True Stories are not considered long if interested and beneficial. So don’t complain please.
BismilLaahir Rahmaanir Raheem.
MIGRATION TO MEDINA:
Umar migrated to Medina ahead of the Prophet SAW. Whilst many Muslims were migrating to Medina discreetly, Umar went to the Kabah and announced his migration publicly, threatening “Anyone who wants to make his wife a widow and his children orphans, should come and meet me there behind that cliff.” Umar’s strength and ferocity was such that he was capable of killing a man in a single blow, and he was armed with his sword and his arrows. Not surprisingly, none of the Quraishi dared to stand in his way.
It was not uncommon that whenever a difficult or complicated situation arose, the Prophet SAW would seek the counsel of Umar and Abu Bakr RA. In many instances, Umar and Abu Bakr took divergent views, Umar’s opinion being inclined to being harder than Abu Bakr’s. On more than one occasion, however, Umar’s view was confirmed as the correct one, as affirmed by Allah Himself through the revelations that subsequently guided the Prophet SAW through an issue. This included his view on the innocence of Aisha RA when her reputation and fidelity to Muhammad SAW was cast under severe doubt by the hypocrites.
On the authority of Abdur Rahman bin Ghanam, it was said that the Prophet SAW said to Abu Bakr and Umar that “if you two are agreed upon a counsel, I would not oppose you.”
Umar participated in many of the key Muslim battles and was often the right hand man of the Prophet SAW on the battlefield. He fought keenly in the Battle of Badr, Uhud and the Trench, the Conquest of Mecca, Hunayn and the Siege of Ta’if.
FATHER-IN-LAW OF MUHAMMAD SAW
Umar’s daughter, Hafsa, was widowed at a very young age when her husband was martyred during the Battle of Uhud. Her bereavement upset Umar greatly, but he was also aware that she had inherited his fiery temper. Hence he felt it best for her to be married to a much more mature man of a more sober temperament. He approached Abu Bakr, who evaded the subject, and Uthman RA, who politely declined not least because he was still grieving over the unexpected death of his own wife, Ruqayya, the daughter of the Prophet SAW. Insulted, saddened and enraged, Umar complained to the Prophet SAW, whereupon the Prophet SAW assured him with the following words: “Rest assured, Hafsa will marry a man better than Uthman, and Uthman will marry a lady better than Hafsa.”
It transpired that Muhammad SAW had indicated to Abu Bakr and Uthman that he had intended to take Hafsa as his bride, hence their non-committal replies when approached by Umar. Uthman was then married to the Prophet’s younger daughter, Umm Kulsum.
With this marriage, Umar’s status was brought at par with Abu Bakr’s, and both of them enjoyed the honour of being the Prophet’s SAW father-in-law.
RESPECT OF ALLAH
Umar had such a deep respect for Allah that he was always very humble and filled with humility. It was his fear of the question of “what will you say to your Lord” that motivated all his actions. Hence he spent the rest of his life trying to atone for his persecution of the Muslims prior to accepting Islam himself.
Umar was only concerned about being saved from the fire of Hell and once said that all his good deeds not be recorded for him provided that he be saved from hell as neither having any extra good nor bearing any evil. Even when he was given glad tidings that he would be admitted into Paradise, he remained in awe and full of respect of Allah. He had always been a hard and severe person, but it was on himself that he was the hardest.
He always saw how the Messenger SAW spent his nights in prayer, some days in fasting and in fighting for Allah even though he knew that Allah had forgiven all his sins. He once asked the Prophet (PBUH) why he was doing all this. The Prophet SAW answered “Then, should I not be a thankful servant of Allah?”
THE CALIPHATE RULE
We shall not go into the political detail surrounding Umar’s appointment as the second of the Rightly Guided Caliphs. However, as Abu Bakr lay on his deathbed, it was general consensus that Umar was the fittest person to be appointed as the next Caliph. There were however, some reservations on account of Umar’s colourful temper, in that he would not be able to display the moderation necessary to lead the Ummah. Abu Bakr observed that Umar’s display of severity was meant to counteract his leniency, and felt confident that Umar would be more restrained in his opinions if the responsibility of government fell on his shoulders.
One of His Earliest Speeches
The following are excerpts from his inaugural speech:
“The mantle of Caliphate has fallen on my shoulders. I swear it before God that I never coveted this office. I wished that it would have devolved on some other person more worthy than me …
In the performance of my duties, I will seek guidance from the Holy Book, and will follow the examples set by the Holy Prophet SAW and Abu Bakr. In this task, I seek your assistance. If I follow the right path, follow me. If I deviate from the right path, correct me so that we are not led astray.
Now brothers I offer a few prayers and you say Ameen to them.
O Allah, I am hard, make me soft to promote the Truth, to comply with your injunctions and to aspire for a better life in world hereafter…O Allah, soften my heart for the faithful so that I attend to their needs with a sense of dedication…O Allah give me the power of self-criticism and self-assessment …”
Such was the shining display of humility by Umar before his people. To him, leadership was a huge responsibility to be shunned rather than sought. The speech also displayed his deep inner reflection of his personal shortcomings, which he openly admitted to the people he was leading.
When he assumed office, Umar realised that he was more feared than loved. Children who had before approached Abu Bakr and addressed his as “Father”, ran away from Umar in fear. In the first Friday sermon after he was appointed the Caliph, he appealed to the congregation, explaining that during the lives of the Prophet SAW and Abu Bakr, he assumed upon himself the role of counterbalancing their softness. He went on to say:
“O people, you have some rights on me which you can always claim. One of your rights is that if anyone of you comes to me with a claim, he should leave satisfied. Another of your rights is that you can demand that I take nothing unjustly from the revenues of the State. You can also demand that I fortify your frontiers and do not put you in danger. It is also your right that if you go to battle I should look after your families as a father would do while you are away.
