In a Hadith Qudsi recorded by the Companion Abu Hurayra, may Allah be pleased with him, the Prophet Muhammad (s) said speaking from 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, (s), said, “Uwais al-Qarani is such a one.” They asked him, “and who is Uwais al-Qarani?” He, (s), answered, “He is dark skinned, wide shoulder, and of average height. His complexion is close to the color of earth. His beard touches his chest. His eyes are always looking downwards to the place of prostration, and his right hand is on his left hand. He weeps about himself with such a flow of tears that his lips are swollen. He wears a woolen garment and is known to the people of the heavens. If he makes a promise in the Name of Allah, he keeps it. Under his left shoulder there is a white spot. When the Day of Resurrection comes and it is announced to the slaves, “Enter the Garden,” it will be said to Uwais, ‘Stop and intercede.’ Allah, Mighty and Exalted is He, will then forgive them to the same number as are the people of Rabi’a and Mudhar. (These are the two tribes that Uwais, (RA), belonged to). So, O Umar and O Ali, if you can find him, ask him to intercede for you. Then Allah will forgive you.”
Ten years passed by which they inquired about him, but without being able to find him. In the year 21H./644CE, the same year that Umar ibn al-Khattab (RA), the Second Righteous Caliph after the Prophet’s death, (s), Umar (RA) went to the Mountains of Abu Qubays (mountain overlooking Makka) and called in his loudest voice, “O people of the Yemen, is there anyone up there called Uwais?”
An old shaykh with a long beard stood up and replied, “We do not know who this Uwais is about whom you ask, but my brother’s son is called Uwais. But he is too unimportant to be asked about, and too poor and submissive that he should be raised up to your level. He is our camel-herder, and he has no standing amongst our people.” But Umar again asked him if he knew Uwais.
The man answered, “Why do you ask about him, O Commander of the Faithful, for by Allah there is not one of us who is more foolish and more needy than he.”
Umar, (RA), then wept and said to him, “You are so, but not he. For I heard the Messenger of Allah. (s), say, “Those who enter the Garden through Uwais, asking for forgiveness for them, are the people of the tribe of Rabi’a and Mudhar.” Umar, (RA), asked him where he could find him, and was told, “On the Mount of ‘Arafat.”
Umar and Ali, (RAA), then went quickly to Arafat where they found Uwais praying under a tree with camels grazing around him. They approached him and greeted him, saying, “As-salaamu Alaikum wa Rahmut Allahi wa Barakatuh.” Uwais cut his prayer short, and when he had finished it, returned their greeting. They asked him, “Who are you?” He replied, “A herdsman of camels and a hired workman for a tribe.” They said, “we do not ask you about your tending of animals, nor about your being a hired worker, but what is your name?” He answered, “Abdullah.” They said, “All the people of the heavens and the earth are the slaves of Allah, but what is the name in which your mother named you?” He said, “O you two, what do you want from me?” They said, “The Messenger of Allah (s) once spoke to us about Uwais al-Qarani. He gave us a description of the bluish-black color of his eyes, and he told us that he has a white mark under his left shoulder. So please show us if you have this mark, for then it is you for whom we are searching.”
Uwais then bared his left shoulder, and they saw a white mark. They then embraced him and kissed him and said, “We declare that you are Uwais al-Qarani, so ask for forgiveness for us and May Allah forgive you.”
He answered, “I cannot even forgive myself, nor one of Adam’s children. But there are on land and in the seas believing men and women, Muslim men and women, whose invocations to Allah are answered.” They replied, “Surely this is so.” Then he said, “O you two, you know about me and I know about my state, but who are you?”
Ali, (RA), answered, “This is the Commander of the Faithful (al-amir al-mu’minin), Umar ibn al-Khattab, and I am Ali ibn Abu Talib.”
Uwais stood up straight and said, “As-salaamu alaikum ya ‘amir al-mu’minin. And you, O Ali, may Allah repay you with goodness for this Community (Ummah).” They said, “May Allah repay you for yourself and your goodness.”
Then Umar, (RA), said to Uwais, “Your place is here until I return to Madinah, and may Allah have mercy upon you. Then I will bring you help from my provision and some of my clothes. This has been the meeting place between you and me.”
