Abu Nasr Beshr ibn al-Hareth al-Hafi was born near Merv c. 150(767) and was converted from a life of dissipation, studied Traditions in Baghdad, then abandoned formal learning for the life of a mendicant, destitute, starving and barefoot. He died in Baghdad in 227 (841). He was admired by Ahmad ibn Hanbal and respected by the caliph al-Ma’mun.
The conversion of Beshr the Barefoot
Beshr the Barefoot was born in Merv and settled at Baghdad. The beginning of his conversion happened as follows. He 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 ALLAH, the Merciful, the Compassionate.”
He bought some attar of roses and perfumed the paper with it, and deposited it reverently in his house. That night a certain holy man had a dream in which he was bidden to tell Beshr:
“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.”
“He is a dissolute fellow,” thought the saint. “Perhaps I am seeing erroneously.”
So he made ablution, prayed and returned to sleep. He saw the selfsame dream a second and a third time. In the morning he arose and went in search of Beshr.
“He is at a wine-party,” he was told.
He went to the house where Beshr was.
“Was Beshr here?” he enquired.
“He was,” they said. “But he is drunk and incapable.”
“Tell him I have a message for him,” said the saint.
“A message from whom?” demanded Beshr when he was told.
“A message from ALLAH,” replied the saint.
“Alas!” cried Beshr, bursting into tears. “Is it a message of chiding or of chastisement? Wait, till I tell my friends. Friends,” he addressed his drinking-companions, “I have had a call. I am going. I bid you farewell. You will never see me again at this business.”
And from that day onward he lived so saintly, that none heard his name mentioned without heavenly peace invaded his heart. He took to the way of selfdenial, and so overwhelmed was he by the vision of God that he never put shoes on his feet. For that reason he was called Beshr the Barefoot.
(Memorial of the Saints)
by Farid al-Din Attar