AL-FAROUQ OMAR IBNUL- KHATTAB


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  • AL-FAROUQ OMAR IBNUL- KHATTAB







  • AMIRUL-MU'MINEEN

    THE
    COMMANDER OF THE FAITHFUL

     

    With the Prophet, Allah's Peace and
    Blessings be upon him, `Omar was the second counsellor after Abu-Bakr. His
    counsels and his opinions were always taken into the best consideration. We
    have seen how the Qur'an, in several cases, came down to corroborate the
    counsels and opinions `Omar very honestly and daringly gave. And this is why
    the Prophet, Allah's Peace and Blessings be upon him, once said:
    "Allah
    has set the truth on `Omar's tongue and in his heart."
    `Omar had played that
    role since the very day he testified, at the house of Al-Arqam, that there was
    no god but Allah and that Muhammad was His Prophet. He kept on playing his role
    with all the honesty and faithfulness he had, while the Prophet was alive. And
    when the Prophet passed away, he played the same role with Abu-Bakr, the first
    caliph of Islam, as his first counsellor. `Omar's severity with Abu-Bakr's
    lenience formed a wonderful governing body that went on very successfully while
    Abu-Bakr was alive. This state of affairs did not last longer than two years,
    after

    which Abu-Bakr
    followed his most beloved companion and master, Allah's Peace and Blessings be
    upon him. It was quite natural forAbu-Bakr, Allah be pleased with him, to
    recommend, in the illness of his last days, the man who would be his successor.
    The inspired
    choice was `Omar ibnul-Khattab. With all the wisdom he had learnt from his
    master, Allah's Peace and Blessings be upon him, Abu-Bakr knew that the new
    Muslim state would be in need of a man like `Omar ibnul-Khattab with his
    wonderful architectural mind that would lead the Muslims to the great
    prosperous future that was awaiting them.

     

    `Omar, then,
    became the second caliph, or "Amirul Mu'mineen" (The Commander of the
    Faithful), the new title he was the first to gain. The first thing he did after
    being nominated as caliph, was an address he delivered to
    the Muslims, in which he introduced, very honestly and very clearly, his
    constitution as commander. In his cordial address to the Muslims, `Omar said:

     

    "I had
    been in the company of the Messenger of Allah, and a servant of his; and he had
    been, as no body else, of extreme lenience and mercy; and he had been, as Allah
    says of him:

    {
    بِالْمُؤْمِنِينَ رَؤُوفٌ رَّحِيمٌ } التوبة128

    “to the believers compassionate and
    merciful." (Al Tawbah:9:138)

    And I had been at his disposal,  an unsheathed sword, until he sheathed
    me or let me go. Such had I been with the Messenger of Allah, until he passed
    away, with me much pleased. Many thanks to Allah for this, and with it I am
    greatly happy. Then Abu-Bakr came into power to manage the affairs of the
    Faithful; and he was, as you all know, of much graciousness, generosity and
    lenience; and I was a servant of his and an assistant, mixing my severity with
    his lenience, thus being at his disposal an unsheathed sword, until he sheathed
    me or let me go. Such had I been with him until he passed away, with me much
    pleased. Many thanks to Allah for this, and with it I am greatly happy.

    And now, brethren, I have been nominated
    to manage your affairs. So be aware,  then, that that severity has been
    weakened, but it will be used only against those who are oppressive and
    aggressive  to the Muslims. But to those who seek
    safety, religion and good will, I shall be more lenient than each of them to
    the others. I will never allow anybody to oppress another, or be aggressive to
    him; for, then, I will put his cheek to the ground and set my foot on the other
    cheek until he yields to the truth. And after practising this severity of mine,
    I will put my cheek to the ground for those who are virtuous  and content.

     I will not levy any taxes on your products or on any of the
    booties Allah has bestowed  upon
    you, except what is due; ; and I pledge  not to expend it except where it should
    be expended. It is incumbent upon me to
    increase your grants  and livelihoods and fix up, for you,
    every means of defence, God willing  It is incumbent upon me not to throw you
    into jeopardies, nor confine you in your front posts;  and I pledge that if you stay away on
    missions, I will be responsible for your families until you return to them.

