1. Before his reformation, Hadhrat Bishr Haafi (rahmatullah alayh) was a drunkard. One day on his way to the pub he saw a piece of paper on which was written laying in the street gutter. He stopped to pick it up. He cleaned the paper, applied perfume to it and placed it on a high shelf in his home.
That night a buzrug was commanded in a dream: “Go to Bishr and tell him: You had perfumed and honoured My Name, I shall cleanse you of your sins and elevate you.” The buzrug’s eyes opened. He thought: “Bishr is a faasiq. My dream is false.” He took wudhu, performed two raka’ts and went to sleep. He saw the same dream. He woke up. With the same thought in mind, he fell asleep. For the third time he saw the same dream.
In the morning, the buzrug sent for Bishr but was informed that he was in the pub. He went to the pub, stood outside and enquired about Bishr. He was told that Bishr was lying in a drunken stupor. The buzrug said: “Tell him that someone has brought a message from Allah Ta’ala.” When this message was delivered, it penetrated his heart, sobering him. Bishr was overcome with fear. He said to his friends in the pub: “I do not know if this is a message of reprimand or punishment. Farewell! You will not see me again.” He emerged from the pub. The buzrug delivered the message and Bishr repented. Allah Ta’ala granted him a most elevated spiritual status.
2. Out of extreme love and devotion, he walked bare feet, hence he is called Bishr Haafi. Haafi means the bare-footed one. People asked him the reason for walking bare-feet. He said: “When I repented, I was bare-feet. I now feel ashamed to wear shoes. Allah Ta’ala says (in the Qur’aan) – ‘He has made the earth a carpet for you’. It is disrespectful to walk with shoes on the carpet of a king.”
3. Hadhrat Imaam Ahmed Hambal (rahmatullah alayh) spent much time in the company of Bishr Haafi (rahmatullah alayh). One day some of his students said: “It is quite surprising that although you are such a great Aalim and Muhaddith you associate with an insane man.” Imaam Hambal said: “Although I have greater awareness of the knowledge I possess than that insane man, he knows Allah Ta’ala more than what I know Him.” Imaam Ahmad Bin Hambal would say to Bishr Haafi: “Narrate to me from your Rabb.”
4. One night Bishr Haafi went to his sister’s home. Suddenly he halted in the entrance. He was overwhelmed by a state of bewilderment. He remained standing in contemplation the entire night. In the morning he left for Fajr Salaat. After returning from the Musjid, his sister asked for an explanation for his queer behaviour. He said: “I wondered that in Baghdad besides myself, there are two kaafirs whose names are also Bishr. My name too is Bishr. Allah Ta’ala favoured me with Islam. What did I do to deserve Islam and what did they do to deserve kufr? This condition of wonder occupied my mind the whole night.”
5. Hadhrat Bilaal Khawwaas (rahmatullah alayh) met Hadhrat Khidhr (alayhis salaam) in the wilderness of Bani Israaeel. Bilaal Khawwaas asked: “What is your opinion of Imaam Shaafi?”
Hadhrat Khidhr: “He is among the Autaad.” (This is a class of Auliyaa.)
Bilaal Khawwaas: “What do you say about Imaam Ahmad Hambal?”
Hadhrat Khidhr: “He is a Siddique.”
Bilaal Khawwaas: “And Bishr Haafi?”
Hadhrat Khidhr: “He is unique. After him there will not be anyone like him.”
6. Bishr Haafi was so scrupulous in his taqwa that he never drank water from the water-canal erected by the king.
7. A buzrug said: “Once in winter I visited Bishr Haafi. Due to insufficient clothes he was shivering of the intense cold. I asked him, why he was undergoing so much hardship. He said: “I am thinking of those durwaishes who are unable to afford garments to protect them against the cold. I have no money with which to aid them. I find it comforting to at least physically conform with them by sharing their plight.”
8. Defining Faqr (poverty), Bishr Haafi said: “The people of Faqr are of three classes.
1st Such men who have diverted their gaze in entirety from people. Neither do they ever ask anything from anyone nor do they accept anything from anyone. They are known as Roohaaniyeen. They obtain from Allah Ta’ala whatever they ask for.
2nd This class of Fuqaraa do not ask anyone for anything. However, they accept if given to them. They are the middle class and are the Mutawakkileen.
