.Khalifa Umar bin al-Khattab
The exact date of the birth of Umar is not known. The concensus of opinion, however, is that Umar was born at Mecca around 580 A.D He was younger than the Holy Prophet of Islam by about ten years.
Umar belonged to the Adi clan of the Quraish. It was one of the ten clans of the Quraish who inhabited Mecca.
The pedigree of Umar was: Umar the son of Khattab; the son of Nufail; the son of Abul Uzza; the son of Riza; the son of Ribah; the son of Qurat; the son of Adi; the son of Katb.
The pedigree of the Holy Prophet was: Muhammad (peace be on him) the son of Abdullah; the son of Abdul Muttalib; the son of Hashim; the son of Abd Munaf; the son of Qussay; the son of Kulab; the son of Ka’b.
In the case of Abu Bakr and the Holy Prophet, Murrah in the eighth degree was their common ancestor. In the case of the Holy Prophet and Umar, Ka’b in the ninth degree was their common ancestor.
Among Umar’s ancestors, Adi rose to prominence as a diplomat, and the clan came to be known after him. Whenever the Quraish of the day had to negotiate any settlement with any other tribe, Adi represented the interests of the Quraish as an ambassador. Even in the case of disputes among the Quraish themselves, Adi acted as the arbitrator. After the death of Adi the two offices of diplomatic representation and arbitration became hereditary in his descendants.
Umar’s grandfather Nufail arbitrated in a dispute between Abdul Muttalib, the grandfather of the Holy Prophet and Harab bin Umayyah over the custodianship of the Ka’bah. Nufail gave his verdict in favour of Abdul Muttalib. Addressing Harab bin Umayyah he said:
“Why do you pick a quarrel with a person who is taller than you in stature; more imposing than you in appearance; more refined than you in intellect; whose progeny outnumbers yours and whose generosity outshines yours in lustre? Do not, however, construe this into any disparagement of your good qualities which I highly appreciate. You are as gentle as a lamb, you are renowned throughout Arabia for the stentorian tones of your voice, and you are an asset to your tribe.”
This address is indicative of Nufail’s skill in diplomacy and his highly developed sense of judgment.
Khattab the father of Umar was among the prominent members of the Banu Adis. The Banu Adis had some feuds with Banu Abdul Shams. The Banu Abdul Shams were stronger in power and position, and the Banu Adis as a safety measure had to seek alliance with some other clan. They allied themselves with Ranu Shams. On this alliance, Khattab composed the following verses:
“How can Abdul Shams still threaten us,
When other men of mettle espouse our cause?
In the halls of Banu Shams there are mighty warriors,
Whose hospitality and protection we enjoy.”
The house in which Umar was born in Mecca was situated midway between Safa and Marwah. During the period of his caliphate, Umar had the house dismantled, and the site was turned into a camping ground.
Umar’s mother was Khantamah who was the daughter of Hisham bin al-Mughirah. Al-Mughirah was a personage of high rank among the Quraish. In the event of war he marshalled the Quraish troops and led them to war. Hisham the maternal grandfather of Umar and al-Walid the father of the renowned General Khalid were brothers. Khalid was thus a cousin of Umar s mother and his maternal uncle.
Abu Jahl whose personal name was Amr bin Hisham bir al-Mughirah was a brother of Umar’s mother, and his maternal uncle. One of the sisters of Umar’s mother, Umm Salma was married to the Holy Prophet of Islam.
Umar had several brothers and sisters. The most well known out of these were: Zaid and Fatima. Zaid and Umar were step brothers, their mothers being different. Nevertheless the two brothers were devoted to each other. When Zaid was later martyred at the battle of Yamama during the caliphate of Abu Bakr, Umar was highly grieved. He used to say, “Whenever the wind blows from Yamama, it brings me the fragrance of Zaid.”
Fatima was the real sister of Umar. She was married to her cousin Saeed bin Zaid bin Amr. She played an important role in the conversion of Umar to Islam.
Amr, a brother of Khattab was a paternal uncle of Umar. Zaid the son of Amr, and a cousin of Umar was among the distinguished persons of the Quraish, who before the advent of Islam gave up idolatry, and came to believe in the unity of God. Zaid was a poet. One of his poems reads:
“I believe in one God,
I cannot believe in a thousand gods.
I ignore the idols of Lat and Uzza,
A wise and cautious man can do no more.”
Khattab the father of Umar persecuted Zaid for his religious beliefs. Zaid died before the Holy Prophet of Islam announced his prophetic mission. When the Holy Prophet proclaimed his prophethood, Saeed the son of Zaid who had married Umar’s sister Fatima, was among the early converts to Islam.
Hadart Umar In The Days Of Ignorance
No account is preserved about the early life of Umar during the days of ignorance. Umar belonged to an ordinary family of average means and there was nothing conspicuous about Umar or his family during the days of ignorance to be recorded or chronicled. We can merely pick up stray accounts here and there, and try to weave them into a readable narrative.
It appears that Umar grew up as a typical Arab-a tall young man with a fine physique and impressive personality. When he was a child his father put him to the task of grazing camels. Khattab was a hard taskmaster, and Umar often recalled how his father belaboured him mercilessly whenever there was a lapse on his part. Umar also recalled that when he was a child he used to graze the flocks of goats and sheep of his maternal aunts who doled out pittance to him in the shape of dates.
As a child, Umar used to graze the animals under his charge in the grazing ground Dajnan, about ten miles from Mecca. When Umar became the Khalifa, he happened to pass through Dajnan. Turning to his companions he said:
“Gracious heavens! There was a time when I used to roam about this desert as a camel-herd, wearing a felt jacket, and whenever I sat down tired my father beat me. Now the times have changed. There is now none save God as my superior.”
Among the Quraish of those days, reading and writing was not in vogue. In spite of that Umar received education in reading and writing. It is related that among the Quraish of Mecca only seventeen persons could read and write, and Umar was one of them. That has to be acknowledged as a great attainment.
Umar’s father was an authority in tracing genealogies. Under the guidance of his father, Umar also acquired matchless skill in the matter of the study of pedigrees.
Umar knew intimately as to who was who among the Quraish. He was also well versed in the knowledge of the history of Arabia.
Umar was blessed with a strong physique. He could undergo great rigours. He could travel on foot for miles. He was an athlete and a wrestler. He participated in the wrestling matches on the occasion of the annual fair at Ukaz, and he won in most of such matches. From the accounts that have come down to us it appears that Umar had attained perfection in the art of wrestling.
Some first hand descriptions of the physical appearance of Umar have come down to us. Ibn Saad and al-Hakim have recorded a description of Umar as Abu Miriam Zir, a native of Kufa described him. Zir said:
“I went forth with the people of Madina on a festival day, and I saw Umar walking barefoot. He was advanced in years, bald, of a tawny colour-a left handed man, tall, and towering above the people.”
Ibn Umar described the physical appearance of Umar as follows:
“He was a man of fair complexion, a ruddy tint prevailing, tall, bald and grey.”
Ubayd bin Umayr described Umar as follows:
” Umar used to overtop the people in height.”
Salima bin al-Akwa’a said about him:
” Umar was ambidexter; he could use both his hands equally well.”
Ibn Asakir records on tile authority of Abu Raja al-U’taridi that:
“Umar was a man tall, stout, very bald, very ruddy with scanty hair on the cheeks, his moustaches large, and the ends thereof reddish.”
Umar was a skillful rider. He could successfully manage even the wildest of horses he would literally jump on the back of the horse, and sit with such ease and steadiness that he appeared to be a part and parcel of the horse he rode.
He was very intelligent and shrewd. He was a good public speaker. He was gifted with an uncommon degree ot tact and judgment, and on several occasions he successfully undertook ambassadorial missions on behalf of the Quraish.
By all accounts he was self-respecting, broad-minded and sincere. He was a man of strong convictions, a good friend, and a bad enemy. Like the rugged hills around him, he was harsh and stern, violent in temper, but very good of heart. He was always prepared to stand up against the oppressor and espouse the cause of the weak.
He followed the profession of a trader. He undertook journeys to Syria, Iraq, Yemen, and elsewhere for the purposes of trade. He was a successful trader, and he made good money as a result of these commercial journeys. When Umar migrated from Mecca, according to his own account, he was one of the richest Quraish merchants.
In his books, Akhbar-ul-Zaman, and Kitab-ul-Ausat the celebrated historian Masudi is understood to have related the incidents of the travels of Umar Masudi states that Umar paid visits to several Arabian and Persian princes. These books of Masudi have, however, been lost, and the details of these journeys are no longer available to us.
Before his conversion to Islam, Umar had three wives His first wife was Qariba bint Abi Umayya al-Makhzumi. She belonged to the same clan as the mother of Umar. She was one of the most beautiful women of Mecca of the day. His second wife was Zainab bint Maziun. She was the sister of Usman bint Maz’un an early companion for whom the Holy Prophet had great regard. She was the mother of Abdullah and Hafsa. His third wife was Malaika bint Jarul al-Khuzai. She was also called Umm Kulsum.
Hadart Umar And Islam
When the Holy Prophet (peace be on him) proclaimed his apostlehood, the reaction among the Quraish was violent. Umar, a young man of strong convictions, held the new faith to be a sacrilege of the idols of Katbah. Young, well-built, and fiery-tempered as he was, Umar was in tile forefront in opposition to Islam.
Some accounts have come down to us showing Umar’s attitude to Islam in the days before his conversion. Umar has related that in the days of ignorance he was one day standing by an idol with a number of Quraish when an Arab sacrificed a calf. From the belly of the calf the following cry was heard:
“O blood red one,
The deed is done.
A man will cry
Besides God, none.”
This corroborated what the Holy Prophet (peace be on him) said. Umar, however, dismissed the cry as sheer hallucination.
It is on record that along with some Arabs Umar went to a soothsayer, and asked him to look into the matter of Muhammad (peace be on him) who had proclaimed a new faith. The soothsayer looked to the beaven for a long time. Then he leapt and said:
“O men, God has honoured and chosen Muhammad,
Purified his heart and bowels.
His stay, among you,
O men will be short.”
Umar cursed the soothsayer and returned home very cross and upset.
Lubna, a maid servant of Umar, accepted Islam. When Umar came to know of her conversion, he beat her violently and asked her to retract. She said that he might kill her, but she would not leave Islam. Thereafter it became the wont of Umar that he would beat her every day and would stop beating till he himself felt exhausted. In spite of that, the slave girl remained steadfast.
Umm Abdullah bint Khatamah, a lady related to Umar, also accepted Islam. Umar was very furious at her conversion. As she along with her husband Amar bin Rabiah and other early converts decided to migrate to Abyssinia, Umar felt moved. He visited her and said, “Umm Abdullah are you going?” She said, By God, you have made our living in Mecca very difficult. There is no option with us but to migrate elsewhere.” Inadvertently Umar said, ‘Umm Abdullah, may God protect you; go in peace.” At that time Umm Abdullah felt that in spite of Umar’s opposition to Islam, he would one day accept the new faith.
