Islam Through its Poetry

Week 4

Islam is a a widely followed religion so it isn’t surprising to find traditions associated with Islam to vary from one community to another. In week 4, we read poems from various parts of the world in praise of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).

It was interesting to see how different poetry from the different traditions compares with each other. In the Sindhi works, the Prophet is often referred to as the bridegroom and the concept of a virahini (a bride waiting for her groom) is used to represent the state of the poet who is waiting for the Prophet. In the Urdu poems, usually called na’ts, as Prof. Asani writes, there is a mystical aspect and a also sense of praising throughout. In these poems, the city of Medina is mentioned often and the narrator expresses the wish to be blessed enough go there one day. In the Turkish poems we read, the Prophet was not mentioned as much and the focus was mostly on the reader or the poet repenting. The aim of the writer was to connect with God and to aid the reader in remembering God as well. In the poems where the Prophet is mentioned, it is with a distant, reverent attitude, much less personal than that of the Sindhi poems.

I know Urdu so I decided to try my hand at writing a poem in my native language to see what the result would be. Below are some lines that were inspired by the imagery presented in the ghazal merged with concepts found in other forms of Islamic  poetry, specifically Sindhi poetry. I tried to capture the lover-beloved relationship that is common in Sindhi poetry and combined it with the way in which ghazals rhyme. The focus of my poem is not on the Prophet himself, but rather the Lord that he loved.

As you can see below, my poem mixes the style of the ghazal with the personal way in which Sindhi poems refer to the Prophet, but the poem is addressed to God himself. The first stanza of my poem opens the poem and makes plain the yearning for the love of the Beloved. It describes the state that the lover is in: crazy in love like Majnu was for Laila, yet he isn’t really crazy–it’s just that the world sees him that way and this is what he is trying to tell us. This was a common theme for Sufis as we learned in class–sometimes they become so close to God that people see them as mad. The second stanza addresses the transitoriness of this life, a concept that is mentioned many times in the Quran. The real life is that of the hereafter. That is why the narrator has left the love of this world in lieu of a higher form of love. The lover feels like an insignificant creature among the many that God, his Beloved has created. The next stanza shows the narrator’s thirst for just one gesture from God that shows that his feelings are reciprocated, a sign that his love is acknowledged. The last stanza shows the narrator awaiting for the day when he will be reunited with his Love, namely the day he will die. This is another theme that is common in the ghazal and in Sufism; death is a day of celebration rather than mourning. It is like the wedding in Sindhi poetry and the virahini’s awaited reunion with her bridegroom.

Urdu Poetry


I am yearning for your love,
An offender to this world–
Mad and crazy.

A mere, transitory guest here,
An insignificant human being.

Wanting in love,
I wait for one sign from You.

I am fed up with this world
Hopeful of a reunion with You.

I have also decided to record a recitation of my poem so that you can hear the rhyme and rhythm in the original Urdu.

Urdu Poetry


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