Abu Eshaq Ibrahim ibn Adham was born in Balkh and of Arab descent. He is one of the earliest documented great Sufis. He was a King of Balkh who renounced his throne for a spiritual kingdom and wandered to live a life of complete asceticism, earning his bread in Syria by honest manual toil until his death in c. 165 AH (782 AD). According to Arabic and Persian sources like al-Bukhari and others, Ibrahim ibn Adham received a warning from God through Khidr who appeared to him twice, and as such, Ibrahim abdicated his throne to take up the ascetic life in Syria. He is described in the Kashf-al-Mahjub, written by Ali Hujwiri (Data Ganj Bakhsh), as “unique in this path; the chieftain of his contemporaries, and a disciple of al-Khidr.”
1. Prior to his reformation, he was the proud king of Balkh. (Balkh today is a province of Afghanistan.) Hadhrat Junaid Baghdaadi (rahmatullah alayh) said: “Ibraahim Bin Adham is the Key of the Knowledge of the Auliyaa.”
2. Once when he visited Imaam Abu Hanifah (rahmatullah alayh), many in the gathering viewed Ibraahim Bin Adham with contempt. Imaam Abu Hanifah said: “Sayyiduna Ibraahim!”, and greatly honoured him. In surprise someone asked: “How has he become our leader?”
Imaam Abu Hanifah said: “He is always in the remembrance of Allah, while we are engrossed in remembrance of the world.”
3. When he was the king of Balkh, he led a life of great pomp and splendour. One night while he was sleeping in his palace, he heard a sound on the palace roof. He called out: “Who’s there?” A voice said: “I am searching for my camel.”
Ibraahim: “How can you search for your camel on the palace roof?”
The Voice: “How can you search for Allah in this palace?” Suddenly, he was overwhelmed with fear of Allah.
The next day, while he was seated on his throne in his royal court, a stranger who inspired awe in onlookers suddenly entered, no one had the courage to question the stranger. He boldly came forward, stood in front of the throne and said: “Who is the owner of this inn?”
Ibraahim: “This is not an inn. It is my palace.”
Stranger: “Before you to whom did it belong?”
Ibraahim: “To my father.”
Stranger: “And before your father to whom did it belong?”
Ibraahim: “To my grandfather.”
Stranger: “Where are they now?”
Ibraahim: “They are no longer living.”
Stranger: “Is this then not an inn where people tarry for a while an depart?”
The stranger suddenly disappeared just as mysteriously as he had appeared. Ibraahim Bin Adham terminated the session and went out in search of the stranger. When he located him after great difficulty, Ibraahim asked his identity. The stranger said: “I am Khidhr.” Ibraahim was overcome with fear.
4. Once Ibraahim Bin Adham set out with a group of his soldiers on a hunting excursion, possibly to divert his mind from the perplexing events of the past few days. While hunting, he was separated from the rest of the party. Suddenly, he heard a voice repeatedly exclaiming: “Wake up before death awakens you.” Suddenly, a buck appeared. Ibraahim went in its pursuit. The buck said: “I have come to hunt you. You cannot catch me. Has Allah Ta’ala created you for this?” He turned away with these words ringing in his ears. Now fear had completely overwhelmed Ibraahim Bin Adham. Then he began hearing these words being omitted from his own breast. The spiritual realm now opened up for him. He repented and resolved to renounce his throne and the world.
While walking he met shepherd with a flock of sheep. He exchanged his royal garments for the shepherd’s simple dress and presented all the sheep to the shepherd. The sheep incidentally belonged to Ibraahim. Thus he cast off the garments of the world and donned the raiments of the spiritual realm. Dressed like a shepherd he wandered off into the wilderness to search the capital he required for his journey into the Hereafter. He wandered alone in the wilderness, repenting and passing his time in Allah’s remembrance.
On his journey in the wilderness he saw a blind man walking on a narrow bridge across a river. Ibraahim shouted: “Be careful! Be careful! Suddenly the blind man was high in the air. He lifted Ibraahim and took him across the river. Ibraahim was left wondering in amazement.
He took up residence for nine years in a cave near to Nishaapur. He would spend the whole week inside the cave, emerging only on Thursdays to collect firewood which he sold in Nishaapur. On Friday morning he would sell the wood in Nishaapur. After Jumah Salaat, he would give half of his earning to some faqeer and with the other half he would buy bread which would suffice until the next Friday.