We have it on the authority of Umar himself that one day he came across the Holy Prophet in the Ka’bah. The Holy Prophet was reciting verses from the Holy Quran and as Umar listened to these verses he felt that it was the work of some poet. Then the Holy Prophet recited, “This is the revealed word of God; it’s not the work of any poet. Yet you people do not believe”. Thereupon Umar felt that if this was not the work of any poet it would be the work of a soothsayer. Thereupon the Holy Prophet recited the verses, “And this is not the word of any soothsayer; it is divine word communicated through Gabriel.” Hearing these verses Umar stood transfixed for some time. In his heart of hearts he thought that perhaps truth lay with Muhammad (peace be on him).
Umar, however, dismissed these feelings and soon he was his former self very hostile to Islam. He went to the Quraish and participated in their counsels. They felt concerned that the venom of the new faith was spreading and the only remedy was that Muhammad (peace be on him) should be killed. All present at the meeting agreed that Muhammad (peace be on him) should be killed. Then the meeting invited volunteers who would kill the Prophet. Umar volunteered to kill the Prophet, and vindicate the faith of their forefathers.
One hot sultry day in the year A.D. 616, Umar buckled his sword and set out to kill the Holy Prophet (peace be on him). In the way, Umar met Nuaim bin Abduilah. He was a friend of Umar. He had been converted to Islam, but Umar did not know of that.
Noticing the dark frowns on his face, Nuaim asked Umar what he was up to. Umar said that he was going to slay Muhammad (peace be on him), and thus vindicate the gods of Ka’bah. Nuaim said! “Beware if you harm Muhammad (peace be on him) you will not be safe from the fury of Banu Hashim. Desist from such a course in your own interest”. Umar ejaculated angrily: “It appears you have also become a Muslim.” Nuaim said, “Umar, do not bother about me, but take care of your sister and brother-in-law who have been converted to Islam, and who may be reading the Quran at this very moment.”
That made Umar pause. Instead of going to the Holy Prophet, he went to the house of his sister. His sister was Fatima and her husband was Saeed bin Zaid. Umar loved his sister. He had never thought that his brother-in-law or his sister would have the audacity to accept Islam. This was news to him. He could not believe it, but he thought it advisable to verify the facts.
As Umar stepped into the house of his sister, he found that both Fatima and her husband were reading the Quran from a leaf. Seeing Umar, his sister hid the leaf. Fatima rose to welcome her brother with a smile. But there was a dark frown on the face of Umar. “What were you reading”, he thundered. “Nothing”, replied Fatima.
Umar caught his brother-in-law by the throat and said, “So you have apostasised from the faith of your forefathers”. Saeed retorted, “Rather we have abandoned falsehood for truth.” Thereupon Umar was about to strike Saeed when Fatima intervened saying, “Hands off from my husband. If ypu have anything to say, say it to me, but do not touch my husband.” Umar asked, “Is it a fact that you have become Muslims.” She replied, “Yes. we have become Muslims. You may kill us if you like, but we will not waver in our faith”.
Umar stayed his hands and desired that the leaf from which they had been reading should be shown to him. Fatima said that he could not touch the sacred leaf until he had washed his hands. Umar washed his hands, and the sacred leaf was handed over to him. It was the Sura Ta Ha. It read:
We have not sent the Qur’an to thee,
To be an occasion for thy distress,
But only as an admonition to those who fear God.
A revelation from Him,
Who created the earth and the heavens on high.
God most gracious,
Is firmly established on the throne of authority.
To Him belongs what is in the heavens and on earth,
And all between them and all beneath the soil.
If thou pronounce the word aloud, it’s no matter
For verily He knoweth what is secret
And what is yet hidden.
Verily there is no god but He
To Him belongs the most beautiful names.” (20: 1-8)
As Umar read the verses over and over again, he felt as if these verses were addressed to him in person, and the mysterious Ta Ha referred to Umar-the Man. Umar shuddered with the fear of God, and he felt as if his conscience was upbraiding him, “Umar, how long would you stay away from the path of truth. Has not the time come for you to follow the truth?”
And then Umar resolved that he would lose no time in following the truth. Turning to his sister and brother-in-law he said, “I came to you as an enemy of Islam; I go from you as a friend of Islam. I had buckled this sword to slay the Prophet of Islam; I now go to him to offer him allegiance.”
Fatima and Saeed cried “Allah o-Akbar”.
The episode has been dramatised by Allama Iqbal in his poem “Secrets of the Self”. He has exhorted the Muslim women to be like the sister of Umar. He says:
“O Muslim women;
Out of the evening create a new dazzling morn.
To the true lovers of God,
Recite the Holy Qur’an
And enthusiastically translate
Its spirit into action
Don’t vou know that such recitation
Changed altogether Umar’s fate.”
From the house of his sister, Umar proceeded to the house of Arqam at the foot of the Safa hill, where the Holy Prophet was lodged.
Umar knocked at the door of the house of Arqam.
“Who comes”, enquired the guard.
“Umar bin al-Khattab”. said Umar.
As the guard peeped through the door he saw that Umar had buckled his sword. The guard therefore hesitated to open the door.
Hamza said to the guard, “Open the door; if he comes in peace he will be welcome. If he is bent on mischief, we are enough to overpower him”.
Umar was admitted. Hamza caught him by the hem of his cloak and said, “Umar, what brings you here?” The Muslims with drawn swords surrounded Umar, so that he could be overpowered if he showed any signs of violence.
Hearing the noise, the Holy Prophet came out of his cell. Addressing Hamza the Holy Prophet said, “Leave him Let him come forward”.
As Umar stepped forward the Holy Prophet said Umar, how long will you stray from the path of Islam. Has the time not come for you to see the truth?”
Umar said, “Verily the time has come for me to see the truth. I have come to profess my faith in Islam”.
The Holy Prophet stretched his hand. Umar held the hand with reverence and said, “I declare that there is no god but Allah, and that Muhammad is the Messenger of God”.
In joy the Muslims shouted “Allah-o-Akbar”. The Holy Prophet embraced Umar. The other Muslims embraced Umar one by one. Umar was the fortieth person to become a Muslim.
That day even Gabriel congratulated the Holy Prophet on the conversion of Umar. Gabriel said: “O Prophet of God, the dwellers in Heaven rejoice at the conversion of Umar and offer you their congratulations”. Intoxicated with the joy of having become a Muslim, Umar proceeded to various parts of Mecca to announce that he had become a Muslim. He first went to the house of his maternal uncle Abu Jahl. He knocked at the door of the house of Abu Jahl.
“Who comes”, asked Abu Jahl.
“It’s Umar”, said Umar. Abu Jahl opened the door and said,
“Welcome nephew”. Umar said,
“Uncle do you know, I have become a Muslim.” Abu Jahl said,
“Do not talk like that. I know that a man of your views can never become a Muslim”. Umar said,
“No, uncle it is a fact that I have become a Muslim.” Abu Jahl thereupon said,
“If what you say is true then be damned”. Saying this Abu Jahl shut the door in the face of Umar.
Thereafter Umar went to see some other Quraish chiefs. He told them of his conversion to Islam. Like Abu Jahl they damned him and shut the doors of their houses against him.
Then Umar proceeded to the Ka’bah. There he saw Jamil bin Ma’mar al-Jamahi who enjoyed reputation for spreading reports in Mecca. Umar told him that he had accepted Islam. Jamil rose from his feet, and cried at the top of his voice:
“O ye Quraish, know that Umar bin al Khattab has been converted to Islam, and apostatised from the faith of his forefathers. “
On hearing this some Quraish youth gathered at the Ka’bah. Umar said,
“What Jamil said is not correct. I have not apostatised: I have seen the truth and accepted Islam”. Thereupon the Quraish youth rushed at Umar with a view to beating him. A Shaikh dressed in Yemeni robes Al-Aas bin Wail passed that way, and enquired what was the matter. The Quraish said that Umar had apostatised, and they wanted to punish him for straying from the faith of his forefathers. The Shaikh said,
“A man should be free to choose whatever religion he iikes. Why beat him for that?” Abu Jahl also happened to come that way. Seeing the Quraish, he said,
“I offer protection to my nephew”. Umar said,
“Uncle, I do not need your protection. For me the protection of God and the Holy Prophet is enough”.
Then Umar went to the Holy Prophet and told him that he had publicly announced his conversion. Heretofore those who were converted to Islam kept their conversion to Islam secret for fear of the oppression of the Quraish. They also prayed in secret. Umar submitted to the Holy Prophet:
“O Messenger of God are we not in the truth?”. The Holy Prophet said,
“Why not, we are verily in the truth”.
“Then why should we not pray in the public? Has not the time come for us to declare our faith publicly?” said Umar. Umar tried to prevail on the Holy Prophet that the truth of Islam should become manifest. The Holy Prophet agreed with Umar.
The following day all the Muslims emerged from the house of Arqam and proceeded to the Holy Ka’bah, in two lines, one led by Umar, and the other by Hamza. At the Ka’bah the Muslims prayed openly. The Quraish watched the Muslims pray and said, “Verily by the conversion of Umar to Islam, the Muslims have taken the revenge from the Quraish”.
After the Muslims had prayed in the Ka’bah, the Holy Prophet conferred on Umar the title of “Al-Faruq,” for on that day through the efforts of Umar, the truth of Islam had become manifest.
Migration From Mecca
In A.D. 622, the Holy Prophet decided that the Muslims should migrate from Mecca to Madina. The Muslims were required to proceed to Madina in batches.
Abu Salmah Abdullah bin Ashhal was the first Muslim to migrate from Mecca to Madina. He was followed by Bilal and Ammar Yasir. Thereafter Umar migrated from Mecca. While most of the other Muslims left Mecca in secret, Umar publicly declared that he was proceeding to Madina. He even challenged the Quraish that if any one of them had the courage to stop him from going to Madina, he was welcome to try his strength with hin. No Quraish of Mecca could have the courage to prevent the migration of Umar, and no one accepted the challenge to measure strength with him.
According to Ibn Asakir, Ali commented on the migration of Umar in the following terms:
I never knew any one migrate unless secretly except Umar, for he, when he resolved on migration, girt on his sword and slung over his bow and grasped in his hand its arrows, and went to the Ka’bah where in its quadrangle were the chiefs of the Quraish, and he went round about it seven times, then prayed two raka’ts at the station of Abraham, and went to each, one by one, in their circle and said, “May the face be foul of such as desire that his mother be bereaved of him and his child be left an orphan and his wife a widow, and if there be such a one, let him meet me behind this valley, but no one followed him.
In Sahih Bukhari it is stated that some twenty Muslims accompanied Umar on the occasion of his migration from Mecca. His companions included Zaid bin Khattab the brother of Umar; Said bin Zaid, the nephew of Umar and Khunais bin Hudhaifah the son-in-law of Umar (the husband of Hafsa). Other persons who accompanied Umar included: Amr b Suraqah; Abdullah b Suraqah; Waqid b Abdullah Tamimi; Khaula b Abi Khaula; Malik b Abi Khallla; Ayas b Bukair; Aqil b Bukair; Amir b Bukair and Khalid b Bukair.
Ayyash b Abu Rabiah al- Makhzumi and Hisham b Al-Aas b Wail al-Sahmi also decided to migrate with Umar. They made an appointment to meet at the thorn tree of Adat of Banu Ghifar about ten miles from Mecca. It was decided that if any one of them failed to turn up at the appointed place by sunrise on the day of departure fixed before hand it would be construed that he was not coming and had been held back by force.
