile (the she-camel),and then presenting the arrival at the patron’s court, as our experience with the qa»īdat al-madƒ genre would lead us to expect, he brings us justto the point of climax—the oryx bull gores the hounds and sends their blood gushing—and cuts abruptly to the madīƒ.
Allāh’s final revelations was expressed (the Qurƒānic bi-lisānin ¿arabi- yyin mubīnin, “in a clear Arab tongue”) (al-Qurƒān al-Karīm [hereafter
A num- ber of points of similarity are to be noted when we compare the materialsconcerning Ka¿b with those relating to al-Nābighah’s O Abode of Mayyah(above): the poet is in mortal danger, with a death sentence on his head; the qa»īdah is presented as part of a ceremony of submission and declarationof allegiance; in both, the qa»īdah plays a role in the redemption of the poet. 13–32/33, devoted to a detailed description of the fortitude of the she-camel that alone can reach the distantdwelling of Su¿ād (which now must mean the “felicity” of Islam), a final pas- sage comparing the she-camel’s unrelenting gait to the violent lamentationsof a bereft mother, and the conclusion that Ka¿b, abandoned by his kinsmen, is “as good as dead.” The poem concludes with 3) the praise section (madīƒ):vv.
Part 1: Lyric-Elegiac Pr elude (Nasīb) (vv. 1–12)
In the description of the lost “felicity” that ensues, two aspects of the beloved are emphasized: first, in verses 2–5, her beauty and purity: herglance like the antelope’s, her flashing teeth that taste of the finest wine mixed with the cool limpid waters of rain-fed mountain streams. We candetect in Ka¿b’s nasīb the complex of traditional motival elements that we saw in The Tribe Set Out, the panegyric of his father, Zuhayr ibn AbīSulmá: the departed beloved, the poet’s passion, the cutting of bonds, the breaking of promises.
Part 2: Desert Journey (Rah ․ īl) (vv. 13–31)
The final passage of the journey section (vv. 27–31) consists of an unusual simile which likens the relentless motion of the she-camel’sforelegs in the hottest part of the day—when camel-caravans normally stop to rest, when locusts, lest they burn their feet, kick aside the scorch-ing pebbles to find cooler ground—to that of the bereaved mother’s arms as she frantically tears at her clothes. Then, too, given the anecdotal context and the poetic text itself, and the implied ritual of “death and rebirth” that is expressed in the perilousliminal journey of the rite of passage pattern, this description suggests75 the poet’s vision of his own mother and womenfolk mourning his death.
Part 3: Pr aise (Madīh ․) (vv. 32–55)
If the poet’s passive suffering of his kinsmen’s betrayal of trustis the subject of verses 32 and 33, verses 34 and 35 present the poet-pas- senger’s forceful act of will as he cuts the ties from his side now (“Out ofmy way!”) and surrenders himself to the will of the All-Merciful—an expression of hope. Likewise, in terms of the rite of passage, the poet, having encapsulated in verses 32–35, in the simplified language of the ritual core, the Separa-tion and Liminality phases, can now be expected to complete the Incor- poration phase as he enters into the madīƒ (praise) section of the ode.
The poet’s act of Submission (islām)/Self-Abasement and Supplication are expressed with masterful concision in verse 36: ƒunbiƒtu ƒanna rasūla
The tension of the climax of verse 36 is broken in verse 37 by its opening word mahlan (“go easy”) and equally by a relaxation of the rhetorical in-tensity and the alteration of the rhyme from the fivefold repetition in the rhyme of the maf¿ūlū pattern to taf¿īlū (taf»īlū, discernment), after whichthe poem resumes an apparently random alternation of the ridf of the rhyme between ī and ū. Wemust keep in mind here, as Maƒmūd ¿Alī Makkī points out, the use of the elephant as a formidable and terrifying beast of battle, as is conveyed in theelephant of the army of the South Arabian king Abrahah, when he attackedMecca, in what was termed the Year of the Elephant (traditionally consid- ered the year of the Prophet Muƒammad’s birth) (cf.
We can draw yet another comparison between al-Nābighah’s qa»īdah and Ka¿b’s: although both poems are classified in Arabic as i¿tidhāriyyah
(poem of apology) the wrongdoer-supplicant does not confess and beg forgiveness, as we would understand the term, but rather, the poeticritual seems to require that the offender deny the accusations against him and swear that he is the victim of calumniators and slanderers and,on that ground, beg for mercy (al-Nābighah, vv. If the ritual core is the poem’s performative nexus in terms of a speech act, verse 41 depicts the bodily enactment or physical perfor-mance of submission, of the sort that Paul Connerton terms “the chore-80 ography of authority.” This entire passage (vv. 32–41) must be read, too, in light of verses6–11 of the elegiac prelude.
