Tuesday, March 23, 2010

HAZRAT UWAIS AL-QARNI (Radi Allah Ta'la Anhu) - A Short Overview.

From the Layman’s Desk-5: HAZRAT UWAIS AL-QARNI (Radi Allah Ta’la Anhu)

Sayyid Uwais al-Qarni (594-657 c.e. ) was a contemporary of the Holy Prophet (sallal laahu alaihi wassallam). He was a resident of Qaran in Yemen. We find references to him in various books, notably in the prophetic traditions. To the natives of Qaran, he was a madman who dwelt in solitude and associated with no one. He did not eat what men ate and he felt no happiness or sorrow. He wept when others smiled, and smiled when others wept. He lived in a desert from their homes and camels. This was how the natives described him to the second Caliph of Islam, Hazrat Umar ®.

The Holy Messenger (sallal laahu alaihi wassallam) described Uwais ® to Hazrat Umar ® and Hazrat Ali ® as a lowly man of medium height, hairy, with a white spot on his left side as large as a dirham, which spot is not from leprosy, and having a similar spot on the palm of his hand. The Holy Messenger (sallal laahu alaihi wassallam) also bade them to give his greetings when they meet him and to pray for his people.

From the Ihya of al-Ghazali we learn that Uwais al-Qarni ® was regarded as a mad man since he used to subject himself to strict rigours in daily life. He used to go out for the morning prayers even before the call to prayers and return only after the Isha or night prayers. His food was very frugal and consisted of stones of dried dates.  As for his clothes, he used to put on a torn pieces of cloth. He used to sew the torn pieces. His appearance attracted the mischievous boys who threw stones at him and he used to constantly remind the boys that if they wished they could throw small pebbles since bleeding that resulted from the wounds sustained through large stones would invalidate his ‘wudu’.

In a Hadith Qudsi recorded by the Companion Abu Hurayra, may Allah be pleased with him, the Prophet Muhammad, upon whom be peace and blessings, said speaking on behalf of his Lord:

"Allah, Exalted and Mighty is He, loves of His creation the God-fearing, the pure in the heart, those who are hidden, and those who are innocent, whose face is dusty, whose hair is unkempt, whose stomach is empty, and who, if he asks permission to enter to the rulers, is not granted it, and if he were to ask for a gentle lady in marriage, he would be refused, and when he leaves the world it does not miss him, and if he goes out, his going out is not noticed, and if he falls sick, he is not attended to, and if he dies, he is not accompanied to his grave.”

They asked him, "O Messenger of Allah, how can we find someone like that?" He, upon whom be peace and blessings, said, "Uwais al-Qarni is such a one."

Hadrat Ibn-e-Sa'd ® quotes the Beloved Prophet (sallal laahu alaihi wassallam) as saying "In my ummah (followers) I have a friend whose name is Owais al Qarni".

We gather from Sahih Muslim: Umar al-Khattab ® reported that he had heard the Holy Prophet (sallal laahu alayhi wassallam) saying that worthy among the successors would be a person called Uwais. He would have his mother living with him. He would bear a sign of leprosy. Ask him to beg pardon from Allah for you.

Though he lived during the lifetime of the Holy Prophet (sallal laahu alayhi wassallam) and embraced Islam, he could not physically meet with him (sallal laahu alahi wassallam) as he was overawed with ecstasy, and secondly, by the duty to his old and blind mother. He is, therefore, not included in the Companions’ list. However, he is known as the best of the successors (Tabiin) or Khair-ul-Tabiian, i.e. the Eminent among the Tabiian.

In the Stories of the Sahaba it is mentioned that since the Holy Prophet (sallal laahu alaihi wassallam) mentioned the name and rank of Hazrat Uwais ®, the Sahabas tried to find him. During the Caliphate of Hazrat Abu Bakr ® he was not traced. It was only during the fag-end of the Caliphate of Hazrat Umar ® that he was traced.

A hadith in Sahih Muslim, reported by Usair bin Jabir, we learn that when the people from Yemen came to assist the Muslim army at the time of Jihad, Hazrat Umar ® asked them if there was amongst them a person named Uwais bin Amir. At last he singled him out (from the crowd) and asked him whether he was that person. He said, “Yes”. Thereupon Hazrat Umar ® said that he heard Holy Prophet (sallal laahu alayhi wassallam) saying that there would come to you Uwais bin Amir with the reinforcement from the people of Yemen, that he would be from Qaran of Murad, that he would be suffering from leprosy from which he would have been cured, save for a spot of dirham; that his treatment of his mother would be excellent; that if he were to take an oath in the name of Allah, He would honour that oath; that if it were possible to meet him, he should ask him to supplicate for forgiveness from his Lord. It is further stated that Hazrat Uwais al-Qarni begged from Allah for forgiveness of ‘Umar ® who asked him where he intended to go from there. He replied that he would go to Kufa. Umar ® thereupon told him that he would write a letter to the governor of Kufa for him. He declined, saying that he would like to remain among the poor of Kufa.