Umar with his companions and Ayyash arrived at the appointed meeting place according to schedule. Hisham did not turn up and was held back by the Quraish.
The party arrived at Quba on the outskirts of Madina and there they stayed with Banu Amr bin Auf.
One day Abu Jahl and al-Harith rode to Quba and contacted Ayyash who was their cousin. They told Ayyash that his mother had vowed that she would not comb her hair, nor take shelter from the sun until she saw Ayyash.
Umar told Ayyash that this was nothing but an attempt to seduce him from his religion. Umar added that if the lice disturbed his mother she would of her own accord comb her hair, and if the heat of Mecca oppressed her, she would herself take shelter.
But Ayyash felt inclined to go. He said:
“I may go for a short while. I will clear my mother of her vow. I have also some money to recover from the people in Mecca which I would like to get.”
“I am one of the richest of the Quraish and if you do not go with them, you may have one half of my money.”
Ayyash, however, persisted in his wish to go to Mecca once .
Thereupon Umar said:
“If you must go, then take this camel of mine. She is well bred and easy to ride. Don’t dismount, and if at any stage you suspect them of treachery, you may well escape on this camel. Then Ayyash left for Mecca on the camel of Umar. After they had proceeded some distance, Jahl said to Ayyash:
“I find my beast hard to ride. Will you not mount me behind you ?”
Ayyash agreed, and when they made their camels kneel to make the change over, Abu Jahl and al-Harith fell on Ayyash and bound him securely. They brought him to Mecca bound and said:
“O men of Mecca deal with your fools as we have dealt with this fool of ours”.
When the Holy Prophet came to know how Hisham had been held back and how Ayyash had been abducted, he said:
“Who will bring me Ayyash and Hisham?”
Al-Walid b al-Mughira volunteered to undertake the mission. Al-Walid rode to Mecca and there he came to know that Hisham and Ayyash were kept in custody in a house which had no roof. One night al-Walid climbed the wall and contacted the prisoners who were in fetters. Al-Walid cut the fetters with the strokes of his sword. Then al-Walid led Ayyash and Hisham to Medina.
Early Days In Madina
Having arrived in the neighbourhood of Madina, Umar and his party chose to stay at Quba, a suburb of Madina. Umar had about twenty persons with him including his brother Zaid, Khunais bin Hudaifah his son-in-law; Waqid bin Abdullah al Tamimi, and Ayyash. At Quba Umar and his party were the guests of Rifa’a bin Abdul Mundhir of Banu Amr. Umar and his party were accommodated in a few independent houses where they were lodged comfortably. There was already a mosque at Quba and here Umar prayed at the appointed hours.
At Quba all the Muslims waited eagerly for the Holy Prophet to come. Parties of men would go out for some distance on the route to Mecca and there wait for the Prophet to come. Several days passed away and the Holy Prophet did not come. Umar felt uneasy and he thought of going to Mecca to ascertain why the Holy Prophet was late in coming.
Then one noon the Holy Prophet accompanied by Abu Bakr arrived at Quba. As they arrived the people crowded round them. As the people had not seen the Holy Prophet before, it was difficult for them to know as to who out of the two was the Holy Prophet. Seeing this predicament of the people, Abu Bakr stood up and shielded the Holy Prophet with his mantle. Umar arrived at the spot and rushed to meet the Holy Prophet. The Holy Prophet embraced Umar and the chiefs of Quba who had come to we come him.
The Holy Prophet stayed at Quba for a few days and led the prayers in the mosque. Then the Holy Prophet proceeded to Madina. Umar followed in the train of the Holy Prophet. At Madina the Holy Prophet and the emigrants from Mecca were given a royal reception. The maidens of Madina mounted the roof tops of their houses and sang:
The full-moon has arisen on us
From the Thaniyat il-Wada’.
Thanksgiving is incumbent on us
So long as an invoker may invoke God.
O thou Divinely sent among us,
Thou hast brought a commandment that shall be obeyed!
The world of Madina was quite different from the world of Mecca. At Mecca the Muslims weere a persecuted people; at Madina they were the masters of their destiny. The life at Madina was a complete break with the past. The days of trials, tribulations and torture were over; they were now set on the path of fulfilment. They were now to build a new commonwealth and a new ideal society.
At Madina, the Holy Prophet had a mosque built. The Holy Prophet himself participated in the construction of the mosque Umar used to go every day from Quba to Madina to participate in the construction of the mosque. As the Muslims laboured they chanted:
“There is no life but the life of the next world,
O God have mercy on the Mohajreen and the Ansar.”
To rehabilitate the emigrants from Mecca in the society of Madina the Holy Prophet established a fraternity among the Muslims of Mecca and those of Madina whereunder each migrant was paired with an Ansar of the corresponding status. The brotherhood thus established was unique in the annals of mankind. So strong and cordial were these bonds that these even surpassed the relationship of blood. In this roll of brotherhood, Umar was paired with Itban bin Malik of Banu Al-Khazraj.
The climate of Mecca was dry, but the climate of Madina was damp. The change adversely affected the health of the emigrants. On arrival at Madina most of the emigrants fell sick, Umar was blessed with robust constitution, and he was one of the few emigrants who did not suffer due to the change in climate.
In Mecca Umar was a trader. He had brought ample amount with him from Mecca. In Madina he started business afresh. He had his store at Quba and from there goods were supplied to the market at Madina. No details about the business of Umar are available. Umar was a shrewd businessman, and we have reasons to hold that his business flourished at Madina as it did at Mecca. After attending to business, Umar spent his spare time in the company of the Holy Prophet. The Holy Prophet consulted Abu Bakr and Umar on all important matters. When Abu Bakr and Umar held different views on a matter, the Holy Prophet took both the views into consideration before taking his decision. When Abu Bakr and Umar agreed on a point that view was invariably accepted by the Holy Prophet.
We have it on the authority of Abdur Rahman-bin-Ghanam that the Holy Prophet said to Abu Bakr and Umar that “if you two are agreed upon a counsel, I would not oppose you”. (Suyuti ‘History of the Caliphs’).
Life in Madina and Early Battles
The Call To Prayer
When the Holy Prophet was settled in Madina, some basic reforms were introduced. These included the institution of prayer, the levy of alms tax, the ordaining of fasting, the prescription of punishments; and the specification of the lawful and the unlawful.
In the early days the practice was that the faithful gathered in the mosque for prayer at the appointed time of their own accord without being summoned. The Holy Prophet, however, felt that with the spread of Islam, and the growth in the number of the Muslims, some method for the summoning of the faithful to prayer would have to be adopted.
At first the Holy Prophet thought of using a trumpet to summon the Muslims to prayer as the Jews did. On second thoughts he felt that it would not be advisable to imitate the Jews. Then an idea occurred to him that a clapper should be beaten to summon the faithful to the mosque.
One night a companion Abdullah bin Zaid had a dream which indicated the way for the summoning of the Muslims to prayers Abdullah came to the Holy Prophet and narrated his dream in the following terms:
“In the dream I saw a holy man wearing green garments. He held a clapper in his hand. I asked him to sell the clapper to me. He asked what for I needed the clapper, and I told him that I needed it for summoning the Muslims to prayer. He said that the clapper would not sere the purpose. I then asked him as to what method should be adopted, and he said ‘Let some one with a loud voice stand at a suitable place in the mosque, and give the call ‘God is great. I bear witness that there is no god but Allah. Come to prayer.”
The idea appealed to the Holy Prophet. When it was the time for prayer, the Holy Prophet summoned Bilal and asked him to give the call to prayer, in the terms of the formula indicated by Abdullah bin Zaid.
As the stentorian call resounded in the city of Madina, the faithful felt elated and electrified, and they rushed to the mosque in response to the summons. Umar heard the call in his house, and he hastened to the mosque dragging his cloak on the ground. He waited on the Holy Prophet, and enquired as to how the idea of the call to prayer had occurred to him. The Holy Prophet thereupon narrated the dream of Abdullah bin Zaid, and added that, as the vision appeared to be inspired, he had accepted it, and had the call given accordingly. Umar said that he too had a similar vision, but was happy that Abdullah bin Zaid had anticipated him. Umar said that there was however one difference between the formula proposed by Abdullah and the one that he had heard in his dream. The Holy Prophet anxiously enquired as to what was the difference. Umar said:
“According to the formula of Ahdullah bin Zaid we are only to witness that there is no god but Allah. In the call that I heard in my dream there were also the words ‘I bear witness that Muhammad is the Messenger of God.”
Thereupon the Holy Prophet instructed Bilal that in the call to prayer, the expression “I bear witness that Muhammad is the Messenger of God” should be included.
Turning to Abdullah bin Zaid, and Umar the Holy Prophet said, “Praise be to God. There are men among my followers to whom truth is revealed in dreams.”
Hafsa was the daughter of Umar. Her mother was Zainab, a sister of Usman bin Mazur an eminent Companion. Abdullah was a real brother of Hafsa.
In Mecca, Hafsa was married to Khunays bin Hudhaifa of the Banu Sahm clan of the Quraish. Khunays was one of the early converts to Islam. He participated in two migrations, migration to Abyssinia and the migration to Madina, and was blessed by the Holy Prophet.
In Madina, Khunays participated in the battle of Badr. He also fought in the battle of Uhud. He was wounded in the battle of Uhud. These wounds proved fatal, and he died shortly after the battle of Uhud. Hafsa thus became a widow at a very young age.
Umar felt much distressed at the grief of his daughter. After the period of Iddat was over, Umar thought of remarrying her. Like her father, Hafsa was hot of temper. Umar felt that it would be advisable if she was married to an elderly man of a sober temperament.
Umar’s choice fell on Abu Bakr. Umar went to Abu Bakr, and offered him the hand of Hafsa. Umar had hoped that Abu Bakr would enthusiastically welcome the proposal. Umar was, however, disappointed, for Abu Bakr remained quiet and evaded the issue. Umar felt distressed that his friend Abu Bakr had not grasped the hand of friendship that he had extended to him.
Umar next went to see Usman. Usman had been married to Ruqayya, a daughter of the Holy Prophet. Ruqayya had died. Umar offered him the hand of Hafsa. Usman asked for some time to consider the matter. When Umar saw Usman a few days later, Usman said that his grief over the death of Ruqayya was so overwhelming that he did not contemplate another marriage.
Umar felt very angry at the rejection of his proposal by Abu Bakr and Usman. Brimming with rage, Umar went to see the Holy Prophet. The Holy Prophet greeted him with a smile and asked tenderly what was worrying him? Umar poured out the grief of his heart, and complained against Abu Bakr and Usman who had turned down the hand of friendship that he had extended to them.
The Holy Prophet addressed Umar with great affection and said, “Umar, I know of your worries and I also know of your services to Islam. Rest assured, Hafsa will marry a man better than Usman, and Usman will marry a lady better than Hafsa.”
This meant that the Holy Prophet himself wanted to wed Hafsa. Umar was overwhelmed with joy at this great honor beyond his aspirations. Umar reverently kissed the hand of the Holy Prophet in token of his gratitude. He hurried home, and told Hafsa of the happy news.
Then he went to Abu Bakr. From the face of Umar radiating happiness, Abu Bakr judged of the developments. Addressing Umar he offered apologies and said, “The Holy Prophet had spoken to me about Hafsa, and as such I could not accept your proposal. But for that it would have been a great honor and pleasure for me to agree to your proposal.”
