Either call me urgently to your door,
Or ensure that Allah grants my wishes.
With hands folded do I stand pleading.
Salutations to you, Oh leader of the saints!
Khwaja Ibrahim Bin Adham Badshah.
Hazrat Ibrahim bin Adham r.a was one of the pivotal figures in the early history of the Chishtiya Silsilah, a saint of devotion and great fame. He is the earliest documented of the great Persian Sufis, a prince of Balkh whose renounced his earthy throne for a spiritual kingdom. His epic conversion to the mystic way has been no inaptly compared to the legend of the Buddha. He is described in the Kashf-al-Mahjub as, “unique in this path; the chieftain of his contemporaries, and a disciple of al-Khidr.”
Stories enough are told of this saint to fill several volumes-indeed there are at least six extant biographies of his life—but of all these, the legend of his rebirth as a Sufi is one of the classic tales of Muslim history.
One, night, asleep on his royal couch, he was awakened by the wound of someone walking on his roof. Irritably he demanded to know what the person thought he was doing. He was told, “I am a friend. I have lost my camel, and am searching for it.” “Fool!” he cried, “Do you search for your camel on a roof?” The reply he received filled him with terror and bewilderment. “Oh heedless one!” came the voice, “do you search for God in silken clothes, and upon a golden couch?”
Visions followed by day, with visitations at night, increasing his confusion and anguish until he could no longer bear it. He decided to go hunting, in order to banish these tormenting pursuers; but while doing so he was separated from his retinue. Four times he heard a voice crying, “Awake!” but he steadfastly ignored it. At the fourth cry he spied a deer and prepared to give chase. However, the deer turned around and spoke to him,” You can not hunt me; I have been sent to hunt you. Was it for this that you were created, and is this what you have been commanded?” At this last revelation Ibrahim r.a gave a great cry and made sincere repentance. The heavens were opened to him; he exchanged his royal garb and princely steed for the poor man’s ragged clothes. “What a kingdom has come to the son of Adham !” exclaimed the angels, “ he has cast away the filthy garments of this world and donned the glorious robes of poverty.”
Hazrat Ibrahim Adham r.a left the lands of men to concentrate on spiritual discipline. He made a cave upon High Mountain his adobe for nine years, dwelling there alone by night. Every Friday he would collect a bundle of firewood to sell in Nishapur. After Jummah, he would buy a loaf of bread and give half to a beggar, using the other half to break his fast in the evening. His fame spread inexorably, and he decided to perform Hajj—partly to escape the attention.
As he approached the city, he saw the great crowd approaching. “The elders of the city have come to greet Ibrahim bin Adham r.a he was told, for no-one recognized him. “ What do you want with that heretic?” he cried. Upon saying this, of course, he was set upon and beaten. He settled in Makah, becoming a murid of Hazrat Fuzail bin Ayaz upon receiving divine inspiration. He remained there, working as a humble cleaner of the Kaabah for fifty years, and a circle of disciples formed around him. One man who greatly admired and respected him was none other than Imam Abu Hanifah r.a . The great khwaja Junaid al-Baghdadi said, “ Ibrahim is the key to the mystical sciences.” He had two major Khulafah: Khwaja Huzaifa al-Maraashi ad Khwaja Shaqiq al-Balkhi.
Now when Hazrat Ibrahim r.a had renounced his kingdom, he had left behind a young son. That child, now grown to a pious young man, decided to perform the pilgrimage in the hope of meeting his father. He came upon his father selling bread in the market, and brought his mother to confirm his suspicions. As soon as she saw him, she cried, “this is your father!” pandemonium erupted; all the bystanders and his companions burst into tears. Ibrahim r.a himself in tears, called his son to him. He embraced him, and the boy would not let go. After discovering that he was a pious Muslim and a scholar besides, Hazrat Ibrahim r.a turned his face heavenward and cried,” Oh Lord, save me!” Immediately his son fell down dead. He explained that at the moment he embraced his son, he felt love stir in his heart, and had heard Allah tell him, “You claim to love Me, but you love another along with Me.” So he had prayed, “Lord of Glory, save me! He will so occupy my heart that I will forget to love You. Either take his life away, or mine.”
- Once a man bought Ibrahim r.a a thousand dirhams; but he was told, “ I do not accept anything from beggars.” “ But I am wealthy,” the man protested. “ Do you want more than you have?” asked the saint. “ Of course!” replied the man, to which Hazrat Ibrahim r.a answered , then you are the chief of beggars ! Indeed, this is not beggary, but abject destitution.”
- Hazrat Ibrahim r.a let down a bucket into a well; it came up filled with gold. He emptied it and let it down again; this time it returned full of pearls. Once again he emptied it. “ Oh Allah.” He laughed, “ You are offering me a treasury. Give me water, that I might make my wudhu !”
- He once said, “ to attain the rank of salihin, first close the door of plenty and open the door of hardship. Second, shut the door of respect and open the door of disgrace. Next, close the door of comfort and open that of hardship. Then, close the door of sleep for that of wakefulness. Lastly, close the door of wealth and open the door of poverty.”
- People asked him once why their duas were not accepted. He replied, “ you know Allah, but you do not worship him. You eat his bounties, but you do not give thanks. You make no preparations to attain Janat and avoid Jahanam. You know that death is coming, but you remain unconcerned. You bury your dead, but learn no lesson from it. You know you have defects, but you search for faults in others. How can your duaas be accepted?
- “Take Allah as your companion, and leave mankind behind.”
- “Companionship of Allah is sincerity in fulfilling his commands, and sincerity in devotion springs from purity od love; and purity in love springs from hatred of Passion and lust.”
- Ibrahim r.a narrates that once he bought a slave. “What is your name?” he asked. “Whatever you command,” was the reply. Finally Ibrahim r.a asked, “But what do you desire?” The answer filled him with awe, for the slave asked, “What does a slave know of desire?” “Wretch that you are!” cried Ibrahim r.a to himself, “ all your life have you called yourself a servant of God. Now learn what it means to be a servant!”
Hazrat Ibrahim bin Adham r.a attained unity with 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”