Today we received an apology message from a vendor who is late in shipping some books to the Rabata bookshop.
“سامحونا يا أهل الرباط…”, he said: “Forgive us, O people of ‘ribaat’”. The phrase gave me pause, and I felt a deep sense of appreciation and connection that spans centuries.
The non-profit organization that houses Ribaat is called Rabata, which is a root word that holds many beautiful and complex meanings of connection, ties, and togetherness. Ribaat, one of the many words that stems from this root, is the name of the academic institute which began in the Fall of 2013, an online space for women around the world to engage in academic learning of the Islamic Sciences, Arabic and Tajwid. The name was chosen carefully by the one whose brainchild it was, Dr. Tamara Gray, for the deep and historical meanings that it holds.
Ribaat is a magical word. I thought to try and explain it in my own words, then found the definitions in the Arabic dictionary Lisān al-ʿArab more beautiful than I could ever express. I do love reading the quintessential dictionary of the Arabic language, Lisān al-ʿArab, more than any other book in the world, and will recommend to everyone in the world to learn Arabic just so you can soar away with me into this astounding and blissful world of words. A translation is never nearly as good as the original, but I will do my best to share with you the meaning of Ribaat and the import of this name (until you have a chance to learn Arabic and read this mesmerizing chapter yourself!)
Ribaat is a tool used for tying.
And Ribaat is a group of five or more.
And Ribaat is a herd of horses that is sent somewhere as a protection and source of strength.
Ribaat is holding fast to your post, to protect the borders from external threats.
Ribaat is to be firm, consistent, steadfast.
Ribaat is referred to in a hadith of Prophet Muhammad (s), as: holding fast to your wudu despite difficulties, increasing steps towards the masjid, and sitting in anticipation from one prayer till the next.
Ribaat in this hadith is to be in a constant state of purity and worship, an act equal to stepping out into battle for the sake of Allah, because this consistent state of purification and sitting in wait for prayer holds us in a state that is protected from sin and guarded from doing wrong.
Ribaat is a relation, kinship, and connection. It is the tie that holds together.
Ribaat is to sit inside the little gap, so it is filled.
Ribaat in the Quran refers to forbearance and patience, and putting these qualities into action.
Ribaat is rising in battle, rising to protect and fight the good fight.
And Ribaat is fighting against the base desires of the nafs, and doing the difficult thing, the better thing.
And Ribaat is the tie that holds all the ties together, and the connection that holds all the connections together, and the group that encompasses all the groups.
And Ribaat can mean the female horses, the ones who bring forth blessings, and who birth, nourish and raise more horses!
And Ribaat means the water that sits in one place, always there, never running out or moving away.
And Ribaat is the heart, as if it holds the body together.
And a person of Ribaat is one with a strong and steadfast heart, one that does not waver.
And Ribaat is what is used to pull others along and guide them.
Ribaats are spaces of learning, where students and instructors live and work together, spending any extra time in learning, teaching and scholarship.
Ribaats are described by Ibn Battuta as lodgings available to welcome travelers within historical Islamic cities, surrounded by walls, the entrances to the city protected by gates.
My last name, Rabbat, completely by coincidence, also holds these meanings, as it means “the one who ties”. Names carry special importance for me, and when I first meet you, you might find me asking the meaning and origin of your name, or sharing mine with you. A name tells so much. It seemed at first completely by chance that I found myself in this place that carries my name, but I know it has been Allah’s plan for me all along. What a beautiful coincidence I find it to be. I am honored to be a part of this ambitious and important work, to find myself entwined in this age-old legacy.
These Ahl al-Ribaat are something special indeed. They are not only ‘the people of Ribaat’, ie the ones standing at this sacred post, owning the responsibility and able to carry it through, but “ahl” also means “worthy”. Ahl al-Ribaat are those who are worthy of it.
May Allah make us worthy to stand with these people, in this place. May Allah make us strong to carry the responsibility, and steadfast to stand firm and constant. So come and join me, ya Ahl al-Ribaat, let us stand together and be what is needed for this world.
Education Director, Rabata
Click here to read the original Ribaat Blogs by Dr. Tamara Gray to learn more about the how and why of the Ribaat Academic Institute: https://ribaat.rabata.org/mod/forum/discuss.php?d=263
1 thought on “Ahlal-Ribaat”
Mashallah, so beautifully written, as are all of your blogs which are thoughtful and reflective. You always manage to conjure up our emotions, and leave us feeling grateful to be a part of this sisterhood and space, alhamdulillah.