5. In winter the region, including the cave, was covered with ice. One night he was in need of ghusl. He broke the ice and managed to gain from it some water for ghusl. With the iced water he bathed and passed the remained of the night in Salaat. By Fajr he was shivering uncontrollably as a result of the intense cold. He thought that he would die of the cold. Suddenly he felt something, like a warm blanket, being thrown around him. Feeling the warmth, he fell asleep. When he woke up, the saw that it was a huge snake which had kept him warm by having wrapped itself around him. Overcome with fear, Ibraahim prayed: “I am unable to bear the form in which You have sent Your aid.” As he supplicated, the serpent disappeared into the ground.
6. When the people discovered his identity and his lofty spiritual rank, Ibraahim Bin Adham fled from the cave and set off for Makkah, after his departure, Shaikh Abu Saeed (rahmatullah alayh) visited the cave and commented: “Subhaanallah! Even if this cave was filled with musk it would not have been as fragrant as it has been left by the short stay of that noble soul. It is indeed soothing to the soul.”
7. While journeying through the wilderness, Ibraahim Bin Adham met a buzrug who imparted to him the Ism-e-A’zam (The rare and greatest Name of Allah Ta’ala known to only a few selected Auliyaa). Shortly thereafter he met Khidhr (alayhis salaam) who said: “O Ibraahim! The one who taught you the Ism-e-A’zam is my brother, Ilyaas.” Ibraahim Bin Adham became the Mureed of Hadhrat Khidhr. It was through the agency of Hadhrat Khidhr that Ibraahim Bin Adham attained such lofty spiritual height of divine proximity.
8. Along his travels when he reached Zaatul Irq, he came across a group of 70 durwaishes who were lying dead. Blood was still flowing from their bodies. When he went near, he found one of them was still alive.
Ibraahim: “O young man! What has happened?”
Young man: “We are a group of Sufis. We set out in the wilderness with trust in Allah. We had pledged neither to speak to anyone nor fear anyone besides Allah Ta’ala. Our motion and rest would be only for Him. When we met Khidhr, we were overjoyed. We said that we had attained out goal. We were delighted that such a great person came to welcome us. Then came the divine rebuke: “Violators of your pledge! What was your pledge? You have forgotten Me and have been attracted by others. I shall take your lives for this crime.”
The dying Sufi continued: “O Ibraahim! All these extinguished bodies you are observing are the consequence of the violation of that Vow. O Ibraahim” If you too are prepared for this then proceed, otherwise retrace your steps.”
In amazement, Ibraahim said: “Brother, tell me, how did you escape?” Young Sufi: “They were accomplished while I am a novice in this field, hence I was spared to live a while.” He too then expired.
9. After wandering for many years in the wilderness, Ibraahim Bin Adham finally reached Makkah Muazzamah. Numerous people in Makkah became his disciples. While in Makkah he would earn his living by selling firewood which he would gather himself. Sometimes he would work as a farmhand.
10. When he had abandoned his throne, he had left behind an infant son. After the son attained manhood, he made enquiries about his father. His mother narrated the episode of his father’s renunciation of the world and told him that his father was presently in Makkah Muazzamah. Four thousand inhabitants of Balkh accompanied the young prince to Makkah. When they finally reached Musjidul Haraam, the prince saw many durwaishes.
When he questioned them about Ibraahim Bin Adham, they said: “He is our Shaikh. He has gone to gather firewood.” The prince went to the outskirts where he saw an aged man with a pile of wood on his shoulder. This sight reduced the prince to tears. Controlling himself, he followed his father at a distance. When they reached the market-place, he heard his father exclaiming: “Is there anyone with wholesome money to purchase a wholesome product?” A man gave some bread in exchange for the firewood. Ibraahim Bin Adham gave the bread to his mureeds while he became engrossed in Salaat.
Ibraahim’s teaching to his mureeds was to guard their gaze from young lads and females. Ibraahim and his disciples began making tawaaf of the Ka’bah. During the tawaaf, his gaze fell on his son. Paternal love kindled and his gaze was momentarily fixed on his son. His mureeds were astonished. After tawaaf, they asked Ibraahim to explain the mystery of his conduct. He said: “When I left Balkh, I left behind a milk-suckling boy. That lad appears to be my son.”
The next day a mureed of Ibraahim went to the caravan of Balkh. He found the young prince seated on a chair reciting the Qur’aan. The prince was weeping. The following conversation transpired:
Durwaish: “From where do you hail?”
