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The History of Islam

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Text Preview One significant person in the history of Islam is Rabi'a al-Adawiyya. Rabi’a was a woman born in 717 CE in Basra (modern day Iraq). According to legend, Rabi’a was orphaned when she young and sold into slavery. She was then freed when her master found her praying and shrouded in divine light. Rabi’a lived all her life in Basra as an ascetic, fasting all day and praying all night. She provided spiritual guidance and advice to Islamic people, men and women alike, and is known as one of the most famous Islam mystics, who had a significant contribution on its development.

Rabi’a al-Adawiyya was living during a time of great turbulence after Prophet Muhammad’s death. There was an increasing focus on accumulating wealth, and move away from the core of Shari’a law. However, there were some Muslims who rejected this materialism and corruption; Rabi’a was one of these people. In her life as ascetic, Rabi'a had only four possessions: a reed mat, a screen, a pottery jug and a bed of felt that doubled as a prayer rug. This life of poverty inspired many others to reject the materialistic lifestyle of the time. Rabi'a gathered these people and encouraged them to a life of prayer and devotion, towards the way of mahabbah (Divine Love) and uns (intimacy with Allah. In addition to her poverty, Rabi'a possessed a spirituality that was based on a binding trust and love of Allah. She believed that spirituality was to be integrated into daily life, not merely stated. She loved Allah for his sake, a love not “from fear of hell” or “hope of Paradise” as she wrote in one of her many poems. This idea had a profound effect on the emergence of mystical Islam, and she contributed to the Sufi movement through this concept and her life of poverty as she modeled the qualities of self sacrifice, devotion, kindness and integrity through her writings and teachings. Show More

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