Umar bin Khattab (r.a.)

Six years passed after the sun of prophethood started to illuminate the universe. The struggle between shirk (polytheism) and tawhid (oneness) was increasing day by day. The more the number of the believers increased, the more the oppression and cruelty of the polytheists increased. The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) was looking for solutions to prevent the Muslims from cruelty and torture. Therefore, he allowed a group of Muslims to migrate to Abyssinia. 

It was during the days when the polytheists convened in order to kill the Messenger of Allah. The Muslims worshipped Allah secretly. The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) prayed Allah and asked Him to make one of the two notable Umars a Muslim. He prayed as follows:

“O Allah! Strengthen Islam with Umar bin Hisham (Abu Jahil) or Umar bin Khattab!“ [1]

It is strange that Umar bin Hisham (Abu Jahil), one of those two Umars, promised 100 camels to the person who would kill the Messenger of Allah; on the other hand, the other Umar, Umar bin Khattab, accepted this offer and set off to kill  the Messenger of Allah.

Umar bin Khattab was famous for his braveness and courage among the Qurayshis. He could do whatever he wanted and nobody could prevent him. He girded on his sword and set off to kill the Messenger of Allah.

He was walking furiously when he met Nuaym, who had just become a Muslim, on the way. Nuaym asked him,

 “O Umar! Where are you going?“ Hz. Umar was furious; he said,

“I am going to kill Muhammad, who caused separation among the Qurayshis by inventing a new religion.“ Nuaym said,

“O Umar! Your sister and your brother-in-law have also become Muslims. Do you know about it? Make them leave that religion first.“

Umar was taken aback and hesitated. Then, he changed his way immediately and hurried on to the house of his brother-in-law.

Umar bin Khattab stopped at the door when he arrived at his sister's house. He heard his brother-in-law reading the Quran. He rushed in. His brother-in-law and sister hid the pages of the Quran they were reading. Umar said,

“Bring me what you were reading.“ They said,

“There is nothing.“ Umar spoke angrily:

“It means what I have heard is true. You have also followed him.“ Then, he grabbed his brother-in-law by his collar and threw him down on the floor. He also struck his sister, Fatima, who wanted to save her husband and wounded her. His sister was both crying and uttering kalima ash-shahada, declaring that she was a Muslim. 

This sad scene soothed Umar's fury. His wrath was replaced by mercy. He said softly,

“Bring me what you were reading.“ Fatima asked him to clean himself first. Then, they started to read the beginning of the chapter of Taha.

As they went on reading, Umar's heart began to fluctuate. The eloquence of the Quran started to flow into his heart. He could not help saying,

“What a sublime speech!“ He asked where the Messenger of Allah was and went straight to Dar al-Arkam.

The Messenger of Allah was talking to the Companions then. Hz. Hamza saw Umar coming. The Companions got worried. The Messenger of Allah did not panic and said,

“Let him in.“

Umar, who was fascinated by the sun of guidance, uttered kalima ash-shahada and declared that he became a Muslim. The Prophet and the Companions who were there uttered takbirs joyfully. The prayer of the Messenger of Allah about one of the two Umars becoming a Muslim was accepted.  

Hz. Umar was the 40th Muslim. From then on, he was going to use his courage and heroism for the cause of Islam. He said,

“Come on! Let us go to the Kaaba and worship there.“

The Messenger of Allah proceeded to the Kaaba with Hz. Umar on his right and Hz. Hamza on his left. When the polytheists saw this, they were surprised. Some of them thought Hz. Umar captured them. However, Abu Jahl noticed the situation. He said,

“No, this coming is different. We have lost Umar.“

Indeed, Hz. Umar stopped in front of them and shouted, 

“Do not anybody move! Or I will kill you!“

The polytheists were astounded. They could not say anything.

Thus, the Muslims started to perform prayers in the Kaaba openly. Then, the Messenger of Allah gave Hz. Umar the nickname “Faruq“, which means the one that distinguishes the truth from the wrong. [2]

Hz. Umar's becoming a Muslim rejoiced not only the believers but also the angels in the sky. As a matter of fact, Jibril came to the Prophet after a while and said,

“The residents of the sky give one another the glad tidings that Umar became a Muslim. [3]

The abilities of Hz. Umar, who received his light from the talks of the Prophet and the sun of the Quran, increased suddenly. He was mentioned as “the symbol of justice“ in the history of Islam.

