In response to my previous column on Ghause Azam Shaikh Abdul Qadir Gilani (ra), I received requests to write more about other well-known auliyas. One of the greatest of all times was Hazrat Awais Qarni(RA).
In his book ‘Tazkaratal Auliya’, written more than 800 years ago, Shaikh Fariduddin Attar devoted a whole chapter to this great saint. It has been translated into Urdu by Maulana Akhtar Hijazi and published by Al-Faisal Printers, Lahore. According to this book, Hazrat Awais Qarni (ra) was one of the most distinguished disciples of our Holy Prophet (pbuh) and one of the 40 most distinguished auliyas. Our Prophet (pbuh) used to say that Awais Qarni (ra) was one of the most upright followers of Islam.
The Holy Prophet (pbuh) once said: “There is a man among my followers whose prayers the Almighty would accept for the salvation of Muslims for as many times as the number of hairs on the bodies of the sheep belonging to the tribes of Rabia and Mazar”. These two tribes were famous for their huge flocks of sheep. When the companions (ra) asked who that man was and where he lived, the Prophet (pbuh) said that he was an ardent lover of Allah and his name was Awais Qarni (ra). The Prophet (pbuh) had never seen him in person because he cared for his old, blind mother and tended camels, but Awais Qarni (ra) had met him spiritually.
When the companions (ra) asked if they would be able to see him, the Holy Prophet (pbuh) said: “Abu Bakar (ra) and you (all) won’t, but Omar (ra) and Ali (KW) will meet him. He has thick hair all over his body and he has a white mark on the palm of his right hand. This mark is not leucoderma but a spot the size of a dirham left by a disease which the Almighty cured. Hazrat Qarni (ra) requested that a mark be left there for him to see and to thank God for curing him of that dreadful disease. When you meet him, convey my salaam to him and request him to pray for the salvation of the Ummah on the Day of Resurrection.” When the companions (ra) asked to whom his robe should be given, the Prophet (pbuh) replied that it should be given to Awais Qarni (ra).
Hazrat Awais Qarni (ra) was born in Qarn, a district in Yemen. He often used a rug made of camel skin and wore old clothes of material salvaged from garbage, washed and then stitched together. Hazrat Hasan Basri (ra) said that he had seen Awais Qarni in a garment full of patches. Imam Ghazali (ra), one of the greatest saints in Islam, commented that Hazrat Qarni (ra) was so absorbed in prayer and oblivious to worldly affairs that people considered him to be mad. Ibn Saad (ra) said that the Holy Prophet (pbuh) commented that within his ummah there would be a great, noble person known as Awais bin Abdullah Qarni (ra). Hazrat Qarni (ra) once obtained permission from his mother to visit the Holy Prophet (pbuh). Unfortunately, the latter was not at home, so he immediately returned, as his mother had told him to do.
According to many reliable documents, Hazrat Omar (ra) was unable to meet Hazrat Awais Qarni (ra) for 10 years after the Prophet’s (pbuh) death. In the last year of the Caliphate he took Hazrat Ali (KW) to meet him. In Arafat Hazrat Omar stood up after the khutba and asked the people of Kufa to stand up. He then asked those from Qarn to remain standing. Only one old man was left standing. When asked if he knew Awais Qarni (ra), the man replied that yes, he was related to him, but that Awais Qarni was a poor, ragged person unworthy of meeting the caliph.
Hearing this, Hazrat Omar (ra), with tears in his eyes, said: “I want to meet this poor person who wears torn clothes, has uncared-for hair and a dusty face and whom people dislike and don’t want to meet or make friends with and whom they don’t even help when he is sick. Because such is the person whom the Almighty likes and holds in high esteem, as conveyed by our Holy Prophet (pbuh)”.
After the Haj, they went to Kufa and finally found the cave of Ghira. There they found Awais Qarni (ra) praying under a tree. After some conversation, Hazrat Omar (ra) requested to see his right palm to convince himself that this was indeed Awais Qarni, and then he conveyed the greetings from the Prophet (pbuh). He then gave the Prophet’s (pbuh) abaya to him and requested that Qarni (ra) pray for the ummah as desired by the Prophet (pbuh).
Hazrat Ali (ra) then told him that the other gentleman was Omar, the caliph. Awais Qarni (ra) got up and respectfully greeted Hazrat Omar (ra). He then put the abaya on his head, went to a nearby spot, bent down and put his head on the abaya and prayed. He said: “O Almighty! Your dear Prophet (pbuh) has asked me to pray for the Ummah. O Almighty! Your Prophet Muhammed (pbuh), Hazrat Omar (ra) and Hazrat Ali (ra) have done their duty. I will not wear this robe until you forgive the whole Ummah”.
An unknown voice was heard saying that a portion of the Ummah was pardoned. Qarni (ra) then said: “O Almighty! I am requesting the salvation of the whole Ummah.” Again came a voice saying that another portion had been pardoned. Again he prayed and his prayer was accepted.
Meanwhile Hazrat Omar (ra) and Hazrat Ali (ra) became worried that Qarni was not moving and they went to him. Hearing them, he raised his head and said that, had they not disturbed him, he would have obtained the salvation of the whole Ummah and until such time he would not put on the robe of the Holy Prophet (pbuh).
More information is available in Attar’s ‘Tazkaratal Auliya’ and in ‘Awais Qarni (RA)’ by Abdul Rahman Shauq, published by my friend, Hafiz Gohar, Gohar Publications, Urdu Bazar, Lahore. About Awais Qarni’s (ra) demise, some sources have mentioned that he joined Hazrat Ali (KW) in the battle of Siffin and was martyred there, while others say that he was with the Muslim army in Azerbaijan where he was afflicted with abdominal pains and expired.
Tailpiece: In the daily Jang of February 13 I was criticised for my support for the two nuclear plants at Paradise Point, Karachi. Does the gentleman in question have more knowledge on the matter than I have? I have more than 30 years of experience in this field and know that the danger arising from such plants is less than a billionth of that posed by cars.