As the mystical side of Islam developed, it was a woman, Rabi’a al-Adawiyya (717-801 A.D.), who first expressed the relationship with the divine in a language we have come to recognize as specifically Sufic by referring to God as the Beloved. Rabi’a was the first human being to speak of the realities of Sufism with a language that anyone could understand. Though she experienced many difficulties in her early years, Rabi’a’s starting point was neither a fear of hell nor a desire for paradise, but only love. “God is God,” she said, “for this I love God… not because of any gifts, but for Itself.” Her aim was to melt her being in God. According to her, one could find God by turning within oneself. As Muhammad said, “He who knows himself knows his Lord.” Ultimately it is through love that we are brought into the unity of Being.
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