Near Eastern Languages and Cultures | In Praise of the Prophet Muhammad: The Mantle Odes
N205 | 18517 | Suzanne Stetkevych


01:00P-02:15P TR BH 149

Islamic tradition tells us that when the poet Ka`b Ibn Zuhayr
converted to Islam, he presented the Prophet Muhammad his poem that
begins “Suad has departed” and, in return, the Prophet gave the poet
his mantle. His poem came to be known as “The Mantle Ode.” Six
centuries later, in Mamluk Egypt, the poet al-Busiri, suffering from
semi-paralysis, composed a poem of praise to the Prophet. In a dream,
he recited the poem in the Prophet’s presence, and the Prophet, in
return, bestowed his mantle upon him. The next morning, the poet
awoke, cured of his malady. His poem, too, became renowned as “The
Mantle Ode,” and its spiritual healings powers led to its myriad
translations, commentaries, and imitations throughout the medieval
Islamic world. Another six centuries later, the Egyptian poet Ahmad
Shawqi despaired of the state of the Arab-Islamic world in the grip of
Western colonialism. Imitating the rhyme and meter of al-Busiri’s
Mantle Ode, he composed his “The Way of the Mantle” to appeal for
divine aid in restoring the glory of the Arab-Islamic community.
Through the exploration of these poems in their literary and
historical contexts, “The Mantle Odes” traces the course of
Arab-Islamic culture from the pre-Islamic to the (post-)colonial, as
well as the transmission and influence of these poems throughout the
Islamic world.