I was asked what are my thoughts on “Islamic” poetry. Here is my… not quite pithy answer.
Poetry is an art. Like all art, it is subjective. And it is a creation of man, therefore not perfect, not designed to evoke excessive, idolizing awe, not created to supersede the words of Allah.
While poetry is a beautiful art form and I realize its essence not quite typically understood by the general “‘mainstream” audience, I acknowledge that it can be basic survival for the masses. I have seen and experience poetry proffering hope and light for readers… but it should always be taken with a grain of salt. Poetry provides perspectives. Processes pain. Prettifies pragmatics. Pronounces passion. (excuse my obsession with alliteration)…. And it is always tinged with personal experiences; a view from the lenses of men.
Poetry shouldn’t be compared to the Quran or even be held to an equivalent standing in defining it with the term Islamic; I’m more comfortable with saying “poems that talk about Islam” or “poems with themes grounded in Islam”. In that sense, it is less weighted in its expectation of representing true Islam, as it seems to imply in the adjectival form. The Qur’an is a league on its own. To do that is to diminish the value of the surahs that no creation of His can replicate. Although yes you may argue that the linguistic expression of the quran is often strung in a poetic manner but the layers go deeper than that. Our poetry can never be compared to Allah Azzawajal’s words. It is simply a perspective of the poet/writer which we can either resonate with or reject.
Hence, using poetry is simply a creative, thoughtful, artistic means of getting people to know more about this amazing deen. At least that’s how I feel. It’s a creative, man-made vessel, a vehicle, to spread the message of Islam, but it shouldn’t be the only means, and it shouldn’t distract you from the words of Allah. So poetry can be used as a medium to spread this light of Islam in a “think about it!” kinda way.
TLDR; what I would think qualifies as a good poem in general is a piece that moves you, provokes your thoughts, and make you want to know more. A good “Islamic” poem then, if you wish to call it that, should make us think about Him, feel in awe of Him, and ultimately want to seek more authentic knowledge about our deen in order to present the beauty of our faith as truthfully as we can.
And Allah knows best.