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GLIMPSES FROM THE LIFE OF UMAR BIN KHATAB


History of Islamic Civilization GLIMPSES FROM T HE LIFE OF UMAR BIN KHATAB By Muhammad Hozien TABLE OF CONT ENT S INT RODUCT ION: Umar is one of the f ew leaders of Islamic Civilization that is unique other than the career of the Prophet Muhammad with whom this whole cycle of events started. From his early days he had shown signs of greatness and the f uture to come. It was Abdullah ibn Masood [1] who said of him, "We are still noble since Omars Submission to Islam"[2] He also said "Omars Submission to Islam was a conquest, His Migration was a victory, His Immate [period of rule] was a blessing, I have seen when we were unable to pray at "the house" [Kaba] until Umar submitted, when he Submitted to Islam he fought them [the antagonistic idolaters] until they left us alone and we prayed."[3] T here are many traditions that speak of the high regard that the companions of Muhammad had f or Umar. He was the one of the two main counselors of the Messenger, the other being Abu Bakr. T here are many reasons f or the greatness of this man. He was of paramount importance in the early f ormation of the Islamic State. During his time many new innovations were adopted. T he state was expanding at a unprecedented rate and swif t action needed to be taken which he did not hesitate to take or adopt. His bravery and simple lif e were trademarks of his era. His genius f or leadership clearly is shown in his many accomplishments. T he great prose writer Abas Mahmoud al-Aqad, at the turn of the century had written a volume dedicated to him called, Abqaryat Umar [4], [T he Genius of Umar.] T here is quite number of good works on Umar in Arabic. T here also seems to be quite a number of books just about him either popular or scholarly. AlAqads book is one of the popluar works so is Ali Tantanwi, the f amous Muslim T V personality, book about Umar. T he Fiqh Council of (al-Majmah al- Fiqhi li Jamat al-Imam Muhammad bin Saud) Muhammad bin Saud University in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia had published a 3 volume book on the Fiqh of Umar. T here is also a Ph.D. thesis that is only dedicated to the Innovations of Umar in Administration and Judicial Af f airs.[5] While in this short thesis we can only point to some of his most important contributions there are still many others that must be ignored f or the sheer number of them. A work of this size will only limit it self to the most evident and important of these accomplishments. Further this thesis will also concentrate on the conquests of the Islamic State during his rule. T he turning points during Umars lif e are in his Submission to Islam and in his rule af ter the death of Abu Bakr the Caliph of the Messenger in 13 A.H./634 AD. He ruled f or ten years and was assassinated by a Magian named Abu Lulu Feroze, who had a attacked him during prayer with a dagger and stabbed him several times.

HIS EARLY YEARS: Umar was born in Mecca 13 years af ter the incident of the Elephant, In 583 A.D. Of his early years there are not many recorded details save that he grazed camels f or his f ather who was very harsh with him. In his reign he would recall his f athers harshness to him when he passed the f ield which caused him pains early in his lif e.[6] We later see him as wrestler who used to attend the f amed Ukaz (the annual f air.) Also due to his f amilys position in the Meccan Hierarchy he would receive an above average education and would travel throughout Arabia and Greater Syria. Umars personality was dynamic, self -assertive, f rank and straight f orward. He always spoke whatever was on his mind even if it displeased others. CLAN, FAMILY AND T RIBE OF UMAR: Umar belonged to the Adi clan f rom the Tribe of Quraish. His f ull name is: Umar ibn al-Khattab ibn Nufail Ibn Abdul-Uzza Ibn Riyah Ibn Qart Ibn Razah Ibn Adi Ibn Kab Ibn Luayy ibn Fihr ibn Malik. Ameer al Muminin, abu Haf s, al-Qurashi, al-Adwai, al-Farooq.