“If there had been a prophet after me, it would have been Umar (RA)”…(Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).
The Prophet (PBUH) prayed for one of the two famous Umars of his time and he was granted UMAR-E-FAROOQ; one shudders at even writing, hearing, listening or saying the name of one of the greatest non-prophetic humans to ever have walked on the face of this earth! Such is his greatness!
Hazrat Umar-e-Farooq is my hero and a hero of millions of Muslims around the world; a role model, an icon whom we all should try to emulate. The above Hadith shows how highly our Holy Prophet (PBUH) thought of him; our Holy Prophet held him in such a high esteem and he continues to hold that honor even today with so much respect, reverence and admiration shown by Muslims around the world for him. We will try to learn more about our hero in this article.
Life Before Acceptance of Islam
Hazrat Umar-e-Farooq was born in 583 A.C., about forty years before the great Hijrah. The early life of Hadrat Umar is not known in detail. In his youth he was a famous wrestler and orator, and a spirited person. He was one among the few people in Mecca who knew reading and writing before Islam. His main occupation was business.
When the Holy Prophet (PBUH) got revelation and invited people to Islam, Hazrat Umar became the sworn enemy of Islam and the Holy Prophet (PBUH) and did not hesitate to harm the Muslims and Islam at every opportunity. He was especially upset that Islam was breaking up families. The idea of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) preaching enraged him as much it did the other notables of Mecca. He was just as bitter against anyone accepting Islam as others among the Quraish. When his slave-girl accepted Islam he beat her until he himself was exhausted and told her, “I have stopped because I am tired, not out of pity for you.”
Hazrat Umar’s Historic Acceptance of Islam
It was the sixth year of Holy Prophet’s mission when leaders of Quraish called a meeting and asked a volunteer for the assassination of the Holy Prophet (PBUH). Hazrat Umar offered himself for this job. While he was on his way with a sword in his hand he met Hazrat Sa’d bin Abi Waqqas (RA) who enquired of him about his destination. Hazrat Umar told him that he was going to murder the Holy Prophet (PBUH). After some discussion Sa’d said, “You had better take care of your own family first. Your sister and brother-in-law both have accepted Islam”. Hearing this Umar changed his direction and went straight to his sister’s house. When Hadrat Umar knocked at the door, they were studying the Holy Qur’an from Hadrat Khabbab (R.A.). His sister Fatimah was frightened on hearing Umar’s voice and tried to hide the portion of the Holy Qur’an she was reciting. When Umar entered the house he enquired about their Islam and on finding that they had accepted Islam, he first fell upon his brother-in-law and beat him severely. When his sister intervened he beat her so violently on her face that it bled profusely. On this his sister burst out: “Do whatever you like, we are determined to die as Muslims”. When Umar saw his sister bleeding, he cooled down and felt ashamed. He loved Fatimah very much but could not tolerate her conversion to Islam. However, deeply moved, Umar asked her to show the pages on which the Holy Qur’an was written. But she was, after all, Umar’s sister and told him straight, “You can not touch it unless you take a bath and make yourself clean” He washed his body and then read the leaves. That was the beginning of Surah Ta Ha (Chapter 20 of the Holy Qur’an). When he came to the verse:
“Lo! I even I, am Allah, there is no god save Me. So serve Me and establish Salat for My remembrance”. (20:14)
Umar exclaimed, “Surely this is the Word of Allah. Take me to Muhammad (PBUH)”.
Hazrat Umar (RA)-‘Dua of the Prophet (PBUH)’
On hearing this Hadrat Khabbab (RA), who had hidden himself in the house, came out from inside and said, “O”Umar! Glad tidings for you. It seems that the prayer of the Holy Prophet (PBUH), which he said last night, has been answered in your favour. He had prayer to Allah: “O Allah, strengthen Islam with either Umar Ibn Khattab or Umar Ibn Hisham whomsoever Thou pleaseth”.
Umar then went to the Holy Prophet (PBUH). On seeing him, the Holy Prophet (PBUH) asked him, “Umar! What brings you here”? He said, “I am here to accept Islam”. Hearing this the Muslims shouted with joy, “Allahu Akbar”(Allah is the Greatest) and the sound rent the air of Mecca.
