An ever-green plant that the Holy Prophet (PBUH) had beseeched the Creator to beautify the garden of Islam with was Hazrat Abu Hafs Umar ibn al-Khattab (RA), also known as Hazrat Umar-e-Farooq (RA). He (RA) was highly sagacious, extremely wise, completely just, and possessed a privileged personality for whose acceptance of Islam the Holy Prophet (PBUH) had implored his Lord in the solitude of nights. Known for his piety and justice, Hazrat Umar (RA) was among the most significant political and religious actors of Islam even after the demise of the Holy Prophet (PBUH). He (RA) served as the second caliph of Islam and played a key role in regulating the institutions of the young caliphate and became a symbol of justice because of his meticulous statesmanship. As a follower of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) He (RA) was a dedicated person who never fell short of demonstrating his commitment towards Islam and the final Messenger (PBUH).
Introduction and Early Life
Hazrat Umar-e-Farooq (RA) is a mighty figure in Islamic history as he rendered meritorious services for the cause of Islam. His real name was Umar while Farooq was his title. Abu Hafsa was his patronymic name. The name of his father was Khattab. He (RA) belonged to Bani Adi clan of Quraysh tribe. He (RA) was associated with profession of trade. Even prior to embracing Islam, he (RA) was held in esteem in Makkah on account of his diplomatic skills and insight, and Quraysh used to send him as their emissary for resolving disputes with other tribes. He (RA) was an excellent orator and was well versed in warfare. He (RA) entered into the fold of Islam after 40 men and 11 women.
During the initial days of Islam, there were only (17) seventeen literate people in Quraysh; Hazrat (RA) was one of them. His conversion to Islam was the result of supplication of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) who had prayed: “O Allah, give strength to Islam through the conversion to Islam of either one of the two Umars,” [Umar bin Khattab or Umar bin Hasham (later known as Abu Jahal)]. His acceptance of Islam materialized in a strange manner. When the Holy Prophet (PBUH) commenced preaching of Islam, the Quraysh of Makkah became his staunch adversary and so did Hazrat Umar (RA).
One day, he (RA) while he was on his way to the abode of Holy Prophet (PBUH) with an ulterior motive – according to the famous anecdote, he (RA) wanted to kill the Prophet (PBUH). Along the way, somebody told him that his sister Fatima (RA) and his brother-in-law Said (RA) had converted to Islam and were reading the Quran at home. So, he (RA) changed his direction and came to her sister’s house. When he (RA) reached there, he saw them reciting something (verses of Surah Ta-Ha) from a written stuff. They tried to hide that material. Hazrat Umar (RA) became so angry that he beat the two of them without hesitation or mercy. Yet, Fatima did not back down and had enough courage to stand up her enraged brother, explaining that both of them had accepted the teachings of Muhammad (PBUH) and had converted to Islam. After his sister’s speech, Hazrat Umar (RA) softened his attitude and asked Fatima (RA) to read the Quran to him. After listening to the recitation of the Quran for a while, he (RA) made up his mind and went to the prophet (PBUH) to learn how to become a Muslim. He, thus, entered the fold of Islam.
Read More: Hazrat Abu Bakr Siddiq (RA)
Initial Services for the Cause of Islam
- His conversion to Islam gave a much-needed strength to Muslims. After he became a Muslim, Muslims chanted loudly, for the first time, Allah-o-Akbar “Allah is the greatest,” and they openly started propagating Islam.
- He (RA) took part in all the battles that were fought during the blessed life of the Holy Prophet (PBUH), and showed great feats of valour and dedication. Ten members of his family participated in the battle of Badr, along with him.
- On the occasion of battle of Tabook, when the Holy Prophet (PBUH) sought financial assistance from Muslims, he (RA) brought half his belongings for the cause of Islam.
- On the accession of Hijrat, i.e. migration to Madina, he (RA) openly announced his migration. No infidel had the courage to stop him.
