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May 2002 Feature
Ibrahim Adham (Ninth Century, Persia)

Abu Ishagh Ibrahim- ibn-Adham was an Amir and Caliph of Balkh.


There are different accounts on how Ibrahim Adham took the journey of the heart. It is seems he did have some mystical experience that led him towards his path, and became one of the outstanding Uwaiysi’s. He lived during the time of Imam Mohammad-ibn-al-Bagher and was one of his disciples. The author of Majales-al-Momenin writes:


Ibrahim chose the way of piety and became a drunk by the Divine love. He sought repentance in an early age, and traveled to Mecca to find the Imam.


At the beginning of his soluk, he sought education and training from Habib Raee. No one really knows of his date of birth but many biographers say that he was a contemporary of Fozeil Ayaz and Sofyan Suri (Majales-al-Momenin), and Abu Yusef Ghosuli (Nafahat-ol-Ons), and great Imam Abu Hanafieh (Tazkerat-ol-Olia), and also Rabia (Tazkerat-ol-Olia). Thus he was a ninth century Sufi. The biographers have mentioned that after leaving his kingdom, he became a watchman in Damascus to earn his living.


Ghosheiri writes in his Resaleh Ghosheirieh that: Ibrahim was born in Balkh, north eastern part of Persia. There are several stories left about Ibrahim.


Once Ibrahim Adham was travelling in a caravan when a lion approached the passengers and stopped the caravan form going forward. People came to Ibrahim and asked him to help to eliminate the lion. Ibrahim stepped towards the lion and addressed him: Lion, if you plan to take away one of us, then do so, otherwise, go away and leave us to ourselves. It is said that the lion turned back and left the caravan. Ghosheiri wrote:


It took him fourteen years to cross a desert to reach Mecca, as he was spending his time asking for God’s mercy and engaging in praying. People of Mecca knew that he was coming and they were waiting to receive him. As the caravan approached Mecca, Ibrahim hurried ahead of the caravan so no one would recognize him. The servants walking in front of the Meccans, saw a man walking in front of the caravan, and asked him: Is Ibrahim in this caravan? As the sheikhs of Kaaba are here to welcome him.


Ibrahim said: What do you want from that infidel?


The servants slapped him on face saying: Do you know whom you are calling an infidel?


Ibrahim said: Yes, I know whom I am calling an infidel, Ibrahim Adham. The servant paid no attention to him, and kept on looking to find Ibrahim!


Ibrahim, then, said to himself: Oh, nafs, did you taste the slap? You wished that the leaders of Mecca come and greet you. Slap was the best reward for such an ego.


Finally the leaders of Mecca knew who he was, they apologized, and Ibrahim stayed in Mecca. He made manyfriends, and found many followers. Yet, he only lived on his own earning. Never on others donations. He earned his living by carrying wood, or gardening.


It is said that some asked him: how is your life? He said: I have three chariots in my life. When I receive, I will sit on the chariot of thankfulness; when there is hardship I will sit on the chariot of patience and when there is worshipping I sit on the chariot of honesty and devotion.


He also said: Once I hired a servant. I asked him: What should I call you? He said: Whatever you like. I asked: What do you eat? He said: Whatever you feed me. I asked What kind of clothing do you want? He said: Whatever you cloth me. I asked: What do you want to do? He said: Anything you command, I have no wish, I am at your service. I thought to myself: have you ever worshipped and served God as this man serving you? Learn from him. And I became so saddened and I cried a great deal because of this recognition (Tazkerat-ol-Olia).


It is narrated that someone asked him for advice. Ibrahim said: Remember God and leave the crowd. Someone else asked for advice and he said: Open the closed and close the open. He said: Please clarify. Ibrahim said: : Open your closed pocket and give to the poor, and close your open mouth and talk less.


