Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Hazrath Rabia Hasan Basri RA

She was born between 95 and 99 Hijri in Basra, Iraq. Much of her early life is narrated by Farid al-Din Attar.

But many spiritual stories are associated with her and what we can glean about her is reality merged with legend. These traditions come from Farid al-Din Attar a later sufi saint and poet, who used earlier sources. Rabia herself though has not left any written works.

She was the fourth daughter of his family and therefore named Rabia, meaning "fourth". She is reported to be born free in a poor but respected family.

Rabi'a's parents were so poor that there was no oil in house to light a lamp, nor a cloth even to wrap her with. Her mother requested her husband to borrow some oil from a neighbor. But he had resolved in his life never to ask for anything from anyone except the Creator; so he pretended to go to the neighbor's door and returned home empty-handed.

In the night Prophet appeared to him in a dream and told him, "Your newly born daughter is a favorite of the Lord, and shall lead many Muslims to the right path. You should approach the Amir of
Basra and present him with a letter in which should be written this message; 'you offer Durood to the Noble Prophet (Salla Allahu ta'ala 'alayhi wa Sallam) one hundred times every night and four hundred times every Thursday night. However, since you have failed to observe the rule last Thursday, as a penalty you must pay the bearer four hundred dinars '.

Rabi'a's father got up and went to the Amir straight with tears of joy rolling down his cheeks. The Amir was delighted on receiving the message and knowing that he was in the eyes of Prophet, he distributed 1000 dinars to the poor and paid with joy 400 to Rabi'a's father and requested him to come to him whenever he required anything as he will benefit very much by the visit of such a soul dear to the Lord."

After the death of her father a famine overtook
Basra and she parted from her sisters. Once she was accompanying a caravan, which fell into he hands of robbers. The chief of the robbers took Rabi'a in his custody and as an article of loot, and sold her in the market as a slave. The new master of Rabi'a used to take hard service from her.

She used to pass the whole night on prayers, after she had finished her household jobs. She used to pass many her day observing fast.

Incidentally, once the master of the house got up in the middle of the night, and was attracted by the pathetic voice in which Rabia 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?"

At once he 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.

Rabia went into the desert to pray and became an ascetic. Unlike many sufi saints she did not learn from a teacher or master but turned to God himself.

Throughout her life, her Love of God. Poverty 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.

As her fame grew she had many disciples. She also had discussions with many of the renowned religious people of her time. Though she had many offers of marriage, and tradition has it one even from the Amir of
Basra, she refused them as she had no time in her life for anything other than God.

More interesting than her absolute asceticism, however, is the actual concept of Divine Love that Rabia introduced. She was the first to introduce the idea that God should be loved for God's own sake, not out of fear--as earlier Sufis had done.

She taught that repentance was a gift from God because no one could repent unless God had already accepted him and given him this gift of repentance. She taught that sinners must fear the punishment they deserved for their sins, but she also offered such sinners far more hope of
Paradise than most other ascetics did. For herself, she held to a higher ideal, worshipping God neither from fear of Hell nor from hope of Paradise, for she saw such self-interest as unworthy of God's servants; emotions like fear and hope were like veils -- i.e. hindrances to the vision of God Himself.

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.”


Rabia was in her early to mid eighties when she died, 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"


She was the one who first set forth the doctrine of mystical love and who is widely considered to be the most important of the early Sufi poets. The defining work on her life and writing was written over 50 years ago by Margaret Smith, a small treatise written as a Master's Thesis.

Much of the poetry that is attributed to her is of unknown origin. After a life of hardship she became spontaneously realized. When asked by Sheikh Hasan al-Basri how she discovered the secret, she responded by stating:

You know of the how, but I know of the how-less.

One of the many myths that swirl around her life, is that she was freed from slavery because her master saw her praying while surrounded by light, realized that she was a saint and feared for his life if he continued to keep her as a slave.

While she apparently received many marriage offers (including a proposal from Hasan al-Basri himself), she remained celibate and died of old age, an ascetic, her only care from the disciples who followed her. She was the first in a long line of female Sufi mystics.


Anecdotes

One day, she was seen running through the streets of
Basra carrying a torch in one hand and a bucket of water in the other. When asked what she was doing, she said:
I want to put out the fires of Hell, and burn down the rewards of
Paradise. They block the way to God. I do not want to worship from fear of punishment or for the promise of reward, but simply for the love of God.

