Uwaiys Gharani, who saw the reality of the Prophet, did not need to see his face, because the purpose of seeing a face is to know meaning and reality. A face is just a curtain for the one who sees reality.3
In this way, while all members of the Zohad became distinguished Teachers, Uwaiys was unique in the way that throughout his life and teachings, he emphasized non-verbal transmission of knowledge. Uwaiys is not well known historically because he chose a life of isolation from society. However, the school of Uwaiysi Sufism continues today, demonstrating that Uwaiys continues to pass his knowledge through non-verbal means to those who are able to receive it. Farid al-Din Attar, mystical Sufi poet (12th century) described Uwaiys as the shining Eastern star that in his time was used by the people during the night to find their direction. He also described Uwaiys as hibla, referring to Uwaiys as a living example of correct self-purification, and as a man who demonstrated direction and dedication towards true prayer. Several stories illustrate the relationship between the Prophet and Uwaiys, and highlight both their connection and the essential teachings of Uwaiys. Although the Prophet Mohammad never met Uwaiys, he knew of him and held him in high regard. It is documented that the Prophet returned home one day and said, “I smell the fragrance of Rahman from the side of Yemen,” the area from which Uwaiys hailed. The Prophet then asked his wife who had visited their home earlier that day. She replied that a man named Uwaiys Gharani had come to their home. Uwaiys had come to pay his respects to his master, the Prophet, but had not been able to stay, needing instead to return home to his sick mother for whom he cared. The commitment Uwaiys demonstrated to his mother spoke to his piety, as such care is a priority within the Muslim tradition. Although they had never met, the Prophet told his wife that Uwaiys was one of his best students. Regarding Uwaiys, Sheikh Farid-e-din Attar, a poet from the 12th and 13th centuries writes: “Uwaiys is the one about whom
Sufism: An Inquiry Vol XVI, No. 3
the Prophet said, ‘Uwaiys Gharani is the best of the devotees in beneficence and affection.’ So how can one find the words to praise a man who has been praised by the Forgiving God, and whose breath is the breath of God?”4 Another story about Uwaiys Gharani that demonstrates the profound connection between Prophet Mohammad and Uwaiys recounts that just before he passed away, the Prophet asked Imam Ali, one of his students and his eventual successor, to give his robe to Uwaiys. Without ever laying eyes on Uwaiys, the Prophet gave Imam Ali a very specific physical description, including the scar on Uwaiys’s body. Imam Ali and the 2nd Caliph, Caliph Farooq, went to deliver the robe of Uwaiys. They found him on a mountain praying. After Uwaiys heard their message, he asked the two men if he could resume praying. When he finished and came back to them, he told Imam Ali and the Caliph that he had asked for God’s acceptance to take the robe, and had been permitted to accept the students. In all of the stories of Uwaiys, what stands out is the deep spiritual relationships that are not dependent on the teacher and the student having physically met. After Uwaiys became a teacher, following his receipt of the robe of the Prophet, a student named Haram ibn Hayan visited him for the first time. Haram was surprised when Uwaiys addressed him by him full name. When Haram asked Uwaiys how he knew his name without previously having met nor heard of him, Uwaiys replied: “My spirit knows your spirit.” An Inner Practice of Spirituality For many Sufis past and present, Uwaiys symbolizes or represents a certain style of receiving knowledge. Seyed Ali Kianfar, Ph.D., Shah Nazar Uwaiysi, teaches how despite a practitioner having a physical teacher whom he or she visits for teaching and guidance, it still is necessary to connect with the unseen teacher: The major communication is unseen, instead of just going physically and seeing the teacher. Even if you go physically, ultimately it should
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