Monday, 13 September 2010

God does not look upon your outward forms- Wali Allah- Rabia al Basra

The holy prophets had stated that 'God does not look upon your outward forms'. It is not the outward form that matters, but the inner purpose of the heart, as the Prophet said, 'The people are assembled (on the day of Judgment) according to the purposes of their hearts' …

Wali Allah,
Woman saint made her appearance at a very early period, and in the evolution of the cult of saints by Muslims, the dignity of saint ship was conferred on women as much as on men. As far as rank among the 'friends of God' was concerned, there was complete equality between the sexes.

(If someone wants to know the power of a Lady Wali Allah, then read)

 I have loved Thee with two loves -
a selfish love and a love that is worthy of Thee.
As for the love which is selfish,
Therein I occupy myself with Thee,
to the exclusion of all others.
But in the love which is worthy of Thee,
Thou dost raise the veil that I may see Thee.
Yet is the praise not mine in this or that,
But the praise is to Thee in both that and this.

- Rabia al Basra

 Who Was Rabia?
Born in the poorest of homes, miraculous events were reputed to have taken place even at the time of her birth.  On the night of her birth there was no oil on the house no lamp light nor swaddling clothes in which to rap the newborn child. Her father already had three daughters, and so she was called Rabia (= the fourth). The mother asked her husband to go and ask for oil for the lamp from a neighbour, but he had made a vow that he would never ask anything of a creature (i.e. as a true Sufi he would depend only upon God to supply his needs), and so he came back without it. Having fallen asleep in great distress at the lack of provision for the child, he dreamt that the Prophet Muhammad appeared to him in his sleep and said, 'Do not be sorrowful, for this daughter who is born is a great saint, whose intercession will be desired by seventy thousand of my community'. The Prophet said further:

To-morrow send a letter to Isa Zadhan, Amir of Basra, reminding him that every night he is wont to pray one hundred prayers to me and on Friday night four hundred, but this Friday night he has neglected me, and as a penance (tell him) that he must give you four hundred dinars, lawfully acquired.

Rabia’s father awoke, weeping: he rose up, wrote the letter as directed and sent it to the Amir through the latter's chamberlain. The Amir, when he had read the letter said:

"Give two thousand dinars to the poor as a thank-offering, because the prophet had me in mi, and four hundred dinars to that Sheikh and say to him that I desire that he should come before me that I may see him, but it is not fitting that such a person as he is should come to me, but I will come and rub my beard on his threshold".

But in spite of this event of good augury, misfortunes fell upon the family, and when Rabia was a little older her mother and father died and she was left an orphan. A famine occurred in Basra and the sisters were scattered. One day when Rabia was walking abroad, and evil-minded man saw her and seized upon her and sold her as a slave for six dirham and the man ho bought her made her work hard. One day a stranger (one who might not look at her unveiled) approached her. Rabia fled to avoid him and slipped on the road and dislocated her writs. She bowed her faced in the dust, and said, 'O Lord, I am a stranger an without mother or father, an orphan and a slave and I have fallen into bondage and my writs is injured, (yet) I am not grieved by this, only (I desire) to satisfy Thee. I would fain know if Thou art satisfied (with me) or not'. She heard of voice saying, 'Be not sorrowful, fir on the day of Resurrection they rank shall be such that those who are nearest to God in Heaven shall envy thee'.

After this Rabia returned to her master's house and continually fasted in the daytime and carried out her appointed tasks and in the service of God she was standing on her feet till the day. One night her master awoke from sleep and looked down through a window of the house and saw Rabia, whose head was bowed in worship, and she was saying, 'O my Lord, Thou knoweth that the desire of my heart is to obey Thee, and that ht e light of my eye is in the service of Thy court. 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'. While she was still praying, he saw a lap above her had, suspended without a chain, and the whole house was illuminated by the rays from that light. This enveloping radiance or sakina (derived from the Hebrew She- kina = the cloud of glory indicating the presence of God) of the Muslim saint, corresponding to the halo of the Christian saint, it frequently mentioned in the biographies of the Sufis.

Rabia’s master, when he saw that strange sight, was afraid and rose up and returned to his own place and sat pondering until day came. When the day dawned, he called Rabia and spoke kindly to her and set her free. Rabia asked for leave to go away; so he gave her leave, and she left that place and journeyed into the desert. Afterwards she let the desert and obtained for herself a cell and for a time was engaged in devotional worship there. According to one account, Rabia at first followed the calling of a flute player, which would be consistent with a state of slavery. Then she became concerted and built a place of retreat, where she occupied herself with works of piety.

Among other stories related of this period of her life is one telling how she purposed performing the pilgrimage to Makkah and set her face towards the desert; she had an ass with her to carry her baggage', and in the heart of the desert the ass died. Some people (in the caravan) said to her, 'Let us carry thy baggage'. She said,' Go on your way, for I am not dependent upon you for (for help)', i.e. she placed her trust in God and not in His creatures.

So the people went on and Rabia remained alone, and bowing her had, she said, 'O my God, do kings deal thus with a woman, a stranger and weak? Thou art calling me to Thine own house (the Ka'ba), but in the midst of the way Thou hast suffered mine ass to die and Thou hast left me alone in the desert'.

She had hardly completed her prayer, when the ass stirred got up. Rabia put her baggage on it and went on her way. The narrator of this story said that some time afterwards he saw that same little ass being sold in the bazaar.

   Was the door ever closed?

Salih Qazwani always taught his disciples, “Who knocks at the door of someone constantly, one day the door must be opened to him” Rabia one day heard it and said,

“Salih, how long ‘will you go on preaching thus, using the future tense, saying ‘will be opened’? Was the door ever closed? It was ever open.”

    Why no bandage for His blessings?