At one occasion she was asked if she hated Satan? Hazrat Rabia replied: "My love to God has so possessed me that no place remains for loving or hating any save Him."
When Hazrat Rabia Basri would not come to attend the sermons of Hazrat Hasan Basri, he would deliver no discourse that day. People in the audience asked him why he did that. He replied: "The syrup that is held by the vessels meant for the elephants cannot be contained in the vessels meant for the ants."

Once Hazrat Rabia was on her way to Makka, and when half-way there she saw the Ka'ba coming to meet her and 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, 'Whose approaches Me by a span's length I will approach him by the length of a cubit.' The Ka'ba which I see has no power over me; what joy does the beauty of the Ka'ba bring to me?"
At the same time the great Sufi Saint Hazrat Ibrahim bin Adham arrived at the Ka'ba, he did not see it.(As he spent fourteen years making his way to the Ka'ba, because in every place of prayer he performed two raka'ts).

Hazrat Ibrahim bin Adham said: "Alas! What has happened? It maybe that some injure has overtaken my eyes." An unseen voice said to him: "No harm has befallen your eyes, but the Ka'ba has gone to meet a woman, who is approaching this place." Ibrahim Adham said: "O indeed, who is this?" He ran, and saw Rabia arriving and the Ka'ba was back in its own place, when Ibrahim saw that, he said: "O Rabia, what is this disturbance and trouble and burden which you have brought into the world?"
She replied: "I have not brought disturbance into the world, it is you who have disturbed the world, because you delayed fourtenen years in arriving at the Ka'ba." He said: "Yes I have spent fourteen years in crossing the desert (because I was engaged) in prayer." Rabia said: "You traversed it in ritual prayer (Salat) but with personal supplication." Then, having performed the pilgrimage, she returned to
Basra and occupied herself with works of devotion.

One day Hazrat Hasan Basri saw Hazrat Rabia near a lake. He threw his prayer rug on top of the water and said: "Rabia come! Let us pray two raka'ts here." She replied: "Hasan, when you are showing off your spiritual goods in the worldly market, it should be things which your fellow men cannot display." Then she threw her prayer rug into the air and flew up onto it by saying: "Come up here, Hasan, where people can see us." Then she said: "Hasan, what you did fishes can do, and what I did flies can do. But the real business is outside these tricks. One must apply oneself to the real business."


Hazrat Rabia

-----------------


"I am a poor orphan and a slave. Now my hand too is broken. But I do not mind these things if Thou be pleased with me. But make it manifest to me that you are pleased with me." (Rabia Al-Basri)

Rabi'a's parents were so poor that there was no oil in house to light a lamp, nor a cloth even to wrap her with.

She was the fourth child in the family. Her mother requested her husband to borrow some oil from a neighbor. But he had resolved in his life never to ask for anything from anyone except the Creator; so he pretended to go to the neighbor's door and returned home empty-handed.

In the night Prophet (saw)

Rabi'a's father got up and went to the Amir straight with tears of joy rolling down his cheeks. The Amir was delighted on receiving the message and knowing that he was in the eyes of Prophet, he distributed 1000 dinars to the poor and paid with joy 400 to Rabi'a's father and requested him top come to him whenever he required anything as he will benefit very much by the visit of such a soul dear to the Lord."

After the death of her father a famine overtook
Basra and she parted from her sisters. Once she was accompanying a caravan, which fell into he hands of robbers. The chief of the robbers took Rabi'a I his custody and as an article of loot, and sold her in the market as a slave. The new master of Rabi'a used to take hard service from her.

She used to pass the whole night on prayers, after she had finished her household jobs. She used to pass many her day observing fast.

Incidentally, once the master of the house got up in the middle of the night, and was attracted by the pathetic voice in which Rabia 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?"

At once he felt that it was sacrilegious to keep such a saint in his service. He decided to save her himself. 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.

Was the door ever closed?

Salih Qazwani always taught his disciples, "Who knocks at the door of someone constantly, one day the door must be opened to him" Rabi'a one day heard it and said,

"Salih, how long 'will you go on preaching thus, using the future tense, saying 'will be opened'? Was the door ever closed? It was ever open."

Separation... simply unbearable !

One day, people asked why she kept no knife in the house. Rabi'a replied,

"Cutting asunder is the wok of the knife. I fear it may not asunder the bond between that exist between me and my beloved Lord."

