Ibrahim ibn Adham ibn Mansour ibn Gaber Al-Agli, born in Balakh, Afghanistan and known as Al-Tamimi, was one of the pillars among the ulama (scholars) of Sunni Sufism in the second century of the Islamic calendar.
As quoted in the book ‘Ibrahim ibn Adham’ by the former head of Al-Azhar Abdel-Halim Mahmoud, Ibn Adham believed that “whoever knows himself will be focused on refining himself, and whoever knows god will be focused on God alone.”
“Poverty [on earth] will translate into great wealth in heaven, the equivalent to submission to Allah in God’s eyes, which God only grants to those he loves.”
According to legend, Ibn Adham, the son of a king, was on a hunting trip when he heard a disembodied voice saying “I swear to God, you are not meant to lead such a life, and this is not your call in life.”
So Ibn Adham dismounted his horse, gave his mount and clothes to a poor shepherd, and headed to Mecca where he befriended asceticism pioneers Sifan Al-Thawri and Al-Fadil ibn Ayad. He later headed to the Levant, where he stayed for the remainder of his life.
This legend resembles that of the Buddha (which means “the wise one” or “the enlightened”).
The Buddha, also known as Siddhārtha Gautama, left his palace in search of knowledge, and also chose another path in life after a hunting expedition.
The Buddha, after striking the swan he was hunting, regretted his action after seeing the swan’s blood, even after his father healed the swan and set it free, as recounted in ‘The Book of Buddha’ by Mohamed Abdel-Aziz Al-Zaki.
On the Sufi values of being grateful and accepting, Ibn Adham said that “the heart has three coats; happiness, sadness and contentedness. If you are happy with what you have, then you are an eager person, and he who is eager is deprived.If you are sad over what you lost, then you are a bitter person, and he who is bitter feels tortured. If you concerned with praise, then you seek admiration, and seeking spoils your work; and the proof is in the holy words of the Quran: ‘do not despair over what you missed, and do not be overjoyed with what was given to you’.”Ibn Adham was a quite thoughtful and often silent person who was disengaged from the worldly concerns of love, fame, money and power. He was very keen on serving God, and always promoted hard work and perfecting one’s craft.
Ibn Adham was a gardener and farmer who supported many of his underprivileged friends.
According to the book ‘Whose Prayers Are Answered’ by medieval Imam Abu Bakr Ibn Mohamed Abi Al-Donia (208 – 281 hijri), Bakkia Ibn Waleed, an eyewitness, recounted an incident where Ibn Adham was aboard a ship facing a huge tempest. When he was asked to pray to God to save the ship from the storm, Ibn Al-Adham said, “Oh God, you have shown us your power, so please show us your mercy,” and so the tempest suddenly stopped.
Ibn Adham died in Gabla, Syria in 776 AD, and his tomb has been a shrine since.