Rabi`a al `Adawiyya
The first of the stories of the holy people of Allah is that of Rabi`a
al-Adawiyya, or Rabi`a al-Qaysiyya who was born in Basra, Iraq between the
years 95 A.H. and 99 A.H. (about 717 C.E.).
In those turbulent years of the first century after the death of the
Prophet Muhammad, may prayers and peace be upon him, records of the lives
of the early Sufis were not always accurate and were sometimes even based
on supposition. This led to certain variations in the details of the events
in their lives and in the case of Rabi`a al-Adawiyya, a confusion on
occasion between her story and that of the Rabi`a bint Isma`il of Syria.
It is generally agreed, however, that her father's name was, nevertheless,
Isma`il who was a very poor and holy man.
The account which has been used for the main events of Rabi`a's life is as
follows: Isma`il married and went to live with his wife on the edge of the
desert not far from the town of Basrq.
After a while Allah, the All-Mighty, gave them a daughter whom the father
named Rabi`a. Then they had another daughter whom the father named Rabi`a
ath-thani, and a third daughter he named Rabi`a ath-thalata, and yet again
another daughter whom he named Rabi`a ar-rabi`a who was to become the
beloved Saint of Allah.
It is said that on the night that Rabi`a was born there was not even a drop
of oil in their house with which to anoint the navel of the new-born
daughter and no cloth in which to swaddle her. So in despair, Rabi`a's
mother told her husband to go to their neighbor's house and to beg them for
some oil so that she could light their lamp.
The father Isma`il had made a promise never to ask a human being for
anything. So he went out and put his hand on the neighbors' door and
without saying anything to them, returned to his own house. "They will not
open the door," he said.
Upon hearing this, Rabi`a's mother wept bitterly. Full of anxiety and
feeling helpless in the matter, Rabi`a's father put his head on his knees
and fell asleep.
While he was sleeping he dreamed that the Prophet Muhammad, prayers and
peace be upon him, came to him and said, "Do not be sad. The girl child
which has just been born is a queen amongst women who shall be the mediator
for seventy thousand of my Community. Tomorrow you must go to `Isa Zadan,
the Governor of Basra. Write this message on a piece of paper which you
will take to him: Every night you send upon me a hundred blessings and on
Friday night four hundred. Last night was Friday night and you forgot me.
To set right your forgetfulness, give this man four hundred dinar, which he
has lawfully earned."
When he awoke and remembered his dream Rabi`a's father burst into tears,
but he got up straight away and wrote exactly what the Prophet had told him
to write, then took his letter and presented it to one of the Governor's
As soon as the letter reached the Governor and he had read it, he said to
his Minister, "Give two thousand dinar to the poor people immediately
because I thank the Master for reminding me of my forgetfulness. Also give
four hundred dinar to the old man and say to him: I would like you to come
to me so that I may see you. But I do not hold it proper for a man like you
to come to me. I would rather come to you and rub my beard on the floor of
your threshold. But I swear by Allah that whatever you need you may let me
know about it."
Rabi`a's father was overjoyed and took the money, thanking Allah and his
Prophet, and he bought all that was necessary for his holy daughter.
The story continues: As the four girls grew up, their father Isma`il
worked, as he could, to make a living for his family in the desert.
When the eldest daughter was about twenty years old and Rabi`a ar-rabi`a
was about eleven, their father died, leaving behind him his wife and four
daughters, all of whom were very poor.
The mother, now finding herself alone and the life of the desert being very
hard for them, decided to take her four daughters and set out for Basra
where she hoped to make a better living for herself and her children.
However, on their way they were set upon by bandits and in the resulting
fray the mother was killed, and each of the daughters was taken as a slave
by the robbers.
Rabi`a's master took her to Baghdad where he immediately set about using
her in the way that was most profitable for himself. She was very beautiful
and she also had a lovely voice, so her master taught her how to sing and
play the `oud, made her dance and entertain people, and above all, to make
money in this way for himself.
He sent her to weddings and celebrations where she would dance and sing,
and the people would give her money for whatever they wanted from her. In
this way she came to have many bad habits and ways, living a very low life
amongst all sorts of people and not caring about anything that she did.
This continued until she was about thirty-six years old, when one day as
she was singing at a wedding she found herself singing in a different way.