- On account of his profound services for the cause of Islam and close relationship with the Holy Prophet (PBUH), Holy Prophet (PBUH) said “Had there been any prophet after me, he would have been Umar”. The Holy Prophet (PBUH) also said, “O Umar, by God Satan will flee from the way/path that is chosen by you”.
- He served as an important advisor during the caliphate of Hazrat Abu Bakar (RA) who used to consult him before taking every important decision.
- In consonance with advice of Hazrat Umar (RA), the 1st Caliph Hazrat Abu Bakr (RA) constituted a commission for compiling and preparing manuscript of Holy Quran.
Election as Caliph
During the last days of his worldly life, the 1st caliph of Muslims Hazrat Abu Bakr (RA) consulted important companions for choosing his successor. In conformity with their opinion, he (RA) nominated Hazrat Umar (RA) as the second caliph of Muslims in what can be called a smooth transition of power.
Hazrat Umar (RA) had averted armed conflicts among Muslims on the issue of selecting head of Umah on three occasions. Firstly, after the demise of the Holy Prophet (PBUH), he (RA) supported the candidacy of Hazrat Abu Bakr (RA) for caliphate. Secondly, after the death of 1st caliph, he (RA) was elected as caliph in a smooth manner and without any opposition. Thirdly, during his last days, he (RA) constituted a six-member panel and assigned it the task of choosing one amongst them as his successor, i.e. the third Caliph of Muslims. That committee comprised of Hazrat Usman (RA), Hazrat Ali (RA), Hazrat Talha (RA), Hazrat Zubair (RA), Hazrat Abdurrehman bin Auf (RA) and Hazrat Saad bin Abi Waqas (RA). With majority vote, they elected Hazrat Usman-e-Ghani as the 3rd caliph.
The ten years of the caliphate of Hazrat Umar (RA) are considered a glorious period of conquests during which Islamic empire expanded immensely and the two great powers of that time, i.e. the Romans and Persians, were defeated decisively many times.
Major conquests of his era are:
I. Battle of Qadsiya
This battle was fought between Muslims and Persian armies. The former was led by Hazrat Saad bin Abi Waqas (RA) while the latter by Rustum. It was a fierce battle in which about 9000 Muslims embraced martyrdom. But the Persian casualties were four times larger including their Commander-in-Chief. Huge booty fell into the hands of Muslims. This battle dealt a deadly blow to the Sassanid Empire of Persia, and heralded the Islamic Empire of the Middle Age. After the battle, the capital of the Sassanid Empire Madain was conquered by Muslims and Kufa and Basra were founded, the cities which later on became centres of Islamic civilization and culture. Conquest of Iraq was result of this battle
II. Battle of Yarmuk
This battle was fought between Muslims and the Byzantine army. Comprising about 30000 soldiers, the Muslim army was led by Hazrat Khalid bin Waleed (RA). The Roman army was more than three times larger. However, Muslim losses were about 3000 dead whereas casualties of Romans were nearly ten times to those of Muslims. The immediate result of victory of Yarmuk was the conquest of Syria.
III. Capture of Jerusalem and Palestine
After their great triumph in the battle of Yermuk (in 636AD), Muslims got hold of Jerusalem under the command of Hazrat Amr bin al-As (RA) without any bloodshed. After the triumph, the Muslim army started advancing towards Jerusalem and laid siege to the city. The Byzantine commander fled, leaving the city in the control of Patriarch who offered to surrender on the condition that only the caliph must take its keys from him in person. Accepting this condition, Hazrat Umar (RA) travelled from Madina to Jerusalem, accompanied by no escort but only his slave, with whom he (RA) exchanged ride on camel-back. On the last lap of the journey, it was the slave’s turn to ride the camel. Thus, Hazrat Umar (RA) reached Jerusalem while he was holding the reins of the camel, though he (RA) was, at that time, the most powerful ruler in the world. The Patriarch delivered him the keys of Jerusalem. With Jerusalem, Palestine also became part of Islamic Empire.
