After the demise of Hadhrat Abu Bakr (radhiyallahu anhu), the new khalifah Hadhrat Umar (radhiyallahu anhu) assumed the reigns of the khilaafate by the appointment of his predecessor. The reigns of both the worldly and spiritual leadership came into his hands. His appointment as the khalifah is indeed an interesting episode.
When Hadhrat Abu Bakr’s illness took a turn for the worse and his demise seemed imminent, he summoned Hadhrat Ali, Hadhrat Uthman, some Muhaajireen and Ansaar. He addressed them thus:
“You are observing my deteriorating condition. It has, therefore, become necessary to appoint someone to take care of your affairs after me. If you wish, you may by mutual consultation nominate a man or if you wish, I shall select a man.”
They requested him to appoint a successor.
Hadhrat Abu Bakr then instructed Hadhrat Uthman to prepare a document in which Hadhrat Umar was appointed the Khalifah. Hadhrat Umar said: “I cannot bear this responsibility.” Hadhrat Abu Bakr: ‘Bring my sword. He has disobeyed the order of Rasulullah’s Khalifah.’
He then severely reprimanded Hadhrat Umar who was compelled to accept the khilaafat against his wishes. Soon thereafter, Hadhrat Talhah entered and objected to this appointment. Hadhrat Abu Bakr said:
“By Allah! Umar is the best man for you and you are the worst for him.”
He then proceeded to severely rebuke Hadhrat Talhah and expelled him. He then ordered Hadhrat Uthman to write as follows:
“This directive is being written by Abu Bakr, the Khalifah of Rasulullah at the juncture of his departure from earth and the commencement of his sojourn to the Aakhirah. I appoint after me for you Umar Bin Khattaab as the Khalifah. If he remains pious and just, then this is exactly what I am convinced of (in regard to him). If he changes, then I (have to say that I) lack the knowledge of the unknown. In my opinion I have done the best for you (by this appointment). The burden of a sin is on the one committing it. (He then cited the following aayat).
‘And soon will the transgressors know the direction towards which they are turning.”
His name is Umar and his title is Farooq. His other lesser known title is Abu Hafs. Both these titles were conferred upon him by Rasulullah (صلى الله عايه وسالم). His genealogical tree is as follows: Umar the son of Khattaab, the son of Nufail, the son of Abdul Uzza, the son of Riyah, the son of Abdullah, the son of Qirt, the son of Razah, the son of Adi, the son of Ka’b, the son of Luway, the son of Ghalib Al-Qurshil Adawi. His lineage links up with Nabi-e-Akram (صلى الله عايه وسالم) in Ka’b Bin Luway.
Hadhrat Umar was born 13 years after the event of the Elephants (i.e. Abraha’s march into Makkah to destroy the Ka’bah). He embraced Islam at the age 27. Before him 40 men and 11 women had already entered the fold of Islam.
His Acceptance of Islam
His acceptance of Islam is a wonderful episode. One day at a meeting of the kuffaar the question arose: ‘Who will kill Muhammad?’ Umar volunteered to execute this task. He picked up his sword and set off. Along the way he met Sa’d Bin Abi Waqqas who asked:
“Umar, where are you off to?”
Umar replied: “To slay Muhammad.”
Sa’d: ‘Banu Hashim, Banu Zahrah and Banu Abd Manaaf will kill you.’
Enraged by this statement, Umar remarked:
“It appears that you too have become a renegade (i.e. a Muslim). Let me first settle with you.”
Thus he drew his sword. Hadhrat Sa’d proclaiming defiantly his Imaan, also drew his sword. As they clashed, Hadhrat Sa’d said:
“Umar, first tend to your own home. Both your sister and brother-in-law have accepted Islam.”
Now, Umar’s rage was beyond bounds. He hastened to his sister’s home. The door was closed, but he heard Hadhrat Khabbab (his brother-in-law) and his sister reciting the Qur’aan. On hearing Umar’s voice, Hadhrat Khabbab concealed himself inside the house. In his haste to hide, he forgot the manuscript on which the Qur’aan was written. When his sister opened the door, Umar who was holding an object in his hand, struck her with full force on the head and blood gushed forth. He shouted:
“Enemy of your life, you too have become a renegade.”
Entering the house, he interrogated her.
“What were you doing? What were you reading?”
Hadhrat Khabbab, emerging from concealment said that they were engaged in conversation. Umar said: “You have reneged from your religion and adopted another religion.”
