The Sufi doctrine of disinterested and selfless Love reminds one of the message in the Gita that one must do good deeds without expecting results. Rabia al-Adwaiyya, a distinguished Sufi saint, demonstrated through her life that true love of the Divine meant a detachment from worldly things and the performance of acts of piety.
Rabia al-Adawiyya was born in Basra in 717 A.D. The very fact of her being in the esteemed ranks of the Sufi order also shows that Divine enlightenment is not limited to any gender. Rabia lived in great poverty and in her most difficult moments refused to accept charity from others in the belief that it was only God who would fulfill her needs. Many miracles are associated with her absolute faith in God.
Legend has it that she was crossing the desert in order to reach the Kaaba when her donkey died midway. When she prayed to God out of fatigue and desperation, she received assurance from God that the Kaaba itself was coming towards her.
Ibrahim bin Adham had spent fourteen years making his way to the Kaaba. When he finally arrived at the Kaaba, he was surprised at not finding it in its place. When a voice said to him that the Kaaba had gone to meet a woman who was approaching that place, he was seized by a fit of jealousy. He expressed his anger towards Rabia and accused her of causing disturbance. She replied that it was he who had caused disturbance by taking fourteen years to reach the Kaaba.
He answered, “Yes, I have spent fourteen years in reaching the Kaaba (because I was praying at every stop)”.
She replied, “You travelled in ritual prayer (namaz) and I with personal supplication (niyaz).” The simple truth that is evident from Rabia’s life and from the lives and teachings of all saints whether they be Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, Christian or Jew, is that in order to reach God, one does not need to hurt others or set store by worldly possessions or rituals.