Umar then went to Usman. Usman offered apologies and said, “The Holy Prophet had talked to me over the matter. He had offered me the hand of his younger daughter Umm Kulsum, and he had expressed the desire to marry Hafsa himself. Under these circumstances I could not accept your proposal.”
In A.D. 625 Hafsa was married to the Holy Prophet that elevated the status of Umar and brought him at par with Abu Bakr, as both of them enjoyed the unique privilege of being the fathers-in-law of the Holy Prophet.
Ayesha and Umar
The raid on al-Mustaliq led to another unfortunate episode which was a cause of great concern to the Holy Prophet and his companions for some time. Each time the Holy Prophet went on a campaign, one of his wives accompanied him, and the decision was always taken by the drawing of lots. On the occasion of the raid of Mustaliq, Ayesha accompanied the Holy Prophet. On return from the campaign she traveled on the back of a camel in a closed litter. On account of the regrettable behavior of Abdullah bin Ubayy, there was considerable tension in the atmosphere. As the caravan traveled at an unusual time, there was considerable upsetting of the program. The party halted for the night at some distance from Madina. At early dawn the call to move was given. Ayesha went to the desert to answer the call of nature, and on return occupied her litter. There she noticed that the necklace of Yemenite agates which she wore was no longer around her neck. Hurriedly she left the litter, and went to the desert where she found the necklace. When she returned to the camp the spot was deserted, and the caravan had left. The men in charge of her camel, seeing the litter closed, and thinking it occupied, had placed it on the camel and departed with it. Ayesha called aloud, but no one responded to her call. She decided to sit down, hoping that some body would come to fetch her. Soon she fell asleep, wrapped in her cloak.
“We belong to God and to Him we return.” These words fell on the ears of Ayesha, and she awoke with a start. A young man stood before her holding a camel by its reins. Safwan bin Al-Muthal following the army in the rear had notice a young woman asleep in the desert, and upon approaching her, recognized her as the wife of the Holy Prophet (peace be on him). Ayesha quickly covered herself with her veil. Safwan adjusted the camel’s saddle-girth and made the beast kneel. Ayesha thereupon mounted the camel. Holding the camel by the bridle, Safwan resumed the road. After a tiring journey they reached Madina at noon, a few hours after the arrival of the Holy Prophet. That provided an opportunity to Abdullah bin Ubbay and some other hypocrites to whip up a campaign of slander against Ayesha. The Holy Prophet consulted his friends about divorcing Ayesha. Ali advised that Ayesha should be divorced. When Umar was consulted he said, “O Prophet of God, I know for certain that the hypocrites are speaking malicious lie.” The Holy Prophet asked Umar as to the grounds with him for holding that the hypocrites were speaking lies, Umar said:
“By reason of God not allowing a fly to settle upon thy blessed skirts, because it alights also on impure things and soils its feet. How then would He not preserve thee and thy name from a worse defilement?”
Umar further said that he was sure that God Himself would cause the innocence of the young lady to become manifest.” He further said:
“If God does not allow thy shadow to fall upon the ground, lest it might be polluted, or a person step thereon, will He not restrain thy honored spouse from committing impropriety?”
Later, as anticipated by Umar, the Holy Prophet had a revelation in which God Himself bore witness to the purity and innocence of Ayesha. When the ordeal was over, the Holy Prophet thanked Umar for his support during the crisis. Ayesha paid for this kindness many years later when she allowed Umar to be buried in her chamber by the side of the Holy Prophet and Abu Bakr.
Purdah For Women
In Madina the Muslim women did not observe any purdah. They freely moved among men. The majority of men in Madina were men of great faith, and they were very careful in their conduct to women. There were some hypocrites among Muslims from whom any mischief could be expected. There were also some Jews from whom no good could be expected. Umar felt that if God forbidding any hypocrite played any mischief with regard to the women of Muslims that would be very damaging.
Umar expressed these views to the Holy Prophet, and suggested that women should be required to stay at home. Umar said that the wives of the Holy Prophet should particularly stay at home, for their prestige and honor were a matter of great concern for the Muslim community.
On hearing this advice of Umar, Zainab a wife of the Holy Prophet said:
“Umar you have started in interfering in the domestic affairs of the Prophet as well. The revelation comes to our house. and you come up with suggestions of your own.”
The Holy Prophet, however, appreciated what Umar had said. He said that he was awaiting revelation, and action would be taken in accordance with the injunctions of God.
And then came a detailed revelation on the subject. The revelation was:
“Prophet say to your wives: if you desire the present life and its beautiful things, come and I will give you your dowries and send you away in a handsome manner. And if you desire Allah and His Prophet and the next world, remember that Allah has in store a great reward for those of you who are righteous.” 33:28
Another verse provided:
“O wives of the Prophet! Whoever of you commits flagrant indecency will have your punishment twice over. Indeed it is easy for Allah to double your punishment. As for those who are obedient to Allah and His Apostle and act righteously We shall give them their reward twice over. We have rare gifts in store for them.” 33:30
And yet another verse said:
“O wives of the Prophet, you are like no other women. If you fear Allah do not be soft spoken, for it will tempt the man who has a disease in his heart. Speak in a dignified tone, stay in your homes, and do not display your beauty as in the days of ignorance. Observe prayer, give alms, and obey Allah and His Apostle. Members of the house of the Prophet! Allah only intends to rid you of your uncleanliness and to purify you completely. Women keep in mind the revelations of Allah and the words of wisdom which are recited in your houses. Benign is Allah; All-Aware.” 33:32
These verses corroborated what Umar had said. When the Holy Prophet informed Umar of these verses he felt satisfied that God had ordered in the way he had desired. Turning to Umar the Holy Prophet said, “Umar, rejoice for once again Allah has spoken through your tongue.”
Rumor Of Divorce By The Holy Prophet
In Madina, Umar lived in an elevated part of the city. His neighbor was Banu Umayya bin Zaid Ansari. The practice was that one day Umar attended the Holy Prophet, and informed his Ansari friend about all that had happened in the Prophet’s Mosque. The other day Banu Umayya attended the Prophet’s Mosque and on return informed Umar of all that had happened that day.
Umar felt that while in Mecca the Quraishites dominated over their women, in Madina things had changed, and the women asserted themselves. One day Umar was cross with his wife on some matter, but instead of being quiet she retorted, “How is it that you feel annoyed at my remonstrance. Go and see that the wives of the Holy Prophet remonstrate with the Holy Prophet. Tonight one of his wives quarreled with him all the night.”
Hearing this, Umar went to his daughter Hafsa and enquired of her whether she had quarreled with the Holy Prophet. She said that she had quarreled with the Holy Prophet as she had a grievance. Thereupon Umar said, “Hafsa you are incurring loss. Don’t you know by annoying the Holy Prophet you invite the wrath of God.” After reprimanding her in severe terms, Umar returned home.
At night, the Ansari neighbor of Umar knocked at his door, and as Umar went to see what was the matter, his friend told him that something very grave had happened. Umar thought that perhaps Banu Ghassan whose attack was expected had invaded Madina. Umar enquired whether Banu Ghassan had launched the attack. Banu Umaya said, “No. Something more serious than that has happened”. When Umar pressed him to tell what had happened he said that the Holy Prophet had divorced his wives.
Umar was very much upset at the news. He spent the whole night in prayer. Early in the morning next day, Umar went to Hafsa. He found her weeping. He enquired of her whether the Holy Prophet had divorced her. She said that she did not know. Umar rebuked her saying. “Did I not warn you before hand that by annoying the Holy Prophet you would be inviting trouble?” Thereupon Hafsa burst into violent sobs. Umar left her weeping and went to the Prophet’s Mosque. There the people were sitting in groups here and there and were lamenting that the Holy Prophet had divorced his wives.
The Holy Prophet was in the cell attached to the Mosque. Umar went to the cell, and asked the slave at the door to seek the Holy Prophet’s permission to his admittance. The slave returned to say that he had sought the requisite permission from the Holy Prophet but he had kept quiet.
Umar returned to the main hall of the Mosque, and sat in a corner in a dejected mood. After some time he rose and went again to the ceil of the Holy Prophet. Once again he requested the slave to get permission for his admittance. The slave returned to say that the Holy Prophet had made no reply
Umar returned once again to the main hall of the Mosque. He was highly upset and he prayed to God for mercy. Then once again he went to the cell of the Holy Prophet. This time he was allowed permission. Entering the cell, Umar said:
“O Messenger of God, I have not come to plead for Hafsa.
If that is your pleasure I would wring her neck with my own hands.”
That softened the Holy Prophet and he smiled at the words of Umar.
Umar further said, “I find that in Mecca our ladies were docile; the climate of Madina has made them assertive. O Prophet of God if because of the impudence of your wives, you have divorced them, God, His angels, and all your followers are with you.”
The Holy Prophet smiled and said, “Be assured, I have not divorced my wives. I have only decided to remain separate from them for a period of one month.”
“Then may I tell so to Hafsa”, said Umar.
The Holy Prophet said. “You may, if you like”.
Umar cast a glance across the room. The Holy Prophet lay on a bare mat. There was no furniture in the room. There was hardly anything for the Holy Prophet to eat, but a barley bread. Seeing this extreme state of austerity, tears began to trickle from the eyes of Umar.
The Holy Prophet said, “Ibn-i-Khattab, what makes you weep ?”
Umar said, “You are the Prophet of God and you are living in such straitened circumstances. The people of Persia and Byzantine live in luxury. O Prophet of God why don’t you pray to God that he should bestow wealth on you?”
The Holy Prophet said. “Do you think He Who made me His Prophet could not make me wealthy. Indeed He offered me the keys of all treasures in the world, but I refused them in return for the treasures in the next world. Surely treasures in the next world are to be preferred to petty wealth in this world. And as for the riches of Persia and Byzantine rest assured all such wealth will lie at the feet of the Muslims. I will not be alive then, but in your lifetime, both Persia and Byzantine will be overpowered by the Muslims.”
When Gabriel Appeared In The Shape Of A Man
Umar stated that one day when he and some other companions were with God’s Messenger, a man with very white clothing and very black hair came up. Sitting down beside the Holy Prophet leaning his knees against his, and placing his hands on his thighs he said, “Tell me Muhammad about Islam.”
The Holy Prophet said, ” Islam means that you should testify that there is no god but Allah; that Muhammad is God’s Messenger; that you should observe the prayer, pay the Zakat, fast during Ramadan, and make the pilgrimage to the House of God, if you have the means”.
The visitor said “You have spoken the truth. Now tell me about faith “
The Holy Prophet said, “It means that you should believe in Allah, His angels, His books, His Apostles, and the last day, and that you should believe in the decreeing both of good and evil.”
The man said that that was true. He then asked, “Now tell me about doing good.”
The Holy Prophet said, “It means that you should worship Allah as if you are seeing Him, and if you aye not seeing him (perceive) that He is in fact seeing you.”
The man accepted the statement as correct. He next asked, “Now tell me about the Hour”.
The Holy Prophet said, “The one who is asked about is no better informed than the one who is asking”.
Thereupon the man said, “Then tell me about its signs”.
