The Water Pot and the Thief: A True Story of Rabiah Al Adawiya of Basra

"Famous for her saintly life, Rabiah of Basra owned nothing but a sleeping mat, a brick on which to rest her head, a Qur'an and a water pot. One night, a robber, unaware of whose house it was, slipped into Rabiah's home. Looking around, he soon discovered . . . nothing — nothing at all to take.

"Just as the thief was turning to leave, Rabiah spoke up, 'lf you are indeed a robber, surely you cannot leave empty-handed.'

"Startled, the thief repIied, 'But there is nothing to steal!'

"Rabiah stood up and handed him her water pot. 'Take this water and ready yourself for prayer. Perform your wudu, your ablution, as the Prophet Muhammad has taught us.'

"The thief, looking confused, tentatively accepted the water pot. Rabiah pointed, 'Go into the side room there and pray. If you do this regularly, you will never be empty-handed or poor.'

"The robber did as he was told. When Rabiah heard him begin his prayers, she raised her gaze to heaven and entreated the Lord, 'Allah, a thief has entered my humble home and found nothing. Now that I have shown him the way to your mansion, do not keep him from it; do not bar him from your goodness and bounty.' She lay back down, the sound of his prayer soothing her back to sleep.

"The thief, having performed just two rounds of prayer, found to his surprise that it brought him immense joy. And so he continued.

"At sunrise, many hours later, Rabiah rose and walked into the side room. There she found the thief seated, reading from the Qur'an.

" 'And how was your night, my friend?' asked Rabiah.

" 'It went quite wonderfully,' he answered. 'I saw myself standing before God, and He accepted my repentance and forgave me.'

"Rabiah smiled, 'I believe you are now — and forever — a very rich man,' she said."