* * *

Hz. Umar married several times. He had several children from those marriages. Four of his children are famous.

They are Hz. Hafsa, who married to the Prophet, Abdullah bin Umar, who was a person of great knowledge and a source of hadiths, Ubaydullah, who was famous for his courage, and Asim, who was famous for his virtues and taqwa. 

* * *

Hz. Umar was engaged in trade like Hz. Abu Bakr before Islam; he was a knowledgeable and sophisticated person who visited many cities. He was one of the few people who could read and write among the Qurayshis. After becoming a Muslim, he devoted all of his knowledge, abilities and power to the Messenger of Allah and Islam. He always conveyed the message of Islam.

However, the polytheists did not allow Muslims to live in Makkah and exerted all kinds of torture on them. When the tortures became unbearable, the Companions were given permission to migrate to Madinah in order to protect their lives and practice their religion easily. They set off to go to Madinah secretly at night individually, in groups of two or more people. 

Hz. Umar did not do so. He showed his courage and braveness. When the Messenger of Allah asked him to migrate, he girded on his sword and went to the yard of the Kaaba. 

The polytheists had gathered there and were planning the tortures to exert on the Muslims. When they saw Hz. Umar, they were surprised. Umar circumambulated the Kaaba while they were staring at him with their mouths open. Then, he turned to the polytheists and said, 

“I am leaving. Anyone who wants to make his mother cry, his wife a widow and his children fatherless can try to stop me.“ [4]

Nobody dared to say anything against this belief and heroism. Hz. Umar set out for Madinah in the middle of the day with calm and secure steps.

Hz. Umar did not stop even for a moment when he spread Islam in Madinah. He took part in all wars and displayed great heroism. 

This great man sometimes remembered his life in the Era of Jahiliyyah after he became a Muslim. He narrates the following:

“I cry when I remember one thing and laugh when I remember another. What I cry for is burying my daughter alive. What I laugh for is making idols out of halva and eating them when we are hungry.“

* * *

Umar al-Faruq was attached to the Messenger of Allah with great love. Once, the Prophet said to the Companions:

“None of you can become a perfect believer unless I am more beloved to him than his own children, property, parents and even his own soul.“

Hz. Umar was there. He said,

“O Messenger of Allah! You are more beloved to me than everything except my own soul.“ The Prophet said,

“More than your soul, too. O Umar!“ Then, Umar said, “Yes, more than my own soul! O Messenger of Allah!“ [5]

Although he was promised Paradise and received many compliments from the Prophet, he was always between the states of fear and hope as a necessity of being a slave; he did not rely on his deeds. The following statement of his is very famous: 

“If I knew that everybody would go to Hell except one person, I would hope that I would be that one person. If I knew that everybody would go to Paradise except one person, I would fear that I would be that one person.“

Hz. Umar was one of the Companions who was very close to the Messenger of Allah frequently and who benefitted from his knowledge and blessing. Therefore, the Prophet gave him the authority to issue fatwas. Abdullah bin Mas'ud states the following about his knowledge:

“If they put the knowledge of Hz. Umar on one scale of a balance and the knowledge of all other people on the other, Umar's knowledge would outweigh. He is the one that knows Allah the best among us, that reads and understands the book of Allah the best and that has the most profound understanding in religion.“ [6]

Hz. Umar was at the top level in taqwa, sincerity and worshipping. He liked performing prayers at night and fasting during the day. 

He was a hot-tempered person naturally. When he got furious, he would read the Quran to sooth his fury. He always remembered the following hadith of the Prophet: “Bring yourself to account before you are taken to account.“ Therefore, he asked himself the following question every night: “O Umar! What have you done for Allah today?“

He appointed a man to remind him about death every day. When some of his beard started to turn grey, he said to the man, “There is no need for you anymore.“ Then, he sent the man away.

