The Story of Barseesa
The story of Barseesa, this is a man from the Children of Isreal who was a worshipper, famous worshipper, aabid. He had his temple and he devoted himself to worship in his monastery.
Three men from the Children of Israel wanted to go out for jihad, al-ghazwa. They had a sister. They didn’t know where to leave their sister, so they said “Where should we leave her, we can’t leave her alone, where should we leave her?” They asked around, they said the best place to leave her is with that aabid, that worshipper, he’s the most righteous person, he’s the most trustworthy, leave your sister with him and he’ll take care of her.
They went to the aabid, the worshipper, Barseesa. They told him this is the situation, we want to go out for ghazwoo, can you please take care of our sister? He said “I seek refuge in Allah from you”, stay away from me. Then Shaytan came to him and said, “Who are you gonna leave her with? If you don’t take care of her, an evil person may take care of her and then you know what will happen. How come you’re gonna (let) this good slip out of your hands?” Shaytan is encouraging him to do good, so he called them back and he said “Ok, I’ll take care of her. She’s not gonna stay with me in my monastery, she’s gonna stay in that home over there”, he had a house, you stay there, I stay in my temple.
So she would stay in that house in the room, and he would carry the food for her and he would leave the food on his doorstep, he doesn’t even want to go to her house, he would leave on the doorstep and she would have to come and pick up the food. He doesn’t even want to see her. And then Shaytan came to him and said “What are you doing? Don’t you know that when she walks out from her room and comes to your temple, people can see her? You have to the deliver the food to her doorstep.” He said “Yes, that’s true.” Shaytan is not speaking to him face to face, this is was’wasa, inspirations. He said “That’s true.” He started taking that food and he would drop it on her doorstep. That continued for a while and then Shaytan told him “She’s still opening the door and coming out to take the plate, somebody can still see her. You have to deliver the plate into her own room.” Shaytan is telling him to do good things. So he started taking the plate and he would put it in the room and then he would leave.
And that continued for a while and these three brothers were late, these ghazwa took a while. So Shaytan came to him and said “You’re gonna leave her alone with nobody to take care of her, nobody to speak with” – she’s been in there like she’s in prison, speaking to no one – “so why don’t you take that responsibility and go and speak with her – just socialize just a little bit to take care of her because she could go out and find another man and start having a relation with him.” So he would speak from outside her room and she would be speaking from in her room and they would be screaming at each other to hear each other. Shaytan told him “Why don’t you make it a little convenient for yourself, instead of screaming and hollering at each other from far distances, why don’t you go and sit in the same room?” So he started sitting with her in the same room, spending some time with her, and then slowly and slowly they started spending hours and hours together, and they started getting closer and closer and closer until the great aabid committed zina. She became pregnant, the story didn’t end yet.
She became pregnant, she delivered a child. Shaytan came to him and said “What have you done? Do you know what will happen when the brothers come back? They’re gonna kill you. Even if you say this is not my son, they’re gonna say ‘Even if it’s not your son, you’re supposed to take care of her, it’s your responsibility, we don’t care who the father is, we left her as – you are the person responsible for her.’ The only solution for this problem is that you kill – murder – the child and bury it.” The aabid chopped out the head of the infant and he buried him. Shaytan came to him and said “Do you think that the mother will keep the secret after you killed her son? Do you think she will keep that secret?” What should I do, “You should kill her too.” So he killed her. And he buried them both in that room.
The brothers came back, they came and said “Where is our sister?” He said “Inna lil’lahee wa inna ilayhee ra’jee’oon, she became ill and she died and she’s buried in that place”, and he went and showed them a fictitous grave. So they said “Inna lil’lahee wa inna ilayhee ra’jee’oon”, they made dua for her and they went home.
At night time, one of the brothers saw a dream. Who came to him in that dream? – Shaytan. He told him “Did you believe Barseesa, did you believe him? He’s lying. He committed zina with your sister and then he killed her and her son, and the evidence to prove that is that she’s not buried in the place he showed you, but she’s buried in her room under the rock.” So he woke up and he told his brothers about the dream, they said “We saw the same dream, it must be true.” They went the next day, they dug the fictitious grave, they found nothing. They went into her room, they uncovered the earth and they found their sister buried with an infant.
They grabbed Barseesa and said “You liar. This is what you have done”, and they took him to the king. While they were draggin him to the king, Shaytan came to Barseesa, but now Shaytan didn’t come in the form of inspiration, he came in a human form. He told him “Barseesa, do you know I am? I am Shaytan, I am the one who cause you all of that mess, and I am the only one who can deliver you out of it” – I’m the one who caused it, and I’m the one with the solution for it, it’s up to you, if you want to go and die that’s fine, if you want me to save you, I can. Barseesa said “Please save me.” He said “Make sujood for me.” Barseesa made sujood for Shaytan, what did Shaytan say, he said “Thank you very much, (it’s) been a pleasure meeting you” and he never saw him again.
Barseesa made sujood for Shaytan and that was the last thing he did in his life because shortly afterwards he was executed. The last thing he did in his life was sujood for Shaytan. Aabid, on the righteous path, but because he chose to take turn, even though it was a very very very small turn – in the beginning it was very insignificant – in the name of mas’laha, in the name of the benefit, in the name of mas’laha he did it. And it was a very small diversion that he took but look at where it ended. Look at the final destination.
That is the danger of following desire. Because sometimes we feel confident because of knowledge and because of the Qur’an we know and because of the ibaadah we are doing – subhan’Allah we should always be afraid on ourselves. We should never be overconfident, we should always be worried, and that is the khash’ya of Allah SWT and that is the true knowledge – “The ones who have the fear of Allah are the scholars.” If you are a scholar then you have khash’ya of Allah, otherwise it is just memorization of verses in the mind that have no meaning in the actual world.
A side not on this story, what policy was Shaytan using with Barseesa? If Shaytan came to Barseesa from the beginning and told him “Make sujood to me”, would Barseesa have done that? No he wouldn’t. He took the step-by-step policy.
Transcribed from a lecture by Imam Anwar al-Awlaki