Monday 26 February 2018

She’s The Most Famous Sufi Woman In The World: Meet Rabia al-Adawiyya

According to the Sufi poet Fariduddin Attar, Rabia came from a poor family of four from Basra, Iraq. When her father died, she was auctioned as a slave for a few dirhams. Despite all, this she said:

O God, I am a stranger, without father or mother; I have been sold in bondage, and now my wrist is broken. But despite all this, I am not distressed about anything that has befallen me. I only wish you to be content, so that I might know if I have gained your satisfaction or not.

She remained completely devoted to God through prayer and complete remembrance through the difficult time of enslavement and poverty. It is said that when her master saw light around her during prayer, he could not confine her to slavery and set her free. Rabi’a withdrew herself from her previous life to go to the desert and become devoted to works of piety. Her complete affection for her religion and meditation, piety and patience is what she is remembered for today through sayings such as:

Oh 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.

Through her way of life, traditional gender roles and the status of wealth in society were being questioned. Her life as an independent, influential and intellectual woman showed that wealth and status are not acquired through financial resources, but rather through richness in spiritual value and control of the ego. One needs not to be a man or rich to therefore have a higher status in the eyes of God. Rabi’a led a life in which she had completely detached herself from all other desires but the love for God. She showed in this way that having this personal bond was something that both men and women are capable of striving for and that any man and woman can live this free path of life. It was her high-spiritedness with which she put man around her in her place, among which by rejecting many marriage proposals she received:

God can give me all you offer and even double it. It does not please me to be distracted from Him for a single moment. So farewell.

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