IV. Conquest of Egypt and Fall of Alexandria
Egypt was also conquered during the caliphate of Hazrat Umar (RA). In battle for Babylon and Alexandria, the Commander-in-Chief of Muslim army was Amr ibn al-Aas. Although Muslim army was about half the Byzantine army, the Muslims fought with great valour and zeal and won it. After the conquest of Egypt, Fustat was founded as headquarter of Muslims in Egypt.
V. Final subjugation of Persia
The battle of Nihavand proved as the final nail in the coffin of Persian Empire. An-Numan (RA) was the Commander-in-Chief of Muslim Army in this battle. Although Persian army was much larger and mightier than the Muslim army, but the Muslims came out triumphant on account of their valour, dedication and war plan. About 100,000 Persian were killed in the course of battle. This battle shattered the Persian Empire and decided its fate once for all. The Arab historians have thus termed it the Victory of Victories. After this great triumph, the whole of Persia came under the sway of Islam.
Reforms of Hazrat Umar (RA)
Apart from providing unprecedented expansion to Islamic Empire, Hazrat Umar (RA) introduced umpteen innovative and excellent administrative reforms that not only ameliorated the administration but also went a long way in bringing happiness and prosperity to the people. Some of his reforms are as under:
1) He (RA) was the 1st Muslim ruler who adopted the title of Ameer-ul-Momineen, i.e. “Leader of the Faithful”.
2) He (RA) established the institution of Bait-ul-Maal, i.e. National Exchequer, on sound footing and gave the concept that it is the property of people, not of the rulers.
3) He (RA) held the census for the very first time in Islamic history.
4) Salaries/Pensions were fixed for unemployed people and for social work. So, he (RA) was the first ruler who established a true welfare state.
5) A number of canals were dug for providing water to the people so as to meet their drinking and irrigation needs.
6) Godowns were constructed for storage of food and concrete steps were taken for controlling profiteering, hoarding and adulteration.
7) He (RA) installed a proper judicial system by appointing Qazis/Judges. However, in order to ensure that people have direct, easy access to them, separate buildings were not built rather they were directed to sit in mosques.
8) Islamic calendar commencing from Hijra, i.e. migration, was initiated.
9) A regular postal system was established to ensure speedy and effective delivery of mail.
10) An impressive policing and spying system was introduced that heralded an exemplary law and order situation.
11) A regular army was established by fixing salaries for the soldiers. New cantonments were built.
12) He (RA) took special care of subjects. For that purpose, he used to visit areas of his caliphate in disguise, especially at night. He (RA) used to say: “Even if a dog dies within the territorial jurisdiction of my caliphate, I would be held accountable for it.”
13) Teachers were appointed in provincial towns that were settled by the Arab tribes for imparting them education.
14) New cities like Kufa, Basra and Fustate were established.
15) For the convenience of pilgrims, open space around Kaba was epspqned .
16) He (RA) also took care of non-Muslims subjects and abolished jizya i.e. Tax on aged and disabled non-Muslim charged by the Muslim Empire when he (RA) found an aged Muslim begging in the Madina.
On 27th of Zil Haj 23 AH, he (RA) was stabbed with a poisoned dagger by Abu Lolo Feroz, when he (RA) was leading the morning congregational prayers. He (RA) was injured and five days later on 1st Muharram 24 A.H he (RA) embraced martyrdom. His glorious caliphate lasted for 10 years and five months.
The non-Muslim writers also accept and acknowledge Hazrat Umar (RA) as a great conqueror and successful administrator who gave zenith to Islamic Empire. For example Michael Heart has written the famous book “the 100” in which he has discussed lives of 100 personalities who have left indelible effects on human history from the time of Moses to this age. In this book, only two great Muslim personalities the Holy Prophet (PBUH) and Hazrat Umar (RA) have been mentioned. He has compared Hazrat Umar (RA) with Saint Paul of Christianity on account of his enormous services for the cause of Islam. Throughout his life he (RA) exhibited extra ordinary level of fear of Allah and piety. He (RA) used to say, “A man is not known by his worship but by his dealing with other people”.