Owais Qarni’s is a story that sets an example for all the Muslims as how even without meeting the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), one may still earn Allah’s favor and His pleasure, on account of his unflinching love for the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). Owais Qarni (may Allah bless him) could never meet the Prophet (peace be upon him) in person, but he is arguably the only person in Islamic history who is said to have been accorded the status of sahabi (companion) by none other than Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) himself. (To be a companion, it required the criterion of meeting the Prophet while having faith.)
Imam Muslim named one full chapter in his one of the most reliable tomes of Hadith in Qarni’s name: “The Virtues of Owais Qarni” in Sahih Muslim. It records a Hadith quoting Umar ibn Al-Khattab, who said: “I heard Allah’s Messenger, peace be upon him, saying: ‘There would come to you Owais b. Amir, of Qarn, a branch of the Murid tribe, along with the reinforcement of the people of Yemen. He had been suffering from leprosy which would have been cured but for the space of a dirham. His treatment with his mother would have been very kind. If he would take an oath in the name of Allah (for something), He would honor it. Ask him to beg forgiveness for you (from Allah) in case it is possible for you.”
Qarni was born in Asir region of Saudi Arabia, 594CE. His father, Aamir, was a God-fearing person. He gave Islamic education to his son but died leaving Owais an orphan at a young age. The family was poor and could not afford higher education for him. He devoted him to praying, fasting and service to his mother. Owais had profound love for Islam and its Messenger. Owais learned that there is a great reward in Islam for serving parents. His mother was sick and blind. So he devoted himself solely to the service of his mother. He was 28 years of age when Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) had migrated to Madinah Munawwarah. He had a keen desire to visit him, but was preoccupied with the service of his sick mother. Yet he would keep a tab on the developments in Hijaz.
When he heard about the sad news of the Battle of Ohud (625CE), when a tooth of the Prophet was martyred, Qarni out of love for him, broke all his teeth. Thus was his love for the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him). The Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) knew about Qarni and his love for him. He once told Omar ibn Khattab about Qarni and had predicted that Omar would meet Qarni after his (the Prophet’s) departure from the world. He gave all the details about him and advised him to seek prayers for his forgiveness and for the whole Ummah. The companions asked if they could see him but the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) replied: “No, only Omar bin Khattab and Ali would meet him,” and gave identity marks of Qarni. He directed Omar and Ali: “When you see him, convey to him my salaam and ask him to pray for my Ummah.”
During Prophet (peace be upon him)’s last days, he asked Omar and Ali to pass his Jubba (the blessed cloak) to Qarni and ask him to pray for the forgiveness of the Muslim Ummah. This demonstrates the exalted status of Qarni. Qarni, the Prophet is said to have remarked, is the best among tabeiin, (second generation of the companions). Qarni rubbed the blessed cloak over his face and eyes, and kissed it, when he finally received it. The blessed cloak, it is said, is preserved in Istanbul, Turkey. Referring to Qarni, the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) once told his companions: “There is a person in my Ummah whose prayers would bring forgiveness to as many sinners as the number of the sheep in the tribes of Rabia and Mudar.”
The two tribes of Rabia and Mudar were well known for raising sheep during the time of the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him). Usair bin Jabir reported that when people from Yemen came to help (the Muslim army during battle), Caliph Omar would ask them: “Is there among you Owais bin Amir? (He continued finding him out) until he met Qarni. He told him the saying of Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) about him and asked him for his prayer and said: “Where do you intend to go?
He said: To Kufa. Umar said: Let me write a letter for you to its governor, But Owais said: I love to live among the poor people.
Umar was impressed with his simple personality and asked Owais Qarni to pray for him. He replied, “I pray for the forgiveness of everyone at the end of every prayer. If you keep your faith in Allah and His Messenger (peace be upon him), you will receive my prayers in your graves.”Here is the famous invocation of Owais Qarni: “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 reduce 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. The Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) said “Owais will come to Madinah to meet me, but he will not find me physically, for I shall then be united with my Lord.”
When the people in Qarn began revering him and considering him a saint, on account of his status in Islam, he left Qarn for Kufa where he engaged in imparting Islamic education. Later, he took part in the unfortunate Battle of Siffin (37AH) where he was fatally wounded, subsequently dying at the age of 63. He was buried at Al-Raqqah, Syria. A grand Aal-Zaria Mosque as Jaame Owais Qarni stands at Qarn in Asir region and another Owais Qarni Mosque in Ilford UK. The love of the Holy Prophet is the boon that can be achieved without meeting him. This opens the door for millions of Muslims living in different areas and eras of the world. The life of Owais Qarni encourages us to love Holy Prophet (Peace be upon him) though we have not seen him and to get higher ranks as got by Owais.
Abu Tariq Hijazi