Sunday 1 September 2019

Umar ibn Al Khattab (Al Farooq): Eminent Companion of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him)

Umar ibn Al Khattab was the most powerful caliph of Islam, under whose caliphate, Islam spread to even the most far flung areas of the world, outside the bounds of the Arabian peninsula.  He was an expert Muslim jurist known for his pious and just nature, which earned him the epithet Al-Farooq ("the one who distinguishes (between right and wrong)").

Umar was born in Makkah to the Banu Adi clan, which was responsible for arbitration among the tribes. His father  Khattab ibn Nufayl, a merchant by trade but was known for his intelligence. Umar was raised by his father as a tough, but literate young man, something uncommon in pre-Islamic Arabia. Umar had a flare for poetry and literature. While still in his teens, Umar learned martial arts, horse riding and wrestling, which made him physically strong, powerful and a renowned wrestler. He was also a gifted orator who succeeded his father as an arbitrator among the tribes.

When Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) proclaimed Islam, like many pagans of Makkah, Umar was one of his worst opponent and he very aggressively opposed  Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) and Islam. So much so that he threatened to kill the Prophet of Allah and resolved to defend the traditional polytheistic religion of Arabia. These were the times when Muslims were not very strong and were very few who were continuously threatens by the non believers.  It was under such trying conditions that Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) often wished and prayed: 'O, Allah! Strengthen Islam with either Umar or Abu Jahl, whomsoever Thou likest.' 

It was not until six years later that Umar accepted Islam. It so happened that one day Umar set forth to kill the Prophet of Allah, but was intercepted by one of his friends Nua'im bin Abdullah. When Nua'im came to know of Umar's intentions, he asked him to first inquire about his own house where his sister and her husband had converted to Islam. Umar ran to his sister's house and found them reciting the verses of the Quran He started quarreling with his brother-in-law. His sister intervened and kept on saying "you may kill us but we will not give up Islam". Upon hearing these words, Umar asked his sister to tell them what was something unique in what they were reciting that they were even willing to be killed. His sister then recited verses of Surah Ta Ha: "Verily, I am Allah: there is no God but Me; so serve Me (only), and establish regular prayer for My remembrance (Quran 20:14)." Hearing the verses, Umar wept and declared, "Surely this is the word of Allah." He then went to Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) with the same sword he intended to kill him with and accepted Islam. 

From then on, Umar challenged anyone who dared to stop the Muslims from praying, and obviously no one dared to interfere with Umar when he was openly praying. Umar's conversion to Islam granted power to the Muslims and to the Islamic faith in Makkah and from then on Muslims started to offer prayers openly in Masjid al-Haram. Umar from then on was a strong pillar of Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) and fought many a battle against the armies of non believers and Jews. He was part of the Muslim army that went for the campaign of Tabuk and is reported to have given half of his wealth for the preparation of this expedition. He also participated in the farewell Hajj of Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) in 632.

Umar succeeded Abu Bakr as the second caliph of Muslims. In fact Abu Bakr had willed in his life for Umar to succeed him for Umar was well known for his extraordinary will power, intelligence, political astuteness, impartiality, justice and care for poor and underprivileged people. 

As caliph, Umer's stress was on the well-being of poor. In addition to this Umar, in order to improve his reputation and relation with Banu Hashim, the tribe of Ali, delivered to him his disputed estates in Khyber. In the Ridda wars, thousands of prisoners from rebel and apostate tribes were taken away as slaves during the expeditions. Umar ordered the general amnesty for the prisoners, and their immediate emancipation. This made Umar quite popular among the Bedouin tribes. 

Under Umar, the sovereign political authority rested with the caliph. He divided the Muslim Empire into provinces and some autonomous territories like in some regions Azerbaijan and Armenia, that had accepted the suzerainty of the caliphate. The provinces were administered by the provincial governors or Wali, the selection of which was made personally by Umar, who was very fastidious in it. Provinces were further divided into districts, there were about 100 districts in the empire. Each district or main city was under the charge of a junior governor or Amir, usually appointed by Umar himself.