The Holy Prophet replied, “The signs are that a maid servant should beget her mistress, and that you should see barefooted naked poor men and shepherds exulting themselves in buildings.”
The visitor felt satisfied then he sought leave to depart and as soon as leave was given he disappeared Umar who was present wondered who was the visitor.
Turning to Umar, the Holy Prophet said, “Do you know who was the visitor?”
Umar replied that he did not know.
Thereupon the Holy Prophet said, “He was Gabriel, who came to you to teach your religion.”
Tidings Of Paradise
It is related by Abu Huraira that once he along with other companions including Abu Bakr and Umar were sitting with the Holy Prophet. The Holy Prophet rose from their midst and went to the garden of Ansar Banu Najjar.
The return of the Holy Prophet was delayed, and his companions felt anxious. Abu Huraira was the first to proceed to the garden of Banu Najjar. There he found no gate. He managed to go inside the garden through a drain.
Seeing him, the Holy Prophet said, “Abu Huraira what brings you here?”
Abu Huraira said, “You took long to return and we felt worried. So we have come after you”.
Thereafter the Holy Prophet gave him his shoes and said, “Go carrying these shoes outside the garden, and whomsoever you meet who declares the article of faith with the sincerity of heart, give him the tidings of Paradise.”
As Abu Huraira came out of the garden carrying the shoes of the Holy Prophet, the first person to meet him was Umar.
Umar said to Abu Huraira, “Why are you carrying the shoes of the Holy Prophet ?”
Abu Huraira said, “I am carrying these shoes under the command of the Holy Prophet. I have been commissioned to give the tidings of Paradise to whomsoever I meet, while carrying these shoes, who declares that he believes in the article of faith with sincerity of heart.”
Umar felt angry. He handled Abu Huraira rather violently and said, “No such tidings are necessary. Abu Huraira go back.”
As Abu Huraira went back to the Holy Prophet, he complained against Umar, and said that Umar had obstructed him in the performance of the mission that the Holy Prophet had entrusted to him.
In the meantime Umar also turned up. Seeing him, the Holy Prophet said, “Why did you behave rudely to Abu Huraira?”
Umar said “May my parents be a sacrifice to you Holy Prophet. The truth of the matter is that he intended to give the tidings of Paradise to all Muslims irrespective of their conduct. That would have been repugnant to the injunctions of Islam which makes admission to Paradise contingent by doing good. Holy Prophet, do not issue permits for the Paradise. Let the people do their duties. If they are assured of Paradise before hand there is the danger that they would relax in the performance of their obligations.”
The Holy Prophet said, “Alright, let the Muslims perform their obligations.”
Umar As Adviser
During the Caliphate of the Abu Bakr, Umar was the principal Adviser of the Caliph.
A story is on record showing the great esteem and regard that Abu Bakr had for Umar and his opinion.
It is related that once Ayanayah bin Hassan and Aqrah bin Habas two tribal chiefs waited on Abu Bakr, and requested that an estate be awarded to them. They suggested that close to their settlement there was a rock waste land which produced nothing, and that that wasteland might be gifted to them so that by their efforts they might make it productive.
Abu Bakr consulted the people around him. They suggested that it was a good proposition for thereby the wasteland would become productive. Abu Bakr accordingly agreed to award the land in question to them. A document was drawn up. Umar was not present and Abu Bakr advised the grantees to get it witnessed by Umar.
The grantees thought that such witnessing by Umar was merely formal and that there would be no difficulty in obtaining his signature, on the document. The grantees went to Umar and requested him to affix his signatures to the document as it had been approved by Abu Bakr.
After reading the document, Umar returned it to the grantees saying that he could not be a party to the deed.
The grantees in a fit of anger went to Abu Bakr and reported what Umar had said.
Abu Bakr remained quiet. Thereupon the grantees turning to the Caliph said “Are you the Caliph, or is Umar the Caliph?”
Abu Bakr said “You may very well take Umar to be the Caliph”.
Then Umar came to the Caliph. Abu Bakr enquired what was the reason for his refusal to sign the document.
Umar asked “Is the land which you have gifted your property or is it a trust with you on behalf of the Muslim community”.
Abu Bakr said “It is not my personal property; as such it should be a trust on behalf of the Muslim community”.
Umar said “If that is the position, how can you extinguish the trust by gifting it to A or B. They may take it on lease subject to terms, but it must remain the State property. “
Turning to the applicants, Abu Bakr said “Umar has spoken the truth. I cannot deviate from the law.”
Turning to Umar, Abu Bakr said “I had already requested you to take over the office of the Caliph, but you thrust the burden on my shoulders. I may not be with you for long and ultimately this responsibility will have to be shouldered by you.”
Abu Bakr And Umar
Between the Holy Prophet and Abu Bakr, the latter was “The Second of the Two”. A similar equation obtained between Abu Bakr and Umar. When Abu Bakr became the Caliph, Umar was decidedly the ‘Second of the Two’. The attachment and friendship between the two was of an exceptional character. Each preferred the other to himself. After the death of the Holy Prophet, Abu Bakr wanted Umar to be the Caliph, and Umar took steps to have Abu Bakr elected as the Caliph. The Holy Prophet often came to the mosque flanked by Abu Bakr on one side, and Umar on the other.
Umar and Abu Bakr vied with each other in doing good. In this connection some stories have come down to us which highlight the equation between Abu Bakr and Umar.
In 633 AD. the Holy Prophet decided to lead an expedition, to Tabuk on the Syrian border. In order to finance the expedition, the Holy Prophet invited contributions and donations from his followers. Umar had then considerable money with him. He thought that that was the occasion when he might excel Abu Bakr in the doing of good. Umar went home and brought his donation. The Holy Prophet enquired of Umar as to what he had left behind for himself and his family. Umar stated that he had donated one half of his wealth in the name of Allah and had left one half for himself and his family. Then Abu Bakr came with his donation and the Holy Prophet put him the same question as to how much he had left for himself and his family.
Abu Bakr said that he had donated all that he had in the name of Allah, and that he had left Allah and His Prophet for himself and his family. This episode has formed the theme of one of the poems of Iqbal. The poem provides;
“For the moth the lamp and for the nightingale the flower;
For Sidiq, God and His Prophet alone suffice.”
On that account Umar realized that it was difficult to excel Abu Bakr in the doing of good.
Abu Yala records from Ibn Masud that he said “I was in the mosque praying when there entered the Apostle of God and with him were Abu Bakr and Umar. He found me praying and said ‘Ask and it shall be granted unto thee’. Then he said ‘Whosoever wishes to read the Quran in a fresh and joyous manner let him read it with the reading of Ibn Masud’ . Then I returned to my house and Abu Bakr came to me and gave me the good tidings regarding what the Holy Prophet had said. Then came Haarat Umar and he found Abu Bakr going forth having already been before him, and he said ‘Verily Abu Bakr is the foremost in good’.”
Even when Umar was not the Caliph, it was his practice to move about in Madina and help persons in distress.
In one of the suburbs of Madina there lived a blind old women who had no one to help her. Umar used to go in disguise to the house of the old woman, but was always surprised to find that some one else had anticipated him, and supplied the wants of the old lady.
Umar felt much distressed that in this noble task of helping a lady in distress his efforts were always frustrated by some other person. Umar felt curious as to who that person could be who beat him in the field of social service.
One day, Umar went to the house of the old woman earlier than usual and hid himself to watch as to who was the person who attended to the wants of the old woman.
Umar did not have to wait long for soon a man arrived who attended to the needs of the old woman, and this man was none other than the Caliph Abu Bakr.
Umar felt relieved that if in the matter of social service he had been beaten by any one, such person was the Caliph Abu Bakr who was decidedly superior to him.
Umar as Caliph
Nomination Of Umar As The Caliph
On the seventh Jamadi-ul Akhir of the 13th A.H. (8th August 633) which was a cold day, Abu Bakr took a bath and caught a chill. That developed into a high fever.
Abu Bakr was confined to bed, and he appointed Umar to lead the prayers during the period of his illness . His illness prolonged, and when his condition worsened, he felt that his end was near. It was suggested to him that a physician be called. He said “Now all is over.”
Realizing that his end was drawing near, Abu Bakr felt that he should nominate his successor, so that the issue might not be a cause of dissension among the Muslims after his death. Abu Bakr summoned Abdul Rahman bin Auf, and asked for his opinion about the nomination of Umar. Some other Companions were also consulted.
The general consensus was that Umar was the fittest person to be appointed as the Caliph. It was, however, felt that Umar had too fiery and tirascible temper, and he might not be able to show moderation so necessary for the Head of the Community.
Abu Bakr observed that Umar’s display of severity was meant to counteract his ( Abu Bakr’s) leniency. Abu Bakr felt confident that when the full responsibility of government devolved upon Umar he would become more moderate in his opinions.
Abu Bakr elaborated.
“I can say from my personal experience that Umar had always cooled me down whenever I lost my temper with any one just as whenever he felt me to be too lenient he counseled greater severity. For this reason I feel certain that with time, Umar will achieve that moderation you desire”.
Taleah objected to the nomination of Umar and said,
“O successor of the Prophet; You know full well how harsh Umar has been towards us all during your regime and God only knows how he will deal with us when you are gone. You know that you are leaving us for ever, and yet you are content to leave us in the hands of a man whose fierce and ungovernable rages are well known to you. Think O Chief, what answer will you give to your Lord for such a behest.”
At this, Abu Bakr who was lying prostrate in his bed, rose up with considerable effort and said:
“Have you come to frighten me? I swear that when I meet my Lord, I will gladly tell Him that I appointed as ruler over his people, the man who was the best of all mankind. “
Thereupon Ali, who was also present, rose to say that he would acknowledge no other Caliph save Umar. Abu Bakr was much impressed with the seldessness of Ali for not pressing his own claim, and for putting the interests of the Muslim community above personal interests. Turning to Ali, Abu Bakr said:
“You are indeed a prince in the most exalted sense of the term, for others are mere men.”
Then Abu Bakr sent for Umar, and informed him that he had appointed him as his successor.
Umar said: “But I have no desire for the office.” Thereupon, Abu Bakr said:
“But the office needs you. I have prayed to God to direct me rightly in the choice of my successor, and my choice is fundamental for the unity and strength of the Muslims.”
Umar acquiesced, and Abu Bakr dictated the testament to Othman appointing Umar as the Caliph in succession to Abu Bakr.
The testament having been drawn up, Abu Bakr, supported by his wife Asma walked up to the door, and addressed the people who had gathered there. He told them that he had appointed Umar as his successor, and they said “We approve.”
After obtaining the approval of the people in general terms,
Abu Bakr lay on the bed and prayed to God;
“O Lord! I have made this testament for the welfare of the community in order to counteract discord among them. What my intentions are, you know full well. I have spared no pains in making the best selection. O God, I entrust the Muslims to your care. O Allah keep their ruler on the right path. O God, make my successor the most pious of rulers and confer peace on the Muslims.”
Umar’s Inaugural Address
After the assumption of office as the Caliph, Umar addressed the Muslims who had assembled in the Prophet’s mosque. In the course of the address, Umar said:
“O ye faithful! Abu Bakr is no more amongst us. After having led us for about two years, he has returned to His Maker. He has the satisfaction that he has successfully piloted the ship of the Muslim state to safety after negotiating the stormy sea. He successfully waged the apostasy wars, and thanks to him, Islam is now supreme in Arabia. Islam is now on the move and we are carrying Jihad in the name of Allah against the mighty empires of Byzantine and Persia.
