Will you give information about Rabia al-Adawiyya?

Details of the Question

- It is stated that Rabia did not have a headscarf and that she went out without covering her head. Is it true?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

It is impossible for such saints who obey Allah’s commands and prohibitions most and who do not abandon even a small good manner to abandon hijab, which was rendered fard by Allah. Therefore, it is not possible for her to go out without covering her head in places where non-mahram men can see her.

As a matter of fact, Jahiz, who is one of her contemporaries, states that Rabia al-Adawiyyah is one of the most religious three women with taqwa who were famous for obeying Allah’s commands and prohibitions most in that period. (see al-Bayan, 1/364, 3/127, 170, 193)

Will you give information about Rabia al-Adawiyya?

Rabia al-Adawiyya is a woman saint. She was brought up in Basra and died in Quds (Jerusalem) in 135 H (AD 752). Rabia al-Adawiyya was born in Basra as a poor child of a religious father; her parents died before she reached the age of puberty; she had to live as an orphan in poverty.

Allah is just; if He takes something, He gives something else. This poverty and deprivation caused the spiritual feelings of Rabia, who devoted herself to Allah, to develop. Rabia, who turned toward her inner realm, was soon appreciated by great saints of her age like Sufyan ath-Thawri and Hasan al-Basri.

A mat on the floor of her small hut and a small mattress full of data leaves, which were her only possessions, never made her sad; on the contrary, they gave her peace and caused her to attain divine enrapture.

As a matter of fact, when Sufyan ath-Thawri visited her, he said,  

“O Rabia! If you wish, your neighbors can help you and change this modest mat; you can have a tidy house.”

However, Rabia gave her the following definite answer:

“I never complain about my state; why should I need to apply to them? I did not even request help from the One who owns the world. How then could I ask weak people who own only some particles of it?  

According to what historians write, Rabia had only one criterion: spending her ephemeral life in the best way that is in compliance with Islam. If someone’s life were fully compliant with the religious commands, that was life that hit the target. It did not matter whether she spent her life on a mat or not, or even on the ground when she did not find a mat.   

Therefore, when Sulayman Hashimi one of the rich people of Basra, wrote her a letter mentioning his earnings and his wealth that would increase in the future and added,  “They will all be at your disposal if you agree to marry me”, Rabia gave him a sharp answer:

“Do not be proud of your earnings; do not trust in them. They are like foams. They can neither prevent death nor a misfortune predestined for you. Seek what will be necessary for you in the divine presence in the hereafter; find solace in it. Do not be deceived by a delusion that you will bequeath your wealth to somebody and that they will do charity with your wealth. Be your own trustee and spend your wealth to serve Islam before you die; fulfill your will yourself. Do not forget that what you have written in your letter to be at my disposal will be a burden to my heart and will darken my spirit. They are far from being attractive for me now.

Rabia often reminded her father of the following on the days before his death:

“Daddy! Fear from feeding us with haram food. I can show patience in the face of hunger in the world but I cannot put up with being burnt in hellfire.”

When women came to visit her, they would ask for advice. Once, she gave them the following advice:

“Hide your good deeds and favors just like you hide your bad deeds. To declare your good deeds and favors is like winnowing flour against the wind. It will scatter your good deeds; you will have nothing in your hands.”

Rabia devoted herself to belief and Islam; she did not think about anything but Islamic service. Therefore, she did not even think of getting married.

Once, they asked her why she did not marry. She gave the following answer:

“There are three things that fill my whole world. They do not leave me any time to think of getting married.” They asked:

“What are those three things?” She answered:

“Will I be able to die as a believer at the moment of death? Will the book of my deeds be given to me in my left or right hand in the Gathering Place? When people are divided into two on the way to Paradise and Hell, in which part will I be?”

Once, while Rabia was performing a prayer, a thief entered her home; when she understood that he found nothing to steal, she called out when she finished her prayer:

“O needy man! Make wudu with the water in the pitcher and perform a prayer of two-rak’ahs so that your efforts will not go down the drain.”

The thief was astounded and also scared. He made wudu and prayed. Then, Rabia opened her hands and prayed as follows:

“O Lord! This needy man could not find anything to take in my house. I have sent him to Your door. You are not like me. You will not send him back empty-handed.”

When she heard that the thief started to repent and ask for forgiveness after performing the prayer, Rabia begged Allah as follows:

“O Lord! This man stood by Your door for a few minutes and You accepted his prayer at once. I have spent a lifetime at Your door but I have not been accepted like that?” A voice responded in her heart: “Do not worry! We have accepted him for your sake.”

(see Jahiz, al-Bayan; Attar, Tadhkiratul-Awliya; Ömer Rıza Doğrul, Hazreti Rabiatü'l-Adeviyye)

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