[7] Umars f amily was considered among the f amilies that served as arbitrators that would settle the tribal disputes and disagreements. Also ambassadors were chosen f rom his f amily as well. [8] UMARS SUBMISSION T O ISLAM T here are three versions of Omars conversion, the story Anas bin Malik relates is this version: One day, f ull of anger against the Prophet, he drew his sword and set out to kill him. A man f rom Bani Z uhrah (perhaps an acquaintance, who secretly prof essed Islam) met him on the way. When Umar told him what he planned to do, he inf ormed him that Umars own sister, Fatimah, and her husband had also accepted Islam and abandoned your f aith. Umar went straight to his sisters house where he f ound her reading f rom pages of the Quran. He f ell upon her and beat her mercilessly. Bruised and bleeding, she told her brother, "Umar, you can do what you like, but you cannot turn our hearts away from Islam." T hese words produced a strange ef f ect upon Umar. What was this f aith that made even weak women so strong of heart? He asked his sister to show him what she had been reading; he was at once moved to the core by the words of the Quran and immediately grasped their truth. Umar went straight to the house where the Prophet was staying and vowed allegiance to him. It is also mentioned in more than one version that bef ore he spoke the f ormula the Messenger took him by the shirt and shook him up. [9] Shortly af ter the conversion Umar and Hamza had led the Muslims in a March on the Kabaa to worship there. [10] Later on he would openly proclaim his emigration to Medina and in one version he would dare the Meccans to harm him. [11] T HE MESSENGERS MAIN COUNSELORS AND ADVISORS T here are many narrations that the Messenger was hoping that Umar would accept Islam and when Umar because of the bright f uture that the Messenger was hoping. It is as if he was recruiting the right people f or the f uture of the Islamic State. In one of the traditions that is mentioned by as-Suyuti we see the Messenger praying that Umar accept Islam. T here are other traditions that point to the excellent qualities of Umar in matters of advice. One such tradition is: "Ibn Umar related that the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, Allah has put the truth upon Umars tongue and in his heart." And another is "If there were to be a prophet after me it would be Umar ibn al-Khatab" narrated by: Uqbah bin Amir. [12] As-Suyuti f urther states that Abu Abdullah ash-Shaybani in his book Fadail al-Imamayn (the Merits of the two Imams [Abu Bakr and Umar]) had

listed 20 dif f erent points in which Umars Opinions matched the later revelations of the Quran. [13] For the above mentioned reasons that the Messenger always sought the advice of Umar. It was not that the Messenger always f ollowed Umars Consultation but he still utilized him on many occasions. T HE PROPHET S DEAT H OF AND ABU BAKRS KHALIFAH [RULE.] When the Prophet died Umar was in denial and ref used to believe that he died. Umar promised to strike the head of any man who would say that he died. Abu Bakr kept his cool about him and reminded the people that the Messenger was human. T hen the Medinaites namely the Awas and Khazraj tribe were in dispute as to who would take charge af ter the Messenger, it was then that Umar gave biyah (oath of Allegiance) to Abu Bakr. Umar had convinced them that Abu Bakr was the ideal choice to be the successor of the Messenger. He spoke about the excellent qualities of Abu Bakr and how the Messenger had lef t some clues at to whom to lead af ter his death. [14] MAIN ADVISOR T O ABU BAKR Abu Bakr had high regard f or Umar who said: "There is not on the face of the earth a man more beloved to me than Umar." Umar was also highly regard among the companions of the Messenger. Aisha has said: "He was, by Allah, skillful in managing affairs, absolutely unique." And Muawiyah has said: "Umar, the world wanted him and he did not want it" [15] Further Abu Bakr had asked Usmah bin Z aid permission to use Umar because at the time of the death of the Messenger, Umar was part of an Invasion f orce that was led by Usamah. [16] Although Abu Bakr did not take every advice that was given to him by Umar, namely the af f airs of the Ridda Wars [17] and