Abou Ben Adhem – Important Questions

Abou Ben Adhem” is a poem written by Leigh Hunt. It tells a little story about the importance of loving one’s fellow human beings. The story is based on the life of Abou Ben Adhem, a Muslim Sufi mystic from Persia who was venerated as a saint after his death (circa AD 777).

Important Question and Answers

Q. Read the extract given below and answer the questions that follow:

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,

1. Who was Abou Ben Adhem? What is meant by ‘may his tribe increase’?

Ans. Abou Ben Adhem was an 8th century Sufimystic of royal lineage from Balkh. He loved his tribesmen who treated him as their spiritual leader and pioneer. They followed his teachings based on great ideals and values such as peace, mutual harmony, and service of the deprived and downtrodden. ‘May his tribe increase’, used as a parenthesis here, basically implies a wish for the growth of people who followed his teachings and adopted the path shown by him.

2. Describe the phrase that has been used by the poet to describe the great charm of the angel?

Ans. In this stanza, the poet uses the phrase ‘like a lily in bloom’, to describe the great charm of the angel. This is an example of Simile. In this figure of speech, something is compared with some other thing of a different type. Here, the poet compares the charm of the heavenly angel with the beauty of a blooming lily, which is a flower.

3. Describe the imagery of the scene.

Ans. The imagery of the scene depicted in this stanza is profound and suggestive. The opening line introduces Abou Ben Adhem with a parenthesis that signifies his tall spiritual stature, faithfulness and devotion to great ideals and values. It is followed by the descriptions of his moonlit room and the otherworldly charm of the angel through images that are fascinating and comprehensible.

4. What does the last line mean here?

Ans. It means that Abou Ben does not react like a common human, to the presence of the angel. As he champions the great value of peace and has a great faith in God. He has done no wrong and so is not scared or frightened at the presence of the angel in his room. He is a brave person who can even face the most unusual things in life.

5. Give the significance of the ‘book of gold’ in the poem.

Ans. The ‘book of gold’ basically signifies a divine book of records including the names of all people who love God. Its significance lies in the fact that it keeps the list of only those people who love God with pure hearted devotion and dedication. When Abou Ben Adhem is told by the angel that his name is not there on the list of people who love God, he is not worried. He is confident that the book of gold keeps the record of those also who love their fellow men or the humankind. This implies that the book of gold is not a straight record of people who love God, but one that lists people who love and follow the greatest ideals that lead one to the path of God.

Q. Read the extract given below and answer the questions that follow:

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.”

1. What does the words ‘presence’ and ’vision’ refer to here? What made Abou bold?

Ans. In this stanza, the words ‘presence’ and ‘vision’ refer to the presence of the angel and his vision. Use of these words indicates that the appearance of the angel is so illuminating or dazzling that it can’t perhaps be felt quite tangibly as in case of some human being. Abou’s unflinching dedication to the great ideal of peace made him bold.

2. What is the vision doing? Why is Abou Ben curious? What does he say to the vision?

Ans. The vision is writing something in a book of gold. Abou Ben is curious as he wants to know that what the vision is writing in the book of gold. After this Abou questions the vision, “What writest thou?” or what are you writing?

3. Why does the vision raise its head? What did you note about its nature?

Ans. The vision raises its head to reply to Abou’s question when he enquires about what it is writing in the book of gold. The vision has a sweetness and composure when it faces Abou. This indicates that it is not perturbed or disturbed by Abou suddenly intervening in its work.

4. What does the vision reply to Abou? What made Abou low?

Ans. The vision replies that it is writing in the book the names of those who love the Lord, i.e., God. When the vision says that Abou’s name is not one of them, it makes Abou low. He probably feels slightly disheartened at this revelation because he is genuinely devoted to God.

5. What does Abou request to the vision? What happens next?

Ans. After coming to know that his name was not on the list, Abou maintains his calm and requests the vision to write his name as someone who loves God’s fellow men. After this, the angel writes something in the book and disappears without saying anything but also reappears the next night.

Q. Read the extract given below and answer the questions that follow:

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.

1. What happens after the angel disappeared? What did it show Adhem?

Ans. After disappearing from Abou’s room, the angel does not come back immediately. Instead, it revisits Abou next night with a wakening light that rouse Adhem from sleep. When it reappears, it shows Abou the names of those people who have been blessed with the love of God.

2. Describe the effect of “a great wakening light”.

Ans. The phrase “a great wakening light” essentially implies an extremely powerful and luminous light capable of wakening the world. Here, the word ‘wakening’ is used to signify a state of supreme consciousness or complete awakening of senses. Following the reappearance of the vision, Abou experiences this state.

3. How can you look at the extract as the climax in the poem?

Ans. The climax comes in the concluding line, when the angel shows Abou the list of those who are blessed with divine love. As the use of the phrase ‘And lo!’ suggests, Abou is visibly surprised to see his name on top of the list. This gives an unexpected twist to the poem, but it’s like a poetic justice in the context of a great man with such a pure, unadulterated devotion.

4. What did you understand about the character of Abou Ben Adhem?

Ans. Abou Ben Adhem is a perfect personification of faith in its purest and most practical form. He has no pompous perception about his great deeds and he is most concerned about the weal and welfare of his people. The poet himself acknowledges his virtues in the end as he comes to be regarded as the blessed one.

5. What message does the poem bring?

Ans. The poem clearly brings it to the fore that true love for God lies in the spirit of selfless service of the humankind. A number of people perform rituals and prayers to express their faith in God. However, God blesses and loves those people more who love and practically adopt the greatest of ideals and values. Thus, in this poem, the stress is on following the practical rather than dogmatic aspects of faith.

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