Rabia al Adawiyya al-Qaysiyya or simply Rabiʿa al-Basri is the Muslim Sufi saint, considered by some to be the first true saint in the Sufi tradition. She was born between 714 and 718 in Basra Irak.
She was the fourth daughter of her family and therefore named Rabia, meaning "fourth". Although not born into slavery, her family was poor yet respected in the community.
According to Attar, Rabia's parents were so poor that there was no oil in house to light a lamp, nor a cloth even to wrap her with. Her mother asked her husband to borrow some oil from a neighbor, but he had resolved in his life never to ask for anything from anyone except the Creator. He pretended to go to the neighbor's door and returned home empty-handed.
In the night Prophet appeared to him in a dream and told him:
Your newly born daughter is a favorite of the Lord, and shall lead many Muslims to the right path. You should approach the Amir of Basra and present him with a letter in which should be written this message: "You offer Durood to the Holy Prophet one hundred times every night and four hundred times every Thursday night. However, since you failed to observe the rule last Thursday, as a penalty you must pay the bearer four hundred dinars."
Rabia's father got up and went straight to the Amir with tears of joy rolling down his cheeks. The Amir was delighted on receiving the message, knowing that he was in the eyes of Prophet. He distributed 1000 dinars to the poor and joyously paid 400 dinars to Rabia's father. The Amir then asked Rabia's father to come to him whenever he required anything, as the Amir would benefit very much by the visit of such a soul dear to the Lord.
After the death of her father a famine Basra experienced a famine. Separated from her sisters, legend has it that Rabia was accompanying a caravan, which fell into the hands of robbers. The chief of the robbers took Rabia captive, and sold her in the market as a slave. Her "purchaser put her to hard labor."
She would pass the whole night in prayer, after she had finished her household jobs. She spent many of her days observing a fast.
Once the master of the house got up in the middle of the night, and was attracted by the pathetic voice in which Rabia was praying to her Lord. She was entreating in these terms:
"O my Lord, Thous knowest that the desire of my heart is to obey Thee, and that the light of my eye is in the service of Thy court. If the matter rested with me, I should not cease for one hour from Thy service, but Thou hast made me subject to a creature"
At once the master felt that it was sacrilegious to keep such a saint in his service. He decided to serve her instead. In the morning he called her and told her his decision; he would serve her and she should dwell there as the mistress of the house. If she insisted on leaving the house he was willing to free her from bondage.
She told him that she was willing to leave the house to carry on her worship in solitude. The master granted this and she left the house.
Rabia went into the desert, spending her time paraying and fasting, She became an ascetic, her fame grew and many disciple flollowed her teaching, she also had many discussion with many renowned rligious people of her time.
Though she had many offers of marriage, and one even from the Amir of Basra, she refused them as she had no time in her life for anything other than God. One story has the Prophet Muhammad asking her in a dream whether she loved him, to which she replied:
"O prophet of God, who is there who does not love thee? But my love to God has so possessed me that no place remains for loving or hating any save Him," which suggests that love for any man would represent a distraction for her from loving God.
Rabia was the first to introduce the divine love and the idea that God should be loved for God's own sake, not out of fear.
When asked by Hassan Al Basri how she discovered the secret, she responded by saying: " You know of the how, but Iknow of the how-less."
Rabia died in her early mid-eighties having followed the mystic way to the end.