Book Review: Al-Zubdah fī Sharḥ al-Burdah of ʿAlī al-Qārī

Al-Zubdah fī sharḥ al-Burdah. By al-Mullā ʿAlī al-Qārī. Edited by Māhir Adīb Ḥabbūsh. Istanbul, Turkey: Dār al-Lubāb, 1438/2017. Pp 203. ISBN 9786058323865.

Reviewed by Mawlana Kamil Uddin, Darul Qasim

The mantle Burdah wears in Islamic literature is unparalleled. A glimpse of this is shown by ʿAbdullah Muḥammad al-Ḥabashī who lists out 48 pages of commentaries and marginalia for the Burdah in his encyclopedic bibliography, Jāmiʿ al-shurūḥ wal-ḥawāshī[1]. The actual title of this instrumental poem is al-Kawākib al-durriyyah fī madḥ khayr al-bariyyah (lit. The Radiant Planets in Praise of the Best of all Creation) written by the Sufi Poet of the Shādhilī order, Sharaf al-Dīn al-Būṣīrī (d. 697/1298). This commentary, titled al-Zubdah (The Choicest), selects from previous glosses and builds a direct bridge from poetry to prose for readers. A salient feature of al-Qārī’s (d. 1014/1606) writings is his ability to take complex topics and weave the thread of understanding through them; this work is no different. Ḥabbūsh edited this work using two manuscripts; the first was from King Saud University and the second from Waliyy al-Dīn Efendi Library in Istanbul which is an extension of Beyazıt Devlet Kütüphanesi (Beyazıt State Library).

In his 25 page introduction, Ḥabbūsh gives brief background information on al-Būṣīrī, his qaṣīdah, and the lasting effect this poem had on poetry that followed him. He also lists out 9 specific commentaries, 2 of which al-Qārī referenced often which are the commentaries of Jalāl al-Dīn al-Maḥallī (d. 864/1460) and ʿIṣām al-Dīn al-Isfarāyīniyy (d. 944/1538), as well as the commentary of Zayn al-Dīn Khālid al-Azharī (d. 905/1500) which was often quoted in the marginalia of the King Saud manuscript of al-Zubdah. Since the three aforementioned glosses have yet to be printed, the value of such a publication heightens. Ḥabbūsh also extracts what he considers controversial couplets that exaggerate the praise of the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, listing them out in the following order; 80, 81, 135, 136, 149, 146, 75, 156, 43, and 154. He adds footnotes under some of these couplets explaining how they are problematic and critiquing al-Būṣīrī’s choice of words. However, he does not seem to adopt the reading al-Mullā ʿAlī al-Qārī presents, one that is in line with Sunni creed and law. This is a problem because reading the sharḥ/ḥāshiyah genre requires one to be in sync with the previous research, which is why we see many authors writing glosses on their own texts (matn) because there is no commentator (shārīh) who could better rationalize that author (mātin).

Ḥabbūsh states that al-Qārī’s methodology of explaining contains three aspects. First he explains selected vocabulary (sharḥ mufradāt), followed by parsing (iʿrāb) unintuitive phrases, and concluding by giving a succinct, easy-to-read but eloquent understanding of the couplet. Sometimes al-Qārī switches the order but still touches on all three aspects. One of finest features of this commentary is al-Qārī’s ability to connect the poem to the Qurʾān and Hadith; this rhetorical concept is called iqtibās which literally means “the process of lighting one’s fire from that of another.” In the indexes listed at the end by the editor, I counted 122 ayahs from 52 surahs and 78 hadiths quoted by al-Qārī for a poem totaling 160 couplets. He was able to capture this light from other sources as well, for example he mentioned that couplet 58 was inspired by the eulogy of Fāṭimah, may Allah be pleased with her, for her father, the Prophet, peace be upon him. He also references the famous Majnūn in couplet 5 and al-Buḥturiyy (d. 284/897) in couplet 57, both of whom are famous for the art of panegyric in their own right. Al-Qārī also intertwines supplementary rhetorical and grammatical points along with theological and spiritual allusions (iīmāʾāt) throughout the commentary.

