Rabi’a al-‘Adawiyya al-Qaysiyya (717-801), the first female Sufi saint, spent much of her life in fervent prayer as an ascetic Muslim. After a period in which she was enslaved, she eventually lived in the desert in solitude. She refused many offers of marriage, as she had no time in her life for anything but God. More interesting than her absolute asceticism, however, is the concept of Divine Love that Rabia expressed. She was the first to introduce the idea that God should be loved for God’s own sake, not out of fear—as earlier Sufis had done. She taught that repentance was a gift from God because no one could repent unless God had already accepted them and given them the gift of repentance.
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