Once, during the occasion of hajj, two great luminaries, Ebrahim bin Ad-ham and Shaqeeq Balkhi (rahimahumallah), met in the Haram of Makkah Mukarramah. During this momentous meeting, Ebrahim bin Ad-ham (rahimahullah) posed the following question to Shaqeeq (rahimahullah), “What do you regard as the foundation (of your path of piety)?”
Shaqeeq (rahimahullah) replied: “Our foundation (of piety) is that if we are blessed with food, we partake (of it), and if we do are not blessed with food, then we are patient.” Ebrahim bin Ad-ham (rahimahullah) responded, “(This is no achievement, as) the dogs of Balkh do the same (i.e. if they find something to eat, they will eat and if they do not find anything then they are patient).”
Shaqeeq Balkhi (rahimahullah) thereafter asked Ebrahim bin Ad-ham (rahimahullah), “Then what do you regard as the foundation (of your path of piety)?” He replied, “If we are blessed with food, then we give preference (to others, by feeding them first before filling our own bellies), and if we are not blessed with food, we are grateful and praise Allah Ta‘ala.” After hearing this reply, Shaqeeq (rahimahullah) stood up and sat (with utmost respect) in front of Ebrahim bin Ad-ham (rahimahullah) saying, “You are our teacher”. (Hilyatul Awliyaa vol. 6, pg. 274)
Ebrahim bin Ad-ham (rahimahullah) worked for one year in an orchard belonging to a man from ‘Asqalaan, Yahya bin Kudair, carrying out the menial work that a normal employee would carry out. During this period, a man came along mounted on a fast animal and enquired about Ebrahim bin Ad-ham (rahimahullah). When he met Ebrahim (rahimahullah), he kissed his hands and showed great honour to him. (Yahya, the employer, was greatly surprised by this, since he was unaware of the greatness of Ebrahim bin Ad-ham [rahimahullah]).
Ebrahim (rahimahullah) then asked the man as to what had brought him. He replied, “One of your freed slaves passed away so I have brought to you his inheritance which amounts to thirty thousand dirhams (silver coins).” Ebrahim (rahimahullah) remarked, “Why do you (continuously) follow me (and track me down wherever I go)?” The man pleaded to him to accept the amount as he had taken the trouble of travelling all the way from Balkh.
Upon the insistence of this man, Ebrahim bin Ad-ham (rahimahullah) instructed him to spread his lower garment and place on it whatever wealth he had brought. Ebrahim (rahimahullah) then instructed him to divide the wealth into three parts and said, “Take one third for yourself because of the trouble that you undertook in coming from Balkh to here, and distribute one third among the destitute of Balkh.” He then addressed his employer, Yahya, and said, “Distribute the last third among the poor people of ‘Asqalaan.” (Sifatus Safwah vol. 2, pg. 336)
1. One of the great qualities of imaan, which the selected servants of Allah Ta‘ala personify to a very high degree, is the quality of putting others first and giving preference to them over oneself, although a person himself may be undergoing constraints and difficulties. In the Quraan Majeed, Allah Ta‘ala speaks highly of this very same quality of the Ansaar of Madeenah Munawwarah. For another exemplary display of this quality, see here.
2. The good values and excellent traits of Islam are meant to be practically implemented in our day to day lives, and are not mere theories to be understood and spoken about. Hence, Ebrahim bin Ad-ham (rahimahullah) not only spoke about giving preference to others during his discussion with Shaqeeq Balkhi (rahimahullah), but practically displayed it by giving away the large sum of thirty thousand dirhams, although he himself was carrying out menial work in order to earn a living and see to his basic needs.
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