    Therefore, fear Allah, Oh servants of
    Allah. And help me against yourselves by leaving me in peace; and help me
    against myself by ordering beneficence and forbidding
    abomination,  and by giving me good advice and counsel
    in all the affairs of yours Allah has charged me with."


    With this constitution derived  from `Omar's Faith and his clear
    understanding of the Qur'an, and based upon the teachings and preachings of his
    master, Allah's Peace and Blessings be upon him, `Omar began his age which marked
    a new epoch in the history, not only of the Muslims, but of the whole world at
    large. After `Omar, the whole world has never seen his equal as a governor, nor
    has it known the like of him as a man. He was unique in everything, so much so
    that some of those who had been dazzled by his wonderful qualities, have
    assumed  that he was but a myth invented by some
    intelligent Muslim writers, and that no human being could be of such a baffling
     personality. But those who know `Omar's
    life very well will not be so baffled. They will always remember how `Omar was
    chosen by Allah to strengthen Islam in response to the Prophet's prayer and
    request to his Lord to choose the nearer and more beloved to Him for that purpose;
    and they will always remember his sound counsels to the
    Prophet, and the several wonderful situations and cases in which the Archangel
    Gabriel came down with Allah's revelation in support and confirmation of what
    he said; and they will al ways remember his conversion to Islam, and how it
    paralysed the inimical activity of Quraish, and stopped their inhuman
    castigation of the first poor and weak Muslims. They will always remember
    `Omar's daring power, his transparent honesty, his inspired opinions and
    counsels, his patronage and protection of the Muslims in Makkah before his
    emigration to Madinah, his heroic strife  in the first battles against disbelief,
    and, in short, his most integral  personality that has always baffled, and
    will remain to baffle, the whole world, until Allah inherits the earth and all
    on it. Such a great man with all those wonderful qualities knew where to take
    his place in the presence of the Prophet, Allah's Peace and Blessings be upon
    him. He was his servant, disciple, companion and counsellor, and from him he could
    learn a great deal. And when the Prophet passed away, after nominating Abu-Bakr
    to lead the Muslim congregration in the prayers during his illness, `Omar, most
    willingly and submissively, took his place beside Abu-Bakr, the first Caliph,
    as his servant, companion and counsellor. `Omar believed in the Prophet's
    declaration that Abu-Bakr's faith was weightier  than the faith of the whole
    "Ummah" (Muslim community), including `Omar. And ,Omar would never
    forget Abu-Bakr's stand against apostasy and the apostates'  riot,  after the Prophet had passed away. Such
    a stand will immortalize Abu-Bakr who, seeing `Omar tending to leniency towards
    the apostates, held him from the neck and said, with all the power of Faith,
    "Coercive  in your Pre-Islamic days, and
    strengthless now) `Omar By Allah, if they (the apostates) abstain from paying
    the slightest thing they used to pay to the Prophet, I will fight them for that
    as long as the sword remains in my hand." Had it not been for that
    faithful powerful attitude of Abu-Bakr's, Islam would have come to a tragic
    end, and become part of an old-world history. And we are told that it was
    Abu-Bakr alone, from among all the Prophet's companions, who heard Gabriel
    revealing to Muhammad:

    {إِنَّكَ
    لَا تَهْدِي مَنْ أَحْبَبْتَ وَلَكِنَّ اللَّهَ يَهْدِي مَن يَشَاءُ وَهُوَ
    أَعْلَمُ بِالْمُهْتَدِينَ}  القصص56

     "Indeed, you will not guide those whom you love, but Allah
    guides whoever He wishes." (Al Qasas:28:56)