Prince: “From Balkh.”
Durwaish: “Whose son are you?”
The prince wept and said: “I never saw my father. Yesterday I saw a man, but I am not sure if he is my father. I fear that he may flee if I ask him. My father’s name is Ibraahim Bin Adham.”
Durwaish: “Come, I shall take you to him.”
Ibraahim was sitting with his mureeds at Rukn-e-Yamaani when he saw the mureed approaching with his son and his wife (i.e. the queen, Ibraahim’s wife). When the mother saw Ibraahim, she lost control, wept and said: “Son, that is your father.” All the mureeds as well as others cried loudly. The prince fainted. When he regained conscious, he greeted his father. Ibraahim, returning the salaam, embraced his son and asked: “What Deen are you following?”
Prince: “The Deen of Muhammad ( صلى الله عايه وسالم) .”
Ibraahim: “Do you know the Qur’aan?”
Prince: “Yes, I know it.”
Ibraahim: “Al-hamdulillah! Have you acquired any knowledge?”
Prince: “Yes, I have.”
Ibraahim stood up and began walking away. But his son held on to him while his wife was pleading. Ibraahim lifted his face to the heaven and said: “O Allah! Set me free.” Instantly, his son dropped down dead.
Later when his disciples asked for an explanation, Ibraahim said: “When I embraced my son, his love kindled in my heart. Immediately, a Voice reprimanded: “O Ibraahim! You are claiming to love Me but you associate with another being. You admonish your disciples to abstain from looking at boys while you look with love at your son and wife.” I then supplicated: “O Allah! If his love will divert me from You, either take my life or take his life.” The dua was accepted and his life taken.”
Some Auliyaa have an extremely close relationship of Divine Love. They are on a different spiritual plane. Having abandoned the world and its pleasures in entirety, great trials are imposed on them in the journey of Divine Love. Just as Hadhrat Ibraahim (alayhis salaam) was called on to sacrifice his son, Ismaail (alayhis salaam), so too are certain Auliyaa required to make great sacrifices for the treasure of Divine Love.
11. When Ibraahim Bin Adham was asked for the reason for having abandoned his throne, he said: “One day while sitting on my throne I was looking in the mirror. I reflected and realised that my destination was the grave; the journey ahead was long and arduous; there was no companions and no food for the journey. The Judge is just and I lack evidence. My kingdom then appeared detestable to me.”
12. Someone asked: “Why don’t you marry?” Ibraahim said: “Does a person take a wife to make her walk bare feet and to remain hungry? If I can, I would give talaaq to even myself. How can I then tie others to myself? How can I deceive a woman?”
13. When Ibraahim Bin Adham heard a durwaish complaining about another durwaish, he said: “You have adopted sainthood without any benefit. You have purchased durwaishi (sainthood) without any payment.” The durwaish said: “Does one purchase sainthood?” Ibraahim replied: “Yes. I have purchased it in exchange for the kingdom of Balkh. This too, is a cheap price for such a priceless treasure.”
14. A man presented a thousand dirhams to Ibraahim Bin Adham. He said: “I have never accepted anything from the poor.” The man said: “I am wealthy.” Ibraahim: “Do you need more wealth?” Wealthy man: “Yes, I need more.” Ibraahim said: “When you are in need of more, then you are the chief of the poor. Take what you have brought.”
15. Ibraahim Bin Adham said:
“The sign of an Aarif is that he is always in contemplation. He derives lesson from everything and praises Allah. He is always active in the obedience of Allah.”
“Tomorrow on the Day of Qiyaamah, the act which seems so difficult here on earth for you, will be the heaviest in the Meezaan (Scale of Deeds).”
“When three veils are lifted, the door of spiritual treasures opens for the Salik:
Even if he acquires the kingdom of both worlds, he is not delighted.
If this kingdom is snatched away, he does not grieve. If he grieves, it indicates greed and anger. This is a sign of his contemptibility which deserves punishment.
He desires no praises. A man who loves to be praised lacks courage in entirety. One who lacks courage is put to shame.
16. Ibraahim Bin Adham asked a man: “Do you wish to enter the assembly of the Auliyaa of Allah? Have no care for either this world or the next. Become absorbed in Allah. Consume halaal food even if you do not spend the night I prayer and the day in fasting.”
