Why Poetry?


Poetry is justified rather encouraged for Muslims if finalized to recandle and keep alive the fire of love for HHH Muhammad, SAWS, and Allah SWT. But why poetry and not prose, not simple lecture of Islamic texts? Lecture of Islamic text if performed with a proper etiquette is indeed commendable but it has the same dangers of the mental. After a brief commentary on the article “Heart and Brain” of Réné Guénon we relate poetry to heart and prose to brain without generalizing the concepts, there is poetry and poetry as well as there is prose and prose. We anyhow underline the importance of metric poetry versus modern poetry and prose showing that metric poetry is related to coordinated and coherent sound emissions, which ultimately are sound vibrations. We underline the importance of coordinated or coherent sound vibrations as support of spiritual influences and consider even their power of healing psychic diseases as a gross example of the intrinsic power of sound. Even from a simple physical point of view sound, like light, is depending on space and time, which are the two essential conditions of this plane of manifestation, this means to say that sound depends on the primary conditions of this manifested world, which ultimately are related to the Principle, therefore if coordinated and utilized coherently these indeed have a very effective action on the being at physical, physical and spiritual level. This is obviously true dealing with poetry written in Arabic language or more in general with a soared language. Texts in prose are basically of two types; those written by persons known for their sanctity who have written for the sake of Universal Truth and those writings written by writers trapped in mundane works and desires. Those who adventure in the latter must have the capability to discriminate between true and false otherwise they will polite unnecessarily their brain. Texts written by renowned saints of Islam utilize the brain as support but reach to the heart stimulating intuition and capability of seeing beyond the appearance of words. Similarly does poetry in its various forms but its “language” is more direct to the heart with the ultimate possibility to open it. In this respect we would like to clarify a point an active murid (disciple) reciting the rosary and all the ritual formulae given to him by his spiritual master sooner or later will feel achieving certain bodily vibration as a clear sign of spiritual vibrations in correspondence of specific bodily spiritual centers, but they manifest casually and not at will or systematically. It is only the spiritual master who has the “keys” to open the heart and only after this blessed intervention the disciple can claim to have an “open heart” and start to see the manifested and not manifested with the eye of the heart at the pace that his spiritual master will impose to him. This stage cannot be attained permanently by self-made and unauthorized persons rather any attempt in this direction will result in dramatic and even irreversible psychical damages.  

Finally we revise all the orthodox and ritual poetic forms beside recitation of the Holy and Glorious Qur’an available in Islam: Qassidah, Nath, Qawwal and, munajat, ghazal, rubaiyyat, munqabat, madah, shajarah, nazam salawaat and mathmavi. All the quoted poetical forms are very important in certain Islamic spiritual schools (silsilah). Some poetical forms are technically used to bring the reciter to the condition of having the heart opened, while other can induce Divine intoxication (sama) as Qawwal for the adepts of the Chishti order. It must be clear that sama cannot be obtain listening to a CD sitting at home. Once again same is obtained under the direction and intercession of a spiritual master, which is the opposite of listening to the individual naps, which projects dummy presumed spiritual states. Sama is obtained following precise rules and in prescribed ritual condition. Anything felt outside these conditions is a result of imagination, ante suggestion and ultimately is the result of the tricks of one’s naps and nobody is exception.

Which Poetry?

Indeed the only poetry worth to be written and to be read is the Islamic poetry in praise of Allah SWT, the Holy Prophet, SAWS, and awlya-Allah, RA-hum, in general. This is confused by two verses of the Holy and Glarious Qur’an, which are somehow related although present in different chapters (sura). Infact in 
- Sura Ash-Shu’ara (XXVI) verse 227 Allah SWT says:

Except those (poets) who believe and do good deeds and remember Allah in abundance and avenge themselves only after they are wronged. And soon will those who do wrong come to know what (a miserable) place they will return to.

“those who do wrong” are described at verse 224 in the same surah, the poets, which recites: << And as for the poets! It is only the misguided ones who follow them”. Thus “those who do wrong” are the poets who write worldly, non-spiritual, non-religious poetry or even write religious poetry but with disbelieve and obviously those who follow them.

- Sura Al-Ajhab (The confederates, XXXIII) verse 56, which recites: 

Surely Allah and His Angels send blessings on the Holy Prophet: O you who believe! (you too) Send upon him blessings, and salute him with a goodly salutation (in all reverence and love) in abundance

It is evident from the above two quoted verses that the poetry accepted by Allah SWT is related to belief, rather it appears that poetry based and expressing belief is the vehicle that brings one constant writer or reciter or reader of poetry to Paradise and very close to Allah SWT.

It is quite clear that the two verses quoted above simply justify poetry, poets and their readers/reciter because they obey the order of Allah SWT (Surah 33, verse 56) of sending blessing to the Holy Prophet, SAWS.

