Ibrâhîm ibn Ádham. Continued from Part One "The First Sufis". Risala al-Qushayri

Ibrahim Ibn Adham fed by angels in the wilderness
late 17th century


Color and gold on paper
H: 23.8 W: 16.9 cm

Gift of Charles Lang Freer, F1907.198

Ibrâhîm ibn Ádham was born in Balj (Afghanistan) and was the son of kings. One day he went out for a riding, thing so usual among aristocracy. While he was after a fox (or a hare, according to other sources), some mysterious voice coming up from inside himself told him: " So... you have been created just to do this, Ibrâhîm?" And another voice, this time coming from somewhere around the place he was in said: " You have not been created just to do this!" So, he stepped down his horse and afterwards he saw a young shepherd caring after the cattle. Ibrâhîm gave him his royal tunic, his horse and everything he wore in exchange of a cloak made in wool and retired to the desert. After having spent some time there, he went to Mecca and consecrated to the teachings of Sufyân az-Záuri and al-Fudáil ibn ‘Iyâd. Finally he went to Siria, and that was the place where he died.
Since the first moment he decided to follow the Sufi path, his only sustenance came from his work. He dedicated his working time to gather seeds, working the field and gardening. One day, while he was on the desert, he came to meet a man who told him the "Uppermost name of God" (al-Ism al-Á‘zam), and he invoked this Name. And then, he saw Al-Jidr, who told him that it was prophet David ((Dâwûd) who had transmitted it. Ibrâhîm ibn Ádham was very severe in regards to the practice of Wára‘, consisting in the scrupules that divert muslims from the Harâm, refraining from all the things that the Sharî‘a considers illicit, and even many licit actions (Mubâh), Ibrâhîm refrained from doing them from fear that it would make him forget his dedication to Allah. He used to say: "Be your feed the fruit of your honest work, and do not worry if your prayers in the night are not many or if you do not fast with the intensity that you would like..."

One of his invocations was "Allahuma, transport me from the humiliation that represents the fact of disobeying you to the pride for submiting to you." Ibrâhîm ibn Ádham said one day to a man who was doing the circular steps (Tawâf) around the Ka'aba: "You will not attain the degree of the Sâlihîn until you have stepped on six slopes: the first one means that you must close the door to happiness and open the one to calamities; the second meand that you must close the door to the pride and open the door to humility; the third means that you must close the door to rest and open the one to severity; the fourth means that you must close the door to sleep and open the one to insomnia; the fifth is that you must close the door to weatlh and open the one to poorness; the sixth means that you must close the door to hope and open the one that prepares you to embrace death.

One day he was taking care of a vineyard and a soldier passed by Ibrâhîm ibn Ádham and asked him to give him a bunch of grapes. " The owner of this vineyard put me to care for it", Ibrâhîm replied, and the soldier took out his whip and started floggin him. Ibrâhîm took all that pain saying: "Yes, yes!, whip this slave's face who never stops serving his Lord." Finally the soldier stopped when he got tired and let Ibrâhîm in peace.

Sahl said that once he travelled with Ibrâhîm ibn Ádham. Sahl felt ill and Ibrâhîm spent all his money to care after him. While Sahl was deluring, he asked for something and Ibrâhîm sold his donkey in order to get the money and buy what Sahl asked for. When Sahl recovered, he asked Ibrâhîm where the donkey was, as they were getting ready to pursue their trip. "I sold it", Ibrâhîm replied. "Then, how are we going to travel now?", Sahl asked. And then Ibrâhîm put Sahl on his shoulders and walked for three journeys this way.

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