In Praise of the Prophet Muhammad
(Allah bless him and grant him peace)
This Punjabi poem in praise of the Prophet Muhammad (upon him be the blessings and peace of God) is, without doubt, the most acclaimed and revered naat in the whole of Punjabi devotional and religious poetry. It is also unique in that its’ author, the venerable scholar, Saint, and Friend of Allah (wali) , Hazrat Pir Sayyid Mihr Ali Shah Golrawi Chishti, had a waking vision of the Prophet whilst he was composing this naat which lead him to write the immortal last two lines which are known to all and sundry in the Subcontinent and in the Punjabi Muslim diaspora. How can they not be immortalised when the Beloved Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) showed himself to the Shaykh to display his approval for this son of his? Allahu Akbar! We can only imagine the beauty of the Prophet which the Shaykh saw! Even as a piece of Punjabi literature its greatness is acknowledged even by the non-religious.
It is the acme of Punjabi poetry and recalls the works of the great Saints of the Punjab of the past such as Baba Farid, Hazrat Sultan Bahu, Baba Waris Shah Sahib and Mian Muhammad Bakhsh to name just a few. Its author, Pir Sayyid Mihr Ali Shah Jilani Golrawi Chishti, can rightfully claim a place amongst such illustrious saints both for his person and his poetry.
The biography of Pir Sayyid Mihr Ali Shah is unique for a shaykh of the twentieth century, and reads like that of one of the Salaf. His miracles [karamat] are legendary (including quickening the dead!) and he was almost solely responsible (along with his contemporary Hazrat Pir Sayyid Jama’at Ali Shah Alipuri Naqshbandi) for defeating the Qadiani heresy in Punjab when he openly challenged Mirza Qadiani to a munazarah. “Let us both jump off the minaret of the Badshahi Mosque in Lahore, he said, “and if your claims to prophecy are true you will not be harmed! I am just a slave of the Prophet but I challenge you!” He also challenged him to write a tafsir of the Qur’an with the proviso that none of them would touch their pens! “I will command my pen to write and it will by the grace of Allah!” he said in a famous public challenge. In all cases Mirza ran away from this lion of Ahlus Sunnah and descendent of the Prophet who spent his long life in the worship of his Lord to reach these high spiritual stations of which we can only imagine. His life was simple to the point of austerity and he spent many long nights in prayer on a prayer mat made from stone so much so that eventually it was worn away from his prostrations. The Shaykh was also a very learned alim and author of a number of works on many aspects of Islam including his refutation of the Shia, Tasfiya Ma Bayn Sunni wa Shia, which has become a standard work, used by both his followers and his enemies and his work Sayf e Chishtiyyah which he wrote to refute the many heresies in his day. He also has diwans of poetry from which this most famous work is taken, and a large fatwa collection. Further biographical details can be found at the official website of the Shaykh (in English and Urdu), http://thelightofgolrasharif.com which is kept by his descendents. The Shaykh’s blessed shrine is in Islamabad, in Golra.
The transliteration of the Punjabi original.
Verses from this poem are frequently sung at nearly every event organised by Sunnis of the Subcontinent but the whole poem rarely.
Translation into English verse.
I have attempted to translate this masterpiece—inadequately, of course—into English blank verse, each line having 10 syllables. This heroic metre is common in epic English poetry.
1. Today, the longing for my Beloved
2. Is over-pow’ring; why’s my heart so sad?
3. Desire, like a flame in every vein.
4. Today, why do my eyes weep floods of tears?
5. His radiant face in a vision I saw[vii] .
6. And from his tresses there came a fragrance
7. The sight of such visions caused me to swoon
8. His eyes’ foot-soldiers overpowered me!
9. His face is bright, a moon at its fullest.
10. A light flashes from his brow; his tresses
11. Are jet black, his gaze intoxicating.
12. His wine-filled eyes cause inebriation!
13. His two eye-brows are like an archer’s bow
14. Firing arrows of sharpened eye-lashes!
15. Shall I call his lips red or rubies from
16. Yemen? His white teeth are a string of pearls.
17. Shall I call this face life, or the Essence
18. Of Life, or the life of both the worlds? In
19. Truth, I should call it God’s greatest glory
20. From which He created His creation!
21. This face is really from the Faceless One[viii] ;
22. The Faceless One manifests through this face.
23. The Formless One has been seen through this face
24. Ever since Unity blossomed into
25. Diversity. This face shows the way to the
26. Faceless. Nay, not the way, the Essence too!
27. Yet this secret is not for the common;
28. Just the Elect may discover this pearl!
29. By God! May this face stay before my eyes
30. At the time of Death and on Judgement Day!
31. In my grave and when I’m crossing the Bridge.
32. Then alone shall the fake become pure gold!
33. Your rank is: “Thy Lord shall give thee” and we
34. Place our hopes in, “So thou art well-pleased” [ix].
35. This test we shall pass as the Gracious said:
36. “Intercede and thy intercession shall
37. Be accepted!” Remove thy Yemeni
38. Cloak and grant me a glimpse of your lovely
39. Face, my love! Repeat again those sweet words
40. Which you spake in the valley of Hamra.
41. Come from your cell to the mosque, Beloved!
42. All yearn for your radiant countenance!
43. Both the worlds furnish thy way with their eyes
44. All men, angels, houris, and faerie-folk.
45. For all these yearning and pining ones; for
46. Those dying to sacrifice themselves in your
47 Love; and all those ready to be your thralls
48. May those moments of bliss return again!
49. Praise God! You’re most Beauteous! Exc’llent! Perfect!
50. How dare Mihr Ali gaze at you, sing your hymns!
Acknowledgements, Dedication and Request.
Though the transliteration and translation are solely my own work I did use the literal translation of the poem found at The Light of Golra Sharif website to help me in a few instances. I would like to dedicate this poem to Hazrat Pir Sayyid Mihr Ali Shah Golrawi (may his secret be sanctified!) and pray for his help on the Day of Requital and that of His Illustrious Grandfathers, Our Liegelords Huzoor Ghawth al Azam Sayyid Abd al Qadir Jilani and, above all, Sayyidina wa Mawlana Muhammad (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam, the Messenger of Allah.
Finally, I would humbly request all those who read this translation to pray that Allah gives me guidance and keeps me on the path of Ahlus Sunnah and allows me to visit His Beloved in Madina and to send salawat on the Habib during my dying moments and with my last breaths. If you read this after I have died please pray for the forgiveness of my sins and that Allah and His Habib accept this little effort and grant me success in the Hereafter. Amin!
Lines 21 to 28 are very difficult being the Shaykh’s exposition of Shaykh al Akbar Muhyuddin Ibn Arabi’s concept of Wahdat al Wajood (Unity of Being) into Punjabi poetry whereby the Prophet is described in terms of the Perfect Man and the perfect manifestation of Allah’s Attributes in this world. Shaykh Pir Sayyid Mihr Ali Shah was acknowledged as the foremost expert on Ibn Arabi in his era. Scholars of the calibre of Dr. Sir Muhammad Iqbal wrote to him about wahdat al wajood. As the Shaykh himself says in line 28, this is not for the simpleton or the common person!
These last two lines (49 and 50) are the most famous of the poem. Line 49 is entirely in Arabic. The Shaykh uses the Arabic tense with the prefix ‘ma’ (used, amongst other things, to denote astonishment) to express his awe and wonderment at the Prophet’s beauty, which he saw in a waking vision.
There are numerous recordings, both in the studio and live, of this naat (nearly always abridged) but my personal favourite is this live version by Muhammad Owais Qadri: