My Hands are yours

in God's Hands


When God said, “My hands are yours,”
I saw that I could heal any
creature in this world;

I saw that the divine beauty in each heart
is the root of all time
and space.

I was once a sleeping ocean
and in a dream became
jealous of a

A penny can be eyed in the street
and a war can break out
over it amongst
the poor.

Until we know that God lives in us
and we can see Him
a great poverty
we suffer.

Rabia of Basra (c. 717-801)
From Love Poems From God – Daniel Ladinsky

This poem is exquisite but what makes it all the more remarkable is its author

Rabia of Basra (c. 717- 801)

When God said, “My hands are yours,”
I saw that I could heal any creature in this world;
I saw that the divine beauty in each heart
is the root of all time
and space.

Rabia of Basra (c. 717- 801) is without doubt the most popular and influential of female Islamic saints and a central figure in the Sufi tradition. She was born nearly five hundred years before Rumi, and although it is rarely said, she, perhaps more than any other poet, influenced his writings.

Rabia grew up in a part of ancient Mesopotamia that is now Iraq. She was the fourth daughter of impoverished parents, and the story connected with her birth tells of the Prophet Muhammad appearing to her father in a dream to tell him that his daughter would be revered as a great saint.

The sensuousness of Rabia’s poetry may be a bit shocking to some, though it was probably more so in its original. Even conservative scholarly translations cannot get around its, at times, graphic eroticism. Many myths surround her life and poems, but one has been recently confirmed by one of the most respected contemporary spiritual teachers, and may well be a source of this sensuality. When Rabia was quite young, she became separated from her parents— perhaps they died—and while wandering homeless, she was literally stolen and sold into slavery. Because of her remarkable beauty, a famous brothel bought her for a large sum, and it is believed she lived and was forced to work as one might in a brothel for many years.
She wrote, “What a place for trials and transformation did my Lover put me, but never once did He look upon me as if I were impure. Dear sisters, all we do in this world, whatever happens, is bringing us closer to God.”

Rabia may be a timely spiritual voice for women of this century, especially for any woman (or man) who has had to suffer the emotionally crippling degradation of unwanted touch. She was both physically and sexually abused from an early age, yet still became one of the greatest women saints—and poets—known to history.

When she was about fifty she was given her freedom, most likely bought for her by a rich patron. The remaining years of her life were devoted to meditation and prayer, and she would often see visitors seeking guidance about their lives. Many miracles are attributed to her, and apparently she was offered large sums for curing people; I like a comment attributed to her when refusing a bag of gold: “Dear, if you leave that, flies will gather as if a horse just relieved himself, and I might slip in it while dancing.”

As this great woman once wrote:

Show me where it hurts, God said, and every cell in my body
burst into tears before His tender eyes. He has repaid me
though for all my suffering in a way I never wanted: The sun
is now in homage to my face, because it knows I have seen
God. But that was not His payment. The soul cannot describe
His gift. I just spoke about the sun like that because I like
beautiful words, and because it is true: Creation is in homage
to us.

‘From Love Poems From God’ – Daniel Ladinsky

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Filed under The Ramblings of a Reformed Ecclesiastic

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