Rabia al Basri

Rabia al Basri

Sayyedah Rabia al-Adawiyya al-Qaysiyya was born between 95 and 99 Hijri in Basra, Iraaq.


Rabia was the fourth daughter of her family and was therefore named Rabia, which is derived from the number four. She was born in a poor but respected family. Various narrations point to the simplicity and materialistic poverty prevalent in the family household at the time of Rabia’s birth, it was a house where there was no oil to light a lamp, nor a cloth even to wrap her with. A house with poverty of wealth, but no doubt a house full of piety and taqwah, soon to be the home of one of the most inspirational Sufi saints of Islaam.


This level of piety which Rabia was brought up with was evident from her birth, her mother asked Rabia’s father to borrow some oil from a neighbour after Rabia was born, but he had resolved in his life never to ask for anything from anyone except the Creator. And this hope and desire to attain and rely solely upon Allaah, was one which was a pinnacle teaching in the life of Rabia.


Sayyedah Rabia was a woman of ascetism and although she spent some part of her life as a slave, Rabia ensured that her nights were spent in solitude, worshiping and attaining closeness to Allaah. Rabia would frequently fast, though she had many household chores to complete whilst living under the gaze of her owners.


Before beginning her night prayers Rabia al Basri would say:


“The eyes have fallen asleep and the heedless are engulfed in their heedlessness. Now Rabia, the sinner, stands before You. Perhaps You will gaze upon her with a blessed gaze that will prevent her from sleeping during the time of Your service.”


Narrations show us how the owner of Rabia was left astounded and amazed at the light which would seem to accompany her, a light signifying purity, piety and loyalty to Allaah. After witnessing such sights, the owner of Rabia was left with no choice but to free her and was willing to serve Rabia, the owner knew that Rabia was a woman who was always in observance of the commands and teachings of Allaah. All Rabia yearned for was the love of Allaah and closeness to Allaah.


Rabia would often pray: “O Allaah! 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.”


Rabia was in her early to mid eighties when she passed away, having followed the path of ascetism all her life. She always believed she was continually united with her Beloved. As she told her Sufi friends, “My Beloved is always with me.”


“Conceal your good qualities as much as you conceal your bad qualities.”


“Light the world, though like wax you burn yourself.”


“Each lover is alone, in secret, with the one he loves, & I’m here too; alone, hidden from all of them with You.”


“Do you hate the devil? Her reply: “No! My love of Allaah leaves me no time to hate the devil.”


“Repentance which is only verbal is the act of liars. When a vain person repents, he should repent again (for the sin of vanity).”


“The real work is in the Heart, wake up your Heart! Because when the Heart is completely awake, then it needs no friends!”


Allaah bless us and grant us the ability to seek a love like that of Sayyedah Rabia, may Allaah elevate the blessed soul of Sayyedah Rabia and grant us beneficial knowledge through her pure love and teachings.