The Shrine of the Owais Al-Qarnee One of the Outstanding, Islamic & Archeological Monuments in Yemen [Archives:1999/36/Culture]
Casting an eye over the Islamic monuments in Yemen, you will be amazed to discover that they are indeed great and far from any kind of description. These Islamic landmarks had been centers of illumination and enlightenment for the establishment of one of the greatest civilizations history have ever recorded. They also became a tourist bridge that receive local as well as international attention. They are perfect examples of the deeply-rooted civilization of Yemen.
In this cultural article of this issue, I will be focusing on an important milestone of our Islamic culture at Zabeed, Al-Fakeeh House, in Hodeidah. It is the grave of the holy man, Owais Al-Qarnee. His grave is a pivotal monument highly appreciated and admired by Yemenis as well as Pakistani and Indian Muslims who have annual festivals in this place. When writing this article, I also made use of a good book called “The Feature Layers of the Honest and Faithful People” by Abo Al-Abass Ahmad Al-Zabeedi.
Owais Al-Qarnee’s whole name was Abo Amer Owais bin Amer bin Harb bin Morad bin karn bin Al-Moradee then Al-Qarnee. He is considered to be one of the noble, virtuous people who had done a lot to serve Islam. The prophet Mohammed “Mercy be upon him” talked about him and said that there would be someone called Owais from Yemen who will be known for his sincere followship. He is from the “Karn”, indicating his nickname, who will come suffering from leprosy. He would ask God to cure him from this disease except for a small spot and God shall not turn him down. The Prophet also said that if he swore by God, God would carry out what he swore for.
Then, he pronounced the name Owais and when they inquired about his identity, he said that he suffered from leprosy, had bluish-black eyes, broad shoulders, a long beard, he used to always look at his praying place and cry over himself. There was a bright spot under his left shoulder, which was a unique mark of his. However, he was very well known to be among the most faithful in heaven. So the Prophet asked Omar bin Al-Khatab as well as Ali bin Abo Taleb “May God bless them” if they could meet him one day and ask him to ask God to forgive their sins. When the Prophet Mohammed passed away, Omar and Ali kept looking for him for almost ten years. However, they could not find him at all. In the same year of Omar’s death, a person called Abo Kaiss went at the top of a mountain in Yemen and shouted as loud as he could asking whether the natives know someone called Owais. They told him that there was no one called so, then a person turned up and said that he had a poor nephew called Owais but he was a mere camel peasant.
Omar asked him then about his distention. He was told that he was living in Ba’arak Arafat. Therefore, they rode quickly to Arafat. When reaching there, they could see him praying and his camels were around him. They greeted him and then they asked his name. When he saw their insistence to know his name, he told them to leave him alone. Only then they told him that the Prophet told them that there would be someone called Owais, who suffered from leprosy and had bluish-black eyes. They told him that they wanted to make sure of another thing to prove that he was the right person. They told him that there was a bright spot under his left shoulder. When they saw it they started kissing him and asking for his blessing. They asked him to pray to God to forgive them and he refused. Then, he asked them who they were. Realizing that the two inquirers were not more than the Calif Omar and Ali bin Abi Taleb, he stood up and greeted them and asked God to forgive and have mercy on them. When Omar tried to give him some money and clothes he refused and said that he earned his living from his work and he was content with what he had. Then, he asked them to go back to where they were and leave him to lead the same life style. However, interstingly after this incident, Owais gave up his career as a camel peasant and devoted his life to worshipping God.
During the caliphate of Ali, he participated in Islamic conquests. He was said to have died in Safeen during the caliphate of Ali bin Abi Taleb rule in 37. It is also said that he used to pray for long periods of time to the extent that he used to spend the whole day and night praying to God and asking for his forgiveness.
Many people are used to visiting this place, especially Pakistanis who used to stay there for some days upon their getting back from Al-Haj (Islamic primilage) season. They stay there to perform some rituals. They also used to distribute some presents and gifts to the people living in the region. They also rebuilt and renewed the shrine several times. It is said that the French Orientals who visited Yemen in the nineties visited this shrine. However, today the people in the area feel very sorry because this shrine has not been appropriately cared for lately, and is suffering from ignorance and carelessness.
The dome which appears in the picture was rebuilt after it was destroyed in the 12th century (1320). When I inquired why the shrine was mostly visited by Pakistani and Indian Muslims, I was told that when Indians used to go to Al-Haj in the past, they used to moor their ships at Mocha, in Hodeidah. Then, they walked the rest of the way to Saudi Arabia through Yemen, as there were no means of transportation at that time. On their way, they used to pass by this holy shrine. They were very attracted to it for it was eloquently decorated. They used to stay there for many days before continuing their journey to Mekka. Thus, Indians and Pakistanis inherited the conventions of visiting this shrine. Today, visiting Owais’s shrine has become a practice done every year.
To sum it all up, this Islamic shrine of this virtuous and holy man should be given some attention and care. We pronounce this plea for those in charge to keep and preserve such Islamic, historical and archeological monuments for we will never achieve anything in the future without preserving our past which was very fertile and rich.