    That was on the occasion of Abu-Talib's
    death. And it was Abu Bakr who sacrificed all his wealth to Allah and His
    Messenger, and bought the enslaved weak Muslims, like Bilal-ibn-Rabah, and
    offered them their freedom, making them his brethren in Islam, the religion of
    Allah that condemns slavery in all its forms. And it was Abu-Bakr who, alone,
    gained the title of "The All- Truthful Friend", and who was chosen by
    the Prophet to accompany him in his emigration to Madinah, and to stay hiding
    with him in the cave of Thawr. And it was Abu-Bakr about whom the Prophet said:

     "Indeed Allah, above His Heavens,
    hates to see that Abu-Bakr is considered at fault."
    No other companion of the Prophet's reached that rank
    of a man who used to say: "If one of my feet
    is inside Paradise, and the other outside it, I will not be safe from Allah's
    shrewdness."
     This was the great man who succeeded the
    Prophet after he had passed away. And had Abu Bakr lasted longer as the first
    Caliph of the Muslims, the newly-established Muslim State would have reached a
    status never to be matched by any other state in the world, old and new. But
    Allah had ordained that that aspired status would be reached at the hands of
    `Omar, the Second Caliph and the Commander of the Faithful.

    We have seen
    `Omar addressing the Muslims the very day he was elected Caliph. In this
    address we have a pledge and a confidence: a pledge from the ruler and
    Commander upon himself to be responsible for every soul and everything in his
    state, providing them with every means of security and freedom; and a
    confidence, from the depth of the heart, of the Muslims in their ruler and
    Commander. And in between the pledge and the confidence, internal reforms and
    external conquests came one after the other in rapid succession

    II

     `Omar was the ideal Muslim ruler who had all the great
    ability to hold the balance of justice with a very steady and powerful hand.
    This justice, the like of which the world has never known so far, was a combination
    of several sources: a part of it `Omar did in -herit from his ancestors;  another part he did derive from the
    over-all constitution of his personality; a third part he did acquire from the
    experiences of his life; and the most important part he did gain from the
    instructions of his religion; and all these component parts of his justice made
    of him the man who was feared and reverred by all other men, and the ruler in
    whom all his people found not only their security, but their freedom as well.

    Justice, in its simplest and purest
    sense, is equality among the people in rights and obligations,  in the execution of punishments and in
    giving rewards; no distinction between the rich and the poor, the powerful and
    the weak, those who are kinsmen to the ruler and those who are otherwise. And
    `Omar's justice was not an exception. As the Head of the State, he felt himself
    responsible for every soul and everything existent on the land of Islam. This
    is why he treated all the Muslims alike; not only that: but he treated all the
    people under his rule, Muslims or otherwise, alike. And he reached the summit
    of justice when he dealt with his own sons as he did with any other members of
    his community indiscriminately. The best
    evidence in this respect is the story of his own son `Abdur-Rahman. Narrators
    state that `Abdur-Rahman ibn-Omer got drunk one evening with a friend of his while
    they were in Egypt. In the morning they felt rueful of what they had done the
    night before, and decided to go to `Amr ibnul-'As, the Governor of Egypt, and
    ask him to chasten them by executing the legal punishment  upon them. Disliking to punish the
    Caliph's son publicly, `Amr scourged  `Abdur-Rahman in the patio of his house.
    The news at once reached `Omar in Madinah. He was greatly irritated, and wrote to
    `Amr ibnul `As reprimandingly, commanding him to send `Abdur-Rahman at once to
    Madinah, which thing `Amr immediately did, writing to the Caliph regret fully,
    and confirming that he had punished his son in the same way as he punished
    everybody else, under the same circumstances, in the patio of his house. But
    `Omar did not accept that justification, nor did he approve of the legal punishment
    inflicted upon his son by `Amr. He waited until `Abdur-Rahman reached Madinah,
    sick and terribly fatigued of the journey.
    Yet `Omar did not care; he rather handled the Islamic Law, and administered the
    punishment upon his son in public. And narrators say that some time after the
    punishment, `Abdur-Raliman's health deteriorated;
     and when his father saw
    him in the throes of death, he did nothing more than say to him: "If you
    meet my master, the Messenger of Allah, Peace and Blessings be upon him, tell
    him that your father administers the legal punishments, and observes the bounds
    Allah has placed on man's actions."

