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Life Before Islam
Umar (R.A.) belonged to "'Adi" family of Quraish tribe. In the 8th generation, his lineage joins with the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu 'alaihi wa Sallam). Abu Hafs was his patronymic name and "al-Faruq" his title given by the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu 'alaihi wa Sallam). He was born in 583 A.C., about forty years before the great Hijrah. The early life of Hadrat Umar is not known in detail. In his youth he was a famous wrestler and orator, and a spirited person. He was one among the few people in Mecca who knew reading and writing before Islam. His main occupation was business.
When the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu 'alaihi wa Sallam) got revelation and invited people to Islam, Umar became the sworn enemy of Islam and the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu 'alaihi wa Sallam) and did not hesitate to harm the Muslims and Islam at every opportunity.
Umar's acceptance of Islam
It was the sixth year of Holy Prophet's mission when Quraish leaders called a meeting and asked a volunteer for the assassination of the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu 'alaihi wa Sallam) Umar offered himself for this job and everybody in the meeting exclaimed that he was the right person for it. While he was on his way with a sword in his hand he met Sa'd bin Abi Waqqas who enquired of him about his destination. Umar told him that he was going to murder the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu 'alaihi wa Sallam). After some discussion Sa'd said, "You had better take care of your own family first. Your sister and brother-in-law both have accepted Islam". Hearing this Umar changed his direction and went straight to his sister's house. When Hadrat Umar knocked at the door, they were studying the Holy Qur'an from Hadrat Khabbab (R.A.). His sister Fatimah was frightened on hearing Umarís voice and tried to hide the portion of the Holy Qur'an she was reciting. When Umar entered the house he enquired about their Islam and on finding that they had accepted Islam, he first fell upon his brother-in-law and beat him severely. When his sister intervened he smote her so violently on her face that it bled profusely. On this his sister burst out: "Do whatever you like, we are determined to die as Muslims". When Umar saw his sister bleeding, he cooled down and felt ashamed. He loved Fatimah very much but could not tolerate her conversion to Islam. However, deeply moved, Umar asked her to show the pages on which the Holy Qur'an was written. But she was, after all, Umarís sister and told him straight, "You can not touch it unless you take a bath and make yourself clean" He washed his body and then read the leaves. That was the beginning of Surah Ta Ha (Chapter 20 of the Holy Qur'an). When he came to the verse:
"Lo! I even I, am Allah, there is no god save Me. So serve Me and establish Salat for My remembrance". (20:14)
Umar exclaimed, "Surely this is the Word of Allah. Take me to Muhammad (Sallallahu íalaihi wa Sallam)".
On hearing this Hadrat Khabbab (R.A.), who had hidden himself in the house, came out from inside and said, "0 "Umar! Glad tidings for you. It seems that the prayer of the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu Ďalaihi wa Sallam) which he said last night has been answered in your favour. He had prayer to Allah: "O Allah, strengthen Islam with either Umar b. Khattab or Umar b. Hisham whomsoever Thou pleaseth".
Umar then went to the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu íalaihi wa Sallam). On seeing him, the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu 'alaihi wa Sallam) asked him, "Umar! what brings you hereĒ? He said, "I am here to accept Islam". Hearing this the Muslims shouted with joy, "Allahu Akbar"(Allah is the Greatest) and the sound rent the air of Mecca. As a matter of fact, Umarís conversion to Islam was a terrible blow to the morale of the disbelieves. 'Abdullah bin Mas'ud, a great Companion, says, "Umar's conversion to Islam was a great triumph, his emigration to Medina a tremendous reinforcement and his accession to Caliphate a great blessing for the Muslims". In some history books there are more details in this connection. I have followed the version of Shaikh Muhammad Zakariya (Damat Barakatuhu) given in his book " Hikayat-i-Sahabah".
