One of the excuses that the extremists (ghulat) from amongst the mystic Sufis and Rafidah employ in order to justify their heresies, is the claim that their blatant kufriyat are merely metaphors, poetry, etc. With these excuses, almost everything can be justified and has been justified and attributed to the Prophet (ﷺ), his Ahlul-Bayt, and the rest of the Awliya under the pretext of ‘loving and honouring them.’ With such excuses, the Rafidah and Mutasawwifah even justify referring to themselves as dogs (i.e. as in being loyal) of their favourite shaykhs, imams, pirs, etc.
However, some poems are indeed mistakenly identified by some as containing ghuluw or even shirk. A prime example would be Imam al-Saffarini, a Hanbali-Athari authority who has never endorsed nor advocated the pagan and polytheistic practice of seeking Istighatha/Isti’anah/Istamdad (i.e. ‘beseeching from the buried saints in supplication), yet the grave worshippers claim that he was in favour and thus the practices of those who invoke other than Allah in supplication are justified.
The reality is that the grave worshippers (Quburis) misuse and decontextualise statements by the likes of Imam al-Saffarini who in their poems address the Prophet (ﷺ) directly in his presence at the day of Judgement i.e. he doesn’t invoke him in du’a for madad (as extreme Sufis do) let alone invoking his cousin and his descendants (as the Rafidah do). So addressing any beloved person in poetry is absolutely fine (like someone addressing his beloved late mother) as it is not worship (du’a) to begin with, however, this does not justify exaggeration let alone blatant shirk statements and justification for pagan rituals where the saints are invoked in times of need.
The content and author of the Burdah
The Qasidah al-Burdah (‘Ode of the Mantle’), or al-Burda for short and known in Arabic also as الكواكب الدرية في مدح خير البرية is a 13th-century ode of praise of the Messenger of Allah composed by a Sufi mystic named Sharaf al-Din Muhammad ibn Saeed al-Busiri al-Sanhaji (1211–1294). Al-Busiri was of Algerian-Berber origin and lived in Egypt and was an adherent of the Sufi Shadhili order (tariqah) that are known for their ghuluw and heretical rituals to this very day (especially in Egypt). He is described as neither possessing profound knowledge nor akhlaq, in fact, he was known for his foul mouth and praise of the wicked rulers.
His poem has a sacred status in Sufi circles who decorate their places of worship with it and even wear it as amulets. Al-Busiri’s grave himself has been turned into a mausoleum and place of worship:
The Burdah was also given the name ‘the Hardship’ because it supposedly eases off hardships when one reads it.
The Sufis claim that for each line of that poem is a special benefit such as helping you from being poor or helping you to cure diseases. Some were not satisfied with the fabrication they placed on significance in reading this poem rather they went on to place specific rules that one should abide by when reading this poem.
It was said that the reason for his composing the Burdah was that al-Busiri was afflicted by a chronic disease, and no remedy was of any help; he used to send a lot of blessings (salawat) upon the Prophet (ﷺ) until he saw the Prophet (ﷺ) in a dream one night, and he covered him with his cloak (burdah), and when al-Busiri woke up, he stood up and there was no trace of sickness in him, so he composed this poem (qasidah).
The Imam Ghazali Institutes comments:
The Imam continued in this state for some time. But one night, something miraculous occurred.
The commentators of IGI’s edition write, “It is reported that Imam al-Busiri fell asleep whilst reciting couplet eight and that during this dream, the Imam was honoured to recite the Burdah for the Prophet ﷺ.”
Couplet eight is translated as follows:
The Imam Ghazali Institutes comments:
Imam al-Busiri continued to recite the poem in his dream, with the Prophet ﷺ as his audience. However, after reciting 50 verses, the Imam reached a verse which was theretofore unfinished:
The Imam Ghazali Institutes comments:
After reciting the first half of the verse, Imam al-Busiri paused.