3rd These Fuqaraa adopt patience (sabr) and strive against their desires. They spend their time in Thikrullah.
9. Bishr Haafi narrated the following episode:”One day Hadhrat Ali Jurjaani (rahmatullah alayh) was sitting near to a fountain in the forest. I went near. When he saw me he exclaimed: “Today I must have committed some great sin, hence I saw a human being.” He then fled. I pursued him until I reached him and implored: “Give me some advice.” He replied: “Conceal poverty (faqr) and adopt sabr. Abandon the desires of the nafs. On earth keep your house emptier than the grave so that you will have no regret when you have to depart from this earth at the time of Maut.” (Ali Jurjaani–rahmatullah alayh– was a majzub who lived in forests and desolate places, fleeing from people.)
10. Some people who were proceeding for Hajj requested Bishr Haafi to accompany them. He said that he would accompany them if they agreed to accept the following three conditions:
No one should take along any provisions for the journey.
No one should ask anyone for anything.
If anyone presents something, it should not be accepted.
The people said that while they accept the first two conditions, the third condition was not acceptable. Bishr Haafi said:”Your tawakkul is on the provisions of others. If your trust was solely on Allah Ta’ala, you would have attained the rank of wilaayat (sainthood).” He thus refused to join them. This high degree of tawakkul is the quality exclusive of certain Auliyaa. It is not a degree of tawakkul for everyone. Nor is every person able to adopt this special degree of tawakkul.
11. Once Bishr Haafi asked Khidhr (alayhis salaam) to make dua for him. Khidhr (alayhis salaam) said: “May Allah Ta’ala make ibaadat easy for you and may He conceal your ibaadat from yourself.” In other words, one should not entertain the idea that one is engrossed in much ibaadat. Such an attitude is ujub (vanity) which destroys one’s ibaadat.
12. One day in the qabrustaan he saw a wonderful scene. The inmates of the grave were out and it appeared that they are gathering something furiously. Bishr Haafi supplicated: “O Allah! Reveal this mystery to me.” He was commanded to question the inmates of the grave. When he asked, they responded: “A week ago a pious man who passed here recited Surah Ikhlaas thrice and bestowed the thawaab to us. From that time until now we are gathering that thawaab.”
13. Once in a dream, Rasulullah ( صلى الله عايه وسالم) said: “Bishr, do you know why Allah Ta’ala has elevated you above your contemporaries?” Bishr Haafi said that he did not know. Rasulullah ( صلى الله عايه وسالم) said: “Because you follow my Sunnah, honour the pious, admonish Muslims, and you love my Sahaabah and my companions.” While all Auliyaa have these qualities in common, Bishr Haafi was outstanding in this sphere.
14. On another occasion, Rasulullah ( صلى الله عايه وسالم) gave Bishr Haafi the following advice in a dream:”The kindness which the wealthy show to the poor for the sake of acquiring thawaab is noble. However, it is nobler for the poor to refrain from presenting their needs to the wealthy. They should repose reliance on only Allah Ta’ala.”
15. He said: “If you want honour, abstain from three things:
Placing your needs in front of people.
• Speaking ill of others.
Accompanying the guest of another person.”
“A man who desires recognition on earth, does not experience the sweetness of the Aakhirah.”
16. Bishr Haafi said: “If the only benefit of qanaa-ah (contentment) was respect on earth, striving for its acquisition would be commendable.”
Qanaa-ah in the terminology of the Auliyaa means to be happily contented with whatever provision and condition decreed by Allah Ta’ala. The minimum gain of qanaa-ah is respect on earth. A contented person does not disgrace himself by self-imposed dependence on others. The spiritual rewards of qanaa-ah are immeasurable.
17. “The wish for worldly recognition is the product of love for the world.” When a man wishes that people speak good of him and entertain a high opinion of him, he suffers from hubbud dunya (love of the world).
18. He said: “As long as a man does not erect a barrier of steel between his nafs and himself, he will never experience the sweetness of ibaadat.”
A slave of desire has no understanding of ibaadat. His acts of worship are mechanical. Nafsaani desires increase spiritual blindness, hence such a person fails to comprehend and experience the sweetness of spiritual realities.