when the Arabs ref used to pay the Zakah (Alms, poor due, tax) in which Abu Bakr acted correctly and successf ully. Abu Bakr had said: "By Allah, I will fight whoever makes a distinction between the prayer and the Zakah" [18] It was at this point that Umar saw the error of his way, retracted and joined Abu Bakr in the wars. T HE KHALIFAH [RULE] OF UMAR T he appointment of Umar to of f ice of Khalifah is a well recorded event. It is not as troublesome as any of the others. His was perhaps one of the smoothest transitions to power f rom one authority to another in the Muslim lands. When Abu Bakr was dying he only appointed Umar as his successor and no other. [19] Umar succeed Abu Bakr the day af ter his death. [20] Abu Bakr was well aware of Umars powers and of his ability to succeed him. When he was dying he consulted with Abdur-Rahman bin Awaf [21] and Uthman bin Af f an [22] who regarded him quite highly. Umar rule was to last ten years which are f ull of accomplishments. In this paper I will deal with some of them in detail. His most apparent achievements are in two major categories namely, the conquests and the innovations in ruling. SOME OF T HE CONT RIBUT IONS AND INNOVAT IONS OF UMAR. In this area Umar would excel as no other f or many reasons some of which are that in his time the state would be stable. He dealt with many matters quickly and bef ore they would rise to cause. It was also the sharpness of his personality and austerity that quelled many of the troubles that would appear to his successors. Here is some of his major achievements in list f orm. 1. Establishment of Public Treasury [23] . 2. Establishments of courts of Justice and appointment of Judges. [24] 3. Placing the reserve army on the states Payroll and organization of the War department. [25] 4. Establishment of Postal service. [26] 5. Establishment of the Land Revenue department. [27] 6. Survey and assessment of lands. [28]

7. Public census. [29] 8. Punishment of those who practice Monopoly by exile to dif f erent lands. [30] 9. Establishment of and use of Jails. [31] 10. Building of Canals and Bridges. [32] 11. First to use the Whip. [33] 12. Establishment of Public Rest Areas, hostels and Wudu (Ablution) Stations. [34] 13. Fixing the date to the Start of the Migration of the Messenger. [35] 14. Dividing the state and the conquered territories into provinces. [36] 15. Founding of new cities (al-Amsar) such as Kuf ah [37] , Basarah [38] and Fustat. [39] 16. Z akat on Produce of the sea, such as f ish, Lobster, shrimp etc., and appointment of a responsible of f icial. 17. Use of secret reports and specially designated emissaries to provide f irst reports as what is really going on in dif f erent provinces. [40] 18. Salary f or Imams, Muadhans (Callers to prayer) teachers and public lectures. 19. Stipends f or the poor among the Jews and Christians who lived in conquered lands. 20. Punishment f or drunkenness, written satires and lampoons. 21. Establishment of Guilds f or certain trades. [41] 22. Prohibition of the mention of womens names in poetry. 23. Holding tarawih (Ramadan night prayers) in congregation, bef ore his time it was done individually. 24. Providing lighting in the Mosques at night. [42] 25. Persuading Abu Bakr to collect the Quran in one book. 26. Establishment of Military bases at strategic points in the dif f erent provinces. 27. Establishment of the Police department. [43] 28. Personally making nightly rounds to check on the condition of the people f irst hand. 29. Formulation of the Principal of Qiyas (Analogical Reasoning.) f or determining rulings on newly encountered matters in Fiqh (Jurisprudence.) 30. Establishment of a more exact system of calculation of the inheritance. 