O people, remain conscious of Allah, forgive me my faults and help me in my task. Assist me in enforcing what is good and forbidding what is evil. Advise me regarding the obligations that have been imposed upon me by Allah.”
And he spent the rest of his life trying to fulfil his pledge to his people.
Creation of Government
Umar created a unitary government to rule the entire empire. For each province, a governor was appointed by Umar. The appointee was usually someone who did not crave the position. He organised a group with responsibilities for revenue, military, security, treasury, his office and the chief judge.
He used to give the following general order to his governors in discharging their leadership duties:
“Remember, I have not appointed you as commanders and tyrants over the people. I have sent you as leaders instead, so that the people may follow your example. Give the Muslims their rights and do not beat them lest they become abused. Do not praise them unduly, lest they fall into the error of conceit. Do not keep your doors shut in their faces, lest the more powerful of them eat up the weaker ones. And do not behave as if you were superior to them, for that is tyranny over them.”
THE GREAT FAMINE
638AD was one of the most difficult times during Umar’s rule. The famine spread far and wide throughout Arabia. He organised for rations to come in from Syria, Palestine and Iraq. Once the rations arrived in Medina, he sent his people to re-route the food caravans to go deeper into Arabia to bring food to the people. For people who were displaced and had come to Medina for help, Umar hosted a dinner every night for everyone. Some accounts said that there were over 100,000 people at the dinners.
THE GREAT PLAGUE
639AD was another difficult time. Just as the famine was ending a great plague was spreading in Syria and Palestine. When the plague was over, Umar went to Syria to re-organise the administration as so many of the governors had died from plague.
It is impossible to categorise Umar’s rule in a few short pages, but the following are other examples of Umar’s outstanding leadership have been recorded:
• Once a woman brought a claim against Umar. When Umar appeared on trial before the judge, the judge stood up as a sign of respect. Umar reprimanded him saying “This is the first act of injustice you did to this woman”.
• Umar insisted that his governors live simple and austere lives, keep no guard at their door and be accessible to the people at all times. He himself set the example for them.
• Many times foreigners found him resting under a tree or praying in the mosque among the people. It was difficult for them to distinguish which man was the Caliph. He used to go about at night in the streets of Medina to see if people needed help or assistance.
• Once, he was delayed in attending Friday prayers once because he had washed his shirt and had to wait for it to dry because he had no other shirt. Can you imagine any other leader of a nation who was so frugal on himself and so afraid to misuse public funds, that he only has one garment in his possession?
• When receiving a gift of sweets from his governor in Azerbaijan, he inquired if all the people there ate the sweet. The answer was that it was reserved for the elite of the society. Umar then made the following order to the governor “Do not satisfy yourself from any kind of food until all the Muslims eat their fill from it before you”.
• He once stood guard in the night with a companion to watch over some travellers. A baby was crying but the mother was unable to make it stop. Umar asked what was wrong. She said that the baby refuses to wean. He asked why she would want to wean her baby who was still young. She replied without knowing who he was that “Umar only prescribes a share of the Treasury for the weaned ones”. Umar was devastated at hearing this statement. At dawn prayer, his voice was almost incomprehensible from his weeping. Umar felt himself having wronged those babies who may have died from being weaned too early. He then ordered that a share of the Treasury be prescribed for every Muslim child from birth.
• Umar kept his family’s activities under tight scrutiny in case they are seen to be abusing their status because of their relationship to Umar. Even when what they did was legal, he was still angered, and if they benefited financially, even if indirectly, he forbade from retaining such financial gains.
• Umar had a precept: “If any of you saw any of your brothers committing a slip, you should (screen him and) help him. You should ask Allah to repent on him and you should not assist Satan against him”. This would prevent back-biting and gossiping – two of the most common sins.
Hence, the short examples above hopefully give some colour on the outstanding leadership qualities Umar displayed throughout his rule. He constantly merciful, caring, principled, thoughtful and God fearing. Here was a man who was so worried of displaying the smallest injustice, the smallest suspicion, the smallest oppression all because he was preparing himself to answer the question “What will you say to your Lord later?”.
Umar was violently stabbed six times at the time of the morning prayer by a Persian slave named Firoz. Unconscious and bleeding profusely, was then carried home. When he regained consciousness, he asked who his murderer was. When told, he said “Praise be to God that I have not been murdered by a Muslim.”
Knowing that his death was imminent, he asked his son Abdullah RA to beg Aisha’s permission for his burial by the side of Muhammad SAW and Abu Bakr. Aisha RA wept as she came to know that Umar was on his deathbed. She said “I had reserved this place for my own burial, but I give Umar precedence over myself. Let him be buried there.”
When Umar was told of this, he said, “God bless Aisha. She has fulfilled my greatest wish. Now I can die in peace.”
Even in the final leg of his life, he was still concerned about the Ummah. Here was a man who had beaten a slave girl for her acceptance of Islam only to become a Caliph and one of the greatest Muslims that ever lived. He is a shining example of how Allah is the owner of the hearts, for the same man who set out with sword in hand to kill the Prophet SAW, now lays buried beside him in Medina.
May Allah be pleased with Umar ibn Khattab and all the Companions, Ameen.