We learn further from the above tradition that the next year after the above incident, an elite from the people of Kufa peformed Haj and met Umar ® who then asked him about Hazrat Uwais al-Qarni. The man said that he had left him in a state of meager means of subsistence. Then Harat Umar ® narrated to him that he had heard from the Holy Prophet (sallal laahu alayhi wassallam) had told him about Uwais al-Qarni. Hazrat Umar ® told him to beg forgiveness through Uwais al-Qarni, if it were possible for him. So that person came to Hazrat Uwais al-Qarni and said: “Beg forgiveness for him”. The sage replied that the man had returned from the Hajj and that therefore the man must beg for forgiveness of the sage. The man repeated his request but got the same answer. Then Hazrat Uwais al-Qarni asked him if he had met with Umar ®. When the man replied in the affirmative, it was then that the sage prayed for forgiveness of the man. As the people came to know about the status of Hazrat Uway al-Qarni, he went away from that place. It is also reported in a tradition that Hazrat Uwaia’ clothing consisted of a mantle, and whoever saw him said: “From where did Uwais get this Mantle?”

The Mantle or the Burdu or Abaya , i.e. the cloak that the Holy Prophet (sallal laahu alaihi wassallam) used over his clothes, also assumes significance. When the Sahaba ® asked: "And who'd be the right person to receive your Abaya after you pass away from the material world?" The Holy Prophet (sallal laahu alaihi wassallam) replied that it would be Uwais al-Qarni.

Shaykh Abdullah ad-Daghestani, (1891-1973 c.e.) who was guided spiritually by Uwais al-Qarni ®, as well as by Hazrat Ali ® and Sayyidina Abdul Khaliq Gujduwani (reh), Hazrat Shah Bahaudin Naqshband (reh.) and who had the vision of that cloak, explained amongst other things that it was this robe that had drops of sweats of the Holy Prophet (sallal laahu alaihi wassallam) because during his last moments he (sallal laahu alaihi wassallam) prayed to Allah for forgiveness of his nation i.e. for the entire mankind since Allah says: 'Say [O Prophet]: O mankind! I am a Messenger to you all from Allah, to Whom belongs the Kingdom of the heavens and the earth.' [7: 158]. That is, he (s) was interceding for every individual which was represented by each drop of his sweat that was absorbed in the Mantle. Those drops of sweat are the symbols of forgiveness. Uwais al-Qarni ® stood up, kissed the robe, put it over his head, and said, “I accept, I accept, I accept.”

Thus the first recipient of the cloak of the Holy Prophet (sallal laahu alaihi wassallam) was Hazrat Uwais al-Qarni.

There are various accounts when Hazrat Umar ® and Hazrat Ali ® along with Hazrat Bilal ® together set out to find Uwais al-Qarni ®; or when Hazrat Umar ® alone went out to seek him; or when only he and Hazrat Ali ® went to seek him - all of which cannot be recounted in this short article. However, according to one account, Hazrat Umar ® and Hazrat Ali ® set out to find him. At last they located him. They waited till he finished his prayers. Uwais ® then greeted them and showed him the marks on his side and on the palm of his hand. They asked him for his blessings and also conveyed to him the greetings of Holy Messenger (sallal laahu alaihi wassallam) and enjoined him to pray for the Muslim people. After they had stayed awhile with Hazrat Uwais al-Qarni ® for a while, the latter said: “You’ve taken this trouble, now return as the Resurrection is nigh.” He said that then they shall see one another without bidding adieu. He told them that he was busy preparing for the Resurrection. It was after this event that the men of Qaran showed great respects for the saint. He therefore left Qaran and made his way to Kufa, the city founded by Hazrat Umar ®.

In the meantime, another Tabiian and ascetic , Harim bin Hayyan, arrived at Qaran. Not finding him there, he was sorely disappointed and he returned to Makkah where he gathered that Uwais al-Qarni ® was living at Kufa. To Kufa he went to find him; but this trip was in vain. Finally, he left for Basra and on the way he found Uwais ®, clad in a woolen garment which had patches. He found him performing ablution (wudu) on the bank of River Euphrates. Harim advanced to meet him and saluted him. Hazrat Uwais reciprocated the greetings by uttering his name in full as Harim bin Hayyan. The latter was astonished at being so called out by his name. When he asked Uwais ® how come he knew his name, the sage answered: “My spirit knew your spirit. “

When Harim bin Hayyan asked him to narrate a prophet tradition (Hadith), he said: “I never had any companionship with the Holy Prophet (sallal laahu alaihi wassallam). However, I saw some of his companions and heard some traditions from them. He mostly talked about Hazrat Umar ® and Hazrat Ali ®. He narrated the tradition: The reward of deeds depends upon the intentions and every person will get the reward according to what he intended." Then he recited the Quranic verse: “I have not created the heavens and the earth and what is between them out of sport. I created them with truth, but most people do not know.” (44:38-39) At this juncture he raised a loud shriek and said: “O Harim, your father Hayyan has died and you will soon die. Hazrat Adam, his wife Hawa, Prophets Noah, Abraham, Moses, David and even Muhammad (sallal laahu alaihi wassallam) have passed away (from this material world). Hazrat Abu Bakr ® died and my friend Hazrat Umar ® has also just expired. Alas, O Umar! Alas, O Umar!

