Short Biography of Second Caliph Umar Ibn Al-Khattab (R.A.)
Praise be to Allah, and prayers and peace be upon the Prophet Mohammad (S.A.W.) and his sanctiﬁed and dedicated Companions (R.A.), as well as all their followers till the Day of Judgment.
The life of Al Farooq Umar ibn Al-Khattab (R.A.) is a shining page of Islamic history, which outshines and supersedes all other histories. The history of all nations put together does not contain even a part of what his life contained of noble conduct, glory, sincerity, jihad, and calling others for the sake of Allah.
His Ancestry and Attributes:
His full name is Umar ibn Al-Khattab ibn Nufayl ibn Abdul- Uzza. He was known as Abu Hafs and earned the nickname of Al Farooq (the Criterion) because he showed his Islam openly in Makkah and through him Allah distinguished between disbelief and faith. He was born in 583 AC (Cristian Era), thirteen years after Amul-Fil (the year of the Elephant). His father was Al-Khattab ibn Nufayl, and his grandfather Nufayl was one of those whom Quraish Tribe used to refer for judgment. His mother was Hantamah bint Hashim bin Al Mugheerah.
His Physical Appearance:
With regard to his physical characteristics, he was white with a reddish complexion. He was muscular, tall, solid and bald. He was very strong, not weak or puny. When he walked, he walked quickly, when he spoke, he spoke clearly, and when he stuck, he caused pain.
His early Life in the Pre-Islamic Society:
Umar spent half of his life in the pre-Islamic society (Jahiliyah), and grew up like his peers of Quraish, except that he has an advantage over them in that he was one of those who had learned to read, of whom there were very few. He bore responsibility at an early age, and had a very harsh upbringing in which he knew no type of luxury or manifestation of wealth. His father Al-Khattab forced him to tend his camels. His father's harsh treatment had a negative effect on Umar which he remembered all his life.
From his early youth he also excelled in many kinds of sports, such as wrestling, riding and horsemanship. He enjoyed and narrated poetry, and he was interested in the history and affaires of his people. He was keen to attend the great fairs of the Arabs such as Ukaz, Mijannah and Dhu al-Majaz, where he would make the most of the opportunity to engage in trade and learn the history of the Arabs, and the battles and contests that had taken place among the tribes. Besides, he engaged in trade and proﬁted, which made him one of the rich men of Makkah. He became acquainted with many people in the countries that he visited for the purpose of trade. He travelled to Syria in the summer and Yemen in the winter. Thus, he occupied a prominent position in Makkan society during the pre-Islamic era.
Umar (R.A.) was wise, eloquent, well spoken, strong, tolerant, noble, persuasive and clear of speech, which made him qualiﬁed to be an ambassador for Quraish, to speak up for them before the other tribes. Ibn Al-Jawzi said:
“The role of ambassador fell to Umar ibn Al-Khattab. If there was a war between Quraish and another tribe, they would send him as an ambassador, and if another tribe was boasting against them, they would send him to respond in kind, and they were pleased with him.”
Before converting to Islam, Umar (R.A.) opposed Islam and he even threatened to kill Prophet Mohammad (S.A.W). He was adamant and cruel in opposing Messenger of Allah (S.A.W.) and very prominent in persecuting Muslims.
Umar lived during the pre-Islamic era and knew it inside out. He knew its true nature, its customs and traditions, and he defended it with all the power he possessed. Therefore, when he entered Islam, he understood its beauty and true nature, and he recognized the great difference between guidance and misguidance, disbelief and faith, truth and falsehood, and he spoke his famous words:
" The bonds of Islam will be undone one by one when there will be a generation brought up in Islam who do not know what ignorance is.”
His Conversion to Islam:
When a small group of Muslims migrated to Abyssinia, Umar (R.A.) became worried about the future unity of the Quraish and decided to have Prophet Mohammad (S.A.W.) assassinated. On his way to murder Prophet (S.A.W.), Umar met his best friend Nuaim bin Abdullah (R.A.) who had secretly converted to Islam but had not told Umar. He told Umar (R.A.) to inquire about his own house where his sister and her husband had converted to Islam. Upon arriving at her house, Umar found his sister and brother-in-law Saeed bin Zaid (R.A.) reciting the verses of the Quran from SurahTaha (20th Surah of Quran). He started quarreling with his brother-in-law. When his sister came to rescue her husband, he also started quarreling with her. Yet still they kept on saying: "you may kill us but we will not give up Islam". Upon hearing these words, Umar slapped his sister so hard that she fell to the ground bleeding from her mouth. When he saw what he did to his sister, he calmed down out of guilt and asked his sister to give him what she was reciting. His sister replied in the negative and said "You are unclean, and no unclean person can touch the Scripture."
