Ibrahim Adham Abu Ishaq Ibrahim Adham was born in Balkh in Khurasan, now northwest Iran, in the ninth century. For a time, Ibrahim Adham was the governing Prince of Balk, living in a luxurious palace with soldiers who carried swords and shields made of gold. After a great revolution within him, Ibrahim Adham left his princedom, choosing the way of devotion to God and denial of worldly things. Based on his many experiences, he became a renowned and dedicated Sufi. In The Book of Sufism, A. J. Arberry related the following story, originally documented in the book Helyatollolah by Abu Nahim. This story describes the experience that led Ibrahim to abandon his wealth and power as a prince in favor of a path of devotion… One night when Ibrahim was sleeping in his luxurious palace decorated in silk, gold and gemstones, he heard footsteps on the roof. Surprised by the steps, Ibrahim asked who was there. A voice replied, “A friend.” Ibrahim asked the voice what it was doing up there, to which the voice answered, “I am looking for my camel.” Ibrahim declared, “It is strange that you are looking for a camel on the roof of my palace.” The voice said, “It is strange that you are in a palace asking for God.” This experience greatly affected Ibrahim, who could not sleep for much of the night. He understood the event as a sign from God. It bothered him that as long as he remained attached to the wealth and luxury that surrounded him, his prayers to God would be futile.
By Safa Ali Michael Newman
When he awoke the night morning, Ibrahim was still disturbed by the experience of the night. He went to the audience room of his palace and carried on with his usual schedule until a stranger pushed his way into the palace with such force that the guards were afraid to throw him out. The stranger went directly to find Ibrahim. “What are you doing here,” Ibrahim cried. The stranger told Ibrahim the palace was “not a palace but a cemetery,” and asked Ibrahim from whom he had inherited such a place. Ibrahim told the stranger that he had inherited that palace from his father and several others from his generation, all of whom had passed away. Upon hearing this, the intruder replied: “Then this palace is a cemetery! Why are you holding onto something so tightly that will not remain in your possession forever?” Then the man, known as Kezr, the hidden prophet, disappeared from sight. After the stranger left, Ibrahim could no longer stay in the palace. He knew that God was sending him signals, but he did not know what he was supposed to do. Ibrahim sent for his horse and rode out into the fields to hunt. As he approached an antelope it began to speak to him in a pleasant manner: “Wast thou created for the world, or wast though commanded to do this?” With this, Ibrahim’s search for Divinity and devotion to God began to resound deeper within him. He left his luxurious palace for good to focus on his spiritual journey. Ibrahim described: Once I looked in the mirror and saw my palace as my grave. I saw myself all alone with a long journey ahead, with no proviSufism: An Inquiry Vol XVI, No. 2