The exact date of the birth of Umar is not known. The consensus of opinion, however, is that Umar was born at Mecca around 580 A.D He was younger than the Holy Prophet of Islam by about ten years.
Umar belonged to the Adi clan of the Quraish. It was one of the ten clans of the Quraish who inhabited Mecca.
Umar the son of Khattab; the son of Nufail; the son of Abul Uzza; the son of Riza; the son of Ribah; the son of Qurat; the son of Adi; the son of Katb.
Muhammad (peace be on him) the son of Abdullah; the son of Abdul Muttalib; the son of Hashim; the son of Abd Munaf; the son of Qussay; the son of Kulab; the son of Ka'b.
The house in which Umar was born in Mecca was situated midway between Safa and Marwah. During the period of his caliphate, Umar had the house dismantled, and the site was turned into a camping ground.
Umar's mother was Khantamah who was the daughter of Hisham bin al-Mughirah. Al-Mughirah was a personage of high rank among the Quraish. In the event of war he marshalled the Quraish troops and led them to war. Hisham the maternal grandfather of Umar and al-Walid the father of the renowned General Khalid were brothers. Khalid was thus a cousin of Umar s mother and his maternal uncle.
Abu Jahl whose personal name was Amr bin Hisham bir al-Mughirah was a brother of Umar's mother, and his maternal uncle. One of the sisters of Umar's mother, Umm Salma was married to the Holy Prophet of Islam.
No account is preserved about the early life of Umar during the days of ignorance. Umar belonged to an ordinary family of average means and there was nothing conspicuous about Umar or his family during the days of ignorance to be recorded or chronicled
When he was a child his father put him to the task of grazing camels. Khattab was a hard taskmaster, and Umar often recalled how his father belaboured him mercilessly whenever there was a lapse on his part. Umar also recalled that when he was a child he used to graze the flocks of goats and sheep of his maternal aunts who doled out pittance to him in the shape of dates.
Among the Quraish of those days, reading and writing was not in vogue. In spite of that Umar received education in reading and writing. It is related that among the Quraish of Mecca only seventeen persons could read and write, and Umar was one of them. That has to be acknowledged as a great attainment.
Umar's father was an authority in tracing genealogies. Under the guidance of his father, Umar also acquired matchless skill in the matter of the study of pedigrees.
Umar knew intimately as to who was who among the Quraish. He was also well versed in the knowledge of the history of Arabia.
Umar was blessed with a strong physique. He could undergo great rigours. He could travel on foot for miles. He was an athlete and a wrestler. He participated in the wrestling matches on the occasion of the annual fair at Ukaz, and he won in most of such matches. From the accounts that have come down to us it appears that Umar had attained perfection in the art of wrestling.
Umar was a skilful rider. He could successfully manage even the wildest of horses he would literally jump on the back of the horse, and sit with such ease and steadiness that he appeared to be a part and parcel of the horse he rode.
He was very intelligent and shrewd. He was a good public speaker. He was gifted with an uncommon degree of tact and judgment, and on several occasions he successfully undertook ambassadorial missions on behalf of the Quraish.
By all accounts he was self-respecting, broad-minded and sincere. He was a man of strong convictions, a good friend, and a bad enemy. Like the rugged hills around him, he was harsh and stern, violent in temper, but very good of heart. He was always prepared to stand up against the oppressor and espouse the cause of the weak.
Before his conversion to Islam, Umar had three wives His first wife was Qariba bint Abi Umayya al-Makhzumi. She belonged to the same clan as the mother of Umar. She was one of the most beautiful women of Mecca of the day. His second wife was Zainab bint Maziun. She was the sister of Usman bint Maz'un an early companion for whom the Holy Prophet had great regard. She was the mother of Abdullah and Hafsa. His third wife was Malaika bint Jarul al-Khuzai. She was also called Umm Kulsum.
During the Caliphate of the Abu Bakr, Umar was the principal Adviser of the Caliph.
On the seventh Jamadi-ul Akhir of the 13th A.H. (8th August 633) which was a cold day, Abu Bakr took a bath and caught a chill. That developed into a high fever.
Abu Bakr was confined to bed, and he appointed Umar to lead the prayers during the period of his illness. His illness prolonged, and when his condition worsened, he felt that his end was near. It was suggested to him that a physician be called. He said "Now all is over."
Umar said: "But I have no desire for the office." Thereupon, Abu Bakr said:
"But the office needs you. I have prayed to God to direct me rightly in the choice of my successor, and my choice is fundamental for the unity and strength of the Muslims."
