Submitted by: Vasu Murti
Rabi’a al Adawiyya was born in 717 AD in Basra, in what is now known as
Iraq. During childhood, her parents died, and she was sold into slavery.
Rabi’a was a Sufi, a member of a mystical sect that preaches total love of
God and total union with Him. After her release from slavery, she went to
the desert for prayer and meditation.
She returned to Basra, leading a life of voluntary poverty and simplicity. She refused gifts of money and riches as well as many offers of marriage. Her life was marked by acts of kindness towards humans and animals alike. When she was in the mountains, the animals gathered around her: deer, gazelles, mountain goats and wild donkeys. In her presence, they were trusting and fearless.
Once, when another Sufi teacher, Hasan-al-Basri approached her, the animals ran away. He asked her why the animals gathered around her, but ran from him. Rabi’a responded by asking him what he had eaten. "Onions fried in fat," he replied. "You eat their fat!" exclaimed Rabi’a. "Why should they not flee from you?"