After Abu Bakr, the mantle of Khilafat 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. But now that in national interest, the responsibility for leading the Muslims has come to vest in me, I assure you that I will not run away from my post, and will make an earnest effort to discharge the onerous duties of the office to the best of my capacity in accordance with the injunctions of Islam.
In the performance of my duties, I will seek guidance from the Holy Book, and will follow the examples set by the Holy Prophet 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 Amen to them.
O Allah I am hard, make me soft to promote the Truth, to comply with your injunctions and to aspire to a better life in the world hereafter.
O Allah make me hard for the enemies of Islam and for those who create mischief so that their desigus against Allah come to naught.
O Allah I am miser; make me generous in the promotion of the good.
O Allah save me from hypocrisy. Strengthen my resolves so that whatever I do, I do for the sake of winning Your approbation.
O Allah soften my heart for the faithful so that I attend to their needs with a sense of dedication.
O Allah, I am careless, make me responsible enough so that I do not lose sight of You.
O Allah I am weak in offering my obedience to You; make me active and fortify my faith.
O Allah bestow on me faith, and the power to do good.
O Allah give me the power of self-criticism and self assessment.
O Allah bestow on me the insight into the meaning of the Quran and the strength to act in accordance with what the Quran says.
O Allah You are capable of doing anything: bless us with Your favor. Amen.”
Umar’s Address About His Conduct
After the assumption of office as Caliph, Umar soon realized that he was more feared than loved. Abu Bakr his predecessor was tender and soft hearted. Whenever he appeared in the streets of Madina, the children ran to him saying “Father, Father.” He caressed and patted them. When Umar became Caliph, the children would run away at his sight saying “Here comes Umar, let us run away.”
On the occasion of the first Friday prayer after his assumption of office as Caliph, Umar addressed the faithful assembled in the mosque in the following terms:
“Brethren, it has come to my notice that the people are afraid of me. They say ‘When the Holy Prophet was alive, Umar was harsh to us. During the caliphate of Abu Bakr, Umar was hard and stern. Now that he has become the Caliph himself, God knows how hard he will be. Whoever has said this is not wrong in his assessment.
The truth of the matter is that I was the slave and servant of the Holy Prophet. The Holy Prophet was most kind hearted, liberal and generous. In contrast I was hard and harsh so that I was like a naked sword. It was for the Holy Prophet to use the sword or sheathe it at his option. On occasions he sheathed the sword, and sometimes he used it. My purpose was to point to the Holy Prophet the other side of the picture. The decision rested with him. Sometimes he ignored my point of view. There were occasions when he agreed with me. Till the death of the Holy Prophet that remained the equation between him and me. Thank God, the Holy Prophet was pleased with me. Though the Holy Prophet sometimes accepted my advice, and sometimes turned it down, yet he approved of my conduct.
During the caliphate of Abu Bakr my role remained the same. Abu Bakr was most soft hearted and tender. It was my business to bring the other side of the picture to his notice. He always took my point of view into consideration, but the ultimate decision lay with him. Some times he agreed with me, and I acted as his agent to enforce a decision which appeared to be harsh. Sometimes he did not agree with me, and I had to remain quiet. I am happy that throughout the period of his office, Abu Bakr approved of my conduct, and ultimately nominated me as his successor, although I did not covet the office.
Now that the entire responsibility has come to vest in me, know ye brethren that you will feel a change in me. I will no longer be hard and stern in all matters. For those who practice tyranny and deprive others of their rights, I will be harsh and stern, but for those who follow the law, and are devoted to religion, I will be most soft and tender. I will not tolerate any person make any excess. He who commits any tyranny, him I will sternly call to book. I will be harsh and stern against the aggressor, but I will be a pillar of strength for the weak and the meek. They will find in me their best friend.
Friends you have some rights on me, and I tell you of these rights, so that you may be in a position to call me to account. These rights are:
firstly, that I should not exact any tax or other levy from you not authorized by law;
secondly, that whatever taxes are lawfully realized from you are spent in your best interests:
thirdly, it is incumbent on me that I should protect the frontiers of your land;
fourthly, it is my duty to promote your prosperity and look after your interests; and
fifthly, it is my obligation to do justice.
O servants of God, continue to fear God. Suppress your selfish motives and work for the solidarity of the Muslims as a whole. In running the State, you are my partners. Help me with your sound advice. If I follow the right path laid down by God and His Prophet follow me. If I deviate, correct me. Strengthen me with your advice and suggestions. Let us pray for the glory of Islam.”
When the Holy Prophet died, and Abu Bakr succeeded him he was called “Khalifa tul Rasul”, i e. the representative of the Prophet.
When Abu Bakr died and Umar succeeded him he called himself ‘Khalifa’, but the question arose whose Khalifa or representative he was. It was pointed out that strictly speaking he was not the Khalifa of the Rasul. He was the Khalifa of the Khalifatul Rasul. Umar felt that this was a cumbersome title, for in that case, those who followed him would have to be designated by an endless chain of Khalifas.
Umar accordingly felt that the Head of the Muslim State should be known by a simpler title which should reflect the Islamic character of the State. Umar asked the people around him to ponder over the matter, and if they could think of some suitable title they should bring such title to his notice.
One day Labid bin Rabia and Adi bin Hatim came to Madina from Kufa. They alighted at the Prophet’s mosque and there coming across Amr b. Al As asked him to announce their arrival to the Amir-ul-Muminin.
Amr b. Al As was struck by the novelty of the term ‘Amir-ul-Muminin’. He asked Labid and Adi as to how they referred to Umar as ‘Amir-ul-Muminin’. They said “We all Muslims are Momins and Umar is our Commander. He is thus Amir-ul-Muminin”.
Amr b. Al As said “Wonderful You have hit upon a beautiful term. God bless You”.
Amr b. Al As hastened to Umar end there said “Amir-ul-Muminin, two persons have come from Kufa, and they seek permission to see you”.
Umar became curious at being addressed “Amirul-Muminin”. He asked Amr b. al Aas as to how he had coined the term ‘Amir-ul-Muminin’. Amr b. al-Acts said that the visitors from Kufa had used that term, and as he was attracted by the term he had used it.
Umar said “We were in search of some suitable term to signify the office I hold, and here is a term which is attractive”. He asked Amr b. al Aas as to what he thought of the title.
Amr b. al Aas said “I am attracted by the term. It is God sent. We all are Muslims and you are our Amir. The term is very attractive and significant.”
After Umar had seen the visitors from Kufa, he convened a meeting of his consultative assembly, and there the question was discussed whether he should adopt the title of ‘Amir-ul-Muminin’ for the office that he held. The Assembly approved the title.
Henceforward Umar came to be addressed in his official capacity as Amir-ul-Muminin.
Before becoming the Caliph Umar lived by trade. After assuming the Caliph he could no longer carry on charge as his business. He accordingly agreed to accept a daily allowance from the Baitul Mal. Different amounts of daily allowance were suggested by different people. Umar sought the advice of Ali as to the amount of the allowance he should accept. Ali suggested that he should take as much amount as might moderately suffice for an average Arab, neither too much, nor too little. Umar accepted this suggestion and a modest amount of allowance was settled for him. The exact amount of the allowance thus settled is, however, not reported in any history.
Later on some companions including Ali, Usman, Zubair, and Talhah thought of increasing the allowance of Umar as it was not sufficient to meet the minimum requirements of Umar. These companions could not have the courage to broach this subject to Umar direct. They accordingly approached Hafsa the daughter of Umar, and asked her to ascertain Umar’s reaction to the proposal.
When Hafsa talked about the matter to Umar, he became angry and wanted to know who were the persons who had made that suggestion. Hafsa said that before she could tell who were the persons concerned she wanted his reaction to the proposal.
Thereupon Umar wanted Hafsa to tell what was the Holy Prophet’s best dress in her house. She said that it was a pair of clothes of red color which the Holy Prophet wore on Fridays or when receiving envoys.
Umar then asked what was the best of food that the Holy Prophet took. She said that the Holy Prophet’s food was simple barley bread. Umar next asked as to what was the best bedding that the Holy Prophet ever used. She said that it was a piece of thick cloth. In summer it was spread in four layers and in winter in two, half he spread underneath, and with the other half he covered himself.
Thereupon Umar said:
“Hafsa, go and tell the people who have deputed you that the Holy Prophet has set a standard by his personal example. I must follow him. My case and that of the Holy Prophet and Abu Bakr is like the case of three men traveling on the same road. The first man started with a provision and reached the goal. The second followed the first and joined him. Now the third is on his way. If he follows their way he will also join them, otherwise he can never reach them.”
When Hafsah told of Umar’s reaction to the proposal to the companions who had deputed her they said: “May God bless Umar. He excels all of us in the matter of virtue.”
In the month of the Holy Ramadan, it was the practice with the Holy Prophet that he would stay in the mosque after the Isha prayers, and offer extra prayers. One night as the faithful saw the Holy Prophet offering extra prayers, they also prayed as the Holy Prophet did. The following night more Muslims stayed in the mosque after the night prayer to offer extra prayers. On the third night there was a still larger gathering of the Muslims to perform the extra prayers. On the fourth night when a large number of the faithful assembled to offer the extra prayers, the Holy Prophet did not offer the extra prayers and retired to his house immediately after the Isha prayers. For the following nights as well the Holy Prophet retired immediately after the night prayers, and gradually the number of Muslims who offered the extra prayers diminished. Then one night the Holy Prophet offered the extra prayers again. When the Holy Prophet was asked about the reason for the break in the extra prayers for some nights he said that he had avoided these prayers lest the Muslims might take them to be an obligation under law, and that might become a burden for the Muslims. The Holy Prophet explained that such prayers were not compulsory, but if any one offered them voluntarily, he would have the blessing of God. Thereafter it became the practice that some Muslims offered the extra prayers during the month of Ramadan on their own account, while others did not, and retired to their homes after offering the night prayers.
When Umar became the Caliph, he saw that many Muslima gathered in the Prophet’s mosque to offer extra prayers after the night prayers. Each person prayed according to his own discretion, and there were no specifications about the number of Rakaats to be offered. Umar felt that it would be a reform in the proper direction, if the prayers were offered in congregation and the number of Rakaats was fixed. After consulting the Companions, Umar issued instructions in 635 AD that such extra prayers should be offered in congregation under the imamate of a Quran reader who should recite a considerable part of the Quran each night, so that the entire Quran was completed during a week or so. It was laid down that these prayers should comprise ten taslima’s each containing two rakaats and that after every four rakaats there should be a rawih’ or a pause. Because of such pauses these extra prayers came to be known as ‘Tarawih’.
These instructions were circulated throughout the Muslim dominions. There were some who felt that as the Holy Prophet had not prescribed such prayers, it was unlawful to prescribe such prayers after the death of the Holy Prophet. Umar explained that he was not prescribing these prayers as compulsory; it was open to any one to offer or not to offer these prayers at his discretion. If any one offered these prayers that would be to his credit, but if any body did not do so that would not bring him any discredit. He also elucidated that his instructions being of an advisory character only were in no way repugnant to Islam. If he had instructed the Muslims to do what Allah or the Holy Prophet had prohibited that would have been repugnant to Islam, out if he wanted the Muslims to do anything at their option which was intrinsically good and had not been prohibited, that was not repugnant to Islam, but was on the other hand in consonance with the spirit of Islam.
