Islam was just in its’ nascent stage. Prophet Muhammad PBUH was spreading his message and finding resistance from the pagans of Makkah at every stage. A little group of dedicated people had already joined him in spreading this message of monotheism. In this state of absolute tyranny and oppression, Prophet Muhammad PBUH, sitting in Kaaba, raised his hands in prayer to Allah. “Lord!” he prayed, “make Islam strong with either of the two men, Amr bin Hisham or Umar bin Khattab.” Allah answered his servant’s prayer. Umar RA went on to embrace Islam and become one of its leading lights. Amr bin Hisham was to die as one of the biggest enemies of Islam with a title Abu Jahl (Father of Ignorance).
Acceptance of Islam
Umar’s entry to the folds of Eeman, made a huge difference to Islam. Till then, the Muslims had lived in constant fear of the non-believers. Some of them had not even made their faith known to the people. They could not say their prayers publicly. All this changed when Umar RA became a Muslim. Umar RA led a party of Muslims to Kaaba. A second party was led by Hamza. When all had gathered there, they prayed in congregation. The Prophet PBUH led the prayer. This was the first prayer of its kind said in the Kaaba.
The Prophet PBUH conferred him the title ‘Al-Farooq’ which means ‘’the one who distinguishes between right and wrong’’.
Umar always professed his belief publically. When the Muslims started migrating to Madina, most of them did it discreetly. But Umar and twenty people from his clan migrated to Madina during daytime. He challenged the chiefs of Makkah to stop him but none of them dared stand in his way.
During the battle of Badr, Umar came face to face with his uncle. He did not hesitate to kill his uncle because the latter had come to fight Muslims and destroy Islam. Muslims defeated the disbelievers in this battle and killed about seventy of their soldiers and took another seventy as prisoners. This victory was decisive and boosted the morale of Muslims.
Umar was a part of all the battles that the Prophet PBUH fought and he always showed his dedication and courage in these battles.
In the sixth year of Hijra, the Prophet PBUH and his companions wanted to visit Makkah to perform ‘Umrah. The pagans prevented them from entering Makkah and subsequently a peace agreement was negotiated between the two parties at Hudaibiyah. The pagans later on failed to respect this agreement and killed some of the Muslims’ allies. Umar joined the army of about ten thousand Muslims that conquered Makkah. Umar wanted to revenge himself against the pagans who oppressed the Muslims. However the Prophet PBUH taught him that a triumphant believer should always be forgiving.
Umar as second Calip of Muslims
Umar RA was the second Caliph of Muslims after the death of Abu Bakr As-Siddique RA. Before passing away, Abu Bakr RA consulted the senior companions of the Prophet PBUH about the best man to succeed him. They all agreed upon Umar RA as the best man to lead the Muslims.
Umar proved to be a very able and efficient administrator and a very just ruler. The Islamic state had spread far and wide over Iraq, Syria and Egypt. He sent letters to all his governors concerning the rules of governance. He also visited many places in the Muslim Empire to see whether the Governors he had appointed were treating the people fairly and with justice. He also established the public treasury during his Khilafat. Records of soldiers were maintained so as to pay them wages wherever they were. The army was maintained in a way similar to the modern armies.
Public facilities and construction of cities were also part of his interests. Rivers and canals were dug to provide water to populated areas all over the Islamic State. He sent teachers to all parts of the State to teach people how to recite Quran.
Umar paid great attention to the construction of mosques. Both the mosques in Makkah and Madina were expanded during his Khilafat. It is reported that the number of mosques during his rule was more than three thousand. The Islamic calendar was also created during his rule with the year of the Hijrah being its’ first year.
His advice to Saa’d bin Abi Waqqas
Umar selected Saa’d bin Abi Waqqas to lead the Muslim army to conquer Persia. Before leaving Madinah, Umar advised Saa’d saying: ‘’ Saa’d, I order you to fight the Persians. Listen to me and hold fast to my words. You are going to face a very hard obstacle that you cannot overcome unless you observe truth and goodness. You should know that every battle should be prepared for by having good equipment. Let your equipment be patience. Do not be deceived by saying to yourself ‘I am the Prophet’s uncle’ for there is no kinship dearer to Allah than obedience to His teachings.’’
Saa’d sent a delegation asking the King to accept Islam. But he rejected and showed utter disrespect towards the delegation. The Persians prepared about one hundred thousand fully armed soldiers supported by elephants. They were lead by Rustam. The Muslims gathered their humble arms to fight against this huge army. The Muslims won this battle on the fourth day. They sacrificed themselves to raise the banner of Islam. Rustam tried to escape but he was finally killed. The Muslim army marched to Mada’in, the Persian capital and faced no resistance on the way.
The battle against the Romans was started during Abu Bakr’s time and the Muslim army Under Khalid bin Waleed fought the Roman army near Al-Yarmouk. During the course of this battle, Abu Bakr RA passed away, but the battle still continued and the Muslim army came over the huge Roman Army. The Muslims conquered Damascus under Abu Ubaidah RA and its’ surrounding areas. Following this victory, the Muslim army went to Jerusalem. The chiefs of the city surrendered peacefully and asked for an agreement to be signed by Umar RA himself.
After these conquests, Egypt was conquered from the Romans under the leadership of Amr bin Al-‘Aas RA.
Umar RA was an extremely humble and a just leader. He used to help the orphans and widows to manage their lives. He ordered his governors all over the Islamic State to be kind even to animals for fear that he might be responsible for any injustice they might cause to people.
The Prophet PBUH said regarding Umar RA: ‘’ If there were divinely inspired men in my nation, it would be Umar.’’
While Umar RA was leading the Fajr prayer, a Persian named Fairuz stepped forward and stabbed him many times in his side with a dagger. He killed some other Muslims also. As other people tried to catch this person, he killed himself.
Before dying, Umar RA selected six men and ordered that one among them be selected as the Caliph. Umar also requested Aishah RA that he be buried beside the Prophet PBUH. She agreed although she wanted to keep this place for herself. Umar RA passed away three days later.
May Allah bestow His mercy on Umar RA. He was a great example of justice, piety and commitment to the cause of Islam.