‘Umar ibn Al Khattaab

My very first class that I ever took with AlMaghrib Institute was Conquest – the History of the Khulafaa`. I fell in love during this class – with all of the sahabah and sahabiyaat. No one had told me their stories as they were told to me in that class and I felt a personal connection with them; I felt as if they were more human, as odd as that sounds. It was during that class that they truly became my role models. I wish AlMaghrib still offered the class. I would take it again in a heartbeat.  Although I am following my An Nawawi series, my primary source for this are my  notes from that class.

Bismillah.

‘Umar ibn Al Khattab

Who has not heard of ‘Umar ibn Al-Khattaab? He was one of the greatest and most beloved of the Prophet’s companions after Abu Bakr (radiyallahu ‘anhum). We hear stories of him throughout our childhood, in khutbahs, and he pops up whenever you study the Seerah of the Prophet sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam. I hope you learn a new thing or two here, or at least enjoy refreshing your memory of stories of him 🙂

Pre-Islam

‘Umar was in his late 20s when the Prophet sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam first began to receive revelation. He was actually one of the most staunch opposers and persecuters of Islam and Muslims before he accepted Islam. ‘Umar would volunteer to torture slaves. It’s interesting that sometimes we see that now – the fiercest opposers of Islam often become the fiercest supporters.

When ‘Umar saw some people migrating to Habasha, he said to a female relative (Umm ‘Abdullah): “May you travel in peace.” Umm ‘Abdullah went to her relatives and told them that perhaps ‘Umar would convert. She was told that the donkey of ‘Umar would convert before he did 🙂

The Believes Can Practice Openly!

The Prophet sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam made du’aa` to Allah, “O Allah! Give strength to Islam especially through either of two men you love more: ‘Umar bin al-Khattaab or Abu Jahl bin Hisham.” (At-Tirdmidhi, the chapter of Virtues; the Virtues of Abu Hafs ‘Umar bin Al-Khattaab). Of course, ‘Umar was the one who came to Islam.  

The story of ‘Umar’s conversion is very well known. It is said that he was on the way to kill the Prophet sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam  when someone told him that his sister had embrased Islam. Hence, he decided to go to his sister and take care of his family first. Upon coming to his sister’s house, he heard the people inside reciting Qur’an. They hid the Qur’an before letting him in. He requested to see what they were reading but his sister refused. He then struck his sister and  she started to bleed. ‘Umar felt sorrowful and compassionate, seeing his sister like that. He again requested to see what they were reading. His sister told him that he must go and wash himself completely and then he could touch what they were reading. He did so and came back and read the Qur’an. This touched his heart and he embraced Islam. (Jamal az-Zarabozo said that this story does not seem to be authentic).

‘Umar’s conversion was a real triumph for the cause of Islam. Up until then, the Muslims had to practice their worship secretly. They had to hide their Islam because of persecution. The Muslims now performed their rites of worship in the Holy Sanctuary itself.

Ibn Ishaq narrated on the authority of ‘Umar: “When I embraced Islam, I remembered the archenemy of  Muhammad sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, i.e, Abu Jahl. I set out, and knocked at his door. When he came out to see me, I told him directly that I had embraced Islam. He immediately slammed the door repulsively disapprpoving my move as infamous and my face as ugly.” So ‘Umar didn’t fear telling anyone! As a matter of fact, he went out to let people know he had become Muslim!

Mujahid, on the authority of Ibn Abbaas radiyallahu ‘anhu, related that he asked ‘Umar why he had been given the epithet of Al-Farooq (he who distinguishes truth from falsehood), he replied: “After I embraced Islam, I asked the Prophet sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, ‘Aren’t we on the right path here and Hereafter?’ The Prophet sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam answered, ‘Of course you are! I swear by Allah in Whose Hand my soul is, that you are right in this world and in the Hereafter.’ I, therefore, asked the Prophet sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, ‘Why then do we have to conduct secret activities? I swear by Allah Who has sent you with the Truth, that we will leave our concealment and proclaim our noble cause publicly.’

We then went out in two groups, Hamzah leading one and I the other. We headed for the Masjid in broad daylight when the polytheists of the Quraysh saw us, their faces went pale and got incredibly depressed and resentful.

On that very occasion, the Prophet sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam attached to me the epithet of Al-Farooq.”

Ibn Mas’ood related that the Muslims were never able to pray at the Ka’bah until ‘Umar embraced Islam (radiyallahu anhum).

