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From Sīrah to Qasīdah: Poetics and Polemics in Al-Būsīrī's Qasīdat Al-Burdah (Mantle Ode)

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This study of the celebrated 7/13th century madīh/nabawī (praise poem to the Prophet Muhammad), al-Būsīrī's Qasīdat al-Burdah (Mantle Ode), takes as its premise the supplicatory structure of the ode expounded in the author's earlier study of the poem, "From Text to Talisman" (2006). It argues that the central portions of the Burdah, Parts IV to VIII, which are derived from prose sources for the Sīrah (biography) of the Prophet, have been poetically recast in the rhetorically ornate badī' style of the High 'Abbāsid period. This accomplishes two goals: first, by expressing the Prophet's Miracles, the Night Journey and Ascension, the Miraculousness of the Qur'aeān and the Prophet's Jihād and Campaigns in the robust metalanguage identified with the period of Arab-Islamic cultural and political hegemony, the poet creates a mythic concordance between the two eras. Second, through the intricate rhetorical workings of badī' devices, the poet elicits from "historical" events in the Prophet's life cosmic and timeless connections and associations. The result is that these sections of the Burdah provide a polemic that promotes an ideology of Islamic Manifiest Destiny. This is intended to establish the eternal veracity of Muhammad's prophethood and message (Islam), and its continued efficacy for both the Community and the individual believer. Above all, these sections, which function as extensions of the madīh (praise) section of the poem, confirm the mamdū;h's ability to grant the request that the poet-supplicant makes: the Prophet's intercession (shafā'ah) on the Day of Judgment.

Affiliations: 1: Indiana University


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