Sunni and Shia articles destroying the myth of Uwais al-Qarni Breaking His Own Teeth.
I- Sunni Articles.
First Sunni Article:
Answered by Ustadh Abdullah Anik Misra
Question: Asalaamu alaykum,
Some people quote the story of Hadrat Uwais al-Qarni (r) from Seerah al-Halabiyyah. They say he broke his teeth when he heard that the Prophet’s (s) tooth had broken in the battle of Uhud. The Prophet when he heard about this said: “Indeed Uwais is our devoted friend”.
Is this story true and did the prophet say that?
Answer: In the Name of Allah Most Merciful and Compassionate,
Wa alaikum salam wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh,
Thank you for your question, and for seeking clarification on this matter. The story of Uwais al-Qarni (may Allah be pleased with him) breaking his teeth out of grief is not authentically established, as there is no report of it in the primary sources of Islamic history or hadith collections.
Who was Uwais al-Qarni?
Uwais al-Qarni was a man from Yemen who embraced Islam in the lifetime of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), but was not able to come to Medina to visit him since he was in the service of his aging mother. Thus, although he never became a Companion (Sahabi), his status was such that the Prophet (peace be upon him) instructed his Companions that,
“A man called Uwais will come to you from Yemen… whoever amongst you is able to meet him [Uwais], then ask him to pray for your forgiveness,” and that, “Indeed, the best of the Followers [after the generation of my Companions] is a man named Uwais…” [Muslim]
Did Uwais al-Qarni Break His Teeth Out of Grief?
The story in question about Uwais breaking all his teeth because he had heard that the Prophet’s (peace and blessings be upon him) blessed molar tooth was broken at the Battle of Uhud is mentioned in Seerah al-Halabiyyah.
Seerah al-Halabiyyah quotes Imam al-Sha’rani’s Tabaqat al-Kubra, where Imam al-Sha’rani says:
“And it has been narrated… that [Uwais al-Qarni] said, ‘By Allah, the Prophet’s molar tooth (peace and blessings be upon him) was not broken except that I broke my own molar tooth,’… this is how I have seen this quote written in some books, and Allah knows best as to its condition [whether it is authentic or not].” [al-Halabi, Insan al-‘Uyoon aka. Al-Seerah al-Halabiyya]
Hence, it is clear from the quote that the book was not trying to report this tale as a fact, and had a clear doubt as to its authenticity.
I have not been able to find a source from the hadith or seerah books to support this account. I only found that a similar story was reported in Fariduddin ‘Attar’s Tadhikra al-Awliya under Uwais al-Qarni’s biography, without the mention of any source.
Mulla ‘Ali al-Qari settled the question in his short treatise on the virtues of Uwais al-Qarni. He says about this story:
“And know well that that which has become widespread on the tongues of the laity that Uwais [al-Qarni] extracted all his teeth out of extreme grief when he heard that the tooth of the Prophet [Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him] had been struck, [because] he didn’t reliably know which tooth it was exactly – then there is no basis for this [story] according to the scholars…
… along with the fact that it violates the noble Sacred Law, and because of this reason, not one of the Senior Companions did that [act of self-inflicted harm], because this type of act is vain and futile, and not proceeding from anyone except fools.” [‘Ali al-Qari, al-Ma’din al-Adni fi Fadl Uwais al-Qarni]
And Allah Most High knows best.
Abdullah Anik Misra
Checked & Approved by Faraz Rabbani
Second Sunni Article:
The question came regarding whether the story of Owais al-Qarni breaking his teeth out of love for the Prophet (sal Allahu alaihi wasallam) is true or not. I haven’t found it in the primary sources nor hadith commentaries nor biographical accounts, but could you suggest any books that I should search further in? I’m not sure where the Arabic source for such an account is.
“Know that what became famous on the tongues of the general public that Uways pulled out all his teeth out of extreme sorrow when he heard that the tooth of the Messenger of Allah (upon him blessings and peace) had been harmed in the Battle of Uhud – and he did not know what tooth for sure – is baseless according to the scholars; not to mention that it contravenes the pristine Law, hence none of the great Companions did it, although it suffices that such an act is abuse which only fools commit.”
Mulla `Ali al-Qari, last paragraph of his booklet al-Ma`dan al-`Adani fi Fadl Uways al-Qarani.
Hajj Gibril Haddad
Controversial Sunni Scholar Moulana Ishaq in his Fatwa(verdict), rejects the myth of Owais Qarni breaking his teeth and calls it as a fabricated story.