Songs were coming from her heart for her Beloved Who was her true Love
because now Allah, the All-Mighty, had awakened Rabi`a.
>From that moment she left everything that she had been doing before, and
she refused either to sing or to dance, or to play any music for anyone
except for her Beloved God.
This made her master very angry because he could no longer use her to make
money for himself. He began to ill-treat her, to beat her, and even to put
burns on her body hoping that this would frighten her into returning to her
But she refused everything that her master tried to do to her. She had
begun to pray all through the night, crying to her Beloved God to help her
in her desperate state.
After a time her master, seeing that he could not influence her in any way,
and because she was no longer of any use to him, decided to sell her. So he
put a cord around her neck and took her to the slave market of Baghdad.
There a holy man took Rabi`a to his home, gave her food and simple clothes,
and told her that he did not want anything from her, except that she could
pray and be free in his house.
Rabi`a thanked him with all her heart and said, "If you want anything from
me for the Face of Allah, He will give you your reward, but if you want
anything from me for yourself only, I have nothing to give you. I have
everything that I need from my Beloved God and I do not need anything from
any human being."
The holy man replied that he would like to marry her, and to free her from
being a slave, but that he did not ask anything from her except what she
wanted to give.
Rabi`a thanked him for his kindness and consideration, and she said that
she did not want to marry anyone, but was grateful for the way that he
cared for her in her deep need.
Then Allah, the All-Mighty, sent a very holy person to Rabi`a, some say
that it was Hasan al-Basri.
There seems to be some doubt about who this holy person was, because it is
recorded that Hasan al-Basri was born in al-Madina in the year 21 A.H./642
C.E. to a servant of the Prophet's wife, prayers and peace be upon him, Umm
Salamah. As a young child he had lived with his mother in Umm Salamah's
household. In manhood he followed a follower (at-tabi'un) of `Ali ibn Abu
Talib, the Prophet's cousin and close Companion, and the fourth of the
'Righteous Caliphs' (al-khulafa ar-rashidun) from whom the Line of the
Prophet's Inheritors descended. It is recorded that Hasan al-Basri died in
110 A.H, at which time Rabi`a would have been about eleven years old and
had perhaps just arrived in Baghdad as a slave-girl for her master.
In spite of this discrepancy of dates, Hasan al-Basri is usually referred
to as being one of the closest of the Beloveds of Allah around Rabi`a in
her early life. It is he who is recorded as being the person who said to
Rabi`a, "Do you desire for us to get married?" To which she replied, "The
tie of marriage is for those who have being. But here being has disappeared
for I have become as nothing to my self, and I exist only through Allah for
I belong wholly to Him, and I live in the shadow of His control. You must
ask for my hand from Him, and not from me."
Hasan then replied, "How did you find this secret, Rabi`a?"
She answered him, "I lost all found things in Him."
Hasan then replied, "How did you come to know Him?"
She said, "You know of the how but I know of the howless."
For Rabia`s case was that she had heard the Voice of her Beloved Who was
Allah and none other than He, and she had no need for any earthly husband
because the only true marriage for her was with Allah Himself alone.
Like many of the ascetic sufis, Rabi`a made no separation in her love
between man and woman if they lived for the Face of her Beloved God. Many
people loved her and needed her and wanted to take from her something of
the special Gift which she had been given from Allah. 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."
She never married nor did she have any children but as she, may Allah be
pleased with her, said, "My peace is in solitude but my Beloved is always
with me. Whenever I witness His Beauty He is my prayer niche (mihrab);
toward Him is my qibla. Oh Healer of souls, the heart feeds upon its desire
and its striving towards Union with You has healed my soul. You are my Joy
and my Life to Eternity. You were the Source of my life; from You came my
ecstasy. I have separated myself from all created beings, for my hope is
for Union with You; for that is the Goal of my searching."
Not only did Rabi`a never marry but she also never had a Shaykh to guide
and instruct her. She received everything that she knew directly from Allah
(the Most High) without the intermediary of any Shaykh.
At about this time she left Baghdad and returned to Basra where she
remained for many years, until she finally travelled to Jerusalem where she
died and is buried. She, may Allah be pleased with her, had a long life in
this dunya (material world) during which she continued, to her last days,
to give of everything that Allah inspired her to give to all who loved her,
because she was His special Light for them all.
