By: Mowlana Syed Aftab Haider on 27 September 2017 (Muharram 1439) at the Ahlul Bait (a.s) Islamic Centre, Ottery, Cape Town)

We are once again together to remember this great sacrifice and tragedy to have befallen the family of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAWA). We remember the spirit of devotion and commitment, sacrifice and loyalty which was manifested in Karbala, which was inherited by the heroes of Karbala through the generations, who stood for truth with firm conviction.


The company of Rasulullah (SAWA) and being in his service is indeed a great honour. To experience that company and look at that face which is the manifestation of Allah’s (SWT) mercy and His light and the most perfect example and most beloved existence and personality is indeed a great virtue. There can be absolutely no doubt about it.

Even this closeness in the PHYSICAL sense is a virtue – no doubt! We introduced in our discussion about the early vanguards and pioneers of the history of Islam, as referenced in the Holy Quran. We established the lessons from unique individuals who left a lasting legacy for all of us to reflect.

We in the school of Ahlul Bait (a.s) have the utmost respect and highest regard for them because of their companionship with Rasulullah (SAWA). Furthermore, we also hold them in such great esteem because of their character, commitment and devotion.

As we repeatedly mentioned, we believe that the companions of Rasulullah (SAWA) were human beings and they had up and downs like any other human beings. Therefore, we do not believe that they are beyond reproach or infallible for that matter.

We also discussed in the past lectures that the Holy Quran classifies the people around Rasulullah (SAWA) in different categories. Similarly, we also regard them on these different levels and titles, both positive and negative.


In the history of Islam, we find unique heroes. Tonight, I want to talk about a person who is technically not a Sahabi (companion), because he did not physically meet or see Rasulullah (SAWA). But this individual was very dear to the heart and soul of Rasulullah (SAWA), much more than those who were physically close to Rasulullah (SAWA).

Rasulullah (SAWA) loved him and spoke about him. Furthermore, Rasulullah (SAWA) desired to meet him. 

This is the great hero of Islam, and contemporary of Rasulullah (SAWA) – OWAIS AL-QARNI.

There are certain matters which come to mind when we speak about Owais:

1. His amazing love for Rasulullah (SAWA);

2. His extremely high spirituality

Owais was from Yemen, which is far from Madina. He accepted Islam and loved our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAWA) by his full existence. He was desperate to meet Rasulullah (SAWA) but was unable to because he had an old, infirm, mother to take care of. 

This is one very important aspect in the life of Owais. He took full responsibility for his mother and could not leave her to go to Madina to meet Rasulullah (SAWA).

He begged his mother for permission to meet Rasulullah (SAWA), which was a long commute in those days, from Yemen to Madina. His mother allowed him once to fulfill this wish of his, but she placed a condition that he should not remain there. He should return to Yemen after meeting Rasulullah (SAWA). He was elated by his mother honoring his plea and agreed.


Owais departs Yemen for Madina, but Rasulullah (SAWA) was not there. He was travelling. What an anti-climax for Owais, who was bitterly disappointed naturally. Owais is now at a crossroads. What must he do? He promised his mother that he will not stay. So he returned to Yemen, but first asked where the house of Rasulullah (SAWA) is. 

The story of Owais is one of truly unique love!

They pointed to the door of Rasulullah (SAWA). He looked at the door and started crying, before he embarked on his return to Yemen.

Rasulullah (SAWA) returns to Madina from his travel and asks if there were guests to visit him during his absence. His companions replied that there was a man from Yemen who came to meet him, but was compelled to leave due to his commitments with his mother. They informed Rasulullah (SAWA) that he conveyed his choicest greetings and best wishes (salaams).

Rasulullah (SAWA) replies that he knows this man who left his Nur for them before going back to Yemen! This is the caliber of Owais in the eyes of Rasulullah (SAWA)!

Here is a key message to our youth! Owais makes a promise to his mother and fulfills his commitment and responsibility to her. This is uppermost in his conscience despite his deep love and connection with Rasulullah (SAWA).


We have numerous Hadith of Rasulullah (SAWA) where he speaks about Owais. For example, Rasulullah (SAWA) sometimes said that he smells the fragrance of “Rahman” from a very fresh breeze coming from Yemen! 

People became quite curious wanting to know who Rasulullah (SAWA) is referring to that he can smell from that far while he was in Madina, to which he specified this is Owais!

What is really amazing about Owais is that from among the Sahaba (companions of Rasulullah (SAWA)), he reached to the peak of spirituality. He had a very strong discipline of abstinence from worldly pursuits.

They say that Owais would where the most basic clothing which could not even cover his body properly. The legacy of Owais is one of spiritual empowerment and development. He was totally divorced from this unreliable Dunya. Temptations from worldly pursuits could not overpower him.

We find deep mystical and spiritual emphasis in the narrations of Owais. He therefore became a central figure in Sufi circles. For example, we see this emphasis on Owais by the great Persian mystic, Mawlana Jalaluddin Rumi, and others.

It is recorded that Owais would spend a full night in Rukuh, then another night only in Sajdah!

Sayed Haider Amuli was a Shia mystic from the 8th century of Islam and one of the most distinguished commentators of the great mystic and philosopher ibn Arabi. He explains that Hadith of Rasulullah (SAWA) we mentioned earlier in a very deep spiritual manner, namely where Rasulullah (SAWA) says that he smells the fragrance of “Rahman” from a very fresh breeze coming from Yemen!

