Rabi'a al-Basri was a Muslim saint and Sufi mystic. She said to have born between 714 and 718 CE (95-98 Hijri) in Basra, Iraq of the Qays tribe al-Atik. Thus she sometimes called Rabi'a al- Adawiyya or, Rabi'a al-Qaysiyya, though she is known to mass as Hazrat Rabi'a Basri, or simply Rabi'a Basri.
Rābi'a was the fourth daughter of her parents and therefore named Rābi'a, meaning "fourth". She born in a poor family yet respected in their community. When she was born, her parents were so poor that there was no oil in their house to light a lamp, nor even a cloth to wrap her with. Her mother asked her father to borrow some oil from a neighbor, but he in his life never asked for anything from anyone except God. So, he pretended to go to the neighbor's door and returned home empty-handed.
When her mother asked for the oil, He said, "They are sleeping."
When he slept with a heavy heart, he dreamed that Prophet Muhammad came to him and said, “Don't grieve, your newborn daughter is a favorite of the Lord and will lead many Muslims to the right path. You should approach the Amir of Basra and present him a letter with a message that every night he is wont to offer 100 daroods to me and on Friday nights 400. But this Friday he did not offer daroods, so tell him that as a penalty he must give you 400 dinars.”
Hearing this her mother insist him to go to Amir with that letter. So her father got up and went to the Amir handed the later to a servant. The Amir of Basra was Isa Zadhan,, He astonished getting such a letter and was delighted knowing that he was in the eyes of Prophet. He distributed 1000 dinars to the poor and joyously paid 400 dinars to Rabia’s father and asked him to come to him whenever he required anything.
After the death of her father a famine overtook Basra and Rabi'a parted from her sisters. Legend has it that she was accompanying a caravan, which fell into the hands of robbers. The chief of the robbers took Rabi'a captive, and sold her in the market as a slave.
Her master worked her very hard, but at night after finishing her chores Rabi'a would turn to meditation and prayers and praising the Lord. Foregoing rest and sleep she spent her nights in prayers and she often fasted during the day.
Once the master of the house got up in the middle of the night, and was attracted by the pathetic voice in which Rabi'a was praying to her Lord. She was entreating in these terms:
“Lord! You know well that my keen desire is to carry out Your commandments and to serve Thee with all my heart, O light of my eyes. If I were free I would pass the whole day and night in prayers. But what should I do when you have made me a slave of a human being?”
Her master saw her praying while surrounded by light. At once the master felt that it was sacrilegious to keep such a saint in his service. He decided to serve her instead. In the morning he called her and told his decision that thenceforward he would serve her and she should dwell there as the mistress of the house and if she insisted on leaving the house he was willing to free her from bondage.
She told him that she was willing to leave the house to carry on her worship in solitude. This the master granted and she left the house
Rabi'a went into the desert to pray and became an ascetic. She is often cited as being the queen of saintly women, and was known for her complete devotion in the form of "pure love of God." As an exemplar among others devoted to God, she provided a model of mutual love between God and His creation; her example is one in which the loving devotee on earth becomes one with the Beloved. She prayed:
If tomorrow on Judgment Day
You send me to Hell,
I will tell such a secret
That Hell will race from me
Until it is a thousand years away.
Whatever share of this world
You could give to me,
Give it to Your enemies;
Whatever share of the next world
You want to give to me,
Give it to Your friends.
You are enough for me.
If I worship You
From fear of Hell, burn me in Hell.
If I worship You
From hope of Paradise, bar me from its gates.
But if I worship You for Yourself alone
Then grace me forever the splendor of Your Face.
Two notables of the Faith came to visit Rabi'a, and both were hungry. It may be that she will give us food, they said to each other. Her food is bound to come from a lawful source. When they sat down there was a napkin with two loaves laid before them. They were well content.
A beggar arrived just then, and Rabi'a gave him the two loaves. The two men of religion were much upset, but said nothing. After a while a maidservant entered with a handful of warm bread.
"My mistress sent these for you", she explained.
Rabi'a took the loaves and counted, then she said the maid, "This is not for me. Return it to your Mistress."
