The Resplendent Birth
By Idris Kamal
In the Turkish tradition, the best-known early mevlût was written by the venerable Shaikh Süleyman Chelebi (may Allah sanctify his secret) of Bursa around 1400 CE. It is written in rhyming couplets, a literary form adopted from the Persian.
Its rhythm is simple; the meter is the same as that used primarily in Persian mystical and didactic epics such as Imam Faridu-d Din ‘Attar’s Mantiqu-t Tair and Mevlana Jalalu-d Din Rumi’s Mathnawi. The language is plain, almost childlike, and therefore the poem has not lost anything of its charm even today.
Shaikh Süleyman’s mevlût was often imitated, so that there are about a hundred different versions of mevlût poetry in Turkish; but no other Turkish religious poem can compete with it for the favour of all classes of society. Its first part tells the momentous story of the Prophet’s birth (Allah bless him and give him peace) as Lady Amina (may Allah be pleased with her) experienced it. Full of amazement, she recounts (using traditional imagery) what happened to her at the end of her pregnancy:
Amina Khatun, Muhammad’s mother dear:
From this oyster came that lustrous pearl.
After she conceived from ‘Abdallah
Came the time of birth with days and weeks.
As Muhammad’s birth was drawing near
Many signs appeared before he came!
In the month of Rabi’ al-Awwal then
On the twelfth, the night of Monday, look,
When the best of humankind was born-
O what marvels did his mother see!
Spoke the mother of that friend: “I saw
A strange light; the sun was like its moth.
Suddenly it flashed up from my house,
Filled the world with light up to the sky.
Heavens opened, vanquished was the dark,
And I saw three angels with three flags.
One was in the East, one in the West,
One stood upright on the Ka’ba’s roof.
Rows of angels came from heaven, and
Circumambulated all my house;
Came the houris group on group; the light
From their faces made my house so bright
And a cover was spread in mid-air,
Called ‘brocade’ – an angel laid it out.
When I saw clearly these events
I became bewildered and confused.
Suddenly the walls were split apart
And three houris entered in my room.
Some have said that of these charming three
One was Asiya of moonlike face,
One was Lady Mary without doubt,
And the third a houri beautiful.
Then these moonfaced three drew gently near
And they greeted me with kindness here;
Then they sat around me, and they gave
The good tidings of Muhammad’s birth;
Said to me: ‘A son like this your son
Has not come since God made this world,
And the mighty one did never grant
Such a lovely son as will be yours.
You have found great happiness, O dear,
For from you that virtuous one is born!
He that comes is King of Knowledge high,
Is the mine of gnosis and tawhid [monotheism].
For the love of him the sky revolves,
Men and djinn are longing for his face.
This night is the night that he, so pure
Will suffuse the worlds with radiant light!
This night, earth becomes a Paradise,
This night, God shows mercy to the world.
This night, those with heart are filled with joy,
This night, gives the lovers a new life.
Mercy for the worlds is Mustafa,
Sinner’s intercessor: Mustafa!’
They described him in this style to me,
Stirred my longing for that blessed night.”
Amina said: “When the time was ripe
That the best of mankind should appear,
I became so thirsty from that heat
That they gave me a sherbet in a glass.
Drinking it, I was immersed in light
And could not discern myself from light.
Then a white swan came with soft great wings
And he touched my back with gentle strength.
[As this verse is recited, every participant ever so gently touches his or her neighbour’s back.]
And the King of Faith was born that night:
Earth and heaven were submerged in light!”
Then begins the great Welcome, which all creation extended to the newborn Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace), whose coming they had expected with such longing, a welcome to the Friend of God in whose intercession at Doomsday all can trust:
Welcome, O high prince, we welcome you!
Welcome, O mine of wisdom, we welcome you!
Welcome, O secret of the Book, we welcome you!
Welcome, O medicine for pain, we welcome you!
Welcome, O sunlight and moonlight of God, we welcome you!
Welcome, O you not separated from God!
Welcome, O nightingale of the Garden of Beauty!
Welcome, O friend of the Lord of Power!
Welcome, O refuge of your community!
Welcome, O helper of the poor and destitute!
Welcome, O eternal soul, we welcome you!
Welcome, O cupbearer of the lovers, we welcome you!
Welcome, O darling of the Beloved!
Welcome, O much beloved of the Lord!
Welcome, O mercy for the worlds!
Welcome, O intercessor for the sinner!
Only for you were Time and Space created…
© Idris Kamal, Rabi’ al-Awwal 1433/February 2012