Umar (R.A.) gets the title of "Al-Faruq"
Conversion of Hadrat Umar (R.A.) strengthened Islam. Hitherto, Muslims had lived in constant fear of disbelievers, and most of them were concealing their faith. The Muslims were now able to offer their Salat publicly. When Hadrat Umar (R.A.) became a Muslim he declared his faith openly before the Quraish Chiefs. Though they stared at him but could not do any harm to him. Then he requested the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu 'alaihi wa Sallam) to offer Salat in the Ka'bah. On getting the consent of the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu 'alaihi wa Sallam), Hadrat Umar led a party of the Muslims to that place. Hadrat Hamzah, who had accepted Islam a few days before Umar (R.A.) carried another party of the Muslims to Ka'bah. When all the Muslims gathered in the Ka'bah they offered their Salat in congregation. The Holy Prophet (Sallallahu Ďalaihi wa Sallam) led this first public Salat in the history of Islam. For this courageous and bold action of Hadrat Umar (R.A) the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu 'alaihi wa Sallam) gave him the title of "al-Faruq" i.e., the one who makes a distinction between the "Right" (Haqq) and the "Wrong" (Batil).
Migration to Medina
When the Muslims were ordered to migrate to Medina, most of them left Mecca quietly and secretly, but Hadrat Umar (R.A.) declared it openly. He put on his arms and first went to the Ka'bah. After performing the Salat he announced loudly: "I am migrating to Medina. If anyone wants to check me, let him come out. I am sure that his mother would cry for his life". There was no man in Mecca to accept the challenge of Hadrat Umar (R.A.). Then he migrated to Medina boldly.
Umar's services to Islam before his Khilafat (Caliphate)
Hadrat Umar (R.A.) had great love for Allah and the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu 'alaihi wa Sallam). He participated in almost all the big battles: Badr, Uhad, Ahzab, Khaibar, Hunain etc. In the expedition to "Tabuk" he gave half of his wealth in the path of Allah. He was next to Hadrat Abu Bakr (R.A.) to sacrifice his belongings for the cause of Allah.
The Holy Prophet (Sallallahu 'alaihi wa Sallam) also had a deep love for him. Once he remarked, "were a prophet to come after me, he would have been Umar". In another Hadith mentioned in Bukhari, Hadrat Abu Hurairah (R.A.) narrated that the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu'alaihi wa Sallam) said, "In Bani Isra'il (Israelites) there were people who were not prophets but talked to Allah. Were anyone in my Ummah (people) like those persons, he would be Umar".
The death of the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu 'alaihi wa Sallam) was a great shock to him, and he could not believe it until Hadrat Abu Bakr (R.A.) reminded him of a clear verse of the Holy Qur'an on the subject. He then went to the Council Hall along with Hadrat Abu Bakr (R.A.) where the people of Medina had assembled to select the First Caliph. Hadrat Umar (R.A.) was the first person to pledge loyalty(Bai'at) at the hand of Hadrat Abu Bakr(R.A.), and then helped him throughout the duration of his rule.
Hadrat Umar (R.A.) as the Second Caliph of Islam
As described in connection with the life of Hadrat Abu-Bakr, during his illness he consulted the "Shura" about the next "Khalifah" and then gave his decision in favour of Hadrat Umar (R.A.) who took the charge of Caliphate after the death of Hadrat Abu Bakr (R.A.) on 22nd of Jamadi-uth-Thani 13 A.H. (23rd Aug. 634 A.C.).Umar (R.A.) followed fully the ways of the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu 'alaihi wa Sallam) and the policy of his predecessor with his characteristic zeal and vigour. It was his strict adherence to the "Sunnah" of the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu 'alaihi wa Sallam) which helped him to subdue the mighty empires of Persia and Byzantine. His caliphate marked the "Golden Age" of Islam. I would like to discuss only main events which took place during the Caliphate of Hadrat Umar (R.A.) in brief.
Fall of Persian Empire
During the time of Hadrat Abu Bakr (R.A.), Hadrat Khalid bin Walid conquered part of Persian Empire, known as the Kingdom of Hira. Then he was ordered by Hadrat Abu Bakr (R.A.) to join the expedition to Syria.
