Rabi’a al-Adawiyya was born in 713CE in today’s Iraq. There are two stories of her upbringing, both that she ended up in slavery. However her great piety was recognised by her masters and she was freed at age 36. She moved to Basra (her birth place) and lived a very simple life, alone. She said she had “no room in her heart for any love except the love of Allah,” and therefore she controversially did not marry. She further transcended her gender and did not wear a hijab. Rabi’a was an early mystic who helped to develop the non-mainstream sect of Sufism in Islam. She became a scholar and taught mahabbah (divine love) and uns (direct personal experience with Allah) to her disciples. Her poetic poetry has continued to be used in teaching. She was an exemplary religious example and so her biography is still taught today. Upon her death at the age of 84, her tomb was built on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem.
Explain the impact on those in her immediate community.
Rabi’a al-Adawiyya’s immediate community was influenced by her teachings and example. She became a model because of her “religious ecstasy” and extreme rejection of excessive materialism. One of her companions visited her house and saw “nothing but a broken pitcher out of which she drank and a brick which she sometimes used as a pillow.” Another companion, Hasan commented on how he felt spiritually worth nothing as he listened to Rabi’a and “it never passed though my mind that I was a man nor did it occur to her that she was a woman”. He admired her courage and ability to transcend to God. Rabi’a schooled future rabbis and taught that one should aim for uns (intimacy with Allah). She encouraged and guided her disciples to “taste’ God, which she felt was a personal love and devotion to him. Rabi’a taught through her example, life experience and poetry, which led to the development of Sufism, a mystic denomination of Islam.
Explain the impact Rabi’a...