Birthdate: 1871 URS date: August 30, 1947
Born in San Francisco in 1871 to Russian Jewish immigrants, Ada married David Martin at the age of 19. After a period of struggle, she began to study various religions and esoteric paths. In 1911, she attended a talk by the Sufi master, Hazrat Inayat Khan (1882-1927), then touring the United States for the first time at the Vedanta Society in San Francisco. She knew at once that she had found her path and her teacher. She wrote to him immediately and it was confirmed for him in a vision that she would become his first murid. She then traveled to Seattle where she was initiated and given the name, Rabia. Thereafter, Pir-o-Murshid Inayat Khan guided her on both the inner and outer planes, and eventually recognized her as the first murshida, ‘guide’ or leader, within the newly formed universalist lineage of Inayati Sufism. She established the first American community of Sufis in the Bay Area, and the first khankah or center in Fairfax, California. Among her murids were Murshid Samuel Lewis (1896-1971) and Murshida Vera Corda (1913-2002). She passed away in San Francisco in 1947.
Hazrat Inayat Khan called Murshida Rabia Martin “the mother of the Sufi Movement in the United States.” She was the first Murshida initiated by Hazrat Inayat Khan and she established the Khanka in Marin County, California which later became a center for Murshid Samuel Lewis.
In a letter to Murshid Inayat Khan she wrote the following (from www.wahiduddin.net)
Blessed Murshad [Old way of rendering the word Murshid]: This represents a short biography of my life.
My parents were born in Russia – and came to California in 1850 – and were pioneers. They married in San Francisco – and I was born here in 1871. I was reared and educated here – and graduated from the public schools.
I was always (as a child) deeply fond of older people – and wanted ever to converse with them. My folks had a difficult time of it I guess – because when I played with children – I wanted to lead them and they had to follow – or there was no play for me. My sense of Justice in my world of play was so marked – they did not understand me – and consequently my family felt I was too positive and all sorts of advice was unheeded. Of course you know – I could not accept less than the ideals of my childish heart – and somehow as I grew older I felt quite alone within the family circle.
I married at nineteen – my dear daughter was born a year later; this was real happiness, to train her in the principles of morality, justice and patience, and then the blessed music.
In my 28th year a deep grief came to me – and for four yrs. I suffered much – and the problem compelled me to search deeper for the questions I asked of God – for the reasons demanded an explanation and in this storm and tumult of a problem too sad for words – I was led into spiritual teachings and freed myself from pain and heart sorrow – and tested these principles and universal laws – and stayed here in this form. After certain realizations came in the secret place of my own heart – I gave all to Allah and studied, served, prayed ever – to realize His laws – love – mercy and justice. This period of my life I call the reconciliation and spiritual regeneration, all praises to Allah.
I was not satisfied with the Western teachings, so made an independent study of comparative religions – and prayed Allah to lead me to the source – as thus far it was only drinking from a brook instead of the Ocean of Reality. Lecturers, teachers and advanced students here, I met always – but none touched my heart’s longing – they all represented more or less the circumference. I longed for the center. Then Allah sent my blessed Murshad, spiritually – and later in form. These mystical and blessed experiences I cannot give to the world – to me they are too sacred – this may be selfishness – I cannot share them. My blessed Murshad’s Murshad too – may Allah glorify you both – came to me – and it can never be told in words – realizations which belong only to the Rabia not of this world – and so all I care for in this life is to worship Allah – love and serve Him – and Murshad and all Murshads in chain. May Allah keep my heart pure and my spirit humble (Amen).
Humbly – (w.s.:) Rabia.
(Ada Martin) Please Note: We have an artist – and also a Rabbi Priest – in our family. Also I have almost a passion for the study of philosophy and in New York I found there were others (men) of my family branch who likewise gave a lifetime to this study.
Murshida Martin passed away in San Francisco in 1947.
From the archives of the Nekbakht Foundation.