II – Shia Articles.
First Shia Article:
Owais Al-Qarni (r) was a Muslim who lived during the life of Prophet Muhammad (s) and died fighting alongside Imam Ali (a) in the battle of Siffin. It is believed that that he accepted the religion of Islam during the life of the Prophet (s), despite never having the opportunity to meet him (s), due to the fact that he lived in Yemen, far away from Madinah. He is highly respected for this and for being a loyal companion of Imam Ali (a) during the last few years of his life.
Many promoters of extreme self-flagellation narrate that when Uwais (r) heard the news that the Prophet (s) had lost some teeth in the battle of Uhud; he picked up a rock and broke all his teeth out of love for the Prophet (s). He was in Yemen when this occurred whilst Uhud is near the city of Madinah. An example from blood shedding promotional material.
They narrate this incident from two books written by Sunni authors. The first is ‘Seerat al-Halabiyya’ by Imam al-Halabi. The book was written about a thousand years after the event is supposed to have occurred. The second is ‘Tadhkirat al-Awliya’ by the Sufi poet Farid al-Deen Attar (d.616-627H). We do not know of any Shia books at all that report this event. It is interesting to note that promoters of blood shedding cite the two Sunni sources in an attempt to convince Shias of their claim.
In regards to this incident we contend that: 1, It is almost certainly not authentic. 2, The two sources that it has been quoted from have been misrepresented. 3, Even if we imagined the event to be authentic, it cannot be used as a justification for extreme self-flagellation. The following is a list of reasons to justify these assertions:
1, The Prophet (s) probably never broke any teeth.
Some Shia sources narrate that the Prophet’s (s) teeth never broke. The following is a narration from Imam al-Baqir (a) with a reliable chain of narrators:
So we said to him (Imam al-Baqir (a)), it has been narrated to us that he (the Prophet (s)) broke his upper interior teeth? So he (Imam al Baqir (a)) said: “No, by Allah, Allah always protected him, rather it was a wound on his face.”
Shaykh al-Sadooq, Ma`ani al-Akhbar, Baab Nawaadir al-Ma`ani, page. 406, hadith no. 80
The following has been narrated by the renowned Shaykh Fadhl ibn Hassan al-Tabarsi:
Aban ibn `Uthman said: “This was told to me on his authority by as-Sabbah ibn Suyyabah. I asked him, “Were his upper interior teeth broken, as these people claim?’ He replied: `No, by Allah, Allah always protected him from all disfigurement. It was rather that he was wounded in the face.’ I asked: `What about the cave on Mount Uhud to which they claim that the Apostle of Allah fled?’ He answered: `By Allah, he did not move from his spot.’”
What has been said in those narrations seems quite probable since the history books have generally not attributed the Prophet (s) with missing teeth. The people of his time also did not identify him (s) in that way. The narration says that Allah protected him (s) from all disfigurement and this seems quite reasonable because it would help him with his duty of propagating the message of Islam. Missing teeth would likely affect the recitation of the Qur’an and this was one of his primary roles.
2, The opinion of Shia scholars on the authenticity of this incident.
The following question was sent to the offices of some of the well known Shia scholars:
In our community a lot of people quote the incident of Owais al-Qarni breaking his teeth after he heard that the prophet had broken one tooth.
Is this event authentic?
The response of the office of Ayatullah Sadiq Shirazi:
As per history the incident is not authentic.
The response of the office of Ayatullah Makarem Shirazi to the above mentioned question:
It has been said that, when he heard that the Prophet (PBUH) had broken a tooth, his tooth began to hurt, or his tooth broke by itself, not voluntarily.
3, The lack of Shia sources and the scarcity of the narration.
Not only is this event not quoted from Shia sources, it is also not found in the earlier and more famous historical works of the Sunnis. It is not found in the Seerah of Ibn Ishaq, the History of al-Tabari or the Tabaqat of Ibn Sa’d and other books.
4, The narrative in Tadhkirat al-Awliyah contradicts many established beliefs.
Farid al-Deen Attar reports the incident by stating that the Prophet (s) said to Imam Ali (a) and Umar ibn Khattab that they will someday meet Uwais (r) and they must convey his (s) greetings. During the rule of Umar, Imam Ali (a) went with Umar to a remote part of Iraq and found Uwais (r) living there. It is in this meeting that Uwais (r) told them that he had broken all of his teeth. An English translation of this narrative can be found here.
