I have been intrigued by Sufi mysticism (I don’t know if those two words go together or not but it’s how I understand this loving way of life- maybe philosopher is better?) since I met Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi, or better known in the West as Rumi. His poems have laid claim to my heart. I continue to fall in love the deeper I read his poems. So when I came across Rabi’a, I was floored to learn about her. It was the same time I was researching and writing a paper for my doctorate program on the Christian desert ammas (our next episode!). She fell so wonderfully in line with these women, even though they were centuries and cultures apart.
What stood out to me, that I draw inspiration from, is the way she influenced the people and religion of her culture. I find that it takes time to dig up these stories of women who influenced religions, they exist but their writings have waned over the centuries as sometimes the patriarch can widdle down their influence. That is not trying to knock the male gender but trying to speak the truth to history.
I appreciate her ability to see gender in a way that doesn’t ignore it but doesn’t place significance on the differences. For some of you, this might not hold a lot of significance. And that’s great. For some of us that have lived in a very dominant patriarchal religion and been discriminated against because of our gender, it holds weight to love and appreciate these women for not being the first but for just giving the world the gift the Beloved bestowed to them.
In researching this episode, there were a lot of resources that Erin and I turned to in order to grasp a picture of Rabi’a and to give the gift of her love to you all. I highly recommend the resource: archives.org. I used this to look at the different biographies of her life and her poems. There are also feminine Muslim writers who offer Rabi’a to us and I would like to encourage you to read about her life. She is an amazing woman that transcends religions and traditions. I will quickly mention a few of the resources that I found particularly useful and also other modern-day writers that add more substance to her:
Smith, Margaret. Muslim Women Mystics: The Life and Work of Rabi’a and Other Women Mystics in Islam. London: OneWorld Publications, 2001.
Mahmood, Jamal. Ed & Trans. Islamic Mystical Poetry: Sufi Verse from the Early Mystics to Rumi. London: Penguin Classics, 2010.
I leave you with this poem mentioned in the episode, credited to Rabi’a that has made an imprint on my soul:
You have infused my being
Through and through
As an intimate friend must always do
So when I speak, I speak of only You
And when silent I yearn for You.