Effect of Hazrat Umar’s Reversion to Islam
Hazrat Umar’s conversion to Islam was a terrible blow to the morale of the disbelievers. Hazrat ‘Abdullah bin Mas’ud, a great Companion, says, “Umar’s conversion to Islam was a great triumph, his emigration to Medina a tremendous reinforcement and his accession to Caliphate a great blessing for the Muslims”.
Hazrat Umar given the Honorable name of AL-FAROOQ
As mentioned, conversion of Hadrat Umar (RA) strengthened Islam. Hitherto, Muslims had lived in constant fear of disbelievers, and most of them were concealing their faith. The Muslims were now able to offer their prayers publicly. When Hadrat Umar (RA) became a Muslim he declared his faith openly before the Quraish Chiefs. Though they stared at him but could not do any harm to him. Then he requested the Holy Prophet (PBUH) to offer Salat in the Ka’bah. On getting the consent of the Holy Prophet (PBUH), Hadrat Umar led a party of the Muslims to that place. Hadrat Hamzah, who had accepted Islam a few days before Umar (RA) carried another party of the Muslims to Ka’bah. When all the Muslims gathered in the Ka’bah they offered their Salat in congregation. The Holy Prophet (PBUH) led this first public prayer in the history of Islam. For this courageous and bold action of Hadrat Umar (RA) the Holy Prophet (PBUH) gave him the title of ‘AL-FAROOQ’ i.e., the one who makes a distinction between the “Right” (Haqq) and the “Wrong” (Batil).
Migration to Medina
When the Muslims were ordered to migrate to Medina, most of them left Mecca quietly and secretly, but Hadrat Umar (R.A.) declared it openly. He put on his arms and first went to the Ka’bah. After performing the Salat he announced loudly: “I am migrating to Medina. If anyone wants to check me, let him come out. I am sure that his mother would cry for his life”. There was no man in Mecca to accept the challenge of Hadrat Umar (R.A.). Then he migrated to Medina boldly.
Umar’s services to Islam before his Khilafat (Caliphate)
Hadrat Umar (R.A.) had great love for Allah and the Holy Prophet (PBUH). He participated in almost all the big battles: Badr, Uhad, Ahzab, Khaibar, Hunain etc. In the expedition to “Tabuk” he gave half of his wealth in the path of Allah. He was next to Hadrat Abu Bakr (R.A.) to sacrifice his belongings for the cause of Allah.
The Holy Prophet (PBUH) also had a deep love for him. Once he remarked, “were a prophet to come after me, he would have been Umar”. In another Hadith mentioned in Bukhari, Hadrat Abu Hurairah (RA.) narrated that the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu’alaihi wa Sallam) said, “In Bani Isra’il (Israelites) there were people who were not prophets but talked to Allah. Were anyone in my Ummah (people) like those persons, he would be Umar”.
Ashra Mubashara (Blessed Ten)
Hazrat Umar (RA) is one of the ten companions who were informed by the Holy Prophet (P.B.U.H) about the award of Paradise for them during their lifetime. This means these companions were chosen among 124000 companions for this great blessing!
Quranic verses revealed to endorse Opinions of Hazrat Umar
As many as 15 or more verses were revealed endorsing the opinions of Hazrat Umar. These include the observance of Hijab, not praying funeral of a Munafiq, Innocence of Hazrat Aisha etc. This shows the highest esteem shown by Almighty Allah for a human being besides a prophet!
Condition of Hazrat Umar at Death of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH)
The death of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) was a great shock to him, and he could not believe it. He warned that he would chop off anyone’s head that spread this rumor. It was not until Hadrat Abu Bakr (RA) reminded him of a clear verse of the Holy Qur’an on the subject that he became aware of the reality of the great tragedy. He then went to the Council Hall along with Hadrat Abu Bakr (RA) where the people of Medina had assembled to select the First Caliph. Hadrat Umar (RA) was the first person to pledge loyalty (Bai’at) at the hand of Hadrat Abu Bakr (RA), and then helped him throughout the duration of his rule.
Hadrat Umar (R.A.) as the Second Caliph of Islam
Hadrat Abu-Bakr, during his illness he consulted the “Shura” about the next “Khalifah” and then gave his decision in favour of Hadrat Umar (R.A.) who took the charge of Caliphate after the death of Hadrat Abu Bakr (R.A.). Hazrat Umar (R.A.) followed fully the ways of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) and the policy of his predecessor with his characteristic zeal and vigour. It was his strict adherence to the “Sunnah” of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) that helped him to subdue the mighty empires of Persia and Byzantine. His caliphate marked the “Golden Age” of Islam.