Some of the peculiarities of this narrative:
a, It contradicts other more reliable narrations (e.g. in Kitab al-Irshad) which state that Imam Ali (a) first met Uwais (r) on his way to the battle of Jamal. Whilst the narrative by Attar says that Imam Ali (a) first met him (r) during the reign of Umar ibn al-Khattab.
b, Imam Ali (a) travels with Umar and treats him with a surprising amount of reverence.
c, Uwais (r) asks Umar to describe the appearance of Prophet (s) and Umar fails to do so. Imam Ali (a) does not intervene in the conversation and does no attempt to describe the Prophet (s).
d, Uwais (r) challenges Umar with the words: “if you were firm in the friendship then why you have not broken your teeth when the prophet’s teeth were broken in the battle of mount of Ohud in Madina and this is the rule of friendship”. It is unlikely that a pious person like Uwais (r) would challenge him in that way considering that Imam Ali (a) also did not break his teeth and Uwais (r) is considered to be a follower of the Imam (a).
5, The narrative in Seerat al-Halabiyyah differs from what has been quoted.
Some promoters of blood shedding say that in volume II, page 295 of the book, the incident of Uwais (r) breaking his teeth has been narrated with the Prophet (s) responding with the following words: “Indeed Owais is our devoted friend”.
We have not been able to find this narrative (of him voluntarily breaking his teeth) in the book. Instead we found it reporting that Uwais (r) was physically present at the battle of Uhud and the following words have been quoted from him: “I swear by God that at Uhud the Holy Prophet’s (s) teeth will not be broken until my teeth are broken, the Holy Prophet’s (s) face will not receive an injury until my face receives an injury, …..”, (Volume IV, page 227).
This account contradicts what has normally been quoted by the propagandists since they assert that Uwais (r) was in Yemen when the battle was taking place. Although we also think that he was in Yemen, we must point out that Seerah al-Halabiyyah contradicts with the account that they present.
6, Other narrations do not identify Uwais (r) as being toothless.
Many historical accounts of Uwais al-Qarni (r) do not state that he was toothless. If he indeed was toothless then he would have become famous for it and it would have been mentioned by people who had encountered him.
7, The act of breaking ones teeth in this manner is haraam according to all renowned Muslim scholars.
It is unlikely that Prophet Muhammad (s) commended Uwais (r) for breaking his teeth since it is an accepted fact that such severe acts of self-harm are prohibited in Islam.
8, The fact that none of the other companions of the Prophet (s) nor the Ahlulbayt (a) performed this act after knowing that the Prophet (s) had broken his teeth. If it was a correct action to perform then many of them would also have done it.
9, The act seems unreal.
The act of breaking every single tooth in one’s mouth seems very unrealistic. The amount of pain that Uwais (r) would have had to endure means that he is very unlikely to have been able to complete the breaking of every individual tooth.
10, Uwais (r) was isolated and thus was not in a position to be corrected.
Even if we image that the event is true then we must remember that Uwais (r) was isolated and had never met the Prophet (s), and thus it is likely that he did not know the correct way to respond in this case and he should not be criticized. This would have likely been the reason why he was not criticized by the Prophet (s).
If blood flagellators think that breaking of the teeth was the correct action to perform, then we must ask them why don’t they do it now out of sympathy for the Prophet (s)?
Second Shia Article:
In our community a lot of people quote the incident of Owais al-Qarni breaking his teeth after he heard that the Prophet (s) had broken one tooth. Is this event authentic and did the Prophet (s) praise him for it?
Owais al-Qarni whose epithet was “Abu Umar” was a Muslim mystic, martyr and philosopher of Yemen. He converted to Islam during the lifetime of the Holy Prophet (s), but never met him personally. He had asked his mother’s permission to visit the Messenger of Allah, and she said: “You have my permission to go, see him once, and come straight back. If the Messenger is at home, you may meet with him; if not, come straight back here.” Owais made a journey of three months on foot, from Yemen to Medina. Upon reaching Medina, he found that the Prophet (s) was not at home. So he returned back to his mother. He is highly respected for this and for being a loyal companion of the Commander of the Faithful, Imam Ali (a.s) whom he gave his allegiance and defended until he was martyred in the Battle of Siffin.
The incident concerning Owais Al-Qarni breaking teeth is not certain and does not seem to be authentic. There are but few historians who have narrated the incident.