O my Lord, if I worship you

by Rabia al-Basri (Rabia al- Adawiyya)

English version by Charles Upton
Original Language Persian/Farsi

O my Lord,

if I worship you
from fear of hell, burn me in hell.

If I worship you
from hope of Paradise, bar me from its gates.

But if I worship you
for yourself alone, grant me then the beauty of your Face.

-- from Doorkeeper of the Heart: Versions of Rabia, Translated by Charles Upton

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Commentary by Ivan M. Granger

This poem is a truly courageous prayer. It is fierce in its renunciation of false worship. In it Rabia demands of herself genuine worship, which she rightly defines as love of God for God alone -- not for what the individual can "get" from God. Even the attainment of heaven or the avoidance of hell can become to the mind like possessions, something desired, something avoided, ultimately drawing the attention away from the radiant Divine Face everywhere.

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O my Lord, if I