Saturday, July 18, 2009

Beshr the Barefoot Saint | from Tazkirat al-Auliya

St. Peter Was Caught Dabbling With Gnosticism

Abu Nasr Beshr (767-841) was born in Merv and settled at Baghdad. The beginning of his opening 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, Bismillahir Rahmanir Rahim, "In the Name of God, 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 God," 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 self-denial, 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. "Why do you not wear shoes?" he was asked.

"I was barefooted the day when I made my peace with God," he said, "and ever since I am ashamed to wear shoes. Moreover God Almighty says, ‘I have made the earth a carpet for you.’ It is not seemly to tread with shoes on the carpet of kings."

Great Imam of his age, Ahmad-e Hanbal visited Beshr frequently, having a complete faith in him to such a point that his pupils protested. "Today you are without rival as a scholar of Traditions, the law, theology and every manner of science, yet every moment you go after a dissolute fellow. Is that seemly?"

"Indeed, in all the sciences you have enumerated I have better knowledge than he," Ahmad-e Hanbal replied. "But he knows God better than I." So he would often pursue Beshr, asking him to speak about Divine Gnosis.

Beshr related: Once I saw the Prophet, upon him be holy benediction, in a dream. He said to me, "Beshr, do you not know why God has chosen you from amongst your contemporaries and has raised you up to high rank?"

"No, Messenger of God," I replied.

"It is because you have followed my Sunna (sacred tradition), and reverenced the righteous, and given good counsel to your brethren, and loved me and the people of my household," the Prophet told me.

"For this reason God has advanced you to the station of the pious."

- from Muslim Saints and Mystics | Episodes from the Tadhkirat al-Auliya' (Memorial of the Saints) by Farid al-Din Attar Translated by A. J. Arberry

. Tazkirat al-Auliya is very famous text containing biographies of a number of Muslim Saints, may God be well pleased with them all | The full text of Tadhkirat al-Auliya can be downloaded and read from Omphaloskepsis as PDF

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