Following the death of her father, the eighth-century Sufi mystic, Rabia al Basri, wandered into the desert to pray and stayed there, living the life of a Muslim ascetic. Today, she’s recognized as Islam’s most influential female renunciant and a key figure in the development of the Sufi tradition.
Like all mystics, Rabia’s spirituality was marked by an intense devotion to God. Although she never claimed to have achieved the mystical state of divine union, she dedicated her life to growing closer to God.
In addition to her spiritual devotion, Rabia served as a spiritual and intellectual leader — a role that ran in opposition to the patriarchy of her time. Her countercultural approach to gender roles carried forward into the tradition and became an important feature of Sufism.
For our inspiration today, we’re looking at a poem that speaks to Rabia’s intense love of God and her desire for divine union. It’s a short piece titled “My God and My Lord.”
MY GOD AND MY LORD
By Rabia al Basri
Eyes are at rest, the stars are setting.
Hushed are the stirrings of birds in their nests,
Of monsters in the ocean.
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.
Each love is now alone with his beloved.
And I am alone with You.
FOR ADDITIONAL READING: See Tales of Rabia Al-Adawiyya The Great Female Muslim Sufi Saint from Basra by Muhammad Vandestra.
More nuggets for today:
Today marks the 2014 death of the actor and ambassador, Shirley Temple Black.
Shirley Temple started acting when she was just three years old. By the age of five, she was an international sensation celebrated for her signature curls and dance routines, and she appeared in 29 films before she was 10 years old. She retired from acting in her early twenties and later served as U.S. ambassadors to both Ghana and Czechoslovakia.
At the peak of her popularity, Shirley was the subject of countless myths and falsehoods. At one point, a rumor circulated that she wasn’t actually a child, but a 30-year-old dwarf. The rumor became so widespread that the Vatican eventually sent an envoy to investigate her actual age.
When it came to religion, Temple was raised Presbyterian. But she found it difficult to attend church services because her popularity created a distraction. Even so, her mother insisted she was taught about God and the Bible, and religion and spirituality remained important to her throughout her life.
And on this day 1535, more than a dozen Anabaptists ran naked through the streets of Amsterdam.
Addressing a group of seven men and five women, the Anabaptist leader, Hendrick Snyder, prophesied about the coming wrath of God. He then removed his clothes and threw them into the fire. Other members of the group followed his lead and ran naked through the streets shouting “Woe, woe,” and “Divine wrath.” The authorities were not amused. But the Anabaptists refused to wear clothing even when they were escorted to jail based on the idea that they were proclaiming the “naked truth.”
The naked protest came at a time when religious tensions were running high. Rampant poverty led the Anabaptists to preach about sharing and the distribution of wealth, and they gained a following among the poor and disenfranchised. But their message conflicted with the interests of the city’s religious establishment and its wealthy patrons.
So, in response to the incident, the authorities decided to make an example of the naked protestors, executing all of the men and some of the women the next day. Ultimately, the event launched a wave of persecution against Anabaptists in Amsterdam.
Finally, today’s words of wisdom come to us from the French writer, Marcel Proust:
“Let us be grateful to the people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.”
I hope someone makes you happy today, and I hope you have the chance to make someone else happy, too.
And that’s today’s Spiritual Almanac.
For additional reading, see Tales of Rabia Al-Adawiyya The Great Female Muslim Sufi Saint from Basra by Muhammad Vandestra. There’s a link above.
Thanks for listening. Be kind, take good care and I’ll see you tomorrow.