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Crossroads & Connections: The Wandering Poem

By The National Library of Israel

Published Apr 26, 2023

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Muhammad al-Busiri, Ode of the Mantle, possibly Jerusalem, 1362

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The Ode of the Mantle (Qasidat al-burda), a fourteenth-century mystical poem, is one of the most beloved and ubiquitous Muslim poems in praise of the Prophet Muhammad. This beautifully illuminated manuscript was copied in 1362 by the Iranian scholar, linguist, and world traveler, Muhammad Firuzabadi (1329–1414), during a trip to Damascus and, possibly, Jerusalem. While the manuscript’s fate in the intervening centuries is unknown, a Persian note from 1911 tells of its eventual return to Firuzabadi’s homeland of Iran before ultimately ending up in Jerusalem, when scholar and collector Abraham Shalom Yahuda bequeathed it to the National Library of Israel.

Firuzabadi was educated in Shiraz, traveled to Baghdad, and from the age of twenty, lived in Damascus, Jerusalem, Mecca, and Delhi, before finally settling in Yemen. Throughout his itinerant life, Firuzabadi composed numerous works, including his famous Arabic dictionary and a commentary on The Ode of the Mantle. His scholarship and book-dealing did not pause during his wanderings; he took every opportunity to read and copy manuscripts during the stops on his journeys. Firuzabadi was by no means exceptional for his time. Movement and knowledge were inseparably linked in the medieval Islamic world, with scholars traveling long distances to study with leading masters, and books circulating far and wide.

 

Muhammad al-Busiri, Ode of the Mantle, 1362, folio 14r.
The Abraham Shalom
Yahuda Collection. Ms. Yah. Ar. 784.

Photography by Ardon Bar-Hama.

 

Click here to return to the full Crossroads & Connections: Collections of the National Library of Israel digital exhibition on Kolture.

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Founded in Jerusalem in 1892, the National Library of Israel (NLI) serves as Israel's preeminent research library

Reflections

Click here to visit the exhibition resource page to learn more and to browse accompanying lesson plans, webinars, and videos, about the treasures in this exhibition.

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