Then, miraculously, the Prophet ﷺ himself completed the verse.
The commentators explain:
“On reaching couplet fifty-one, the imam recited the first hemistich and stopped as he had not finished the poem. Then, the most euphoric moment occurred: the Prophet ﷺ completed the couplet with the second hemistich: ‘And [yet, without exception] he ﷺ is the best of Allah’s creation.’ Thus, showcasing the acceptance of the Burdah and its majesty.”
Just like the Rafidah who claim that their idle and mythical hidden imam has sanctified entire books and works of their scholars whom he met in ‘private’, the Sufis claim that their favourite poem is basically sahih according to the Prophet (ﷺ) himself. This extremism has of course lead to a fanatical defense of the poem along with accusing those who disagree with it of being haters of the Prophet (ﷺ) or at the very least not loving him as he should be loved.
How the advocates of the Burda defend it
Needless to say that the defenders of the Burdah claim that it doesn’t contain anything unorthodox whatsoever, let alone ‘blatant shirk’.
They often appeal to authority (a logical fallacy) claiming that the poem has stood the test of time by being over 800 years old and accepted by most Muslim scholars (what they mean is Sufis) with only a minority discounting it. Now, of course, dismissing the claims of experts i.e. scholars of Islam would be foolish, however, it is entirely possible that the opinion of the majority is wrong and that of the minority is right.
Credit where credit is due
Although there is no doubt that some parts of the Burdah contain ambiguous and ghuluw statements and could be understood as blatant shirk at face value, yet at least some Sufi authorities view it with specific ta`wilat (interpretations) that are free of shirk. Now if they are truthful or not is between them and Allah, what counts is that even they see the need to water down some of its statements.
Faraz Rabbani (Sufi, upon the mythology of the likes of Ali al-Jifri) says:
 The critic cites the opening of the verse as an example of “shirk” in the Oneness of Allah’s Lordship (tawhid al-rububiyya):
“From our generosity is the world and its partner [the Hereafter]…”
Our respected critic claims that this refers to the creation of the world and there hereafter-as if Busiri is claiming that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) and his generosity created them! The Arabic text if this verse doesn’t mention “creation” in it.
As Imam Ibrahim al-Bajuri makes clear in his commentary on the Burda, what this means is that the best of this world and the next is from the gift the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) gave-by Allah’s granting-to humanity.
The best of this world is the guidance of the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him), by which alone this worldly has any meaning; and the best gift of any human to humanity in the Hereafter is the intercession the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) makes-as established in rigorously authentic hadiths, as we will see below.
There is a basic principle in knowledge that, “Ruling on a matter comes after sound understanding of it.” To criticize someone’s words, one must first soundly understand them as the author intended them-not as one’s own understanding determines.
The explanation clarifies that nowhere it is meant (or even clearly stated) that the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) is the creator of the world. The entire explanation is sound and based on sound Sunni creed (even if it comes from a Sufi).
 The critic then cites the following verses as example of shirk in Allah’s Names & Attributes,
“And from your knowledge is knowledge of the Pen and Tablet”
It is established that Allah commanded the Pen to write the details of all matters until the Last Day-namely, before the Resurrection and Hereafter-as related in authentic hadiths in Ahmad and Tirmidhi. These hadiths were considered mass-transmitted by al-Amir al-Kabir in his commentary on Laqani’s Jawharat al-Tawhid, as Kattani relates in Nadhm al-Mutanathir.
In this hadith, the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “The first of Allah’s creation was the pen.” Then he mentioned that Allah commanded it to, “Write everything that will occur, until the Last Hour.” [Ahmad 21649, from Ubada ibn Samit (Allah be pleased with him)]
It is authentically established that Allah granted His Beloved Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him) knowledge of the events of this worldly life.
There is no “shirk” in this: (1) it is authentically established in the sunna; (2) it is by Allah’s granting, so there is no point of comparison between the Absolute, Infinite, and unacquired Knowledge of Allah and the acquired, and limited (though unimaginably vast) knowledge of the Best of Creation (Allah bless him and give him peace).