The ﬁrst ray of the light of faith that touched his heart came on when he saw the women of Quraish leaving their homeland and travelling to a distant land because of the persecution that they were facing from Umar (R.A.) and other unbelievers. His conscious was moved and he felt remorse and pity for them, and he spoke kind words to them which they had never expected to hear from his person beforehand.
Umm Abdullah bint Hantamh said:
“When we were migrating to Abyssinia, Umar, who used to persecute us mercilessly, came and stood over and said to me: are you leaving? I said: Yes, for you have persecuted us and oppressed us, and by Allah we are going out in the land of Allah until Allah grants us a way out.”
Then Umar said:
“May Allah be with you. And I saw kindness that I had never seen before.”
Umar was moved by this woman's attitude and he felt distressed. How much suffering the followers of this new religion were putting up with, but despite that they were standing ﬁrm. What was the secret beyond this extraordinary strength? He felt sad and his heart was ﬁlled with pain. Shortly after this incident, Umar (R.A.) became Muslim as a result of the prayers of the Messenger of Allah (S.A.W.), which was the main reason for his acceptance of Islam. The Prophet Mohammad (S.A.W.) had prayed for him saying:
"O Allah honor Islam through Abu Jahl bin Hisham or through Umar bin Al-Khattab."
Umar (R.A.) came the next day to the Messenger of Allah (S.A.W.) and accepted Islam.
Umar became Muslim in 616 AD, one year after the Migration to Abyssinia, when he was twenty-seven years old. He accepted Islam three days after Hamzah (R.A.), the Prophet’s uncle. At that time the Muslims numbered thirty-nine. Umar (R.A.) said:
"I remember that when I became Muslim, there were just thirty-nine men with the Messenger of Allah (S.A.W.), and I brought the number to forty."
Thus, Allah caused His religion to prevail and grant glory to Islam.
Abdullah Ibn Masood (R.A.) said:
"We felt a sense of pride when Umar became Muslim, for we could not circumambulate the Holy Mosque and pray, until Umar became Muslim. When he became Muslim, he fought them until they sent us free. Then we prayed and circumambulated the Kaaba."
He also said:
"Umar's becoming a Muslim was a victory, his migration was help, and his caliphate was a mercy. We could not pray or circumambulate the House until Umar became Muslim. When he became Muslim, he fought the unbelievers until they left us alone and let us pray."
His Migration to Madinah:
When Umar (R.A.) decided migrate to Madinah, he insisted on doing so openly. Ibn Abbas (R.A.) said:
"Ali bin Abi Talib said to me: 'I do not know of any of the migrants who did not migrate in secret, except Umar ibn Al-Khattab. When he decided to migrate, he put on his sword, put his bow over his shoulder, picked up his arrows and carried his stick. He went out to the Kaaba, where a number of Quraish were gathered in its courtyard and circumambulated the House seven times, at a leisurely pace. Then he went to the Maqam [Place or the stone on which Ibrahim (A.S.) stood while he was building the Kaaba] and prayed tranquilly. Then he went to the circles of people, one by one, and said to them, 'May your faces become ugly! Allah will only rub theses noses in the dust. Whoever wants his mother to be bereft of him and his children to become orphans and his wife to become a widow, let him meet me behind this valley.’ Ali said, 'No one followed him except a few of those who were weak and oppressed. He taught them and told them about Islam, then he went on his way.'
Revelation of the Quran Agreeing with His Opinion:
Narrated Anas: that Umar (R.A.) said, "I had the same idea as Allah in three things: I said, 'O Allah's Messenger (S.A.W.), I wish that you take the station (Maqam) of Ibrahim as a place of prayer.' So Allah revealed: "And take you (people) the Maqam (place) of Ibrahim [or the stone on which Ibrahim stood while he was building the Kaaba] as a place of prayer." (Surah Al-Baqarah 2:125)
He also said,
'O Allah's Messenger (S.A.W.), Good and bad people enter upon your wives, I wish that you order them to cover themselves with veils.' So the verses of Al-Hijab (i.e. veiling of the women) were revealed. The wives of the Prophet (S.A.W.) gathered against him and I said to them: 'It may be If he divorced you (all) that his Lord will give him instead of you, wives better than you.' Thereupon Allah revealed a verse with similar wordings. (Surah At-Tahrim 66:5)" (Bukhari: 4483).
His Title “Al-Farooq”:
Umar was an expert jurist and is best known for his justice, in the same way for Muslims and non-Muslims. This value earned him the title of ‘Al- Farooq’ (the one who distinguishes between wright and wrong).