A fervent prayer

One day she was going on an errand. Whilst passing a street a vagabond pursued her. She ran to save herself from him, and in doing so her foot slipped and she fell down and broke her arm.

She thereupon prayed to the Lord,

"I am poor orphan and a slave. Now my hand too is broken. But I do not mind these things if Thou be pleased with me. But make it manifest to me that you are pleased with me."

The Divine voice in reply said, "Never mind all these sufferings. On the day of judgment you shall be accorded the status that shall be the envy of the angels even." Then she returned to her master's service.

Thanking the Lord

One day Sufyan Thauri went to Rabi'a. She passed the whole night in worship, standing before the Lord. When the morning broke she remarked,

"God be praised that He conferred His grace on us that we could pass the whole night in prayers. As a mark of gratitude, let us pass the whole day in fasting."

The joy of pain!

A man was crying, "Ah! How great a pain!" Rabi'a approached him and said, "Oh! What a lack of pain" He asked her why she said the contrary. She replied,

"Because pain is the privilege of great devotees, who cherish even with the joy even so much anguish that even talking and drawing breath become a matter of strain to them."

Why no bandage for His bliss?

One day Rabia saw a man passing on the way with his forehead tied with a bandage. She asked him why he put on the bandage. He replied that he was suffering from headache.

"What is your age?" she asked.

He replied that he was thirty.

She asked, "Till today, how have you passed your life?"

He replied, "In perfect health".

She said, "For thirty years the Lord kept you sound, and you did not fly any colors on your body to express your gratitude for His gift, so that people could ask you the reason for your joy and knowing of God's blessings on you would have praised Him, but when for your own fault you have suffered from a little headache you have tied a bandage and go about exhibiting His harshness to you in making you suffer from headache. What a base act is yours!"

Neither this nor that world, You are enough for me

O Lord,
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.

O Lord,
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.

O Lord,
If I worship You
From fear of Hell, burn me in Hell.

O Lord,
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.

------------------------------------------------------------------

O Allah! if I worship you for fear of hell
Burn me in hell
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

These are the words of the female sufi saint Rabia al Basra. She grew in the tender love and training of the higher intuitive powers of God and is one of the few women in Sufism – indeed she is considered the first female saint in Islam. She was not trained by a murshid but was born a devotee with great love for God. Rabia was born sometime between 712 and 717 C.E. in Basra, Iraq.


Many spiritual stories are associated with her, but what we do know of her life is essentially reality merged with legend. Much of her early life is related, recorded and narrated by Farid al-Din Attar, a later day sufi saint and poet, who is the only source of her history as
Rabia herself did not leave behind any written work.


She was the fourth daughter of her family and therefore named
Rabia, meaning ‘fourth’. She was born in a poor but respectable family. Her parents were so poor that there was no oil in the house to light a lamp, nor a cloth to wrap her in when she was born. Her mother requested her husband to borrow some oil from a neighbour but he had resolved to never ask anything of anyone except the Creator; he pretended to go to the neighbor’s door and returned home empty-handed.


In the night the Prophet appeared to
Rabia’s father in a dream and said, “Your newly born daughter is a favorite of the Lord and shall lead many Muslims to the right path. You should approach the Amir of
Basra and present him with a letter in which should be written this message; ‘you offer Durood to the Holy Prophet one hundred times every night and four hundred times every thursday night. However, since you have failed to observe the rule last thursday, as a penalty you must pay the bearer four hundred dinars’.


Rabia’s father went to the Amir with tears of joy rolling down his cheeks. The Amir was delighted on receiving the message. He realized that he was in the vision of the Prophet and as thanksgiving he distributed 1000 dinars to the poor and gave 400 to
Rabia’s father and requested him to come to him whenever he required anything, as he would benefit from the visit of a soul dear to the Lord.


Rabia’s parents died in her childhood and some time later when
Basra was in the grip of a fierce famine, she got separated from her sisters. She was captured
by a man who sold her off for six dirhams. The purchaser subjected her to hard labour. Many hardships fell upon her but she immersed herself in relentless devotion and worship of Allah. Her devotion for Allah was fired by a deep-rooted love and longing for the Divine.


Rabia’s worldly possessions are said to have been
a broken jug from which she drank, an old rush mat to sit upon and a brick for a pillow. She spent each night in prayer and often chided herself for sleeping as it prevented her constant contemplation and active love of God.”


