Thursday, 23 August 2012
Shaykh Bishr al-Hafi (q.s.)
بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ
Shaykh Bishr al-Hafi (q.s.) saw a piece of paper lying in the mud at the side of road. His eye fell on the Divine Name written in one of the sentences. He lifted the paper, cleaned it, bought some scent, perfumed it, and placed it in a cavity of the wall of his house. That night he heard a Voice say to him, “O Bishr, you have made My Name fragrant in this world and now I will Make your name fragrant in your world and in Mine also.”
Shaykh Bishr ibn Harits (q.s.) is better known as “Bishr al-Hafi”, “Bishr the Barefoot.” He was a wali born near Merv, in 767 CE. He was converted from a life of iniquity and studied hadits under Shaykh al-Fudhayl ibn Iyadh (q.s.), himself a great wali who had repented from banditry. Shaykh Bishr (q.s.) then devoted his life to Allah (s.w.t.) and became famous as one of the greatest saints in the area.
Shaykh Bishr (q.s.) settled at Baghdad. The story of his conversion was narrated by Shaykh Farid ad-Din Aththar (q.s.) in Tadzkirat al-Awliya’. Shaykh ‘Aththar narrated that Shaykh Bishr (q.s.) had lived a life of dissipation. One of his neighbours was a pious man who did not think very much of Shaykh Bishr (q.s.) and his lifestyle. One day, as he was staggering home drunk, he found a piece of paper on which was written, “Bismillah ar-Rahman ar-Rahim.” Shaykh Bishr (q.s.) is said to have bought an ‘aththar of roses and perfumed the paper with it, and then deposited it reverently in a nook in his house. In some narrations, it was his last dirham.
That night, the pious neighbour had a dream in which he was bidden to tell Shaykh Bishr (q.s.): “You have perfumed My Name, so I have Perfumed you. You have exalted My Name, so I have Exalted you. You have purified My Name, so I have Purified you. By My Majesty, I will surely Perfume your name in this world and the world to come.” The venerable man was perplexed by the dream, as he knew Shaykh Bishr (q.s.) to be dissolute, so he went back to sleep. However, the man had the same dream two more times during that night. After the third time, he arose and went in search of Shaykh Bishr (q.s.) to tell him of the dreams. He found Shaykh Bishr (q.s.) at a drunken party. There was great surprise to see the neighbour there. A man known for his piety was not known to be found in such disreputable company. The neighbour found Shaykh Bishr (q.s.) and informed him that he had a message from Allah (s.w.t.) and related the dream.
It had a profound effect on Shaykh Bishr (q.s.). He 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.” Shaykh Farid ad-Din ‘Aththar (q.s.) further narrated that from that day onwards, Shaykh Bishr (q.s.) lived in so saintly a fashion that few equaled him in righteousness. One of Shaykh Bishr's (q.s.) customs was to walk barefoot wherever he went and as such he earned the name, “Bishr the Barefoot.”
He became one of the early Sufi Masters and a teacher to Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal (r.a.). Imam ibn Hanbal (r.a.) was already a noted mujtahid when he went into the service of Shaykh Bishr (q.s.) in order to attain this ma’rifat. When he was asked why he kept close to Shaykh Bishr al-Hafi (q.s.), he answered, “He knows Allah better than I do.”
Regarding renunciation of the world, zuhd, he said, “Renunciation is a king who dwells only in a free and empty heart.” Regarding sadness, huzn, Shaykh Bishr al-Hafi (q.s.) said, “Sadness or sorrow is like a ruler. When it settles in a place, it does not allow others to reside there.” Regarding Imam Abu Hanifah (r.a.), he said, ‘None criticises Abu Hanifah except an envier or an ignoramus.” Regarding tawakkal, trust in Allah (s.w.t.), Shaykh Bishr al-Hafi (q.s.) said, “One of them may say, ‘I have put all my trust in Allah,’ although he is actually telling a lie. For, by Allah, if he had really put all his trust in Allah, he would be perfectly content with the way Allah Treats him.”
Shaykh Bishr al-Hafi (q.s.) passed away in 840 CE and is buried in Baghdad, Iraq.