Umar (R.A.) was most humble to Allah and led an austere life. His food was very coarse and he would patch his cloth with leather. He used to carry a water skin on his shoulders in spite of his great esteem. He used to laugh little and never joked with anyone. Engraved on his ring was: "Death is sufﬁcient as an admonition, O' Umar."
When he was appointed as the Caliph, he said: "Nothing is permissible (for me) from the treasury more than two clothes, one for the cold season and the other for the dry season. The sustenance of my family will be the equivalent of an average man of Quraish and not the rich amongst them, for I am just an ordinary man among the Muslims (i.e. nothing special about me)."
Muawiyah ibn Abu Sufian (R.A.) said: "As for Abu Bakr (R.A.), he never desired the world and the world did not desire him. As for Umar, the world desired him but he never desired the world. As for us, we have been soiled by the world inside-out."
At the time of drought, Umar (R.A.) ate bread and oil until his skin turned pale dark and he would say: "What a bad leader I am if I eat my ﬁll and the people go hungry."
His Appointment as Caliph and Successor of Abu Bakr (R.A.):
"There has befallen me what you see and I think I am going to die soon. Allah has freed you from your oath of alliance to me, and your oath is no longer binding. Your affairs are in your hands, so appoint over you whomever you like. If you appoint someone whilst I am still alive, I think it is less likely that you will become divided after I am gone."
The Companions consulted one another, each of them trying to refuse the position of Caliph for himself and seeking it for his brother whom he thought was ﬁt and qualiﬁed for it. Hence they came back to him and said:
"We have decided to leave it to you, O' Successor of the Messenger of Allah (S.A.W.)."
He said: "Give me time so that I may choose someone who will be most pleasing to Allah, most protective of His religion and His slaves.”
So he looked out over the people and said to them:
"Do you accept the one whom I appoint as your leader? For by Allah I have tried to appoint the best; I have not appointed a relative. I have appointed as your leader Umar ibn Al-Khattab, so listen to him and obey."
Companions said: "We will listen and obey."
Then Abu Bakr (R.A.) turned in supplicating to Allah, expressing his concern to his Lord. He said:
"I have appointed him not by the command of Your Prophet, seeking nothing but what is in their best interests. I fear sedition for them and I have thought long and hard about the matter. I have appointed over them the best of them and the one who is keenest to lead them in the right way. Now here I am with Your decree about to be fulﬁlled. Take care of them after I am gone for they are Your salves."
Umar Ibn Al-Khattab (R.A.) started to act as the caliph of the Muslims as soon as Abu Bakr (R.A.) passed away.
The above conversation clearly shows that Abu Bakr's (R.A.) nomination of Umar ibn Al- Khattab (R.A.) as caliph was based on the consent of the majority of the Companions (R.A.). Hence, we see that the appointment of Umar (R.A.) was done in accordance with the soundest and fair principles of Consultation (Shura). Hence, Umar (R.A.) succeeded Abu Bakr (R.A.) as a second Caliph on Monday, 22nd of Jumada Al-Akhirah, 13th AH (August 23rd, 634 AD).
His Reign as Caliph:
He was the ﬁrst Caliph to be nominated as "Prince of the Believers". His achievements, during his reign as Caliph, are so many and cannot be mentioned in this article. However, following are some highlights of his accomplishments during the tenure of his ‘Khilafat’:
1.He is the one who founded the Lunar Calendar (Hijri Year i-e according to the date of Prophet Mohammad's (S.A.W.) migration to Medinah).
2. In his era Islam gained a great position, as the Islamic Empire expanded at an unprecedented rate ruling the whole Iraq, Egypt, Libya, Tripoli, Persia, Khurassan, Eastern Anatolia, South Armenian and Sajistan. Jerusalem (first Qiblah) was conquered during his reign alongwith the whole Sassanid Persian Empire and two thirds of the Eastern Roman Empire.
3. Introduction and implementation of different Political and civil administration jobs such as Chief Secretary (Khatib), Military Secretary (Khatib ud Diwan), Revenue Collector (Sahib ul Kharaj), Police Chief (Sahib ul Ahdath), Treasury Officer (Sahib Bait-ul-Maal) and many other official posts.
4. Umar (R.A.) was the first to establish a special department for the investigation of complaints against the officers of the State.
5. Umar (R.A.) was the first to introduce the public ministry system, where the records of officials and soldiers were kept. He was also the first person ever to appoint police forces to keep civil order. Another important aspect of Umar's (R.A.) rule was that he banned any of his governors/officials from engaging in trade or any sort of business dealings whilst being in a position of power.