31. Limiting the relationship between Muslims and Non-Muslims. [44] 32. Establishing a stable f or the lost camels. [45] 33. State intervention to control the price of merchandise. [46] 34. First to enlarge the al-Haram (the Sacred Mosque) at Mecca. First to place a cover on the Kaaba. [47] 35. Discovered the place of Isra, Ascension of the Messenger to heavens at Jerusalem. [48] UMAR AS A LEADER As was mentioned Umar had the respect and sometimes f ear of many of his contemporaries. He personally involved himself in many of the states af f airs. He was the hands on type and if he saw anything that did not please him he made no secret of it. He would constantly write letters of advice and guidance to his generals. Umar had the welf are of the Muslims in his mind at all times. Umars f ood was simple which consisted of bread and olive oil. Rarely would he eat anything else, at times it is recorded that he eat meat, vegetables milk and vinegar. His dress was also simple such as a shirt only which was known to have a number of patches in it. He also wore a cap and sandals. [49]

UMARS CONQUEST S "FUTHAT" the immense power which the Caliphate had achieved during the reign of Umar. His armies tore from the Roman empire some of its fairest provinces in the East, annexed the fertile land of Egypt, and pushed their way westward along the coast of North Africa; they overran Palestine and Syria, and after crushing the armies of the Persian King, established Arab rule over practically the whole of the old Persian empire, until they reached the banks of the Oxus in the extreme north east. [50] T he conquests during Umars time are not to be taken lightly the state was expanding at an exceedingly f ast rate during Umars ten year rule like at no other time in the history of the Muslim Civilization.[51] As to the reasons f or the high success rate of the conquests at this time period Prof . Donner states: The Muslims succeeded, then primarily because they were able to organize an effective conquest movement, and in this context the impact of the new religion of Islam, which provided the ideological underpinnings for this remarkable breakthrough in social organization, can be more fully appreciated. In this sense, the conquests were truly an Islamic movement. For it was Islam- the set of ramifications- that ultimately sparked the whole integration process and hence was the ultimate cause of the conquests success. [52] Further Umar had an excellent organizational skills and a very good knowledge of people. He would not only choose who are his Army generals but also would give them very detailed orders. He divided up the Empire into states and placed governors in each state that he would personally assign. He would keep in constant communication with all his generals and Governors. [53] Umar would also make good use of agents to keep watch over the perf ormance of the governors. He would also periodically ask the residents of dif f erent cities of the perf ormance of the governors. In alKuf a he would recall Saad bin Abi Waqas due to complaints about him. He would than look into the matter and explain to the people. [54] T he City of Hims (Emas) was also a city that complained about its governor. Umar also took appropriate action to remedy the situation. [55] In his lif etime the f ollowing conquests were completed: [56] Fall of Damasucus in 14/635 Fall of Fahl in 14/635 Fall of Hims in 14/635 Fall of Balbak and Basrah Fall Ublah and the bridge of Abi Ubydiah in Najran in 14 /635 Fall of Yarmouk in 15/636 Fall of all of the Jordan except of Tabarias in 15 /635 T he Battle of Yarmouk in 15 / 635 T he Battle of Qadisyah in 15 /636, In 16 /637 Battle of Jaljulah and Qansreen Fall of Ahoz Fall of Madain

Fall of Jerusalem in 16/637 Fall of Jazirah in 16/637 In 17/638 Fall of Hims again in 17/638 Fall of Hurmuz in 17/637 In 18/638 T he City of Kuf ah is built in 18/639 T he great Plague of Amwas, Abu Ubydaih bin al-Jarah dies and many Muslim soliders. In 19/640 Fall of Qaisariah in 19/640 Battle of Sohab in 19 /640 Fall of Takrit in 19/640 An Army is sent Aremina in 19/640 In 20 /641 Fall of Egypt in 20 /641 Fall of North Af rica Fall of Alexandria in 21/642 Fall of Nahwind in 21/641 Fall of Khorasan in 21/641 Fall of Antioch and Qalqalyia Pecef uly. Fall of Adharbaijan in 22 /642 Fall of Masbithan in 22/642 Fall of Hamathan in 22 /642 Fall of Tabaristan in 22 /643 Fall of Armenia in 22 /643 Fall of Jarjan in 22/643 Fall of Koos and Raiy in 22/643 Fall of Tripoli (North Af rica) in 22/643 Fall of Fars in 23/644 Fall of Kirman in 23/644 Fall of Sajastan in 23/644 Fall of Makran in 23/644