17. “No one has attained sainthood by (only) Salaat, Saum, Hajj and Jihaad. But, he who knows what he is eating, attains sainthood.”
As long as a man is not scrupulous regarding his food, he will never gain nearness to Allah Ta’ala by virtue of abundance of worship.
18. People were highly praising a young man. It was said that his spiritual state was extremely lofty. He was a man of waid (experiencing states of spiritual ecstasy). Ibraahim Bin Adham asked to be taken to the young saint. When he was taken there, the young man asked Ibraahim to be his guest for three days. He observed the young man for three days and was impressed by his worship and rigorous acts of austerity. In fact, Ibraahim felt ashamed of himself, for he found that in comparison to the young man he was lacking. Ibraahim then thought: “Let me examine him more intensely. Perhaps a shaitaan has influenced him and is keeping him in a state of delusion.” On closer examination, Ibraahim discovered that the young man’s food was not halaal. He commented: “Allahu Akbar! This is the influence of shaitaan.” He asked the young man to be his guest for three days. Ibraahim brought the young man home and he joined in meals. Immediately, there was a transformation in the young man’s condition. The former state of spiritual fervour, enthusiasm and vigour dissipated. Highly agitated, he said: “What have you done to me?” Ibraahim said: “Your food was not halaal. Shaitaan would enter into you along with the food. He freely came into your body and emerged. Now that halaal food has entered into your body, shaitaan has been unable to demonstrate his influence. Now your true state has been exposed. The basis of spiritual progress is halaal rizq.”
19. Ibraahim Bin Adham said to Sufyaan Thauri (rahmatullah alayh): “Although you have considerable knowledge, you are in need of some yaqeen.”
20. Hadhrat Shafeeq (rahmatullah alayh) asked Ibraahim Bin Adham (rahmatullah alayh): “Why do you flee from people?” Ibraahim responded: “My Deen is in my lap. With it I flee from city to city and mountain to mountain to protect it from shaitaan and make my exit with safety from the doorway of Maut.”
21. After completing Salaat, he would cover his face with both hands. When asked about this, Ibraahim Bin Adham said: “I fear that Allah Ta’ala may fling my Salaat into my face.”
22. One day, he did not obtain a single morsel to eat. In gratitude he performed 400 raka’ts Salaat. The next day again he had nothing to eat. Again he performed 400 raka’ts. This continued for seven days.
After seven days of hunger, Ibraahim Bin Adham was overcome by extreme hunger and weakness. He prayed: “O Allah, send some food now.” Suddenly a young man appeared and said: “Do you wish to eat?” When Ibraahim said, ‘Yes’, the young man took him to a luxurious mansion. Now recognising Ibraahim Bin Adham, the young man said: “I am your slave and this mansion belongs to you.” (The slave and the mansion were part of Ibraahim’s estate which he had renounced when he had abandoned the throne).
Ibraahim said: “I am setting you free. This mansion and its belongings are now your property.” He departed without eating and supplicated:
“O Allah! I asked for a piece of bread. You put the world infront of me. Henceforth I shall ask for nothing besides You.”
23. Once he spent the night with three disciples in a dilapidated Musjid. There was no door and an extremely cold wind was blowing. To shield his mureeds from the cold gust, he stood the entire night in the doorway.
24. When anyone wished to stay with him (as his mureed), Ibraahim Bin Adham stipulated three conditions: (1) I shall serve everyone. (2) I shall give the Athaan. (3) Whatever I acquire, I shall distributed it equally among the mureeds.
25. A man who had wandered around the whole day in search of employment was returning empty-handed. He thought of his hungry wife and children at home. What will he tell them today? On his way home, he saw Ibraahim Bin Adham sitting peacefully. With a heavy sigh, the man said: “You are sitting so peacefully without a care in the world. I envy you.” Ibraahim said: “Give me your sigh in exchange for all the ibaadat I have so far made.”
A grief stricken heart has great value in Allah’s court. In a Hadith Qudsi, Allah Ta’ala says: “I am in the broken hearts of people.”
26. Once when someone asked him for his profession (i.e. worldly occupation by means of which one earns a living), Ibraahim Bin Adham said: “The office-bearers of Allah are not in need of a profession.” When Mu’tasim Billah asked him the same question, he replied: “I have left the world and the Aakhirah for their searchers. For myself I have chosen Allah’s remembrance in this world and Allah’s Vision in the Aakhirah.” 27. Ibraahim Bin Adham was asked: “Have you ever experienced happiness in your state of poverty?” He replied: “I experienced happiness several times. On the first occasion I was in a boat. My garments were tattered and torn and my hair dishevelled. People were mocking me. A man was repeatedly tugging at my hair and punching me. All expressed their mirth in laughter. Seeing the disgrace of my nafs, I became delighted.
