The world of Tasawwuf comes alive when we read the about the mesmerizing stories of dervishes. Contrary to modern belief, Sufism is neither a cult nor a well defined religious order. In fact many of the mystics whom we today label as Sufis did not themselves care about such labels. The only thing they cared about was walking on a straight path with love in their hearts for their Creator.
The Sufis, driven by a love for God and an earnest desire to be embraced by His love, endeavored to inculcate virtues cherished by Him. Among these virtues, humility, kindness, and truthfulness were regarded as the keys to God’s affection. The Sufi understanding held that a heart, akin to a house, must be purified before we can expect it to be an abode for the God. This purification involved adhering to God’s commandments—observing prayers, feeding the orphans, and not dreaming of bad desires.
These are the qualities that allow one to become a friend of God in this life itself.
Hazrat Ibrahim ibn Adham was one such humble Sufi. In this Sufi story, let’s go back in time and observe how Ibrahim ibn Adham became a friend of God.
Who Was Ibrahim ibn Adham
Ibrahim ibn Adham was born in Balkh (modern Afghanistan) in around 700 AD in the royal family. He renounced his kingdom and earthly possessions to lead the life of a wandering dervish.
Ibrahim is universally revered as the a muslim saint who truly practiced humility. Living a simple life with his sheep and surviving on the fruits of his labor, Ibrahim’s only yearning was to be always close to Allah.
The Search for Truth: Remorse & Enlightenment
It is said that one day he had gone out hunting and chased a gazelle apart from his comrades. God ordered the gazelle to say, “Have you been created for such a thing? Have you been ordered to behave like this?” Hearing the gazelle speaking thus, Ibrahim repented and entered a life of asceticism and piety, giving up his throne.
The Story of the Slave: Humility & Devotion
Ibrahim ibn Adham is said to have once told this story:
“I once bought a slave.
“What is your name?” I asked him. “What you call me,” he answered.
“What do you eat?”
“What you give me.”
“What do you wear?”
“What you clothe me with.”
“What do you do?”
“What you command.”
“What do you desire?”
“What has a servant to do with desire?” he replied.
At this Ibrahim started crying down. “Oh, what a miserable creature I am,” he said to himself. “All my life I thought I was being a slave of God, but I never learned the meaning of the word ‘slave’ until now!”
Ibrahim ibn Adham’s life exemplifies his extreme humility in his devotion to God.
Mevlana Rumi was born in Balkh about 500 years after Ibrahim ibn Adham. He has written a detailed biography of Ibrahim bin Adham. Following are a few verses from Ibrahim’s detailed biography written by Mevlana Jalaluddin Rumi.
“He bowed in obeisance and went away sobbing and devastated. He became crazed from love of the opening of the door to ecstasy, So, what are you occupied with, O you? With whom are you engaged in quarrel and in envy?”
– The Miracles of Ibrahim son of Adham, by Rumi.
References about Ibrahim ibn Adham
Poem about Ibrahim ibn Adham: https://www.poemhunter.com/poem/abou-ben-adhem-2/
Ibrahim Adham in Wiki: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ibrahim_ibn_Adham
The Miracles of Ibrahim, Son of Adham: http://www.dar-al-masnavi.org/n.a-II-3207.html