    With `Amr ibnul-'As again there is
    another incident in which `Omar's justice is practised in a manner that has
    surprised and baffled the whole world. `Amr's son was one day racing with an
    Egyptian youth of his age, when the latter outdistanced the Governor's
    son in the race. But `Amr's son was displeased, and beat the Egyptian saying to
    him: "How dare you outdistance the son of the most notable parents?" the Egyptian
    went to the Caliph in Madinah and presented his grievance at which `Omar sent
    for `Amr and his son to come to Madinah at once. When they arrived `Omar said
    to the Egyptian in public: "Now beat the son of the most notable
    parents." Then, turning to `Amr ibnul-'As, `Omar gave his everlasting
    utterance: "How
    dare you enslave people who have been born free?!" This was always `Omar's
    policy with all his vicegerents and walis and he insisted on following that
    policy, and never hesitated to be so firm and stern, giving them no
    opportunity, under any circumstances, to deviate from the right path, or yield
    to any kind of corruption.
     

     `Omar's relationships and policy with his vicegerents used to
    be clearly defined in such addresses to the people as: "Brethren of Islam!
    Let me confirm to you that I have not sent you vicegerents to flog  your bodies or usurp your properties.
    But I always send them to you to teach you the principles and values of your
    religion, as well as the tradition of your Prophet. If they do otherwise, let
    your grievances reach me at once, and, by Him in Whose Hand is my soul, I will
    certainly retaliate upon
    them...." Such a declaration on the part of `Omar must needs turn the
    people into real censors  upon their rulers, and create
    constructive criticism
    which would always lead them to follow the right path, otherwise complaint
    after complaint would reach the Caliph who would never be lenient with any of
    his walis.

    III

    Besides being
    the Caliph and Commander of the whole Muslim Community, `Omar was a direct and
    actual ruler of Madinah, the Capital of the Muslim empire that was to come very
    soon and emerge as
    one of the greatest empires the world had ever known. Through his direct rule
    in Madinah, `Omar set up the ideal government which has been surprising and
    baffling to the whole world up till the present day. World history and world
    historians have tired themselves in trying to reach the depths of that
    wonderful personality that the rulers at all times and in all places have been
    aspiring to imitate. Omar was a man
    who undertook to care for both the private and public conditions of all Muslims
    and Non-Muslims alike, thus giving the example to all rulers throughout
    history, those who consider themselves greater than the surface transitory
    problems of their people.

    How about a
    ruler, like `Omar, who used to walk `about at night to explore the conditions
    of his people, and get information about how they were living? Such walks were
    always a blessing to the whole community. In one of those walks, and in the
    silence of midnight, he heard a woman complaining of her husband's absence away
    from her and chanting:  

    "O
    by God, had it not been for my fear of Allah, this bed would have been shaken
    to its foundations by some illicit act committed on
    it."
    At once `Omar went to his
    daughter Hafsa and asked her: "How long can a woman endure the pain of her
    husband's absence?" And Hafsa replied: "A month, two, three, till a
    maximum of four months."

    Upon that, the
    very conscientious, equitable and merciful ruler sent for the woman's husband
    to come back home from the Holy War he had been joining. Moreover, a command
    was given to all husbands taking part in any Holy War not to be away from their
    wives any longer than four months.