Umar And The Holy Quran
The Holy Quran was revealed to the Holy Prophet in parts from time to time spread over a period of 23 years. Whenever the Holy Prophet received the revelation. he would dictate it to one of his Katibs who would record it on some piece of leather, date skin, or even bones and stones.
The principal scribe of the Holy Prophet was Zaid bin Thabit. Many companions committed the entire Quran to memory and these ‘Huffaz’ could recite the entire Quran any time. The Holy Prophet kept all the pieces of leather, date skins another materials on which the verses of the Holy Quran had been written in his custody.
During the lifetime of the Holy Prophet, revelation was a continuous process, and there was no occasion for giving them the form of a book. After the death of the Holy Prophet, the process of revelation came to close, and now the need of some sort of compilation to preserve the Word of God was felt.
In the battle of Yamama, most of the Companions who had learnt the Holy Quran by heart were martyred. Umar was the first to feel that if those who had committed the Holy Quran to memory were dead, there was the danger that there would be none left who could be relied upon as the repository of the Quran. There was also the danger that with the lapse of time there might be some interpolations in the text inadvertently or even deliberately.
Umar suggested to the Caliph Abu Bakr that the Holy Quran should be suitably compiled under the authority of the State Abu Bakr was reluctant to undertake the project. His plea was that as the Holy Prophet had not felt the necessity for such a compilation, it did not behoove him as the successor to the Prophet to take any initiative in the matter.
Umar, however, continued to press his point. Umar argued that during the lifetime of the Holy Prophet the process of revelation was continuous, and as the Holy Prophet himself was the repository of all revelations, there was no occasion for such a compilation. After the death of the Holy Prophet, the position had changed, and unless the Holy Quran was compiled, there was the danger that the Quran might be lost. In the absence of an authentic text, there was also the danger that some unscrupulous persons might add to or vary the text to suit their interests. The argument appealed to Abu Bakr, and when other prominent Muslims were consulted, they also endorsed the views of Umar. Abu Bakr accordingly undertook the project for the compilation of the Holy Quran.
Zaid b. Thabit was commissioned by Abu Bakr to collect all the verses of the Holy Quran and compile them in a book form.
Zaid’s immediate reaction to the proposal was that if he had been asked to remove a mountain from its original site, and place it elsewhere, he would have considered such a task easier than the task of collecting the Holy Quran. Abu Bakr and Umar appreciated the gravity of the problem, but observed that as the Word of God had to be preserved for the guidance of the coming generations, the task had to be undertaken whatever the odds. Zaid thereupon set to the task of collecting the verses.
A proclamation was made that whosoever had learnt any portion of the Quran from the Holy Prophet should produce such portion. Two witnesses had to be produced in each case to establish the genuineness of the verse. When all the verses had been collected a Committee was set up of which Umar was a member. This Committee supervised the compilation of the Holy Quran. Sad b. al As dictated, and Zaid bin Thabit wrote the Holy Quran. These was checked by the members of the Committee including Umar.
When the work was completed it was further checked by Abu Bakr, and the finally approved copy was kept by Abu Bakr in his personal custody. The sacred compilation was given the name of ‘Mashaf’.
During his Caliphate, Umar took steps to ensure that the teaching of the Holy Quran was spread extensively, and that a large number of persons learnt the text by heart so that there could be no possibility of any corruption in the text.
Under the orders of Umar, hundreds of schools were opened throughout the length and breadth of the Islamic world for the teaching of the Holy Quran. Highly qualified teachers were appointed for the purpose, and they were given good salaries.
Such Companions who had learnt the Holy Quran by heart were sent to distant places to teach the Holy Quran. Muadh b. Jabal; Ibada b al Samit; and Abu Darda were prominent companions who knew the Holy Quran by heart. They were sent to Syria where Ibada headed the school at Hims: Abu Darda at Damascus; and Muadh at Jerusalem. It is related that Abu Darda held his classes in the Jamia Masjid at Damascus and the enrolment in his class was 1600.
Umar took pains in promoting and popularizing the study of the Holy Quran. All the Muslims were required to learn at least five Suras by heart. Special stipends were granted for the learning of the Holy Quran. In his instructions to the Army, Umar exhorted the men to read and memories the Holy Quran.
Umar was very particular about the use of correct vowels and the correct pronunciation of the words in the Holy Quran. In his instructions to the teachers of the Holy Quran, Umar said:
“Teach them the vowels of the Quran, as you teach its learning by heart.”
Umar also instructed that along with the teaching of the Holy Quran, the study of the Arabic language and literature should be made compulsory so that the readers of the Holy Quran should themselves be able to distinguish between right and wrong vowels.
Umar also laid down that no one who was not versed in Arabic lexicology should be permitted to teach the Holy Quran.
Umar And Mosques
As the Islamic dominions extended progressively, Umar ordered that mosques should be built in all conquered territories.
In the newly founded cities of Kufa and Basra, Jami Masjids were built in the center of the city and smaller mosques were built in each tribal quarter.
In the case of smaller towns in Iraq and Syria, a mosque was required to be constructed in each town. According to one account as many as 4000 mosques were constructed during the caliphate of Umar.
Umar had the sacred mosque at Kaaba extended. In 739 AD Umar purchased the surrounding houses at state expense. These were demolished, and the area under them was included in the mosque. Heretofore there was no wall round the mosque. Umar had a wall constructed for the first time. Heretofore the mosques were not lit. Umar provided lights for the mosques for the first time.
Formerly the cover of the Kaaba was of ordinary cloth. Umar had the cover made of a superior and finer cloth manufactured in Egypt.
The bounds of the Haram, the sanctuary of the Kaaba extended to three miles in one direction, and seven to nine miles in other directions. The boundaries were not defined, and there was the risk of this area being encroached upon. Umar had the area surveyed, and the boundaries were demarcated. Stone pillars called Ansab were fixed to mark the boundaries.
Umar extended the Prophet’s Mosque at Madina as well. In 739 AD, the same year as the Kaaba was extended, Umar purchased the houses that surrounded the Masjid i-Nabvi. After demolishing them, the area was utilized for the extension of the mosque.
Abbas whose house also surrounded the mosque refused to sell his house. He sued the state in the Court of the Qazi Ubayy b. Kab. The Court gave its verdict against the state, and held that the property could not be acquired compulsorily. Umar accepted the verdict of the Court. Thereupon Abbas voluntarily gifted his house for the extension of the mosque. Umar accepted the gift gratefully, and provided alternative accommodation to Abbas.
As a result of extension the length of the mosque rose from 100 to 140 yards while its width rose from 60 to 80 yards.
Umar was the first to provide lights for Masjid-i-Nabvi. Umar also made arrangements for the burning of the incense in the mosque. The floor of the mosque was paved and covered with mats.
The Hijri Calendar
Some time in 638 AD, Abu Musa Asha’ari, the Governor of Basra wrote:
“Amir-ul-Mominin, we receive instructions from you every now and then, but as the letters are undated, and some times the contents of the letters differ, it becomes difficult to ascertain as to which instructions are to be followed.”
That set Umar thinking. In the meantime, he received from Yemen a draft for some money which was encashable in Shaban. Umar thought that the practice of merely mentioning the month in such cases was defective for one could not be sure whether the month referred to was of the current or the following year.
Umar convened an assembly to consider the question of calendar reform.
Some one suggested that the Roman calendar should be adopted. After discussion the proposal was rejected as the Roman calendar dated from too remote an era and was cumbersome.
It was next considered whether the Persian calendar might be adopted. Hormuzan explained the salient features of the Persian calendar called ‘Mahroz’. The consensus of opinion was that such a calendar would not be suitable for the Muslims.
The general opinion was that instead of adopting any alien calendar, the Muslims should have a calendar of their own. This was agreed to, and the point next considered was from when should such an era begin?
Some one suggested that the era should begin from the date of birth of the Holy Prophet. Some suggested that it should begin from the death of the Holy Prophet. Ali suggested that it should begin from the date the Muslims migrated from Mecca to Madina. After discussion, Ali’s suggestion was agreed to.
The Holy Prophet had migrated in the month of Rabi-ulAwwal, when the year had already run two months and eight days. Next the question arose from which month should the new era start.
Some one suggested that the calendar should start with the month of Rajab as in the pre-Islamic period this month was held sacred. Some one proposed that the first month should be Ramzan as that is a sacred month for the Muslims. Another proposal was that the first month should be ‘Zul Hajj’ as that is the month of the pilgrimage.
Usman suggested that as in Arabia the year started with Muharram the new era should also start with Muharram. This suggestion was accepted. The date was accordingly pushed back by two months and eight days, and the new Hijri calendar began with the first day of Muharram in the year of migration rather than from the actual date of migration.
Umar accordingly issued instructions to all concerned regarding the enforcement of the Hijri calendar.
Umar And Drinking
Drinking was very common among the Quraish. Some accounts say that during the days of ignorance even Umar was a wine bibbler. When Umar became a Muslim, he never touched wine. Umar was a great thinker. He thought that as under the influence of drink one becomes oblivious of his duties and responsibilities, drink must be prohibited by an injunction from God. Umar often talked to the Holy Prophet on the subject, and prayed for an injunction to enforce prohibition.
At Madina the following verse was revealed to the Holy prophet:
“They ask you about wine and games of chance. Say ‘They lead to great sin, and have some use for men. But the sin inherent in them exceeds their usefulness.” (2: 219)
The Holy Prophet informed Umar of this revelation. Umar said: ‘Holy Prophet. This is not enough, pray to God for a specific injunction.”
Some time later came another revelation, namely:
“Believers! wine, games of chance, idols, and diving arrows are abominations which are the handiwork of the Devil. Avoid them so that you may prosper.” (5: 90)
When Umar was informed of this revelation, he said: “Holy Prophet; this is a negative provision. Pray to God to give some positive injunction.”
Then another verse was revealed which provided:
“The Devil intends that by means of wine, games of chance, he should provoke enmity and hatred among you; and stop you from remembering Allah and saying your prayers. Will you not keep them away from them?” (5: 91)
This verse provided the necessary sanction for the prohibition of drinking. In spite of this injunction many Muslims continued to indulge in drinking.
When Umar became the Caliph, and the Muslim conquests extended east and west, bringing prosperity to the Muslims, Umar felt that in order to safeguard the purity of faith some hard and fast policy about drinking should be laid down. While the Holy Qur’an provided specific punishments for some offences, no penalty was specified in the case of drinking. That made some of the wine bibblers take the plea that if God intended prohibition, the penalty for the offence would have been prescribed.
Umar convened a meeting of his Consultative Assembly to consider the question. The first question that was taken up for consideration was: whether the drinking of wine was lawful or unlawful. The verdict was that it was unlawful.
The next question was: if it was unlawful what should be the penalty therefore. Umar agreed that no penalty in this behalf had been laid down in the Holy Quran, but he held that a penalty therefore could be laid down on the basis of analogy keeping in view the penalty provided for offences of kindred character.
