Uways al-Qarani was born in Najd. There is no precise information concerning the date of his birth, but it has been written that his homeland was Yemen. The name Uways was his father’s name, while Qarani derives either from the fact that Qaran is a place or a mountain in Najd, or that Qarani was the name of a group from the Bani Amer tribe to which Uways was related. Uways died in 659 in the Saffein battle in the wars between Imam Ali, the son-in-law of the Prophet Mohammad, and Moavieh-ibn-Abisofian. His tomb is in Damascus. Sheikh Farideddin Attar, a Sufi of the 7th century, in his famous book, Tazkerat-ol-Olia (The Book of Saints), says of Uways: Uways shall go to paradise where no creature, other than the ones God loves, shall recognize him, since he prayed to the eternal God on earth in solitude and kept himself far from people so that he would be hidden from the eyes of strangers here and in the everlasting world, as God said, “My friends are under my dome, no strangers can see them.” Uways was considered one of the eight most pious persons at the beginning of Islam. He would spend his days fasting and break his fast with only a few dry dates. He prayed day and night, performing sequences of devotional practice. He would begin by performing prayers and meditation for seven nights, standing until dawn. During the next seven nights, he would perform his prayers and meditations while prostrating without pause. Then for a week he would meditate and pray while sitting through the night. Uways fasted through the entire cycle. It is narrated that once he felt tired and hun-
gry after the 21 days of fasting and discipline. He cried out to Allah, “Refuge be to God, I am ashamed of these eyes wanting to sleep all the time, and this hungry stomach wanting to indulge itself in gluttony,” and returned to his prayers.
Inward Connection Uways did not physically see the Prophet Mohammad during his lifetime, but obeyed the Prophet’s rules and laws so well that Attar called him the best of the Prophet’s followers (kheyrol tabein). In one well-known story about Uways told by the Prophet Mohammad himself, the Prophet came home and asked his wife who had come to see them, telling her that he smelled the essence of God in their midst. The Prophet’s wife replied that a man had come a long way, from Yemen, to see him. She told the Prophet that the man had told her he could not stay longer because he had to return home to care for his Mother. When the Prophet’s wife told him that the traveler’s name was Uways and that he asked her to give his regards to his master, the Prophet, the Prophet replied that he had never physically seen Uways, but knew him as one of his best followers. Another story about Uways describing his relationship to the Prophet Mohammad also illustrates the Uwaysi principle that the receipt of divine knowledge does not require the physical presence or closeness of the teacher but an inward connection through the heart. After the Prophet’s death, Omar came to see Uways and asked him, “If you were such a great follower of the Prophet, why did you never come see him?” Uways replied, “Did you see him?” “Yes I did,” said Omar. “No,” replied Uways. “You saw but the cloth and not the reality of the Prophet.” Sufism: An Inquiry Vol XVI, No. 1
A journal for people of the heart.