Abou Ben Adhem Line by Line Explanation ICSE Class 9 and Class 10

Introduction of the Poem

……….”Abou Ben Adhem” is a poem that tells a little story about the importance of loving one’s fellow human beings. The London firm of Saunders and Otley published the the poem in a three-volume collection (printed between 1836 and 1838) entitled The Book of Gems : the Poets and Artists of Great Britain, edited by Samuel Carter Hall. Leigh Hunt based the poem on a story in a French book, Bibliotheque Orientale, by Barthelemy d’Herbelot de Molainville (1625-1695).

About Abou Ben Adhem

Abou Ben Adhem was a Muslim mystic, a Sufi, in Persia who was venerated as a saint after his death (circa AD 777). Writers of English-language religion and history books usually refer to him as Ibrahim ibn (or bin) Adham.

Like the famous Roman Catholic ascetic, Saint Francis of Assisi, Ibrahim ibn Adham gave up a life of luxury in exchange for a simple life devoted to his fellow man and to God. Ibrahim’s description of the moment of his conversion to a new lifestyle appears in Tabaqat al-Sufiya, a book about Sufism by Abu Abd al-Rahman al-Sulami, who died in AD 1021.

“My father was one of the princes of Kurasan, and I was a youth, and rode to the chase. I went out one day on a horse of mine, with my dog along, and raised a hare or fox. While I was chasing it, I heard the voice of an unseen speaker say , Oh Ibrahim, for this wast thou created? I felt dread, and stopped – then I began again, and urged my horse on. Three times it happened, like that. Then I heard the voice – from the horn of my saddle, by God! – saying, “It is not for this thou wast created! It is not this thou wast commanded to perform!” I dismounted then, and came across one of my father’s shepherds, and took from him his woolen tunic and put it on. I gave him my mare and all I had with me in exchange, and turned my steps towards Mecca”.

Summary of the Poem

Abou Ben Adhem is a poem that has been portrayed the heavenly feelings of a devotee or a strong believer. This poem clearly explains that the poet who addresses himself as Abou Ben Adhem is a strong believer in God. He believed that not only loving God, but also loving people who believed in God is great.

In this poem, it shows that when Adhem sees an angle in his room one night, he was not frightened or scared, for he had belief in God and seeing an angle, he was happy. But he just wanted to know, what the angel was writing down. When he was informed that the angel was making a list of people who loved God, Adhem just wanted to know whether his name was also included. But when he was informed that his name was not there, he did not feel dejected or sad, he only requested the angle to write his name in the list of people who loved God’s fellowmen.

When Adhem saw the angel the next day also, he enquired the purpose of visit and he was totally surprised and happy to know that his name was in the list of people whom God had blessed.

This poem clearly depicts the belief one has in God. When we love God, we could love other people. By loving other people, we could make the world a better place and forget and forgive one another. The poet has tried to convey the message that, we could make the world a better place to live in and by how ‘God would love it to be. All holy books teach us the same theme – “To love one another”.

Hunt has beautifully pictured how each one of us should think and how when we start thinking for others; we are truly blessed by God for our deeds. Loving God is not meant only by saying, but it is our deeds the ultimately God would count, and for every good deed that we do, we are being noted in God’s book and being blessed.

Stanza-wise Explanation

Stanza 1

“Abou Ben Adhem (My 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:”

Explanation

The poem is based on the idea of fellow feeling and piousness. The setting of the poem is symbolic of that. Abou was sleeping in his room. He was in a deep sleep and his sleep is characterized by “deep dram of peace”. Being a pious and God loving man he was sleeping undisturbed. Then he saw an angel. We can infer that an angel would not visit the bedroom of an ordinary person. Hence, in the first few lines the character of Abou has been established. In keeping with the angelic quality of the angel he is said to writing on a book of ‘gold’.

Stanza 2

“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.”

Explanation

Abou, being a pious man, was not at all afraid of the angel in his room. He confronted the angel as the latter was writing in his golden book. About asked the angel what he was writing in the book. The angle looked up. In his look there was beningness and serenity. Then he replied to Abou that he was writing the names of those persons who loved God.

Stanza 3

“And is mine one?” said Abou. “Nay, not so,”
Replied the angle, Abou spoke more low,
But cheerly still; and said, “I pray thee, then,
Write me as one that loves his fellow men.”

Explanation

Abou was a pious and peaceful man. so he was not at all embarrassed by the presence of the angel in his room. Rather he asked the angel what he was writing. The angel replied that he was writing the names of those who loved God. At this Abou asked him if his name figured in the list because he considered himself as a God loving man. The angle replied in the negative. Abou was a little disappointed at this. Still he was cheerful. Then he requested the angel to write his name as one who loved his fellow men. This proved Abou’s confidence in himself.

Stanza 4

“The angel wrote, and vanished. The next night
It cam 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.”

Explanation

Abou was a little depressed because his name was not there in the list prepared by the angel. But he requested the angel to prepare a list of the persons who loved men also. The angel was permeated by a more dazzling light. The angel showed Abou the list of the persons blessed by God. Abou’s name came first. This reveals that love of fellow men is the best means to receive the benedictions of God.