Barsisa or Barseesa the Monk Lured by Satan

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Barsisa or Barseesa, a saintly recluse, is given care of a sick woman by her three brothers, who are going for jihad.  The full story and sources are presented in the full article. In a simple nutshell this is the story of the Monk, Barsisa.

Barsisa is a righteous, well known and very trusted monk who is looking after a sick woman entrusted to him by her brothers and at the devil’s suggestion, Barsisa slips into sin with the woman. The woman becomes pregnant and with further whispers from Satan, Barsisa kills her and buries her body to hide evidence of his sin.  While he is hoping not to be found out, Shaitan, however, reveals the murder to the woman’s brothers in their dreams. Barsisa is desperate and thus Iblees approaches him again with a false solution by worshipping him simply by nodding his head, only to be mocked by Satan, in the words of the Quran (59:16), “I am free of thee; I fear God, the Lord of the Worlds.”

“The legend of this recluse, who is nameless and is described variously as a Jewish ascetic or a Christian monk, appeared first in at-Tabari’s commentary on the Quran in the early 10th century. In 985 an author stated that the recluse was called Barsisa, an Aramaic name meaning “he of priestly regalia”. Elements of the story are traced back to Coptic folklore, and the legend survived in the Islamic world in several forms. By the end of the 18th century, it had made its way to England, where it became the subject of Matthew Gregory Lewis’s novel The Monk.”  Wiki

Every Muslim should be aware of the existence of Shaytan. Satan is an arrogant Jinn, who stubbornly refused to bow to Adam (AS) when Allah commanded him to do so. Shaytan considered himself to be superior to Adam (AS), and this was the reason for his defiance. Moreover, Satan then conspired against Adam (AS) and Eve. He utilized his evil tricks of deception to convince them to disobey Allah and we see this in the story of Barsisa.

When Iblees tempts us he does not approach us with a direct call speaking to you as a second person. Rather, he confuses us by whispering thoughts in the first person of yourself so to think they are your own thoughts. “I think I want to…” or “I do not like or hate so and so..” as examples of how he whispers to us. This also serves to break our morale and cause us to fall to despair or to think we are beyond redemption. His aim is clear to destroy our faith by thinking the worse of ourselves by slipping one tiny sin at a time.

While one may think that he or she possesses strong faith and cannot be led astray by Satan, it is imperative not to underestimate the subtlety of Satan’s traps. One of the finest examples of how Satan can sneakily lead man down a path of destruction is the story of Barsisa.

This story shows us that Satan can lead even those who are pious astray, and he calls to sin in a cunning manner that lures his unsuspecting victims straight into his trap without them even realizing it.


Barsisa or Barseesa was a righteous man who fell to Satan’s plots lived in a small village at the time of Bani Israel.

Source : Quoted in ibn al-Jauzi, Talbees Iblees, p.39

“And he swore unto them (saying): Lo! I am a sincere adviser unto you” (al-Araaf 21).

 

Wahb ibn Munabbih has related the following lengthy story from the people of the book.  ” We present it here to show the way of Shaytan in his attempt to mislead mankind. The story warns humans about Shaytan”s “sincere advice”.  One must oppose the thing that Shaytan is calling to. Wahb tells the story and here it is presented in a paraphrased way for easier understanding.

The request of the three brothers

There was a pious worshipper of the tribe of Israel. He was the most pious person of his time. During his time, there were three brothers who had a sister. She was a virgin. And they had no sister other than her. They were all about to leave the town to go to war. They did not know with whom to leave their sister and who they could trust to look after her. They all agreed to leave her with that pious person. They all trusted him. They went to him and asked if they could leave her with him. She would be in the building next to him until they return from the fighting. He refused their request and sought refuge in Allah from them and their sister. They persisted until he finally acquiesced.

He said, “Put her in the house next to my place of worship.” So they put her in that house and they left, leaving her there. She remained living next to that pious person for some time. He would put food for her in front of his building of worship. Then he would lock the door and return to his place of worship. He would then tell her to come out of her house and take the food. Then Shaytan approached him softly. He encouraged him to treat her kindly. He told him that it was not good to make the woman come out of her house during the day as someone may come upon her. If he took the food directly to her door that would mean a greater reward for him.

He continued for some time to go to her door and place the food at the front of her door without speaking to her. Then Iblees came again and encouraged him to do good and get more reward. He said, “If you took her the food and placed it in the house for her, you would get a greater reward.” He continued to encourage him. So he started to take the food into her house. He continued like that for some time.