He also instituted the offices of revenue collection, police, treasury, justice and affairs of the military. In some districts there were separate military officers, though the Governor (Wali) was in most cases the Commander-in-chief of the army quartered in the province. Every appointment was made in writing. At the time of appointment an instrument of instructions was issued with a view to regulating the conduct of Governors. On assuming office, the Governor was required to assemble the people in the main mosque, and read the instrument of instructions before them. Umer's general instructions to his officers were:

Remember, I have not appointed you as commanders and tyrants over the people. I have sent you as leaders instead, so that the people may follow your example. Give the Muslims their rights and do not beat them lest they become abused. Do not praise them unduly, lest they fall into the error of conceit. Do not keep your doors shut in their faces, lest the more powerful of them eat up the weaker ones. And do not behave as if you were superior to them, for that is tyranny over them.

Under Umar the empire was divided into the following provinces:
  • Arabia divided into two provinces, Mecca and Medina;
  • Iraq divided into two provinces, Basra and Kufa;
  • In the upper reaches of the Tigris and the Euphrates, Jazira was a province;
  • Syria was a province;
  • Palestine divided  into two provinces Iliyā' (إلياء), and Ramlah;
  • Egypt divided into two provinces, Upper Egypt and Lower Egypt;
  • Persia divided into three provinces, Khorasan; Azerbaijan and Faras.
Umar was known for this intelligence service through which he made his officials accountable. Umar was first to establish a special department for the investigation of complaints against the officers of the State. This department acted as the Administrative court, where the legal proceedings were personally led by Umar. In order to minimize the chances of corruption, Umar made it a point to pay high salaries to the staff.

Another important aspect of Umer's rule was that he forbade any of his governors and agents from engaging in trade or any sort of business dealings whilst being in a position of power. An agent of Umar by the name of Al Harith ibn K'ab ibn Wahb was once found to have extra money beyond his salary and Umar inquired about his wealth. Al Harith replied that he had some money and he engaged in trade with it. Umar said: By Allah, we did not send you to engage in trade! and he took from him the profits he had made.

One of the major contribution of Umar was construction of canals to save the people from famine like conditions. Since Medina was at risk of reoccurring famines when crops were lacking and its population was growing rapidly, Umar sought to facilitate the import of grain, beside building of a canal connecting the Nile to the Red Sea and an improvement of port infrastructure in the Arabian coast. When Basra was established during Umer's rule, he started building a nine-mile canal from Tigris to the new city for conveying drinking water and for irrigation.

He established an advanced administration for the newly conquered lands, including several new ministries and bureaucracies, and ordered a census of all the Muslim territories. During his rule, the garrison cities (amsar) of Basra and Kufa were founded or expanded. In 638, he extended and renovated the Masjid al-Haram (Grand Mosque) in Mecca and Al-Masjid al-Nabawi (Mosque of the Prophet) in Medina.

Umar also ordered the expulsion to Syria and Iraq of the Christian and Jewish communities of Najran and Khyber. He also permitted Jewish families to resettle in Jerusalem, which had previously been barred from all Jews. He issued orders that these Christians and Jews should be treated well and allotted them the equivalent amount of land in their new settlements. Umar also forbade non-Muslims to reside in the Hejaz for longer than three days. He was first to establish the army as a state department.

Umar was founder of Fiqh, Islamic jurisprudence.  He is regarded by Sunni Muslims to be one of the greatest Faqih. Umar as a jurist started the process of codifying Islamic Law. In 641, he established Bayt al-mal, a financial institution and started annual allowance for the Muslims. In 638 he decreed that the Islamic calendar should be counted from the year of the Hijra of Muhammad from Mecca to Medina.

Now please watch the video below and get to know many facets of his personality both as a man and as Caliph of the Muslim Ummah:
I wonder any Muslim ruler today can be anything even near to what Umar has been. Indeed if there was a Prophet after Muhammad (ﷺ), it would have been Umar ibn al-Khattab. May Allah bless Umar ibn Al Khattab for his services to Islam and the justice system he gave to be followed to establish a regime that Allah has talked about in the Holy Qur'an. Aameen.

Please refer to our reference page: Eminent Companions of Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him)  to know more about other eminent companions.

You may also refer to our Reference Pages for knowing more about Islam and Quran.

Photo | References: | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 |
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