At the time of his departure, he appointed Muthanna bin Harith as the commander of the Islamic army. The Persians became furious at the loss of the kingdom of Hira and the Emperor sent a large army under the command of a very famous General, Rustam the Commander-in-Chief of Persian armies. In view of the growing pressure of Persians, Muthanna requested Hadrat Umar (R.A.) for reinforcement. At that time there was a large gathering of Muslims in Medina to take pledge of loyalty (Bai'at) at the hand of the new Caliph (Hadrat Umar). He put the matter before the Muslims but did not get any response in the beginning. Then Hadrat Umar (R.A.) in his sermons stressed the importance of Jihad and a large number of Muslims volunteered to help Muthanna against the Persians. AbuĎUbaid ath-Thaqafi was appointed as the commander of the Islamic army comprising five thousand men. In the meantime Persians attacked the places conquered by Muslims and they lost some of them. In the early stage of the battles Rustam sent his subordinates to face Muslims.
The Severe Famine & Plague
In the year 17-18 A.H., Hijaz (Northern Arabia) and Syria were faced by a severe famine and drought. Hadrat Umar (R.A.) took steps to get food supplies from Egypt, part of which had been conquered by Hadrat'Amr bin al-'As (R.A.). He sent three big ships of grains to Medina which were unloaded in the presence of Hadrat Umar (R.A.). He himself distributed the grains among the needy. Hadrat Umar (R.A.) did not take any delicacy (butter etc.) during the famine period. When he was requested to take care of his health he said, "If I don't taste suffering, how can I know the sufferings of others?"
When the famine became intolerable he prayed to Allah in a big gathering of Muslims. It has been narrated that the prayers had not even finished when rains started to pour down.
About the same time plague spread in most parts of Iraq, Syria and Egypt and it caused great havoc not only to civilians but also to the Muslim armies. After the plague Hadrat Umar went to Syria to inspect the losses caused by the plague. Three important figures Abu 'Ubaidah, Mu'adh bin Jabal and Yazid bin Abu Sufyan (R.A.) had passed away. He appointed Mu'awiyah bin Abi Sufyan as the Governor of Damascus in place of his brother Yazid bin Abi Sufyan.
Martyrdom of Hadrat Umar (R.A.)
The glorious rule of Hadrat Umar (R.A.) came to an end with his death on Wednesday the 27th of Dhil Hijjah, the year 23 A.H. (643 A.C.) when he was 61 years old. There was a Persian slave of Hadrat Mughirah bin Shu'bah, named Abu Lu' Lu' Firoze. One day he complained about the burden his master had imposed upon him. The complaint was not genuine, hence Hadrat Umar (R.A.) ignored it. Next day, early in the morning when Hadrat Umar (R.A.) went to Masjid to perform Fajr Salat, the slave who was hiding in a corner, attacked him with a dagger and stabbed him six times. People overpowered the assassin but he slew himself with the same dagger.
The injuries were so serious that the Caliph died the next morning.
Before his death the Muslims asked him about his successor, he appointed a panel of six persons, Hadrat 'Uthma Zubair, Talha, Sa'd bin Waqqas and 'Abdur Rahman bin 'Auf (R.A.) to select a "Khalifah" from amongst them within three days after him.
He requested Hadrat Aisha (R.A.) for permission for his burial by the side of the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu 'alaihi wa Sallam). Though she had reserved that place for herself but on Umar's request she gave it to him where he was buried.
Review of Hadrat Umar's service to Islam
The period of Hadrat Umar's caliphate undoubtedly is the "Golden Age" of Islam in every respect. He was a man of extraordinary genius who not only moulded the destiny of the nation but made history of his own. He followed the footsteps of the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu 'alaihi wa Sallam) to the fullest extent. It was Umar under whose rule Islam became a world power and the mighty empires of Persia and Byzantine (Eastern Roman) crumbled before the arm of Islam. Within ten years of his glorious rule, the whole of the Persian Empire, Syria, Palestine, Egypt and a part of Turkey came under the banner of Islam and the nations entered the fold of Islam. He was not only a conqueror but also an exemplary administrator who originated an efficient system of administration, and thus he was the real founder of political system of Islam (to be discussed in brief in the next chapter). He enforced Divine Law (Shari'ah) as the code of a newly formed International Islamic State; he safeguarded the internal safety by introducing the police force: he gave stipends to the poor; he constructed cantonments and forts for the safety of Islamic armies; he founded new cities for the growth of Islamic culture and civilisation; he improved agriculture and economics of the Islamic State; he founded the educational system in an Islamic State; in brief he was the founder of a great Islamic State. We would discuss his achievements more elaborately in the next section.
