A man went to Ibrahim ibn Adham (may Allah be pleased with him) and said:
‘O Abu Ishaq! I transgress against myself by committing sins. Inform me of a deterrent that will deliver my heart.’
Ibrahim (may Allah be pleased with him) said: ‘If you accept five practices and remain steadfast on them, nothing will harm and no sinful pleasure will destroy you:
1. If you want to disobey Allah, then don’t eat from His provisions
2. If you want to disobey Allah, then don’t live in a place that He owns.
3. And if you (are such an ingrate) and still wish to disobey Him, then find a place where you can do so inconspicuously.
4. When the Angel of Death arrives, ask him to delay taking your soul for a while so that you are able to make a sincere repentance and perform some good deeds for Allah. The angel will not grant you your desire and will immediately dispatch your soul to the next world.
5. When the angels of Hell come to escort you to Hell, don’t follow them. You will not be able to resist.
The man said: ‘Enough, enough Ibrahim. I will make a sincere repentance right now.’ The man did so and stayed with Ibrahim until his death separated them. (Muwaqif Mushriqah Fi Hayatis Salaf:15)
Fudail ibn Ayad (May Allah be pleased with him) used to be a highway robber and was madly in love with a young woman. One night as he as scaling the walls of the young woman’s house, he heard someone reciting the following verse ‘Is it not time for believers to subject their hearts to the remembrance of Allah.’
Fudail was so taken in by that verse that he immediately repented and spent that night in a derelict place nearby. Later in the night, he heard a few travelers shout: ‘Beware! Fudail is ahead of you. He will rob you!’ Fudail shouted: ‘Fudail has repented!’ He promised the travelers safe passage. Fudail became a beacon of guidance and his sayings are still quoted today. (Muqawqif Mushriqah Fi Hayatis Salaf:24)
Malik ibn Dinar (may Allah be pleased with him) was asked about the reason behind his repentance. He said: ‘I use to be a policeman and an alcoholic. I then acquired a maid who was very good to me. She bore a daughter of ours to whom I became very attached. I became even fonder of her when she started to crawl. Whenever I used to serve myself wine, she would come and drag my tumbler away from me and spill everything over my clothes. Our daughter died when she turned 2 and I was devastated. The 15th of Shaban came along that year on a Friday. I went to sleep drunk and without offering my prayers. I saw in a dream that the Day of Judgment had come about; the Trumpet was blown; graves were resurrected about people were gathered and I was among them. I heard a hissing noise behind. I turned around and saw that I was being approached by a huge black and blue snake. I started to run away as fast as I could tremble with fear. I then encountered an old man who was well dressed and wore good perfume. I greeted him and asked him to help me. The old man cried and said that he was very weak and the snake was much stronger than him. However, he did tell me to keep on running in the hope that I would find something that would save me from the snake. I continued to run and climbed on top of an elevated area. I found myself on top of a valley of fire. The horror of the fire alone made me almost fall into it. Then, I heard someone shouting: ‘Get away from there. You don’t belong there.’ I found security in that shout and ran further with the snake still at my heels. I found the old man again and pleaded with him to help. Again, he started to cry and say that he was very weak and that the snake was far stronger than he. Then, the old man directed me towards a hill where he said I might find a deposit of mine that could help me. I looked at the hill, which was circular and made of silver. In the hill were pierced windows and hanging curtains. Every window had two golden panels and each panel was adorned with silk curtains. I quickly ran towards the hill. An angel then cried: ‘Raise the curtains. Open the panels and look. Perhaps this afflicted person has some sort of deposit here that can help him.’ I then saw faces of small children who were like small moons peeping out from the windows. Then one of them shouted: ‘What’s wrong with you all. Come quickly. His enemy has almost come upon him.’ So they came and looked from their windows – hundreds of them. Then, I saw the face of my daughter who had died. When she saw me, she cried and said, ‘By Allah! That is my father.’ She then shot out of the window like an arrow from a bow and jumped into a pool of light (Nur). She then appeared in front of me and extended one of her hands to me. I grabbed and hung onto her. She put her other hand in front of the snake and drove it away. She then made me sit down and sat herself in my lap, stroked her right hand through my beard and said:
O father, Is it not time for believers to subject their hearts to the remembrance of Allah. I started to cry and asked how she knew the Quran. She said they (the children) knew more than they (in the world) did. I then asked her about the snake that ran after me. She explained that it represented my bad deeds, which would drive me into Hell. I then inquired about the old man. She said he was my good deeds, which had become so weak that they were unable to defend me against my bad deeds. I then asked what they were doing inside this hill. She informed me that they were the deceased children of Muslims waiting for their parents on the Day of Judgment. Malik said: ‘I woke up in a fright. I smashed all my wine containers and repented. This was how I repented.’ (Ibid:49)
Malik Ibn Dinar (may Allah be pleased with him) says that he was once walking through an alley of Basra when he saw a beautiful regal maid riding and being escorted by several servants. Malik called out to her and said: ‘O maid! Will your master sell you?’