Hadhrat Khabbab: “If that religion is the truth, then what is wrong?”
Umar ferociously attacking him, dropped him to the ground and mercilessly assaulted him.
When his sister intervened in a bid to shield her husband, Umar struck her on the mouth with a stone drawing blood in profusion. After all, she was of the same mettle as Umar. She blurted out:
“Are you assaulting us because we have accepted Islam. Most certainly, we have embraced Islam. Do whatever you can.”
Umar’s gaze fell on the Qur’aanic manuscript and he said: “Show me what is written in it.”
His sister said: “You are impure. An impure person is not allowed to touch it.”
Although he demanded to handle the manuscript, his sister was adamant in her refusal. She constrained on him to take ghusl. After having purified himself, he took the manuscript in his hands and his eyes fell on the following aayat of Surah Ta Ha :
“Verily, I am Allah. There is no deity, but I. Therefore, worship Me and perform Salaat for My Remembrance.”
This aayat penetrated his heart and his whole being was transformed. He asked to be taken to Muhammad (صلى الله عايه وسالم). Hadhrat Khabbaab exclaimed:
“O Umar! Yesterday – Thursday night – Rasulullah (صلى الله عايه وسالم) prayed: ‘O Allah! Grant the taufeeq of Imaan to either Umar or Abu Jahl.’ It appears as if Rasulullah’s dua has been accepted in your favour.”
Hadhrat Umar then presented himself to Nabi-e-Akram (صلى الله عايه وسالم) and embraced Islam in the morning on Friday. Hadhrat Abdullah Bin Mas’ْd would say that Umar’s acceptance of Islam was a victory for the Muslims; his migration an aid for the Muslims and his khilaafate a mercy.
Umar’s Hijrat (Migration)
Even his migration is an interesting anecdote which gives a good picture of his courage and bravery. Hadhrat Ali (karramallahu wajhah) said that in the beginning people migrated by stealth. When Hadhrat Umar (radhiyallahu anhu) migrated, he strung his sword around his neck and held his bow in his hand. He took along a big supply of arrows. Firstly, he went to the Musjid and calmly performed the tawaaf, then the Salaat. He then confronted the gathering of kuffaar and addressed them as follows:
“Whoever desires that his mother wails for him, that his children be rendered orphans and his wife a widow, should come out of Makkah to combat Umar.”
He then departed. No one dared to oppose him.
His excellences are unanimous. There are numerous issues on which there is unanimity among Muslims. But, there are very few such issues on which there is the consensus of both Muslims and Kuffaar. However, among the exploits of Hadhrat Umar (radhiyallahu anhu) there are many examples on which there exists such consensus.
Even enemies concede his wisdom, intelligence, alertness, political foresight, political administration, awe and justice. Besides his immense awe, there are numerous incidents of his zuhd (abstinence) and poverty. I shall cite a few examples, since it is impossible to enumerate all such episodes.
Inspite of the awe and splendour of his life, he lived a life of extreme abstinence. His garments had several patches. Once someone counted 14 patches on his kurtah. Frequently he could not find a piece of cloth to mend his kurtah. He would then use even a piece of leather to effect the patch. Hadhrat Zaid Bin Thbit (radhiyallahu anhu) once counted 17 patches on his dress.
Two varieties of food would never be served at one time. Once his daughter, Hadhrat Safiyyah, poured some butter on the food. He became displeased, saying that she had added two varieties in a single dish.
Once he was a bit late for Jumuah Salaat. The reason for the delay was the lack of another kurtah to wear. He was waiting for his one kurtah to dry.
Once he said:
“If there was not the fear of Hisaab (Reckoning in the Aakhirah) I would have eaten roasted meat.”
Everyone who has performed Hajj in summer is aware of the extreme heat. But never was a tent or shade erected for Hadhrat Umar (radhiyallahu anhu) on any stage of his journey from Madinah Tayyibah to Makkah Mukarramah. A piece of leather would be spread in the shade of a cactus tree. He would rest thereon.
Once during a severe famine which endured for 9 months he abandoned eating of butter and meat in sympathy and solidarity with the fuqara (poor). He took an oath that he would not eat bread with anything besides olive oil. During this famine he made dua: “O Allah! Do not destroy the Ummah by my hands.”
He would visit people in their homes to ascertain their needs. He would stress that they refer their requirements to him.