Little is known of her early years except that she spent her youth as a slave and was later freed. What we do know of her however, is that throughout her life her asceticism was absolute and unwavering as was her love for God. Poverty and self-denial were Rabia’s constant companions. For example, her worldly possessions are said to have been a broken jug from which she drank, an old rush mat to sit upon and a brick for a pillow. She spent each night in prayer and often chided herself for sleeping as it prevented her constant contemplation and active love of God. She refused all offers of marriage – of which there were many – because she had no room for anything in her life that might distract her from complete devotion to God. Indeed, in this same manner she rebuffed anything that could distract her from the Beloved, i.e. God. More interesting than her absolute asceticism however, is the concept of Divine Love that Rabia introduced. She was the first to introduce the idea that God should be loved for His own sake and not out of fear- as earlier Sufis had done. For example, she is reported to have walked the streets of
Basra with a flaming torch in one hand and a bucket of water in the other. When her intentions were questioned, Rabiareplied: “I want to pour water into Hell and set fire to Paradise so that these two veils disappear and nobody worships God out of fear of Hell or hope of Paradise, but only for the sake of His eternal beauty.”


In her master’s house she fasted by day and spent the night praying. One night her master is said to have been awakened by a strange voice urging him to free Rabia his slave. When he looked through the window of his apartment, he saw Rabia in prostration offering the litany “O God, you know that the desire of my heart is to fulfill your commands and that the light of my eye is in serving you. If the affair was with me I would not rest even an hour from serving you, but you yourself have left me at the mercy of a creature.” Her master then perceived a lantern suspended above her head giving out a blinding light. When day broke he summoned Rabia and set her free.
Rabia left the house and wandered through the desert in search for what Allah had apportioned for her. For a while she served God in a hermitage and according to one version returned to her master some days later, playing a flute with the skill of a professional musician. Determined to perform the pilgrimage she then set out for the desert to pray and became an ascetic. Unlike many sufi saints she did not learn from a teacher or master but turned to God himself.


It is said that on the way to the desert the donkey carrying her bundle died. She entreated the Lord saying “O my God, do kings deal thus with a woman, a stranger and the weak? Thou art calling me to thine own house but in the midst of the way thou hast suffered my donkey to die and left me alone in the desert.” She had hardly completed her prayer when the donkey stirred up and came to life.


Rabia was a mystic of the newly emerging Sufi order. She often spoke of the concept of Hubb-e-Illahi or Divine Love in sufi philosophy. She expressed her love of God as: “I love you with two loves, a love of passion and a love prompted by your worthiness of that. As for the love of passion, it consists in occupying myself with remembering you and no one else. And as for the love of which you are worthy, it consists in your lifting the veils so that I may see you. However mine is not the merit in this or that. But yours is the merit in this or that.”

“She was so singularly devoted towards achieving divine union that all other attractions were meaningless to her.”

Though she had many offers of marriage from admiring Sufi companions (including a proposal from Hasan al-Basri), she refused them all as she had no time for anything in her life other than God. On being asked about marriage she remarked “If anyone can give me the answer to these four questions, I shall marry him. First; what will the judge of the world say of me when I die – whether I am a muslim or a non-believer? Second; when I am put in the grave and Munkar and Nakir question me, shall I be able to answer them satisfactorily or not? Third; when the people are assembled at the Resurrection and the books are distributed, will I be given mine in the right or the left hand? And fourth; when mankind is summoned, some to paradise and some to hell, in which of the two groups will I be?” No one being able to answer these questions, she concluded:”since the answers to these questions are unknown and I have them to concern myself with, how should I need a husband to be occupied with?” She was so singularly devoted towards achieving divine union that all other attractions were meaningless to her.


As her fame grew she had many disciples. She also held discussions with many of the renowned religious people of her time. She often performed miracles to expose the contradictions in the relationship between men and women. Rabia confounded her male contemporaries with her unconventional ideas. The esteemed Sufi leader
Hasan-al-Basri was one such man humbled by her spiritual and intellectual power. In a short Sufi narrative he declares, “I passed one whole night and day with Rabia speaking of the Way and the Truth and it never passed through my mind that I was a man nor did it occur to her that she was a woman. At the end when I looked at her I saw myself as bankrupt andRabia as truly sincere.”