But Uwais, (RA), answered him, “O Commander of the Faithful, there will be no other meeting place, in the knowledge of Allah, between you and me, but this one. So tell me, what should I do with your provision, and what should I do with your clothes? Do you not see that I am wearing a woolen gown and a woolen wrapper, so when do you see me tearing them? Or do you see that my sandals are worn out and torn? When do you see me out wearing them? Between your hand and mine there is a higher barrier which cannot be crossed by a weighty person, So leave these things, and Allah will have mercy upon you.”
When Umar, (RA) heard these words, he struck the ground with his stick and shouted out at the top of his voice, “O would that Umar had not been born by his mother, and that she had been sterile!”
Then Umar (RA), returned to Al-Madinah, and Uwais (RA), herded his camels back to his tribe.
Not long after this, Uwais left his work as a herdsman and went to Kufah where he continued in his bondsmandship until Allah, Glory be to Him took him back to Himself.
When Umar ibn al-Khattab, (RA), heard that Uwais wanted to go back to Kufah, he said tho him, “Where do you want to go to?” Uwais said, “to Kufah.” Umar, (RA), then said, “Shall I write a letter for you to its Governor?” Uwais replied, “I would rather be with the people who are near to my heart.”
In a sahih hadith of Muslim, it is recorded that Umar (RA) said, “I heard the Messenger of Allah, (s), say, “Uwais ibn ‘Amir will come with a number of the people of the tribe of Mudar from the region of Qarn as if he had a sickness on his skin. He had a mother to whom he was most perfectly devoted, and if he asked anything of Allah it would be granted to him. If you meet him, ask him to ask forgiveness for you.”
It was said of the Companion ‘Alqama ibn Marthid, (RA), that he said, “Asceticism is specially associated with eight people, one of whom is Uwais al-Qarani. His family thought that he was mad, and they built him a room near the door of their house. Days would pass by when they would not see him, and his food was what he took from plants and herbs of the earth which he would sell to buy food for himself.
Also the Companion ‘Amar ibn Saif, (RA) said, “When a man once asked Uwais al-Qarani, “How did you begin the morning and how did you finish the evening?” He (RA) answered, ‘I began in the morning by loving Allah, and I finished the evening in praising Him. Do not ask about the state of a man who, when he wakes up in the morning thinks that he will not see the evening, or when he is alive in the evening thinks that he will not wake up in the morning. Death and its mentioning and remembering does not leave the believer any space for happiness.” For, as he then said, “In Allah’s Eyes, Exalted is He, what a Muslim possesses does not gather any silver or gold, for one should only be doing what is permitted and avoiding what is forbidden, and whatever does not have leave a believer with a single friend. When we ask them to do what is permitted they insult us, and in that they are helped by the unbelievers and sinful people. By Allah they have thrown terrible things at me, but O Allah I will not leave them until I show them the right way.“
One of them said, “A number of people had spoken to me about Uwais al-Qarani, so hearing that he was then living in Kufah, I went there to find him, for I had no other desire except to see him. I found him sitting by the shore of the Tigris, and I recognized him by the description that I had been given of him. A thin man looked at me, and I stretched out my hand to greet him, but he did not return my greeting. I felt discouraged but I asked him, “Are you Uwais:”
His clothes were poor, and he seemed to be in a state of unwrapped isolation, for it was this state of his which led the ignorant people to say about him that he was mad and deranged. But I knew that his ascetic and surrendered state was that of the true faqir, who does not listen to those who say that such a state is contrary to the Sunnah. Such people are ignorant of the true Sunnah of the Messenger of Allah, (s), which is to leave the material world and the business of creation, and to draw near to one’s Lord; to leave all bonds which are other than to Allah, Exalted and Mighty is He.”
