Rabi'a Al-Adawiyya

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Rabi’a al-Adawiyya is recognised as the first female Saint of Islam due to her major role in the early maturation of Islam, specifically, the expansion of Sufism. It was she who focused on a rigorous asceticism that required complete abandonment of ones worldly pleasures in order to detach one from the fear of hell and enter the passionate love and devotion for God. Her belief in this notion “Muhabbah” (Divine Love) and her dismissal of materialism became a strong prestige throughout her teachings and poetry. Additionally, her incomparability from the traditional female ideology of the time period challenged the specific roles of gender as delineated by Islam. It latter became widely accepted within the Sufi movement that women had gained a greater role within the religion due to Rabi'a's actions and influences.

The Sufis are not an ethnic or religious group, but a mystical movement that is found all over the Islamic world and that still has a deep influence on the varied populations of the Middle East. Sufism searches for a direct mystical knowledge of God and of his Love. Its goal was to progress beyond mere intellectual knowledge to a mystical (existential) experience that submerged man in the infinity of God. Sufism had an important part in the formation of Muslim societies as it educated the masses and met their felt needs, giving spiritual meaning to their lives and channeling their emotions. The goal of the sufi's is to reach a strong amalgamation with Allah (their god) through love and true faith.

'Mahabba' or Love as it is known, is a noble state that God has bestowed as a quality belonging to the creation, through this love, he has has touched that who seeks him. Rabi'a al Adawiya, believed that God's love is at the core of the universe and that we need to feel that love in all we do. Walking through the streets she was seen carrying a bucket of water in one hand and a burning candle in the other. When asked why, she said: "I want to set fire to heaven with this flame and put out the fire of hell with this water so that people will cease to worship GOD for fear of hell or for temptation of heaven”(stated in myclasses notes). With the divine love that she felt towards her God, she obviously felt the comfortability that she would be able to change the fates of men, meaning that with the bucket and the torch of fire she would extinguish the burning flames of hell and light the way to heaven.

Her prayers became widely used among Sufism today and is one of the way that her prayer had contributed to Islam.In particular an excerpt of her poem “My Greatest Need is You” is an example of how she was able to bring forth this personal connection when she states “O Allah I can't live in this world/Without remembering you” Through this example, the poetry of Rabi'a was highly important as it allowed the individual to identify with her teachings on a more personal, thus portraying the ultimate significance she had on the religion itself.

Rabi’a’s use of simple language and the very prominent concept of Heaven and Hell in Islam are extremely helpful in understanding the focus of her work. She uses a very simple structure and does not hide her meaning behind metaphors. Overall, her work is short, but sweet and succinct. Rabi’a’s goal as a Sufi was to give up worldly want, remove the fear of hell and the desire of Heaven all for the love of God.

The main idea in both of her poems is that God is all one needs. This idea is presented in selection 47. Give the goods of this world to Your enemies
Give the treasures of Paradise to Your friends-
But as for me- You are all I need (Upton, 47, lines 5-7).

These lines communicate Rabi’a’s beliefs plainly. Worldly possessions are what keeps one’s spirit limited to this earth, and thus cannot achieve oneness with God. The person is too caught up with material things to gain the ideal closeness with God. Paradise is something ordinary believers are after, seeing that as...
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