I have two ways of loving You

Rabi’a al-‘Adawiyya, also known as Rabia Basri(c.717-801) was one of the early mystics from Basra – a port city in Iraq. Being a woman she is the feminine voice in Sufi annals. For centuries she has been the torchbearer for the later Sufis and movements. Rabi’a began her ascetic life in a small desert cell and was attained self-knowledge without a spiritual guide.  She was one of the first of the Sufis to teach that Love alone was the guide on the mystic path. Most of her life and thoughts have been chronicled by the Persian Sufi-poet Fariduddin Attar.  More details can be seen here

Here are two poems by Rabi’a that are my old favourites translated by Charles Upton:

I have two ways of loving You

I have two ways of loving You:
A selfish one
And another way that is worthy of You.
In my selfish love, I remember You and You alone.
In that other love, You lift the veil
And let me feast my eyes on Your Living Face.

I carry a torch in one hand

I carry a torch in one hand
And a bucket of water in the other:
With these things I am going to set fire to Heaven
And put out the flames of Hell
So that voyagers to God can rip the veils
And see the real goal.

And this one is most profound, lamenting the hope for a reward or fear of punishment in the act of worship..

Eternal Beauty 

O Lord, if I worship you out of fear of hell, burn me in hell.
If I worship you in the hope of paradise, forbid it to me.
And if I worship you for your own sake,
do not deprive me of your eternal beauty

translated by Paul Losensky in Early Islamic Mysticism

Love is purely about loving ….fear and avarice consume it!

Published in: on August 20, 2006 at 4:33 pm  Comments (13)  

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13 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Assalaam alaikum br. Raza,

    You have a very interesting blog, Alhamdolillah
    The poems by Ra’bia Basri are Divinely Spiritual. Would love to read more of her work…..
    Great going! Keep it up!

    Peace and blessings,

  2. Dear SF
    Many thanks. Rabia Basri is the guide of Sufis – her life and poetry have inspired all the Sufi movements. And the fact that she was a woman even makes it more fascinating particularly since religion and spirituality have been monopolised by men ….

  3. My dear Raza,
    there cannot be two opinions on the potency of love . Yet ironically enough very few Islamic scholars emphasize upon divine love. with the result that even the more pious ones are guided more by fear in fulfilling their ritualistic obligations than by sheer love and adoration. I do believe the prevalent perspective on man’s relationship with God needs to be turned on its head.

    PS. please post some links to translations of Rabia Basri’s poetry.

  4. My dear Aisha
    Thanks for leaving the comment and raising this essential problematic of the ritualism that is perceived to be religion and spirituality! Indeed, Man and God are intertwined in a unique and intimate relationship – closer than the jugular vein as stated by H Ali. We have to keep on reminding ourselves about this and spread the Sufi message for this ‘love’ and bonding to be widely recognized.
    Here are a few links to Rabia’s poetry:

    http://home.infionline.net/~ddisse/rabia.html – scroll down and you will find multiple links

    Click to access rabia_al_basri_2004_9.pdf


  5. I don’t want to split hairs but couldn’t resist. You mentioned about God being closer than the jugular vein stated by H. Ali. Actually, it is directly from Qura’an.

    50:16 It was We Who created man, and We know what dark suggestions his soul makes to him: for We are nearer to him than (his) jugular vein.


  6. Dear Raza

    And see how this theme echoes in Iqbal’s poetry:

    Shaowk tera agar na hu meri namaz ka imam
    Mera sajood bi hijab mera qiyam bi hijab

  7. sir aoa
    now i m visiting ur site daily .and i m getting so much .thak you
    sir I have two ways of loving You i got the concept that hazrat Rabia pointing toward only to Allah but i m not clearily getting it sir if u feel not bother can u explain it to me
    very little explaination if u do not bother and also the second one I carry a torch in one hand


  8. Western civilization has a great misunderstanding of love…it’s more often a craving of need or desire, rather than an enduring state of appreciation or a love of the divine.

  9. Eternal Beauty – at last a couplet that articulates my feelings on the love of God. wonderful to read it was written with such elegance by a woman years ago. oscar wilde wrote ‘terror is the basis of all morality’- that is what we have reduced religion or love of God to these days. but real love, particularly of God, should be free of any wants but for the love of love itself. no agenda, just the desire for oneness with one’s beloved.

  10. Yes Hazrat Rabia Basri poineered the idea of love for God by humans, as a basis or reason of offering of prayers in Muslim Sufism.

    Later on this idea assumed the shape of Isq-e-Haqiqi. Finally it became a different type of Isq for Allama Iqbal.


  11. Truly, LOVE is the sole universal experience.In modern times, we all know HumanLove, but can we cross over to DivineLove, as the Sufis seemed to do?
    A song ,i wrote….


    FRIENDS, I sing you the Song of Shiva
    The ancientest God on Earth.
    Who dances the Nat, dusk to dawn
    Atop Mount Kailasa,every night;
    Night after night.
    He cannot stop ,now or ever.
    He dances on the Dance of Shiva.

    Yonder back in time,
    When the Devas and Asuras,
    churned the Ocean of Desires, for Nectar,
    Out came Hemlock Primieval,
    Deadlier than the deadliest Death.
    All fled,
    No one to save life on earth,
    But for Shiva, the Tribal God.

    So, he consented,
    Drank up the Kaalakoota,
    Kept it locked up in his throat,..
    If, but one drop descends down,
    The universe will become ash,
    Even Shiva would die.
    Slowly,the poison turned his neck blue,
    Then, his entire body ,blue,
    The pain was God awful,
    Even for Shiva, the Blue Tribal God.

    Everyday, as soon as the sun sets,
    All is quiet, and private,
    Shiva becomes Nataraja,
    The Celestial Dancer,
    To the beat of Dhamruk,Cymbals,Conches & ,
    A Thousand Serpants hissing,
    Goblins screeching,
    Spirits of the Upper Air howling,
    All in pain,rage, anger,
    Shiva dances like Mad.
    He is addicted,can’t stop it.
    Till yesterday, today, and on till
    The earth ends its life 5 billions years,
    Only by dancing so,
    Can Shiva bear the soul-searing agony, pain, terror &

    Yesterday, I asked in my dream, Shiva,
    Who was quiet & not dancing then,
    He replied :
    Because, There Is No Love.
    There are no Devas or Asuras.
    It is just a metaphor for Men & Women,
    Who want all the Good things of Life,
    And, none of the Bad;
    And refuse to Love one another.
    Unrequited Love accumulates,
    And coagulates into Kalakoota.
    So,said , Shiva,
    Love, Love,Love.
    This is the simplest secret to God,
    Then, Now & Forever.
    If, you meet someone,
    Who offers you Love,
    Don’t Test it,
    Don’t Garbage it,
    Don’t Kill it ,
    Take it ,and ,
    Plant it in your Heart.
    Love is Twice Blessed,
    The Giver & the Receiver.
    Love is Valid forever.
    Love is a Brahma-Astra,
    If sent back,Kills the Sender.

    It is the Closest ,
    You can come to Shiva.
    Shiva will have to keep dancing on, and on,
    Night after Night,after Night………….
    After Night………..
    After Night………………….

  12. look here is another website where you can read the poems by rabia al basri online

  13. look here is another website where you can read the poems by rabia al basri online

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