Rabia waited for the right moment
Rabia, the great Sufi mystic, lived a remarkable life. Throughout her life, her Love for God, poverty and self-denial were her constant companions. She did not possess much more than a broken jug, a rush mat and a brick which she used as a pillow. She spent all night in prayer and contemplation, chiding herself if she slept because it took her away from her active love of God.
As her fame grew, she had many disciples. Farid-ud-din Attar, who has recorded her life, tells us that she held discussions with many renowned religious people of her time. Though she had many offers of marriage, she declined as she had no time in her life for anything other than God.
Her concept of Divine Love was truly elevating. She was the first to introduce the idea that God should be loved for God’s own sake, not out of fear – as was the practice among some earlier seekers. Thus she prayed, ‘O, Allah! If I worship you for fear of hell, burn me in hell, and if I worship you in hope of paradise, exclude me from paradise. But if I worship you for your own sake, grudge me not your everlasting beauty.’
One day, Rabia was passing through a street on her way to the marketplace where she went every day, to share the truths she had sought and attained through her prayers and reflections. And for many days she had been watching a well-known mystic, Hassan, sitting before the door of the mosque and praying to God with intense devotion. ‘God, open the door! Please open the door! Let me in!’
On that day, Rabia could take it no more. Hassan let out a heart-rending wail, tears rolling down his cheeks. He was repeatedly shouting, ‘Open the door! Let me in! Why don’t you listen? Why don’t you hear my prayers?’
Every day, Rabia had laughed quietly to herself whenever she had heard Hassan uttering his plaint. But today was too much. Hassan was weeping his heart out. She went up to him, shook him up and said, ‘Stop all this nonsense! The door is open – in fact you are already in!’
Hassan looked at Rabia, and that moment became a moment of revelation for him. Looking into Rabia’s eyes, he bowed down, touch her feet and said, ‘You came in time; otherwise I would have spent my whole life just calling God in vain! For years I have been doing this – where have you been all these years! Why did you not come earlier to take me out of my misery? I know you pass this street every day. You must have seen my crying and praying. And yet you did not come to me until now!’