Thus we feel to have given an answer to the title of this section, “Why Poetry”’ and also to the title of this section, “Which type of poetry”’ and we can summarize:

“Why Poetry”:   because poetry of noble and blessed Muslims and true believers is accepted by Allah SWT and it is useful for spiritual growth and enhancement of spiritual knowledge. Note that even the Holy and Glorious Qur’an is a masterpiece of poetry and almost all the ahadith reporting directly the words of the Holy Prophet, SAWS, sound like poetry. As an example one can take the last hadith closing the Bukhari Sharif collection (8563) where the Holy Prophet, SAWS, says: “Kalimataan habibataani hasr-Rahmani, Khafiyfataani, alal-lasaani fiy-l-miyzaani: subhanallahi wa bihamdi subhanallahi-l-Azum”. It is impossible to do not appreciate the musicality of the above words uttered by the Holy Prophet, SAWS, himself.

“Which type of poetry”: We have seen that there is only one type of poetry: the poetry written by the believers in remembrance and praise of Allah, SWT, His Beloved Prophet, SAWS, and His Saints, RA-uhum. This poetry assumes different forms in Arabic, Persian, Turkish, Urdu, Punjabi, Siraiki, Sindhi, Pashtu, Bangali etc.

We will examine the various forms of poetry in the next section with particular reference to Urdu language since is the closest to Hindustani (Urdu is spoken in Pakistan, Hindustani in India but there are very minor differences between the two) because more than one billion of people in the world speak and understand both.

Forms of Poetry

As already stated in the previous section there are various forms of poetry. We consider here following the forms related to Urdu not only because considering similarity with Hindustani it is a widely spoken language in the world, spoken by more than one billion and half of people (half billion of Pakistani considering in habitants and those living abroad and one billion Indians), but also because basically Urdu and Hindustani have great influence of Arabic and Persian (Urdu is ~60%,Arabic, ~30% Persian, ~10% Sunskrit); thus Arabic and Persian have the same poetical forms basically and this is almost true for each of the various languages spoken in Central Asia, Turkey, Asiatic Subcontinent  and all the Arab speaking lauds.

Moreover Central Asia and Asiatic Subcontinent particularly are the cradle or specific poetical forms (Qawwalli for example and are very rich of poets of every high caliber, few names are enough for all: HHH Sir Dr Allama Iqbal, RA, Waris Shah, RA, Mirza Ghalib, RA, Baba Fareed ud Din Masood, Ganj-e-Shakr, RA, Asmir Khusro, RA, Maulana Rumi, RA, Sultan Bahu, RA and Bulleh Shah, RA, just to quote many popularly known of the very large number of poets dedicated to write religious and spiritual poetry in the manner specified by Allah SWT in the Holy Glorious Qur’an (Surah Ash Suha’ra, XXVI, 227).

As briefly recalled in the introduction there are several forms of poetry in Urdu language.

The following is a guide to different Urdu Poetry Forms at beginners level, whose names we have already quoted in the introduction. Here following we give a general explanation of the various verses. Namely in Urdu we can distinguish:

Ghazal (pronounced as “ghuzzle”)

Ghazal is a collection of couplets (shers or ashaar) which follow the rules of ‘matla’, ‘maqta’, ‘bahar’, ‘qafiya’ and ‘radeef’. The couplets are complete in themselves. All the couplets of a ghazal must be of the same bahar, end in the same words (radeef) and have the same rhyming pattern (qaafiyaa). Every ghazal MUST have a matla. A ghazal may or may not have a maqta but if it does, it has to be the last sher of the ghazal.


A composition consisting of only one sher.


Poem written in praise of God.


Humourous poetry, also known as ‘mazaahiyaa’ or ‘mazaakiyaa’ shaayari. Some examples of humourous Urdu poetry can be viewed here.


A satirical poem written to condemn or abuse a person. This type of poetry is considered inferior and generally avoided by reputed poets. The opposite of a hijv is a madah which is written in praise of patrons.


Poem written in praise of royalty, patrons, etc.


A poem written in praise of members of the family of the holy Prophet.

Marsiya (muhr-see-yaa)

An elegy written to mourn the death of a great man or a clearly loved person. In its stricter sense, traditionally accepted in Urdu, a marsiya is an elegy written specifically in honour of the martyrdom of Hazrat Imam Hussain and his comrades at Karbala. It describes the battle fought on the plains of Karbala by of Hazrat Imam Hussain agaomst the ar,u pf Uazod. The most well known writers of Marsiya in Urdu are Mir baber Ali Anees and Salamat Ali Dabir. Sub-parts of he marsiya are called Nauha and Soz.

