‘Abd al-Rahman Hatem ibn ‘Onwan al-Asamm (“the Deaf”), a native of
Balkh, was a pupil of Shaqiq al-Balkhi. He visited Baghdad, and died at
Washjard near Termedh in 237 (852).
Anecdotes of Hatem the Deaf
the Deaf’s charity was so great that when a woman came to him one day
to ask him a question and at that moment she broke wind, he said to
her, “Speak louder. I am hard of hearing.” This he said in order that
the woman should not be put to shame. She raised her voice, and he
answered her problem. So long as that old woman was alive, for close on
fifteen years Hatem made out that he was deaf, so that no one should
tell the old woman that he was not so. After her death he gave his
answers readily. Until then, he would say to everyone who spoke to him,
“Speak louder.” That was why he was called Hatem the Deaf.
One day Hatem was preaching in Balkh.
God,” he prayed, “whoever in this congregation today is the greatest
and boldest sinner and has the blackest record, do Thou forgive him.”
Now there was present in that congregation a man who robbed
the dead. He had opened many tombs and stolen the
That night he went
about his usual business of robbing the dead. He had actually removed
the earth from a grave when he heard a voice proceeding out of the
“Are you not ashamed? This morning you were pardoned at Hatem’s gathering, and tonight you are at your old business again?”
The grave-robber jumped out of the tomb, and ran to Hatem. He told him what had happened, and repented.
Sa’d ibn Mohammad al-Razi reports the following.
many years I was a disciple of Hatem, and in all that time I only once
saw him angry. He had gone to the market, and there he saw a man who
had seized hold of one of his apprentices and was shouting.
“Many times he has taken my goods and eaten them, and does not pay me the price of them.”
“Good sir, be charitable,” Hatem interposed.
“I know nothing of charity. I want my money,” the man retorted.
Hatem’s pleading was without effect. Growing angry, he took his cloak
from his shoulders and flung it to the ground there in the midst of the
bazaar. It was filled with gold, all true coin.
“Come, take what is owing to you, and no more, or your hand will be withered,” he said to the tradesman.
man set about picking up the gold until he had taken his due. He could
not contain himself, and stretched out the hand again to pick up more.
His hand immediately became withered.
One day a man came to
Hatem and said, “I possess much wealth, and I wish to give some of this
wealth to you and your companions. Will you accept?”
“I am afraid,” Hatem answered, “that when you die I shall have to say, ‘Heavenly Provider, my earthly provider is dead.’”
recalled, “When I went out to the wars a Turk seized me and flung me to
the ground to kill me. My heart was not concerned or afraid. I just
waited to see what he would do. He was feeling for his sword, when
suddenly an arrow pierced him and he fell from me. ‘Did you kill me, or
did I kill you?’ I exclaimed.”
When Hatem came to Baghdad the caliph was told, “The ascetic of Khorasan has arrived.” The caliph promptly sent for him.
“O caliph the ascetic,” Hatem addressed the caliph as he entered.
“I am not an ascetic,” replied the caliph. “The whole world is under my command. You are the ascetic.”
you are the ascetic,” Hatem retorted. “God says, Say, the enjoyment of
this world is little. You are contented with a little. You are the
ascetic, not I. I will not submit to this world or the next; how then
am I an ascetic?”
Ebrahim ibn Adham’s saintly career began in the following manner. He was
king of Balkh, and a whole
world was under his command; forty gold swords and forty gold maces were
carried before and behind him.
One night he was asleep on his royal couch. At midnight the roof of the
apartment vibrated, as if someone was walking on the roof.
“Who is there?” he shouted.
“A friend,” came the reply. “I have lost a camel, and am searching for it on
“Fool, do you look for the camel on the roof?” cried Ebrahim.
“Heedless one,” answered the voice, “do you seek for God in silken clothes,
asleep on a golden couch?”
These words filled his heart with terror. A fire blazed within him, and he
could not sleep any more.
When day came he returned to the dais and sat on his throne, thoughtful,
bewildered and full of care. The ministers of state stood each in his place;
his slaves were drawn up in serried ranks. General audience was proclaimed.
Suddenly a man with aweful mien entered the chamber, so terrible to look
upon that none of the royal retinue and servants dared ask him his name; the
tongues of all clove to their throats. He advanced solemnly till he stood
before the throne.