The Lāmiyat Abi Talib AS

This write-up is third in a series of pieces that highlights Rasulullah’s SA experience with Maulana Abu Ṭalib SA, and the numerous ways in which Maulana Abu Ṭalib SA came to his aid and defended him, thus, enabling him to navigate Qurayshs’ complex tribal structure and firmly establish Islam amongst the existing traditions.

 

The ‘Lāmiyat Abi Talib’ is a qasidah composed by Maulana Abu Talib SA during the Mawsim (particular times of the years when the various tribes gathered, i.e. the Mawsim of Haj). In the classical Arabic qasidah, the end letter of the second hemistich of each verse (bayt) remains the same throughout the entire poem in order to establish a monosyllabic rhyming patters which is an essential aesthetic element of the qasidah’s structure. This rhyming pattern is known as the ‘qāffiyah.’

The qasidah composed by Maulana Abu Talib AS is known as a ‘lāmiya’ since every verse ends with the Arabic letter ‘lām.’ However, Maulana Abu Talib AS composed many poems with the ‘qāffiya’ of ‘lām.’ The naming of this qasidah,‘lāmiyat Abi Talib,’ conveys that this particular qasidah exemplifies the best and most famed of Maulana Abu Talib’s SA compositions and singularly deserves to be known as ‘the lāmiyat of Abu Talib.’ The qasidah is an example of the richness of Maulana Abu Talib’s AS poetry, both in the depth of its meaning and the eloquence of its form. Beyond its aesthetic value and esteemed place in the Fatimi literary corpus, the qasidah serves as a gateway through which we better understand the historical persona of Maulana Abu Talib AS. Specifically, it reveals Maulana Abu Talibs’ strongest convictions and religio-ethical commitments, all expressed by his own individual voice in the qasidah.

 

During the seasonal Mawsim, Banu Abd Shams feared that the various Arab tribes will lean towards Rasulullah SA and answer his calling to Islam. Thus, they plotted against him. During this period Maulana Abu Ṭalib SA composed his famous, “lāmiyat Abi Talib,” a poem in defense of Rasulullah SA and one that reveals Maulana Abu Ṭalib’s SA true support of Islam and its followers. In selected verses from the qasidah  he states:

 

I swear upon Baytullah that you are mistaken we will not allow Mohammed to be looted. We will fight before him with spear and arrow (31).

 

And (you are mistaken) we will not surrender him until we are brought to the ground around him, while we forget out children and spouses (32).

 

I was generous with my soul before him (Rasulullah) and I protected him. And I deflected from him with necks and chests (108).

 

There is no doubt that indeed Allah will aid his (Rasulullah SA) task. He is the one who will elevate him in the temporal world and on the Day of Judgement (109).”

 

Al-Dai al-Ajal Syedna Qadi Nomān RA, in his historical treatise ‘Kitaab al-Manāqib w’al Mathālib,’ writes a short commentary on the qasidah in which he describes the context of its production. The proceeding passage is a summary of that text.

Maulana Abu Talib AS continued to conceal his acceptance of Rasulullah’s SA prophethood, and outwardly displayed a commitment to an existing Arab pagan religion. All this was necessary, for if he had outwardly proclaimed his allegiance to Islam as had Maulana Hamza he would have disenfranchised himself from the existing social order. Similarly, the esteemed place he held amongst existing Arab tribes, which enabled him to assist Rasulullah SA under the argument that Rasulullah AS is of his kin, would be compromised. In the qasidah, Maulana Abu Talib AS aims to entreat and propitiate Arab tribal leaders and dissuade them from harming Rasulullah SA and his followers while assuring them that he remains committed to their beliefs.

 

Indeed, the words of his qasidah resemble the words of the Mumin from the pharaoh’s kin who in the famous passage from the Holy Quran conceals his Iman. Had Maulana Abu Talib AS revealed his imān he would become one of the many disenfranchised Muslims. Instead, Allah protected his religion and prophet through Moulana Abu Talib AS during this trial ridden period and ensured the well-being of the small number of Muslims who had answered Rasulullah’sSA calling. Maulana Abu Talib’s AS qasidah spread amongst all Arab clans. His words prevented those who intended to inflict harm upon Rasulullah SA and his followers from doing so, and encouraged some amongst them to reply to Rasulullah’s SA calling.

 

Thus, the ‘lāmiyat Abu Talib’ is one of the most well preserved pieces of historical evidence that reveals Maulana Abu Talibs’ steadfast commitment to aid Rasulullah SA in the spreading of Islam. It also displays the tactful prudence embodied by Maulana Abu Talib AS in his effort to use his privileged position amongst Arab leaders to aid Rasulullah while still concealing his allegiance to Islam. The use of a qasidah to rally support for Rasulullah is an apt choice. The oral nature of poetry, the practice of memorizing poems in the Arabian Peninsula, and the close link of poetry to communal identity all helped Maulana Abu Talib AS to aid the spread of Islam. The firm stance he took in the qasidah sent a clear message to Rasulullahs’ opponents such as Banu Abd Shams that no avenue to harm Rasulullah was accessible as long as Maulana Abu Talib AS stood at his defense.

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