Fall of Khurasan (including Khawarazm, Farghanah, Takharistan) in 23/644 DEAT H AND LEGACY In the year 23/644 Umar was assassinated by Abu LuaLua the Magian, who had a personal grudge against Umar. T he assassin stabbed Umar in the back and in his side below the belt with a poisoned dagger during the morning prayers. He also had stabbed thirteen others seven of which died. Abd arRahman bin Awaf f inished the prayers quickly as soon as Umar f ell. T hey rushed to the f allen Umar and knew that he was dying and that there was no hope of recovery. Abdallah bin Abbas came to comf ort him. Umar appointed the of f ice of Khalif ah to one of six ( Uthman, Ali, Talha bin Ubiduallah, Z ubair bin alAwam, Abd ar-Rahman bin Awaf , and Saad bin Abi Waqas) to be chosen in three days. He commanded that Suhaib (the Roman) to lead the prayers. He made sure that his son would not get the of f ice but made him one of the consultants. [57] His Khalif ah was f or a total of 10 years, six months and f our days. [58] CONCLUSION In the end Umar wanted nothing of this earth, it was as Muywiah said of him.[59] His age was the age of Justice. Later on af ter he passed away his hut would still be called the house of Justice. Of wealth he lef t nothing behind. He willed that his hut be sold to pay of f his debts. Muywaih would buy his house and payof f whatever remained of his debt. [60] He was Eulogized by many of his companions who remember him well. His was a time of stability and growth. Peace and constant war. It was not such a time of contradiction perhaps a time of harmony. In His lif etime he had seen the Muslims go f rom being the meekest of the earth to being one of the major powers to be contended with. He would remember well that in his youth how he was being beaten by his f ather f or taking a short break to rest to being the most powerf ul man in the Arabian peninsula. He was also content that in the end he was not killed by his own people but at the hands of a Magian. Umar had warned against such people living among Muslims. Since his warning went unheeded it was the cause of his own death. He prided himself in serving not his own interest. It is said that he f eared the burden of leadership and how that he might one day be asked why he did not pave the road f or a stray sheep in Persia. Umar continued to live simply to his f inal day. One of his companions reminiscing about Umars days he said of him: "When he walked, he did so quickly as to get someplace, when He spoke he was loud enough to be heard and when his hit it would hurt." He was a man of purpose and a Mission. He lef t a legacy that is not easy to f ollow. SELECT ED BIBLIOGRAPHY 1. al-Baladhuri. Ahmad bin Yahya Futuh al-Buldan (Conquests of Nations). 2. al-Qarashi, Ghalib A.K. Awliyat al-Farooq fi al-Idara wal-Qada (Firsts of the Farooq in Adminstration and Judicial af f airs), being a Ph.D. thesis, Muasast al-Kutub al-T haqaf iyah, Beirut, 1990. 3. al-Tabari, Muhammad bin Jarir Tarikh al-rusul wal Muluk (History of the Prophets and Kings), 10 Vols. Ed. Muhammad Abulf adl Ibrahim. Dar Suywdan, Beirut, copy of the Dar al-Maraf , Cairo 2nd edition, 1960-69. 4. Arnold, T homas W. The Caliphate, Barnes and Noble, New York, 1966. 5. as-Suyuti, Jalal ad-Din The History of the Khalifahs who took the right way, being a portion of asSuyutis tarikh al-Khulaf ah, translated by: A. Clarke, TaHa Publishers, London, 1995. 6. Blankinship, Khalid Y. The History of al-Tabari, Volume XI: T he Challenge to the Empires, Translated by: State University of New York Press, 1993. 7. Donner, Fred M. The Early Islamic Conquests, Princeton University Press, 1981. 8. Jandora, John W. The March from Medina, A Revisionist Study of the Arab Conquests, T he

Kingston Press, Clif ton, 1990. 9. Khatab, Mahmoud S. Bayan al-Aqeedah Wal-Qayidah (Between Creed and Leadership) Dar El-Fikr, Beirut, n.d. 10. Numani, Shibli Al-Farooq, The Life of Omar the Great, Translated f rom the original Urdu by: Z af ar Ali Khan, International Islamic Publishers, New Delhi, 1992. http://www.muslimphilosophy.com/mih/isl/umar.htm