Bishr the Barefoot
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Saint Bishr the Barefoot
|Died||841 (aged 73–74)|
|Influences||Prophets of Islam|
|Influenced||Ahmad ibn Hanbal|
Bishr ibn Hareth, better known as Bishr al-Hafi (Bishr the Barefoot), was a Muslim saint born near Merv in 767 C.E. He was converted from a life of dissipation and then studied Muslim tradition under Al-Fozail ibn Iyaz. Bishr then devoted his life to God and became famous as one of the greatest saints in the area.
Bishr was born in Merv and settled at Baghdad where he spent his nights and days in impudence. Once in the midst of the noise, liquor, music and frivolity, Musa al-Kadhim happened to pass by his house in Baghdad. Meanwhile al-Kadhim saw a slave girl coming out of his house carrying some sweepings. He turned to the slave and asked her: "Is the owner of this house free or a servant?"
"He is free," she replied.
"You are right," retorted Musa al-Kadhim, "if he was a servant, he would fear his Lord."
The slave girl came into the house while Bishr was at the wine table, so he asked her: "What delayed you?" She gave him an account of what took place between her and the Imam. It is said that Bishr quickly jumped to his feet and headed to the door barefooted but the pious man had already left. He left in pursuit of the man and when he finally caught up with him asked him to repeat his words and he obliged. Bishr was so taken aback by his words that he fell to the ground and began to cry. "No I am a slave, I am a slave." From then onwards he would walk without shoes and people began calling him Bishr al-Haafi (The bare footed one). When asked why he did not wear shoes, he would reply "My master Allah guided me when I was barefooted and I will remain in this condition till death".
Another story of his conversion was also narrated by Attar in the Memorial of the Saints. Attar narrated that Bishr had lived a life of dissipation, and one day, as he was staggering along the road drunk, he found a piece of paper on which was written, “In the Name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate.” Bishr is said to have bought an attar of roses and perfumed the paper with it, and then deposited it reverently in his house. That night a venerable man had a dream in which he was bidden to tell Bishr:
Thou hast perfumed My Name, so I have perfumed thee. Thou hast exalted My Name, so I have exalted thee. Thou hast purified My Name, so I have purified thee. By My Majesty, I will surely perfume thy name in this world and the world to come.
The venerable man was perplexed by the dream, as he knew Bishr to be dissolute, so he went back to sleep. However, the man had the same dream two more times during that night and, after rising in the morning, went in search of Bishr to tell him of the dreams. The venerable man found Bishr at a drunken party but warned him that he had a message from God and told Bishr of his dreams. Bishr immediately understood the man and told his companions:
I have had a call. I am going. I bid you farewell. You will never see me again at this business.
Attar further narrated that from that day onwards, Bishr lived in so saintly a fashion that few equaled him in righteousness. One of Bishr's customs, Attar narrates, was to walk barefoot wherever he went and as such he earned the name "Bishr the Barefoot".
To learn hadiths, Bishr travelled to Kufa, Basra and Mecca. He learned hadiths from individuals such as Hamad b. Zayd, 'Abd Allah b. Mubarak, Malik b. Anas and Abu Bakr al-'Ayyash. He also learned from Ibrahim b. Sa'd al-Zuhri, Sharik b. 'Abd Allah, al-Fudayl b. Ayaz and Ali b. Khushram (uncle of Bishr). People including Abu Khuthayma, Zuhayr b. Harb, Sirri al-Saqati, 'Abbas b. 'Abd al-'Azim and Muhammad b. Hatam transmitted hadiths from him.
- Memorial of the Saints, Attar, trans. A.J. Arberry, Beshr ibn Hareth
- Sharif al-Qarashi, Baqir. The Life Of Imam Musa Bin Ja'far aL-Kazim. Translated by Jasim al-Rasheed. Iraq: Ansarian. p. 130.
- Farid al-Din Attar,Muslim saints and mystics: Episodes from the Tadhkirat al-auliya, p84.