Umar Ibn Al-Khattab – Part 1
The Messenger said,
“O Allah, strengthen Islam with one of the two men whom you love more, Abu Jahl or Umar ibn al-khattab.”
Ibn Umar said, “The most beloved of the two was Umar.”1
His name, Lineage, Kunyah, and Title
His full name is Umar ibn Al-Khattab ibn Nufail ibn Abdul-Uzzah ibn Riyaah ibn Abdullah ibn Qarut ibn Razaah ibn Adee ibn Ka’ab ibn Luaiy ibn Ghaalib Al-Qurashee Al-Udwee. His lineage connects with the Prophet Muhammad at the point of their common grandfather, Ka’ab ibn Luaiy ibn Ghaalib. His kunyah was Abu Hafs. And his famous title was Al-Farooq, that he had the ability to see right from wrong.
Umar was born thirteen years after the Year of the Elephant, the year during which Abraha tried to destroy the Ka’bah and was himself destroyed as a result.
Hi skin was very fair, redness to parts of his skin. His facial features and particularly his cheeks, nose, and eyes were well proportioned, making him look very handsome. His feet and hands were very rough. His boldness was sharply contrasted by his massive physique and he was exceptionally tall, so much so he would tower over his animal. If he was to hit you, you’d feel the pain.
Umar before Islam
He lived as did every other person in his time, engaging in similar habits and activities but Umar had two distinct qualities, firstly, he learned how to read and write, a skill that only a few Qurashees had. And second, he led a harsh and labour intensive childhood, one in which he was given many responsibilities.
Umar worked as a Shepard not just for his father, but also for his maternal aunts from Banu Makhzoom clan. He himself informed Muslims of that fact in a speech he delivered after he became the khalifah of the Prophet Muhammad. As a young man, Umar kept himself busy in business, learning about history. He was a very successful businessman, earning large profits that resulted in him joining the highest class of Qurashee tribesmen in Makkah.
Umar was brave, strong, eloquent, wise and noble, moreover the trait that described him the most prior to Islam and moreover in Islam was sincerity.
Umar persecuted weak Muslims, in fact, the Meccan chieftains, Umar was among the harshest in his treatment of Muslims. Umar was very loyal to his forefathers and followed their teaching, that is
why he found the Prophet Muhammad and his followers a threat. And from this the animosity towards the Prophet grew to the point Umar took a sword and went out to kill the Prophet.
Umar accepts Islam
In one senior gathering of the Quraish, the elders were discussion who will kill Muhammad, they were inciting each other on, until no one spoke, complete silence, until none other than Umar Ibn Al-Khattab stood up took his sword out and made his way to kill the Prophet Muhammad.
On his way to kill the Prophet Umar met his friend Nuaim bin Abdullah who had secretly accepted Islam. He noticed Umar with his sword and recognised his ill intent so he distracted Umar and informed him of the situation in his own house, which his sister and brother in law had converted to Islam. So, Umar changes direction, angry and frustrated, arrives at her house, and finds her and his brother in law reciting the Holy Quran, Surah Taha the 20th chapter of the Qur’an. A fight broke between the two men and when his sister tried to break the fight, Umar became angry and hit her, he hit her so hard that she fell to the ground bleeding from her mouth. Umar upon seeing this felt guilty and stopped, reflecting over the situation, then calmly asks to see what they were reading they refused to show him, stating he was unclean, and he needs to purify himself first.
It was at this moment that the light of Islam penetrated his heart, he read the verses and broke into tears. He made his way to the Prophet Muhammad but now with a different intention altogether. Umar became Muslim in 616 AD, one year after the migration to Abyssinia, when he was twenty seven years old. He embraced Islam three days after the uncle of the Prophet Hamza accepted Islam, at this stage there was only thirty nine Muslims.
The effect of Umar’s Islam to the situation of Muslims in Meccah
Abdullah ibn Masood said:
“The Islam of Umar was a victory for Muslims, his migration to Madeenah was a triumph, and caliphate was a mercy for Muslims.”
Suhaib Ibn Sinaan said,
“After Umar Ibn Al-Khattab embraced Islam, Islam was practiced openly, and people were openly invited to it. We began to sit around the Ka’bah in circles, we also began to perform Tawaaf around the Ka’bah, and we demanded justice from those who were harsh with us.”
The Migration of Umar to Madina
When the time came for the migration from Meccah to Madinah people were migrating in secret afraid for their lives. Leaving Meccah in the middle of the night, leaving in ones and twos, crossing the rough terrain, the mountainous region all to simply obey and be with the Prophet Muhammad. But, Umar on the other hand, walked in front of the ka’bah and shouted at the top of his voice, declaring his migration. And he threatened anyone who gets in his was that he will make their wives widows and their children orphans, if they tried to stop him. Umar was a very brave and bold man.
Umar prompted the revelation of many verses of the Qur’an
There are many instances in which Umar would ask questions or raise concerns about matters which then Allah would reveal verses about exactly that which Umar was addressing. Some of these issues are mentioned below but for a full discussion visit Islamic Courses Online, ‘Rightly Guided Caliphs’.
1. Umar being correct regarding the issue of performing the funeral prayers for the Hypocrites.
“And never O Muhammad pray funeral prayer for any of them , hypocrites, who dies, nor stand at his grave.”2
2. Umar judges correctly about what should be done to the prisoners of Badr.
“It is not befitting for a Prophet that he should have prisoners of war and free them with ransom until he had made a great slaughter among his enemies in the land……” 3
3. Umar rightly judges about people seeking permission before entering one another’s homes.
“O you who believe! Let not your legal slaves and slave girls, and those among you have not come to the age of puberty ask your permission …”4
4. Umar invokes Allah to forbid alcohol.
“O Believers! Intoxicants, gambling, idols, and drawing lots for decisions are all evil of Satan’s handiwork. So, avoid them, if you want to be successful.” 5
There many more examples, all of which can be seen on Islamic Courses Online.
Umar and the Qur’an
Umar was deeply connected to the Qur’an, he relied on two sources for his spiritual strength the Qur’an and the guidance of eh Prophet. Umar would memorise verses of the Qur’an as they were being revealed continuing to do so as they were being revealed.
“Umar would stop and contemplate on every verse of the Qur’an.”6
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