His constant and abundant crying formed two dark stripes down his cheeks. He would cry so much in Salaat for the fear of Allah, that his sobbing could be heard by three rows of musallis. At times while engaged in tilaawat of the Qur’aan Shareef he would cry so profusely that his breathing would become difficult. Sometimes he would fall down. Sometimes he would lament:
“I wish I was a goat which could be slaughtered and eaten.”
Sometimes he would hold in hand a blade of grass and sigh:“I wish I was this grass.”
Sometimes he said: “I wish my mother had not given birth to me.”
He would say to people:
“Better than your life in the Aakhirat be suffering is that your worldly life suffers.”
In the beginning there was considerable harshness in him. Precisely for this reason did people avoid coming out of their homes in the initial period of Hadhrat Umar’s khilaafat. Observing this, he delivered a lengthy khutbah in which he said:
“People! I was hard until there were among you kind and beneficent men such as Rasulullah (صلى الله عايه وسالم) and Abu Bakr (radhiyallahu anhu). The combination of my hardness and their softness has brought about moderation. But, now I shall not be harsh on you. My hardness will be for only the oppressors. O People! If I oppose the Sunnat of Rasulullah (صلى الله عايه وسالم) and the way of Abu Bakr (radhiyallahu anhu), what will you do?”
After he posed this question several times, a man stood up brandishing a sword and indicated with it that he would sever his (Umar’s) neck. This audacity did not anger him in the least. On the contrary, this answer pleased him.
When he journied to the land of Shaam, he was clad in worn-out garments which had a number of patches. It was said to him that high-ranking priests of the Yahood and Nasaara would be visiting him. What will they think of the Muslims’ leader clad so shabbily? Hadhrat Umar (radhiyallahu anhu) responded:
“We are a people whom Allah elevated by means of Islam.”
In other words, our honour and respect are not by means of garments.
Inspite of him having been given the glad tidings of Jannat, the degree of his fear was overwhelming. And, despite his piety and so much fear for Allah he would ask Hadhrat Huzaifah (radhiyallahu anhu), whether Rasulullah (صلى الله عايه وسالم) had not perhaps mentioned his name too in the list of the Munaafiqeen whose names Rasulullah (صلى الله عايه وسالم) had revealed to Hadhrat Huzaifah (radhiyallahu anhu).
Hadhrat Umar’s Demise
Abu Lu’lu’, the Majْsi (fire-worshipper) had attacked Hadhrat Umar (radhiyallahu anhu) in the Fajr Salaat. The wound was fatal. Although blood flowed unabated and he would occasionally lapse into unconsciousness, he would perform Salaat in that very condition when the time for Salaat was announced. He said, while in this state:
“He who abandons Salaat has no share in Islam.”
On 1st Muharram 24 Hijri, Hadhrat Umar (radhiyallahu anhu) crossed the frontiers of this earthly abode. At the time of his demise, his head was resting on the thigh of his son, Hadhrat Abdullah (radhiyallahu anhu). In these last moments he said: “Put my head on the ground.” Although his son said that there was nothing wrong in having his head on his (Abdullah’s) thigh, Hadhrat Umar insisted that his head be put on the ground. After this was done, he said:
“If my Rabb has no mercy on me, then I am destroyed.”
Hadhrat Suhaib (radhiyallahu anhu) led the Janaazah Salaat and he was buried alongside Hadhrat Abu Bakr (radhiyallahu anhu).
His khilaafate was for a period of 10 years, 6 months and 5 days.
1) The human mind is unable to assess the exceptionally high degree of Hadhrat Umar’s humility. Inspite of being the Emperor of emperors and the king of Arab and Ajam, he was unparalleled in his attribute of tawaadhu’ (humility).
When he mounted the mimbar to deliver the khutbah, he sat on the step on which Hadhrat Abu Bakr (radhiyallahu anhu) would stand. When it was said to him to sit higher on the mimbar, he replied:
“It suffices for me to sit on that place whereon stood the feet of Abu Bakr (radhiyallahu anhu).”
2) One day during the khutbah he said:
“O People! Do not increase the mehr of women. If the mehr is fixed more than the mehr of Rasulullah’s wives and daughters, I shall confiscate the extra amount and hand it to the Baitul Maal.”
An old woman immediately challenged him, saying:
“What right do you have to do so when Allah Ta’ala says (in the Qur’aan):
‘If you (men) have given them mounds of wealth, then do not take back anything of it.’
On hearing this, Hadhrat Umar (radhiyallahu anhu) came down from the mimbar and exclaimed:
“All people have more knowledge than Umar, even the old lady.”