     And how about the story of the
    milk woman-seller, and her argument with her God-fearing daughter? The mother
    wanted her daughter to adulterate the milk by
    mixing it with water. The daughter protested saying that it was immoral  to do it. But then the mother said that
    nobody, not even `Omar himself, would see them while they were adulterating the
    milk, upon which the daughter shouted that if `Omar did not see them, `Omar's
    God, the Knower, the Cognizant and the Seer would do. `Omar was happy to hear
    that, and went straight away to his house where he called his sons to come
    before him. He asked for the one of them who had not been married yet, and told
    him that he had chosen his bride for him. The son welcomed the choice, and the
    bride was no other than the milk-woman's daughter. Years passed and this milk-
    woman's daughter, `Omar's daughter-in-law, gave birth to a baby: a little girl
    who grew up, and was married to `Abdulaziz-ibn-Marwan, to give him, and the
    whole world with him, the fifth orthodox caliph of
    Islam: `Omar-ibn-'Abdulaziz.

     

    And how about
    the story of the hungry children whom `Omar heard crying with pain, because
    they could not find what to eat? Their old mother was sitting powerless, not
    knowing what to do, except to invoke God against `Omar, complaining of him to
    the Just. When he knew what they needed, he himself went and brought a sack of
    flour and a container of oil, carried them on his back and refused to let
    anybody else carry them for him saying "Nobody will carry off my sins for
    me on the Day of Judgment." He went to the old woman, helped her to
    prepare food for her children, and remained with them until the children ate
    and then went to bed. The old woman's gratitude was such that she said to
    `Omar, not knowing who he was: "In the morning, I will go to `Omar and
    tell him that if `Omar had forgotten us, Allah had not, but had rather sent you
    to help us and save the children." `Omar's response was nothing more than
    this: "When you go to `Omar, you will find me there."

    And how about
    the story of `Omar and the horse? He once bought a horse, and after riding it
    for a while, in order to try it, he found that there was a defect in it. So he
    wanted to return it to its owner, thinking that the latter might have deceived
    him, but the man refused to take his horse back. Nothing did the Commander of
    the Faithful do, except to lodge his complaint with a judge against the
    horse-seller who decided to choose the judge himself, and he actually chose a
    man with the name of "Shuraih", a judge well-reputed to be very
    equitable. `Omar stood before the judge, who, having studied the case and
    listened to both men, gave his verdict addressing `Omar:

    "Take
    away what you have bought or give it back as unimpaired and flawless as when you
    took it." What did `Omar do then? Did he give commands that the judge be
    kept in jail? Did he discharge him from his post? No. He was rather happy to
    hear the verdict, and, looking at the judge he said, "Jurisdiction is none but
    this." Then he awarded  Shuraih for his justice by appointing
    him as the "Judge of Koufah", a post many reputable judges, then,
    aspired to take.

     And how about the story of the Yamanite cloths? When those
    cloths came in quantities from Yaman, `Omar distributed them equally in public
    among the people. Some days later he was seen wrapped in a garb that
    matched with his size, which meant that he had taken for himself more cloth
    than he had given everybody else. One day, with that long garb on,

    `Omar went up
    the pulpit to address the people and urge them to join the Holy War. He started
    his address saying:

    "O
    Brethren! Listen and obey."

     

    But instead of
    being answered with warm shouts and loud applause, a strong voice was heard
    saying to him:

    "No
    listening and no obedience."

    And `Omar,
    very calmly, looked at the speaker, who chanced to be `Abdur-Rahman ibn-'Awf, a
    well-known companion of the Prophet's, and said:

     "Why? May Allah have mercy on
    you!" `Abdur-Rahman ibn-'Awf, with a daring confidence, said:

    "Supposedly you took the same length
    of the cloth as you gave each one of us. How, then, have you had that garb
    tailored to
    you when you are taller than anyone of us? You must have favoured ourself with
    more cloth."

     In defence of himself, `Omar summoned his son `Abdullah to
    explain how all that had happened, and `Abdullah proceeded forward to declare
    that he had relinquished his share of
    the cloth to his father, to allow him to have a suitable garb tailored for him
    to meet the people in. Upon hearing that, `Abdur-Rahman ibn-'Awf, now being
    convinced and calmed down, said to `Omar.