This edition also contains an 8 page bibliography (fihris al-maṣādir wal-marājiʿ) and an unfulfilling one page table of contents (fihris al-mawḍūʿāt). This text would have been enhanced for readers and researchers by including an index for the couplets, proper names and places, and a more expansive table of contents that gives an overview of the wide range of topics covered by both al-Qārī and al-Būṣīrī. One possible addition to the table of contents would be division of the poem into the ten sections (abwāb) mentioned on page 28. The editor ought to have included the full-length poem (qaṣīdah) in the beginning or end of the edition so that it can be read without pauses. It should be noted that the couplets are enumerated throughout the text and are in bold which make it easy to identify. Aside from the last two sentences at the end of the introduction and images of the first and last folios (lawḥah) there is no other information given about the manuscripts. Overall this is a welcome edition with accurate paragraphing, precise punctuation, and reliable referencing. Lastly, other editions of this work have been published since, one by Dār al-Imām al-Rāzī  in Cairo in 2018. Stamped on the title page is the claim Yuṭbaʿ li-awwal marrah alā arbaʿ nusakh khaṭṭīyah (Printed for the first time using 4 manuscripts).[2] Another one by Dār al-Kutub al-ʿIlmiyyah in 2019.[3] However, I have been unable to access these editions and thus cannot compare between them. The expectation is that they should be better but al-faḍl lil-mutqaddim (special virtue is for the first).


[1] Al-Ḥabashī, A. Muḥammad, Jāmiʿ al-shurūḥ wal-ḥawāshī : muʿjam shāmil li-asmāʾ al-kutub al-mashrūḥah fī al-turāth al-Islāmī wa-bayan shurūḥihā, 5 vols. (Dār al-Minhāj, Jeddah, 2017), 1:659-707.

[2] Al-Qārī, M. ʻAlī and al-Khurāsānī, A. Muḥammad. al-Zubdah fī sharḥ al-Burdah. (Dār al-Imām al-Rāzī lil-nashr wal-tawzīʿ, Cairo, 2018).

[3] Al-Qārī, M. ʿAlī and Farḥāt, Ḥ. ʿAzīz. Sharḥ al-Mullā ʿAlī al-Qārī ʿalā Burdat al-Būṣīrī. (Dār al-Kutub al-ʿIlmiyyah, Beirut, 2019).

A Few Resources for Learning Punctuation Rules in Arabic Writing

Here are a few useful resources for students of the sacred sciences who want to understand the use of punctuation marks (ʿalāmāt al-tarqīm) in the Arabic language. Students will notice, for the most part, that the rules are similar to European languages.

The following work, authored by Aḥmad Zakī Pāshā (Bāshā), is the earliest work on the subject that I have come across. This edition was published by Shaykh ʿAbd al-Fattāḥ Abū Ghuddah’s publishing house and with his preface. It should suffice most students as a reference.

al-Tarqīm wa ʿAlāmatuhu fī al-Lughah al-ʿArabiyyah li Aḥmad Zakī Bāshā

A colleague at Darul Qasim suggested the following work by his teacher Shaykh ʿAbd al-Muʿizz al-Tūnisī, and friend of my own teacher Shaykh Ramzī al-Ḥabīb al-Tūnisī. The work is not available in pdf format but can be purchased here: “al-Inshāʾ wa ʿAlāmāt al-Tarqīm wa-l-Imlāʾ”

The following web page contains a brief overview of the punctuation marks and how they are used. It can be useful for a quick review:

علامات الترقيم في الكتابة العربية ومواضع استعمالها

An even more concise review of the marks can be found at the following webpage:

علامات الترقيم

If you know of other beneficial sources, please do share and I will add them to this list.

A Reading List on Deoband Studies

The following list was produced by Dr. Shoaib Rasheed on his blog, The Silent Admirer. I have reproduced the list here with the understanding that the list may grow over time and may need updating on this site. In any case, please do visit The Silent Admirer site and subscribe to his content:


Bismillah al-Rahman al-Rahim

Wa ‘l-Salatu wa ‘l-Salamu ‘Ala Sayyidina Muhammad

The following is a list of academic books and papers in English on various topics within Deoband Studies. I hope to keep updating this page from time to time as I myself learn more and read new things. Direct links to PDFs of the writings have been provided when possible. If the link does not work, it may mean that it was deleted, and if so, please bring it to my attention, and I will try to find a new link for the same resource.


Overview

  • Islamic Revival in British India: Deoband, 1860-1900, Barbara D. Metcalf, Oxford University Press, 2004. Note: Studying the history and intellectual thought of Deoband can be intimidating. There are numerous figures, all with similar-sounding names to keep track of. Furthermore, studying Deoband without understanding the historical, political, and intellectual context in which it developed will most-likely cause confusion at best, and cynicism towards the ulama at worst. Therefore, I highly recommend this book for the reader who has minimal knowledge of Deoband and wants to acquire a preliminary yet comprehensive introduction. The book introduces the reader to the historical setting out of which Deoband grew, as well as some of the other ideologies with which it found itself in conversation with such as Nadwa, Ahl-i Hadis, and Barelwis. It orients the reader to the founding figures of the Deoband, as well as its approach to certain defining topics such as Sufism, Law, and its views on what constitutes an ideal Islamic worldview.
  • The Ulama in Contemporary Islam: Custodians of Change, Muhammad Qasim Zaman, Princeton University Press, 2002.