On the second occasion (also in the boat), suddenly a storm threatened to wreck the boat. The pilot accusing me of ill-luck instructed that I be thrown overboard. I was harshly grabbed and hauled to the edge of the boat. Just as they were about to cast me overboard, the storm subsided. I was then left. Again I experienced happiness on account of the disgrace suffered by my nafs.
The third time I was overcome with weakness and tiredness. I fell asleep in a Musjid. The people grabbed me and pushed me down the steps. As I rolled down hitting my head, blood gushed out. Each step I went down, Allah Ta’ala revealed a spiritual realm to me. The happiness of this revelation ended when I landed at the bottom. I wished that the steps were endless so that I could perpetually roll down experiencing the exhilaration of the revelation of spiritual realms.”
28. Once he journeyed several days in the wilderness. He could not find anything to eat. He thought: “I have a friend living nearby. If I go there, I shall have something to eat.” Immediately he abandoned the idea since he concluded that his tawakkul had weakness. He entered a Musjid and said: “I repose my trust in The Being Who is alive and Who will not die.” A Voice said: “Allah has removed from earth those who had trust in Him.” Ibraahim said: “Why is this so?” The Voice responded: “A man who thinks of going to friends for food is not a mutawakkil (one who has trust in Allah)?”
29. Once Ibraahim Bin Adham asked a man: “From whence do you eat?” The mans said: “I do not know. Ask Allah Ta’ala. I have no time for such nonsense.”
30. Someone asked: “How do you spend your time?” Ibraahim Bin Adham replied: “I have three vehicles. When I acquired a ni’mat (bounty), I ride the vehicle of shukr and go to Him. When I worship, I ride the vehicle of ikhlaas to Him. When I commit a sin, I ride the vehicle of istighfaar and go to Him.”
31. A number of Mashaa-ikh were sitting at a place. Ibraahim Bin Adham attempted to join them but they prevented him. It was said to him: “We perceive the odour of kingdom in you.”
When this was the reaction of the Mashaa-ikh notwithstanding the exceptionally lofty spiritual rank of Ibraahim Bin Adham, what can now be said in regard to others?
32. Someone asked: “Why is there a veil screening the heart from Allah Ta’ala?” Ibraahim Bin Adham said: “Because the enemy of Allah is taken as a friend and the bounties of the Aakhirah are forgotten.”
33. Advising a man, Ibraahim Bin Adham said: “Take Khaaliq (The Creator) as your friend and abandon makhlooq (the creation).”
“Open the purse. Eliminate love for wealth. Spend in Allah’s path and prevent your tongue from evil conversation.”
Lies, abuse, flattery, back-biting, gossip, and nonsensical talk are all evil conversation.
34. When a man asked for naseehat, Ibraahim Bin Adham said:
“Do six things. When you commit a sin against Allah Ta’ala, refrain from eating the food He provides. When you wish to sin, get out of His territory. Sin in a place where He cannot observe you. At the time of death, ask Malakul Maut to grant you respite for taubah. Do not allow Munkar and Nakeer to approach you in the grave. When you are sentenced to Jahannum, refuse to enter it.”
The man said: “No one can achieve this. How then can I do these?” Ibraahim said: “If you are unable, then refrain from sin.” The man repented and died in Ibraahim’s presence.
35. People asked: “Why are our duas not accepted?” Ibraahim Bin Adham replied: “You know Allah, but you do not worship Him. You recognize His Rasool and the Qur’aan, but you do not obey. You eat His bounties, but you are not grateful. You do not prepare for Jannat nor arrange for safety from Jahannum. You acknowledge shaitaan as the enemy, but you do not abhor him. You know Maut will arrive, but you do not prepare for it. You bury your parents in the grave, but you derive no lesson. You know that you have defects in you, but you search for the faults of others. How can your duas be accepted?”
36. Once when the people complained of the high price of meat, Ibraahim Bin Adham advised: “Do not buy meat. The price will then fall.”
