Abou Ben Adhem by Leigh Hunt – Explanation

Abou Ben Adhem

This short poem by Leigh Hunt radiates goodness. It proclaims loud and clear the universal moral message, “Service to man is service to God.” Through the dream of a Muslim man of strong altruistic mindset, the poet wants to underline the fact that God loves those who love Him as much as those who serve their fellowmen. The poem was published in 1834 in The Amulet by S. C. Hall. Despite the simple poem was published nearly two centuries ago, it still stirs the spirit of universal brotherhood and bonhomie by people in all lands and all cultures. Such is its universal appeal. The simplicity of the poem enables it to transcend barriers of culture, age, and frontiers.

Abou Ben Adhiem was an ordinary Muslim man. He was fast asleep in his room. It was a moonlit night. The light came in through the window and fell on the objects kept inside. They glistened in the moonshine looking fresh and lively.

An angel appeared in the man’s dream. She was holding a golden book.

Abou Ben Adhiem being an righteous man was not the least nervous to see the divine intruder. He gathered himself and asked the angel what she was writing in that book. The angel replied charmingly that she was writing the names of those who loved the Lord. Abou Ben Adhiem was curious to find out if his name was in the list. The angel replied in the negative.

Abou Ben Adhiem was not the least nonplussed. Lowering his voice, he urged the angel to write his name as someone who loved his fellowmen.The angel wrote something and vanished. She appeared again the next night with a bright aura of light around her. She showed the list to Abou. To his great surprise, his name was there at the top of the list who were dear to God.


Question 1 . .. What’s the moral of the poem? .. All religions have the same tenet – To love God, one needs to love his creatures. In fact, people who serve their fellowmen with sincerity and devotion are dearer to Him than those who indulge in ritualistic worship only.  In a nutshell, coming to the aid of the disadvantaged and the deprived people pleases Him very much. This is why, in Christianity,  it is said , “Love thy neighbor.” Similar preaching can be found in Islam, Hinduism, and Sikhism.


Question 2 ..What is the significance f the words “may his tribe increase”? It implies that Abou Ben Adhiem was benign, and compassionate man of high moral values.


Question 3 .. Why the author has imagined an angel coming in with a golden book? .. This is a narrative poem with roots in Arabic Islam. In this lore, God is perceived to come to his devotees in the guise of an angel holding a golden book.





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    Mehul Mittal

    Sir when are you going to write about the poem “Nine Gold Medals” by David Roth.
    It would be very helpful to me.


    I will write it on or before June 13.


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