After the death of Hz. Abu Bakr, the Muslims chose Hz. Umar as the Caliph because he was the one that deserved to be the caliph the most. After Umar was chosen as the Caliph, he made the following nice speech by ascending to the pulpit:

“Allah Almighty made me your deputy regarding your affairs. I hope I will be useful to you. I ask Allah to help me and to inspire me in order to protect your rights. For, I am a weak slave. Only Allah's help will give me strength. Inshaallah the duty of caliphate will not change anything in my ethics. 

“Greatness belongs to Allah Almighty. His slaves have no right to act conceitedly.  Do not anybody say, ‘Umar changed when he became the Caliph.' I prefer your rights to my rights. I will always give you priority. I will always explain you what I do. If any of you is wronged and oppressed, he should inform me about it. For, I am a human like you. I cannot know if you do not tell me.“

After speaking like that, Hz. Umar prayed Allah as follows:

“O Allah! I am a hard and violent person. Give me lenience. I am weak; give me strength. O Lord! Give me strength to guide these people, whose administration I undertook, to the straight path.“ [7]

After that, Hz. Umar could not sleep properly. He started to feel all of the burden of the Muslims on him. He worked during the day and night; he tried to complete all of the affairs of the ummah. He believed that if a sheep got lost near the river Euphrates, Allah would account him for it. [8]

When Hz. Umar prohibited something, he would apply it to himself and his family members first. He would call his family members and address them as follows:

“I prohibited this thing. If I hear any of you do it, I will punish him twice as much.“ [9]

Hz. Umar (r.a.) divided the booty among people after a war. Everybody was given one piece of fabric. However, this fabric was not enough to make a garment. His son, Abdullah, said to him, 

“This fabric is not enough for me or for you. I will give my share to you so that you will have a garment sewn for you.“

Hz. Umar accepted the present of his son and had a garment sewn for him out of that fabric. 

A few days later, he ascended to the pulpit in order to make a speech wearing that garment. He said,

“O believers! Listen to me and obey me.“ A poor person sitting in one of the back rows stood up and said,

“O leader of the believers! I will not listen to you or obey you because you do not follow the path of Allah and His Messenger.“

The Caliph was astonished when he heard this big claim: He asked,

“Why?“

The man explained the reason why as follows:

“When you distributed the booty, none of us had enough fabric to make a garment. I see that you got more fabric than us and made yourself a garment out of it.“

Hz. Umar was waiting for a more serious accusation. He felt relieved when he heard it. He beckoned to his son, Abdullah, who was among the congregation, to talk. Hz. Abdullah stood up and explained the situation. He said that he had given his share to his father. 

The people became glad to hear that. Everybody turned to the man who had objected. He stood up and said, 

“O leader of the believers! Speak now. I will listen to you and obey you.“

Thereupon, Umar, the Caliph who was the symbol of justice, opened his hands and prayed his Lord as follows:

“O Lord! I praise you endlessly. You made me the Caliph of an ummah that warns me regarding my mistakes.“

Abdullah bin Abbas (r.a.) states the following about this characteristic of Umar:

“Remember Umar a lot. For, when you remember him, you will remember justice.“

Indeed, his justice has been proverbial for 1400 years.

Another example that shows his justice is as follows:

Once, Umar, the Caliph, went to the presence of the judge due to a disagreement with a Companion. The judge was Zayd bin Thabit, one of the greatest Companions. It was Hz. Umar who had appointed him as the judge. 

Zayd felt a bit overwhelmed by Umar for a moment and said, “Please sit here.“ Hz. Umar gor furious. He was a defendant there. The judge showed him a separate place.   Umar (r.a.) shook his finger at him and warned him as follows:

“If the Caliph and an ordinary person are not equal in your presence, you cannot deserve this post. The judge must fulfill the order and decree of Allah, not the Caliph, when he works.“

Everybody, whether a Muslim or not, could seek their rights and express their complaints in the presence of Umar. They could even complain about the governors. Hz. Umar did not care about whom the complaint was; he cared whether the complaint was right or not.

