As would be expected of a universalist, Ben Adhem’s persona across centuries has crossed religious and national boundaries. In the Islamic world, he is one of the pioneers of Sufism. He is remembered as the founder of zuhd, a form of asceticism that stresses empathy with the fellow human. In the West, such as amongst the Freemasons, he has become known for his industry and fellowship. Amongst the poets, be they of the West or the East, he’s the light of love.
In the East he’s known as Ibrahim ibn Adham or bin Adham. In the West he’s called Abou Ben Adhem. There are many variations of the spellings. Howsoever may one spell him, the impression of his dreams on reality and on the spiritual history of mankind is firm.
Attar, Farid al-Din. Muslim Saints and Mystics: Episodes from the Tadhkirat al Auliya. Translated by Arthur John Arberry. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1966.
Eliot, Charles W., ed. English Poetry in Three Volumes: From Collins to Fitzgerald in Volume II. New York: P.F. Collier & Son Corp., 1938.
Rūmī Jalāl al-Dīn. The Masnavi i Manavi of Rumi. Translated by E. H. Whinfield. England: ZuuBooks, 1898.
Photos by Ali Hammad: 1) Alhambra Palace in Granada, Spain; 2) Abou Ben Adhem Shrine Mosque in Springfield, MO, USA