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Little is known of her life apart from her piety, popularity with men and women followers of the Sufi path, and her refusal to rbia. The birth and death dates given for her are only approximate. She was orphaned then sold as a slave in her youth then set free by her Master to practice devotion and to engage in prayer. Many stories of her life were later told by Farid ad-Din Attar. She is associated in legend with Hassan of Basri as his pupil or even as his teacher, although it is unlikely that they met, haarat he died inwhen she was still a child.
The numerous stories of her piety, love for Godof people and of her ascetic life-style attest to the significance of her life hazraf the story of the development of mystical Islam.
Among women, perhaps only the wives of Muhammadknown as mothers of the believers, occupy so honored a place in the hearts of Muslims around the world. Her reputation excels that of many Muslim men within the early days bassri Sufism; she “belongs to that elect company of Sufi women who have surpassed most of the contemporary masters of their time in wayfaring to God. She was a teacher of men as well as hazrar women, a women who called no man her master, indeed whose surrender to God was so complete that she placed all her trust in God to ensure that she was fed and clothed.
Her devotion to God was so intense that relatively few solid facts about her life survived except that it was lived in complete and loving surrender to God, which is the Islamic path. She was born between 95 and rsbia Hijri in Basra, Iraq. Much of her early life is narrated by Farid al-Din Attar.
Many spiritual stories are associated with her and it is sometimes difficult to separate reality from legend. These traditions come from Farid tabia Attar, a later sufi saint and poet, who used earlier sources. He is believed to have possessed a lost monograph on “her life and acts”. She was the fourth daughter of her family and therefore named Rabia, meaning “fourth. According to Nurbakhsh, though poor, her family could trace its lineage back to Noah. According to Farid tabia Attar, Rabia’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 asked 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. He pretended to go to the neighbor’s door and rabai 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: However, since you rabua to observe the rule last Thursday, as a penalty you must pay the bearer four hundred basrk. Rabia’s father got up and went straight to the Amir with tears of joy rolling down his cheeks. The Amir was delighted basrk receiving the message, knowing that he was in the eyes of Prophet. He distributed dinars to the poor and joyously paid dinars to Rabia’s father.
The Amir then asked Rabia’s father to come to him whenever he required anything, as the Amir would benefit very much by the visit of such a soul dear to the Lord.
After the death of her father a famine Basra experienced a famine. Separated from her sisters, legend has it that Rabia was accompanying a caravan, which fell into the hands of robbers. The chief of the robbers took Rabia captive, and sold her in the market as a slave. Her “purchaser put her to hard labor. She would pass the whole night in prayer, after she had finished her household jobs.
She spent many of her days observing a fast. 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:. If the matter rested with me, I should not cease for one hour from Thy service, but Thou hast made me subject to a creature” . 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 her his decision; he would serve her and she should dwell there as the mistress of the house.
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. The master granted this and she left the house. Rabia went into the desert to pray, spending some time at a Sufi hermitage. My only desire is to encounter Him who said, ‘Whosoever approaches Me by a span, I will approach him by a cubit’.
It is unclear whether Rabia received formal instruction in the Sufi way. Legend persistently associates her with Hasan of Basra, although their probable chronologies make this impossible. Hasan is sometimes described as her master although other stories suggest that her station along the path was more advanced.
Rabia of Basra
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:. Hasan, who had not attained that station, said nothing.
The real business is outside both these tricks. El Sakkakini suggests that it would have been from Sufi circles in Basra that Rabia received instruction. It is also likely that Rabia, in her first encounter with Sufi circles at an early age, participated in playing the nay, at type of reed pipe or flute. This type of music was an integral part of ancient Sufi movements which are still in existence today … Rabia’s Sufism developed as a result of her inborn capacity … not only from being taught, or from initiating.
According to El Sakkakini, Rabia can also be considered the first Sufi teacher who taught by using “demonstration,” that is, by “object lesson. This suggests that she was recognized as a teacher in her own right. It is widely held that she achieved self-actualization, the end of the mystical path, that is, the total passing away of the self into complete intimacy and unity with the divine truth. She also had discussions with many of the renowned religious people of her time.
She may have established her own hermitage, where she gave instruction, although this is not clear. Her life was totally devoted to love of God, the ascetic life and self-denial. Her reputation for asceticism survives through numerous stories.
It is said that her only possessions were a broken jug, a rush mat and a brick, which she used as a pillow. She spent all night in prayer and contemplation, reciting the Qur’an and chided herself if she fell asleep because it took her away from her active Love of God.
Rabia of Basra – Wikipedia
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 God’s own sake, not out of fear—as earlier Sufis had done. The purely ascetic way of life did not remain a goal in itself.
In the middle of the eight century, the first signs of genuine love mysticism appears among the pious.
Its first representative was a woman, Rabi’a of Basra. She taught hazrst repentance was a gift from God because no one could repent unless God had already accepted him and given him this gift of repentance.
Sinners, she said, must fear the punishment they deserved for their sins but she also offered sinners far more hope of Paradise than most other ascetics did. Intimacy with God was not the result of “work” but of self-abandonment; it is God who draws near to those who love God, not the lover who draws near to the beloved.
Hazrat Rabia Basri | Journey of a Seeker Of Sacred Knowledge
For herself, she held to a higher ideal, worshiping 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—that is, hindrances to the vision of God Himself. Much of the poetry that is attributed to her is of unknown origin. Gibb comments that she preferred the “illuminative from the contemplative life,” which in his opinion is closer to and perhaps derived from Christian mysticism.
Though she had many offers of marriage, and tradition hazrwt it one even from the Arbia of Basra, she refused them as she had no time in her life for anything other than God.
One story has the Prophet Muhammad asking her in a dream whether she loved him, to which she replied:. But my love to God has so possessed me that no place remains for loving or hating any save Him,” which suggests that love for any man would represent a distraction for her from loving God.
Hasan of Basra is also reputed to have asked her to marry him. I belong wholly to Him. I live in the shadow of His control.
You must ask my hand of Him, not of me. Rabia was in her early to mid eighties when she died, having followed the mystic Way to the end. She believed she was continually united with her Beloved. As she told her Sufi friends, “My Beloved is always with me. Marriage is considered a duty in Islam, not an option. However, Rabia is never censored in any of the literature for having remained celibate. Gasri including her as a saint in his hszrat of biographical sketches, Farid al-Din Attar does begin on a defensive note:.
If anyone asks, “why have you included Rabe’a in the rank of men? Her pioneering of love-mysticism in Islam produced a rich legacy. The poetry and philosophy of Farid hhazrat Attar, among that of others, stands on her shoulders.
It is primarily from his work that what little biographical information we have has survived.
However, lack of details of her life is compensated by the abundance of stories of her piety and total hazrwt in God to provide for her every meal.
Her love of God and her confidence in God’s mercy was absolute; since God provided for “those who insult Him” her would surely “provide for those who love Him” as well. The fact that details of her life have not survived while her reputation for piety has means that her achievements do not overshadow her devotion to God.
Not only did she not teach at a prestigious institution or establish one but exactly where she did teach remains obscure Nonetheless her legacy impacted significantly on religious life and thought.
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