The knowledge of the Pen and Tablet-being this knowledge of worldly events until the Last Day-is “from” the knowledge of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) because he was also granted tremendous knowledge of matters of the hereafter, and of Allah and His Attributes-the greatest of all knowledge.
What we need to understand is that Allah granted His Beloved Messenger (Allah bless him and give him peace) tremendous knowledge of the Unseen, including details of matters of this life and the next; and He granted His Beloved (Allah bless him and give him peace) greater knowledge of Himself than any of His creation.
Thus, there is no element of shirk in this verse. It simply affirms what the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) himself affirmed, not more and not less.
This again is a sound interpretation of the Sunni belief regarding the knowledge of the unseen that the Prophet (ﷺ) possessed i.e. he only knew portions (more than us) of the unseen contrary to what the extremists amongst the Sufis and the Rafidah claim when they say describe the knowledge of the Prophet similar to how Allah’s knowledge is described by adding a ‘with the permission of Allah’ get out close to their extremism and excessive belief.
In either case, the apparent is problematic and is recited by millions of laymen has literally produced false and heretical beliefs regarding the Prophet (ﷺ) and unsurprisingly a group of scholars deemed this as exaggerated praise that can lead to shirk. Just because the majority believed otherwise doesn’t make it right.
The following part has been attacked by the critics of the poem the most:
 Our respected critic then cites the following verse as an example of “shirk” in Allah’s Oneness in Divinity (tawhid al-uluhiyya):
“And who else there, besides you, who I can call out, at times of distress and problems?”
This is our critic’s suggested translation. A sounder translation is:
“O Most Honored of Creation! Whom can I turn to
But you when the Encompassing Event befalls?”
The “Encompassing Event” (wrongly translated us “times of distress and problems”) refers specifically to the distress that befalls all creation on the Day of Resurrection. As authentic hadiths in Bukhari , Muslim , and elsewhere affirm, all of creation will go from one prophet to another, each of whom is busy with themselves-out of absolute awe of Allah-and tells them to go to another prophet. Finally, all of creation goes to our Beloved Messenger (Allah bless him and give him peace), seeking respite from the tremendous tribulation and distress of that Day. The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) answers their call, affirming that this is from what Allah granted him, and turns to Allah seeking respite for creation, and this is granted to him by Allah.
There is no suggestion in this verse that a believer shouldn’t turn to Allah Himself when distress and problems occur. Rather, it is simply affirming something the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) affirmed: that Allah has granted His Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) general intercession for all creation from the intensity of the tribulations of the Day of Judgment, and that on that Day all creation will find none in creation to turn to for assistance but Allah’s Beloved (Allah bless him and give him peace).
This also shows that seeking the assistance of creation-whether in material or spiritual matters-does in no way negate one’s understanding that Allah alone is the ultimate granter. But our Giving Lord has shown us that there are both material and spiritual means one seeks, while fully aware that the Giver and Granter is none but Allah.
This is the aqida of the mainstream of Muslims: we affirm the taking of material and spiritual means, and affirm that the granter is only Allah Himself. This is the understanding of the great Companion of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), Rabi`ah ibn Ka`b al-Aslami (Allah be pleased with him), who said, “O Messenger of Allah! I ask you for your company in Paradise!” The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) replied, “Assist me concerning yourself with much prostration.” [Muslim (754)]
[ref: The commentaries on Busiri’s Burda by Bajuri, Hamzawi, Ibn Hajar, and Shaykh Zada]
And Allah alone gives success.
Indeed, it is unfair to accuse the author or the poem of shirk if what is meant by asking the Prophet (ﷺ) is how one would address him at the Day of Judgement where all of us will be present. This is similar to the aforementioned poem by Imam al-Safarrini who never endorsed beseeching the Prophet (ﷺ) in supplication.