Intellectual Thought

Sufism

Outside the Subcontinent

Women’s Issues

Tablighi Jamat

Miscellaneous

Collection of Arabic Morphology/Ṣarf Texts for Arabic Language Students

Students of Arabic Morphology (Ṣarf) will hopefully find the following links helpful to assist in their study of the subject. I collected these files for students at Darul Qasim and thought it would be useful to post them all together on the same page.

This is the current textbook being used for the Shaykh al-Hind Immersion program. Although far from the ideal textbook, it is nevertheless the best available work in English that follows the format of textbooks like ʿIlm al-Ṣīghah that have been used for centuries and have a proven track-record of effective instruction in Ṣarf. This text is followed by a study of the Arabic text Kitāb al-Maqṣūd and then Taṣrīf al-ʿIzzī, which is the culmination of the study of Ṣarf at Darul Qasim.

This work is a supplementary work for students of Ṣarf. It contains a large list of commonly used verbs and organizes them by their verb form and verb category, making it an essential companion and exercise guide. Along with the Hans Wehr dictionary and the Abwāb al-Ṣarf al-Jadīd, this work is a required purchase for my Ṣarf students at Darul Qasim.

This companion text for intermediate students of Ṣarf was a must during after-class group study and personal study time. As a student, I would use this book to help make sure that I practiced all the conjugation tables for every verb category and to check my recitations. I suggest students use this work to check their partner’s table recitations during takrār sessions.

This is the work that I was taught as a beginner student of Ṣarf. I found it to be quite good as a student and didn’t struggle with the Arabic as much as I thought I would. Due to my inability to acquire any English work that might have assisted my study of Ṣarf, I occasionally looked at the Urdu work Tashīl al-Ṣarf for help and for exercises. I still believe that if a student memorizes the definitions and rules from this book that they will have a satisfactory grasp on the science. Still, students should read other works beyond this text, like the Marāḥ al-Arwāḥ and al-ʿIzzī (and their various commentaries) for example, to appreciate the various different presentations of the science.

This is a succinct and easily accessible introduction to the science. Along with the al-Bināʾ and al-Amthāl texts covered in the Ottoman system, if someone studies this work and then follows it with al-ʿIzzī, they shouldn’t need a work like ʿIlm al-Ṣīghah. Students at Darul Qasim study this work before al-ʿIzzī and after Treasures.

This is a work that is studied before al-Maqṣūd and is often the first work in Ṣarf taught to students. Some instructors at Darul Qasim use this work as well as the al-Amthāl, so I am including links to the text and its commentary here.

This English work is not a translation of the Urdu work by the same name. I have not used this work extensively nor looked at it deeply to recommend it for students. That said, some students have reported that reading this work helped them out when studying Treasures.

I used this Urdu work last year with students to supplement the few exercises found in Treasures. One of the many improvements needed in a work like Treasures is a larger set of exercise and practice questions. This work provides a long list of ṣīghahs that can be used for testing students in and outside the classroom.

This work, along with its commentary, is the most advanced Ṣarf work taught at Darul Qasim. The linked pdf is a great edition published by Dār al-Minhāj, but it doesn’t have al-Taftāzānī’s commentary, which can be very useful for students as well as teachers. The Dār al-Minhāj print of the commentary is linked here.

Another useful work at a level similar to ʿIlm al-Ṣīghah. This Arabic edition of the work makes it accessible to non-Urdu speakers.

This work is not as beneficial to non-native speakers but teachers and native speakers will find it very helpful for extracurricular reading.

This is the Urdu/Persian version of the work described above, which is the Arabized version of this work.

I haven’t looked through these two works thoroughly enough to be able to comment on them. They seem to be a work in progress. A short perusal led to me link them here as I believe some people may find the various exercises to be beneficial.

Another Arabic work that is more aimed at native speakers but useful to have.

One of the works studied formally in the madrasah systems, I thought it would be useful to post this work so that students can look through it and get a sense of the content of other textbooks in the science.

