Brief History of Hazrat Rabia al Basri R . A
Hazrat Rabia Basri (R.A)
Rābiʻa al-ʻAdawiyya al-Qaysiyya (Arabic: رابعة العدوية القيسية) or simply Rābiʻa al-Basrī (Arabic: رابعة البصري) (717–801 C.E.) was a female Muslim Sufi saint who is highly regarded and has been conferred the status of Half-Qalander.
She was born between 95 and 99 Hijri in Basra, Iraq. Much of her early life is narrated by Farid al-Din Attar, a later Sufi saint and poet, who used earlier sources. Rabia herself did not leave any written works.
Rabi’a’s parents were so poor that there was no oil in house to light a lamp, nor a cloth even to wrap her with.
She was the fourth child in the family. Her mother requested her husband to borrow some oil from a neighbor. But he had resolved in his life never to ask for anything from anyone except the Creator; so he pretended to go to the neighbor’s door and returned home empty-handed.
In the night Prophet Mohammad (Peace be upon Him) appeared to him in a dream and told him, “Your newly born daughter is a favorite of the Lord, and shall lead many Muslims to the right path. You should approach the Amir of Basra and present him with a letter in which should be written this message; ‘you offer Durood to the Holy Prophet one hundred times every night and four hundred times every Thursday night. However, since you have failed to observe the rule last Thursday, as a penalty you must pay the bearer four hundred dinars ‘.
Rabi’a’s father got up and went to the Amir straight with tears of joy rolling down his cheeks. The Amir was delighted on receiving the message and knowing that he was in the eyes of Prophet, he distributed 1000 dinars to the poor and paid with joy 400 to Rabi’a’s father and requested him top come to him whenever he required anything as he will benefit very much by the visit of such a soul dear to the Lord.”
After the death of her father a famine overtook Basra and she parted from her sisters. Once she was accompanying a caravan, which fell into he hands of robbers. The chief of the robbers took Rabi’a I his custody and as an article of loot, and sold her in the market as a slave. The new master of Rabi’a used to take hard service from her.
She used to pass the whole night on prayers, after she had finished her household jobs. She used to pass many her day observing fast.
Incidentally, once the master of the house got up in the middle of the night, and was attracted by the pathetic voice in which Rabia was praying to her Lord. She was entreating in these terms,
“Lord! You know well that my keen desire is to carry out Your commandments and to serve Thee with all my heart, O light of my eyes. If I were free I would pass the whole day and night in prayers. But what should I do when you have made me a slave of a human being?”
At once he felt that it was sacrilegious to keep such a saint in his service. He decided to save her himself. In the morning he called her and told his decision that thenceforward he would serve her and she should dwell there as the mistress of the house and if she insisted on leaving the house he was willing to free her from bondage.
She told him that she was willing to leave the house to carry on her worship in solitude. This the master granted and she left the house
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” Rabi’a 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.“
Separation, simply unbearable!
One day, people asked why she kept no knife in the house. Rabi’a replied,
“Cutting asunder is the wok of the knife. I fear it may not asunder the bond between that exist between me and my beloved Lord.”
A fervent prayer
One day she was going on an errand. Whilst passing a street a vagabond pursued her. She ran to save herself from him, and in doing so her foot slipped and she fell down and broke her arm.
She thereupon prayed to the Lord,
“I am poor orphan and a slave. Now my hand too is broken. But I do not mind these things if Thou be pleased with me. But make it manifest to me that you are pleased with me.”
The Divine voice in reply said, “Never mind all these sufferings. On the day of judgment you shall be accorded the status that shall be the envy of the angels even.” Then she returned to her master’s service.
Thanking the Lord
One day Sufyan Thauri went to Rabi’a. She passed the whole night in worship, standing before the Lord. When the morning broke she remarked,
“God be praised that He conferred His grace on us that we could pass the whole night in prayers. As a mark of gratitude, let us pass the whole day in fasting.”
The joy of pain!
A man was crying, “Ah! How great a pain!” Rabi’a approached him and said, “Oh! What a lack of pain” He asked her why she said the contrary. She replied,
“Because pain is the privilege of great devotees, who cherish even with the joy even so much anguish that even talking and drawing breath become a matter of strain to them.”
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!”
Neither this nor that world, You are enough for me
If tomorrow on Judgment Day
You send me to Hell,
I will tell such a secret
That Hell will race from me
Until it is a thousand years away.
Whatever share of this world
You could give to me,
Give it to Your enemies;
Whatever share of the next world
You want to give to me,
Give it to Your friends.
You are enough for me.
If I worship You
From fear of Hell, burn me in Hell.
If I worship You
From hope of Paradise, bar me from its gates.
But if I worship You for Yourself alone
Then grace me forever the splendor of Your Face.
Rabia was in her early to mid eighties when she died, having followed the mystic Way to the end. She believed she was continually united with her Beloved. As she told her Sufi friends, “My Beloved is always with me” She died in Jerusalem in 185 AH.
See Zirkali, al-A`lam, vol. 3, p 10, col 1, who quotes ibn Khalikan as his source.