19. Bishr Haafi said: “Three acts are most difficult. (a) Generosity in poverty. ( صلى الله عايه وسالم) Piety in privacy. (c) Truth in fear. A poor man spending in the path of Allah Ta’ala from his meagre provisions is a truly generous person. Piety is not restricted to ritual acts of worship. It has a wider meaning, bringing within its scope virtuous character, true fear for Allah Ta’ala and concern for the Aakhirah. His good, kind and tender conduct is not merely a public exhibition. In privacy, at home, he remain a paragon of virtue in his relationship with his wife, children and servants.
When danger stares one in the face, it is difficult to proclaim the truth which one knows can result in hardship, hence Rasulullah ( صلى الله عايه وسالم) said:”The noblest jihaad is proclamation of the truth in the presence of a cruel king.”
20. Bishr Haafi said: “True piety is to eliminate all doubts and to constantly apprehend the nafs.” Doubt in the Providence and Decrees of Allah Ta’ala negate taqwa. A man while not verbally doubting the Razzaaqiyat of Allah Ta’ala, indicates by his unlawful conduct that he does not honestly believe that Allah Ta’ala is the sole Provider of Rizq. If his belief was pure, devoid of doubts, he would not adopt haraam and doubtful ways of seeking a livelihood. Similar doubts exist in man’s heart in almost all spheres of life. Most people lack true taqwa despite their abundance of worship. Also, taqwa demands that the nafs be perpetually held under restraint. Man has to reflect before he speaks or acts. If he fails to scrutinise his every word and deed, he lacks true taqwa.
21. He said: “Zuhd is an Angel who does not reside anywhere except in an empty heart.” Zuhd (abstinence) means the attitude of worldly renunciation or the total elimination of worldly love. A man who may be living in a hut in the forest cannot be termed a zaahid if there lurks worldly love in his heart.
22. He said: “A man who practises righteous deeds with sincerity is distressed by company.” A natural attribute of a man who acts purely for the sake of Allah Ta’ala is love of solitude. Anything which disturbs his solitude distresses and terrifies him.
23. Bishr Haafi said: “A man’s heart hardens even by glancing at a miser.” How much more will this hardness be by eating the food of a miser or by associating with him?
24. He said: “As long as a man’s enemy does not feel safe from him, he has not attained excellence.” Roohaani excellence depends on purity of heart. This characteristic should be so outstanding that even one’s enemy should feel at ease. Even an enemy understands that this man’s honesty and purity of heart preclude the slightest vestige of malice, hence he feels safe. He knows that there is no need for him to fear any treachery. Only the Auliyaa attain such heights of excellence.
25. He said: “If you are unable to engage in Allah’s ibaadat, at least refrain from disobeying Him.” Ibaadat here refers to Nafl / optional acts of worship. While abstention from transgression is essential for all people, it has greater importance for a man whose stock of Nafl ibaadat is meagre.
26. He said: “Even if a man should lay in Sajdah Shukr for his entire life, he will never be able to correctly and sufficiently discharge the demand of Shukr. The bounties and favours of Allah Ta’ala are innumerable. Even a lifetime of prostration is inadequate for expression of gratitude to Allah Ta’ala. The Qur’aan Majeed says:
“If you count the favours of Allah, never will you be able to enumerate them.”
When His bounties cannot even be enumerated, how can sufficient Shukr be offered?
27. When his time of departure from this world approached, Bishr Haafi became restless. Someone asked: “Do you love this life of the world?” He responded: “No! However, I fear to enter the Divine Court.”
28. After Bishr Haafi’s demise, a man who saw him in a dream, asked: “How did you fare by Allah?” He replied: “Allah Ta’ala reprimanding me said: “Bishr, why did you fear Me so much? Were you not aware that I am merciful and gracious?”
29. An aged lady came to Hadhrat Imaam Ahmad Hambal (rahmatullah alayh) and said: “I was weaving cotton on my veranda. The royal light was lit (i.e. the public lamp in the street arranged by the king). In this light I continued to spin cotton for a short while. Is the earning which I shall derive from this cotton lawful?”
Imaam Ahmad: “First tell me who you are?”
Old Lady: “I am Bishr Haafi’s sister.”
Imaam Ahmad: “That income is unlawful for you. Follow in the footsteps of your noble brother. When his hand would touch any doubtful food, it would not co-operate.” (i.e. His hand would become momentarily paralysed. In this way did Allah Ta’ala protect him from consuming any mushtabah [doubtful] food.) (See Tabsiratul Auliyaa)