Roses of Islam: Rabi’a Al-Adawiyah, Part IV

June 27, 2012 § 1 Comment

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 return. 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.

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 Kaaba) 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.

“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.”
[Rabi’a Al-Adawiyah]

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 helpless slave?” 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.

Continue… Part V

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