Imam ibn Kathir said that when Umar (R.A.) concluded his rites of Hajj in 23 Hijri, he prayed and asked Allah to take him to Himself and to grant him martyrdom in the land of the Prophet (S.A.W.) just as it is narrated by Zaid bin Aslam: Umar (R.A.) said:
“Oh Allah! I ask you for martyrdom in Your cause and death in the land of Your Messenger (S.A.W.)." (Bukhari: 1890)
Allah indeed kind to whom He wishes. It happened that Abu Lulu Al- Fayruz, the Magian (the ﬁre worshiper) and nonbeliever and had a roman origin, stabbed Umar (R.A.) while he was in the Fajr Salah (dawn prayer) with a dagger of two blades. He stabbed him three times, one of these below the naval. Hence, Umar (R.A.) fell down bleeding copiously.
He asked Abdul Rahman bin Awf (R.A.) to replace him to conclude the prayer. Abu Lulu withdrew with his dagger but kept stabbing whoever came his way in the mosque until he stabbed thirteen people out of which six died as a result of their injuries. Abdullah bin Awf (R.A.) threw his robe on him and when he realized that he was going to be overpowered, Abu Lulu stabbed himself to death (may Allah's curse be upon him).
Umar (R.A.), was taken to his house with blood gushing out from his wound. All of these occurred before sunrise.
Then Umar asked: "Who killed me?"
His companions replied, "Abu Lulu, the Magian."
Then Umar was delighted and said: "Praise be to Allah who Has not afﬂicted me from the hands of someone who subscribes to monotheism. I used to forbid you from sending to us any uncouth inﬁdel but you disobeyed me."
Then he said: "Call for my brothers."
They asked: "Who?"
Umar (R.A.) said: "Uthman, Ali, Talhah, Zubair, Abdul Rahman bin Awf, and Sad bin Abi Waqas."
When they arrived, Umar (R.A.) said:
“I have looked into the affairs of the Muslims and I found you six the foremost and the smart. I do not see the authority ﬁtting for anyone except one of you. If you are upright, then the affair of the people will be upright. If there is disagreement, it is because you had disagreed (amongst yourselves)." His blood was mopped for him, and he said: "Consult for three days, and in the meantime, Suhayb Ar-Rumi should lead the people in prayer." They asked: "Who should we consult with, O' Prince of believers?" He replied: "Consult with the Immigrants and the Supporters as well as the commanders of the armies."
He requested for a drink of milk. When he drank it, the whiteness of the milk could be seen oozing out from his wounds and it was clear for them that he would die. He said:
"The time is now (i.e. of death). If I were to have the entire world, I would have given it out to ransom myself from the horror of the point of departure."
Then, his soul was taken. This happened on 26 Dhul Hijjah, 23 AH (Wednesday 7th of November 644 AD). He was sixty-three years old and his era extended for ten years.
As per Umar's (R.A.) will, he was buried, with the permission of Aishah (R.A.), alongside Prophet Mohammad (S.A.W.) and caliph Abu Bakr (R.A.) in Masjid Al-Nabawi.
Sayings of Umar (R.A.) that Became Well Known Wisdom:
Umar (R.A.) said: "Whoever concealed his secrets will have the choice (of telling whomever he wants to tell), but whoever speaks or acts in a specious manner should not blame anyone who thinks badly of him. Do not think badly of a word spoken by your brother (fellow) when you can still ﬁnd good ways to interpret it. Think positively of your brother until you are certain that he is not like that. Do not swear a great deal lest Allah humiliate you. There is no better reward for one who disobeys Allah concerning you that your obeying Allah concerning him. You should seek sincere friends and maintain good relations with them, for they are a pleasure at times of ease and a support at times of hardship."
Whenever Umar (R.A.) sent forth an army he would advise them to fear Allah. Then he would say when the standard of war is hoisted:
“In the name of Allah and upon the help of Allah, proceed with the backing of Allah and His support. Adhere to truth and patience. Fight in the cause of Allah against those who disbelieve in Allah and do not disobey, for Allah does not like the disobedient. Do not be coward at the time of meeting (the enemy) and do not mutilate when you have the upper hand and do not be immoderate when you conquer. Do not argue during ﬁghting. Do not kill women, the aging, and the children. Avoid killing them when two enemies meet and in the heat of attack (in front of your enemy). Do not go to the extreme with regard to spoils of war, distance (your intention for) the sacred war –Jihad- from seeking with it worldly honors, and rejoice at the proﬁt that you have gained from the transaction you have entered. That is indeed the great success.
Peace be upon Umar ibn Al-Khattab (R.A.) for eternity.
Book Name Umar Ibn Al-Khattab (May Allah be pleased with him)
Managed by Kamal Ahmad
Translated by Manal Qutub
From the Series of Men and Women around Muhammad (S.A.W.)