Rabi'a From Narrative to Myth

Pages: 416
Subject: History, Middle East, Religion, Religion: Islam
Imprint: Oneworld Academic

Rabi'a From Narrative to Myth

The Many Faces of Islam's Most Famous Woman Saint, Rabi‘a al-‘Adawiyya

Rkia Elaroui Cornell

A groundbreaking study of how Rabi‘a has been portrayed in Sufi, Islamic and secular literature from medieval to modern times
Hardback
9781786075215 (3 Jan 2019)
RRP £30.00 / US$45.00

The Book

Rabi‘a al-‘Adawiyya is a figure shrouded in myth. Certainly a woman by this name was born in Basra, Iraq, in the eighth century, but her life remains recorded only in legends, stories, poems and hagiographies. The various depictions of her - as a deeply spiritual ascetic, an existentialist rebel and a romantic lover - seem impossible to reconcile, and yet Rabi‘a has transcended these narratives to become a global symbol of both Sufi and modern secular culture.

In this groundbreaking study, Rkia Elaroui Cornell traces the development of these diverse narratives and provides a history of the iconic Rabi‘a's construction as a Sufi saint. Combining medieval and modern sources, including evidence never before examined, in novel ways, Rabi‘a From Narrative to Myth is the most significant work to emerge on this quintessential figure in Islam for more than seventy years.

Additional Information

Subject History, Middle East, Religion, Religion: Islam
Pages 416
Imprint Oneworld Academic

 

About the Author

Rkia Elaroui Cornell is Professor of Pedagogy and Coordinator of the Arabic program at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. She has given numerous lectures and conference presentations on the subjects of Qur'anic exegesis, women in Islam, and language pedagogy.

Reviews

‘An exceptional contribution to scholarship. Although ostensibly a study on Rabi‘a, it sheds light on almost all of the major questions that modern scholars of early Sufism have been grappling with for over a century.'

- Ahmet T. Karamustafa, Professor of History, University of Maryland

‘A dazzling romp through the process of myth-making, sanctity, and popular culture enacted across the world stage for more than a millennium.'

- Lynda Coon, Professor of History and Dean of the Honors College, University of Arkansas

‘Goes far beyond prior attempts to examine what we know about Rabi‘a and her significance to the Islamic tradition and beyond. Engaging questions relating to historiography, narratology, and myth, this work carefully pieces together the historical Rabi‘a while placing stories and aphorisms attributed to Rabi‘a in their discursive, cultural, and ritual context. The result is a magisterial study that will be foundational for decades for the study of Sufism and Islam.'

- Zayn Kassam, John Knox McLean Professor of Religious Studies, Pomona College

Table of Contents

Introduction: RABI‘A, "THE WOMAN WHO NEVER DIES”

I. The Myth Of Rabi‘a al-‘Adawiyya As A Master Narrative

II. Key Premodern Sources and Modern Works on Rabi‘a al-‘Adawiyya

III. What Is a Myth?

IV. The Plan of this Work

 

Chapter 1 RABI‘A THE TEACHER

I. Who Was the "Real” Rabi‘a?


  1. Early Sources for the Historical Rabi‘a

  2. Alleged Students and Associates of Rabi‘a al-‘Adawiyya


 II. Rabi‘a in the Earliest Sources


  1. Rabi‘a the Arab

  2. Rabi‘a the Leader

  3. Rabi‘a the Sunni Muslim

  4. Rabi‘a the Eloquent 


III. Rabi‘a the Teacher and the Culture of Adab in Early Islam


  1. Rabi‘a and Sufyan al-Thawri

  2. Ta'dib: The Art of Character Formation

  3. Taʼdib and the "Manly” Virtues: Muruwwa and Hilm

  4. Rabi‘a's Way of Ta'dib 


 

Chapter 2 RABI‘A THE ASCETIC

I. Conceptualizing Asceticism in Early Islam


  1. The World/Nonworld Dichotomy

  2. The Problem of Asceticism as a Theoretical Category


 II. Terms of Early Islamic Asceticism


  1. Zuhd (Renunciation)

  2. Wara‘ (Ethical Precaution)

  3. Nusk (Ascetic Ritualism)

  4. Faqr (Poverty)


 III. Traditions of Women's Asceticism in Basra


  1. The Legacy of ‘A'isha

  2. The School of Mu‘adha al-‘Adawiyya and Instrumental Asceticism

  3. The Weeping Women (al-Bakiyat) of Basra


 IV. The Asceticism of Rabi‘a and Her Circle


  1. Rabi‘a's Alleged Students and Associates

  2. From Instrumental Asceticism to Essential Asceticism


 

Chapter 3 RABI‘A THE LOVER

I. From Historical Representation to Cultural Icon

II. Asceticism and Love Mysticism in Early Islamic Basra


  1. From Asceticism to Love Mysticism

  2. Love of God in the Qur'an and Hadith

  3. The Ascetic Lovers of Basra

  4. The Question of Rabi‘a's Celibacy


III. Rabi‘a the "Muslim Diotima?”


  1. The "Incognito Presence” of Plato's Symposium

  2. Rabi‘a the Lover in Abu Talib al-Makki's Qut al-Qulub


 IV. Rabi‘a the Love Poet


  1. The Poem of the Two Loves

  2. The Poem of the Intimate Gift


 

Chapter 4 RABI‘A THE SUFI

I. The Lady Reconsidered: Can We See the Real "Rabi‘a the Sufi”?

II. Locating Rabi‘a the Sufi: What Was A "Sufi” in Eighth-Century Islam?

III. The Heart as a Metaphor in Early Islamic Mysticism


  1. Scriptural Antecedents

  2. Possible Paths of Transmission

  3. The Metaphor of the Heart for Rabi‘a al-‘Adawiyya and Her Contemporaries


 IV. Rabi‘a the "Knower of God”

 

Chapter 5 RABI‘A THE ICON (I): THE SUFI IMAGE

I. Rabi‘a As A Literary Figure: Myth, Icon, and the "Reality Effect”

II. From Visage to Vita: ‘Attar's Outline of the Rabi‘a Myth


  1. Composing the Background: ‘Attar's Hagiographic Predecessors

  2. ‘Attar's Portrayal of Rabi‘a al-‘Adawiyya in Tadhkirat al-Awliya'


III. Every Picture Tells a Story: ‘Attar's Emplotment of Rabi‘a's Vita

IV. Postscript: Where is Rabi‘a Buried?

 

Chapter 6 RABI‘A THE ICON (II): THE SECULAR IMAGE

I. From Religious to Secular Narratives

II. Rabi‘a the Existentialist

III. Rabi‘a the Film Icon

IV. Postscript: Rabi‘a, The Phantom of the Television Series

 

Epilogue RABI‘A, THE MYTH AND THE NARRATIVE

 

Bibliography

I. Sources in Arabic and Persian

II. Sources in European Languages

 

Index