He was a very pious Muslim. His success lay in two things-fear of Allah and his love for the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu 'alaihi wa Sallam). He never used even oil from the Bait-ul-Mal (Public Treasury) to burn a lamp at night for his personal needs. Whenever he finished the official work he put off the lamp. He used to patrol in the city at night to find out the needs and requirements, and conditions of the people. He did not hesitate to take his wife to work as a midwife for a poor woman. The salary he got from the Bait-ul-Mal was so low that it was hardly enough for him and his family's needs. When some of the eminent Muslims requested him to increase the amount he, said, "The Holy Prophet (Sallallahu 'alaihi wa Sallam) has left a standard by his personal example. I must follow him".
Hadrat Umar was the most just ruler in the Islamic History. All the citizens, including the Caliph himself, were equal before law. Once he appeared before a court at Medina to clarify his position against a complaint. The Qadi (Judge) wanted to stand in his honour, but he did not allow him to do so, so that there would be no distinction between him and an ordinary person before Law. He was really the founder of modern democratic system.
In short he was the best example of an ideal character, and was the greatest "Khalifah" of Islam after Abu Bakr (R.A.). He selflessly devoted his whole energy for the cause of Islam. Muslims will always be indebted to him for his great achievements. As a matter of fact a separate book is required to describe his character and his services to Islam.
Hadrat Umar (R.A.) as a great scholar
Before the advent of Islam there was no tradition in Arabia of reading or writing. There were only seventeen people among Quraish who could read or write at the time when the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu 'alaihi wa Sallam) started to receive Divine revelations. Hadrat Umar was one of those seventeen persons. His writing and lectures are still found in some old books. The first address he gave as a Caliph is as under
"O Allah, I am strict, make me soft. I am weak give me power. The Arabs are like refractory camels, I will endeavour to bring them to the straight path"
He was also interested in poetry and sometimes he composed verses. Umar (R.A.) was one of the most fluent Quraish. Arabic knowing persons can appreciate the fluency of his writings and addresses. Many of his sayings became aphorisms of literature.
He was a great Jurist and Theologian of Islam. Because of the fear of making any mistake he did not quote many Ahadith (Sayings of the Holy Prophet) even though he was fully conversant with them. He never allowed a person (companion) to quote any Hadith which was not well known without producing any attestator in support of it. If somebody quoted a Hadith before him which he had never heard, he at once asked him to bring a witness failing which he would be punished. He was expert in deriving laws from the Holy Qur'an and the Hadith. A full volume could be complied out of the verdicts and judgements given by Hadrat Umar (R.A.). As a matter of fact he opened a new door of Ijtihad' "(Disciplined judgement of a Jurist) in the history of Islamic Law and Jurisprudence, and settled a number of disputable cases during his caliphate.
Preaching of Islam
As the viceroy of the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu 'alaihi wa Sallam) his foremost duty was to spread and preach Islam. As mentioned above, the aim of various battles and wars was to clear the way for the Muslims for preaching Islam. Whenever any army had to attack a place it had to call the inhabitants of the place to Islam. Hadrat Umar was very strict in this respect and he had given standing orders to the commanders not to start war unless they had first invited the people to Islam. If they accepted it, there was no question of war and if they did not, then the war was fought only with those who were not giving a free hand to Muslims to preach the Right Path. No Person was ever forced to forsake his own faith and accept Islam.
The method adopted to preach Islam was demonstration by actual practice. For this purpose he ordered Muslims to establish their own quarters and present the practical shape of Islam before the population. Seeing the truthful way, the inhabitants of the glace were attracted towards Islam. No soldier was allowed to take any property or anything by force from the conquered people.
