Rābiʻa al-ʻAdawiyya al-Qaysiyya was born in the year 717 CE in Basra, Iraq under the Umayyad Caliphate. Born into a very poor house, she was the fourth daughter. Her name literally means “the fourth”. After a plague went through Basra, killing her family, she was on a caravan when it was attacked. She was captured and sold into slavery.
However hard her master worked her, she stayed awake all night praying and fasting throughout the day. One legend has it that the master woke up in the night, hearing her. He went to look upon her but was blinded by a halo of light around her head. She was freed the next morning.
Much of her life was written about much later, by Farīd ud-Dīn ‘Attār, in the 12th century. Many of her legends originate with his story of her life. After she was freed, she lived the life of an ascetic in a desert cave. She had many disciples, and offers of marriage (which she refused). She died in her mid-eighties, still an ascetic, in the year 801CE.
Rābiʻa was the first to put forth the idea of Divine Love, believing that you should love God for Himself, not out of fear of Hell or desire for Paradise. It was her idea of Divine Love that influenced Sufi Philosophy for centuries.
If I adore You out of fear of Hell, burn me in Hell!
If I adore you out of desire for Paradise,
Lock me out of Paradise.
But if I adore you for Yourself alone,
Do not deny to me Your eternal beauty.
Her poetry is able to read on Poet Seers and Islamic Foundation.
Sidi Muhammad Press.
Rabia al Basri– Poet Seers.
Fifty Poems of Attar by Farid Al-Din Attar. Via Google Books.
Farid ad-Din ʻAttār’s Memorial of God’s friends: lives and sayings of Sufis by Farīd al-Dīn ʻAṭṭār, Paul Losensky. Via Google Books.
Religiosity and Love Spirituality of Rabi’ah al Adawiyah Literature by DR. Muhbib Abdul Wahhab.