Ibrahim said: I was passing a desert praying, and for three days I found nothing to eat. On the third day the devil came and said: You have left your kingdom and all your wealth so you could go in hunger to Hajj? You could have gone to Hajj in luxury. I cried: God, you have appointed an enemy to guard a friend? I shall cross this desert relying only on You. I heard a voice saying: Ibrahim, throw out whatever you have in your pocket so I show you the invisible. I put my hand in my pocket and to my surprise I had three coins that I had forgot. As I threw away the coins, the devil left me and a power reached me from the hidden. Then it became obvious that the devil was nothing but the desires for the world.


Once he was passing by a drunk, he brought some water and washed the mouth of the drunk saying: A mouth that praises God should not be impure. It is disrespectful. When the man woke up, people told him that the pious man of Khorasan had washed his mouth. The man said: As he washed my mouth I also repented from all my mishap. Ibrahim reported of a vision he experienced after this incident. He heard from the hidden that: you washed the mouth of a man for our sake, We baptize your heart.


It is narrated that after leaving his kingdom he said the following prayers:


Oh, Allah, heavens and paradise are nothing in comparing to the blessings and honor You have bestowed upon me; bring me close to Your remembrance and set my thoughts focused towards your greatness.


Oh, Allah, ascend me from this depth of misery to the honor of serving You;


Oh, Allah, whoever knows You, knows that s/he do not know You enough; then what is the destiny of those who do not know you.


He said: The greatest pain is when I go to a town and people recognize me. Then I have to run away from them. I do not know which one is harder, be unknown when hardship strikes, or be known and run away from fame.


He said: I searched for poverty (in Sufi sense) I found richness; people search for wealth, poverty becomes their destination.


On the way towards Allah if you aim for your fame, then you are not honest on the path towards Allah.


Devotion is a truthful intention.


Whoever does not find his heart present in three places, the door to knowledge will remain closed to him: when reciting Qur’an, when remembering Allah, when performing your prayers.


There are characteristics for a knowledgeable person.


He thinks often, he praises Allah often, and he sees the power and beauty of the creation.


He said: On time I am travelling I came across a huge stone. There was a sign on the stone: Turn me and read. So I turned the stone to see what is on the other side. This statement was engraved on the back of the stone: When you do not act according to your knowledge, then how do you expect to act according to what you are ignorant of.


Ibrahim said:


Three veils must fall from your heart until your heart opens towards the wealth of the inner way.


If you are given the wealth of the two worlds; you should not become delighted, as such delight is a sing of greed, and a greedy person is deprived from the divine path. If the two worlds are taken away from you, you should not become miserable, as such misery is a sign of discontent, and a discontented person is tormented. If you fall in the trap of praise, then you have low in aspiration, and on the path of Allah one must have high aspiration.


If you wish to become like great teachers and saints, then do not desire the world and futurity, but only the Divine.


Among his pupils are Ahmad Khazrooyeh and Shaghigh Balkhi. Juneid: Ibrahim is the key to our knowledge.


One of his students was Hazigheh Marashi, he said: Once we taking a pilgrimages to Mecca and for several days we had no food. When we reached Kufa Ibrahim looked at me and said: It seems that hunger has overcome you. I said: Yes, it is as you say. He said: Bring me a pen and a paper. He wrote: In the name of the Almighty Allah, my only Guide. I praise You, I thank You, I remember You, I am bare, I am poor and I am nothing. Of, Allah, of these six qualities, You have the first three, and I the last. If I praise anyone other than You, then my reward would be fire. Help me not to fall into the fire.


He gave me this paper and said: Give this paper to whomever you see first. I left , the first person I saw was a horseman; I gave him the paper. He looked at it and cried and asked: Where is the owner of this paper? I gave him the direction. The horse man gave me some money. I came to Ibrahim and told him the story. Ibrahim said: He will come. After an hour the man came and became a Muslim. (from Ghosheirieh Thesis.)
Motasam asked Ibrahim: What do you do? He said: I have left the world to those who demand it, and the world after to those who seek it, and I have chosen the Almighty over all.


Ibrahim died between the years 160 and 166 in Damascus, and his tomb is near the tomb of Imam Ahmad Hanbal.


During the nights of mid-Shaban, people come from around Damascus and stay around his tomb for three days.


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