Calligraphy of Umar's Name
in Arabic Koufi Font
Caliph Sayyidina Umar bin al-Khattab رضي الله عنه was the second Rashidun Caliph, reign from 23 August 634 –7 November 644. He succeeded Caliph Abu Bakar رضي الله عنه on 23 August 634, and played a significant role in Islam. Under Umar the Islamic empire expanded at an unprecedented rate, controlling the whole territory of the former Sassanid Persian Empire and more than two thirds of the Eastern Roman Empire. His legislative abilities, his firm political and administrative control over a rapidly expanding empire and his brilliantly coordinated attacks against the Sassanid Persian Empire that resulted in the conquest of the Persian empire in less than two years, marked his reputation as a great political and military leader. He was assassinated by a Persian captive.
Umar was born in Mecca, in the year of 586 to the Banu Adi clan, which was responsible for arbitrations among the tribes. His father was Khattab ibn Nufayl and his mother was Hantammah daughter of Khattab, from the tribe of Banu Makhzum. He was the cousin of Khalid ibn al-Walid, a general who would play an important role later in his life.
Despite literacy being uncommon in pre-Islamic Arabia, Umar learned to read and write in his youth. Though not a poet himself, he developed a love for poetry and literature. According to the tradition of Quraish, while still in his teenage years, Umar learned martial arts, horse riding and wrestling. He was tall and physically powerful and was soon to became a renowned wrestler. Umar was also a gifted orator, and due to his intelligence and overwhelming personality, he succeeded his father as an arbitrator of conflicts among the tribes.
In addition, Umar followed the traditional profession of Quraish. He became a merchant and had several journeys to Rome and Persia, where he is said to have met various scholars and analyzed the Roman and Persian societies closely. However, as a merchant he is believed to have never been successful.
Umar, alongside others in Makkah, opposed Islam and threatened to kill Muhammad صَلَّى الله عَلَيْهِ وَسَلِّمَ. He resolved to defend the traditional, polytheistic religion of Arabia. He was most adamant and cruel in opposing Muhammad and very prominent in persecuting the Muslims. Umar was the first man who resolved that Muhammad صَلَّى الله عَلَيْهِ وَسَلِّمَ had to be murdered in order to finish Islam. Umar firmly believed in the unity of the Quraish and saw the new faith of Islam as a cause of division and discord among the Quraish.
While he was on his way with a sword in his hand he met Sa’d bin Abi Waqqas who enquired of him about his destination. Umar told him that he was going to murder the Holy Prophet صَلَّى الله عَلَيْهِ وَسَلِّمَ . After some discussion Sa’d said, “You had better take care of your own family first. Your sister and brother-in-law both have accepted Islam”. Hearing this Umar changed his direction and went straight to his sister’s house. When Hadrat Umar knocked at the door, they were studying the Holy Qur’an from Hadrat Khabbab (R.A.). His sister Fatimah was frightened on hearing Umar’s voice and tried to hide the portion of the Holy Qur’an she was reciting. When Umar entered the house he enquired about their Islam and on finding that they had accepted Islam, he first fell upon his brother-in-law and beat him severely. When his sister intervened he smote her so violently on her face that it bled profusely. On this his sister burst out: “Do whatever you like, we are determined to die as Muslims”. When Umar saw his sister bleeding, he cooled down and felt ashamed. He loved Fatimah very much but could not tolerate her conversion to Islam.
However, deeply moved, Umar asked her to show the pages on which the Holy Qur’an was written. But she was, after all, Umar’s sister and told him straight, “You can not touch it unless you take a bath and make yourself clean” He washed his body and then read the leaves. That was the beginning of Surah Ta Ha (Chapter 20 of the Holy Qur’an). When he came to the verse:
إِنَّنِي أَنَا اللَّهُ لا إِلَهَ إِلا أَنَا فَاعْبُدْنِي وَأَقِمِ الصَّلاةَ لِذِكْرِي (١٤)
“Lo! I even I, am Allah, there is no god save Me. So serve Me and establish Salat for My remembrance”. (20:14)
He was so struck by the beauty of the verses that he became a Muslim that day. He then went to Muhammad صَلَّى الله عَلَيْهِ وَسَلِّمَ with the same sword he intended to kill him with and converted in front of him and his companions.
Umar was 27 when he became Muslim. Following his conversion, Umar went to inform the chief of Quraish, Amr ibn Hishām, about his new faith. According to one account, Umar thereafter openly prayed at the Kaabah as the Quraish chiefs, Amr ibn Hishām and Abu Sufyan ibn Harb, reportedly watched in anger. This further helped the Muslims to gain confidence in practicing Islam openly. At this stage Umar even challenged anyone who dared to stop the Muslims from praying, although no one dared to interfere with Umar when he was openly praying.
Sunni Muslims view him as the Second Rashidun and know him as Farooq the great and Hero of Islam.
Reign : 23 August 634–7 November 644
Born : 586–590, Mecca, Arabia
Died : 7 November 644, Medina, Arabia
Predecessor : Abu Bakar
Successor : Uthman
Other titles : Al-Farooq
The Sword of Umar
Categories: Rashidun Caliphate