‘How can you say that old man?’ she replied.
‘Will your master sell you?’ Malik asked again.
‘If he does, are the likes of you going to buy?’ she asked.
‘Yes! Even better than you.’
She laughed and asked her servants to escort Malik to her quarters. On arriving at her place, the maid informed her master who also laughed and asked to see Malik. Malik was brought in and had an immediate impact on the master. ‘What do you want?’ the master asked him.
‘Sell me your maid.’ Malik said
‘Can you afford to buy her?’
‘To me she is worth no more than two rotten date pits.’
Everybody in the room burst into laughter. ‘How can her price be that,’ they all asked mockingly. ‘Because she has so many defects.’ Malik retorted.
‘And just what might her defects be?’
‘If she does not wear perfume her perspiration stinks,’ said Malik. ‘If she does not brush her teeth, her teeth give off foul odor. If she does not groom her hair, it becomes infested with lice and disheveled. If she lives for a few more years, she will become an old woman. She menstruates, urinates and defecates. Perhaps she only likes you for selfish reasons. She probably isn’t loyal to you and if you die before her, he will find someone else just like you. I am in a position to buy for much cheaper than you want for your maid, a maid whose constitution is of pure camphor: if she were to mix her expectorate in salty, bitter water, it would become sweet; if she were to speak to the dead, they would respond to the melody of her voice. If she raised her hand towards the sun, it would lose it shine; if she appeared at night, it would radiate with light and if she confronted the horizon with her dresses and jewelry, she would adorn it (the horizon). She is a maid who has been nurtured in musk and saffron; raised in gardens and suckled by the waters of Tasneem (Waters of Paradise). She will never be disloyal and her love for you will never falter. Which one of these maids is more deserving of a price?’ Malik concluded.
‘The one you described.’ The master conceded.
‘Then you should know that she is very affordable and accessible.’
‘What is her price? May Allah have mercy on you.’
‘Very cheap. Spare a moment at night and offer two units of prayer with sincerity. You place food in front of you, think of the hunger and sacrifice your craving for lavish food (and feed the hungry). Remove stones (impediments) and dirt (obstacles) from the road. Spend the reminder of your life on bare necessities. Remove your worries of this world of oblivion so that you may live in this world with the honor of an abstemious person, go tomorrow to the station of dignity in peace and dwell in Paradise forever.’
The master turned to the maid and asked: ‘O maid! Have you listened to what our man has said?’ ‘Yes.’ She replied.
‘Has he spoken the truth, or is he merely telling a tale.’
‘No, he has spoken the truth. He has been kind and offered advice.’
The master then exclaimed: ‘If that is the case, then you are free for the sake of Allah. And such and such property is yours. And all your servants around me, you are all free and you may have such and such properties. This house is mine and everything in it is a charity in the path of Allah.’
He then ripped a piece of rough curtain cloth and replaced his expensive clothes with the curtain cloth.
The maid remarked: ‘I have no life after you, my master.’
She also took off her attire and replaced it with some rough clothing and set off with her master. Malik saw them off: he took one route and they took another. (Kitabul Taibeen Minal Mulook Was Salateen:14)
Sulaiman Ibn Khalida says that a young girl of an old lady was mentioned to Hisham Ibn Abdul Malik (The Khalifah in Damascus 105 AH). This young girl was renowned for her beauty, good manners, and recitation of the Quran and prolific poetry. Hisham sent orders by post to the governor of Kufa to have the girl bought for whatever her owner (The old lady) asked for and then to have her immediately sent to him. He sent along a servant for her. When the governor received the letter, he sent for the old lady who sold the girl for 2,000 Dhirhams and a date orchard which would yield five hundred Mithqal (A unit of weight) of dates every year. The governor dressed the girl in royal clothing and sent her to Hisham.
