Shaykh Ibrahim Osi-Efa on Sura Luqman–On Listening to Spiritual Poetry

Sura Luqman emphasizes tarbiya, or spiritual growth, and is named after a great sage. In this series, Shaykh Ibrahim Osi-Efa explores the meanings of this chapter.

In this segment, Shaykh Ibrahim discusses sama, or listening to spiritual poetry and songs. Continuing the discussion about entertaining discourse–music meant to distract from God–he mentions that even good things can fall into the category of being impermissible, if they distract from Allah.  Given that, spiritual poetry only becomes wrong if it is used for a purpose other than to help people in their path of knowledge.

Some people may be listening to spiritual poetry or remembrance, or even something like Qur’an recitation, in a way that distracts them from Allah, whereas others will be using it as a means to Allah. Similarly, if someone is praying, but is very proud of their prayer, then the prayer, although intrinsically a good thing, has now become a distraction.

Throughout history, many poets and scholars have written spiritual poems that seem to the layman as if they are speaking about the love of a woman, although they are actually speaking of Divine Love.

By way of explanation, an Andalusian poet once said,

“Not everyone who smells obtains the fragrance,

and human beings are of clear degrees,

some people who stop at the outer shell,

never getting to the inner essence.”

With gratitude to Greensville Trust.

Resources for Seekers

When A Poet From Tipperary Tried To Outdo Al Busiri, By Novid Shaid

Once there was a poet

Who hailed from Tipperary

One day he said: “I know what I’ll do

I’ll be the new Busiri!

I am going to be the one and only

I am going to be a star

Muslims from all around will cheer

This is the new burda!

I’ll use a catchy rhythm

I’ll think of amazing rhymes

Similes and metaphors

It’ll be most sublime!

Then after I’ve completed it

I’ll have a special dream

The Prophet will come up to me

With a cloak from the unseen!

I’ll wake and there I’ll find it

Enwrapped around my chest

A miracle, a fine burda

At the holy Prophet’s behest!

Then people will come and read it

They’ll find it heavenly

The royalties will flow and flow

I’ll be an Islamic celebrity!”


So, he went and told his missus

She couldn’t help but deride

“You nincompoop!” She chided him

“Al Busiri was half-paralysed!”

“I don’t care!” Said the poet

“I’m gonna hit the big time

I’ll prove to you that I can write

The most scintillating rhyme!”


So, he went and sat on a wooden bench

Inside the local park

He mused: “right here amongst the trees

I will write with perfect art.”

But as he wrote, he struggled

Nothing was forthcoming

So he decided there to take a nap

Maybe a dream would inspire him.

As he was awakening

He felt something enshrouding him

Inside he said: “subhan Allah!

This must be from Him!”

He awoke with expectation

His ego feeling finer

But to his horror and disgust

He was wrapped in a great bin-liner!

“What on earth is this!” He raged

And suddenly he noticed

A bearded most singular man

He thought: “he must be homeless.”

The old man said: “I’m sorry

But I thought you needed that

I didn’t want you to be cold

Especially in this cold snap.”

“You cheeky sort!” Cried the poet

“Keep yourself to yourself!”

The old man gazed into his eyes

“I know what’s good for your health.”

“What are you blabbering on about

You bumbling, dithering looney!”

Growled the poet growing red and red

Like a bloated strawberry.

The old man said: “you need this burda

This burda around my heart.”

The poet stared at the man and cried:

“There’s no burda there you tart!”

“Aah!” sighed the man, glowing

“You have to look carefully

The cloak that I refer to

Is the cloak of sincerity.

Its thread is made of slavehood

The pattern spells out mercy

Then you have to weave it

With the needles of poverty

When you write and only write

For Blessed Mustafa

When you love and only love

For our One Maker Allah

You will see He works through you

You will see His Mustafa.”

The poet went home gloomy

But at home things weren’t much finer

His wife said: “here, I need some help!”

And she handed him a bin-liner!


[cwa id=’cta’]

Resources for seekers