Since Harim bin Hayyan had seen Umar ® safe and sound way back, he told Uwais al-Qarni ® : “I saw him alive when I left him.” Hazrat Uwais reported: “My Lord has just given me the news that Umar ® has died.” He also advised: Walk in the path of God’s book, and the path of the believers and pious men. He also warned: The news of your death and mine has come. Don’t be heedless even for a moment. Don’t stray from the Muslims’ fold. Preach among your people and invoke for both of us also. I entrust you to God and may He shower mercy on you. You will never see me again for I am going this way and you that way. After this, no one saw Hazrat Uwais al-Qarni ® till the time of the Battle of Siffin where he laid down his life fighting for Hazrat Ali ® during the year 657 c.e. His grave, according to one version is located in the city of Rakka (ar-Raqqa) which is on the bank of River Euphrates in north-central Syria.

Regarding the death of Hazrat Uwais-al-Qarni, there is a different account as narrated by some scholars, including Shaykh Muhammad Sa’id al-Jamal ar-rifai:

Abdullah ibn Salma, the Companion, (RA) said, "We went to Azerbaijan in the company of our Master Umar ibn al-Khattab, (RA), and Uwais was with us. On our way back he became ill and we carried him, but he did not last long and he died. We went to bury him and found a grave that was already dug. Water was available and everything was ready to receive a dead body. We washed him, put him in a shroud, prayed over him, and then we left. Some of us said that we should go back and mark the grave so that we would be able to find it later. So we returned to the place, but there was no trace of the grave to be found."

It must be noted that Hazrat Uwais al-Qarni ® had intense love for the Holy Prophet (sallal laahu alahi wassallam). The Holy Prophet (sallal laahu alaihi wassallam) held him in honour and said: “I feel the breath of my friend from the land of Yemen.” During the battle of Uhad, the Holy Prophet ‘s(sallal laahu alayhi wassallam) front teeth were damaged. Hazrat Uwais al-Qarni was not sure of the exact position of the teeth that had been damaged. He therefore broke or damaged all his teeth in imitation of the damaged teeth of the Holy Prophet (sallal laahu alayhi wassallam) on the spur of the moment in his heightened love of the Holy Prophet (sallal laahu alayhi wassallam).

When someone asked the Holy Prophet (sallal laahu alayhi wassallam) “O Messenger of Allah, how is that you praise and extol Uwais al-Qarni despite the fact that he does not come to visit you?” The Holy Prophet (sallal laahu alayhi wassallam) replied : “He cannot come to meet me because in him there is the ecstasy of the All-Merciful.” However, the Holy Prophet (sallal laahu alaihi wassallam) had foretold that Uwais al-Qarni would come to Madinah the Radiant to see him but by then he (s) would have been united with his Lord. Before his martyrdom, the Aashiq-e-Rasool did have an occasion to visit the resting place of the Holy Messenger (sallal laahu alaihi wassallam). Since his mother had passed away, Uwais al-Qarni ® visited the city of Madinah the Radiant. Beholding the holy grave, he became so deeply affected that he fell down in a swoon. On coming back to his senses, he left Madinah the Radiant in a hurry, being unable to withstand the pain surging out of his heart on seeing the grave of Holy Messenger (sallal laahu alaihi wassallam).

The Holy Messenger (sallal laahu alaihi wassallam) has also foretold that on the Day of Judgment Uwais al-Qarni will intercede for a multitude of the Ummah or people, they being as many as the sheep of Rabia and Mudar. He (s) also said that on the Day of Judgment Uwais al-Qarni would be accompanied by 70,000 angels who would resemble him, the reason being that he had prayed all his life in seclusion so as not to draw anyone’s notice to him, and this ‘purdah’ Allah would maintain on that Day too.