3) The food he ate was such that not even a poor person would be inclined to eat it. Once he had some guests from Iraq among whom was Hadhrat Jareer Bin Abdullah (radhiyallahu anhu). They were unable to eat the simple food of Hadhrat Umar (radhiyallahu anhu).
4) In a year he would acquire only two sets of garments from the Baitul Maal. The cloth too was of a coarse type. Whenever it would become torn, he would patch it. Sometime the patch was of leather and sometimes of sackcloth.
5) During his stay at Baitul Maqdis his kurtah was torn at the back. He gave it to someone to wash and mend. When the washed and patched kurtah was brought to him a new kurtah was also presented. This was specially made for him. Both these kurtahs were put before Hadhrat Umar (radhiyallahu anhu). Stroking the new kurtah with his hand, he commented: “This cloth is very soft.” So saying, he returned it and added:
“That kurtah (his own one) is better. It absorbs perspiration well.”
6) One day approximately 50 Muhaajir Sahaabah gathered in the Musjid. They were discussing Hadhrat Umar’s zuhd (abstinence, worldly renunciation, abstention form worldly comforts and pleasures for Allah’s sake – Translator).
It was said:
“Look at Umar in whose control is the empire of Kaisar and Kisraa! His orders operate in the east and west. The delegations of Arab and Ajam visit him. They all see him with a kurtah of a dozen patches. He should be advised to change his dress. He should wear better garments. Garments do create an impression. He should make better arrangements for his food. There should be some elaborate daily arrangement for both meals. The Muhaajireen and Ansaar coming to meet him, should join him in meals.”
Although it was resolved to offer this advice to Hadhrat Umar (radhiyallahu anhu), no one could muster up the courage to tell him. Finally they decided to ask Hadhrat Ali who being Hadhrat Umar’s father-in-law would be able to advise him. When they approached Hadhrat Ali (radhiyallahu anhu) he declined and suggested that they approach Ummahaatul Mu’mineen (The Mothers of the Mu’mineen, viz. Rasulullah’s wives).
Ahnaf Bin Qais (radhiyallahu anhu) says that they then went to Hadhrat Aishah and Hadhrat Hafsah. Both were at the same place. Hadhrat Aishah (radhiyallahu anha) agreed to tell Hadhrat Umar (radhiyallahu anhu). But Hadhrat Hafsah (radhiyallahu anha) said that she would not go. But in view of the insistence of this group of Sahaabah both finally went to Hadhrat Umar. They presented an eloquent introductory speech in this matter. He patiently listened to their advice and broke down crying profusely. He recounted the austerity and poverty of Rasulullah (صلى الله عايه وسالم) and both wives cried as well. He then commented:
“Listen! I had two companions. If I should adopt a way which differs from their way which I had observed, I will not be blessed with their companionship (in the Aakhirah).”
This condition of Hadhrat Umar (radhiyallahu anhu) endured to the end. Not the slightest change was admitted in his life-style.
7) Once while Hadhrat Abu Mْsa Ash’aari (radhiyallahu anhu) was sweeping the premises of the Baitul Maal, he found a dirham (silver coin). He gave it to one of Hadhrat Umar’s grandsons who was a little child. When Hadhrat Umar saw the dirham in the child’s hand he enquired about it. When the child informed him that it was given to him by Hadhrat Abu Mْsa, Hadhrat Umar became very displeased. He took the dirham from the child and reprimanded Hadhrat Abu Mْsa as follows:
“O Abu Mْsa! Could you not find a home more contemptible than my home?”
8) Towards the end of his life, Hadhrat Umar (radhiyallahu anhu) started to fast in abundance. He would fast the whole year excluding the 5 days on which it is not permissible to fast. He adhered rigidly to this practise of fasting day after day in succession.
9) In 13 Hijri, the first year of his khilaafate, he appointed Hadhrat Abdur Rahmaan Bin Auf (radhiyallahu anhu) as the Amir of Hajj. Thereafter he went himself every year for Hajj. During his khilaafate he performed ten Hajj. In 23 Hijri which was the last year of his khilaafate, he took along the Azwaaj-e-Mutahhaaraat (The Holy Wives of Rasulullah) as well.
10) His fear for Allah was unparalleled. One day he was reciting . As he recited the aayat (And when the books will be scattered), he fell down unconscious. He remained ill for several days.