One day Rabia saw a man passing on the way with his forehead tied with a bandage. She asked him why he put on the bandage. He replied that he was suffering from headache.

“What is your age?” she asked.

He replied that he was thirty.

She asked, “Till today, how have you passed your life?”

He replied, “In perfect health”.

She said, “For thirty years the Lord kept you sound, and you did not fly any colors on your body to express your gratitude for His gift, so that people could ask you the reason for your joy and knowing of God’s blessings on you would have praised Him, but when for your own fault you have suffered from a little headache you have tied a bandage and go about exhibiting His harshness to you in making you suffer from headache. What a base act is yours!”

She taught that repentance was a gift from God because no one could repent unless God had already accepted him and given him this gift of repentance. She taught that sinners must fear the punishment they deserved for their sins, but she also offered such sinners far more hope of Paradise than most other ascetics did. For herself, she held to a higher ideal, worshipping 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 like veils -- i.e., hindrances to the vision of God Himself.

She prayed "O Allah! 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.

Though she had many offers of marriage, and tradition has it one even from the Amir of Basra, she refused them as she had no time in her life for anything other than God.

More interesting than her absolute asceticism, however, is the actual concept of Divine Love that Rabia introduced to us.


Once Rabia r.a... was on her way to Makkah, and when 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, 'whose 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 joy does the beauty of the Ka'ba bring to me?" At the same time the great Sufi Saint Hazrat Ibrahim bin Adam arrived at the Ka'ba, he did not see it. (As he spent fourteen years, making his way to the Ka'ba, because in every place of prayer he performed two rakaats). Hazrat Ibrahim bin Adam said: "Alas! What has happened? It maybe that some injure has overtaken my eyes." An unseen voice said to him: "No harm has befallen your eyes, but the Ka'ba has gone to meet a woman, who is approaching this place." Ibrahim Adam said: "O indeed, who is this?" He ran, and saw Rabia arriving and the Ka'ba was back in its own place, when Ibrahim saw that, he said: "O Rabia, what is this disturbance and trouble and burden which you have brought into the world?" She replied: "I have not brought disturbance into the world; it is you who have disturbed the world, because you delayed fourteen years in arriving at the Ka'ba." He said: "Yes I have spent fourteen years in crossing the desert (because I was engaged) in prayer." Rabia said: "You traversed it in ritual prayer (Salat) but with personal supplication." Then, having performed the pilgrimage, she returned to Basra and occupied herself with works of devotion.

One day a man, who was said to be a knower of Allah, met Rabia 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 Rabia 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 You.”

She also said, “You must conceal your good deeds as you conceal your evil deeds.”

In the same way, she said, “What appears of any (good) works, I count as nothing at all.”

To know the true potential of a Wali Allah, one must be Wali Allah himself...

One day Hazrat Hasan Basri saw Hazrat Rabia near a lake. He threw his prayer rug on top of the water and said: "Rabia come! Let us pray two rakaats 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 by saying: "Come up here, Hasan, where people can see us." Then she said: "Hasan, what you did fish can do, and what I did flies can do. But the real business is outside these tricks. One must apply oneself to the real business."

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, Rabia has no means of reaching to that degree, but I desire one particle of Poverty.” The voice said, “O Rabia, 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 Rabia, 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.”

(Doorkeeper) He! He! He!  This is what a doorkeeper is.

I am fully qualified to work as a doorkeeper, and for this reason:
What is inside me, I don't let out:
What is outside me, I don't let in.
If someone comes in, he goes right out again.
He has nothing to do with me at all.
I am a Doorkeeper of the Heart, not a lump of wet clay.

-Rabia Al-'Adawiyya

 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 traveled 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.

That one set apart in the seclusion of holiness, that woman veiled with the veil of religious sincerity, that one on fire with love and longing, that one enamored of the desire to approach her Lord and be consumed in His glory, that woman who lost herself in union with the Divine, that one accepted by men as a second spotless Mary - Rabia al-Adawiyya, may God have mercy upon her. If anyone were to say, 'Why have you made mention of her in the class of men?', I should say … God does not look upon the outward forms… if it is allowable to accept two thirds of our faith form Aisha the trustworthy, it is also allowable to accept religious benefit from one of her handmaids (i.e. Rabia). When a woman walks in the way of God like a man, she cannot be called a woman'.

Rabia al-Adawiyya al Qaysiyya of Basra was at the head of the women disciples and the chief of the women ascetics, of those who observed the sacred law, who were God-fearing and zealous… and she was one of those who were pre-eminent and experience in grace and goodness.
  Rabia, a freedwoman of the Al-Atik, a tribe of Qays b. Adi, from which she was known as al-Adawiyya or al-Qaysiyya, and also as al-Basri ya, from her birth-place: "Rabia is the saint par excellence of Sunnite hagiography
Yes Ma Rabia! You Showed us they way.
May Allah bless Hazrat Rabia Basri r.a?

Feel free to Share the information here with everyone you know,
And earn Sawab-e-Jariya..May Allah swt make it a source of Sawab-e-Jariya for u and me .Ameen.

P.S.: "Have fun praying    don’t forget to make dua for me
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6 comments:

βe said...

That's a cool story, sorry I didn't read it all. Is it from the bible?

rose water said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
rose water said...

This is a great book: http://www.amazon.com/First-Among-Sufis-Thought-al-Adawiyya/dp/0900860456/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1284450880&sr=8-1

Thank you for this great post and for spreading the knowledge about Rabia Al-'Adawiyya!

dodgevipe said...

what a Awesome women! MashALLAH! May ALLAH hav mercy on her & give her jannat firdous! Ameen!

Katariina said...

Interesting.All the best for you.

mishkash said...

βe! No Islamic sufi story.

rose water ..Thanks for the vist

dodgevipe..Ameen


Katariina ..Thanks and all the best to You