37. Once Ibraahim Bin Adham and other were picking up dates. Each time he filled his garment, someone would snatch it from him. He would renew the effort only for the dates to be snatched away. This occurred 40 times. Thereafter no one took his dates. He heard a Voice saying: “The forty times are in expiation of the forty golden shields with which soldiers paraded infront of you when you were a king.”
38. Once he was employed to guard an orchard. One day the owner asked him to bring some pomegranates. Ibraahim Bin Adham brought a few but all were sour. Annoyed, the owner said: “After all this time you are unable to differentiate between sweet and sour pomegranates.” Ibraahim said: “You employed me to guard the orchard, not to eat the fruit.” The owner said: “It appears from your piety that you are Ibraahim Bin Adham.” His identity exposed, Ibraahim Immediately departed.
39. Ibraahim Bin Adham said: “In a dream I saw Jibraeel (alayhis salaam) holding a book in his hand. I asked him: “What are you doing with this book?” Jibraeel (alayhis salaam): “I am recording the names of Allah’s devotees.” Ibraahim: “Will you record my name too?” Jibraeel: “You are not a devotee of Allah.” Ibraahim: “At least I am a friend of Allah’s devotee.” After a short pause, Jibraeel (alayhis salaam) said: “Allah Ta’ala commands that your name be written at the top of the list.” In this path hope is acquired from hopelessness.”
40. One night Ibraahim Bin Adham was in Musjidul Aqsa. Since the caretaker did not permit anyone to sleep inside the Musjid, Ibraahim concealed himself by wrapping himself in a carpet. Late in the night he saw the door automatically open. A Shaikh with a group of forty durwaishes entered. All of them were dressed in sackcloth. After performing two raka’ts, the Shaikh turned to face the group. One in the group said: “Is there anyone who does not belong to us?” the Shaikh said: “Yes – Ibraahim Bin Adham. He has not tasted the pleasure of 40 days of ibaadat.” Ibraahim came out of concealment and said: “True, but why?”
The Shaikh: “You had purchased some dates in Basrah. You saw a date which belonged to the seller and thought that it was yours. You picked it up.” Ibraahim Bin Adham returned to Basrah and requested the seller to forgive him. Ibraahim’s attitude had such an impact on the seller that he gave up his business and set out in the path of Allah. Ultimately he was accepted into the assembly of the Abdaal.
41. One day outside the city precincts, Ibraahim Bin Adham met a soldier who asked: “What is your name?” Ibraahim: “A servant of Allah, i.e. Abdullah.” When the solder asked for the direction to the city, Ibraahim pointed towards the qabrustaan. Thinking that Ibraahim was mocking him, the soldier beat him fiercely drawing much blood. He put a rope around his neck and brought him to the city. The people reprimanded the soldier and said: “This is Ibraahim Bin Adham.” The soldier regretting his misdeed apologized profusely. Ibraahim said:
“You have made me deserving of Jannat. I made dua that you too attain Jannat.”
A buzrug saw in a dream the inmates of Jannat gathering pearls. He asked: “Why are you gathering pearls?” They replied: “A foolish man wounded Ibraahim Bin Adham’s head. We have been commanded to scatter these pearls on him when he enters Jannat.”
42. Ibraahim Bin Adham saw an intoxicated man lying in the street. He was frothing from his mouth. Ibraahim washed the man’s mouth and with a heavy heart sighed: “The mouth which should be involved in the thikr of Allah should not be in this condition.”
At night, Ibraahim dreamt that an Angel was saying: “You cleansed his mouth for the sake of Allah, hence Allah has cleansed your heart.” When the man sobered up, people informed him of what had transpired. He was so much affected by what he heard that he repented and devoted himself to the remembrance of Allah.
43. Once Ibraahim Bin Adham was discussing with a buzrug on a mountain. The buzrug asked: “What is the perfection of a man of truth?” Ibraahim said: “If he says to a mountain: ‘Move!’, it will move.” As he spoke, the mountain began to move. Ibraahim said to the mountain: “I did not order you to move. I only cited an example.” The mountain became motionless.
44. One day Ibraahim Bin Adham was sitting on the banks of the river Dajlah sewing his tattered shawl. A passer by who recognised him said: “What did you gain by abandoning the kingdom of Balkh?” Ibraahim threw his needle into the river and made a sign with his hand. Instantaneously, thousands of fishes emerged. From the mouth of every fish a golden needle protruded. Scanning the river, Ibraahim said: “I do not want these needles. I want my needle.” All the fish disappeared under water and a tiny fish emerged with Ibraahim’s needle in his mouth. Taking his needle, he commented: “The least acquisition for abandoning the throne of Balkh is this.”
