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Burning the Midnight Oil

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Raabi‘ah ‘Adawiyyah (rahimahallah), also known as Raabi‘ah Basriyyah (as she hailed from the city of Basrah), was a renowned saint of her time. She lived for approximately eighty years, passing away in the year 180 or 185 A.H. and is buried in the city of Quds (Jerusalem).  (Siyaru Aa’laamin Nubalaa vol. 8, pg. 243 and Al-Bidaayah wan Nihaayah vol. 10, pg. 256)

On account of her extremely high level of zuhd (ascetism and disinterest in material possessions), she chose to lead a life of simplicity and austerity, emulating the sunnah of Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam). Hence, she possessed very little of the world and attached her heart to the wealth of the Hereafter.

On one occasion, a person presented her with a gift of forty dinaars (gold coins) saying, “You may use this money to fulfil your needs.” She began to weep, and then raised her head to the heavens and said, “He (Allah Ta‘ala) knows that out of hayaa for Him, I do not ask Him (Allah Ta‘ala) for anything of the dunya (material possessions), although He is the owner of the entire dunya (world). So how can I contemplate accepting the dunya from one who is not the owner of the dunya?” (Sifatus Safwah vol. 2, pg. 244)

‘Abdah bintu Abi Shawwaal (rahimahallah) was a pious woman who would attend to Raabi‘ah (rahimahallah). She mentions the following:

“Raabi‘ah (rahimahallah) would perform salaah the entire night. When the time of fajr would set in, she would lie down on her musalla and take a short nap until the horizon had become bright. At that time, I would hear her awake with a startle and reproach herself saying, ‘O nafs! How long will you remain asleep? When will you stand (in salaah)? It is likely that you will fall into such a sleep that you will not awaken until the shriek on the Day of Resurrection!’ This was her habit throughout her life, until she passed away.

“When she neared her final moments, she called me and said, ‘O ‘Abdah! Do not let my demise be a means of inconvenience to anyone (i.e. you should attend to my ghusl and kafan yourself), and enshroud me in this cloak of mine.’ (Saying this, she gestured towards) a woollen cloak which she would wear when performing her salaah at night, when all the people had fallen asleep. We thus enshrouded her in that cloak and a woollen scarf which she would wear.

“Approximately one year after her demise, I had a dream in which I saw her dressed in clothing of green brocade, wearing a scarf of green silk. (These garments were so beautiful that) I had never before seen any garments as beautiful as them. I asked her, ‘O Raabi‘ah! What happened to the cloak in which we enshrouded you and the woollen scarf?’ She replied, ‘By Allah! They were removed from me, and replaced with this clothing which you see upon me. My shroud was folded and a seal was placed upon it, after which it was raised to ‘illiyyeen so that its reward can be given to me in full on the Day of Qiyaamah.’

“I then asked her, ‘Is this the result of your striving and toiling throughout your life in the world?’ She replied, ‘This is only out of the kindness which Allah Ta‘ala shows to His special friends.’”

‘Abdah (rahimahallah) finally asked Raabi‘ah (rahimahallah), “Tell me of some practice which will earn me the special proximity of Allah Ta‘ala.” She answered, “Hold firmly to excessive zikr and remembrance of Allah Ta‘ala. If you do so, it is most likely that you will be envied by others when you are in your grave (i.e. this practice will earn you such reward and honour in the grave that others will envy you).” (Sifatus Safwah vol. 2, pg. 245)

Lessons:

1. When a student is preparing for an exam, he often spends the entire night awake, studying and preparing, as he knows the importance of achieving a good mark. Raabi‘ah Basriyyah (rahimahallah) would spend every night awake, preparing for the Hereafter, as she understood the importance of achieving good marks in the Hereafter. While it may not be possible for us to emulate her high level of dedication, we should at least not neglect our basic preparations for the Hereafter by ensuring that we perform all our salaah on time, fulfil the rights of people, stay away from every type of disobedience and sin, uphold the laws of hijaab, etc.

2. Raabi‘ah (rahimahallah) had no attachment to the material possessions of this world, and thus led a life of complete simplicity, content with the bare necessities that she possessed. While this level of asceticism is very high and will be difficult for us to emulate, we should at least ensure that we do not fall into the sin of wastefulness and extravagance, and should try to gradually bring simplicity into our lives.