Major Achievements during Caliphate of Hazrat Umar (RA)
Fall of Persian Empire
In view of the growing pressure of Persians, request was sent to Hadrat Umar (R.A.) for reinforcement. At that time there was a large gathering of Muslims in Medina to take pledge of loyalty (Bai’at) at the hand of the new Caliph (Hadrat Umar). He put the matter before the Muslims but did not get any response in the beginning. Then Hadrat Umar (R.A.) in his sermons stressed the importance of Jihad and a large number of Muslims volunteered to help against the Persians. Abu‘Ubaid ath-Thaqafi was appointed as the commander of the Islamic army comprising five thousand men. In the meantime Persians attacked the places conquered by Muslims and they lost some of them. In the early stage of the battles Rustam sent his subordinates to face Muslims.
The Severe Famine & Plague
In the year 17-18 A.H., Hijaz (Northern Arabia) and Syria were faced by a severe famine and drought. Hadrat Umar (R.A.) took steps to get food supplies from Egypt, part of which had been conquered by Hadrat’Amr bin al-‘As (R.A.). He sent three big ships of grains to Medina which were unloaded in the presence of Hadrat Umar (R.A.). He himself distributed the grains among the needy. Hadrat Umar (R.A.) did not take any delicacy (butter etc.) during the famine period. When he was requested to take care of his health he said, “If I don’t taste suffering, how can I know the sufferings of others?”
When the famine became intolerable he prayed to Allah in a big gathering of Muslims. It has been narrated that the prayers had not even finished when rains started to pour down.
Review of Hadrat Umar’s service to Islam
The period of Hadrat Umar’s caliphate undoubtedly is the “Golden Age” of Islam in every respect. He was a man of extraordinary genius who not only molded the destiny of the nation but made history of his own. He followed the footsteps of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) to the fullest extent. It was Umar under whose rule Islam became a world power and the mighty empires of Persia and Byzantine (Eastern Roman) crumbled before the arm of Islam. Within ten years of his glorious rule, the whole of the Persian Empire, Syria, Palestine, Egypt and a part of Turkey came under the banner of Islam and the nations entered the fold of Islam. He was not only a conqueror but also an exemplary administrator who originated an efficient system of administration, and thus he was the real founder of political system of Islam . He enforced Divine Law (Shari’ah) as the code of a newly formed International Islamic State; he safeguarded the internal safety by introducing the police force: he gave stipends to the poor; he constructed cantonments and forts for the safety of Islamic armies; he founded new cities for the growth of Islamic culture and civilisation; he improved agriculture and economics of the Islamic State; he founded the educational system in an Islamic State; in brief he was the founder of a great Islamic State
Services to Islamic Ummah Under Khilafat
He was a very pious Muslim. His success lay in two things-fear of Allah and his love for the Holy Prophet (PBUH). He never used even oil from the Bait-ul-Mal (Public Treasury) to burn a lamp at night for his personal needs. Whenever he finished the official work he put off the lamp. He used to patrol in the city at night to find out the needs and requirements, and conditions of the people. He did not hesitate to take his wife to work as a midwife for a poor woman. The salary he got from the Bait-ul-Mal was so low that it was hardly enough for him and his family’s needs. When some of the eminent Muslims requested him to increase the amount he, said, “The Holy Prophet (PBUH) has left a standard by his personal example. I must follow him”.
Hadrat Umar was the most just ruler in the Islamic History. All the citizens, including the Caliph himself, were equal before law. Once he appeared before a court at Medina to clarify his position against a complaint. The Qadi (Judge) wanted to stand in his honour, but he did not allow him to do so, so that there would be no distinction between him and an ordinary person before Law. He was really the founder of modern democratic system.
In short he was the best example of an ideal character, and was the greatest “Khalifah” of Islam after Abu Bakr (RA). He selflessly devoted his whole energy for the cause of Islam. Muslims will always be indebted to him for his great achievements. As a matter of fact a separate book is required to describe his character and his services to Islam.