She is often referred to as the first true Saint (waliya) of Islam and was
praised, not because she in any way represented womankind, but because as
someone said, "When a woman walks in the Way of Allah like a man she cannot
be called a woman."
The same writer also said that Rabi`a was "That one set apart in the
seclusion of holiness; that woman veiled with the veil of sincerity; that
one enflamed by love and longing, lost in union with God; that one accepted
as a second spotless Mary."
Although, as she said herself, she was always busy with her Beloved God all
the time and she did not have any moment for anybody or anything else but
Him, she also knew the meaning of what she said, for her Beloved Allah
revealed Himself to her in every face around her. She said, "The groaning
and yearning of the lover of Allah will not be satisfied until it is
satisfied in the Beloved." And Rabi`a was, for many people, that Beloved.
May Allah protect her secret, and that of all His true holy lovers.
Many of the incidents recorded about Rabi`a's early life are said to
concern her relationship with Hasan al-Basri, in spite of the discrepancy
in the dating of their lives. Nevertheless it is the sayings themselves
that are important, and the incidents which brought them about are, in
It is said that she, may Allah be pleased with her, once sent Hasan
al-Basri a piece of wax, a needle and a hair, and said, "Be like wax and
illumine the world and burn yourself. Be like a needle and work naked. When
you have done these two things a thousand years will be for you like a
Another story tells of how one day Hasan al-Basri saw Rabi`a near a lake.
Throwing his prayer rug on top of the water, he said, "Rabi`a come! Let us
pray two ruk`u 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. "Come up here, Hasan, where people can see us," she cried.
But seeing his sadness Rabi`a sought to console him, so 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
Rabi`a once said that there are three kinds of men: The first believes that
his hands and his sons' hands are all that is necessary to succeed in the
only world they know-the material world. The second kind prays with his
hands so that a reward will be earned in the next life. The third kind has
his hands tied at the wrist, bound with love to serve without thought of
Her life and sayings became a source of deep inspiration and yearning
(himma) for all those who were drawn to her and followed her, both in her
time and afterwards. This was because her love, manifesting directly from
the Spirit and for the Face of her Beloved alone without any trace of self
in it, brought a special fragrance from the deep Secret Love into the more
austere teachings of those early Sufis. She was the Word which gave life to
the hearts of those beloved people of Allah who followed after her in the
same Line of the Love of God, as she had done. Particularly, this was the
case later for Abu Bayazid al-Bistami, Abu 'lHusayn an-Nuri, Husayn ibn
Mansur al-Hallaj, and Abu Bakr ash-Shibli, may Allah be pleased with them,
who, around their leader and Master al-Junayd, came to be known as The
Someone said, "The ascetics regard the beauty of the Unknown with the light
of belief and certainty and they despise the world, but they are still
veiled by a sensuous pleasure, namely-the thought of Paradise, whereas the
true Sufi is veiled from both worlds by the sight of the Primordial Beauty
and the Love of the Essence."
One of the early stories about Rabi`a relates how she set about making the
Pilgrimage to Mecca. She joined a caravan of other pilgrims and she had a
small donkey on which she put her baggage for her journey. However, in the
middle of the desert the donkey died. Some of the people in the caravan
offered to carry her baggage for her, but she said to them, "Go on your way
for I must not depend upon you for help, but I trust myself to Allah." So,
seeing that they could not persuade her otherwise, the other pilgrims
continued and Rabi`a remained behind alone in the vast desert all around
her. She prayed to her Lord, saying, "O my God, do kings deal thus with a
woman, a stranger who is weak? You are calling me to Your House (the Ka`ba)
but in the middle of my way You have suffered my ass to die, and You have
left me alone in the desert." Hardly had she finished praying when her ass
began to move, and finally it stood up. Rabi`a put her baggage again on it
and continued on her way. The person who related that said that he saw the
same little donkey for sale in the market-place.
Once Rabi`a fasted for a whole week, neither eating nor sleeping. All night
she prayed and became very hungry. Then a visitor came bringing her a bowl
of food. She accepted it and went to fetch a lamp. When she returned, she
found that a cat had overturned the bowl of food. She then said to herself:
"I will fetch a jug of water and break my fast by drinking." But by the
time that she had fetched the jug, the lamp had gone out. She then tried to
drink the water in the dark, but the jug slipped from her hand and broke
into pieces. She lamented and sighed so much, as the story-teller said,
"that it was to be feared that the whole house would be consumed with
fire!" "O Allah!" she cried, "What is this that You are doing with this
Then she heard a voice say, "Be careful lest you desire Me to bestow on you
all worldly blessings, but take away from your heart the caring for Me, for
care for Me and worldly blessings can never be together in a single heart.