11) One day he passed by a house where the owner was reciting Surah Tْr. When he heard the man reciting the aayat: (Verily, the punishment of your Rabb will most certainly occur.)
Hadhrat Umar (radhiyallahu anhu) dismounted and leaned against a wall for a long while. On returning home he fell ill for a month. People visiting him could not fathom his sickness.
12) Hadhrat Umar (radhiyallahu anhu) once despatched the army under the command of Saariya (radhiyallahu anhu). The enemy had concealed a group of their men behind a mountain. When the Muslim army was about to be entrapped, Saariya heard Hadhrat Umar’s voice commanding:
“O Saariya! Be alert of the mountain pass. O Saariya! Be alert of the mountain pass.”
Hearing this command, Saariya was alerted and he took the necessary precautions to advert what would have been a disaster for the Muslim army.
Hadhrat Umar (radhiyallahu anhu) while delivering the Jumuah Khutbah was divinely apprized of the state of the Muslim army, hence he called out to Saariya, commanding him even while hundreds of miles away. By the permission of Allah, the voice of Hadhrat Umar reached the ears of Hadhrat Saariya.
13) It was his practise to go on nocturnal excursions in the streets of Madinah Tayyibah. One night, after considerable trudging, he sat down tired, leaning against a wall. He heard a woman instructing her daughter to add water to the milk. The daughter responded:
“Amirul Mu’mineen has issued an instruction prohibiting the mixture of water with milk.”
The mother ordered the daughter to add water to the milk saying that neither Amirul Mu’mineen nor his announcer is present to see. The daughter said:
“Wallah! I shall never do so.”
14) Hadhrat Abdullah Bin Imran Bin Hafs (radhiyallahu anhu) narrates that once Hadhrat Umar loaded onto his back a goatskin waterbag full of water. When people made some comments in this regard, Hadhrat Umar said:
“My nafs appeared pleasing to me, I, therefore, desired to disgrace it.”
15) Once his son donning beautiful dress came to him. Hadhrat Umar (radhiyallahu anhu) struck him with his whip and the boy cried. When Hadhrat Hafsah asked the reason for beating him, Hadhrat Umar said:
“He was proud of himself. I desired him to understand that his nafs is contemptible.”
16) Hadhrat Abbas (radhiyallahu anhu) narrates:
“A year after Umar’s demise, I supplicated to Allah for him (Umar) to appear in my dream. Thus, after a year I saw him in a dream wiping the perspiration from his forehead. I said:
‘May my mother and father be sacrificed for you! O Amirul Mu’mineen! What is this condition?’ He replied: ‘I have just now been released (from the Reckoning). I was close to destruction, but I found Allah Ta’ala Most Merciful.’ ”
17) Once when he saw an intoxicated man, he desired to punish him, but the man insulted him. Thereupon Hadhrat Umar came away. When he was asked for the reason for allowing the man to go free inspite of the insults, he said:
“His insults angered me. If I had punished him, my nafs too would have had its share therein. I do not approve of punishing any Muslim for the sake of the desires of my nafs.”
18) When Hadhrat Umar would see a male dressed in fine garments, he would punish him with his whip and say: “Leave fine garments for females.”
19) His famous dua was:
“O Allah! Grant me maut in the pure city of Your Rasool and grant me shahaadat in Your path.”
How would he attain martyrdom in Allah’s Path while residing in Madinah Tayyibah, the capital of Islam, was a mystery. However, it was not difficult for Allah Ta’ala, The Cause of all causes, to fulfil a dua which emanated from the innermost recesses of the heart. Hadhrat Umar (radhiyallahu anhu) attained shahaadat while performing Salaat and in the midst of his devoted companions.
20) Once when Rasulullah (صلى الله عايه وسالم) permitted Hadhrat Umar (radhiyallahu anhu) to go on Umrah, he (Nabi-e-Kareem) said:
“O my brother! Remember me too in your dua.”
21) It was Hadhrat Umar’s practise to visit the abattoir with whip in hand. When he saw someone purchasing meat on two consecutive days, he would whip him and say:
“Can’t you keep your stomach empty for the sake of your neighbours and relatives?”
By this statement, he implied that one should tend to the needs of neighbours and not be selfishly concerned with only one’s own comforts.
22) Many a time when he desired to eat something, he would delay it for a year.
23) When he passed by a dump, he would say:
“This is your world for whose greed and desire you are perishing.”
[Masha’ikh-e-Chisht, Hadhrat Maulana Muhammad Zakariya Sahab (r.a.)]