Umar the pioneer of the Islamic democracy
Hadrat Umar (RA) was the pioneer of modern civilization to form a state based upon the Islamic democratic system, the system which was incorporated in the West as late as 19th and 20th centuries. He was the greatest democratic administrator whose example is unparalleled not only in the history of Islam but also in the history of modern civilisation. A vast part of the Middle East, Persian Empire and Byzantium, was conquered during the ten years of his “Khilafat” (Caliphate) which he consolidated into a state governed by Islam i.e. laws. “As an administrator”, says Prof. K. Ali, a Muslim writer, “he remained a model for all great Muslim rulers during the whole Islamic history”. Another famous historian, Amir Ali says, “During the thirty years that the Republic lasted, the policy derived its character chiefly from Umar both during his life-time and after his death.”
The constitution of Islamic caliphate during the time of Hadrat Umar (R.A.) was based entirely on the Islamic democratic system. All matters were decided after consultation with the “Shura”(The Council of Advisors) the details of which would be given in the following pages. He remarked, “It is essential for a “Khalifah” to consult his “Shura”. Once he said, “I do not desire that you may follow anything that arises from my caprice”. Hadrat Umar had clearly stated on various occasions that he should be obeyed as long as he was obeying Allah and the Holy Prophet (PBUH).
Muslims and non-Muslims were treated alike. Although the Arab peninsula was declared to be purely an Islamic State, his attitude towards the non-Muslims was very tolerant. He allowed the Jews and the Christians, living in the Peninsula, to stay there if they so wished and nobody would interfere in their religious affairs. To those who desired to migrate he ensured safe journey up to the borders. Hadrat Umar (R.A.) also gave compensation for their properties and other facilities.
Freedom of Opinion
Freedom of opinion was not only allowed at the time of meeting of the “Shura” but on all occasions. As a matter of fact Hadrat Umar’s period was an exemplary period as far as this principle of the democratic way of government is concerned. There is no other example in history when people gave their opinion so freely, and criticized the ruler (i.e., the Government) so openly.
The Caliph had himself introduced this principle, novel in those days, through his addresses. A part of one of his addresses is quoted as under
“O people! I am but a trustee of your property and wealth, like a person who is trustee of the property and wealth of an orphan child. Had I been rich I would not have taken any allowance for my services. In case I needed I would have accepted only to the extent of the need. Friends! you have certain rights over me and you are fully allowed to claim your rights anytime. One of such rights is: Don’t allow me to misappropriate the Indemnity Tax and the Booty. You have the right to check that the poor, the needy and disabled person amongst you should get allowances for their livelihood. You have the right to make sure that the borders of the State are safe and that you are not in danger.”
Introduction of Islamic Calendar
For the first time in the history of Islam, Islamic calendar was introduced in the present form by Hadrat Umar (R.A.). The date of start of this calendar was fixed as the date of the “Hijrah” (Migration) of the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu ‘alaihi wa Sallam). Thus the calendar is also known as the Hijrah Calendar.
Tributes by Historians
‘If history had another Umar (RA), there would have been Islam and only Islam on the earth!’
‘No mother will be able to produce another like him’
Martyrdom of Hadrat Umar (R.A.)
The glorious rule of Hadrat Umar (R.A.) came to an end on 1st Muharram when he was 61 years old. There was a Persian slave of Hadrat Mughirah bin Shu’bah, named Abu Lu’ Lu’ Firoze. One day he complained about the burden his master had imposed upon him. The complaint was not genuine, hence Hadrat Umar (R.A.) ignored it. Next day, early in the morning when Hadrat Umar (R.A.) went to Masjid to perform Fajr Salat, the slave who was hiding in a corner, attacked him with a dagger and stabbed him six times. People overpowered the assassin but he slew himself with the same dagger.
The injuries were so serious that the Caliph died the next morning.
Before his death the Muslims asked him about his successor, he appointed a panel of six persons, Hadrat ‘Uthma Zubair, Talha, Sa’d bin Waqqas and ‘Abdur Rahman bin ‘Auf (R.A.) to select a “Khalifah” from amongst them within three days after him.
He requested Hadrat Aisha (R.A.) for permission for his burial by the side of the Holy Prophet (PBUH). Though she had reserved that place for herself but on Umar’s request she gave it to him where he was buried.