     "Now we listen and obey." And how about the story
    of the woman's dowry? In an address to the people, `Omar advised them not to
    exaggerate  in paying the dowry. But in a very
    daring and astonishing argument, which is strange to the world of today, a
    woman raised her voice addressing the Commander of the Faithful:

    "O`Omar! How have you forgotten
    Allah's Revelation:

    {وَإِنْ
    أَرَدتُّمُ اسْتِبْدَالَ زَوْجٍ مَّكَانَ زَوْجٍ وَآتَيْتُمْ إِحْدَاهُنَّ
    قِنطَاراً فَلاَ تَأْخُذُواْ مِنْهُ شَيْئاً أَتَأْخُذُونَهُ بُهْتَاناً وَإِثْماً
    مُّبِيناً}  النساء20

    "And
    if you want to substitute a wife for another wife, and had given one a qintar
    (aboutkilo grams) (of gold), take back nothing of it. Would you take it by
    slander, and a manifest wrong?" (Al Nisaa:4:30)

    `Omar kept
    silent for a while, and after deliberating the woman's logical argument, he
    said to himself and to the people, as though to let the whole world hear and
    man's history record:

    "This is
    where a woman is right, and that is where `Omar has made a mistake. O 'Omar!

    All the people
    know better than you do!"

     

    And how about
    `Omar's private life at home? His household had to suffer a great deal in their
    attempts to keep in conformity with the
    master's commands and desires. `Omar's wife lived as any other wife did. She
    was not allowed to eat sweets. As almost every body else did, `Omar used to
    light at night a small torch in the light of which he considered the affairs of
    the State. But if anybody went to talk to him about private matters, having
    nothing to do with the State's affairs, he put out the light of the torch, as
    it was a special property of the State. Nobody had the right to use it in
    private matters.

    Whenever he
    wanted to command the people to do or not to do something, `Omar always started
    with his household. He used to gather them and address them saying:

    "Everybody
    has an eye upon you, as the bird of prey on the flesh. I swear that if any
    prohibition is done by any of you, he or she shall be doubly punished."
    Because of the little subsistence he allocated for himself
    from the Treasury, `Omar had to resort to trade for his and the household's
    livelihood. He used to borrow money, and very often did he find himself in
    difficulty, so much so that many times did he find himself unable to pay back
    his debts in time. Yet the debtors were not tolerant and always kept
    on asking and asking for the repayment of their debt! without any consideration
    of the man's post or circumstances. And when 'omar was in the throes of death,
    nothing could distract him from asking
    about his debts, or commanding his son `Abdullah to pay them back saying:
    "If the property of `Omar's family is sufficient for paying back the
    debts, that will do; otherwise, ask Banu-Adiy. If they fail to do it, ask
    Quraish, and do not go farther than that." But `Abdur-Rahman ibn-'Awf, who
    was present, suggested that those debts could be borrowed from the Treasury,
    and paid back to their owners, till they were brought back to the Treasury.
    `Omar first rejected  that suggestion, but then he summoned
    his son `Abdullah, and said to him: "Will you guarantee that?" And
    `Abdullah said: "I will."

    He fulfilled his promise to his father,
    and not later than a week after the burial of his father, `Abdullah carried the
    borrowed money and paid it back to `Uthman, the new Caliph, and brought the
    witnesses who had witnessed his pledge to his father before, to testify now
    that the money had been repaid to the Treasury. What happened was that a small
    house

    belonging to
    `Omar was sold; and the price was used for the repayment of his debts. This is
    why that house remained for a long time after it had been sold, bearing the
    name of "The Repayment House".

