Hazrat Rabi'a Al-Adawiya

Rabi’a al-Adawiya (d. 801) popularly known as Hazrat Rabia Basri is one of the most famous Sufis of Basra, in present-day Iraq. She was born into a very poor family. When both her parents died, she was sold into slavery, but was later set free by her master due to her asceticism and piety.

Rabi’a’s love and passion for Allah the Almighty was so intense that there was no room left in her heart or mind for any other thought or interest. She did not marry, and the world meant nothing to her. She shut her window in spring without looking out onto the flowers, and became lost in contemplation of the all-encompassing Creator of all. Addressing God in poetical abandon she says:

"O Beloved of hearts, I have none like You,

So have pity this day on the sinner who comes to You.

O my hope and my Rest and my Delight,

The heart can love none other than You."

For Rabi’a the only thing that mattered was absorption in Allah, putting all her hope in God and losing herself in His praise. The nightly prayer (mid-night Tahajjad prayer) became for her a sweet and loving conversation between her and her Beloved.

Once Rabi’a asked Sufyan ath-Thawri, a Sufi of Basra, ‘What is your definition of generosity?’ He replied, ‘For this world’s inhabitants, generosity consists in giving away one’s possessions; for those of the world beyond, generosity amounts to sacrificing one’s self.’ Rabi’a disagreed strongly, saying that he was mistaken. According to her, generosity is to worship God out of love for him alone, and not in order to receive any reward or benefit in return.

In the history of Sufism, Rabi’a has become a legend, epitomising devotional adoration along the path of asceticism and love.