Home Religion & Spirituality In the praise of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh): Tracing the Tradition of Naat

In the praise of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh): Tracing the Tradition of Naat

The article attempts to trace and engage with the tradition of eulogizing prophets (pbuh). All attempts to enquire this subject will essentially begin with the absolute inability to contain his admiration in expression and by all the possible tools of expression.

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Peace be upon the light of our lives prophet Mohammed for his name is taken after the name of the one who has best of all names.

The article attempts to trace and engage with the tradition of eulogizing prophets (pbuh). All attempts to enquire this subject will essentially begin with the absolute inability to contain his admiration in expression and by all the possible tools of expression. What can be possibly written about the light of our lives? Metaphors hide in shame and words tremble. Yet the millions if not billions of words that have been written about him often seem to obscure, as much as they reveal, the more of them one ploughed through the more it felt though as if he were being weighed down by the sheer accumulated mass of them. And yet the more you add, the more seems to go missing about the prophet Muhammad (pbuh).

Naat in Arabic means to praise, admiration, eulogizing. Allah himself is the pioneer of Naat. Describing the grandeur of His Beloved Prophet he mentions;

And We exalted for you your remembrance (94:4)

Sending salutations upon the prophet and his family is an integral part of faith. Quran encourages to send blessings upon the prophet and his family.

Allah and His angels send blessings on the Prophet. O ye who believe! you also should invoke blessings on him and salute him with the salutation of peace. (33:57)

In the Arabian Peninsula the tradition of (singing) in praise of someone or something dear dates back to pre-prophetic times. Similar was the tradition of HAJV, (the poem, written to condemn someone, in any case). oral culture had a passion for language, for music and majesty of it in the hands of a master. what people of the desert lacked in literacy, they more than made up for in memory. “Hours-long poems were recited by heart- an apt phrase for memory when it went to the heart of culture.

They celebrated the great battles, epics and legends and in the process created a strong literary tradition that is even today it serves as classics of Arabic literature1. Arabs were one of the culturally rich communities on earth, where language and poetry had a special stature in society.

Thus, it is apparent that the praise of Almighty Allah and the Holy Prophet (pbuh) was made, orally and in writing. More such writings were produced in other languages like Roman, Turkish, Hebrew and Persian as a means of exchange of delegations and/or official correspondence with the spread of Islam. The most famous and favoured among them was Hassan Ibn Thaabit, who enjoyed the full support and guidance of the Prophet (pbuh) more than anyone else did. He was the poet of the prophet who responded against the Hajv that were being written against the prophet (pbuh) and Muslims. Hassan penned these beautiful lines in his praise-

Wa ahsanu minka lam tara qattu aini
Wa ajmalu minka lam talidin nissa’u
Khuliqta Mubarra’ an min Kulli aibin
Ka-anna-ka qad khuliqta kama tasha’u

And more excellent than you, my eye has never seen,
And more beautiful than you, no woman ever gave birth to;
You were created free from any flaw whatsoever,
As though you were created just the way you wanted.

There were other companions like  Ka’b Ibn Maalik, Abdullah Ibn Rawaha, Ka’b Ibn Zuhair,  and many more. When Ka’b Ibn Zuhair reached the masjid of the prophet (pbuh) at the moment of embracing Islam he placed his hand in the hand of the prophet and started reciting poetry, so beautiful that the prophet asked his companion to sit down and listen to him.

The tradition among Arabs was to gift the poet with something after the recital. Prophet (pbuh) honoured ka’b his shawl after listening to his Qaseeda. His Qaseeda;Bānat Suʿād (Su’ād Has Departed) popularly known as theQaseeda Burdah Sharif and is classic Arabic literature.2 However, the same title became more popular with theQaseeda, written by Imam Busairi, much later.

Another account of a mass recital in the praise of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) is upon his arrival in Medina.3 When the people of medina harped in union the celebrated verses of ṭala‘a ‘l-badru ‘alaynā  (The full moon rose over us) 

The tradition of writing in the praise of the prophet became customary practice by the scholars and poets in the east. Soon when after Islam had reached Persia many great scholars started writing naat as a part of their prologue if not as a regular genre of devotional poetry.

Khaaqaani is the greatest Qaseeda-poet, a scholar of the sixth century AH. For his impeccable Naat-poems, he was also known as the ‘HASSAAN of AJAM ’, (Hassaan of the non-Arab world)Fariduddin Attaar is a renowned Sufi saint famous for his MATHNAVI, ‘MANTIQUT-TAIR’, (conference of birds) in the classics of Persian. In the prologue of his mathnawi, he wrote a long poem in the praise of the prophet, (as was the tradition) reflecting his true devotion lost deep down in the ocean of fondness to the Prophet (pbuh). The translation of the last four verses from the prologue read as follows-

I am your child, black waters now surround me, Along your way, this flood has almost drowned me, And yet my hope is that you’ll seize my hand And set me on your way, upon dry land.4

Khawja Qutbuddin Bakhtiyar Kaaki , Jalaluddin Rumi or the Maulana Rumi , Amir Khusrau, Hafez, Jami and Qudsi are other important poets who wrote naat in Persian.