    IV

     The Ramadab (Famine) Year: `Omar' s success in tackling all the
    problems of construction and organization was only parallelled by his success
    in dispelling all the griefs and worries befalling his subjects. He understood
    very well the Prophetic Tradition which said:
    "Everyone of you is a
    guardian and responsible for those in his charge; the Imam (leader) is a
    guardian and responsible for his subjects; the man, in his home, is a guardian
    and responsible for his household; the woman, concerning her husband's
    property, is a guardian and responsible for what she is entrusted with; the
    servant, in his master's house, is a guardian
    and responsible for his custody.  So everybody is a guardian and
    responsible for the charge entrusted to him."
    And the Commander of
    the Faithful took very much care to bear that responsibility to the utmost
    degree of perfection. The nature of his position as he understood it, and as
    all other rulers of today should, was that he considered himself the guardian
    of every being on the land of the whole Islamic State. "If a mule stumbled
    in Iraq, I will be responsible for that before Allah: Why I had not repaired
    the road for it." And here lies the secret of his greatness. Awe from
    Allah was always the light that showed him the right path. No wonder, then,
    that anything he said or did was but an inspiration accompanying the great
    genius of a man who was always conscious of the Presence of Allah: the Seer,
    the Cognizant and the Knower. And if `Omar had earned for himself the title of
    "The Great Architect of Islam"
    in matters dealing with the construction and organization of the State, as we
    shall see later, he can also be called "The most noble, equitable, and
    merciful guardian of all his subjects."

     We have seen examples of how he was all the time living the
    problems, worries and troubles of his subjects, and how he always exerted
    himself to find solutions for such problems, and thus dispel his people's
    worries and relieve them of all their troubles. The whole question is a matter
    of mutual love between the ruler and the subjects that will inevitably lead to
    mutual confidence
    between them. It is not for nothing that Allah, in the Glorious Qur'an, gives
    His command:

    {
    أَطِيعُواْ اللّهَ وَأَطِيعُواْ الرَّسُولَ وَأُوْلِي الأَمْرِ مِنكُمْ}  النساء59

     "Obey Allah, and obey the Messenger and the rulers from
    you." (Al Nisaa:4:59)

    This, beside
    other innumerable incidents in the reign of the
    Commander of the Faithful, might explain why `Omar's earnest zeal always pushed
    him to do what might raise him to the rank where he, as a ruler and guardian of
    the Muslim Community (Ummah), would come next to Allah and his Messenger in
    matters of obedience.

    Towards the
    end of the eighteenth century of the Islamic era, the Arabs of Hidjaz, Tihama
    and Najd were grievously stricken by drought, which case lasted for over nine
    months during which no single drop
    of rain fell until the earth became ash-grey. This is why the period is called
    "The Ramadah Year" or "The Ash Year", indicating the
    dryness which inflicted the Arabs of those regions with a famine the like of
    which they had never suffered before.

    During such a
    disaster, `Omar's personality manifested itself in a
    manner never to be found in any other ruler all through the world history,
    ancient and modern. That personality which combined firmness with brilliance,
    endurance with vigor of action, resignation to the Will of Allah with incessant
    communications
    with his vicegerents to send whatever help they could, was the most dynamic
    force that implemented the will of Allah to the benefit of the people. It was
    the gracious hand that was stretched out to drive away the disaster, and save
    the people from starvation. `Omar's time,
    thought and energy were almost confined, day and night, to the wiping out of
    the tears of the crying youngsters and to the relieving of the pains of the
    elders - all grievously suffering from the beginning of starvation. During the
    day, he used to tire himself out in considering the multitudinous affairs of
    the people. At night, and after saying the last prayers in the mosque, he used
    to go home and pray as long as he could with his mind, heart and soul, all the
    time connected to the Heavens, in earnest request that the famine be
    extinguished. Then
    he had a little sleep after which he used to wake up quickly, go out, and walk
    about, here and there, till he reached the tents of the Bedoums who had come to
    stay around Madinah in quest of food and water.

    The Commander
    of the Faithful used to walk about by almost every house during the last part
    of the night to check the people's conditions, doing that at times alone, and
    at other times accompanied by one of his subordinates In most cases, the two
    were seen going about with sacks of flour and oil, and `Omar distributed them
    among those who were in need, and perhaps helped them in making the food
    himself. When the drought was aggravated, and starvation
    drew nearer and nearer, `Omar did not hesitate to write to his vicegerents in
    Palestine, Iraq and Syria, commanding them to send food and clothes as early as
    they could. The first of those was `Amr-ibnul-'As, the Governor of Palestine.
    `Omar sent him this message:

    "In the
    Name of Allah, Ar-Rahman, the Ever Merciful".