Masnavi (pronounced “mus-na-vee”)

A long narrative poem – much longer than the ghazal – embodying religious, romantic or didactic stories. It is written in rhyming couplets, with each couplet having a different rhyme and radeef. The most famous masnavis are Masnavi-e-Rumi in Persian, Shah Namah of Firdausi, and Zehar-e-Ishq in Urdu.


A lyrical poem written as a prayer to God.


A poem in which each unit consists of 6 lines. The most well known poet of this style of writing was Maulana Altaf Husain Hali.


A poem written in praise of the Holy Prophet.


In a broad sense, nazm is a term used to define all kinds of Urdu poetry which do not fall into any other category. However, in a literary sense, a nazm is a well organized, logically evolving poem where each individual verse serves the need of the central concept or theme of the poem. Though a nazm is traditionally written in rhymed verse, there are many examples of nazms written in unrhymed verse, or even in free verse.

Qasida (pronounced “quh-see-daa”)

A panegyric, or poem written in praise of a king or a nobleman, or a benefactor. As in a ghazal, the opening couplet of a qasida, is a rhyming couplet, and its rhyme is repeated in the second line of each succeeding verse. The opening part of the qasida, where the poet may talk in general about love and beauty, man or nature, life or death, is called the ‘tashbib’ or tamheed’.

Interestingly, the ghazal has evolved from the qasida. Over time, the tashbib got detached and developed into what we today know as Gazal. A qasida is usually quite long, sometimes running into more than a 100 couplets. A Gazal is seldom more than 12 couplets long, averaging about 7 couplets.


A poem consisting of four lines, in the form of two shers. However, unlike shers in a ghazal, the subject of the two shers is the same. It is believed that the qataa was invented for occasions when poets felt that they were unable to express their thoughts completely and satisfactorily in a single sher.


Traditionally a devotional song expressing love and oneness with God sung by a group of people to the accompaniment of musical instruments. Nowadays, qawaallis cover popular topics like love and wine.

Rubayi (pronounced “ru-baa-ee”)

A self-sufficient quartrain, rhyming (a,a,b,a) and dealing generally with a single idea, which is customarily introduced and developed with the aid of similes in the first thr4ee lines, and concluded, with concentrated effort and impact, in the fourth line. The most well known rubaayis in Persian were written by Omar Khayyam. In Urdu, some of the most well known practitioners of this form were Firaq, Josh and Yagna Yaas Changezi.


A salutary poem written in praise of the Holy Prophet. It can also be a poem describing the incidents of Karbala. It is recited standing up.


A song sund at the time of tying the seharaa during the wedding ceremony. It is usually in praise of the bride/groom and their relatives.

One should be careful in dealing with above terms referred to the type of poetry. Since here we deal exclusively with religious and spiritual aspects and subjects of poetry. For example the use of words like beloved, belover and expressions that at a first glance may recall a piece of poetry revealed by Allah Almighty. Worldly names and sentences are used by many, like Ruin, RA, as symbols with a spiritual meanings. Most of the time a lady loved and mode object of particular words and attentions by the poet is in reality the symbol of knowledge.

Effect of poetry

While worldly poetry can eventually provoque some temporary emotion poetry written by a true believer and a blessed person has different effects, the primary is giving peace of mind and contentment. Of course emotions are very much present and some soft heart can also start crying in virtue of his commotion but at least in this case there is a real reason to cry. In a minor intensity than the Holy and Glorious Qur’an recitation (tilawat) blessed poetry especially recited in a soared  language has the power of purify the heart and also to produce beneficent vibrations (supported by acoustic waves also) which will help the reciter to advance closer to the unseen world and Allah SWT, particularly if the reciter is a man of tasawwuf (mutasawuffin and/or salik). Indeed nothing compared to the effects and importance of Dziler, recitation of the Holy and Glorious Qur/an and Awrad but even if the intensity is far less compared the above three still must not be overlooked. Among the Muslim scholar of subcontinent, particularly those related to the path of Haqiqah (tasawwuf), it is custom to give their speeches around a certain Qur/anic ayat pertaining to the subject occasion of the function (Eid ul milad un Nabi, SAWS; Ours or celebrations on the recurrence of the day when a certain awlia-Allah passed away; Mehfil an organized meeting to send blessings to the Holy Prophet, SAWS, and request special favors from him, SAWS, etc). Usually after the Qur’anic recitation and the salutations to the presents the speaker recites some verses of blessed poetry with the purpose to soften the hearts of the presents and give them peace of mind so that they may be more receptive to the development of the speech. Very skilled speakers recite, like a music-less song, some verses of poetry in their speeches to render them more sweet and also to re-capture the attention of those who have become drowsy so that nobody misses the message convened  by their speeches.

May Allah SWT by the intercessions of the Holy Prophet Hadzrat Muhammad, SAWS, shower the maximum possible of His blessings (barqaat) on the believing writers of blessed poetry and their readers too.