Bishr the Barefoot : biography
Bishr ibn Hareth, better known as 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.Memorial of the Saints, Attar, trans. A.J. Arberry, Beshr ibn Hareth
Bishr was born in Merv and settled at Baghdad. The story of his conversion was 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:
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:
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".
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