There are many other narratives written about the interaction between Hasan-al-Basri and Rabia which show Rabia surpassing her male counterpart. In one story Rabia is seen by al-Basri meditating near the bank of a river. To get her attention al-
Basri placed his prayer carpet on top of the water, sat on it and called out to Rabia to float over and converse with him. Understanding his intention was merely to show off his spiritual powers to others, Rabia tossed her prayer carpet high into the air and floated up to it. “Oh Hasan,” she said, “come up here where people will see us better.” Hasan became silent because he knew it was not within his power to fly. “Oh Hasan,” Rabia continued, “that which you did a fish can do . . . and that which I did a fly can do. The real work for the sufi lies beyond both of these.”

“She often spoke of the concept of Hubb-e-Illahi or Divine Love in sufi philosophy.


She expressed her love of God as:
“I love you with two loves, a love of passion and a love prompted by your worthiness of that.”


Among the many anecdotes that have arisen relating to the life of Rabia is one which tells of the night a thief entered her hermitage. Being overcome by weariness she had fallen asleep. A thief entered and finding nothing of value decided to leave with her chador. When he made to leave, the doorway was barred. He dropped the chador and approached the exit finding it open this time. He seized the chador again and as he began to exit, the doorway got barred again. He repeated this seven times, utterly perplexed, when he heard a voice coming from the corner of the hermitage; “man do not put yourself to such pains – it is so many years now that she has committed herself to us. The devil himself does not have the boldness to slink around her. How should a thief have the boldness to slink around her chador? Be gone, for if one friend has fallen asleep, one is awake and keeping watch.” Such was the reciprocity awarded to
Rabia by her Divine Friend and Beloved.


Rabia taught that repentance was a gift from God because no one could repent unless God had already accepted him and given him this gift of repentance. She taught that sinners must fear the punishment they deserve for their sins but also offered them far greater hope of
Paradise than most other ascetics did. For herself, she held to a higher ideal worshipping God neither from fear of Hell nor hope of Paradise, for she saw such self-interest as unworthy of God’s servants. Emotions like fear and hope were like veils – hindrances to the vision of God Himself.

In her later years about seven years before she died, Rabiamoved to the Mount of Olives [Tur] in Jerusalem with a woman companion and attendant. There she bought a small house with some land surrounding it and lived as a hermit inside the Tomb of Pelagia near the Chapel of Ascension where she was eventually laid to rest. Everyday she would walk down to Al-Aqsa mosque where she prayed and gave sermons to the people. Both men and women comprised her following – they would come in droves to listen to her. She was accepted as a master of the path by both men and women, as it was Allah who had made her a means of manifesting Himself to those who sought Him. After praying she would walk back up to the mountain. This she did every day till she died in the year 185 A.H / 801 C.E. After her death her followers built a tomb for her which still exists near the Christian Church of Ascension on Mt of Olives. It is visited by those who remember this lady saint and thank Allah for the blessing which He granted through her life – the example of a holy soul filled with “Huu.”


Rabia was in her eighties when she died, 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.” She became the guide and spiritual director of many souls who came to seek her counsel. Her spiritual realization carried an overwhelming dread of judgment after death. The idea of sin disturbed her as leading to separation from the divine rather than the fear of punishment. In her, the fire of this all-conquering love demanded eternal union with the Eternal Flame and death to her was the bridge whereby the lover would be united with the beloved.

Rabia’s final departure from this world is recorded in a beautiful account by a Persian biographer. He says that during her last moments, many of her followers surrounded her but she bade them to leave, asking them to make way for the arrival of Allah’s messengers. When they had left her, they heard her voice making the profession of faith – La illaha ilallah – and then a voice saying “O’ soul at rest, return to thy Lord, satisfied with Him, giving satisfaction to Him. So enter among my servants and enter into my paradise.” [Al-Quran].

Philosophy

-----------------

Rabia was the one who first set forth the doctrine of mystical love and who 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 became spontaneously realized. When asked by Sheikh Hasan- al-Basri how she discovered the secret, she responded: “You know of the how, but I know of the how-less.”


On one occasion she was asked if she hated Satan.
Hazrat Rabia replied: “My love for God has so possessed me that no place remains for loving or hating any save Him.”
When Hazrat
Rabia would not come to attend the sermons of Hazrat Hasan Basri, he would deliver no discourse that day. People in the audience would ask him why he did that and he would reply, “The syrup that is held by the vessels meant for elephants cannot be contained in the vessels meant for ants.”