Imam Ghazali, points out in his celebrated Ihya Ulum Id-Deen that Uwais al-Qarni ® used to say: “This is the night of Ruku.” He then used to keep vigil during the night in Ruku. The next night he used pass in prostration. Once the sage Rabi came to greet Uwais ®. He found him engrossed in ‘Tasbeeh’ and ‘Tahlil’ after the morning ritual salaat. So he just a seat beside him so as to not disturb him. To put it briefly, he found that after every ritual salaat of different hours, Uwais ® continued with his ‘Tasbeeh’ or Dhikr or litanies. After the night prayer he remained in the same condition till the dawn prayer. Three days passed in this manner and on the fourth night he ate a little and slept a little. Thereafter he occupied himself with Istighfar (litanies for seeking forgiveness of Allah). He prayed: I seek refuge in You from the oppression of the sleepy eyes and the greedy stomach.” Seeing this state of Uwais ®, the sage thought that he had derived sufficient lesson from this meeting and went back.

Hazrat Uwais al-Qarni ® is thus known for his Taqwa (piety), Zuhd (ascetism) and Ishq-e-Rasool (Love for the Holy Prophet (sallal laahu alaihi wassallam). As we have seen, his mention is made in various books including the prophetic traditions in Sahih Muslim. Additionally, Islamic scholars inform us that his mention is found in Sahih Bukhari, Musnad of Ahmed bin Hanbal, Dalail of Bayhaqi, Abu Nuaym , Abu Yala, Mustradak of Hakim, etc. Hazrat Ali bin Usman al-Hajweri (Data Ganj Baksh) has a paragraph about him in his Kashful Mahjub. Farid-ud-din Attar mentions him in his Tazkiratul Awliya. Additionally, leading Islamic scholars too have written on various aspects of Hazrat Uwais al-Qarni ®. Preponderant evidence establishes him as a Tabiian (among Successors) though some scholars have argued that he is included among the Sahabas (Companions ).

Once the Companions asked the Beloved Prophet: "Has Uwais al-Qarni ever visited you? The Holy Prophet (sallal laahu alaihi wassallam) replied: "No, He never watched me physically, but spiritually he met me." That is, he received spiritual training directly from the Holy Prophet (sallal laahu alahi wassallam). The passing of the Mantle to Hazrat Uwais al-Qarni confirmed the the heart to heart communication of the essence of Islam. The method of the passing of the Cloak represents two significant elements in the teachings of  the Holy Prophet (sallal laahu alaihi wssallam)  which constitute the method of instruction of the School of Islamic Sufism--cognition must take place inwardly, and cognition must be confirmed--as it was in the case of Uwais ®, and Hazrat Ali ®.

In addition to the elements of Ihsan mentioned in the Hadith-e-Jibreel, Tasawwuf or Sufism is evidently proven from the era of the Holy Prophet (sallal laahu alaihi wassallam). Uwais al-Qarni ® founded the Sufi Order of Uwaisiyyah based on the spiritual connection or link that was between him and the Holy Prophet (sallal laahu alaihi wassallam). In Sufism that spiritual connection is known as "Nisbat-e-Uwaisiyyah”. A sufi who has no spiritual guide or ‘Pir’ is said to belong to this Order and the list of such Awliya-Allah and Sufis is long. It is also evident that seeking Awliya-Allah is among the Sunnah of Sahaba ®, naturally done on the express recommendation of the Holy Prophet (sallal laahu alaihi wassallam). Lastly, according to Shaykh Abdul Haq Muhaddis Dehlvi, there are seven fundamentals principles in Silsila-e-Uwaisiyyah, one of which is obeying the Holy Prophet (sallal laahu alaihi wassallam).

According to Uwais al-Qarni ®: "Hidden invocation (al-du'a fi dhahr al-ghayb) is better than visiting and meeting," because hypocrisy (riya) might enter in the latter two.” Since Uwais al-Qarni considered this world ephemeral, he often said: “Sleep with the remembrance of death, and rise with the thought that you won’t live long.”

Someone told Uwais ® that a certain dervish sat on a tomb dressed in a shroud and weeping. He said: “Tell him that the method has become as an idol. He must transcend the practice for it is an obstacle.” When the dervish was acquainted with these words of the saint, he became thoughtful. He uttered a shriek and passed away.

It is stated in Ihya that once Hasan bin Haram asked Uwais al-Qarni ® : To which country you order me to live? He hinted at Syria. He then asked: How shall I earn my living there? To this Uwais ® answered: Alas, for the one who has doubts in mind and does not get any benefit from the advice!

One of his invocations, translates thus:

"O Allah, You created me when I was not worthy of mention;And You provided for me when I had nothing;And I wronged my soul and sinned, and I confess my guilt.If You forgive me, that will in no way diminish Your sovereignty;And if You punish me, that will in no way augment Your authority. You can find others to punish besides me,But I can find no one to forgive me but You.Truly, You are the most merciful of those who show mercy."

It is said that those who serve their mothers with love will be resurrected along with Hazrat Uwais al-Qarni ®.

Allah and His Rasool know best.



  1. Al-hamdu lillah, Sub'hanllah ! May Allah find us all like this beloved servant of His.