Abu Hafs

‘Umar was a shepard in his youth. He was the youngest of the khulafaa` (caliphs) when he became khalifa at 53 years old. He passed away at 63, the same age the Prophet sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam was when he died. His nickname was Abu Hafs. Hafs means “lion” in Arabic. Although his daughter was the famous Hafsa (Umm al-Mu`mineen), his nickname Abu Hafs was due to his toughness. He was very tall and had a large body. When he rode a horse, his feet would drag along the ground.

There were very few people who were literate during that time, and ‘Umar was amongst them. He was one of the 24 scribes of the Prophet sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, who wrote down the revelation. (See this post on Preservation and Compilation of the Qur’an.)

Virtues

The virtues of ‘Umar are many. We will just mention some here.

Knowledge

‘Umar radiyallahu ‘anhu was very knowledgable. Often times he would suggest something to RasulAllah sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam for which revelation would later be sent. For example, he once mentioned to the Prophet sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam about maqamay Ibraheem being taken as a place of worship. Also: abstaining from alcohol, hijaab (the screening) for the wives of the Prophet sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, and many other things. Once, when ‘Umar was writing the revelation and he remarked, FatabaarakAllahu ahsan al-Khaaliqeen (So Blessed is Allah, the Best of Creators). The Prophet sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam told him to write that down because that was how it was revealed to him (meaning, he actually completed the ayah). SubhaanAllah.

The Prophet sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam once said, “While I was sleeping, I saw myself drinking [milk], and I was so contended that I noticed its wetness coming out of my fingernails. I then gave the milk to ‘Umar.” The people said, “How do you explain that?” He said, “It was religious knowledge.” [see Bukhaari 5/57/30]

In another hadith, the Prophet sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said,

Among the nations before you there used to be people who were inspired [although they were not prophets]. If there are any such persons among my followers, it would be ‘Umar [only].” (Recorded by al-Bukhari).

‘Umar reported many hadith. 530 hadith are reported on his authority (found in the major works). 26 are agreed upon by both Bukhari and Muslim. 34 are in Bukhari (seperate from Muslim) and 21 are in Muslim.

We already mentioned how careful the Sahabah were in transmitting hadith. Once Abu Musa went to ‘Umar’s house and knocked three times. When he did not reply, Abu Musa turned to leave. ‘Umar came out and asked, “Where are you going?” Abu Musa replied that the Prophet sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam had told him to leave after three knocks. ‘Umar told him to find another companion to witness what he was saying or ‘Umar would beat him. Abu Musa went to the masjid and found a group of Sahabah. He told them what happened, and they said, SubhaanAllah, ‘Umar doesn’t know this hadith! They sent the youngest amongst them – Abu Sa’eed al-Khudri – to tell ‘Umar. (The reason for mentioning this hadith – besides the humor 🙂 – is to show us how strict the sahabah were in preserving the words of the Prophet sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam). [see Muslim 25/5354]

It is very well known that ‘Umar radiyallahu ‘anhu was amongst the 10 Sahabi promised Jannah. There are numerous hadith on this.

Justice

‘Umar radiyallahu ‘anhu was very just and had a big influence to get people to follow justice. Sheikh Kish would mention ‘Umar a lot. He said,

Whoever speaks about ‘Umar will speak about justice. And whoever speaks justice speaks about Islam.

Here comes ‘Umar – RUN!

‘Umar was very tough, as mentioned before. He would become upset when people would be more afraid of him than the Prophet sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam. The Prophet sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said,

“O Ibn Al-Khattab! By Him in Whose Hands my life is, whenever Satan sees you taking a way, he follows a way other than yours!” [see Bukhari, 8/73/108]

About him, the Prophet sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said that he was the closed gate on fitna. [see Bukhari 9/88/216] So long as ‘Umar was around, there would be no fitna amongst the Muslims.

The Second Khalifa of Islam

Abu Bakr radiyallahu ‘anhu was the first khalifa of Islam. During his khilaafa, ‘Umar was his right hand man, his closest advisor. Although ‘Umar was known for his toughness, after becoming khalifa he became known for his mercy.

‘Umar was afraid that the people would not correct him when he was wrong out of fear of him. So when people did correct him, he would become very happy.

‘Umar made du’aa` to Allah: “O Allah, I am tough, make me soft. I am weak; make me strong. I am miserly; make me generous.”

He was a very humble leader. And subhaanAllah, if you read the stories of the Righteous Khulafaa` (Abu Bakr, ‘Umar, ‘Uthmaan and ‘Ali), you will find that they were very concerned with fulfilling their responsibility to the Muslim Ummah and feared for what they were accountable for before Allah.