Rabi`a, you desire one thing and I desire another. My desire and your
desire can never be joined in one heart."
She said then, "When I heard this admonition I so cut off my heart from the
world and curtailed my desires that whenever I have prayed during the last
thirty years I have thought it to be my last prayer."
Our Shaykh, may Allah benefit us by him, has said, "This is the state of
the Essence of the lovers of Allah in the station (maqam) of the Special of
the special ones (al-hawass al-hawass) of the Sincerity, or Integrity
(al-ikhlas). These lovers are those who are nearest to Him and their Order
is La ilaha illa 'llah. Their offering and trust is to be dying for the
Truth and to kill themselves so as to live in Allah, and to be like wool in
His Hands until they reach the station (maqam) of completion. Then they
rest face-to-Face with their Mighty King. The tongue of their asking is
Rabi`a, who said:
"Everyone prays to You from fear of the Fire;
And if You do not put them in the Fire,
This is their reward.
Or they pray to You for the Garden,
Full of fruits and flowers.
And that is their prize.
But I do not pray to You like this,
For I am not afraid of the Fire,
And I do not ask You for the Garden.
But all I want is the Essence of Your Love,
And to return to be One with You,
And to become Your Face."
It was told of Rabi`a that she was seen one day carrying a brand of fire in
one hand and a pitcher of water in the other, and that she was running very
fast. When they asked her what she was doing and where she was going, she
said, "I am going to light a fire in the Garden and pour water onto it so
that both these veils may disappear from the seekers, and that their
purpose may be sure, and that the slaves of Allah may see Him, without any
object of hope or motive of fear. What if the Hope for the Garden and the
Fear of the Fire did not exist? Not one would worship his Lord, nor obey
Him. But He is worthy of worship without any immediate motive or need."
And she said:
" 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."
Here Rabi`a was referring to the Love which is of the complete integrity,
steadfastness and patience, which is for nothing but the Face of Allah Who
is the only true Beloved. It is the worship of the heart which only
witnesses the perfect Union of the Beloved and the Lover.
It was said that Rabi`a was the first person to teach about the necessity
for truthfulness and sincerity in the lover's bondsmanship to the Beloved
Who is Allah. She was one of those referred to as the spies of the heart
for she often spoke out clearly against all who claimed to be lovers of
Allah, but whose hearts were not always pure in intention and devotion.
This was the case of those who could not unquestioningly surrender to the
Will of the Beloved in everything. She said to them, "You rebel against
Allah, yet you appear to love Him. I swear by my faith that this is most
strange. For if your love were truthful you would have obeyed Him, since
the lover obeys the one whom he loves." So that whenever someone said to
her, "Alas, for my sorrow (my sins)," she replied, "Do not lie, but say
rather, 'Alas for my lack of sorrow,' for if you were truly sorrowful, life
would have no delight for you."
One of her companions, Sufyan al-Thawri, asked her, "What is the best thing
for the servant to do who desires proximity to his Lord?" She said, "That
the servant should possess nothing in this world for the Next, save Him."
Rabi`a, may Allah preserve her secret, never had any doubts about her
Beloved being present or absent, because she was not concerned only to have
His good pleasure and bounties. She lived for a Love which does not seek
for any answer, reward or reciprocity. 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
Someone asked Rabi`a, "What is Love?" She, may Allah be pleased with her,
said, "Love has come from Eternity and passes into eternity, and none has
been found in seventy thousand worlds who drinks one drop of it until at
last he is absorbed in Allah, and from that comes His words: "He loves
them, and they love Him." (5:59).
Once when she was sick a number of people went to visit her. They asked
her, "How are you?" She replied, "By Allah! I know of no reason for my
illness except that Paradise was displayed to me and I yearned after it in
my heart; and I thank that my Lord was jealous for me and so He reproached
me; and only He can make me happy again."
"O God, whatsoever You have apportioned to me of worldly
Give that to Your enemies,
And what You have apportioned to me in the Hereafter,
Give that to Your Friends,
For You suffice me."