He says that this Hadith means that Owais reached to a point in his journey towards Almighty Allah (SWT) where distance does not matter! Therefore, he reached to that level with Rasulullah (SAWA) who was able to feel him so close, as he, Rasulullah (SAWA), was indeed the ultimate paragon of spirituality! This is the impact of Owais’s spirituality that bridges the physical distance between Rasulullah (SAWA) in Madina and himself in Yemen!

Hadith are there which records Rasulullah (SAWA) having regularly reminded people that he has a devoted friend and follower whom he loves so dearly even though they have not physically met. He commands the people to convey their salaams to Owais when they meet him, as he, Rasulullah (SAWA) will not be able to meet him in this life. 


This Hadith is truly amazing! Rasulullah (SAWA) told the people that Owais is truly unique. He explained his position by saying that Owais is the one who will be stopped at the door of Jannah (Heaven) on the Day of Judgement (Qiyamah) because he will need to intercede for many people and take them along with him to Paradise!

The Hadith explains that Owais will be able to intercede for the amount of people equivalent to the 2 huge tribes of Madina!

Owais is someone who is dedicated in spirituality, a mystic who is completely divorced from worldly temptations. The key point I want you to remember about Owais is that his level of spirituality does not take him away from society and communal responsibility. This is truly unique about Owais!

Owais relocated with his mother to Madina for a short while, after the passing away of Rasulullah (SAWA). He then moved to Kufa where he spent most of this period in his life with his mother. People conveyed the salaams and choicest greetings of Rasulullah (SAWA) to Owais when they met him.


Owais is the first mystic according to our Sufi brothers, but the greater aspect of Owais is not mentioned at all. Nobody speaks about how Owais died and who killed him! 

The spirituality of Owais does not remove him from society! He does not shirk from his communal responsibility! He does not retreat into his cocoon to focus purely on his worship! The level of spirituality of Owais means that he is amongst the most loyal companions of Imam Ali (a.s) and fully devoted to his true leadership.

Ibni Abbas narrates that Imam Ali (a.s) stopped everyone while they moved in convoy to the Battle of Siffin. The reason is that they should all wait for 1000 people from Kufa who are joining their army to the Battle of Siffin. Ibni Abbas says they counted the people who came from Kufa and the tally reached 999. Ibni Abbas started to question Imam Ali (a.s), and then Imam Ali (a.s) said that the special one is being awaited. This special one was Owais a-Qarni who made up the 1000!

Owais was along with Imam Ali (a.s) in the Battle of Siffin and was martyred there. This man was at a spiritual peak, in awe of Allah (SWT), “fanaa Fillah” as we call it, but was a lion in the battlefield!

He lived a very difficult life. Imam Ali (a.s) one day mentioned to the people that they should not push Owais to come to the mosque because he does not have enough clothes to cover himself.


This great hero firmly opposed the deviance of Bani Umayyah and Muawiya, and was martyred in the Battle of Siffin for his devotion to the true leadership of Imam Ali (a.s).

Again, our Sufi brothers are rightfully full of praise and ecstasy over Owais, but we never hear them speak about his martyrdom. Why do we shy away from this bitter reality of history? Owais was buried in Siffin, which is today known as Raqqa…the capital of ISIS!

Ammar ibn Yasir, Owais al-Qarni and Khuzaima ibn Thabit were all martyred in the Battle of Siffin and buried in Raqqa. There was a shrine there for these personalities, but it was bombed and destroyed in 2013 by the merciless brutality of ISIS.


He was among the first 10 people to have embraced Islam. More than 32 Hadith have been recorded from him. This man also participated in almost every battle of Islam. He lived a long life, but towards the end he died from ill health and infirmity.

Again, he was one of those who did not agree with the leadership after Rasulullah (SAWA) and the direction the Ummah was moving in. He was very sick and therefore could not join Imam Ali (a.s) in the Battle of Siffin. But Imam Ali (a.s) prayed at his graveside when returning from the Battle of Siffin. 

Khabbab ibn Aratt was among those who suffered terrible tortures. His son Abdullah was also a Sahabi, and in fact one of the commanders of Imam Ali (a.s) in the Battle of Nahrawan. Today we face this fitna of Kharijites in the form of ISIS!

Abdullah ibn Khabbab was arrested by these Kharijites and they interrogated him about his opinion on the Sahaba. He narrated a Hadith from Rasulullah (SAWA) for them which these Kharijites did not like because it highlighted the virtue of Imam Ali (a.s) above everyone else. True to form, they then summoned for him to be killed. 


How did they kill him? They tied him with his pregnant wife to a date palm tree. But then in this process some dates fell from the tree and one of these Kharijites ate it. His peers got very upset, saying that it was Haraam to eat the date as the tree does not belong to them. They became so sensitive about this, as this one Kharijite ate the dates without the permission of the farm owner. So they commanded him to seek out the farm owner and implore his forgiveness for this mistake, since they should have seeked his permission first.

When Abdullah ibn Khabbab witnessed this apparent religiosity and commitment to Islam laws of honesty, he told these Kharijites that surely they will not kill him for relaying a Hadith from Rasulullah (SAWA). He told them this and also highlighted their “commitment” to Islam in the process.

What did they reply? They told him that they will host a Kaafir (non-believer) if he was passing by, but he (Abdullah ibn Khabbab) became Murtad (according to them) for believing that Ali (a.s) is better than the rest! They therefore executed him, and his pregnant wife, and cut the stomach to remove the baby and also had this unborn baby executed! This is the Kharijite mentality who were so sensitive over a few dates, but then commit such heinous crimes!

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