45. Once when he drew the bucket from the well, it was filled with silver. He dumped it and lowered the bucket. When he brought it out, the bucket was full of gold. He dumped it and lowered it again. This time it was full of precious stones. He said: “O Allah! I need water for wudhu. I am not in need of the wealth of this world.” The fourth time when he brought out the bucket, it was filled with water.”
46. Towards the end of his life, he disappeared. It is not known where he had died. Some say that he died in Baghdad while others claim Shaam. It is said that his grave is near to the grave of Loot (alayhis salaam). Allah knows best.
47. It is narrated that on the occasion of his death, a Voice was heard proclaiming:”Today the Safety of the world has died!”
Ibrahim ibn Adham goes to Mecca
Ibrahim spend fourteen years crossing the desert, praying and humbling himself all the way. When he drew near to Mecca, the elders of the Haram hearing of his approach came out to meet him. He moved himself ahead of the caravan so that no one might recognize him. The servants preceded the elders, and they saw Ibrahim going ahead of the caravan, but not having seen him before, they did not recognize him. As they walked passed him, they shouted, “Ibrahim ibn Adham is near. The elders of the Haram have come out to meet him.”
“What do you want of that heretic?” Ibrahim demanded. Straightway they set upon him and beat him up. “The elders of Mecca go out to meet him, and you call him a heretic?” they shouted.‘I say he is a heretic,” Ibrahim repeated. When they left him, Ibrahim turned to himself.
“Ha!” he cried. “You wanted the elders to come out to meet you. Well, you have collected a few punches. Praise be to God that I have seen you get your wish!” Ibrahim then took up residence in Mecca. A circle of companions formed around him, and he earned his bread by the labour of his hands, working as a carpenter.
Ibrahim at Mecca is visited by his son
When Ibrahim ibn Adham left Balkh he left behind him a son. When his son grew he asked his mother one day about his father. His mother advised that his Father is lost.The son the requested that all who desired to perform the pilgrimage should assemble. Four thousand people presented themselves. He gave them all their expenses to cover provisions and camels and led the party to Mecca, hoping that God might grant him sight of his father. Reaching Mecca, he encountered by the door of the Holy Mosque a party of patchwork-frocked Sufis.
The son asked them wether they knew Ibrahim bin adham and the Sufi’s replied “He is a friend of ours,” they told him. “He is entertaining us, and has gone to hunt for food.” The son asked them to direct him, and he went in his track. He saw his father unshod and bareheaded coming along with a load of firewood. Tears sprang to his eyes, but he controlled himself and followed his father to the market. There his father began to shout. “Who will buy goodly things for goodly things?” A baker called to him and took the firewood in exchange for bread. Ibrahim brought the bread and laid it before his companions. Witnessing all of this the son thought that if he would say who he was his father would run away as he had ran away before. He went to ask for advice from his mother. His mother advised him to wait until they performed circumambulation of the holy house of God.
When the pilgrims entered Mecca and made the circumambulation of the Kaaba, Ibrahim with his companions also circled the Holy House. A boy approached him, and Ibrahim looked at him keenly. His friends noticed this, but waited until they had finished the circumambulation. They Asked Ibrahim who this boy was. Ibrahim advised “When I left Balkh,“I left a suckling son. I know that the boy is that son.”
The next day one of his friends went to look for the caravan from Balkh. As he came closer to it, he saw in the midst of the caravan a tent pitched. In the tent a throne was set, and the boy was seated on the throne, reciting the Koran and weeping. Ibrahim’s friend asked if he might enter. “Where do you come from?” he enquired. “From Balkh,” the boy replied. “Whose son are you?” The boy put his hand to his face and began to weep. “I have never seen my father, “he said. “Not until yesterday. I do not know whether it was he or not. I am afraid that if I speak he will run away, as he ran away from us before. My father is Ibrahim-e Adham the King of Balkh.
The man took him to bring him to Ibrahim. His mother also went along with him. As soon as she saw Ibrahim she cried aloud and could not control herself. “This is your father.” she said. All the bystanders and friends of Ibrahim bursted into tears. As soon as the boy recovered himself he saluted his father. Ibrahim returned his greeting and took him to his breast. Then Ibrahim would have departed, but the boy would not let go of him. His mother wailed aloud. Turning his face to heaven, Ibrahim cried, “O God,Come to my assistance!” The boy immediately died. When his companions asked Ibrahim about what happened he advised.
