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 thisma’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.
The alleged tomb of Bishr Hafi in Baghdad
|Full Name||Bishr (Bushr) b. al-Harith al-Marwzi|
|Well-known As||Bishr al-Hafi|
|Well-known Relatives||Ali b. Khushram (uncle or cousin of Bishr)|
|Place of Birth||Merv or Baghdad|
|Place of Residence||Baghdad|
|Burial Place||Bab al-Harb of Baghdad|
|Professors||Al-Fudayl b. ‘Ayad , Ali b. Khushram|
Bishr (Bushr) b. al-Ḥārith al-Marwzī (Arabic:بشر بن الحارث الحافي) known as Bishr al-Hāfī (بشر الحافي) (b.150/767-8 – d.227/841-2) was among ascetics and leaders of Sufis in 3rd/8th-9th century. Bishr lived in Baghdad and according to some sources, repented under influence of the speeches of Imam al-Kazim (a). Since Bishr did not wear shoes, he was called “al-hafi” (bare-footed).
Bishr was son of al-Harith b. ‘Abd al-Rahman Marwzi who was one of government officials of Merv. According to Ibn Khalkan, he was among descendants of Ba’bur (‘Abd Allah) who became Muslim by the guidance of Imam Ali (a). In 150/767-8, Bishr was born in a village near Merv but lived in Baghdad. Ibn Kathir mentioned Baghdad as his birthplace.
Title and Kunya
Kunya of Bishr was Abu Nasr and was called “al-hafi” (bare-footed) because he did not wear shoes. About the reason why he did not wear shoes, they say that, “since he was bare-footed in the meeting he had with Imam al-Kazim (a), he respected that meeting and did not wear shoes later.” When he was asked, “why do not you wear shoes?” He answered, “The day I reconciled with God, I was bare-footed and now I feel shy to wear shoes.” He also said, “the earth is estate of the Truth and it is not right to walk on His estate wearing shoes.”
Some said that he asked a shoe maker to repair his shoes, but the shoe-maker responded to him with reluctance. Bishr threw away his shoes and swore that he would never wear shoes again.
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. ‘Ayad and Ali b. Khushram (uncle or cousin 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.
They said that Bishr was a follower of Sufyan al-Thawri in fiqh. He had collected Sufyan’s hadiths in a Musnad collection.
According to some sources, Bishr al-Hafi repented under influence of the speeches of Imam al-Kazim (a). For a while, he lived an extravagant life in Baghdad. When Imam al-Kazim (a) was passing by his house, the sound of music was loud and heard outside his house. Imam al-Kazim (a) asked a bondwoman who came out of the house, “Is the owner of this house, a free man or a slave?” She answered, “It is a free man.” Imam (a) said, “you are right! If he was a slave, he would fear his master.” When she went back in, told Bishr about Imam’s (a) treatment (without knowing that it was Imam (a)). Bishr ran out of the house bare-footed and followed Imam al-Kazim (a) and after a conversation he had with Imam (a), he repented. Some books of Sufis have mentioned this story without mentioning the name of Imam al-Kazim (a).
Some historians have mentioned other reasons for his repentance including that: Bishr picked up a piece of paper on which the name of God was written from a path, applied perfume on it and put it in a crack of a wall. At night, he was told in a dream that, “since you picked the name of God from the ground and applied perfume on it, God will make your name good in this world and in the hereafter” and this dream made him repent.
Historical sources have praised Bishr’s ascesis and said that after he repented, he secluded himself from people and occupied himself with worshipping. He also refrained from transmitting hadiths and toward the end of his life, buried the hadiths he had collected in the ground. Bishr was famous because of his ascesis. However, he said that the Prophet (s) mentioned his fame, a result of his adherence to the tradition, respecting the good, loving the companions and the Ahl al-Bayt (a). It is said that Bishr always repeated this supplication, “O God! If you have made me famous in this world to make me humiliated in the hereafter, take that [fame] from me.”
A Shaykh of Sufism
Bishr is considered among the leaders of Sufism. His biography, speeches and stories of his life are mentioned in the books of Sufis such as Tadhkirat al-awliya, Hilyat al-awliya and Tabaqat al-Sufiyya. Also, according to Sufi sources, people of Baghdad considered Bishr like a prophet.
Demise and Burial
Bishr passed away in 227/841-2 in Baghdad and was buried in Bab al-Harb of Baghdad. His demise is also mentioned in 226/840-1 in Merv. Ibn Kathir considered the first report more reliable. In some of the regions of Iransuch as Anar in Kerman, Bijar in Kurdestan and Gotvand in Khuzestan, there are tombs attributed to him