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Shaykh Ibrahim Sidi - Tadhakkartu

Shaykh Ibrahim Sidi from Darfur, Sudan, was a Muslim religious leader of the Tijaniyya Sufi order. Like many other Sufi masters, Shaykh Ibrahim composed religious poetry in Arabic. One of the most important poetic genres is panegyrics, or poetry in praise of the Prophet Muhammad. Shaykh Ibrahim was particularly gifted in this genre. His poetic works weave stylistic elements and themes from classical Arabic poetry together with mystical metaphors and ideas. His work has gone unnoticed among non-Arabic speaking audiences, and is not even widely known among non-Sufi Muslims in Africa. In Sufi circles, however, Shaykh Ibrahim’s poetry is highly acclaimed and considered to be among the finest products of mystical panegyrics. Sometimes he is even referred to as the “Ibn al-Farid of his time”, a reference to one of the most celebrated Sufi poets in history.

One of Shaykh Ibrahim Sidi’s disciples was Muhammad al-Sadiq Ahmad al-Mahi, a former Sudanese pop singer, who turned Shaykh Ibrahim’s poems into lyrics for performances accompanied by the lute. This attracted strong criticism from non-Sufi Muslims who argued that these performances fell into the category of music prohibited (haram) by Islam’s sacred law. Shaykh Ibrahim, however, used to argue that the lute here resembles a glass. If you fill it with water, it is permissible (halal); if you fill it with wine, it is haram. So depending what you use the lute for, it is either haram or halal. Needless to say, he considered it halal to use the lute in order praise the Prophet Muhammad.

Shaykh Ibrahim Sidi passed away in 1999. His poetry continues to enjoy huge popularity among followers of the Tijaniyya order.

  • For a recital of the poem please click here.
  • A video featuring Muhammad al-Sadiq Ahmad al-Mahi can be found here.

I remembered – Tadhakkartu

I remembered, and the memory stirs my emotions
and sends streams of tears down my cheeks;

I remembered, and the memory is sorrow and deep longing,
which adds to my sadness and the length of my torment;

I remembered, and the memory is in my heart – even its smallest part
is capable of tearing down a building that once was high.

I remembered the beloved of God, the best of His creation;
His mercy is like the rain that brings the dry lands back to life.

  I remembered Ṭāhā, the most praised of all creation,
the single most accomplished servant – he has no equal.

I remembered Maḥmūd, Yāsīn, the intercessor;
Abū l-Qāsim, sent to all creation as the guide.

I remembered the one who fought his own people for the sake of God,
through whom the edifice of the religion was firmly erected.

Muḥammad, elected by God as locus of His manifestation:
through him the Essence of the Truth came to call to the Truth.

So hold in respect all his qualities, the keeper of the
often-repeated verses, the pure receptacle of the finest delicacies,

the locus where the Divine Names gather in His lower heavens,
whence they radiate like the shining stars.

Slowly! In view of the one upon whom every sign came
as praise from God – what is the value of my words?

If even the angels and prophets were unable to describe him,
then the verses of poetry and rhymes are inadequate, too.

Yet, my dedication to him heals my heart,
so that my praise for him becomes a necklace that adorns my inner self,

and that I am mentioned among his panegyrists on the Day of the Assembly.
Even if I am ranked as the lowest of them – this ocean is overflowing.

It is my full conviction that my Lord, on account of praising him (the Prophet),
will act on behalf of the Prophet when he grants me the reward –

if only my entire being were a tongue that could reiterate
his qualities all my life and in all my states –

and that there is sufficiency for all my life in the abundance of his bounties.
Therefore I find satisfaction in being the lowest-ranking of the panegyrists.

I have been constantly supplicating God, secretly and openly,
that he may grant me a loom that enables me to weave a precious wrap.

Thereupon the Merciful graced me with the skill of panegyrics, so that I
attained my desire, and my supplication was answered.

If no single word (of praise) said about the Hashemite (the Prophet) is too little,
so what about the one who dedicates to him many words that rhyme?

May the blessings of God be upon him, and then his peace,
so that the praise of the beloved may encompass all my time;

May the blessings of God be upon him, and then his peace,
so that I may realize my aspirations through the beloved guide;

May the blessings of God be upon him, and then his peace,
so that I may ascend beyond the Throne and move beyond the veils.

May the blessings of God be upon him, and then his peace,
and upon his family and his companions: they provide the life of my heart,

as long as Ibrāhīm invokes your memory, saying
I remembered, and the memory stirs my emotions.

The piece I selected for presentation here is taken from one of Shaykh Ibrahim’s collections of poems, titled “The Splendid Jewel in Praise of the Most Eminent Beloved” and composed in the early 1980s. The first line starts with the word, tadhakkartu (“I remembered”), which is an allusion to the “Mantle Ode” (Burda), perhaps the most famous poem in praise of the Prophet from the 13th century CE, which begins with the words “Is it because of remembering” (A-min tadhakkuri). A distinct mark of Shaykh Ibrahim’s style, also found in works by his peers, is that he frequently writes in the first person, thus seeking to depict his spiritual relationship with the Prophet in the mirror of his personal itinerary.“

Prof. Dr. Rüdiger Seesemann, Dean and Spokesperson of Africa Multiple Cluster of Excellence

Webmaster: Dr. Doris Löhr

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