I had lamented previously that I can’t seem to find any translations of Maulid Diba’i on the web. I do have a translation that was published as part of the wonderful CD performed by the Royal Malaysian Haqqani Ensemble. I used to link to the CD using this scan of the cover art.
mawlid diba'i
Unfortunately stocks of the CD must have run out and it is no longer available. The translation booklet was already long out of stock. I thought I had lost my copy, and that’s why I attempted to translate a few lines myself last I wrote. Happily, I found a backup photostat a few weeks back.

Then, thanks to a kind brother who wants to remain anonymous, I received last week a copy of a wonderful new edition of the Maulid Diba’i called “Maulid Eulogy”. I didn’t find it when googling around before because the author’s name is transliterated as Shaikh ad-Daiba’i. That’s arabic for you, a hundred ways to transliterate any one word: Deebai, Diybaee, mawlid maulud maulid mevlood etc. The book is a fairly new production by our brothers in Singapore, led by Sidi Abdulkader Ali Esa Alhadad, may Allah reward him for his effort. There’s no date of publication inside, but the forward mentions Shaykh Hamzah Yusuf’s 2002 Burda translation, so it must be quite recent. It is published by the good people at Warid Press.

Mashallah, it’s a great book! It has Arabic and translation side by side, with each line of text numbered on both sides for easy reference. The Arabic is large enough to be read easily, which is a big plus. I have at least two Quran translations with microscopic Arabic text, Muhammad Asad’s being the biggest (smallest?) culprit.

It is a complete translation. The RMHE version left out a few sections (on purpose: it was called Part 1). Maulid Eulogy also has a lot of added material. There is a section on the history of the author, Al-Hafiz Shaikh Abdul Rahman bin Ali ad-Daiba’i. He was Yemeni, which I didn’t know. That explains it’s prevalence here in Malaysia. There is also a section explaining and defending the practice of Maulid and clarifying references in the text that might by unclear to the reader. There are even lovely pictures of the Shaikh’s home town of Zabid and some architectural notes.

One thing I’ve come to know about the Maulid is that the parts attributable to Shaykh ad-Diba’i are only the spoken poetry, not the nasheeds that are interspersed with it. I’ve now encountered at least four different versions; in each, the spoken portion is the same, but the nasheeds are often very different, or are sung with very different melodies.

The book is available from Wardah Books in Singapore. I highly recommend it.

If there is anything disappointing about the book, it is that the English translation doesn’t do justice to the beauty of the Arabic. I don’t think this is the fault of the translation team. There just isn’t any way to render the English that would keep the rhythm and flow and force of the original. The text must be fairly tough to translate too due to its poetical nature, because the two translations are sometimes so different you can hardly believe they are translating the same lines. Once you add my amatuer attempts in there it really gets silly. Here are three translations of a verse from the nasheed that begins “Salatullahi malahat kawakib”:

“Falaw anna sa’ayna kulla heenin/
‘Alal Ahdaqi la fawqan najaib/
Walaw anna ‘amilna kulla yawmin/
Li Ahmada mawlidan qad kana wajib”

“And verily though we rushed to do it at every moment/
We could see around us nothing more noble/
And verily, even if we did it every day/
For Ahmad celebrating his birth is nigh unto obligatory”

“If only we could visit him every day/
with physical eyes and not the eye of the heart/
And if every moment we celebrate in his remembrance/
It might even be said to be obligatory”

Maulid Eulogy:
“If every day we seek him/
Searching in our minds and not on a vehicle/
And if every day we do this deed/
This maulid as a reminder of him, it is like a duty”

You can see where relying on translators gets you. An incentive to go out and learn some Arabic for yourself if ever there was one! All joking aside though, Maulid Eulogy has the better credentials even if the english is sometimes awkward, since they had a whole team of translators and even sent it back to Yemen for vetting, according to the introduction. The Arabic version is also impeccable I’m sure, since the Arabic manuscript on which it was based was also vetted and a list of non-standard usages found in the manuscript is included amongst the many appendices. I’m including a graphic link to the Wardah Books listing in my sidebar. Just click on the Gubba…


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Published by bingregory

Official organ of an American Muslim in Malaysian Borneo, featuring plants, pantuns and pictures from the Malay archipelago. Oversharing since 2002.

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