The following story is extracted from Qushayri Risala, letters of Qushayri1 (r.a).
Bilal al-Khawwas (r.a) said:
“As I was traveling across the desert of the Israelites2, I suddenly saw a man walking by my side. At first I was surprised, but then I came to realize that that was al-Khidr 3 (a.s) – peace be upon him. I asked him: ‘By God, who are you?’ He answered: ‘Your brother al-Khidr!’ I told him that I had a question for him. He said: ‘Ask!’ ‘What do you say about al-Shafi’e 4 (r.a) ’ He answered: ‘He was a [spiritual] peg5.’ I then asked him: ‘What would you say about Ahmad b. Hanbal6 (r.a)?’ He answered: ‘He was a veracious man7.’ ‘And what would you say about Bishr al-Hafi (r.a)?’ He answered: ‘After him there was no one like him.’ I asked him: ‘Owing to what was I able to see you?’ He answered: ‘Owing to your pious behavior toward your mother.’ ”
1-Al-Qushayri was a great Sufi master and jurist of Islam.
2-Probably the Sinai desert.
3– Khidr or Khizr is a Mysterious figure in Islam who is described in the Quran, where he teaches Moses (a.s) higher truths , he is seen as a righteous servant of Allah and who possessed great wisdom or mystical knowledge. He influenced countless Sufi Saints, and believed to have drunk the water of life. He is regarded as an Eternal guide by many scholars.
4- Al-Shafee was a great jurist and the founder of one of the four Sunni School of Legal Theory or Islamic Jurisprudence
5-That is, a member of the invisible hierarchy of the saints who are the real rulers of the universe. The peg (watad) is a high, although not the highest, rank in this saintly hierarchy. His name indicates that his function is to keep the universe stable.
6- Another great great scholar and jurist, the founder of the Hanbali school of jurisprudence.
7-Siddiq (lit. “faithful”, “truthful” or “just”); in the Sufi tradition this Quranic term (Q. 4:71) denotes an advanced rank of sainthood.