Feb 22, 2007 - poetry    5 Comments

Towards understanding Islamic poetry…


Assalaamu alaikum,

Now that I’m done with the Road to Damascus series I was trying to think of what to write about next in the blog. I thought about posting some of my old articles, but I’m sure you guys, being big fans, have already read all of those! ;) Then I thought about writing about LOVE which is such a great topic but having just been to the Al-Maghrib LoveNotes class and written a long review about it at the Madina Message board I think I’m all loved out. Then I thought about writing about friendship but since I don’t have any friends (one’s that I ever see anyway) what’s the point. I noticed that many Muslim blogs are talking about Muslim movements like Salafism and Progressive Islam or Feminism in Islam so no need to analyze those further. I could write about some Arabic learning things but since the only Arabic I study nowadays is trying to decipher Nancy Ajram’s music videos I don’t think that’d be helpful to y’all.

So what else is there to write about you ask? Well…I would like to write about Islamic poetry. Yup, poetry. Now wait, wait! Don’t leave yet!! I know a lot of people feel like they just don’t understand poetry. Especially Islamic poetry. They read something and they’re like ‘what the h… what is this guy/gal sayin’. They just can’t figure it out. (Like me and the ridiculous ‘aamiya in those videos…I mean albi = qalbi, mish=ma, inta=anta… its like!!!) Ok so let me ‘splain you….

There is a huge amount of wisdom, knowledge, shared emotion and experience in a poem. Think of them as long, expressive essays, but the trick is the poet had to express their ideas in a few words that go together in some kind of rhythm or rhyme. Poets also tend to have different themes and if you know their history you can figure out what they’re talking about. There are a lot of symbols used in poetry like the nightingale=the soul, a rose=awareness of God, wine=love of God. So you could read a whole poem like ‘the nightingale drunk on love sang a song by the rose in the garden’ or something and it has a simple lyrical vision on top but underneath there’s a whole underground layer of meaning going on. Many people also make the mistake of thinking a poem which is an allegory on Love of God is about human love because that’s what it seems like on the surface!

Then how do you know what’s really going on and how do you understand poetry? You just have to keep reading and by experience you can learn to understand poetry. And trust me after awhile you’ll love it too. So for the last couple months I’ve been posting some of my favorites so here are some you can read and start to appreciate.

Rumi – grandmaster puffdaddy of Islamic poetry. No one can match his eloquence, deep ideas or constructs. Even non-Muslims absolutely go crazy over Rumi poetry. What does he talk about? Just deep ideas about the soul, God, emotions and love. Rumi’s poetry is an ocean. You could read a poem of his one day and get one meaning and then read it on another day and get something else. There is an even deeper layer of understanding of Rumi if you study a lot of old Islamic literature like the writings of Ibn al Qayyim and Abdul Qadir al Jilani. For example, after a class on some of the discourses in Futuh al Ghayb I re-read some of the poems and it dawned on me that Rumi was talking about the same concepts! So anyways…start reading some Rumi today!! A Rumi poem a day keeps the spiritual one aware? Here are some poems you can start out with.

Iqbal - maybe the most elegant poet out there. Iqbal talked a lot about Islam and the ummah. His poems are very straightforward. Read some here.

Rabia al Adawiyya – lover of God. There’s just no one else that expressed their love of God more. Her poetry will shame and awe you. Read a few here.

Mahmoud Darwish – Palestinian poet extraordinaire. Writes about Palestine and his people. Must read.

Hafiz - way out there idea guy. I don’t know if it’s the translations or whatever, but Hafiz’s poetry is just crazy. You read it and it may be 6 words, but they totally express something. Very interesting some of his here.

Nizar Qabbani - Arab poet of emotions. He’ll just amaze you with his poems on women and love. Read some.

Some more:

FaizGhalibAgha Shahid Ali

The Burdah – classic Islamic poem on the Prophet (s)

and try reading some lovely love poems in this thread entitled ‘Of Soulful sighs and poetic words…’

Want some contemporary every day people who write nice poetry? Try Maliha or Jaihoon.

See… pretty cool right!

Ok then until next time….

walaikum assalaam warahmatullah wabarakatuhu :)


  • Jannah,

    Perhaps you should try to decipher Nawal instead lol


  • Hey Jannah,

    Whats the matter…you didn’t like Nawal’s song?

    Oops my bad::)

  • weird… one comment of your’s went into moderation, the other didn’t. anyway i liked nawal’s early videos… don’t like many of her new one’s… this one was a little too focusing on her err ‘assets’ uhh gross

  • Assalamualaikum and hello there. I really really love your poems and thank you so much for disclosing other Islamic poets. I really admired Rabia Al-Adawiyyah and has fallen in love with her poems as I read them. By the way, I love Rumi’s poems as well. I really like your blog and poems a lot. Keep writing :D

  • i love my religion so much! i wouldn’t change it for anything in this whole world! may all the real believers enter jannah(paradise)!