Sayyiduna Umar RadhiAllahu Anhu

Umar ibn al-Khattāb RadhiAllahu Anhu (c. 581 - November 3, 644), sometimes referred as `Umar al-Farūq (the Redeemer), also known in English as Omar or Umar, was from the Banu Adi clan of the Quraysh tribe.

He became the second caliph of Islam (634-644) and is regarded as the second of the four Khulafā' ar-Rashīdīn ('rightfully-guided caliphs').

Early life
`Umar RadhiAllahu Anhu was born in Makkah. He is said to have belonged to a middle class family. He was literate, which was uncommon in those times, and he was also well known for his physical strength, being a champion wrestler.

Conversion to Islam
When Beloved Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) first declared his message of Islam, `Umar RadhiAllahu Anhu resolved to defend the traditional religion of the Quraish (regarded by Muslims as idolatry). `Umar RadhiAllahu Anhu was most adamant in opposing Beloved Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) and very prominent in persecuting the Muslims.

According to an early story, recounted in Ibn Ishaq's Sīrah, `Umar RadhiAllahu Anhu is said to have resolved to assassinate Beloved Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him). A Muslim he met on the way told him to set his own house in order first, as his sister had converted to Islam.

`Umar RadhiAllahu Anhu went to her house and found her reciting verses of the Qur'an. He became infuriated and hit her. When he saw her bleeding, he was sorry for what he had done and in order to please her he said he would read the sūrah, Ta-Ha, that she had been reading. He was so struck by the sūrah that he accepted Islam that day.

After that, he was as determined and impetuous in defending Islam as he had been in persecuting it.

Life in Madina
`Umar RadhiAllahu Anhu was part of the first emigration (Hijrah) to Yathrib (renamed Madīnat an-Nabī, or simply Madina shortly thereafter) in 622 C.E. He was present at the battles of Badr, Uhūd, Khaybar, and the raid on Syria, as well as many other engagements. He was one of Beloved Prophet Muhammad’s (Peace be upon him) close companions.

In 625, `Umar RadhiAllahu Anhu's daughter Hafsah RadhiAllahu Anha was married to Beloved Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him). Once Hafsah RadhiAllahu Anha disputed with her beloved husband Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him), and `Umar RadhiAllahu Anhu was much displeased when he heard this, and according to the story, scolded her thus:

"Hafsa, the (news) has reached me that you cause God's Messenger (may peace be upon him) trouble. You know that God's Messenger (may peace be upon him) does not love you, and had I not been (your father) he would have divorced you." (On hearing this) she wept bitterly. This shows that he put loyalty to Beloved Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) over the closest family ties.

The passing away of Beloved Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him)
Beloved Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) passed away in Madina in 632 CE. `Umar RadhiAllahu Anhu is said to have threatened to kill anybody who said that Beloved Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) had died. He was calmed when Abū Bakr RadhiAllahu Anhu said,

"If anyone worshipped Beloved Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him), let them know that Beloved Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) is passed away, but if anyone worshipped Allah, then let them know that Allah is living and cannot die."

Abū Bakr RadhiAllahu Anhu then recited these words from the Qur'ān: "Muhammad is but a messenger; messengers (the like of whom) have passed away before him. If, then, he dies or is killed, will you turn back on your heel?"

This denial of Beloved Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him)’s death was occasioned by his deep love for Beloved Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him).

Reign as caliph
During `Umar RadhiAllahu Anhu's reign, the Islamic empire grew at an unprecedented rate, taking Mesopotamia and parts of Persia from the Sāsānids (effectively ending that empire), and taking Egypt, Palestine, Syria, North Africa and Armenia from the Byzantines. Many of these conquests followed watershed battles on both the western and eastern fronts. The Battle of Yarmūk, fought near Damascus in 636, saw a Muslim army of 20,000 defeat a Byzantine force estimated to number 40,000, permanently ending Byzantine rule south of Asia Minor. Another small Muslim army achieved victory over a larger force in the much-mythologized Battle of al-Qādisiyyah of circa 636, near the banks of the Euphrates River. During the course of the battle, Muslim general Sa`d ibn Abī Waqqās RadhiAllahu Anhu routed the Sāsānian army and achieved the death of the famed Persian general Rostam Farrokhzād.

In 637, after a prolonged siege of Jerusalem, the Muslims took the city. `Umar RadhiAllahu Anhu was given the key to the city by the Patriarch of Jerusalem, Sophronius, and invited to pray at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Umar RadhiAllahu Anhu chose to pray some distance from the Church, so as not to endanger its status as a Christian temple. Fifty-five years later, the Mosque of `Umar RadhiAllahu Anhu was constructed on the site where he prayed. For one version of `Umar RadhiAllahu Anhu's speech to the people after the surrender of Jerusalem,

`Umar RadhiAllahu Anhu undertook many administrative reforms and closely oversaw public policy, establishing an advanced administration for newly conquered lands, including several new ministries and bureaucracies, as well as ordering a census of all the Muslim territories. During his reign, the garrison cities of Basrah and al-Kūfah were founded or expanded. In 638, he extended and renovated the Grand Mosque in Makkah and the Mosque of the Prophet in Madina. He also began the process of codifying Islamic law.

`Umar RadhiAllahu Anhu was known for his simple, austere lifestyle. Rather than adopt the pomp and display affected by the rulers of the time, he continued to live much as he had when Muslims were poor and persecuted.

In the year 17 of the Hijra, the fourth year of the caliphate of 'Umar RadhiAllahu Anhu, he decreed that the years of the Islamic era should be counted from the year of the Hijra.

Death
`Umar RadhiAllahu Anhu died in 644, the victim of an assassin's dagger. `Umar RadhiAllahu Anhu's killer (Abū Lū`lū`ah) was a Persian slave who is said to held a personal grudge against Umar RadhiAllahu Anhu; he stabbed the Caliph six times as `Umar RadhiAllahu Anhu led prayers in the Masjid an-Nabawī mosque in Madina and then committed suicide.

`Umar RadhiAllahu Anhu died two days later, and was buried alongside Beloved Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) and Abū Bakr RadhiAllahu Anhu. `Uthmān ibn `Affān RadhiAllahu Anhu was elected as his successor, by a group of prominent Muslims appointed by `Umar RadhiAllahu Anhu before his death.

Muslims view
Muslims remember Umar RadhiAllahu Anhu as a strong leader, an excellent jurist, a progressive statesman, and the second of the rightly-guided Caliphs. He did not seek advancement for his own family, but rather sought to advance the interests of the Muslim community, the ummah. One hadith, or oral tradition, at the time of his death he was asked if he would like to nominate his son `Abd-Allah ibn `Umar RadhiAllahu Anhu as caliph to which he replied: "One is enough from the Khattab (Umar's) family."

Muslims note that even amongst the early Muslims, he had a reputation for strict militancy and conformity and was even accused by contemporaries of being harsh in religious matters. Yet Beloved Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) was reported as saying if there was ever a person with Prophet-like qualities, it was Umar RadhiAllahu Anhu, an attestation to his conscientious, just, and humble disposition.

Non-Muslim view
Non-Muslim scholars generally treat Umar RadhiAllahu Anhu as a pivotal figure in the history of Islam, since it was under his aegis that the Muslims expanded outwards from the Syro-Arabian steppe and fought the great powers of the time, the Sassanid and Byzantine empires. They analyze his decisions primarily in military and political terms, and are less concerned with the religious or character judgments that interest Muslims.

He is often credited with many radical administrative norms the importance of which went beyond the Muslim World. He is believed to be the first ruler to create an independent judiciary.


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