Ali argued that the offence of drinking was of the same species as calumny for under the influence of drink one was apt to say many things which he should not have otherwise said. In the case of calumny the Holy Quran provided punishment as follows:
“Give eighty lashes to each one,
Of those who accuse honorable women;
But do not support their accusation with four witnesses.
Do not accept their testimony,
For it is they who break the law.”
Ali advised that for drinking the same penalty i. e. eighty lashes should be provided.
This advice was accepted by Umar. Umar issued orders to all concerned to the following effect:
“Drinking is banned under the Holy Quran. If any Muslim drinks and pleads that this was lawful then cut off his head for what he says is a violation of the Holy Word. If he says that it is unlawful but that he fell into error then give him eighty lashes publicly.”
These instructions were enforced vigorously, and the Muslim society was practically rid of the evil of drinking.
When Islam appeared on the world stage, the world economy was based on slavery. Islam was the first religion to raise its voice against slavery. Among the early converts to Islam, many were slaves. Indeed one of the reasons for the hostility of the Quraish against Islam was that they saw in Islam a hostile force to slavery on which the economy of Mecca was based.
When Umar became the Caliph of Islam, he took particular measures to eliminate the evils of slavery as far as possible. He took a very bold step when he declared that no Arab could be a slave. Arabia was thus the first country in the world, which under the impact of Islam abolished slavery. During the apostasy wars many Arabs had been taken captive and made slaves. Umar emancipated all such slaves.
Umar also decreed that slave women who had borne a child to her master stood emancipated.
The Holy Quran laid down:
If you see good in them (slaves), make agreement with them.”
Umar implemented this injunction and laid down that a slave could make an agreement with the master that he would pay so much within the specified period to secure his freedom. Anas had a slave Sirin by name. The slave wanted to enter into an agreement with his master, but Anas refused. When the matter was reported to Umar, he made Anas enter into an agreement with his slave.
In the matter of stipends allowed by the state, Umar made no distinction between the master and the slave. The slaves were given the stipends on the same scale as their masters.
Umar issued orders that slaves could not be separated from their kindred. Under these orders the child was not to be separated from its mother. If there were two brothers it was obligatory that both of them should be purchased by one master.
Umar was considerate that when some very highly placed person was taken captive, he should be ransomed and not kept as a slave. When in Syria the daughter of the emperor Heraclius was taken captive, she was returned to her father. When in the battle of Babylon, Armanusa the daughter of Maqauqas was taken captive she was returned to her father.
In order to raise the status of slaves, Umar enjoined that the master should generally take meals with their slaves. Occasionally Umar invited slaves to dine with him. Umar said:
“The curse of God be upon those who feel ashamed to sit to meals with slaves.”
Umar laid down that if a Muslim slave gave protection to a non-Muslim such protection was to be honored like the protection given by any other Muslim.
Umar took pains to provide facilities to slaves to rise to position of importance in the State. During the caliphate of Umar Ikramah who came to be regarded as an Imam of Hadith was a slave. Nafi who was the teacher of Imam Malik was a slave. There were many other slaves who became eminent during the caliphate of Umar.
Umar’s Control Of Sexuality Laxity
In the days of ignorance sexual laxity was the order of the day. Islam stood for reform in the moral and social fields, and condemned sexual laxity in all forms. Under Islam a limitation was placed on the number of wives one could marry. Such number was not to exceed four, and it was enjoined that all the wives should be treated alike with due justice. Lapidation was provided as the punishment for those found guilty of adultery.
When Umar became the Caliph he took further steps to rid the society of sexual laxity.
In the days of ignorance poetry was pressed into service as an instrument of moral laxity. The poets indulged in ribald poems. They named their sweethearts in their poems and by indulging in poetic license compromised the honor and integrity of ladies. Then where ladies were no party to love the poets in their imagination made their beloveds return their love in passionate terms. Such poetry did considerable social harm, and disturbed domestic peace in many a home. Umar took cognizance of this unsocial practice. He commanded the poets not to mention the names of ladies in their poems. He also issued directions that the poets should not indulge in any versification calculated to encourage moral depravity. Where some poets inadvertently or otherwise contravened these instructions they were flogged or punished.
Mutah in some form or the other was permissible or at least not expressly forbidden before the time of Umar. Umar felt that Mutah “hereunder a man married a woman for a specified number of days amounted to disguised prostitution and this led to moral laxity. Umar accordingly passed an order prohibiting Mutah. He declared that it was open to a person to divorce a woman after regular marriage for any valid reason, but a marriage which was stipulated to be dissolved after a specified number of days was repugnant to the spirit of Islam which stood for stability of domestic homes. Umar elaborated that the purpose of marriage was to set up homes with a view to getting children and Mutah negated such objects. Moreover in the case of Mutah the children born of such union were to be subject to social disability which was detrimental to social order.
Under the Islamic law divorce was permissible. The Holy Prophet however took pains to explain that divorces which disrupted family life were distasteful to God. People were enjoined not to be hasty in the matter of divorce. Divorce could be effective only when three divorces were given. The idea was to provide some opportunity for reconciliation. When under Umar more countries were conquered and women from other countries became available for the Muslims, some Muslims resorted to the practice of announcing three divorces simultaneously. In order to put a stop to this unsocial practice Umar laid down that if a person gave three talaqs simultaneously such divorce would be irrevocable.
With the conquest of Iraq and Syria, Iraqi and Syrian women became available to the Muslims. Attracted by the beauty of these women, the Muslims divorced their Arab wives. That created a social crisis which led to sexual laxity. Umar accordingly ordered that marriages with foreign ladies should be permitted under exceptional circumstances. Hudhaifa was the administrator of al Madina and he married a Christian beauty of Iraq. When this was brought to the notice of Umar he required Hudhaifa to divorce the Christian beauty, Hudhaifa said that he would not comply with the order unless he was told whether his marriage was unlawful or else; the Caliph referred to the authority under which he wanted him (Hudhaifa) to divorce his legally wedded wife. Umar wrote to say that the marriage he had contracted was not unlawful, but he had been advised to divorce the Christian beauty as it was bound to adversely affect the interests of Arab ladies. Moreover if the Muslims married non-Muslim ladies merely for their beauty that would encourage sexual laxity. Thereupon Hudhaifa divorced his Christian wife.
Besides four lawful wives Islam permitted any man to take over any number of slave girls to bed. These slave girls were to be the property of the Master and he could sell them any time. With the extension in conquests the number of available slave girls increased and Umar felt that this would promote sexual laxity. He ordered that Umm ul Walad that is such slave girls who bore children to their masters would stand emancipated. This had the effect that such women could no longer be treated as concubines and were to be given the status of regular wives or divorced when they could, as free women, marry other persons.
In the early days of Islam there was no standing army. On the occasion of any battle contingents were raised from the various tribes and these were disbanded when the battle was over. No regular salaries were paid. Those who fought were compensated by distributing the spoils of war among them.
Umar was the first Muslim ruler to organize the army as a State Department. This reform was introduced in 637 A.D. A beginning was made with the Quraish and the Ansars and the system was gradually extended to the whole of Arabia. A register of all adults who could be called to war was prepared, and a scale of salaries was fixed.
The scale was:
(l) Those who had fought in the battle of Badr 5,000 dirhams.
(2) Those who had fought in the battle of Uhud 4,000 dirhams.
(3) Those who had migrated before the conquest of Mecca 3,000 dirhams.
(4) Those who had embraced Islam at the time of the conquest of Mecca 2,000 dirhams
(5) Those who had fought in the battles of Yermuk or Qadissiya 2,000 dirhams.
(6) For the Yamanites 400 dirhams
(7) Those who had fought after the battles of Yermuk and Qadissiya 300 dirhams.
(8) The rest 200 dirhams
All men registered were liable to military service. They were divided into two categories, namely:
(l) those who formed the regular standing army; and
(2) those who lived in their homes, but were liable to be called to the colors whenever needed.
For the purpose of army administration, Umar established Military Centers which were called ‘Jund’. These Centers were set up at Madina; Kufa; Basra; Mosul; Fustat; Damascus; Jordan; and Palestine. At these centers barracks were built for the residence of troops. Big stables were constructed where four thousand horses fully equipped were kept ready for service at short notice at every Military Center. All records pertaining to the army were kept at Military Centers. Food stores of the commissariat were kept at these places and there from sent to other places.
In addition to Military Centers, cantonments were established in big towns and places of strategic importance.
Under the Army Department, there was a separate Commissariat Department. All the food stores were collected at one place, and from there disbursed on the first of every month.
Pay and Bhatta were disbursed at different times. The pay was paid in the beginning of the Mohurram. The Bhatta was paid in spring and some extra allowances were paid during the harvesting season.
Every tribal unit had its leader called Arifs. Such units if under Arifs were grouped and each group was under a Commander called Umar-ul-Ashar.
Promotions in the army were made on the strength of the length of service or exceptional merit.
Expeditions were undertaken according to seasons. Expeditions in cold countries were undertaken during the summer, and in hot countries in winter. In spring the troops were generally sent to lands which had a salubrious climate and a good pasturage.
Much thought was given to climate and sanitation in the lay out of cantonments and the construction of barracks. Special provisions were made for roads and streets in cantonments, and Umar issued instructions prescribing the width of roads and streets.
When the army was on the march, it always halted on Fridays. When on march, the day’s march was never allowed to be so long as to tire out the troops. The stages were selected with reference to the availability of water and other provisions.
Leave of absence was given to army men at regular intervals. The troops stationed at far off places were given leave once a year and some time twice.
Each army corps was accompanied by an officer of the treasury, an Accountant, a Qazi, and a number of interpreters besides a number of physicians and surgeons.
Umar issued instructions laying stress on the teaching of four things to the soldiers, namely: horse-racing; archery; walking barefoot, and swimming.
On the battlefield the army was divided into sections. These sections were:
(1) Qalb or the center;
(2) Maqaddamah or the vanguard;
(3) Maimanah or the right wing;
(4) Maisarah or the left wing;
(5) Saqah or the rear;
(6) Rid-extreme rear
Other components were:
(1) Talaiah or patrols to keep watch over the movements of the enemy;
(2) Ra’id or foraging parties,
(3) Rukban or the camel corps;
(4) Farsan or the cavalry;
(5) Rajil or the infantry;
(6) Ramat or the Archers.
According to instructions every soldier was required to keep with him several things of personal need. These included among other things needles, cotton, twine, scissors, and a feeding-bag.
Catapults were used extensively in siege operations. Under Umar another machine employed in siege operations was Dabbabah. It was a wooden tower which moved on wheels and consisted of several storeys. The tower was wheeled up to the foot of the fort under siege, and then the walls were pierced by stone throwers’ wall-piercers and archers who manned the Dabbabah.
Under the instructions of Umar, suitable arrange, meets were made for the clearance and construction of roads, and bridges. These operations were usually performed by the conquered people under the supervision of the Muslim army.
A remarkable feature of the army organization under Umar was that he had complete control over the army at all times as if he were present in person at every field. The control was facilitated because of the sense of awe and majesty that the person of Umar inspired. The espionage and intelligence services in the army were well organized. Reporters were attached to every unit, and they kept the Caliph fully informed about everything pertaining to the army.
Under Umar vast conquests were made in Iraq, Persia, Syria, and Egypt and this speaks for the efficiency of the army and the military organization.