What did the angel write in a book of gold?

Here is a poem about a Sufi saint, named Ibrahim ibn Adham (c.730 - c.782 CE) from what is now Afghanistan, written by an English Christian poet, Leigh Hunt (1784-1959). Rumi extensively described the legend of Ibrahim in his Masnavi. More on his biography below. 

The poem "Abou Ben Adhem" by Leigh Hunt explores the power of love and compassion. The protagonist, Abou Ben Adhem, wakes up one night to find an angel in his room, writing down the names of those who love the Lord. When he inquires if his name is on the list, the angel tells him it isn't. Instead of being disheartened, Abou Ben Adhem responds by asking the angel to write him down as someone who loves his fellow human beings. In the end, when the angel returns, Abou Ben Adhem's name is at the top of the list, signifying that his love and kindness towards others are the most precious qualities in the eyes of God. 

Overall, the poem conveys the message the saving creation is the same as serving the creator, a very sikh message.  I am reminded of the Satgur ki seva saphal hai, a shabad which ends with the same message: I love the ones who love my lord. 

Abou Ben Adhem - A Poem About Loving

Abou Ben Adhem
By Leigh Hunt

Abou Ben Adhem (may his tribe increase!)
Awoke one night from a deep dream of peace,
And saw, within the moonlight in his room,
Making it rich, and like a lily in bloom,
An angel writing in a book of gold:—
Exceeding peace had made Ben Adhem bold,
And to the presence in the room he said,
"What writest thou?"—The vision raised its head,
And with a look made of all sweet accord,
Answered, "The names of those who love the Lord."
"And is mine one?" said Abou. "Nay, not so,"
Replied the angel. Abou spoke more low,
But cheerly still; and said, "I pray thee, then,
Write me as one that loves his fellow men."

The angel wrote, and vanished. The next night
It came again with a great wakening light,
And showed the names whom love of God had blest,
And lo! Ben Adhem's name led all the rest.

My Thoughts

What does God's angel write 
in a book made of gold? 
The names of those
who love the 

And on the top he writes 
the names of those 
who love his 

Reminds me of: Satgur Ki Seva Saphal Hai

More on Ibrahim ibn Adham from Wiki

Ibrahim ibn Adham, also known as Ibrahim Balkhi (إبراهيم بن أدهم), lived approximately from 718 to 782 CE (c. 100 to 165 AH) and stands out as one of the foremost early ascetic Sufi saints.

His conversion story is a celebrated tale within Sufi lore. It mirrors the legendary journey of a prince who relinquished his throne to embrace asceticism, bearing a striking resemblance to the narrative of Gautama Buddha. In Sufi tradition, Ibrahim is credited with numerous virtuous deeds, and his modest way of life sharply contrasted with his earlier role as the king of Balkh, which was once a prominent center of Buddhism. As recounted by Abu Nu'aym, Ibrahim stressed the significance of serenity and contemplation in the practice of asceticism. Rumi extensively detailed Ibrahim's legend in his Masnavi. Among Ibrahim's notable disciples, Shaqiq al-Balkhi (d. 810) stands out as the most famous.

Life of Ibrahim ibn Adham

In accordance with Indian-Sufi Muslim traditions, Ibrahim hailed from Kufa, with his birthplace being Balkh, situated in modern-day Afghanistan. Although some historians have traced his lineage back to 'Abdullah, the brother of Ja'far al-Sadiq, the son of Muhammad al-Baqir, and the grandson of Husayn ibn Ali, the prevailing family tree of his Sufi ancestors, as recognized by most scholars, connects him to Umar bin Khattab.

Accounts of Ibrahim's life have been chronicled by medieval writers such as Ibn Asakir and Bukhari.

Born into the Arab community of Balkh around 730 CE, Ibrahim initially occupied the throne as the local king. Remarkably wealthy, it is even reported that he had 16 thousand wives and 1.8 million horses. However, he received divine warnings, conveyed through Khidr, who appeared to him twice. As a result, Ibrahim relinquished his royal position to embark on a life of asceticism in Syria. Around 750 CE, he undertook a migration and adopted a semi-nomadic existence, often journeying as far south as Gaza. Rejecting the practice of begging, Ibrahim tirelessly toiled for his sustenance, engaging in tasks like grinding corn and tending orchards. Additionally, historical accounts suggest that he participated in military activities along the Byzantine border, with his untimely demise purportedly occurring during one of his naval expeditions.

His initial spiritual mentor was a Christian monk named Simeon, with whom he engaged in a profound dialogue recounted in his writings:[dubious – discuss]

"I visited him in his cell and asked, 'Father Simeon, how long have you been here?' He replied, 'For seventy years.' Curiously, I inquired about his food, to which he responded, 'O Hanifite, what prompts this question?' I explained, 'I am curious to know.' He then revealed, 'Every night, I consume one chickpea.' Perplexed, I asked, 'How does one chickpea sustain you?' He replied, 'Once a year, they come to me, adorn my cell, and show me great reverence. Whenever my spirit wanes in worship, I recall that moment and endure a year's labor for an hour's glory. Therefore, O Hanifite, endure a year's toil for the sake of eternity.'"

According to the historical records of the Chishti Order of Sufis, he holds a revered place among their early masters and received instruction from Fudhail Bin Iyadh for a period.

Typical of the resting places of saints, numerous locations have been suggested as the burial site of Ibrahim ibn Adham. Ibn Asakir asserted that Ibrahim was interred on a Byzantine island, while alternative sources propose his tomb to be in Tyre, Baghdad, the "city of the prophet Lot," the "cave of Jeremiah" in Jerusalem, and, finally, in the city of Jablah on the Syrian coast.

Historicity and literary reception

The medieval accounts recounting Ibrahim's life are a blend of history and legend. Ibrahim likely existed as a historical Sufi figure in the 8th century, and over time, his narrative was embellished in subsequent retellings. Notably, the Persian Memorial of the Saints, authored by Attar, serves as one of the most comprehensive sources regarding Ibrahim's conversion and early years as the king of Balkh. It was through these Persian accounts that the story of Ibrahim entered the legendary literature of India and Indonesia, where additional embellishments without historical basis were incorporated.

One noteworthy aspect of the non-Arabic literature on Ibrahim is the emergence of full-length biographies that delve into his life, rather than merely focusing on key episodes. Furthermore, many of these non-Arabic narratives begin with a brief account of Ibrahim's father, Adham. Among these biographies, Rumi's Persian work stands out as one of the most renowned, and it was subsequently adapted into Arabic form by unknown sources. Additionally, biographical accounts in languages like Urdu and Malay laid the groundwork for shorter biographies in Javanese and Sundanese.

It's worth noting that English poet Leigh Hunt's poem "Abou Ben Adhem" tells a tale inspired by the life of Ibrahim ibn Adham. In a similar vein, the musical Flahooley features a character named Abou Ben Atom, portrayed by Irwin Corey in the original 1951 Broadway production.