Because of fair treatment by the Muslims sometimes the whole army of the enemy accepted Islam. After the battle of Qadisiya a battalion of four thousand Persians accepted it. After the victory of Jalula, the chiefs of the place entered the folds of Islam along with the inhabitants. A commander of the army of Yadzgird, named Siyah accepted Islam with his battalion during a battle in Persia. All the inhabitants of the town of Bulhat in Egypt accepted Islam at one time without the use of any force only by seeing the piety of Muslims. A rich merchant and the chief of a place in Egypt, named Shata, accepted Islam with all the inhabitants of the place only after hearing about the character and piety of Muslims at the time when Muslims had not even reached that place. These are orally a few examples to show that Islam spread because of the character of Muslims at that time.
Umar (R.A.) was very strict in ensuring that no Muslims forced any non-Muslim to accept Islam. Through his advice, letters and addresses he made it clear to all the Muslims that they had to adhere to the ways of the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu 'alaihi wa Sallam) which was the only method to preach Islam.
Wives and Children
Hadrat Umar (R.A.), married the following women during his lifetime
1. Zainab (R.A.), she accepted Islam but died in Mecca. She was sister of 'Uthman bin Maz'un. 'Abdullah Abdur Rahman (Ist) and lady Hafsah (wife of the Holy Prophet) were the children she bore to Hadrat Umar.
2. Malkiah bint Jarwal, she did not accept Islam and was divorced in 6 A.H. according to Islamic law. She gave birth to'Ubaidullah.
3. Quraibah bint Abi Ummiyah, she also did not accept Islam and was divorced in 6 A.H.
The above three marriages had taken place before Umar (R.A.) accepted Islam. After accepting Islam he contracted marriages with the following
4. Ummi Hakim bint-ul-Harith, she gave birth to a girl named Fatimah.
5. Jamilah bint Asim, she gave birth to a son who was named Asim. Though she was a Muslim she was di-vorced because of some other reason.
6. Umm Kulthum bint Hadrat'Ali (R.A.), she was married in the year 17 A.H. She gave birth to Ruqayyah and Zaid.
7. 'Atikah (R.A.)
1. Umm-ul-Mu'minin Hadrat Hafsah (R.A.) the chaste wife of the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu 'alaihi wa Sallam) .
2. Ruqayyah, she was the youngest daughter of Hadrat Umar.
6. Abu Shahmah.......son
Umar the pioneer of the Islamic democracy
Hadrat Umar (R.A.) was the pioneer of modern civilisation to form a state based upon the Islamic democratic system, the system which was incorporated in the West as late as 19th and 20th centuries. He was the greatest democratic administrator whose example is unparalleled not only in the history of Islam but also in the history of modern civilisation. A vast part of the Middle East, Persian Empire and Byzantium, was conquered during the ten years of his "Khilafat" (Caliphate) which he consolidated into a state governed by Islam i.e. laws. "As an administrator", says Prof. K. Ali, a Muslim writer, "he remained a model for all great Muslim rulers during the whole Islamic history". Another famous historian, Amir Ali says, "During the thirty years that the Republic lasted, the policy derived its character chiefly from Umar both during his life-time and after his death."
The constitution of Islamic caliphate during the time of Hadrat Umar (R.A.) was based entirely on the Islamic democratic system. All matters were decided after consultation with the "Shura"(The Council of Advisors) the details of which would be given in the following pages. He remarked, "It is essential for a "Khalifah" to consult his "Shura". Once he said, "I do not desire that you may follow anything that arises from my caprice". Hadrat Umar had clearly stated on various occasions that he should be obeyed as long as he was obeying Allah and the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu 'alaihi wa Sallam).
Muslims and non-Muslims were treated alike. Although the Arab peninsula was declared to be purely an Islamic State, his attitude towards the non-Muslims was very tolerant. He allowed the Jews and the Christians, living in the Peninsula, to stay there if they so wished and nobody would interfere in their religious affairs. To those who desired to migrate he ensured safe journey up to the borders. Hadrat Umar (R.A.) also gave compensation for their properties and other facilities.
Islamic Republic based upon "Shura"
As stated before all matters were decided after consultations with the "Shura", the Advisory Council during his time. There were three main types of "Shura". The first "Shura" consisted of very prominent and popular Companions like: Hadrat Uthman, Ali, 'Abdur Rahman bin Auf, Mu'adh bin Jabal, Ubayy bin Ka'b, Zaid bin Thabit, Talha and Zubair (R.A.). They were permanent members of the "Shura". All the important matters were decided in consultation with these persons. This "Shura" could be named as the Higher Advisory Council.