When I took him to my breast, love for him stirred in my heart. A voice spoke to me, ‘Ibrahim, you claim to love Me, and you love another along with Me?. Have you attached your heart to that woman and child.’ When I heard this, I prayed, ‘Lord of Glory,come to my assistance! He will so occupy my heart that I shall forget to love Thee. Either take away his life or mine.’ His death was the answer to my prayer.”
The Life of Ibrahim bin Adham
Ibrahim bin Adham was once asked “Since you entered on this path, have you ever experienced happiness?” to which he replied “Several times.”
“Once I was on board ship and the captain did not know me. I was wearing ragged clothes and my hair was untrimmed, I was in a spiritual ecstasy of which all on board were unaware. They laughed at me and ridiculed me. There was a joker on the ship, and every now and then he would come and grab me by the hair and pluck it out and slap me on the neck. In those moments I felt that I had attained my desire, and was very happy to be so humiliated.”
“Suddenly a great wave arose, and all feared that they would perish. ‘We must throw one of these fellows overboard,’ cried the helmsman. ‘Then the ship will be lighter.’ They seized me to throw me into the sea. The wave subsided, and the ship resumed an even keel. That moment when they took me by the ear to throw me into the water, I felt that I had attained my desire, and was happy.”
“On another occasion I went to a mosque to sleep there. They would not let me be, and I was so weak and exhausted that I could not get up. So they seized me by the foot and dragged me out. The mosque had three steps; my head struck against each step in turn, and the blood flowed forth. I felt that I had attained my desire. On each step that they dropped me, the mystery of a whole clime became revealed to me. I said, ‘Would that the mosque had more steps, to increase my felicity!’”
“On another occasion I was wrapt in a state of ecstasy. A joker came and urinated on me. Then too I was happy.”
“On yet another occasion I was wrapped in a fur jacket infested by fleas which devoured me unmercifully. Suddenly I remembered the fine clothes which I haddeposited in the treasury. My soul cried within me, ‘Why, what pain is this?’ Then too I felt that I had attained my desire.”
Ibrahim was travelling in the desert one day when he was stopped by a soldier. “What are you?” the soldier asked. Ibrahim replied that he was a servant. The soldier asked him where the nearest habitation was. Ibrahim pointed to the graveyard. “You are making fun of me,” shouted the soldier, lashing out at Ibrahim’s head. His head was broken, and the blood gushed forth. The soldier put a rope round Ibrahim’s neck and dragged him along. People from the nearby town stopped at the spectacle.
“Ignoramus, this is Ibrahim-e Adham, the friend of God,” they cried. The soldier fell at Ibrahim’s feet and implored him to pardon him and acquit him of the wrong he had done him. “You told me you were a servant,” he pleaded. “Who is there who is not a servant?” Ibrahim replied. “I broke your head, and you prayed for me,” said the soldier. “I prayed that you might be blessed for the way you treated me,” was Ibrahim’s answer. “My reward for the way you treated me was Paradise, and I did not wish that your reward should be Hell.” “Why did you direct me to the cemetery when I asked the way to habitation?” the soldier asked. “Because every day the graveyard becomes more thronged, and the city more deserted,” answered Ibrahim.
One day Ibrahim came to a well. He let down the bucket, and it came up full of gold. He emptied it and let it down again, and it came up full of pearls. In merry mood he emptied it once more. “O God,” he cried, “Thou art offering me a treasury. I know that Thou art all-powerful, and Thou knowest that I shall not be deluded by this. Give me water, that I may make my ablution.”
Demise of Ibrahim bin Adham
Hazrat Ibrahim bin Adham attained unity with the Beloved in Damascus in 162AH. Although some scholars are of the opinion that he was martyred in 165 AH in a naval expedition against Byzantium. On his death a voice was heard proclaiming, “Now has indeed passed away the Imam of the world.”
Quotes & Sayings
5. A man attains the rank of the righteous only after passing through these six steps:
- He must close the door of bounty and open the door of hardships.
- He must close the door of dignity and open the door of humility.
- He must close the door of comfort and open the door of striving.
- He must close the door of sleep and open the door of vigilance.
- He must close the door of wealth and open the door of poverty.
- He must close the door of worldly expectation and open the door of preparedness for death.