The apparent meaning of ‘And who else there, besides you, who I can call out‘ does indeed suggest that in times of distress one should turn to the Prophet (ﷺ) and invoke him for comfort and aid, however, in reality (like in the case of Imam al-Saffarini’s poem) it is not even a supplication as it describes a specific event where the Prophet (ﷺ) will be amongst us.
However, there is no doubt that many extreme Sufis do believe in the validity of beseeching the Prophet (ﷺ) and the Awliya for help in times of distress. Like the Rawafid they are known for literally invoking the saints in their supplications for help, shelter, etc. So whilst it is applaudable that the likes of Faraz Rabbani clarify that with turning to the Prophet (ﷺ) a specific event is meant i.e. Judgement Day is meant and not us invoking him whenever we are in trouble, yet even his explanation is rather ambiguous and gives leeway to those who invoke the saints in du’a.
After all, Rabbani is upon the same methodology of the likes of Ali al-Jifri and other renowned Sufis who justify such ghuluw i.e. invoking the Prophet for help at any time and any places under the pretext (misuse) of tawasul.
The Burdah is filled with Sufi-Rafidi ghuluw
The damage control attempts by some Sufis should be regarded as a good sign, after all, it proves that even they know how problematic many segments of the Burdah is, but comparing the Burdah to Imam al-Saffarini’s longing for the Prophet (ﷺ) on Judgement Day would be an injustice against the likes of Imam al-Saffarini. This is because the Burdah is literally filled with excessive praise of the Prophet (ﷺ) to the extent where it states that one can praise the Prophet (ﷺ) with whatever praise, as long as one doesn’t claim what the Nasara claim about Jesus son of Mary (peace be upon them). This is exactly what the Rafidah say about their imams. Such beliefs upon the doors for all forms of extremism and they factually have.
The above is just one of many examples, a complete break-down of the ghuluw segments can be downloaded here>>.
An 800-year-old poem written by a Sufi mystic who claimed that …
- The Prophet ﷺ himself was his audience when he recited his poem.
- The Prophet ﷺ himself completed his poem.
- The Prophet ﷺ showcased the acceptance of the Burdah and its majesty
… might be sacred to Sufis (and scholars from the past few hundred years affected by Sufism) and an integral part of their Mawlid celebrations, however, it doesn’t make it untouchable and immune from criticism.
A group of scholars such as Shaykh Muhammad b. Abdul-Wahhab (may Allah have mercy upon him) who visited the lands of the Rafidah and Sufis and witnessed Sufi-Rafidi heresies and ghuluw that are associated with the likes of Burdah came to very harsh conclusions; they either regarded segments of it as blatant shirk or borderline-shirk. And the Najdis were not alone in this. Amongst the harsh critics of the Burdah is also Imam Mahmud Shukri al-Aalusi al-Baghdadi al-Hanafi, an Athari Ottoman scholar from Iraq, and Imam Shawkani (a Najdi critic) from Yemen.
However, one cannot dismiss that Sufi authorities themselves have interpreted the controversial parts of the Burdah with sound Islamic understanding that is void of shirk; nonetheless, The problem is that the masses are not affected by their interpretations but rather by the apparent meaning of the poem that at the very least includes statements of ghuluw or/and ambiguity, to the extent that Sufis themselves see the need of clarifying it and applying some ta`wilat on it.
Making blanket takfir on the author or of those who read the poem is certainly wrong, especially considering the nature of the controversial text (i.e. it being a poem) and its theme (about the Day of Judgement) which in essence is not even an actual du’a but rather a description of a future event. However, it certainly contains statements that can be misunderstood as blatant ghuluw and shirk and thus it is not surprising that non-Sufi scholars have lambasted it as an evil and superstitious Sufi fabrication and worse.
There are better ways to remember the Prophet (ﷺ), we have the Qur’an and the Sunnah and even poems that are free of any controversy so choose what is best!