Samt al-Wuṣūl ilā ʿIlm al-Uṣūl

ʿAllāmah Ḥasan b. Tūrkhān al-Āqḥiṣārī’s (951-1025 AH) abridgment of ʿAbd Allāh b. Aḥmad al-Nasafī’s Manār al-Anwār fī Uṣūl al-Fiqh, entitled Samt al-Wuṣūl ilā ʿIlm al-Uṣūl, is considered by some to be the most excellent of al-Manār’s abridgments. While it may be useful to formally study on its own (or with a commentary), I believe that one clear use of this abridgment is for students of one of the commentaries of al-Manār, such as Mullā Jīwan’s Nūr al-Anwār, or al-Ḥaṣkafī’s Ifāḍat al-Anwār. Students of these larger works often lose track of the original text and find it hard to follow the outline provided by al-Nasafī. Given that al-Manār is occasionally cryptic or not as concise as one would want for the purposes of memorization, this work can serve as an excellent study guide and memorization tool.

I am uploading the pdf version that I found available online. This is not the edition published by Dār al-Iḥsān with the edits of ʿAlā ʿAbd al-Ḥamīd, but I have included a picture of the cover in case someone wants to print it along with the body of the text. I suggest students at Darul Qasim use this for review and memorization as they go through al-Ḥaṣkafī’s Ifāḍah.

Samt al-Wuṣūʿ ilā ʿIlm al-Uṣūl

Cover of the Dār al-Iḥsān Edition

Ruḥamā Baynahum by Mawlānā Muḥammad Nāfiʿ: English Translation Available Online (4 volumes)

One of the relatively less-recognized yet exceptional researchers of our time was the humble and unassuming Mawlana Muḥammad Nāfīʿ (may Allah have mercy on him), a resident of the small city of Chinnoit outside of Faisalabad in Pakistan. Due to my teacher and current spiritual guide’s connection to both the city and Mawlana Nāfiʿ, I was fortunate enough to have met him before he passed away. Although I remember little about the encounter, I do recall how unassuming and humble he was. Given my teacher’s immense praise for him, I was expecting someone much more intimidating. Mawlana Muḥammad Nāfiʿ was accommodating, kind, and cheery, and gave no impression through his demeanor of his immense scholarship.

Mawlana Nāfiʿ (may Allah have mercy on him)’s most famous work is a four-volume exposition on the amicable relationship between the Companions, particularly between Abū Bakr, ʿUmar, ʿUthman, and the Ahl al-Bayt. A critically important work that makes sense of the erroneous and malicious claims of enmity between them, I was recommended to read this work when I was still in my initial years of study abroad. The work was originally written in Urdu. To make it accessible to the Arabic-speaking world, Mawlana Luqmān Ḥakīm, at the behest of our teacher Mufti Muḥammad Taqī ʿUthmānī, abridged and translated the first three parts into Arabic. I consider this Arabic abridgment necessary extracurricular reading for all Islamic seminary students.

Unfortunately, the work was inaccessible to the English-speaking world despite its audience including the Muslim layperson. I was thus more than overjoyed to discover that contributors to the website http://www.mahajjah.com (a critical resource for everyone interested in Sunni-Shi’a issues) have translated all four volumes of the Urdu original into English and posted it at no cost online. I have posted their brief intros to the book as well as links to the pdfs of the English translation below from the mahajjah.com website. I pray that they are able to publish and widely distribute a hard copy version soon.

– Bilal Ali Ansari

Chicago, IL

2-12-2020

“The scholarly masterpiece of Molana Muhammad Nafi’ comprising of four volumes wherein he highlights the relationship between the Sahabah and Sayyidina ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhum, his affinity towards them and their recognition of his virtue, as well as the role he played during their khilafah. The first volume deals specifically with his relationship with Sayyidina Abu Bakr radiya Llahu ‘anhu, and also addresses a number of Shia misconceptions regarding the first khalifah of Islam.

The second volume deals specifically with his relationship with Sayyidina Umar radiya Llahu `anhu, and also addresses a number of Shia misconceptions regarding the second khalifah of Islam.

The third volume deals specifically with his relationship with Sayyidina Uthman radiya Llahu `anhu, and also addresses a number of Shia misconceptions regarding the third khalifah of Islam.

The fourth volume deals specifically with The Allegations Of Nepotism Against Sayyidina Uthman radiya Llahu `anhu, and also addresses a number of Shia misconceptions regarding the third khalifah of Islam.”

Volume 1: The Ṣiddīqī Section

Volume 2: The Fārūqī Section

Volume 3: The ʿUthmānī Section

Volume 4: Answering the Allegations of Nepotism against ʿUthmān

For a full table of contents of each volume, please visit the mahajjah.com website.