Before becoming the Caliph Umar lived by trade. After assuming the Caliph he could no longer carry on charge as his business. He accordingly agreed to accept a daily allowance from the Baitul Mal.
When Umar became the Caliph, he saw that many Muslima gathered in the Prophet's mosque to offer extra prayers after the night prayers. Each person prayed according to his own discretion, and there were no specifications about the number of Rakaats to be offered. Umar felt that it would be a reform in the proper direction, if the prayers were offered in congregation and the number of Rakaats was fixed. After consulting the Companions, Umar issued instructions in 635 AD that such extra prayers should be offered in congregation under the imamate of a Quran reader who should recite a considerable part of the Quran each night, so that the entire Quran was completed during a week or so. It was laid down that these prayers should comprise ten taslima's each containing two rakaats and that after every four rakaats there should be a rawih' or a pause. Because of such pauses these extra prayers came to be known as 'Tarawih'.
During his Caliphate, Umar took steps to ensure that the teaching of the Holy Quran was spread extensively, and that a large number of persons learnt the text by heart so that there could be no possibility of any corruption in the text.
Under the orders of Umar, hundreds of schools were opened throughout the length and breadth of the Islamic world for the teaching of the Holy Quran. Highly qualified teachers were appointed for the purpose, and they were given good salaries.
Umar had the sacred mosque at Kaaba extended. In 739 AD Umar purchased the surrounding houses at state expense. These were demolished, and the area under them was included in the mosque. Heretofore there was no wall round the mosque. Umar had a wall constructed for the first time. Heretofore the mosques were not lit. Umar provided lights for the mosques for the first time.
Formerly the cover of the Kaaba was of ordinary cloth. Umar had the cover made of a superior and finer cloth manufactured in Egypt.
The bounds of the Haram, the sanctuary of the Kaaba extended to three miles in one direction, and seven to nine miles in other directions. The boundaries were not defined, and there was the risk of this area being encroached upon. Umar had the area surveyed, and the boundaries were demarcated. Stone pillars called Ansab were fixed to mark the boundaries.
Umar extended the Prophet's Mosque at Madina as well. In 739 AD, the same year as the Kaaba was extended, Umar purchased the houses that surrounded the Masjid i-Nabvi. After demolishing them, the area was utilized for the extension of the mosque.
Umar was the first to provide lights for Masjid-i-Nabvi. Umar also made arrangements for the burning of the incense in the mosque. The floor of the mosque was paved and covered with mats.
Umar issued instructions to all regarding the enforcement of the Hijri calendar.
"Drinking is banned under the Holy Quran. If any Muslim drinks and pleads that this was lawful then cut off his head for what he says is a violation of the Holy Word. If he says that it is unlawful but that he fell into error then give him eighty lashes publicly."
These instructions were enforced vigorously, and the Muslim society was practically rid of the evil of drinking.
When Islam appeared on the world stage, the world economy was based on slavery. Islam was the first religion to raise its voice against slavery. Among the early converts to Islam, many were slaves. Indeed, one of the reasons for the hostility of the Quraish against Islam was that they saw in Islam a hostile force to slavery on which the economy of Mecca was based.
When Umar became the Caliph of Islam, he took particular measures to eliminate the evils of slavery as far as possible. He took a very bold step when he declared that no Arab could be a slave. Arabia was thus the first country in the world, which under the impact of Islam abolished slavery
In the days of ignorance sexual laxity was the order of the day. Islam stood for reform in the moral and social fields, and condemned sexual laxity in all forms. Under Islam a limitation was placed on the number of wives one could marry. Such number was not to exceed four, and it was enjoined that all the wives should be treated alike with due justice. Lapidation was provided as the punishment for those found guilty of adultery.
Under the instructions of Umar, meets were made for the clearance and construction of roads, and bridges. These operations were usually performed by the conquered people under the supervision of the Muslim army.
Umar took particular pains to provide effective and speedy justice for the people. He set up an effective system of judicial administration, "hereunder justice was administered according to the principles of Islam.
After consulting the Companions Umar decided to establish the Central Treasury at Madina. Later provincial treasuries were set up in the provinces. After meeting the local expenditure the provincial treasuries were required to remit the surplus amount to the central treasury at Madina. According to Yaqubi the salaries and stipends charged to the central treasury amounted to over three crore dirhams.
Umar was the founder of Fiqh or Islamic jurisprudence. Over one thousand juristic pronouncements of Umar are on record. All the four schools of law in Islamic jurisprudence follow the law laid down by Umar.
