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Rabia Basri – Islamic Sufi Mystic

August 12, 2008

This post is one of a five-part series on women mystics, one from each of the five major world religions: Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism and Hinduism. Click here for the full series.

Rabia Basri is one of the most well-known female Islamic saints, and had a profound impact on Sufism, a mystic branch of Islam. She was born in seventh-century Iraq, and there is little direct knowledge of her life beyond that. However, according to legends recorded by a later Sufi saint, she was born the fourth daughter to a poor family. Soon after her birth her father had a dream in which he was told that his new daughter was a favorite of Allah’s, and he was given instructions for making the money he needed to support his family.

While this worked for awhile, after her father’s death several years later, Rabia and her remaining family were assaulted by robbers, with Rabia captured and sold into slavery. Her spiritual longing had already awoken, and she made the best of her situation by praying and meditating most of the night, after her duties were done. Legend has it that one night her master came upon her praying fervently, and was awestruck by the light she emanated. Horrified that he had enslaved such a spiritual being, he released her.

She went into the desert and became an ascetic, studying with the Islamic spiritual master Hazrat Hassan Basri. She prayed and meditated ceaselessly, and denied herself any pleasure not directly related to her worship. She never married, which is highly unusual within all sects of Islam, particularly for women. She insisted that she only had love for Allah, and wished to devote all her attentions to worship.

Legend has it that Hassan Basri, who was one of the premier Islamic spiritual masters of the period, thought so highly of her that he would often refuse to teach when she was not present. Word of her devotion and spiritual power began to spread, and she became a teacher in her own right, with people travelling for miles to study with her. To her dying day she lived the same austere desert life, never seeking fame, but achieving great reknown through the grace she transmitted.

She was one of the first Sufis to introduce the idea of Divine Love, which later became a major Sufi precept. Many famous quotes are attributed to her, including her answer to the question “do you hate Satan”, to which she responded, “My love of Allah has so possessed me that no place remains for loving or hating any save Him.” Many devotional poems are attributed to her, praising the love of Allah, and the experience of love as the true path to Allah’s grace. These poems are the precursor to the later more famous Sufi devotional poems, by Rumi and others of his period.

For more info on Rabia, try this site. To read some of the poems credited to her, try Poet Seers.

The other posts in this series are on Margery Kempe (Christian), Hannah Rachel Verbemacher (Jewish), Sukhasiddhi (Buddhist), and Mirabai (Hindu). For books on more women mystics, check out the Women’s Spiritual Book List or the Women Mystics page.

35 Comments leave one →
  1. Fouzia Alvi permalink
    October 16, 2008 8:19 pm

    I am looking for a good book regarding Rabia Basri, I have already read ‘Margret Smith’s book’ looking for some other auther either in Urdu or English. Thank You

  2. mommymystic permalink*
    October 17, 2008 5:02 pm

    Fouzia, Although I have not read it personally, I have heard that First Among Sufis by Widad El Sakkakini, Nabil Safwat and Doris Lessing is good, so give that a try….

  3. January 24, 2009 6:04 am

    For some reason I felt it necessary to read about this Spiritual women ( Rabia Basri).
    The mysteries of God, when shall we know?

  4. January 25, 2009 12:20 pm

    Great post! This is really fascinating. Was Rabia Basri a vegetarian? I used to believe that all Sufis are vegetarians but as I do a little more research, I found that this isn’t so.

  5. mommymystic permalink*
    January 26, 2009 2:46 am

    I don’t think we have enough info about her to know for sure. We do know that she was known for living a very austere life, including eating very simply, so it would follow from that that she was vegetarian. She was early in Sufi history, so from what I understand a lot of the later living guidelines, such as vegetarianism for some sects, had not yet evolved. Thanks for visiting!

  6. Nina permalink
    February 17, 2009 5:22 pm

    My discovery of Rabia of Basri was in the book “Love Poems from God” a lot of her writings are in there along with other mystics. It is worth a read.

  7. mommymystic permalink*
    February 17, 2009 5:53 pm

    Nina thx for the recommend. I haven’t read that book but have read other poems of hers and they are beautiful. Her and Rumi really write some of the most beautiful devotional poetry around.