     From the servant of Allah, `Omar, the
    Commander of the Faithful, to the disobedient Ibnul `As. Are you going to wait
    and see me and everybody here starving, when you and yours are living in
    affluence? Succour,
    Succour,
    Succour!"

    `Amr's reply
    came to `Omar immediately, begging him not to worry, and assuring that a long
    caravan of camels loaded with food and clothes would very soon arrive in
    Madinah. This did really happen; other vicegerents did the same thing and sent
    whatever succour they could to `Omar in Madinah. Therefore, he sent men to
    receive the food and clothes the moment they arrived in Arabia, and then
    disperse everywhere
    in the desert to give whatever help the Bedoums needed. They slaughtered camels and
    distributed their meat, and gave the Bedoums flour, oil and clothes.

     

    In Madinah,
    `Omar himself slaughtered camels everyday: those who were short of food went
    either to eat and satisfy their hunger, or take home what sufficed them and
    their households of meat and flour. Thousands of hungry people went everyday
    for either purpose. As for `Omar himself, he found pleasure in eating with the
    people. He never favoured himself or his household with anything more than he
    offered his subjects. Then there came a time when he deprived himself from
    eating meat, and after a while, added fat and milk as two other kinds of
    prohibited food. He enjoined upon himself
    only one kind of food to eat morning and evening: oil. And he kept being so
    harsh and
    stern upon himself until his face darkened, and emaciation was all that could
    be seen of him in place of the great stature and the ruddy face, signs of the
    good health `Omar enjoyed before "The Ash Year". The Caliph's
    household also had to undergo the same harshness and sternness he enjoined upon
    himself. He never allowed any of them to relish eating while
    the people around were hungry. He was filled with grief for what had been
    afllicting the people, and he underwent the pains of worry and concern about
    the people's affairs, so much so that his companions were filled with
    apprehension for his safety.

     

    Amidst all
    those disastrous circumstances,
    the Commander of the Faithful used to perform long prayers in which he prayed
    Allah, in awe and fear, not to ordain the extinction of the Muslim Community
    (Muhammad's Ummah) to be at his hands. He one day went up the pulpit and
    addressed the people, reminding them that what they had been afflicted with
    might be the result of Allah's discontent with him alone, or with all the
    Muslims excluding him, or with all of them together. But whether it was this or
    that or otherwise, they had to repent whatever sins
    they might have committed and ask for Allah's forgiveness. Then `Omar called
    them for the prayer for rain which they all performed behind him. A few days
    later, rain fell heavily. It seemed as though Allah had responded to `Omar's
    prayers. That was what `Omar had been taught by his friend and master, Allah's
    Peace and Blessings be upon him, i.e. to perform the prayer for rain whenever
    there was drought, and ask for Allah's forgiveness thenceforth. That is the
    guidance of the revelation of Allah in the Glorious Qur'an:

    {فَقُلْتُ اسْتَغْفِرُوا رَبَّكُمْ إِنَّهُ كَانَ غَفَّاراً }
    {يُرْسِلِ السَّمَاء عَلَيْكُم مِّدْرَاراً }  نوح 10-11

    "So I said: `Ask forgiveness from your Lord;
    for certainly He is Ever-Forgiving. He will send rain to you in
    abundance." (Nuh:71:11-10)

     During "The Ash Year" `Omar suspended the collection
    of the poor-due; but the year after, when conditions became better, he sent the
    tax-collectors every where to levy the alms, in double value, then divide half
    of it among the badly-off people of the tribes, and bring to him the other
    half, to go to the Treasury. May Allah be pleased with you, O`Omar, the most honest
    and God-fearing guardian of Islam and the Muslims.

     

     

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