Monday, February 23, 2009

Rabi`a al `Adawiyya

Rabia(717 - 801 AD), sometimes called Rabia of Basra or Rabia al Basri, was born to a poor family in Basra in what is now Iraq. Her parents died of famine and she was eventually sold into slavery.

The story is told that her master one night woke up and saw a light shining above her head while she was praying. Stunned, he freed her the next morning.

Rabia chose a solitary life of prayer, living much of her life in desert seclusion.

Her fame as a Sufi holy woman spread and people began to journey to her retreat, to ask advice, to study, to learn.


The sole object of Rabi`a's life was bound up in her yearning and passionate love (shawq) for her Beloved, which meant not merely the destruction of her self (nafs) but surrender to Allah every moment in the perfect Union in which there is no Lord and slave, no Creator and created being, only He in Himself. In that state she came to realize that she existed in Him without any possibility of separation from His indivisible Oneness.

" I love You with two loves-a selfish love
And a Love that You are worthy of.
As for the selfish love, it is that I think of You,
To the exclusion of everything else.
And as for the Love that You are worthy of,
Ah! That I no longer see any creature, but I see only You!
There is no praise for me in either of these loves,
But the praise in both is for You."


It was related how one day one of her followers said in her presence, "Oh Allah, may You be satisfied with us!"

Whereupon Rabi`a said, "Are you not ashamed before Him to ask Him to be satisfied with you, when you are not satisfied with Him?"

By this she meant that first we must be truly satisfied with Allah, Most High, before we can ask Him to be satisfied with us.

Then this was followed by the question to her, "When then is the servant satisfied with Allah Most High?"

She replied, "When his pleasure in misfortune is equal to his pleasure in prosperity."


She had many followers who yearned to feed themselves from her Love which she gave to all those whom she loved. Allah himself was her real Beloved but she kept company with her fellow beings, as she said, "Everyone who obeys (and she meant by this the true lover) seeks intimacy."

Then she recited these lines:

"I have made You the Companion of my heart.
But my body is available to those who desire its company,
And my body is friendly toward its guest,
But the Beloved of my heart is the guest of my soul."


Throughout her life of poverty, her Love of God and self-denial were unwavering and her constant companions. She did not possess much other than a broken jug, a rush mat and a brick, which she used as a pillow. She spent all night in prayer and contemplation chiding herself if she slept for it took her away from her active Love of God.

Someone asked her why she continued to suffer poverty and did not seek help from her friends and she replied: "I am ashamed to ask for this world's goods from Him to Whom it belongs and how can I seek them from those to whom it does not belong!"

At another time she answered one of her friends:

"Does Allah forget the poor because of their poverty or remember the rich because of their richness? Since He knows my state, what have I to remind Him of? What He wills, we should accept".


She prayed :

"O Allah! If I worship You for fear of Hell,
burn me in Hell,
and if I worship You in hope of Paradise,
exclude me from Paradise.
But if I worship You for Your Own sake,
grudge me not Your everlasting Beauty."


She died in Basra, Iraq in 801 A.D, when she was in her early to mid eighties, having followed the mystic Way to the end. By then, she was continually united with her Beloved.

As she told her Sufi friends,

"My Beloved is always with me"..



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