When the Muslims conquered Bayt al Maqdis, the people there said that they would give the keys to no one but the leader of the Muslims. ‘Umar travelled there with a servant. The servant and ‘Umar kept taking turns to ride on the animal. When they entered the city, ‘Umar was the one leading the horse; his clothes were patched and humble. The people were shocked to see that the leader of the Muslims was so humble and simple. They liked ‘Umar and showed him much respect when he came. They told him that he could pray in one of their churches, but for fear that the Muslims would turn the church into a  Masjid because he prayed there, ‘Umar prayed somewhere else.

There was a drought during ‘Umar’s khilafa. The times were very desperate and many people died. Though ‘Umar was the khalifa, he refused to eat anything which his Ummah did not eat. “How else can I care about my flock unless that which afflicts them afflicts me also?” he said. People feared ‘Umar would die during the drought because of the strain he was putting on himself.

One day when ‘Umar was passing by a house, he heard the sounds of a woman in pain coming from inside. When he discovered that it was a woman in labor, he bought his wife, Umm Kulthoom, to come with him so that they could help out. Umm Kulthoom helped the woman and ‘Umar cooked food for them. The family was so happy, and not knowing that ‘Umar was the khalifa, they told him that he should be the khalifa, not ‘Umar.

During his khilafa, Islam spread a lot. The Persian and Roman Empires were defeated. Islam stretched from Iran to Egypt.

His Legacy

Here are some things that ‘Umar accomplished during his khilafa that we did not mention:

  1. He organized the financial administration. The first three khulafaa` were successful businessman and they implemented their knowledge in organizing the Ummah. ‘Umar would go to the marketplace and ask about Ribah (interest). If a person didn’t know about it, he would beat them with a stick saying that if they didn’t know about it, then they couldn’t avoid it. If he caught them doing something wrong (such as selling alcohol), he would shut down their businesses.
  2. Spent long nights in concern over the affairs of his flock: Although I have many notes on this, I shall leave out the stories in interest of not making this post uber long 😀 ‘Umar even feared if a donkey be injured in a pot hole on the road lest he be held accountable for it.
  3. He extended the Shoorah Institution (Shoorah is consulation)
  4. His advisors were ‘Ulamaa` (scholars) young and old
  5. He would take his governors to account.
  6. He started the Hijree calendar with consulation from ‘Ali.

His Death

‘Umar was khalifa for 10 years. He would often make du’aa`, “O Allah, grant me martyrdom in Madinah.” His son would say – How can you be martyred in Madinah, there are no battles here?

Allah accepted his du’aa` and he was shaheed in Madinah in the Masjid of the Prophet sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam. A Majusi called Abu Lu`lu` was angry with a decision ‘Umar had made, so he stabbed him as he lead prayer in the Masjid. The companions’  lines were so tight, that Abu Lu`lu` could not get away. He stabbed many other Sahabah trying to get away, but they caught him.

We had mentioned the hadith about ‘Umar being the closed gate on fitna earlier. Here is the part of the hadith relevant to our discussion:  

‘Umar said, “I do not ask you about these afflictions, but about those afflictions which will move like the waves of the sea.” Hudhaifa said, “Don’t worry about it, O chief of the believers, for there is a closed door between you and them.” ‘Umar said, “Will that door be broken or opened?” I said, “No. it will be broken.” ‘Umar said, “Then it will never be closed,” I said, “Yes.” We asked Hudhaifa, “Did ‘Umar know what that door meant?” He replied, “Yes, as I know that there will be night before tomorrow morning, that is because I narrated to him a true narration free from errors.” We dared not ask Hudhaifa as to whom the door represented so we ordered Masruq to ask him what does the door stand for? He replied, “‘Umar.”

Before his death, as he was wounded, ”Umar asked his son, ‘Abdullah, to go ask ‘Aa`isha if he could be buried beside the Prophet sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam. She wept when asked and said, “Indeed, I was saving that spot for myself. Today, I choose ‘Umar over me.” When ‘Umar got this message, he told his son, “When I die, go after the janazah to ‘Aa`isha and tell her it was the khalifa that asked you before, but today it is ‘Umar.”

O Ameer ul-Mu`mineen, by Allah, your Islam was a victory and your leadership was a conquest. By Allah, your leadership filled the lands with justice, there is no two who would make you their judge between them except that they would accept your judgement.” — Ibn Abbaas radiyallahu ‘anhu

May Allah be pleased with all of them and join us with them in Jannah. Ameen.

My sources for this short post on ‘Umar’s life : of course Jamal az-Zarabozo’s book; The Sealed Nectar (by Safiur-Rahman Al-Mubakarpuri) I used for the part about ‘Umar’s acceptance of Islam and I heavily used my Conquest notes (Conquest was taught by Muhammad AlShareef).

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