Rābiʿah al-ʿAdawiyah Biography

Author Profile (Critical Survey of Ethics and Literature)

Rābiʿah’s life is a metaphor for her thought: She was a slave who was set free by her master. She was a joyful ascetic who was freed from attachment to or desire for things of this world, even from the selfish desires of attaining Paradise and avoiding Hell. Her life was completely filled with immediate love of God for God’s own sake. Hers was a jealous God who would countenance no other loves: There was no remaining room for marriage, worldly gain, self, or even any special reverence for the Prophet Muhammad. She produced no treatises or other lengthy works, but her brief sayings, her short poems in awe and celebration of God’s beauty, and stories of her life made a dramatic impact and played an important part in transforming the severe asceticism of early Sufism into a mysticism focused on divine love. She inspired devotional poets such as al-Rūmī and was celebrated by ʿAttār as “a second spotless Mary.” She remains a popular ideal of devotion to God.