Umar held that one should not urinate standing.
Umar forbade the people to talk loudly in the mosque.
Umar enjoined that one should not come to the mosque having eaten something which produces a bitter smell.
Umar was very particular that when offering prayers in congregation the lines should be straight.
Umar held that journey on a Friday was not forbidden.
Umar enjoined that around a person on death bed one should recite the article of faith.
When one of the wives of Umar died Umar led the funeral prayers himself.
Umar held that in one's shroud three sheets were enough.
Umar ruled that on the occasion of a funeral prayers four Takbirs should be offered.
Umar held that one should not fast unless he had seen the moon of Ramazan and he should not fast after he had seen the Eid moon.
Umar prohibited the sale of wine.
Umar held that justice should not be delayed.
On the 1st of November 644 A.D. at the time of the morning prayer, Firoz went with his dagger to the Prophet's mosque and hid himself in a corner in one of the recesses of the mosque. When the faithful stood for prayer after straightening the lines, and Umar took up his position as the Imam to lead the prayer, Firoz emerged from his place of hiding and rushed at Umar. Firoz struck Umar six consecutive blows with his dagger, and Umar fell on the floor profusely bleeding.
Other persons rushed at Firoz, but he had the fury and frenzy of a desperate man about him. He struck right and left, and thirteen Muslims were wounded, some of them fatally, before Firoz could be overpowered. At last realizing that he could not escape, Firoz stabbed himself to death with his own dagger.
From the mosque Umar was carried home. When he regained consciousness, he asked who was his murderer. He was told that his murderer was the Persian slave Firoz. Thereupon Umar said, "Praise be to God that I have not been murdered by a Muslim".
The physician administered him date cordial and milk. These could not be digested and gushed out of his wounds. That indicated that the wounds were fatal and that he could not survive for long.
The people around him praised him for his virtues and sterling qualities. He asked them not to praise him. He said:
"All praise is to Allah. If all the treasures of this world were to be at my disposal, I would offer them as a ransom to be saved from the trial at the Day of Judgment."
He then recited the Arabic verse:
"I have been
unjust to my soul,
Except that I am a Muslim,
Say my prayers and fast."
Umar asked his son Abdullah to wait on Ayesha and beg her permission for his burial by the side of the Holy Prophet and Abu Bakr. Ayesha wept as she came to know that Umar was about to die. She said, "I had reserved this place for my own burial, but I give Umar precedence over myself. Let him be buried there". When Umar was told that Ayesha had given the permission, he felt happy and said, "God bless Ayesha. She has fulfilled my greatest wish. Now I can die in peace."
He was the first Muslim ruler to establish the Army Department and assign regular salaries to the men in the armed forces.
He was the first Muslim ruler to take a census.
He was the first Muslim ruler to strike coins.
He was the first Muslim ruler to dig canals.
He was the first Muslim ruler to found cities.
He was the first to set up jails.
He was the first to organize the Police Department.
He established schools throughout the country. He allowed liberal salaries to school teachers.
He had the formula "Prayer is better than sleep" inserted in the call for morning prayers.
He was the first to provide light in mosques at nights.
He was the first to provide salaries for Imams and Muezzins.
He was the first to organize sermons in mosques.
Before his conversion to Islam, Umar had three wives. They were:
When Umar was converted to Islam, Zainab alone accepted Islam. After the Hudaybiah pact when God sent the words that Muslims should not marry idolatresses, Umar divorced Malaika and Qariba.
In Madina, Umar married an Ansar lady Asiah bint Sabat Ansari. On marriage Umar changed her name to . Umar resided with her at Quba, and it is reported that there was great love between Umar and Jamila. A few years later Umar divorced her and shifted to Madina.
'Atika bint Zaid was a cousin of Umar. She was married to 'Abdullah a son of Abu Bakr. When her husband died, Atika felt very disconsolate. In sympathy, Umar married her in the first year of his caliphate.
Umm Hakim was the wife of 'Ikramah the son of Abu Jakl. 'Ikramah died fighting and thereafter Umm Hakim married Khalid bin Sa'id. Khalid bin Sa'id was also martyred on the Syrian front. Umm Hakim doubly bereaved was much grieved, and Umar consoled her by marrying her.
In 639 A.D., Umar married Umm Kulsum the daughter of 'Ali and Fatima. Till his death in 644 A D., Umm Kulsum remained his favorite wife.
Besides these wives, Umar had two slave girls who bore him children. These were Fakiah and Layiah.
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