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Rabia Basri: A role model for all Muslim women

Tomb of Rabia Basri

By Abu Tariq Hijazi | ArabNews | 14 Apr 2012

Rabia Basri is a role model for all Muslim women. She rules on the hearts of hundreds of thousands of people around the world. Born in 95 A.H. in Basra in a poor but respected family, she was the fourth daughter of her father.

She was born in a dark night. The family was so poor that there was no oil in the lamp even to light it. Her sister asked her father to get some oil from the neighbor's house, but he said he would never ask anyone for any help except Allah.

When he slept with a heavy heart, he dreamed that Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) came to him and said, “Don't grieve, your newborn daughter is a favorite of the Lord and will lead many Muslims to the right path. You should approach the Amir of Basra and present him a letter with a message that every night he is wont to offer 100 daroods to me and on Friday nights 400. But this Friday he did not offer daroods, so tell him that as a penalty he must give you 400 dinars.”

Rabia’s father got up and went straight to the Amir. The Amir was delighted on receiving the message. He distributed 1,000 dinars to the poor and joyously gave 400 to Rabia's father. The Amir then asked Rabia’s father to come to him whenever he needed anything as it was an honor for him to help somebody liked by Allah.

After the death of her father, Basra was hit by famine. Rabia got separated from her sisters and left alone. She was with a caravan that was attacked by robbers. The chief of the robbers took Rabia as captive and sold her as a slave. Rabia’s new master used to make her do hard work.

One day while she was going out, a man chased her. She ran to save herself but fell down and broke her arm. Thereupon, she prayed to Allah, “I am a poor orphan and a slave. Now my hand is broken. But I do not mind these things if Thou be pleased with me...”

Rabia used to spend the whole night in prayer after finishing her household work. She used to fast regularly. Once when her master woke up in the middle of the night he was attracted by Rabia's prayer:

“My Lord! You know well that my desire is to carry out Your commandments and to serve You with all my heart. O Light of my eyes. If I were free I would spend the whole day and night in prayers. But what should I do when You have made me slave of a human being?”

The master felt that it was sacrilegious to keep her as a slave. He freed her and offered her the choice of staying with him or leaving. She told him she wanted to carry on her worship in solitude. She went to the desert and devoted herself to worship. Her mentor was Hassan Basri. Much of her early life is narrated by Farid Al-Din Attar, using earlier sources. Rabia herself did not leave any written work.

She devoted herself to prayers. Later she set out for Haj. Rabia reached Makkah and there she met Ibrahim Adham who also performed Haj that year.

Throughout her life, her love of God, poverty and self-denial remained her constant companions. She spent all night in prayer and contemplation. As her fame grew she had many disciples. Though she had many offers of marriage, and even one from the Amir of Basra, she refused them as she had no time in her life for anything other than the Love of Allah.

Once when asked why she did not marry she replied:

“If you free me from having to worry about three things, I will marry. First of all, at the moment of death, shall my faith be sufficient to bring me to salvation? Second, will the Book of my deeds be given to me in my left or right hand? Third, on that hour when a party of people are called forth on the left hand to Hell, and another group from the right hand are summoned to Heaven, which company will I belong to? And further when I am interrogated in the grave by the two angels, shall I be able to answer their questions?”

Once Malik Bin Dinaar visited Rabia Basri. He found in her home a partly broken pitcher which she used for ablution and drinking water, a very old straw-mat on which she slept and a brick which she used as a pillow. He said to her, “I have many affluent friends. Shall I ask them to bring some items for you?”

Rabia Basri said, “O Malik! Is my Provider, your Provider and the Provider of the wealthy, not the same?” Malik said, “Yes.” Rabia then said, “Has He forgotten about the needs of the poor on account of their poverty, while he remembers the needs of the wealthy?” Malik said, “It is not so.” Rabia then said, “When He never forgets anyone, why should we remind Him? He has wished this condition for me and I am pleased with it, because it is, His pleasure.”

Rabia has taught us that repentance is a gift from Allah because no one can repent unless Almighty Allah allows him to do so.

Ibn Al-Jawzi relates that at the time of her death, she called Abda Bint Abi Showal and told her that no one be informed of her death and that she be shrouded only in her old robe for burial. When her last hour came, leading sheikhs gathered around her, but she told them to “Go out and leave place for the Angels.” They all went out and closed the door. While they were waiting outside, they heard from inside a voice reciting: “O soul at rest and peace! Return to your Lord...” For a long while thereafter there was silence. When they went inside, they found that she had passed away.

Rabia Basri's quotes

• When asked about some worldly thing she wanted to have, she replied: I am ashamed to ask for a thing of this world from Him to whom this world belongs; how can I ask for it from those to whom it does not belong.

• Indeed your days are numbered, for when one day passes; a significant portion of your life has passed away. And when that portion has fled, soon it will come to pass that your whole life has disappeared. As you know this, strive always towards the performance of good deeds.

• I am not after any reward for my good works, but only that on the Day of Judgment the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) should say to the rest of the Prophets: 'Behold this woman of my community; this was her work.'

• All people are afraid of the reckoning of the Day of Judgment, whereas I long for it. At last Allah will address me as ‘O, My servant!'

• Conceal your good qualities as much as you conceal your bad qualities.

• Death is a bridge between friends. The time now nears that I cross that bridge, and friend meets Friend.

Rabia Basri is and will remain to be a role model for Muslim women.

 

 

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