Hisham gave her, her own quarters and an escort of servants, presented her with some precious jewels and extravagant clothing. One day while Hisham was with her on a luxurious balcony which was enhanced with cushions and perfume, she related some intriguing stories to him and composed some poems. Suddenly, there were cries for help. Hisham looked over the balcony and saw a hearse accompanied by people.
Behind the procession was a group of mourning women. One mourner cried out loud: ‘O you who are being carried on wooden sticks; you who are being taken to the dead; you are who about to be left alone in your grave and you who are about to be made a stranger in your resting place. O you who are being transferred. If only I knew whether you are telling those who are carrying you to hurry up, or whether you are asking them where they are taking you and to take you back.’
Hisham started to weep, discarded his pleasure and started to say: ‘Death is admonition enough.’
Ghadid (The girl) said: ‘This mourner has broken my heart.’
Hisham said: ‘It is a very serious matter.’ And called the servant. He came down from the balcony and left.
Ghadid remained stuck to her couch. That night she dreamt that someone came to her and said: ‘You are flattered by your beauty and you lure with your charm. How will you be when the trumpet is blown (On the Day of Judgment); when people are resurrected and then confronted with their actions.’
Ghadid woke frightened and drank something to pacify herself. She then called upon one of her servants and asked her to prepare a bath for her. After her bath, she got rid of her jewels and clothes and wore a woolen Jalabiyah and tied a string around her waist. She took a cane with a bag over it and stormed into Hisham’s room.
Hisham did not recognize her. ‘I am Ghadid, your girl,’ she said. ‘A warner came to me and his warning shook me. You have had your pleasure with me. I have come to ask you to free me from the slavery of this world.’
‘There is so much difference between those who seek pleasure. You are with your pleasure, so go you are free for the sake of Allah. But where do you intend to go?’ Hisham inquired.
‘I want to visit the House of Allah,’ she replied.
‘Go,’ replied Hisham. ‘No one will be in your way.’ She left the capital and arrived in Mecca where she remained in fasting during the day like a gazelle in its den. When night came she would perform Tawaf of the Kaba and say: ‘O my treasure you are my provision. Don’t cut off my hope; grant me my wish; make good my return and be generous in giving me reward.’
She became very famous and died worshipping. May Allah have mercy upon her. (Ibid:22)
Ibrahim Ibn Bashshar, the protégé of Ibrahim Ibn Adham (May Allah be pleased with him) says that he asked Ibrahim about the beginning of his quest to serve Allah. Ibrahim said:
‘My father was a king of Balkh (Central Khurasan). We used to love hunting. I went out one day on my horse accompanied by my dog. Suddenly a rabbit or a fox jumped up and agitated my horse. Then, I heard a voice from behind me saying, “You have not been created for this; nor have you been ordered to do this (hunting for pleasure).”
I looked around me left and right but I did not see anybody. I cursed the Devil and continued to ride. But then, my horse started to shake again and I heard the same voice saying the same thing. I looked around and found no one so I cursed the devil again and tried to continue. But my horse would not stop trying to shake me off. Then, I heard a voice from beneath my saddlebow calling me by name and saying: “O Ibrahim! You have not been created for this; nor have you been ordered to do this.”
So I stopped and realized that a warner from the Lord of the Worlds had come to wake me up from my state of oblivion. I vowed not to disobey my Lord from this day, lest He does not protect me. Then I returned to my family. I went to see one of my father’s shepherds and exchanged my clothes for this long shirt and blanket. Then I traveled across the mountains and valleys to Iraq. I worked there for a few days but I was not satisfied with the purity of my earnings. I asked a learned person about this and he told me to go to Syria. I did so and reached a town called Al-Mansoora (or Maseesah). But even here, I am not satisfied with the purity of my earnings. Another learned person told me to go to Tarsoos where there was said to be plenty of work and good pure earnings. I went there and sat on the beach when a man came and hired me to be a warden many days until one day a servant came along with many friends and shouted: “O warden!”