Bujayr poem of the conversion narrative. The elative form “He is more dreaded” (la-dhāka ƒahyabu) serves as a pivot point for the poet to mod-
In terms of the present argument, this intensifies bothsides of the fear/hope equation, for the value of a man’s mercy is directly commensurate with the power of his wrath: the mercy or pardon of aweakling is worthless. In the context of the qa»īdah the ravagedcorpse of verse 47 suggests what the poet’s own fate might have been had K a¿ b i b n Z u h ay r a n d t h e M a n t l e o f t h e P r o p h e t · 57 The concept of might as the prerequisite for generosity and mercy—so powerfully conveyed in the image of the lion feeding his cubs humanflesh—was already apparent in the praise sections of the three pre-Islamic odes we examined in the introduction.
Prophet as the sword of Allāh structured in very simple, straightforward diction in chiastic (abba) form—ƒinna al-rasūla la-sayfun yustaæāƒu bihī
If we keep in mind that in the conversion narrative it was one of the Medinese Helpers(An»ār) who attempted to kill Ka¿b when he first identified himself to theProphet, it becomes apparent that the poet, having established the position of the Prophet at the head of the community, is expressing his support foranother political faction, that is, the Emigrants (Muhājirūn) who accom- panied the Prophet from Mecca. This in and of itself indicates the poem’s function in a rite of passage in whichthe ritual passenger effects a transition from one social status to another and, in particular, a rite of incorporation whereby, just as in the case ofal-Nābighah, the outlaw comes as a supplicant and is admitted into so- 60 · T h e M a n t l e O d e s structure of the polity—the sociomorphic aspect of the qa»īdah.
I believe we will have a much better grasp of the nature of the Arabic panegyric ode and the gift or prize (jāƒizah) that is traditionally con-
Each, as well as being a sign and surety of life, is also a sign and surety96 of wealth, a magico-religious guarantee of rank and prosperity.” We must finally recognize that the panegyric ode was understood to confer immortal renown on both poet and patron, the subject of its praise(mamdūƒ), and that its worth to the patron was thus commensurate with its aesthetic worth, which was the sole guarantee of its preservation andthus his immortal renown. What is important in our dis-cussion, however, is that this elegy attributed to ¥assān ibn Thābit is given pride of place in Ibn Hishām’s Al-Sīrah narrative of the death ofthe Prophet and therefore in the Islamic tradition constitutes the expres- sion of the communal (re)construction of that event (see chapter 3 forShawqī’s treatment of the subject in Nahj al-Burdah).
In the case of ¥assān’s rithāƒ for the Prophet, the situation is quite different from that of the Jāhilī ritually obligatory elegy. The Prophet was
What ¥assān’s poem has achieved, however, is an originaland brilliant poetic formulation: it combines elements of elegy and sup- 68 · T h e M a n t l e O d e s munity and exhorts their continued allegiance to Muƒammad, the Prophet whose leadership or guidance of the community is not terminated by hisdeath. The poem opens with a nasīb in the form of the lyric-elegiac prelude theme of the ruined abode (vv. 1–6), now Islamized to express the loss notof a departed mistress but of the deceased Prophet.
For those critics, classical and modern, who fault this poem on the grounds that in rithāƒ there should be no nasīb, our contention that the
What con- cerns us most, however, is the two-verse closure: here the poem is re-vealed to be above all a supplicatory panegyric for which a reward is expected—life eternal in the immortal garden, and, in a manner thatreminds us of the ritual aspect of Aggregation and Incorporation of the other qa»īdahs we have examined in this chapter, that the poet will bebrought once more into the inner circle of his lord: 46. Notice his use of the precise diction of the Supplicatory Ode: “I desire thereby to dwell in his protection.” When we then place the poem in the context of the death of theProphet and the challenge that it presented to the nascent Islamic com- munity, we can appreciate the genius of ¥assān’s formulation even more.
