A person once came to the renowned saint, Ebrahim bin Adham (rahimahullah), and said, “O Abu Ishaaq! I am a great sinner. Please give me some advice that will help me to stay away from sin and will save my heart.”

Ebrahim bin Adham (rahimahullah) replied, “If you accept five things from me and you are able to remain on them firmly, you will not fall into the harm of sinning, nor will you be destroyed through fulfilling your evil desires.” The man replied, “Please tell me these five things, O Abu Ishaaq.”

Ebrahim bin Adham (rahimahullah) explained the five things as follows:

The first thing is that when you wish to disobey Allah Ta‘ala, then do not eat from His sustenance.” The man replied, “Where will I get food from when all the food on earth is the sustenance given by Allah Ta‘ala?” Ebrahim bin Adham (rahimahullah) responded, “Does it befit you to eat from Allah Ta‘ala’s sustenance while disobeying Him?” The man submitted, “No, it is not befitting for me to do so.” The man then asked, “What is the second thing?”

Ebrahim bin Adham (rahimahullah) said, “When you wish to disobey Allah Ta‘ala, then do not stay on His land.” The man replied, “This is even more difficult than the first! When the East and the West and all the lands in-between belong to Allah Ta‘ala, then where will I live?” Ebrahim bin Adham (rahimahullah) responded, “Does it befit you to eat from Allah Ta‘ala’s sustenance, and reside on His land, while disobeying Him?” The man admitted, “No, it is not befitting for me to do so.” The man then asked, “What is the third thing?”

Ebrahim bin Adham (rahimahullah) said, “When you wish to disobey Allah Ta‘ala, and you are eating from His sustenance and residing on His land, then at least find a place where He will not see you defying Him openly.” The man exclaimed, “O Ebrahim (rahimahullah)! How is this possible when Allah Ta‘ala even sees those things which are hidden?” Ebrahim bin Adham (rahimahullah) responded, “Does it befit you to eat from Allah Ta‘ala’s sustenance, and reside on His land, and disobey Him while He is watching you and can see how you are defying Him?” The man acknowledged, “No, it is not befitting for me to do so.” The man then asked, “What is the fourth thing?”

Ebrahim bin Adham (rahimahullah) said, “When the angel of death comes to you to remove your soul then say to him, ‘Give me some time to repent from my sins and carry out good deeds to please Allah Ta‘ala.’” The man responded, “The angel of death will never accept this request from me!” Ebrahim bin Adham (rahimahullah) remarked, “When you do not have the ability to deter death when it comes to you, to receive an opportunity to repent, and you are well aware that when death comes, there will be no delay, then how do you hope to gain salvation?” The man then asked, “What is the fifth thing?”

Ebrahim bin Adham (rahimahullah) said, “On the Day of Qiyaamah, when the angels of punishment come to seize you and drag you to the fire of Jahannum, then do not go with them.” The man replied, “The angels will not leave me and will not listen to my pleading!” Ebrahim bin Adham (rahimahullah) asked, “In that case, how can you hope for salvation?”

The man exclaimed, “O Ebrahim (rahimahullah)! That is enough for me! I beg Allah Ta‘ala to forgive my sins and I turn to Him in repentance!”

The man then chose to remain in the company of Ebrahim bin Adham (rahimahullah) where he remained engaged in ‘ibaadah until his death.

(Kitaabut Tawwaabeen – Ibnu Qudaamah pg. 211)

Lessons:

1. If you had to choose between your friend and your enemy, who would you choose? If you were to choose between your father and his foe, who would you support? Obviously, in both cases, you would support your friend and father, because you owe them loyalty. In the same way, we have to choose Allah Ta‘ala over everything else because we owe Him the greatest loyalty of all. He gave us everything that we have and enjoy, and He has complete power over us which no person can escape. We must thus obey Him completely and never ever defy His authority.

2. When a person has a serious illness or addiction, he cannot treat it on his own. He will have to refer to an expert doctor or check into a rehab for attention and treatment. Similarly, the person in this incident had the illness and addiction of repeatedly falling into sin. He thus referred to the illustrious saint and ‘Aalim of the time – Ebrahim bin Adham (rahimahullah) – for guidance and advice. Through the blessing of referring to this ‘Aalim, Allah Ta‘ala guided him and inspired him to change his life.

3. After repenting, the man did not part ways from Ebrahim bin Adham (rahimahullah) and leave. Rather, he realised that if he wanted to continue benefiting and progressing, and if he wanted to prevent a relapse, he would have to remain linked and connected to Ebrahim bin Adham (rahimahullah). Hence, he remained with him until death. If we wish to make a change in our lives and become the special friends of Allah Ta’ala, we will have to link ourselves to some pious person who is committed to the sunnah. In this way, Allah Ta‘ala will bless us via this pious person and we will gain His special love and friendship.