So the maid carried them away.
After a while the maid back with loaves and gave it to Rabi'a saying, "Surely this is for you."
Rabi'a counted the loaves again. Now, she accepted them and told the maid, "Yes, these are the loaves what your mistress sent for me."
She set the loaves before the two men and they ate.
Then, one of the guest asked, "We had an appetite for your own bread, but you took it away from us and gave it to the beggar. Then when the loaves came to you, you count and sent it back. But when the maid came again you accept those loaves. We donot understand why you do all of these?"
Rabi'a replied, "When you arrived, I knew that you were hungry, but I have only two loaves, so I am in a shame to offer those two loaves to you two. But atlast I have to do it. And then the beggar came and I gave those loaves to him with a belief that God repayest tenfold for each pay in the way of God. and remind it to God, "O God, Thou hast said that Thou repayest tenfold. And now I have given two loaves to please Thee." So, when the maid brought the loaves to me, I count them, but it was eighteen, so I return them. with a belief either there had been some misappropriation, or that they were not meant for me. Later the maid brought to me 20 loaves and I received them thankfully."
Once to perform the Hajj, when Rabi'a was on her way to Mecca on foot, and half-way there, she saw the Ka'ba coming to meet her. She said, "It is the Lord of the house whom I need, what have I to do with the house? I need to meet with Him Who said, 'Who approaches Me by a span's length I will approach him by the length of a cubit.'"
Yet Rabi'a failed to perforn Hajj, as she approached the Ka'ba, her monthly period began, which made her unclean and unable to continue that day. Farīd al-Dīn uses this as lesson that even such a great saint as Rabi'a was "hindered on the way."
Often noted as having been the single most famous and influential Sufi Woman of Islamic history, Rābi'a was renowned for her extreme virtue and piety. A devoted ascetic, when asked why she performed a thousand ritual prostrations both during the day and at night, she answered:
"I desire no reward for it; I do it so that the Messenger of God, may God bless him and give him peace, will delight in it on the day of Resurrection and say to the prophets, 'Take note of what a woman of my community has accomplished'".
She was intense in her self-denial and devotion to God. As an explanation of her refusal to lift her head toward the heavens [to God] as an act of modesty, she used to say: "Were the world the possession of a single man, it would not make him rich ... Because it is passing away."
She was the one who first set forth the doctrine of Divine Love known as Ishq-e-Haqeeqi and is widely considered to be the most important of the early Sufi poets.
Much of the poetry that is attributed to her is of unknown origin. After a life of hardship, she spontaneously achieved a state of self-realization. When asked by Shaikh Hasan al-Basri how she discovered the secret, she responded by stating:
"You know of the how, but I know of the how-less."
Once Malik Bin Dinaar visited Rabi'a Basri. He found in her home a partly broken pitcher which she used for ablution and drinking water, a very old straw-mat on which she slept and a brick which she used as a pillow. He said to her, “I have many affluent friends. Shall I ask them to bring some items for you?”
|Tomb of Rabia al-Basri|
Malik said, “Yes.”
Rabi'a then said, “Has He forgotten about the needs of the poor on account of their poverty, while he remembers the needs of the wealthy?”
Malik said, “It is not so.”
Rabi'a then said, “When He never forgets anyone, why should we remind Him? He has wished this condition for me and I am pleased with it, because it is, His pleasure.”
Rābi'a died in her 80s in Basra in 185 AH/801 CE, where her tomb was shown outside the city. ibn al-Jawzi relates that at the time of her death, she called Abda Bint Abi Showal and told her that no one be informed of her death and that she be shrouded only in her old robe for burial. When her last hour came, leading sheikhs gathered around her, but she told them to “Go out and leave place for the Angels.”
They all went out and closed the door. While they were waiting outside, they heard from inside a voice reciting: “O soul at rest and peace! Return to your Lord...”
For a long while thereafter there was silence. When they went inside, they found that she had passed away.
Not Yet Verified.
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Farid al-Din Attar, Rabe'a [sic] al-Adawiya, from Muslim Saints and Mystics, trans. A.J. Arberry, London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1983.
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