Prophet was developed within the context of Shī¿ite praise poetry (madīƒ) or elegy (rithāƒ) for the Āl al-Bayt (the family of the Prophet). In accord
Although the praise of the Prophet is poetically subordinated to that of ¿Alī and his descendants, these Shī¿ite poems provide not only poeticprecedents for the themes and motifs of medieval madīƒ nabawī but also the elements of otherworldly supplication and intercession and the height-ened emotive tone that characterize the medieval genre. As I argued at length in my book The Poetics of IslamicLegitimacy, one of the key functions of the Islamic courtly qa»īdat al-madƒ, whether explicitly of the supplicatory form or not, is to construct and per-petuate a legitimizing myth of Arab-Islamic rule and, in particular, to establish the legitimacy of the mamdūƒ’s rule or role.
Poetic Style: Classical and Post-Classical Badī¿
Just as we must interpret the form of al-Bū»īrī’s Burdah in light of the cultural history of Arabic poetic structures and genres, so too must weunderstand its stylistic and rhetorical features within the history of Ara- bic poetics and rhetoric. In other words, what in its High ¿Abbāsid heyday constituted bold, even scandal-ous, innovation (as the term badī¿ derived from b-d-¿, to originate, to in- vent, to do something new, for the first time, indicates; Lane, b-d-¿) had inthe medieval period become a matter of filling de rigueur production quo- tas of such rhetorical constructs in imitation of those of the ¿Abbāsid mas-ters.
I have analyzed elsewhere the emergence of badī¿ from Mu¿tazilite views on language, especially Qurƒānic language, and more generally
The key point in the context ofthe present argument is that through the process of recasting the contem- porary military event as a qa»īdat al-madƒ, a panegyric ode to the victori-ous caliph, the poet politicizes and polemicizes the event as not merely a martial success, but a divinely ordained victory achieved by a divinely ap-pointed ruler, a victory that, moreover, takes its place in the teleological progression of what I have termed the ideology of Islamic Manifest Des-27 tiny. If the dying man isat the tomb of the Messenger, pbuh, you should place the piece of cloth in the noble Rawæah [the Prophet’s Meadow, just west of his tomb in Med-ina] and let it become blessed there, so that when it is placed on the dying man’s head, the departure of his soul will be easy for him, with the per-mission of Allāh the Exalted, and he will remain calm in the face of death.
In terms of our discussion of the rhetorically ornate badī¿ style, we can note that al-Bū»īrī’s verse, like al-Buƒturī’s, is a double inverted simile
In terms of the traditional thematic headings of the Burdah thefirst three of these five supplicatory elements can be located, as we have seen above, in parts 1–3 (Prophetic Nasīb, Warning against the Desiresof the Self, Praise of the Noble Messenger), and the last two figure most prominently, as we will see later in this chapter, in parts 9 and 10 (Sup-plication and Plea for Intercession, Fervent Prayer and Supplication). Rather, the specific topics that have been carefully selected from a vast body of prose materials concerning thelife of the Prophet are those that can be poetically recast to serve what we described above as the polemical purposes of the qa»īdat al-madƒ, that is,to establish that Islam is the true religion and that the mamdūƒ is the le- gitimate and divinely appointed leader.
Extracted from their original “historical” and often narrative envi- ronment and recast paratactically in badī¿ poetic form, these motifs are
Further, inasmuch as the badī¿ style in and of itself had come to express the divine providence and political legitimacy that guaranteedthe Islamic dominion and hegemony of the High ¿Abbāsid Age, the pre- sentation of the miracles of the Prophet’s age in the metalanguage ofbadī¿ constitutes a declaration of the manifest destiny of the Prophet’sUmmah (community). Just as Abū Tammām described the flames and dustas overturning the natural cycle of night and day to convey the cosmic significance of the defeat of Amorium (see above), so, too, al-Bū»īrī con-veys the cosmic dimension of the birth of the Prophet through the de- naturing of two of the most basic natural elements: it is as if fire hasbecome wet and water has burned like fire.
Prophet’s birth (al-Ghazzī, v. 65), and, as related in Ibn Hishām’s Al-Sīrah and in al-Qāæī ¿Iyāæ’s Al-Shifāƒ, upon his birth a light emanated from
his body that illumined the horizon so those present could see all the way to the palaces of Shām (Syria); finally, in the second hemistich, thetruth of predictions of the coming of the Prophet contained in the HolyBooks, the Tawrāh and the Injīl (the Torah and the Gospel), and by Jew- ish rabbis, Christian monks, and pagan soothsayers, has now been made71 manifest. Of note in verse 77 is the poet’s use of jinās not merely todenote Muƒammad and Abū Bakr as the two who hid in a cave during the Hijrah as God camouflaged them from the pursuing Meccan poly-theists with spider webs and circling doves, but, in a manner consonant with our argument concerning the use of badī¿, to elicit new dimensionsof meaning, to evoke through etymology (ishtiqāq) the relationship be- tween the two.
