Rabia Al Adawiyya and her contemporaries.

In this and in next several posts I will introduce a few scholars of the *Golden age of Islam (8th to 13th century), and will give a short overview and a sample of their work

Rabia al Basri (717-810) was an early scholar and a Sufi. Her contemporaries included Jabir Ibn Haiyan*(722-800) known as Geber In Europe, who is regarded as the father of chemistry. Al-Khwārizmī* (780-860) known as Algorithm* in Europe, invented Algebra and Algorithm. Al-Kindi* (800-873) was a philosopher and a mathematician. On appointment by the Abbasides Caliph, he headed a team of translators who translated Greek Classics, works of science and medicine, from Galen into Arabic (from Arabic these works were translated into Latin and other European languages).

There were no contemporaries in Europe; it was in the dark ages. People like Dante**(1265-1321), Leonardo de Vinci (1452-1519), Shakespeare (1564-1616) and others came a few centuries later. The Renaissance began in Italy in the late 13th century and in the rest of Europe in the mid 14th century.

Here is a selection from Rabia Al Basri.

“Eyes are at rest, the stars are setting.

 Hushed are the stirrings of birds in their nests,

 …You are the Just who knows no change,

 The Balance that can never swerve,

 The Eternal which never passes away.

 The doors of Kings are bolted now and guarded by soldiers.

 Your Door is open to all who call upon You




Dante in his “Devine comedy” disrespects our Prophet even though some of its themes are borrowed from Muslim sources. See professor Miguel Asin Palacios, a Spanish scholar and a Catholic priest “La Escatologiamusulmana en la Divina Comedia” (Islamic eschatology in the Devine Comedy)published in 1919. See also”The Uncanonical Dante. The Devine Comedy and Islamic philosophy” by Paul A Canter of University of Virginia.

Thomas Aquinas (St. Thomas 1225-1274) was an important theologian of the 13th century. In his famous book  “Summa Contra Gentiles” he is critical of Islam and our Prophet. But he quotes Ibn Rushd (Averroes 1126-1199) a great Muslim philosopher many times and refer to him as “commentator”.


A poem of Rabia Al Basri (717-810)

 Very little if any of her work of Rabia survived and reliance is from  secondary sources.  Farid Uddin Attar(1150-1222) in the 12th century revived her work and poems. Her Tomb is in Basra in Iraq and hence the name Rabia Al Basri..

O God, my whole occupation

And all my desire in this world,

Of all worldly things,

Is to remember You.

And in the Hereafter

It is to meet You.

This is on my side, as I have stated.

Now You do whatever You will

Rabia Al Basri or Al Adawiyya an overview.

Rabia Al Basri, an early scholar of Islam and a Sufi was born in 717, about 85 years after the death of the Prophet(pbuh) in 632. The Prophet (SAWS) was born in 570 and the Hijrat (the migration to Madina) took place in 622, the start of the Muslim calendar.

 The injunction of Islam to seek knowledge was taken seriously by the Umma. Muslims quite early in their history started to excel in Science, Philosophy, medicine and other fields.  They also spread out to far away countries.

As early as 710, Muslims started to reach Al Andaluse (Spain, Portugal, Gibraltar etc.)  An era began  when  Muslim rule started in Cordoba in 756 and ended in 1492 when Granada surrendered.  Blood shed and a wholesale expulsion of Muslims from Andalusia took place. Those who remained were forced to convert.  Jews also met the same fate and they settled in several Muslim Countries.

 The Muslim rule in Spain was a period of learning and enlightenment. Big advances were made in science, medicine, governance, architecture and other fields. The introduction of paper making** in 751 led to an explosion in the number of books written and collected. It reinforced the culture of books in the Muslin world. In th 9th century the library of Cordoba had 500,000 books in a city of over 200,000* inhabitants. In contrast the largest library in Europe in the monastery of St. Gaul (Switzerland)  had only 36 volumes. Cordoba was not unique, libraries in Cities such as Baghdad*, Damascus, Cairo, Bokhara and other cities also had huge collections of books and manuscripts.  The first paper mill started in Samarkand in the 8th century. Baghdad and other cities, including those in Spain, followed. In Europe, manuscript on paper, probably from Spain, appeared in the 11th century*.

Here is a selection from Rabia Al Basri .

“Your prayers are your light;
Your devotion is your strength;
Your life is the only opportunity that life can give you.
If you ignore it, if you waste it,
You will only turn to dust.”

 www.uga.edu/sufism. by A. Godlas is a comprehensive site on Islam and Sufism

*Articles1.”Science the Islamic Legacy” April/May issue of Aramco world 1982  (Ww.saudiaramcoworld.com/issue/198203/islam-the.science.legacy), has good information on science and Andaluse.

2.   www.ibnaeabisociety.org/articles/womenoflight. “women of light in Sufism:   by Sachiko Murata  is a good read

* Baghdad in the 10th century had a population of over one million. Merve, Cairo, Damascus and other cities  were in the 200,000 range. By comparison in the same century, London had a population of 10,000, Paris below 50,000. Rome around 20,000 and Genoa, the largest in Europe had 80,000. By the end of the 12th century, many Muslim cities had grown to 500,000 and over range.

 **paper making came from China before that papyrus, parchment, palm rip etc., were used.