Conflict, Culture and Creation

An Artistic Interpretation of Religious Challenges in South Asia

The Bridegroom Prophet in Medieval Sindhi Poetry-Explanation

Filed under: Uncategorized — alana at 2:19 am on Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Throughout this semester, I found I particularly enjoyed the heavy influence of art, music and literature that supplemented the learning of the course. In the reading topic involving “Boundaries in South Asian Muslim Literatures” I was particularly surprised and enlightened by the different styles and themes of poetry used to venerate or express devotion to the Prophet Muhammad. My interest was particularly peeked by the piece by Professor Asani on The Bridegroom Prophet in Medieval Sindhi Poetry. I struggled with understanding why a Muslim male author would take on the voice of a young woman expressing romantic yearning for a Muhammad. Furthermore, why this literary style would be set around a Hindu wedding, considering the great turmoil between and distancing of Muslims and Hindus. In analyzing the works of Bhatti, Asani came to the conclusion that the poetry emanated from popular Muslim folk traditions, but also was heavily influenced by the local culture. Though some of these writings may not have agreed with the teaching of “official” Islam, it was understandably popular among Muslims in India who believed in a more esoteric and mystical interpretation of their faith. Beyond an influence of local culture, more dramatically in medieval Bengal the Prophet became comparable in literature to symbols of Hindu tradition such as the concept of the avatara, where Muhammad was presented as the most powerful avatar.

Taking all of these Hindu influences into consideration, and paying close attention to the stylistic and thematic elements of this Sindhi poetry such as that of the works of Bhatti, I challenged myself to writing my own piece in the style of this Bridegroom Prophet poetry. I chose the theme of the young woman on a journey to Medina, awaiting her wedding with the Prophet. I wanted to have the concept of the viraha, or: “The burning, consuming longing of the soul for union with God,” (Asani 214) to play an important role in my poem as it typically did in the works of such authors as Bhatti, and interestingly as similar themes did in works from many other religious sects from the Sufis to the Hindus themselves. Thus my poem is entitled “The Flame in Medina” and is the voice of a young woman traveling through the desert to reach Medina in order to have her wedding with Muhammad. Exemplifying the style of speaking out to the audience and to the Prophet himself, the woman speaks of the pain she feels from her journey, but more so from the longing she has for her lover, and this refrain of “burning love” is echoed throughout the piece. When the woman finally reaches Medina she witnesses the angels and townspeople awaiting her union with the prophet, and though she is relieved she still yearns to see Muhammad. And when he finally arrives, it is a magical and completely fulfilling moment in which the woman’s love and devotion to her new husband are made even stronger. The powerful themes of longing and suffering that emanate from the poem with a more romantic undertone are the same themes that devout Muslims feel in a prayerful sense when reading this Bridegroom Prophet poetry. And though from an outsider’s perspective its style may seem unusual, the emotions such writing triggers are both raw and effective in producing devotion.

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