The second "Shura" was the General Advisory Council which consisted of many companions from amongst the Ansar and Muhajirin (R.A.). The Companions who participated in the battle of Badr were given priority in this "Shura". All matters of general interest were discussed with this "Shura". In this "Shura" were also included the chiefs of various clans and tribes.
The third type of "Shura" ranked in between the Higher and the General Advisory Councils. It consisted of some selected Companions among the Muhajirin and Ansar. Matters of special interest were put before the "Shura"
Whenever a "Shura" was called everyone of its members was fully allowed to give his opinion without any fear or hesitation. On various occasions Hadrat Umar said, "I am but an ordinary person like you. I can only request you to co-operate in the work with which I have been entrusted by you".
The way to call the General "Shura"
Since the Special "Shura" comprised only few members there was no special way to call it. The way to call the General Council of Advisors was that a man used to call the following words loudly: "As-Salatu Jami'ah," in the Prophet's Mosque from at high place. Hearing this call the people would know that a meeting of the "Shura" has been called and assembled in the mosque. Hadrat Umar first of all offered two raka'at Nafl (optional) Salat and then put the matter before the "Shura" Every person was allowed to give his opinion. Decisions were usually taken on the basis of unanimity or sometimes by majority. But the Khalifah was not bound to accept the decision of majority. In the interest of Islam and Muslims he could use power of veto if he considered it proper.
Freedom of Opinion
Freedom of opinion was not only allowed at the time of meeting of the "Shura" but on all occasions. As a matter of fact Hadrat Umarís period was an exemplary period as far as this principle of the democratic way of government is concerned. There is no other example in history when people gave their opinion so freely, and criticised the ruler (i.e., the Government) so openly.
The Caliph had himself introduced this principle, novel in those days, through his addresses. A part of one of his addresses is quoted as under
"0 people! I am but a trustee of your property and wealth, like a person who is trustee of the property and wealth of an orphan child. Had I been rich I would not have taken any allowance for my services. In case I needed I would have accepted only to the extent of the need. Friends! you have certain rights over me and you are fully allowed to claim your rights anytime. One of such rights is: Don't allow me to misappropriate the Indemnity Tax and the Booty. You have the right to check that the poor, the needy and disabled person amongst you should get allowances for their livelihood. You have the right to make sure that the borders of the State are safe and that you are not in danger."
Introduction of Islamic Calendar
For the first time in the history of Islam, Islamic calendar was introduced in the present form by Hadrat Umar (R.A.). The date of start of this calendar was fixed as the date of the "Hijrah" (Migration) of the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu 'alaihi wa Sallam). Thus the calendar is also known as the Hijrah Calendar.
Umar's (R.A.) Period was the GOLDEN AGE of ISLAMIC History
Thus we see that Hadrat Umarís period was the Golden Age of the Islamic history when Islam was practised in its true form. Hadrat Umar (R.A.) Initiated 41 good practices during his period, which were based upon the Holy Qur'an and the Sunnah of the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu'alaihi wa Sallam). These are known as "Awliat-i-Umar (the Initiations Of Umar). The details can be seen in the books of Islamic History like Tabari, Ibn-i-Athir, and Tarikh-i-Khulafa etc. Most of these initiations have been mentioned in the preceding pages in brief. Actually Hadrat Umar (R.A.) was the founder of ISLAMIC DEMOCRACY based upon the Holy Qur'an and the Sunnah of the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu 'alaihi wa Sallam). The words of the Holy Prophet are very true
"IF THERE WERE TO BE A PROPHET AFTER ME HE WOULD HAVE BEEN UMAR IBN AL-KHATTAB." (Tirmidhi)
"AMONG THE NATIONS BEFORE YOUR TIME THERE HAVE BEEN INSPIRED PEOPLE (WHO WERE NOT PROPHETS), AND IF THERE IS ONE AMONG MY PEOPLE HE IS UMAR". (Bukhari and Muslim)