| Home | Guestbook | Email | Page 1 | Page 2 | Page 3 | Children's Page | Contents | Search | What's New |

Muslim Saints

Rabia the Slave
Written by Huda Khattab

Rabia was a mystic, or a holy woman, who spent her whole life in devotion to God. She was born over a thousand years ago, in the city of Basra, in Iraq. Long ago, in the city of Basra, there lived a young woman named Rabia. She came from a poor family. She and her three sisters suffered greatly, for their parents had died and then there was a great famine.

It was a violent and dangerous time. The famine made people cruel, ready to do almost anything to survive. Rabia knew it was not safe to walk alone in the town, but she had to find food. One evening, she slipped out of the house, and into the street. Suddenly, someone caught her, holding her roughly. A hand was over her mouth -- she could not cry for help. She had been captured by a wicked dealer in slaves, who then sold her in the market, for just a few coins.

As a slave, Rabia served in the house of a rich man. She had to work hard, for long hours. Yet all the time, through out the day as she worked, she prayed and fasted. Even at night, she slept little. She often stood praying as dawn broke and her daily tasks began.

One hot night, Rabia's master found he could not sleep. He got up, and walked over to the window of his room. He looked down, into the courtyard below. There, he saw the solitary figure of Rabia, his slave. Her lips moved in prayer, and he could just catch the words in the still night air. Oh God, Thou knowest that the desire of my heart is to obey Thee, and if the affair lay with me, I would not rest one hour from serving Thee, but Thou Thyself has set me under the hand of Thy creature. For this reason I come late to Thy service. . .

There was something very strange about the scene. At first, the master could not quite understand what it was. Then he realized. There was a lamp above Rabia's head. Ithung there, quite still -- but without a chain. As he watched, its light filled the whole house. Suddenly, he was afraid. He returned to his bed, and layawake, thinking of what he had seen. He was certain of only one thing. Such a woman should not be a slave. In the morning, he called Rabia to him, and spoke to her kindly. He told her he would set her free.

"I beg your permission to depart," murmured Rabia, and her master agreed at once. Rabia set off out of the town, deep into the desert. There she lived as a hermit, alone for awhile, serving God. Later, she went to Makkah as a pilgrim.

Back to Ismaili Web