She also said:
"O God, 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."
When Rabi`a was urged to speak, her words perfectly manifested her love,
her belief and her faith, for she was so totally immersed in her Lord that
she became a shining Light which attracted many people to her presence to
drink from the same Spring from which she drank. She said, "If I will a
thing and my Lord does not will it, I shall be guilty of unbelief." So that
her faith came from her total surrender to her Beloved God, as she said, "I
have fled from the world and all that is in it. My prayer is for Union with
You; that is the goal of my desire." Then, since she always attributed her
illnesses and misfortunes to the Will of her Beloved God, how could she
oppose Him in trying to rid herself of them?
Once she was heard to say, "If You had not set me apart by affliction, I
would not have increased Your lovers."
It was part of her faith that she welcomed an asceticism which accepted
everything as a Gift from Allah, the Lover to his beloved slave. Therefore,
she regarded misfortune in the same way as she regarded favors and
happiness, and this was the ultimate of bondsmanship to her. About this she
said, "You have given me life and have provided for me, and Yours is the
Glory." And she added, "You have bestowed upon me many favors, and gifts,
graces and help." In this she acknowledges her bondsmanship to the Giver
and Bestower of all Bounty.
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
There is a story related that she once said, "I praised Allah one night
with the praises of dawn, then I slept and I saw a bright, green tree, not
to be described in size and beauty, and lo, upon it were three kinds of
fruit, unknown to me amongst the fruit of the world, like virgins' breasts,
white, red and yellow and they shone like spheres and suns in the green
spaces of the tree. I admired them and said, 'Whose is this?' And one said
to me, 'This is yours, for your praises aforetime.' Then I began to walk
around the tree, and lo, underneath it were eighteen fruits on the ground
of the color of gold, and I said, 'If only these fruits were with the
fruits on the tree it would be better.' That person said to me, 'They would
have been there but that you, when you offered your praises, were thinking,
'Is the dough leavened or not?' So this fruit fell off. This is a warning
to those of insight, and an exhortation to those who fear Allah and worship
One day a man, who was said to be a knower of Allah, met Rabi`a who asked
him of his state, whereupon he replied, "I have trod the Path of obedience
and I have not sinned since Allah created me." She, may Allah be pleased
with her, said to him, "Alas my son, your existence is a sin wherewith no
other sin may be compared."
Her attraction to a life of poverty was also part of her need not to be
distracted from her inner journey by the necessity for material
considerations. There is a story about this poverty of hers, as one of her
companions said, "I went to visit Rabi`a and saw her in her house with
nothing but a broken water pitcher out of which she drank and made her
ablution. There was also an old reed mat and a brick which she sometimes
used as a pillow. When I saw this, I felt very sad and I said to her, 'I
have rich friends. If you wish I will get something from them for you.' She
said, 'You have committed a grievous error. Is not my Provider and theirs
one and the same?' I replied, 'Yes.' Then she said, 'And has the Provider
of the poor forgotten the poor on account of their poverty? And does He
remember the rich because of their riches?' I replied, 'No.' She said,
'Then since He knows of my state, how should I remind Him? Such is His Will
and I too wish what He wills.'"
Rabia's love, which was passionate (shawq) and all-consuming was also full
of humility, fear (hawf) and reverence (taqwa) for her Beloved, and when
she was asked about how she had such a degree of intimacy, she said, "By
constantly saying: I take refuge in You from everything which has
distracted me from You and from every hindrance which has hindered me from
She also said, "You must conceal your good deeds as you conceal your evil
In the same way, she said, "What appears of any (good) works, I count as
nothing at all."
There is a story that Rabi`a was once on her way to Mecca. When she was
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: 'Whoso 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 does the Ka`ba bring to me?"
And again, a story of the same nature is as follows: It is related that
Ibrahim ibn Adhan, a very holy person, spent fourteen years making his way
to the Ka`ba because in every place of prayer he prayed two ruk`u and at
last when he reached the Ka`ba he did not see it. He said to himself,
"Alas, what has happened to my eyes. Maybe a sickness has come to them."
Then he heard a voice which said, "No harm has befallen your eyes, but the
Ka`ba has gone to meet a woman who is approaching." Ibrahim was seized with
jealousy and said, "O indeed; who is this?" He ran and saw Rabi`a arriving,
and the Ka`ba was back in its place.
