A South African Muslimah's Blog

Constructing Identity: Loud Whispers, Lasting Echoes

A sacred poem and fixing my image March 17, 2009

(pictures taken by a brother who attended the program)


This past sunday, I attended a program at the Turkish built and run masjid in Johannesburg. It is a mini work of art, complete with ablution fountain and Ottoman dome. The inside mirrors any masjid in Turkey, in its beauty and symmetry. On the occasion of the Maulood, Sheikh Fakhruddin Owaisi came to Johannesburg, to teach the Qasidah Burdah (song of the cloak), a sacred poem, written about 800 years ago, by Sheikh Busairi, an Egyptian of Moroccan origin. The reason the poem has achieved such fame and sanctity, is because the Prophet (saw) appeared in a dream of the author, asking to listen to the poem, which is a mini Seerah, and then added one line to it, himself.  

Being taught by Sheikh Uwaisi, who learnt the Qasidah from a direct line of transmission to the author himself, was spiritually uplifting. It lasted about 7 hours, but not once did boredom or tiredness cross my mind, as every word he uttered, I vigorously wrote down and devoured with my mind. I thoroughly enjoyed experiencing the method of oral transmission, the traditional way of learning, since the time of the Prophet (saw), and having studied literary theory, participating in it practically was invaluable to me. At the end of the program, the Sheikh also gave Ijazah (permission) to everyone who attended, to teach the Qasidah to others, and bestowed on everyone the chain of transmission to the author, another traditional method of education, which also came as a lovely surprise. All in all, it was a most inspirational introduction to sufism for me. The Qasidah itself, I will blog about separately.

The only time I felt a little uncomfortable is when the Sheikh was negative towards Shi’is. Those boundaries don’t exist in my mind.

One thought that crossed my mind repeatedly throughout the class, was how welcomed, comfortable and at home I felt in the Turkish masjid, and the same, the previous night at the Iranian masjid, which also held a Maulood program in honor of the prophet (saw). The atmosphere was relaxed, yet spiritually charged at the same time. I thought repeatedly, about how, I have never set foot in my own neighborhood masaajid, in whose shade I grew up, how unwelcome I am there, and how I, as a women, am perceived to somehow sully the sacredness of the place. I found my heart bursting with appreciation to the Turks and Iranians, who have made it possible for me to mend the image of myself which my community had shattered, by relegating me to the home, and setting the masjid as off limits to my species. It also made me grateful to have lived abroad in the Middle East, where I could traipse in to any masjid, at any time, without anyone batting an eyelid.


9 Responses to “A sacred poem and fixing my image”

  1. Khadija Says:

    At second-year level at my brother’s dar ul uloom, they actually have an entire module dedicated to Qasida Burdah. Will pass on his notes to you iA

  2. Nooj Says:

    Kay me too!!

  3. Mubarak Says:

    Asalaamu-Alikum Sister

    There are two opinions I’d like to share, but before I do so I would like to mention to you that I am not a scholar both in the islamic sense and the secular sense but I do ocaisionally enjoy reading on various subjects.

    Firstly I do not think it apropriate to say that that Shykh Owasi Was “Bashing” any sect without quoting he’s exact words
    and examining the authentincy of he’s qoute for if anything Shykh Owaisi is well versed in both internal and external sciences. But you are most welcome to speak of him as you wish, As siencire advise to you, out of nothing but love for you for the pleassure of Allah and He’s Beloved Slave Muhammad SAW, Be cautious of what you say to/of a muslim because a muslim is close to Allah, you and I are unable to tell whom Allah has made he’s Wali and Who is not.

    Secdondly Shykh Owaisi is From a Tariqa (Tijaniya) that boasts
    a large number of female Ulema, and Muqaddams globaly form The United States right through to Indonesia something that very few if any followers of the Prohet SAW can claim. By mentioning that you have a soft spot for Ahlul Bayt…you are implying that Shykh Owaisi Offended the beloved house hold of the Prophet SAW, If this was your perception then your statement that you do not fall to the left or to the right falls away, Because that would mean you have no problem with either side, meaning that you would not stand in support or against the left or the right.

    Question: You have poetically discribed your conflict with the ruling of certain Masaajids not to allow women into the Masjid.
    I feel that this is an epic debate in our country and throwing out out carts about the issue will do very little what we need to do instead is educate ourselves, team up with scholars of influence in our community like Shykh Owaisi in order to vocate our position, In most of africa women are allowed into the Masaajid we can say Allahamdullilah that our country is the only one we need to try and change, you do not need to move in the opposit direction of a force in order to overcome it.

    Camillo Mubarak

    • Safiyyah Says:

      W’slm brother Mubarak

      Thank you for your comments, alhtough I must admit I do not fully understand what you mean.
      In critiscizing Shaykh Uwaisi’s statements about the Shi’a, I am not attacking him personally, nor judging his Imaan…for sure he is levels and levels higher than any of us could ever claim! I am simply pointing out what I, as an individual was uncomfortable with. You are misunderstood me, I do not mean I will not stand with any side, I will most certainly stand with the oppressed, and every situation is different, so I will not simply affiliate myself with any sect just because of historical events that were beyond my control. Shaykh Uwaisi did not insult the Ahlul Bayt in any way!

      For me, writing is an outlet, and since I have faced many dissapointments with my community in terms of the masjid, writing about it helps me, and in no way is it an attack, its simply an expression of my thoughts. I agree with you, teaming up with prominent Ulema is a good step…this problem only persists and in the SA Indian Muslim community, so it is somewhat of a cultural import from the subcontinent that has nothing to do with Islam.

      Allahu A’lam

      Also, you mention that Tariqah Tijaniyyah has many female ulema, AlHamdulillah, that is inspiring, but what does it have to do with my post?

  4. Azra Says:

    Can you tell me where this Turkish Musjid is in JHB please? I’d like to visit it. And the Iranian one too.

    I don’t know if you’ve been a part of the recent women-in-mosques debate. I just find it ludicrous that women aren’t allowed in the mosque in this culture even though every single Muslim nation permits it.

    I go to mosque regardless, my Mother grew up Shafi and they all go to mosque so we attend with her.

    I find myself moving increasingly away from cultural aspects of society (in some cases even despising it)…actually my whole family seems to be moving away from these cultural & religious confines (ie. indian, malay, hanfi, shafi etc. etc.) and we’re embracing life as Muslims, pure and simple. Our culture now is dictated by moderation, a holistic view of Islam and what is required of us as muslims…not just the physical activities (salaah etc.) because I believe Islam is not what we DO, its who we ARE.

    • Irfaan Says:

      Azra, the school is in Mayfair, JHB. Corner 6th Avenue and Somerset Street. The current principal is Mr Yavuz Aydin.

  5. Irfaan Says:

    I’m referring to the Turkish Mosque.

  6. ihsan360 Says:


    I received an email, with a link to your blog some time ago from Shaykh Fakhruddin, and was wondering had you uploaded the notes from that class… and if not, how I could get ahold of them.

    Thank You

  7. Ömer Says:

    Sister how can i ask you? Can i have your contact?

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