During the lifetime of Prophet Muhammad, may the mercy and blessings of God be upon him, a man named Uwais al-Qarni was living in Yemen. He embraced Islam at the hands of some of Prophet Muhammad’s companions. However, he is not considered to be a companion (sahaba); rather, he is considered to be among the next generation, or those who came after, (the tabi’in).
Prophet Muhammad once said there are some people from this nation who are disheveled, lack money, and social status, but if they take an oath by God, God will surely honor that oath. There are many fables and unsubstantiated tales linked to Uwais al-Qarni, however, there are also some authenticated stories that boost our faith and make us want to behave more like this simple man of relatively low social status.
Uwais grew up in Yemen, and when he was very young his father died. He therefore had to take care of his mother. He also had leprosy. Uwais with a devoted heart and sincere supplications asked God to cure him. God healed him and left just a coin-sized piece of disfigured skin on his shoulder. Every time Uwais looked at this small patch, he was reminded of God’s favor to him. Uwais continued to look after his mother, and unfortunately, she went blind, becoming even more dependent on her son.
Prophet Muhammad told his companions that there is man who will come to you from Yemen. He comes from Murad and the tribe of Qaran. The Prophet went on to tell them about the leprosy and finished the description of Uwais saying, “and he has a mother, he treats her extremely well, and is obedient to her.” He then said, if Uwais al-Qarni takes an oath by God, God will surely honor that oath. If you meet him, ask him to seek forgiveness for you.
Umar ibn al-Khattab never forgot this advice, and when he became the leader of the Muslims, every year he would go out to meet those coming from Yemen for the pilgrimage. Umar would ask, “Is Uwais al-Qarni among you?” This continued for ten years. Finally, the people from Yemen said yes and pointed him out to Umar. Umar went straight to Uwais to determine if he was the man Prophet Muhammad described.
Umar then explained that Prophet Muhammad advised him to ask Uwais to seek forgiveness from God for him (Umar). Uwais was taken aback; he pointed out to Umar that he was a companion of the Prophet and the leader of the Muslims. You should ask God to forgive me, Uwais insisted. However, Umar was not deterred, and Uwais supplicated that God forgive the sins of Umar ibn al-Khattab.
Umar was pleased and wanted to help Uwais in some way. After the pilgrimage, Uwais was traveling to Kufa in Iraq. Umar offered to write an introduction letter to the governor of Iraq, but Uwais refused his offer preferring to remain anonymous among the believers. He was a simple man with simple needs. He did though have a request for Umar. He asked Umar not to tell people about his unique link to Prophet Muhammad in case they might disrupt his pilgrimage.
Uwais al-Qarni proves to us that even if someone is not from the companions of Prophet Muhammad, yet he or she can have immense love for God and His Prophet.
Islam encourages kindness to parents especially the mother. Prophet Muhammad once advised a man intending to go on a military expedition to stay home instead and look after his mother. “Paradise lies beneath her feet,” he said.