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Al-Bushiri’s Mantle Poem and Ibn Sina’s Eighth Class Essay

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Updated: Aug 22nd, 2020

Introduction

Islamic literature, like Christian literature, usually has a deeper meaning. This paper shall focus on the works of Al-Bushiri and Ibn Sina. The particular works that this paper shall analyze and compare from the above scholars are the Mantle Poem and the Eighth Class. The Mantle Poem, also translated as Poem of the Mantle, was originally written in Arabic. Al-Bushiri composed the poem in praise of the Islamic Prophet Muhammad. Although his poems deeply touch Islamic traditions and religion, they also reveal much about his life, experiences and other insights. On the other hand, Ibn Sina wrote many of his works during the Islamic Golden age. His approach to Islamic literature is evidently philosophical (Saeed 108). He seems to have focused deeply on ethics of life, a subject that he approaches philosophically. This analysis of Al-Bushiri and Ibn Sina shall pay particular attention to the primary focus and argument of each text. After that, it will address their similarities and differences before closing with lessons on the nature of happiness.

Primary Focus and Arguments of the Eighth Class and the Mantle Poem

The Mantle Poem focuses on good living from the perspective of Islamic culture. Al-Bushiri talks about passions at the opening of the poem. He observes that it is common thing for people to immerse themselves in passions of the world. He also observes that although it is human nature to seek love, human love has its pains and bad sides (Al-Bushiri: Line 8 in Jeffery 607). Al-Bushiri also points out that a man, unless guided by good teachings, does not reason when being in love. As such, he opens his poems with an observation that human beings pursue pleasures of the world. Such pleasures, he argues, are meaningless. The author does not advise immediately at this point on the importance of submitting to the teachings of the Koran. Even so, he focuses on human behaviors, which he observes as mostly evil (Al-Bushiri: Line 13 in Jeffery 607).

Al-Bushiri also focuses on the teachings of the prophet and draws an indirect comparison about life from his teachings. In his analysis of the prophet’s mission, he observes that God desires perfection of human life (Al-Bushiri: Line 41 in Jeffery 610). He also specifies the role of God in the creation and marvels at Allah’s (God’s) amazing grace and power. The author then relates this to the life of the prophet and justifies the prophet’s campaigns. Although he admits that the prophet conducted war campaigns in the name of religion, the author seems to justify that the important thing is to bring people back to God. Consequently, one may conclude that his focus on the prophets life and the praises with which he visits his memories is to justify Islam. According to him, Islamic creed is sufficient for ethical living as it is the will of God. As he focuses on the need for positive living, Al-Bushiri also sheds more light on values of Islam and his argument, as one may notice, is about doing God’s will according to Islamic creed (Al-Bushiri: Line 94 in Jeffery 614).

On the other hand, Ibn Sina approaches life from a philosophical point of view in the Eighth Class. He focuses on the question of joy and happiness by assessing what the world would do to achieve this. The author argues that pleasure is a delusion of the mind and body. He offers particular insight into the matters to do with basic needs such as sex and food. On these, he observes that rationality and rivalry for satisfaction is a matter of a pressing need versus rationality. Ibn Sina points out that a person who defines happiness through the prism of pleasures of the world is feeble minded (Inati 752). He approves pleasure as a depiction of the inherent good (Inati 754) and argues that pain is not the will of God and as such, evil (Inati 756).

In his focus on happiness, Ibn Sina claims that there is a room for attainment of perfection and the ultimate good. This, he asserts, is achievable by every pleasure. According to him, seemingly, pleasures are rational to the extent that they are for the general good of a person without causing pain to another person. In essence, Ibn Sina asserts that pleasures are not bad in their entirety. Ironically, the poet also observes that not all positive states of life bring happiness. He refers to these as sensible states that are not pleasurable (Inati 758). As the poet expounds on happiness, he disapproves endeavors to interfere with natural states. He particularly admonishes the use of anesthesia to reduce pain. He holds a similar opinion concerning pleasure. Generally, he argues against putting obstacles to natural states. Even so, Ibn Sina believes in the perfection of the soul. Rumi also observes so (Rumi 5). Consequently, his focus on happiness also admonishes wrong doings in Islamic living.

Commonalities and Differences: the Question of Happiness

Some of the similarities in the Mantle Poem and the Eighth Class are as follows. In both poems, the poets approve morality according to Islamic religion. Al-Bushiri gives an outline of Allah’s teachings. He then outlines the life of the prophet Mohammed as a perfect example of living according to God’s will. Similarly, Ibn Sina shares the same sentiments. In his admonition, when he refers to immortality of the soul, he approves ethical living.

The poets also agree that some state of perfection in human life is necessary since God himself is the master of perfection. This implies that Muslims should always try to do only right things, as are teachings in Koran. Besides, the two poets also observe that worldly pleasures are likely to result in pain. The reason is that they lack perfection in many cases. Most importantly, the two texts admonish Muslims on ethical approaches to live positively according to Islamic values.

On the other hand, the two poets offer different views about life and happiness. Ibn Sina observes that pleasures may be rational or irrational depending on how individuals approach them. He asserts that they can be a source of happiness though not all pleasures result in happiness. Al-Bushiri, on his part, claims that worldly pleasures do not bring perfect happiness. He points out that they are likely to result in pain. He does not discuss any good side of pleasures as Ibn Sina does.

Al-Bushiri, unlike Ibn Sina, does not offer deep insight in his arguments for Muslim values. He simply uses an example of the prophet life and his teachings as the only yardstick for Islamic living. Ibn Sina, on his part, offers a detailed explanation that leads to conclusion why particular directions in life are either justified or not justified. His approach is more philosophical than the teachings of the Koran.

Conclusion

In conclusion, we can learn that the nature of happiness, according to Al-Bushiri and Ibn Sina, is one that is dependent on individuals and situations. Pursuit for happiness can bring pain, mislead, or deviate one from the will of God. The nature of happiness is that its attainment is varied and dependent on the most pressing need. What one considers happiness may not constitute happiness for another person. In short, life is relative and so is happiness.

Works Cited

Inati, Shams. Ibn Sina and Mysticism: Remarks and Admonitions: Part Four. New York: Kegan Paul International, 1996. Print.

Jeffery, Arthur. A Reader on Islam. New York: Books for Library, 1980.

Rumi, Jalal al-Din. The Masnavi. Book One. Translated by Jawid Mojaddadi. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004. Print.

Saeed, Abdullah. Islamic Thought: An Introduction. New York: Routledge, 2006. Print.

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