Ibrahim bin Adham against Disobedience

A believer’s journey in faith often takes twists and turns and falls one too many. But in the end, with his knowledge, love and sincerity for the Cause of God, he must still stand and be counted among those who strove for Allah’s mercy and forgiveness amidst his personal weaknesses and failings. The anecdote presented hereunder is from the life of the famous successor of the companions of Muhammad, on whom be peace, and helps in our understanding of the commitments that go into the making of a true Muslim.


man came to Ibrahim b. Adham, may Allah be pleased with him, and said, “Abu Ishaq, I am unable to control myself. Please give me something to help me with it.”

“If you accept five conditions,” said Ibrahim, “and are able to put them into practice, your disobedience will not cause you any problem.”

“Just tell me what they are, Abu Ishaq,” the man said.

Ibrahim told him thus: “The first is that when you want to disobey Allah, you do not eat anything He provides.”

“Then how will I get anything to eat? Everything on the earth is from Him!” said the man.

“So is it right to eat His provision and disobey Him at the same time?” asked Ibrahim.

“No, it is not. What is the second condition?” the man asked next.

Ibrahim went on: “When you want to disobey him, move off His land.”

“That is even more difficult,” exclaimed the man. “In that case, where will I live?”

“Is it right to eat his provision and live on His land and then to disobey Him?” asked Ibrahim.

“No, it is not.” The man agreed.

“What is the third condition?” asked the man in some despair.

Ibrahim continued: “When you want to disobey Him in spite of eating His provision and living on His land, find a place where He will not see you and disobey Him there.”

“What do you mean, Ibrahim?” The man asked in desperation. “He knows everything that happens even in the most hidden places!”

“So is it right to disobey Him when you eat His provision and live on His land and when you know that He can see everything you do?” Ibrahim questioned.

“It certainly is not!” the man replied. “Tell me the fourth condition.”

So Ibrahim told him: “That when the Angel of Death arrives to take your soul, you say to him, ‘Give me a reprieve so that I can repent and act righteously for Allah.’”

“But he won’t listen to me!” the man cried.

“Then, if you cannot ward off death long enough to give yourself time to repent, and you know that when it comes there will be no reprieve, how can you hope to be saved?”

“What is the fifth?” asked the poor man.

Ibrahim replied: “That when the angels of the Fire come to you to take you to the Fire, you do not go with them.”

“They will take me whether I like it or not!” exclaimed the man.

“So how can you hope to be saved?” Ibrahim sighed.

“Enough, enough, Ibrahim! I ask Allah’s forgiveness and I turn to Him!”

The man’s repentance was sincere and from that time on he was assiduous in his worship and avoided acts of disobedience until the day he died.

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