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Once the Holy Prophet (Peace be upon him), while speaking to Sahaba-Ikram (companions), said: "There is a person in my Ummah (followers) whose prayers would bring forgiveness to as many sinners as the number of hair of the sheep in the tribes of Rabia and Mazar." The two tribes were well known for raising sheep during the time of the Holy Prophet. The disclosure made the Sahaba-Ikram very curious. They asked the Holy Prophet about the name of that person and the place he lived in. The Holy Prophet first hesitated, but on their insistence told them the name of a person who lived in Qarn, Awais Qarni.
The Holy Prophet continued: "On the Day of Judgment, Awais would be accompanied to paradise by 70,000 angels who'd resemble him." The reason the Holy Prophet gave for this was: "Since Awais prayed all his life in seclusion so as not to be noticed, Allah would also keep his purdah (cover)."
When people asked the Holy Prophet whether Awais Qarni had even come to see him, he said: "No, he never saw me, but he has the privilege of seeing me through Kashf (spiritual revelation), and he has reasons for not being able to see me. He is the only one to take care of his blind mother."
Again Sahaba-Ikram asked if they could see him, to which the Holy Prophet replied: "No, only Umer bin Khattab and Ali would meet him, and his identification is - he has thick hair all over his body, and a white patch on his left hand." He directed Hazrat Umer and Hazrat Ali: "When you see him, convey to him my salaam (greetings) and ask him to pray for my Ummah."
"And who'd be the right person to receive your Abaya (the cloak the Holy Prophet used over his clothes) after you leave the world?" the Sahaba asked.
"Awais Qarni," said the Holy Prophet.
When the Holy Prophet left the world and Hazrat Umer became the caliph, he, along with Hazrat Ali, went to Qarn to look for Awais Qarni. No one knew about him. However, the people of Qarn told them that outside the town there lived an insane person who laughed at the crying people and cried for those who laughed. When Hazrat Umer and Hazrat Ali reached there they saw a person praying amidst the grazing sheep. When he finished his prayers, he saw the visitors and said: "It is the first time anyone has ever seen me praying."
"What's your name?" Hazrat Umer and Hazrat Ali asked. "Abdullah (the servant of Allah)."
"Tell us your real name?"
"Show us your hand," Hazrat Umer and Hazrat Ali immediately kissed the white patch the Holy Prophet had talked about. Then they presented to him the holy dress and asked him to pray for the Ummah as directed by the Holy Prophet.
Hazrat Awais Qarni took the dress and stepped away to offer prayers: "O Allah, unless you forgive the sins of the followers of the Holy Prophet I won't wear his dress." Then they heard a voice: "I've forgiven some of them." All of a sudden came in front of him Hazrat Umer and Hazrat Ali. "Why did you come in front of me? Unless I had sought Allah's forgiveness for the entire Ummah I would not stop my prayers." Then he donned the Abaya of the Holy Prophet and disclosed that Allah had forgiven the number of people equivalent to the hair of the sheep of the Rabia and Mazar tribes.
Afterwards, Hazrat Umer asked him why he didn't receive the honour of seeing the Holy Prophet. In response to this Hazrat Awais asked them to tell whether the brows of the Holy Prophet were wide or dense? Both Sahabas could not answer the question. Then he asked another question: "Which tooth of the Prophet was martyred in the battle of Uhad? Why didn't you break all your teeth for the love of your Prophet?" Saying this, he showed his toothless mouth. "When I broke my first tooth I thought it might be the other one. Then I broke the other one. Still I was not satisfied. When I had broken all my teeth only then I received some relief."
Seeing so much devotion to the Holy Prophet and his extraordinary Tasawwaf, Hazrat Umer wished to give up his Khilafat and adopt the ways of Hazrat Awais Qarni. Sensing his thought, Hazrat Awais said, "You should have given up Khilafat for anyone else, and dedicated yourself entirely to Allah."
Hazrat Umer asked him for some advice. "O Umer, you recognize Allah and there is nothing better than the sense that no one recongizes you but Allah." Then he thanked them for taking all the trouble to come and see him. Very much impressed, Hazrat Umer and Hazrat Ali returned home filled with great regard for Hazrat Awais Qarni.
Soon after that, the people of Qarn came to know about his spiritual excellence and they started regarding him as a great saint of Allah. Since he didn't like to be known as a saint, he left for Kufa where, while fighting for Hazrat Ali in the battle of Safain, he was martyred.
Hazrat Awais Qarni always considered worldly life a temporary sojourn and often said, "Sleep with the remembrance of death, and rise with the thought that you will not live long." He received spiritual training directly from the Holy Prophet.
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