What Is a Saint in Islam? How Does a Person Become One?

Answered by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Question: Assalamu alaykum

What Is a Saint in Islam? How Does a Person Become One?

Answer:  Wa’leykum Salam,

Here is a video answer by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani to this question:

[Shaykh] Faraz Rabbani

Shaykh Faraz Rabbani is a scholar and researcher of Islamic law and Executive Director of SeekersHub Global After ten years overseas, Shaykh Faraz returned to Canada in the Summer of 2007. In May 2008 he founded SeekersHub Global to deal with the urgent need to spread Islamic knowledge—both online and on the ground—in a reliable, relevant, inspiring, and accessible manner. He has been repeatedly listed as one of the world’s 500 most influential Muslims (The Muslim500).

Was Uways al Qarni Martyred?

Shaykh Gibril Haddad gives a full and rounded answer to the question of the martyrdom of our master, Uways al Qarni, including biographical sources.


Assalam alaykum wa rahmat Allah wa barakatuh.

1. Was our master Uways al Qarni, Allah be pleased with him, martyred in the Battle of Siffin while fighting on the side of our master Ali, Allah ennoble his face?

2. Could you relate a few narrations about Uways al Qarni, Allah be pleased with him, giving a general overview of his life?


The answer to your first question is yes, and when he was found they counted more than forty cuts on his body as narrated by Ibn ‘Asakir in Tarikh Dimashq (9:438).

This is also documented in Tabaqat Ibn Sa‘d (6:205), Mustadrak al Hakim (3:402) and Hilyat al Awliya (2:86). See also the end of the chapter on Uways in Al Dhahabi’s Siyar A‘lam al Nubala’.

Historically his grave was well-known and visited in Raqqa province, to which Siffin belonged. But I am not sure whether it still exists or was destroyed by the supposed upholders of Islamic civilization and statehood.

The most comprehensive source on the biography of our liegelord Uways al Qarni, Allah be pleased with him, is in Ibn ‘Asakir’s Tarikh Dimashq (9:208-455). There is also an interesting entry on him in Ibn Hajar’s Al Isaba fi Tamyiz al Sahaba and an all-too-brief monograph on him by Mulla ‘Ali al Qari entitled Al Ma‘dan al ‘Adani fi Fadl Uways al Qarni.

All but the last of the above sources also mention the alternative account of his death subsequent to an illness on the return of a trip to Azerbaijan with our master Umar ibn al Khattab, Allah be pleased with him. However, the Hafiz Ibn Hajar said its chain contained a discarded narrator.

On our master Uways, you can find something here in English. However I will cite something below which you might not find anywhere else.

Al Khallal narrated in his book Al Hathth ‘ala al Tijara wa al Sina‘a (The Encouragement to Trade and Industry):

I [Abu Bakr al Marrudhi] told Abu ‘Abd Allah [Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal] of a man who quit buying and selling and swore to himself that no gold or silver would ever fall into his hand again. He left his big house without giving any instructions regarding it. He would go on the road and if he saw anything discarded he would take it from the trash. I [al Marrudhi] said to that man: “What is your proof for this? I do not think you have any proof for it other than Abu Mu‘awiya al Aswad [one of the Abdal].” The man said: “Yes, I do. Uways al Qarni! He would pass by garbage heaps (mazabil) and collect rags.”

He [Ahmad] confirmed his words and said: “He is definitely too strict on himself!” (qad shaddada `ala nafsih). Then he said: “Two poor souls once came to me asking me something very similar to this. One of them said he goes on the road and finds something like vegetables and such. I told them: ‘Why not find work? Do you want to be notorious?‘ They only replied: ‘And what do we care about notoriety?’”

Al Khallal also narrated with his chain that a man asked Uways al Qarni: “From where will livelihood come?” Uways said: “Tell him: Truly we declare and do swear that those hearts, when they start doubting, no admonishment will benefit them!”

May Allah have mercy on him and grant us his intercession on the Day of Mutual Cries.

GF Haddad


How To Attain Focus, Patience And Stillness In A Chaotic World

“The scholars sacrifice immediate benefit for long-term benefit,” Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Today, the modern world lives in convenience, expecting to be served, rather than to serve. Although some may argue that convenience and technology save time and reduce physical labor, we continue to complain that we do not have time or energy, reducing ourselves to potatoes sitting on the living room’s couch.

Focus: a salient virtue within Islamic mysticism

Traditionally, focus — a salient virtue within Islamic mysticism — was regarded as a core characteristic of the aspirant, especially among the Sufis. As such, the saints were focused individuals who, despite the calamities they faced, were depicted in the Qur’an as, “Those who are neither fearful nor sad.” In simple words, the saints enjoy the present moment, leaving their past to the will of God and their future to His decree. Hence, the seeker of knowledge is, essentially, a seeker of God, striving, with discipline, practice, and patience to maximize his benefit in every moment while taking the most excellent of ways to do so.

