Abu Ishaq Ibrahim bin Adham, From the Risala of Imam Abu l-Qasim al-Qushayri

Abu Ishaq Ibrahim bin Adham

From the Risala of Imam Abu l-Qasim al-Qushayri

He – may God be pleased with him – came from the region of Balkh. He was a son of a king. Once he set out on a hunting trip. As he stirred up a fox or a rabbit and set out to chase it, he heard a voice: “O Ibrahim, were you created for this or commanded to do this?” Then he heard the voice again, from behind the saddle bow, saying: “By God, you were not created for this and you were not commanded to do this!” He dismounted from his horse. He then came across a shepherd of his father’s, took his woolen shirt and put it on and gave away all his belongings and the horse to the shepherd. Then he began wandering in the desert until he arrived in Mecca, where he attached himself to Sufyan al-Thawri and al-Fudayl bin ‘Iyad.11 After that he journeyed to Syria and died there. He lived by the toil of his hands, such as harvesting, guarding the orchards and so on. [Once] in the desert he met a man who taught him the greatest name of God. After [the man] left, he called upon God by this name and saw al-Khadir, who told him: “My brother [the prophet] David has just taught you God’s greatest name.”

This story was related to us by Shaykh Abu ‘Abd al-Rahman al-Sulami – may God have mercy on him. He said: Muhammad b. al-Husayn Ibn al-Khashshab said: Abu al-Hasan ‘Ali b. Muhammad al-Misri said: Abu Sa’id al-Kharraz said: Ibrahim b. Bashshar said: “I was accompanying Ibrahim b. Adham. Once I told him: ‘Tell me about the beginning of your affair.’ He then recounted this [story] to me.”Ibrahim b. Adham was particularly famous for his pious scrupulosity. It is told that he said: “Watch carefully what you eat, and then there will be no harm for you in not staying awake during the night or fasting during the day!” His most common prayer was: “O God, remove me from the disgrace of disobedience to You to the glory of obedience to You!” Someone said to Ibrahim b. Adham: “Meat has become expensive!” He answered: “Make it cheaper”, that is, “Do not buy it.” He then recited the following verse: When something becomes too expensive for me, I abandon it.

Therefore the more expensive it becomes, the cheaper it is [for me]. Muhammad b. al-Husayn – may God have mercy on him – said: I heard Mansur in. ‘Abdallah say: I heard Muhammad b. Hamid say: I heard Ahmad bin Khadrawayh (Khidruya) say: Ibrahim bin Adham said to a man who was performing a circumambulation [of the KaΠba]: “Know that you will not attain the rank of the righteous until you have climbed six mountain peaks. First, you must shut the door of pleasant life and open the door of hardship. Second, you must shut the door of [self] glorification and open the door of humility.

Third, you must shut the door of quiet and open the door of self-exertion. Fourth, you must shut the door of sleep and open the door of vigil. Fifth, you must shut the door of wealth and open the door of poverty.

Sixth, you must shut the door of hope and open the door of readiness for death.” [Once] Ibrahim b. Adham was guarding a vineyard. A soldier who was passing by told him: “Give me some of those grapes!” Ibrahim b. Adham replied:

“The owner forbade me [to do this].” The soldier began to lash him with his whip. Ibrahim b. Adham lowered his head and said: “Beat this head, for it disobeys God often!” On hearing this soldier was unable to continue the beating and departed. Sahl bin Ibrahim said: “I was a companion of Ibrahim b. Adham. When I became ill, he spent all his wages on me. When I felt craving for some food, he sold his donkey and spent all of its cost on me. When I began to recover, I asked him: ‘Ibrahim, where is the donkey?’ He answered: ‘I sold it.’ I told him: ‘What shall I be riding on?’ He said: ‘On my neck, my brother!’ And he carried me for three way-stations.”

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