Part 6: The Noble Qur”ān (vv. 88–104)
For the Qurƒān’s verses are signs of a truth from the Most Merciful, At once created in time and timeless, they are an attribute of the Eternal. They exist beyond the bounds of time, yet they inform us Of the Resurrection, of ¿Ād, and of the many-columned Iram.
As the previous part, as well as sources such as al-Qāæī ¿Iyāæ’s Al-Shifāƒ, demonstrates, a variety of traditional miracles (mu¿jizāt) were attributed
I¿jāz means, essentially, to confound an opponent, to render him pow- erless; hence mu¿jizah, a miracle, i.e., a feat that utterly confounds one’s
Finally, we must under- stand, in the context of the overarching polemic of parts 4–8 of the Burdah,that to prove the superiority of the Qurƒān to the miracles of other prophets not only confirms Muƒammad’s prophethood, but also establishes the su-periority of Islam and its community over all other religions and communities. The transition from the section on general miracles to the miracle of the Qurƒān in particular is gracefully achieved through the pivot-word āyāt, which in its general meaning refers to the “signs” or “mira- cles” of part 5, while at the same time, in its particular meaning of“Qurƒānic verses,” introduces the specific topic of the coming section, the miracle(s) of the Qurƒān.
Through the badī¿-style paired antitheses of “increase” and “decrease” and
In verse 90 he engages the con-vention of the poet’s modesty present in the idea that the nature of theQurƒān is beyond what he or any poet can express, thereby in effect invok- ing once more the principle of I¿jāz al-Qurƒān. For the purposes of the present argument we can saythat the poet performs the rhetorical “miracle” of joining two opposites, in the course of attempting to convey the miraculousness of the Qurƒān.
Verse 93 employs another rhetorical device, what in ¿ilm al-badī¿ is termed radd al-¿ajuz ¿alá al-»adr (repeating an earlier word at the end of
a verse) and in English terms is something of an alliterative chiasmus(abba pattern) to express a tenet of I¿jāz al-Qurƒān that is central to the polemic of his poem: dāmat ladaynā . However, they, their miracles, scriptures, and religions are things of the past that have been replaced or abrogated by the Seal of the Proph-ets, Muƒammad, with his permanent, eternal miracle, the Qurƒān, and the ultimate true religion, Islam.
Returning to verse 89, we can understand that in recasting in badī¿ poetry these well-established tenets of I¿jāz al-Qurƒān, the poet is not
What is crucial here, however, is that he is in no way trying to “compete” with the Qurƒān, as the termmu¿āraæah would suggest, rather, in what amounts to a form of submis- sion, his own “well wrought” verses are composed solely for the purposeof expressing the miraculousness of the Qurƒān’s “well wrought” verses. Of particular note in the context of the present argument is the poet’s specifying that it is the rhetorical beautyor eloquence, the balāghah, of the Qurƒānic verses that repels the op- ponent or challenger (mu¿āriæ).
Allāh” to the Qurƒānic al-¿urwah al-wuthqá (firm handle [QK 2:256]:
The poet then specifies instances: the recitation ofQurƒānic verses will quench the flames of Hellfire like cool water (v. 100); they purify the believer of sins, like the Basin in which the Muslim soulswill cleanse themselves of sins on Judgment Day (v. As if in answer to the question, “If the Qurƒān’s verses are so clear, why are there still disbeliev- A l - B ū s․ī r ī a n d t h e D r e a m o f t h e M a n t l e · 127 spiritually blind or sick: like the inflamed eye that cannot see the light of the sun, or the diseased mouth that cannot taste water (vv.
Iyāæ’s Al-Shifāƒ, concerning I¿jāz al-Qurƒān, that the poet is not merely
Rather their po- eticization, particularly in what we would describe as al-madhhab al-kalāmī (the manner of Kalām, both as a device of logical complication within one verse and as a conceptual approach to poetry), aims at ren-dering them rhetorically compelling and effective, i.e., at achieving their polemicization. In other words, the badī¿ style constitutes the use ofrhetoric in the sense of the “art of persuasion.” The poet is not merely trying to express these tenets more beautifully; he is, moreover, tryingto make the argument for the miraculousness of the Qurƒān, the prophet- hood of Muƒammad, and the ultimate truth of Islam more convincing.