  8. Mayur Joshi permalink
    April 17, 2009 11:34 am

    Rabia , she is really awsome, when i read about her tears of satisfaction started, she is really gr88. She is really same as my master…..I dont have any further words to express.
    I wish my dedication, intensity to know the final truth become like her

  9. February 17, 2010 4:10 pm

    she was really amazing i am unable to attribute her in words.may Allah bless her

  10. Rahmath khan permalink
    April 29, 2010 9:50 am

    heard that there is a famous incident reg her (rabia basri)., i will be thankful if anyone can narrate it or guide me to any such book

  11. sanjay patidar permalink
    December 23, 2010 6:31 pm

    man should acknowledge that spirituality is for both man and women and show respect and love for them god allah or truth is neither man nor woman es dhammo sanantano
    OSHO

  12. shashi Sadhu permalink
    February 11, 2011 6:12 pm

    I almost do no know nothing about her.But I am convinced that she is great saint if the word is appropriate…she is sritually illuminesd and full oflove and compassion of god

  13. March 2, 2011 8:40 am

    dear sir i am loking th book on ismaili sufi . islam na ruhani sitarao by nurdin daredia ex rabia basri .ibrahim ahdam . juned bagdadi. hasan basri etc sufi story nadir 9421291130

  14. March 10, 2011 3:45 am

    Hi all, glad the interest in Rabia Basri continues. Unfortunately, I don’t have any other references on her other than those listed here…

  15. mrs nasim nasir permalink
    April 1, 2011 12:49 pm

    rabia basri was realy a saint Allah Subhana wa Taala bless her for her great love and devotion.So i request my Muslim sisters not to use her name 4 their personal benefits.Try to undestand her message not to copy her 4 name and fame.

  16. Rafiullah Qaisar permalink
    April 1, 2011 2:45 pm

    plz any one send me some authentic article on Rabia basri bio-data
    qaisar_iiui@yahoo.com

  17. Supporters of Sunnah permalink
    June 2, 2011 2:55 pm

    How can anyone say he/she doesn’t hate anything? A muslim believer loves for the sake of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala and hates for the sake of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala.

    Narrated by Abu Dharr: The Prophet salla Allahu alaihi wa sallam said: The best of the actions is to love for the sake of Allah and to hate for the sake of Allah.
    [Sunan of Abu-Dawood – Hadith 4582]

  18. rabia permalink
    September 22, 2011 5:39 am

    this is awsome…….. i want to know more about THIS GREAT BLESSED ISLAMIC MYSTIC , “Hazrat Rabia Basri”…plzzz ,tell me where i can find her divine poetry…

  19. September 26, 2011 9:31 pm

    There are several books out on Rabia Basra, just check Amazon, sorry I can’t recommend one offhand…

  20. December 19, 2011 12:28 am

    dr sir me nadir nanded india i am intrestd 2 read th book rabia basri sufi sant islam na ruhani sitarao prt 1 2 3 4 plz u hv avlbl plz snd me on folong adres nadir samnani karimabad khoja colny nanded ms hs no 9 4 314 mb 9421291130

  21. Anonymous permalink
    February 25, 2012 3:27 pm

    i want to become like rabia basri ji

  22. NAZU permalink
    February 25, 2012 3:31 pm

    I love her poetry n she, actually described the word TAWAKKUL

  23. syeda hiba permalink
    July 15, 2012 8:14 am

    How can anyone say he/she doesn’t hate anything? A muslim believer loves for the sake of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala and hates for the sake of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala.

    Narrated by Abu Dharr: The Prophet salla Allahu alaihi wa sallam said: The best of the actions is to love for the sake of Allah and to hate for the sake of Allah.
    [Sunan of Abu-Dawood – Hadith 4582]

    go into the depth of it and understand why she said what she said, sufism isnt all black and white. its more depth there in her reply. and sufism mostly teaches to not hate. they talk about love and tolerance etc. and God is loving and kind and loves his servants to love and be kind to each other . and since she whole heartedly fell in love with God she had no place in her heart to hate. and thats just beautiful

  24. July 15, 2012 7:35 pm

    Syeda – “since she whole heartedly fell in love with God she had no place in her heart to hate” – that is how I read what she is saying – it isn’t so much a matter of love and hate being opposites, and one overcoming the other. Thanks for your comment.

  25. arif permalink
    July 23, 2012 10:29 am

    salam

    I have just read her book and am truely humbled by this woman

  26. Neelam permalink
    August 6, 2012 6:51 am

    life is all about soul searching through spiritualism. sufi poets helps in leading our path to divinity.
    Neelam

  27. the healing power of emotion permalink
    June 17, 2013 3:08 pm

    What’s up, yeah this article is truly good and I have learned lot of things from it about blogging. thanks.

  28. Anonymous permalink
    September 16, 2013 7:40 am

    really she was the mile stone of sufism

  29. June 19, 2014 7:08 am

    Hi! This is my 1st comment here so I juhst wanted to
    give a quick shou out and tell you I truly enjoy reading
    your posts. Can you suggest anyy other blogs/websites/forums that cover the same subjects?
    Many thanks!

  30. June 19, 2014 5:57 pm

    Hi Nida, Try some of the blogs in my blogroll in the right sidebar, you would probably enjoy them. Thanks for reading. – Lisa

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  4. Sufism -The New Face of Islam? - Page 5 - Christian Forums

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