I went over to him. He asked me to bring him the biggest pomegranate. I went and brought him the biggest pomegranate. He cut it and found it very sour and complained. “Warden! You have been here in our orchard for so many days, but yet you don’t know the difference between a good pomegranate and a sour one?”
I told him I had never tasted any of the fruits I guarded. The servant pointed towards his companions and said: “Did you hear what he said? He couldn’t have said anything more if he were Ibrahim Ibn Adham.”
The servant left and discussed me in the Masjid the next day. One person recognized who I was. The servant came to the orchard with a large contingent of people. I hid amongst the trees and scampered as soon as I had the chance to do so. This was the beginning of my quest and this is how I left Tarsoos to travel the desert. (Ibid:29)
Abdullah ibn Faraj (May Allah be pleased with him) says that he was in need of a handyman for his house whom he could pay daily. So he went to the bazaar and found a pale young boy wearing a woolen shirt tied with a woolen belt and had a big basket and a rope in his hands. Abdullah asked him if he would be willing to work. The boy said yes and asked to be paid one Dhirham and one Daniq (1/6th of a Dirham). The boy also stipulated that he would discontinue work and prepare for prayers when the Adhan of Zuhr was given and likewise at time of Asr. Abdullah agreed and took him to his house where he showed him what he had to do. The boy worked well with his hands and did not speak until the Adhan for Zuhr was given. He reminded Abdullah of the condition. Abdullah told him to leave. The boy went, offered his prayers and came back to work until Asr. The boy went for Asr, came back and worked until the end of the day. The boy left when Abdullah gave him his wages.
After a few days, Abdullah needed some work done again. His wife told him to find the very same boy because he was good and honest. Abdullah went in search of the boy but did not find him. On inquiring, the people told him that he only worked on Saturdays and that he was a loner. Abdullah waited for Saturday to come and found the boy. The boy agreed to work on the same conditions. At the end of the day’s work, Abdullah offered the boy extra wages. The boy was very displeased and left. Abdullah ran after him and begged him to take at least what he had asked for. He did so and left.
Sometime later, Abdullah needed to hire the boy again. He waited for Saturday to come and went to the bazaar. He did not find the boy there. Someone told him that the boy spent one Daniq every day but had been taken ill. Abdullah found out where he lived and went to visit him. He was staying in the house of an old woman. He found the boy sleeping with his head resting on a brick.
‘Do you need anything?’ Asked Abdullah.
‘Yes,’ replied the boy, ‘If you accept.’
Abdullah said he would.
‘When I die,’ the boy continued, ‘sell my rope, wash my shirt and belt and then bury me in them. Look inside the pocket of my shirt. There is a ring in it. Wait until the day Harun-al-Rashid (The Khalifah at the time) comes to town. Stand in a place where he can see you and then approach him and show him the ring. But do this after you have buried me.’
Abdullah agreed to do so. When the boy died, Abdullah did as the boy requested. When Harun-al-Rashid came to town, he went to see him, informed him that he had a trust for him and waved the ring.
Harun summoned Abdullah to his quarters. When Abdullah went, Harun excused everybody from his presence and asked Abdullah who he was and where he got the ring from. Abdullah answered both questions, Harun heard the long story of the boy and wept so much that Abdullah started to feel sorry for him. ‘O leader of the believers!’ Abdullah addressed the Khalifa. ‘Who was this boy to you?’
‘He was my son!’ The Khalifah exclaimed.
‘How did he become like that?’
‘He was born before I became entrusted with the Khalifah. He was brought up very well and was well educated in the Quran and other sciences. When I assumed the Khalifah, he left and did not care for any of my worldly belongings. He was very fond of his mother so I gave her this expensive sapphire ring to give to him. He took the ring very reluctantly. His mother passed away and you are the only person who has informed me of him. You will take me to his grave tonight.’
Abdullah took Harun to his son’s grave. Harun wept for a long time and remained there until dawn. Harun asked Abdullah to stay with him a few days so that he could visit the grave at nights.
Abdullah did not know that the boy was the son of Harun until Harun himself told him. (Ibid:37)