He warned people clearly regarding the issue:

“I do not appoint governors so that they will oppress you and grab your things. I appoint them so that they will teach you Islam, judge with justice and fulfill your affairs nicely. If you see them act contrarily, do not hesitate to complain about them to me; I will punish them immediately.“

Thereupon, a Muslim stood up and complained about a governor. He said,

“The governor beat me with a stick 100 times unjustly. Hz. Umar searched about the complaint and found out that the governor was wrong. He summoned the governor and said to the person,

“Now, you beat him.“

Amr bin As, who was the governor of Egypt, was also there. He asked for permission to speak. When he was given permission, he said, 

“O leader of the believers! If you do something like that, it will be very hard for governors. The caliphs after you will continue this practice.“

Hz. Umar did not accept this objection. He said, 

“I saw the Messenger of Allah did the same thing even for his own soul. How can I avoid practicing it for others?“

Amr bin As (r.a.) spoke again:

“Will you allow us to talk to the man and persuade him to give up beating the governor?“ Hz. Umar accepted him. The governor gave the man some money and the man gave up beating him. [10]

During his caliphate, Hz. Umar often walked around in the streets of Madinah, checked the situation of the people and tried to find the people who were poor and needy. 

One night, while he was walking around, he heard children crying in a house. He approached the house and knocked on the door. An old woman opened the door. Hz. Umar asked why the children were crying. The woman said they were crying because they had been hungry for two days. She said she was stirring the empty pot to console them and to put them to sleep.

Hz. Umar shuddered when he heard the answer. He said to the woman, 

“Wait here a bit; I will be back soon.“

He rushed out and took some flour and oil. His servant was also with him. He insisted on carrying the sack but Hz. Umar said,

“Will you carry my burden on the Day of Judgment?“

When Hz. Umar arrived at the woman's house, he was out of breath. The children started to laugh and play joyfully. 

When Hz. Umar saw them, he was about to leave in a relieved way. The woman said,

“May Allah be pleased with you! You deserve the post of Umar.“ The woman did not notice that the person who came was the Caliph due to darkness. [11]

Once, a Christian came over to Hz. Umar. He said the governor collected tax from him twice a year. Hz. Umar said it was wrong to do so. Then, the Christian left.  A few days later, he came again thinking that Hz. Umar forgot. Hz. Umar said to him,

“What do you think I am? I am a Muslim that listens to complaints and settles problems.“

When the Christian searched about the issue, he found out that the governor had been sent the order about the issue.

Umar (r.a.) believed that a state could not be administrated without consultation. Therefore, he established a consultation assembly and made notable Companions members of this assembly. He sometimes convened this assembly, asked their opinions and acted in accordance with the view of the majority.

Once, Hz. Umar saw a person begging money. He approached the man. He was a non-Muslim. He asked the man why he was begging. The man said that he had to pay jizyah but that he did not have enough money to pay jizyah.   

Hz. Umar, the sun of justice, took the man to the Treasury and allocated him a salary from the Treasury. He said,

“It is not appropriate to make them work when they are young and to throw them in the street when they get old.“

Conquests increased during the caliphate of Hz. Umar. The conquest of Iraq and Syria that started during the caliphate of Hz. Abu Bakr was completed. Iran and Egypt were conquered. The Islamic armies reached the border of Byzantium in the north and Khorasan in the east. Hz. Umar sent the justice, virtue and beauty of Islam to the conquered places with the governors he sent.

Hz. Umar was very sensitive about the religious issues. He kept away from anything that could harm the belief of oneness and prevented the wrong beliefs from spreading. It is narrated that he withdrew Khalid bin Walid, the great commander of Islam, from commandership because of this. This incident happened as follows: 

When Hz. Umar was chosen the Caliph, the Islamic army was near Syria. The commander of the army was Khalid bin Walid, who was known as “the sword of Allah“. The first action of Umar was to withdraw Khalid bin Walid from commandership with a letter. For, Khalid bin Walid won every battle he joined with the permission of Allah. This caused the Muslims to think as follows: “Khalid will never be defeated in a battle.“ This harmed sincerity because it was Allah who created the results. Hz. Umar withdrew him in order to eliminate this understanding and to show that Allah would make Muslims victorious without Khalid, too. He appointed Ubayda bin Jarrah in place of him. [12]