Urdu poetry is filled with literature on naat. Sultan Mohammad quli qutub shah, sauda, meer, momin wrote naatiya qaseeda. Later poets like  Sufi Baydum Shah Warsi, Ameer Meenaai, Mohsin Kakorvi, Ahmed Raza Khan Barelvi wrote naat in the 14th century. The famous ‘Mustafa Jaan-e-Rahmat pe LaakhouN salam’ a melody of dusk in the subcontinent was written by Ahmed Raza Khan Barelvi.  masters likeHasrat Mohani, Haali, Shibli, Shaad Azeemabadi, Nazm Tabatabai, Zafar Ali Khan and Allama Sir Sheikh Muhammad Iqbal made their best to change the entire scene of Naat-poetry. Musaddas-e-Maddo-Jazar-e-Islam by Haali had turned a new leaf in Urdu Naatiya poetry.

Besides Arabic Persian and Urdu, languages like Punjabi and Kashmiri have a large range of literature in the praise of prophet (pbuh) written by the Sufi saints from the region. One of the famous naat and arguably the most eloquent of all is “aj sik mitran di vaderi ye” (Today, the longing for my Beloved) is written by a Sufi saint of Punjabi origin Meher Ali shah. Few verses of the naat are

Is surat noon main jaan aakhan
Jaanan ke jaan e jahaan aakhan
Sach aakhan tay Rabb di shan aakhan
Jis shan theen shaanan sab baniyaan

 Shall I call this face life, or the Essence
 Of Life, or the life of both the worlds? In
Truth, I should call it God’s greatest glory
From which He created His creation!

Names like Bahu, Baba Fareed, Bulleshah, Shah Hussain are few other popular names who engaged in the tradition of singing and composing naat in the praise of the prophet (pbuh). 5

Traditions of sending salutations and singing in midh of the prophet (pbuh) collectively as a part of remembrance circle on Fridays and on family occasions is widely practised in western Africa. Shaykh Ahmadu Bamba a 19th-century scholar and a poet devoted all of his time to writing poetry and praising prophet (pbuh) as means for his liberation and that of his people from the French colonization.6

The works of each of these poets demand a discrete engagement to appreciate their poetics and touch their passion. Many of these works have been part of Islamic singing tradition, in the forms of qawwali, sana’khwani and naat’khwani in the later centuries.

Dear reader, I want you to take this journey of love for the prophet Mohammad (pbuh). Imagine his radiant face, his curled locks resting by his temples. Think of his blessed demeanour that healed the onlookers with a smile. Think of the nostalgic stories that you were told by family matriarchs when you were children and the end feeling.

Repeatedly, the life of Prophet Mohammad (pbuh) is perceived as a journey from powerlessness to power, from anonymity to renown, from insignificance to lasting significance, as a man with ideology and lastingly relevant legacy. But this article was written in the interest of piety and sentiment to inspire you to absorb the tradition of love for the beloved prophet (pbuh).

1 Finnegan, R. H. (1982). The Penguin book of oral poetry. Penguin.

2 Michael A. Sells and M. J. Sells, Bānat Suʿād: translation and introductionJournal of Arabic Literature Vol. 21, No. 2 (Sep., 1990), pp. 140-154

3 (Seerah of Prophet Muhammad 92 – Battle of Tabuk 5 ~ Dr. Yasir Qadhi | 15th October 2014, n.d.)

4 Farīd Al-Dīn ʻaṭṭār, & Fitzgerald, E. (2011).  Praise of the prophet, Conference of birds. lines 404-408 .Penguin

5 Chopra, R. M., & India. (1999). Great Sufi poets of the Punjab. Iran Society.

6 SeekersGuidance: The Global Islamic Seminary. (2018). Spiritual Activism and the Tradition of Salawat in West Africa – Imam Dawud Walid.

1 Finnegan, R. H. (1982). The Penguin book of oral poetry. Penguin.

2 Michael A. Sells and M. J. Sells, Bānat Suʿād: translation and introductionJournal of Arabic Literature Vol. 21, No. 2 (Sep., 1990), pp. 140-154

3 (Seerah of Prophet Muhammad 92 – Battle of Tabuk 5 ~ Dr. Yasir Qadhi | 15th October 2014, n.d.)

4 Farīd Al-Dīn ʻaṭṭār, & Fitzgerald, E. (2011).  Praise of the prophet, Conference of birds. lines 404-408 .Penguin

5 Chopra, R. M., & India. (1999). Great Sufi poets of the Punjab. Iran Society.

6 SeekersGuidance: The Global Islamic Seminary. (2018). Spiritual Activism and the Tradition of Salawat in West Africa – Imam Dawud Walid.

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