Haram ibn Hayyan continued his account of this meeting by saying, “Then I addressed him saying, ‘May Allah have mercy upon you, O Uwais, and forgive you, How are you?’ “Then my voice halted. For I could not speak my heart which was moved with deep gentleness towards him when I saw his state and that he had started weeping. I found myself also weeping. “Then Uwais said to me, ‘May Allah greet you. How are you my brother, ibn Hayyan, and who showed you the way to me?” “I answered him, ‘It was Allah.” “He said, ‘There is no God but Allah, praise be to our Lord. If it is the Wish of Allah, a thing is done. So this is Allah’s Wish.” I said, ‘How did you know my name, andmy father’s named? For my name was Haram ibn Hayyan.’ Uwais said, ‘The Knower told me, for my soul knows your soul when my self talks to your self.’ For the believers know each other in their love for Allah, even if they never met; and when they come to our resting place, they know each other even if they come from somewhere far distant. “I said, ‘Tell me about the Messenger of Allah, (s).’ “Uwais said, ‘I have never seen the Messenger of Allah face to face and I have never been in his presence, but I would give my life for him. But I do not like to talk about that.’ “I said to Uwais, ‘Recite me some verses of the Book of Allah, so that I may hear it from you and so that I may learn them by heart from you. For know that I love you in Allah.’ “Uwais took my hand, and said, ‘I seek refuge in Allah, the All-Hearing, the All-Knowing, from the accursed shaytan.’ Then he recited, ‘We created not the heavens and the earth and what is between them for mere play.’ (44:38). Then he sighed a deep sigh, and I looked at him with they eye of the Love, for he had become absent.
“A little while later he said to me, ‘O son of Hayyan, your father has died and soon you will die, going either to the Garden or the Fire. My brother and friend Umar ibn al-Khattab has died.’ I said to him, ‘May Allah forgive you, but Umar has not died.” “Uwais said, ‘Yes, and the people have announced his death, and so has Allah, Mighty and Exalted is He, and He has announced my own death. For you and I are both of the dead.” “Then he prayed upon the Prophet, (s), and murmured some short invocations. “Then he said, ‘This is what I leave you, the Book of Allah and the Sunnah of the Prophet, (s), and you should always remember death, and this should never ever leave your heart for a moment. And warn your people when you go back to them, and say to the whole Community, ‘Do not forsake the people, for if you do, you will forsake your religion without being aware of it, and you will enter the Fire. So pray for me and yourself.’
Then Uwais, (RA), said to me, ‘O Lord this is a claim, for he loves me in You, and he has visited me because of You, and permit me to see his face in the Garden, and make him enter the Home of Peace, and protect him in this world, as long as he is alive. Keep him from the material world (dunya) through the walking on the Path, and make him to be thankful for the blessings YOU give him, and give him goodness from me.’
Then he, (RA) said, ‘As-salaamu alaikum wa Rahmutullahi wa Barakatuh, for I will not see you after this day. May Allah have mercy upon you, but I do not like to be known, and I love to be solitary, for I am in deep anxiety when I am with people. So do not ask about me, and do not call upon me, but know that you are in my heart even if I do not see you nor you see me. Mention me and pray for me, for I will mention you and pray for you, if Allah, Exalted is He, so wishes. So go away from here.'”
Haram ibn Hayyan said, “I deeply wanted to walk with him for an hour, but after that he did not allow me anymore, so I left him and I started to weep, and he also wept.
I kept watching him until he went into a road…After that I asked about him, and I called to him, but no one could tell me anything about him. But then, after a week or so had passed by, I saw him once or twice in my sleep. Uwais said, ‘The Messenger of Allah died,’ but he did not say, ‘The Messenger of Allah, sall-Allahu `Alayhi wa sallam,’ although he said it about the Prophets before him. By this he meant that the grace of the Messenger of Allah is well known, and he is known for the perfection of his honor, and he does not need to be praised by people.”
Some said that when night came, Uwais, (RA) would say, “This night is for prostrating.” Then he would prostrate until morning. And also when night came he would distribute the food in his house to the poor, and he would say, “O Lord, if someone dies this night out of hunger, excuse me, and if someone dies naked, excuse me.”
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.”
May Allah be pleased with him, and for he himself alone was equal to an entire Ummah (Community).
Source: Shaykh Muhammad Sa’id al-Jamal ar-Rifa’I; from his book, The Children Around the Table of Allah