There are many folk lore attached to her – whether true or not is not the issue – the important thing is that she was quite an enigma for the people of her times. It is said that once HazratRabia was on her way to Mecca and half-way there she saw the Kaaba coming to meet her and she said, “It is the Lord of the house whom I need, what have I to do with the house? I need to meet Him who said that whosoever approaches me by a span’s length, I will approach by the length of a cubit. The Kaaba which I see has no power over me; what joy does the beauty of the Kaaba bring to me?”

Rabia al Basra was a woman of courage, love,
dedication – an example of a woman master in her own right.
She never claimed to be a master,
yet her life and her words worked as perfect catalysts
to transform the lives of many seekers.”


At that same time, the great sufi saint Hazrat Ibrahim-bin-Adham arrived at the Kaaba but he did not see it. He had spent fourteen years making his way to the Kaaba, because in every place of prayer he performed two rakats.
Hazrat Ibrahim bin Adham said: “Alas! What has happened? It maybe that some injury has overtaken my eyes.” An unseen voice said to him: “No harm has befallen your eyes; the Kaaba has gone to meet a woman who is approaching this place.” Ibrahim Adham ran to see who it was and saw Rabia arriving and the Kaaba was back in its place. When he saw that he said: “O Rabia! what is this disturbance and trouble and burden which you have brought into the world?” She replied: “I have not brought disturbance into the world; it is you who have disturbed the world because you delayed arriving at the Kaaba by fourteen years.” He said: “Yes, I have spent fourteen years in crossing the desert because I was engaged in prayer.” Rabia said: “You traversed it in ritual prayer (Salat) but with personal supplication.” Then, having performed the pilgrimage she returned to
Basra and occupied herself with the work of devotion.


It is hard to believe that a woman of her stature survived the Islamic conservative clergy.
Rabia al Basra was a woman of courage, love, dedication – an example of a woman master in her own right. She never claimed to be a master, yet her life and her words worked as perfect catalysts to transform the lives of many seekers.


It is said in sufi literature that miracles were given as a sanction to the prophets, but to the saints they were granted as a test. Though endowed with such miraculous powers,
Rabia knew the value of humility. Divine riza or God’s will was the only goal she fixed her vision on. Her resignation to the divine will and trust of Allah was so great that once when she was terribly sick, Sofyan-e-Thauri a fellow ascetic, on seeing her condition urged her to pray for a cure. She replied that he should be aware that God had willed her suffering and knowing that, how could he bid her to request Him the contrary of His will. She ended saying that it was not proper to oppose one’s Friend. She had reached such a level of spiritual synchronicity with the ‘divine will’ that to wish for anything else was a grievous sin.

“No harm has befallen your eyes;the Kaaba has gone to meet a woman who is approaching this place.”

She was once asked where she came from. "From that other world," she said. "And where are you going?" she was asked. "To that other world," she replied (219). She taught that the spirit originated with God in "that other world" and had to return to Him in the end. Yet if the soul were sufficiently purified, even on earth, it could look upon God unveiled in all His glory and unite with him in love. In this quest, logic and reason were powerless. Instead, she speaks of the "eye" of her heart which alone could apprehend Him and His mysteries (220).

She taught that repentance was a gift from God because no one could repent unless God had already accepted him and given him this gift of repentance. She taught that sinners must fear the punishment they deserved for their sins, but she also offered such sinners far more hope of Paradise than most other ascetics did. For herself, she held to a higher ideal, worshipping God neither from fear of Hell nor from hope of Paradise, for she saw such self-interest as unworthy of God's servants; emotions like fear and hope were like veils -- i.e., hindrances to the vision of God Himself. The story is told that once a number of Sufis saw her hurrying on her way with water in one hand and a burning torch in the other. When they asked her to explain, she said:"I am going to light a fire in Paradise and to pour water on to Hell, so that both veils may vanish altogether from before the pilgrims and their purpose may be sure..." (187-188)

She was asked once if she hated Satan.

"My love to God has so possessed me that no place remains for loving or hating any save Him." (222)

To such lovers, she taught, God unveiled himself in all his beauty and re-vealed the Beatific Vision (223). For this vision, she willingly gave up all lesser joys.

"O my Lord," she prayed, "if I worship Thee from fear of Hell, burn me in Hell, and if I worship Thee in hope of Paradise, exclude me thence, but if I worship Thee for Thine own sake, then withhold not from me Thine Eternal Beauty." (224)

Rabi'a was in her early to mid eighties when she died, 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" (224).

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