Once when Rabi`a, may Allah be pleased with her, was asked, "Where have you
come from?" She said, "From that World." They then asked her, "Where are
you going?" She replied, "To that World." They asked, "What are you doing
in this world?" She said, "I am sorrowing." They asked, "In what way?" She
said, "I am eating the bread of this world and doing the work of that
World." Then someone said, "One so persuasive in speech is worthy to keep a
guest-house." She replied, "I myself am keeping a rest-house. Whatever is
within I do not allow to go out, and whatever is without I do not allow to
come in. If anyone comes in or goes out, he does not concern me, for I am
contemplating my own heart, not mere clay."
Rabi`a's companions spoke about how she was always weeping and when she was
asked, "Why do you weep like this?" she said, "I fear that I may be cut off
from Him to Whom I am accustomed, and that at the hour of death a voice may
say that I am not worthy."
We can perhaps find both the inner depth and the height of the meaning of
her need for poverty in a story relating to a period in the early days of
Rabia's walking on the Path of Allah. This was always to be a reminder to
her of the need to strive and surrender all her existence to her Beloved
Lord if she was to reach to the Goal of what He desired of her. She, may
Allah hallow her secret, told of how when she was making the Pilgrimage,
and upon reaching the standing on `Arafat she heard a voice saying to her,
"O you who call upon Me, what request have you to make to Me? If it is
Myself that you desire, then I will show you one flash of My Glory, but in
that you will be absorbed and melt away." She said then, "O Lord of Glory,
Rabi`a has no means of reaching to that degree, but I desire one particle
of Poverty." The voice said, "O Rabi`a, Poverty is the drought and famine
of Our Wrath which We have placed in the way of men. When but a hair's
breadth remains between them and Union with Us, everything is changed and
Union becomes separation. As for you, you still have seventy veils of
existence, and until you have come forth from beneath these veils you will
not benefit even to speak of that Poverty."
The key to Rabi`a's reaching and living in the loving Presence of her Lord
was her constant praying, remembrance and asking for forgiveness for all
her shortcomings, and a knowing that her Union with her Beloved God could
not come in the way that she desired, but only in the way that He desired
for her. She was also well aware that her remembrance and repentance did
not come from herself, but from Him, her Beloved God. It is said that
someone once said to her, "I have committed many sins; if I turn in
repentance (tawba) toward Allah, will He turn in His Mercy toward me?" She
said, "No, but if He will turn toward you, you will turn toward Him."
For Rabi`a, repentance was a Gift from Allah. As she said, "Seeking
forgiveness with the tongue is the sin of lying. If I seek repentance of
myself, I shall have need of repentance again." Or as she also said, "Our
asking for forgiveness of Allah itself needs forgiveness."
She, may Allah be pleased with her, said:
"O God, my whole occupation
And all my desire in this world,
Of all worldly things,
Is to remember You.
And in the Hereafter
It is to meet You.
This is on my side, as I have stated.
Now You do whatever You will."
Our Shaykh says that in her nightly prayers she loved to commune with her
Beloved God, saying, "O God, the night has passed and the day has dawned.
How I long to know if You have accepted my prayers or if You have rejected
them. Therefore console me, for it is Yours to console this state of mine.
You have given me life and cared for me, and Yours is the Glory. If You
want to drive me from Your Door yet would I not forsake it for the love
that I bear in my heart towards You."
As for the rest of the story of her life in this world, it is said: About
seven years before she died, she travelled to Jerusalem with a woman
companion and attendant, and she bought a small house with some land
surrounding it on top of the holy Mountain of Olives (at-Tur). There she
lived, and from there she used to walk down, every day, to al-Aqsa Mosque
where she prayed and gave Teachings to the people, both men and women, who
came to listen to her. Although she was a woman, nobody could prevent her
from doing this because it was Allah Who moved her in this way to be the
means of manifesting Himself to the people who sought Him through her.
Then after praying and teaching in the Mosque she would walk back up the
mountain to her house. This she did every day until she died in the year
185 A.H. / 801 C.E.
After she died her followers built a tomb for her which still exists near
the Christian Church of the Ascension on top of the Mountain of Olives. It
is visited by those who remember her and thank Allah for the blessing which
He granted through her life-the example of a holy soul filled with Hi