* * *

Hz. Umar had a fine understanding regarding religious issues. The incident above proves this. The following incident between him and Hz. Abu Ubayda bin Jarrah is also significant since it shows this understanding:

Hz. Umar was on the way to Damascus. Abu Ubayda bin Jarrah met him near Yarmuk. After talking for a while, Abu Ubayda told the Caliph that there was a plague epidemic in Damascus. When Umar (r.a.) heard it, he ordered the army to return to Madinah.   Hz. Abu Ubayda did not understand the wisdom behind this order. He said,

“O leader of the believers! Are you escaping from Allah's qadar (destiny)!“ Umar said,

“Yes, I am escaping from Allah's qadar to Allah's qadar. If you had camels and took them to a valley with two sides, and one of those sides had a lot of plants but the other had no plants, and if you wanted to make your camels graze on the side with plants, would you not do it with Allah's qadar?“

Abu Ubayda appreciated this meaningful answer of the Caliph's and kept silent.

Hz. Umar’s greatest wish was to become a martyr. He always uttered the following statement in his prayers: “O Allah! I want to die in your way and in the land of your Prophet.“

He attained what he wished.  In the 23rd year of the Migration, he was martyred by a slave called Abu Lu’lu while he was performing the morning prayer. 

* * *

There are many exemplary sayings of Hz. Umar that reached today. Some of them are as follows:

“Do not keep saying, 'O Allah! Give me my sustenance!' by sitting where you are. You know that gold and silver do not come down from the sky.“

“A person should be like a child in his family and like a man outside.“

“Try not to be in need of people. Thus, you will protect your religion and be the most generous person among people.“

“May Allah be pleased with the person who shows me my mistakes!“

* * *

Hz. Umar reported 73 hadiths from the Prophet. One of them is as follows:  

“If you relied on Allah properly, you would obtain your sustenance easily like the birds that leave their nests with empty craws in the morning and return to their nests full.“ [13]

The Prophet liked Hz. Umar a lot and appreciated him. He mentioned the virtues of Umar in several hadiths. Some of them are as follows:

“The sun has not risen on a person better than Umar.“ [14]

“There is no angel that does not show respect to Umar in the sky and no devil that does not fear Umar on earth.“ [15]

Once, the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) was in Paradise in his dream. He saw a woman making wudu near a magnificent mansion. He asked to whom who the mansion belonged. He was told it belonged to Umar bin Khattab. [16]

Hz. Umar made a lot of innovations in administration. We will summarize them in items:

·The arrangement of the incomes and expenses of the Treasury.

• Adopting the Migration of the Prophet as the start of the Muslim calendar.

• Establishing courts.

• Dividing the conquered land into provinces.

• Building prisons.

• Establishing the security department.

• Determining the movement system of the army.

• The arrangement of some city centers like Kufa, Basra, Mosul.

• Allowing foreigners to do business in the Islamic land.

• Putting helpless and poor Jews and Christians on salary.

• Building irrigation canals.

• Starting the system of preaching in all mosques.

• Building canals to meet the need of drinking waters for cities.

• Using the title “the Leader of the Believers“.

• Putting imams and muezzins on salary.
_______________________________________

[1] Tirmidhi, Manaqib: 18.
[2] Tabaqat, 3: 270.
[3] Ibn Majah, Mukaddime: 11; Faydu'l-Qadir, 5: 299.
[4] Usdu'l-Ghaba, 4: 48.
[5] Muslim, İman: 69.
[6] Hayatu’s-Sahaba, 3: 191-192
[7] Hilya, 1: 54.
[8] ibid, 53.
[9] Tabaqat, 3: 289.
[10] Tabaqat, 3: 297.
[11] Usdu'l-Ghaba, 4: 67.
[12] Asr-ı Saadet, 4: 291.
[13] Ibn Majah, Zuhd: 14; Tirmidhi, Zuhd: 33.
[14] Tirmidhi, Manaqib: 16.
[15] Faydu'l-Qadir, 5: 459.
[16] Muslim, Fadailu's-Sahaba: 20.

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