Shaytan slowly entices Barsisa

Then Iblees came again and again encouraged him to do good. He said, “If you talk to her for a while she will be put to ease by your conversation as she is in a state of fear and she is all alone.” He then started talking to her from atop his place of worship.

Then Iblees came again. He said, “If you were to come down and talk to her while she sits at her door and talks to you, that would be even more comforting for her.” He continued to encourage him until he came down and sat at his door and would talk to her. The girl would come out of her building and sit at her door and they would talk for a while.

Then Iblees came again and encouraged him to get great rewards for treating her well. He said, “If you were to go from the door of your place of worship and sit close to her door, that would be even more comforting for her.” He continued exhorting him until he did so. He continued that act for a while. Then Iblees came again. This time he said, “If you enter her house and talk to her, and not make her show her face in public it would be even better for you.” He continued exhorting him until he entered her house and spent the whole day talking to her. Then when night fell, he returned to his place of worship.

Satan lures Barsisa into fornication

Then Iblees came to him after that and continued to make her more appealing to him. Until the worshipper got upon her and kissed her. And Iblees continued to make her look nice in his eyes and desire her until he finally had sex with her. She got pregnant and gave birth to a boy.

Shaytan’s scheme ruins Barsisa’s life

Then Iblees came and told the worshipper, “Do you not realize what the brothers of the girl will do to you when they see she has given birth to your son” You will not be safe if your matter becomes clear. You should go to the boy and kill it and bury it, that way you can conceal your affair and they will not do anything to you for what you did to her.” Then he said to him, “Do you think she will conceal from her brothers what you did to her and your killing of her son. Take her, kill her and bury her with her son.” He continued spurring him on until he killed her and threw her in the ditch with her son. Then he put a large rock over them and levelled it.

Then he returned to his place of worship and worshipped therein. He stayed in that state for as long as Allah willed until the brothers came back from the fighting. They came to him and asked him about their sister. He mourned her loss and started to cry. He said, “She was the best of women and that is her grave.” The brothers came to the grave and cried over their sister and asked Allah to have mercy on her. They stayed at her grave for a few days and then went to their families.

When the night overtook them and they went to their beds, Shaytan came to them in their sleep in the form of a traveller. He started with the eldest and asked him about their sister. The brother told him what the pious man had stated and how they were shown her grave. Shaytan told him that the pious man had lied. He said, “He did not tell you the truth about your sister. He got her pregnant and she had his son and then he killed and buried her out of fear of you. Then he threw them in a ditch he dug behind the door of the house she was staying in, to the right of the entrance. Go and enter the house in which she stayed and on the right of the entrance you will find everything I told you about.”

Then he went to the middle brother and did the same. Then he went to the youngest brother and did the same. When they woke, they were all surprised at what they had seen. When they met each other, they all said, “I saw an amazing thing last night,” and they informed each other of what they had seen.

Barsisa is taken to account and is crucified

The eldest said, “That dream has nothing to it so just ignore it.” The youngest said, “I will not leave it until I go and look at that place.” They all went until they reached the door of the place where there sister stayed. They opened the door and looked for the place that was described to them in their dreams. They found their sister and her son buried in a ditch, as they were told. They asked the worshipper about it and he confirmed what Iblees had told them. They then took him and were about to crucify him.

When they had him on the wooden cross, Shaytan said to him, “You know that I am your companion who tempted you by the woman until you got her pregnant and you killed her and her son. If you obey me today and deny Allah, who formed and shaped you, I will rescue you from your predicament.” The worshipper then belied Allah. When he belied Allah, Shaytan left from being between him and the others and they were able to crucify him.”

Many scholars related this story in their commentary to the following verse,

“Or the likeness of Shaytan when he tells man to disbelieve, then, when he disbelieves, says to him, “Lo! I am innocent of you. Lo! I fear Allah, the Lord of the Worlds” ” (Surah al-Hasr 16).

They mention that this verse refers to this worshipper and to others similar to him. Allah knows best.

This story, and others similar to it, are from the bani Israel and ahlil Kitab or stories which have their source in the books or tales of the Jews and Christians. We do not say it is true nor do we say it is false, but it is allowed to narrate them as the Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “Narrate stories about the Tribe of Israel if there is no harm in that.

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