Impatience: Your place is where God has positioned you

Patience is a trait that the seeker should inculcate to facilitate depth in knowledge. In his lexicon on Sufi terminology, Ibn Ajiba defines patience as, “An imprisonment of the heart in submission to God’s command.” Impatience, if understood by the contrary (mafhum al-mukhalafa), would be to release the ego in contradiction to God’s command.
To understand this better, my math teacher, Dr. Yousseif Ismail, once told me that impatience was the desire to cross the current moment that God had willed for you to be in, for a moment that you believed to be better for yourself. In practice, patience is significantly important to the student for a number of reasons.
Firstly, our teachers say, “Your place is where God has positioned you,” suggesting that one should be content with one’s condition, wherever God has decreed him to be. The student of knowledge should recognize that he is a student and must act according to the etiquette of one.

Unstable premises lead to faulty conclusions

As for the second, in order to have depth in knowledge, the student of knowledge should not speak without internalized and externalized foundations that inform his speech, unless a need arises to do so or he is given permission by his teacher(s). The reason given for this is closely related to the he first: a student should not speak in the place of a scholar, fooling the community and inciting his own ego — a celebrity preacher. Unstable premises lead to faulty conclusions; hence, the true aspirant takes the time to ground himself in knowledge, submitting to his current instant, and follows the lead of his teachers throughout.

Prioritise your objectives

To maximize my own time and focus, Shaykh Faraz advised me to have a clear objective of my studies, so I applied the categories of need to my own studies. The scholars divide need into three categories:

  • necessities (dharuriyat)
  • needs (hajiyat)
  • perfections (takmilat)

For example, when considering a new home, you ensure that its foundations are strong, since the house will collapse without solid ground. Then after, you may inspect the ceiling and walls for cracks, because a house is incomplete without these secondary things. After ensuring the house is livable and safe, you might begin to think of ways to beautify your living space with artwork, curtains, rugs, although such adornments are not essential to a house — you can live without them. Similarly, like any profession, one needs to take the proper means to acquire his goals; otherwise, means become ends.
Lastly, in taking steps towards focus, the individual must seek the counsel of God, a metaphysical correspondence to his subjective reality, and the advice of masters, an earthly exchange from experts for an objective assurance (istikhara wa istishara). Thus, remember that you are the present; the future passed a moment ago, but take from those who have passed and know that God is ahead — you are in between the two.
Yousaf Seyal

 Photo by Frida Eyjolfs

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Do Seeking Intercession (Tawassul), Visiting Shrines, and Other Popular Practices Have a Basis in Our Religion?

Answered by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Question: As salam alaykum,

Many people go to a tomb of a saint and ask for a child or a job. Some may even prostrate in its direction. Is it tawassul? Is building a shrine over a grave ok? Can the saint help from his grave? What is the meaning of calling out a saint?

Answer: Walaikum assalam,

I pray this finds you in the best of health and spirits.

Tawassul itself is making dua to Allah Most High, Himself, through the means (wasila) of one of rank and regard with Him—such as the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him). Its basis is from the Qur’an itself, from Allah’s call to, “Seek a means (wasila) to Him.” [Qur’an, 5.35] And it is established from a number of hadiths of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), including the “Hadith of the Blind Man.”

Shaykh Nuh Keller writes:

Tirmidhi relates, through his chain of narrators from ‘Uthman ibn Hunayf, that a blind man came to the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) and said, “I’ve been afflicted in my eyesight, so please pray to Allah for me.” The Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) said: “Go make ablution (wudu), perform two rak’as of prayer, and then say:

اللَّهُمَّ إِنِّي أَسْأَلُكَ وَأَتَوَجَّهُ إِلَيْكَ بِنَبِيِّكَ مُحَمَّدٍ نَبِيِّ الرَّحْمَةِ ، يَا مُحَمَّدُ إِنِّي تَوَجَّهْتُ بِكَ إِلَى رَبِّي فِي حَاجَتِي هَذِهِ فَتُقْضَى لِي ، اللَّهُمَّ شَفِّعْهُ فِيَّ

“Oh Allah, I ask You and turn to You through my Prophet Muhammad, the Prophet of mercy; O Muhammad (Ya Muhammad), I seek your intercession with my Lord for the return of my eyesight [and in another version: “for my need, that it may be fulfilled. O Allah, grant him intercession for me”].”

The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) added, “And if there is some need, do the same.” See the full Answer here: Tawassul: Supplicating Allah through an Intermediary

The Other Issues Mentioned

As for the other issues mentioned, we have to distinguish between what is soundly established from Prophetic teachings, as understood by mainstream scholars—as represented by the four schools of Islamic law (fiqh)—and popular practices that may mix sound and unsound matters. This includes visiting graves (a recommended sunna) itself, as opposed to some questionable practices that may be found in some contexts.

Please see:

The Loss of Meaning: The Destruction of Muslim Holy Sites

Libyan Graves – Shaykh Musa Furber

Is It Permissible to Make Tawassul Through Awliya (Saints)?

Prostrating to Other Than Allah

Is it permissible to erect gravestones at graves for identification?

The Ruling on Women Visiting Graves and Etiquettes of Visiting

Women Visiting Graveyards & Donating Reward to the Deceased

Can the Dead Hear Us?
Manners of Visiting the Messenger of Allah (Peace and Blessings Be Upon Him)

Supplicating Through an Intermediary and Calling the Prophet “Master”

Faraz Rabbani