Hazrath Umar bin Abdul Aziz is popularly acknowledged as “Al-Khalifat-us-Saleh” (The pious Caliph) or “Al-Khalifa Al Khamis” (The fifth righteously guided Caliph). He was the son of Abdul Aziz (Governor of Egypt) and Umm-i-Aasim (grand-daughter of the Caliph, Hazrath Umar RA). Born in 63 A.H. (682 A.D.) in Halwan, a village of Egypt and pursued education in Medina under the auspices of his maternal uncle, Abdullah Ibn Umar. Student life in Medina, renowned as the pinnacle of learning in Islamic world at the time, was immensely instrumental in moulding his life on every aspects of Islamic code. Umar bin Abdul Aziz married Fatima, daughter of his uncle, Caliph Abdul Malik.
Appointment as Caliph
In 706 AD, he was appointed as the Governor of Medina by Caliph Waleed. The Umayyad Caliph, Sulaiman Bin Abdul Malik nominated Umar Bin Abdul Aziz as his successor. On his death, the mantle of Caliphate fell upon Umar Bin Abdul Aziz who reluctantly accepted it. Relinquishing all pomp and pageantry, the pious Caliph returned the royal charger, refused security and deposited the entire Caliphate equipment in the Bait-ul-Maal (Government Exchequer) thereby shunning the entitled luxury. He longed for commoner life and preferred to abode in a small tent. Upon being queried about his downheartedness, the Caliph responded, “Is it not a thing to worry about? I have been entrusted with the welfare of such a vast empire and I would be failing in my duty if I did not rush to the help of a deprived person.” Thereafter, he ascended the pulpit and delivered a masterly sermon mentioning, “Brothers! I have been burdened with the responsibilities of the Caliphate against my will. You are at liberty to elect anyone whom you like.” But the audience unanimously cried out with one voice that he was the paramount personality for the esteemed high office. Thereupon the pious Caliph advised his people to observe steadfastness on the path of piety. He empowered his subjects to withdraw their oath of allegiance to him, if he ever wavered from the path of ALLAH SWT.
Umar Bin Abdul Aziz was a competent administrator, well versed in his obligation towards this world and the Hereafter. He was extremely hard working and seldom enjoyed rest. His rule was envisioned based on Caliph Umar’s administration model. According to Imam Sufian Thauri, there are five pious Caliphs namely Abu Bakr, Umar Farooq, Uthman, Ali and Umar Bin Abdul Aziz.
Though his rule was brief, it is eminent for reinstallation of democratic process which was left in the lurch by his predecessors. He replaced corrupt and tyrannical Umayyad administrators with accomplished and just ones. The primary act post assumption of office was restoration of the properties confiscated by the Umayyads to their rightful owners. He was hardly free from the burial ceremonies of Caliph Sulaiman and wished to take a short respite. His son reminded him whether if he would rest before dealing with cases pertaining to confiscated properties. He replied, “Yes, I would deal with these after taking rest.” “Are you sure, that you would live up to that time?” asked the son. The father kissed his dear son and thanked Allah SWT for blessing him with a virtuous son. He immediately dealt with the matter. He surrendered all his movable and immovable properties to the public treasury including a ring presented to him by Caliph Waleed. His faithful slave, Mazahim was deeply moved at this uncommon sight and asked, “Sir, what have you left for your children?” “ALLAH”, was the reply. SUBHANALLAH !!
Public Works Department
The public welfare institutions received greater stimulus. Thousands of public wells and inns were constructed throughout the expanse of vast empire. Charitable dispensaries were established. Government funded travelling expenses for the destitute travelers.
The house of Umayyads, accustomed to luxuries at the expense of the common man, revolted against the revolutionary decree of the Caliph and bitterly protested against the disposal of their age-long properties.
To diffuse the crisis, the Caliph invited some prominent members of the House of Umayyads for dinner and advised his cook to delay meal preparation. As the guests were groaning with hunger, the Caliph ordered his cook to hurry up. At the same time he asked his men to bring some parched gram which he himself as well as his guests ate to their fill. Minutes later, dinner was served and the guests refused saying that they had satisfied their appetite. Thereupon the pious Caliph spoke out, “Brothers! when you can satisfy your appetite with a simple diet, then why do you play with fire and usurp the properties and rights of other.” These words pierced the conscience of the nobles of the House of Umayyads, rendering them to tears.
Compassion towards the poor
Once his wife witnessed him weeping after his prayers; she inquired reason for his grief; he replied: “O! Fatima ! I have been appointed as the ruler of Muslims and I am concerned about the poor that are starving, the sick that are destitute, the naked that are in distress, the oppressed that are stricken, the strangers that are in prison, the venerable elders, one with a large family and modest means, and the likes of them in countries of the earth and the distant provinces, and I anticipate that my Lord would hold me accountable for them on the Day of Resurrection, and I fear that no defense would avail me, and I wept.”
His promising son, Abdul Malik, advised his father to be severe in introducing his beneficial reforms. The wise father responded, “My beloved son, your proposal can be realized only by sword, but there is no good in a reform that necessitates the use of the sword.”
A Guest house for underprivileged was constructed from the funds of Bait-ul-Maal. His servant burned the firewood of this guest house to heat water for his ablution. He forthwith replaced the same quantity of firewood. On another occasion, he refused to use the water heated from the State charcoal. Umar Bin Abdul Aziz never dwelled in the Khansara’s government palatial buildings and instead chose to camp in the open.
Umar Bin Abdul Aziz was a loving father but he never pampered his children with luxuries and comforts. Once he sought audience with his favorite daughter, Amina but she could not appear as she was improperly dressed. Her aunt came to know of it and purchased necessary garments for his children.
He never accepted any presents from anyone. Once, a person presented a basket full of apples. The Caliph appreciated the apples but refused to accept them. The Caliph clarified his stance, “No doubt, those were presents for the Prophet, but for me this will be bribery.”
A slave of the Caliph was bribed to administer the deadly poison. The Caliph having felt the effect of the poison, detained the slave and questioned the rationale for his action. The slave replied that he was given one thousand dinars to accomplish the task. The Caliph deposited the amount in the public Treasury, acquitted the slave and advised him to abscond from the place immediately, lest anyone might kill him. Thus, he breath last in 719 A.D. at a youthful age of 36 at the place called Dair Siman (The convent of Siman) near Hams.
Umar Bin Abdul Aziz was one of the noblest souls that ever subsist in this world. His martyrdom plunged the Islamic world into gloom. It was a day of national mourning: the populace of the small town came out to pay their last homage to the departed leader. He was buried in Dair Siman on a piece of land he had purchased from a Christian. He reportedly left behind only 17 dinars with a will that out of this amount, the rent of the house in which he died and the price of the land in which he was buried would be paid.