26 November 2021
Men of Excellence: Hazrat Umarra ibn al-Khattab
After reciting the tashahud, ta‘awuz and Surah al Fatihah, Hazrat Khalifatul Masih Vaa stated:
People with knowledge, especially those who were well versed in the Holy Quran, were greatly esteemed in the eyes of Hazrat Umarra, whether they were youths, children or adults. There is a narration in Bukhari where Hazrat Ibn Abbasra relates:
“Uyaina bin Hisn bin Huzayfa came to Medina and stayed with his nephew, Hur bin Qais, who was among those individuals who had the opportunity to sit close to Hazrat Umarra. The Qaris of the Quran, young and old alike, would sit near to Hazrat Umarra during his gatherings and they would also give various suggestions to him in relation to the Holy Quran. Uyaina said to his nephew, ‘O my nephew! You are honourable in the eyes of this chief. Therefore, seek permission for me to meet him.’ Hur bin Qais said, ‘I will seek permission for you to see him.’”
Hazrat Ibn Abbasra further narrates:
“Hence, Hur sought permission for Uyaina and Hazrat Umarra granted him permission. When Uyaina approached him, he said, ‘O son of Khattab! What is the matter here? By God! You neither give us an abundance of wealth, nor do you make a fair decision with regard to the wealth between us.’ Hearing this, Hazrat Umarra became angry, so much so that he was just about to say something to him, when Hur said to Hazrat Umarra, ‘O Leader of the Faithful! Allah the Almighty has said to His Messengersa:
خُذِ الْعَفْوَ وَأْمُرْ بِالْعُرْفِ وَأَعْرِضْ عَنِ الْجَاهِلِيْنَ
“‘“Take to forgiveness, and enjoin kindness, and turn away from the ignorant.” [7:200] This Uyaina is also from among the ignorant.’ By Allah! When Hur recited this verse before him, Hazrat Umarra immediately stopped and did not say anything. Hazrat Umarra would refrain [from doing anything] after hearing the Book of Allah!” (Sahih al-Bukhari, Kitab-ul-Tafsir, Surah al-A‘raf, Hadith 4642)
Hazrat Khalifatul Masih Ira narrates an incident in relation to the court of Hazrat Umarra in the following manner. He says:
“A chief came to the gathering of Hazrat Umarra and he was appalled seeing a 10-year-old child sitting there and thought what did boys have to do in such an esteemed gathering. Coincidentally, Hazrat Umarra became upset owing to something that the chief did. He called for a jallad [a person who was assigned to flog others with a whip] but that very same boy exclaimed:
“[and those who suppress anger (Ch.3: V.135)]
“And then recited [the verse]:
وَ اَعْرِضْ عَنِ الْجَاهِلِيْنَ
“[and turn away from the ignorant. (Ch.7: V.200)]
“The boy then said:
هٰذَا مِنَ الْجَاهِلِيْن
“[He is also from among the ignorant.] The complexion of Hazrat Umar’sra face changed and he remained silent. At that time, his brother”, i.e. the brother of the boy who said this, “said, ‘You see, that very same boy, whom you considered inferior, has saved you.’” (Haqaiq-ul-Furqan, Vol. 2, p. 122)
There is a narration with regard to how Hazrat Umarra would ensure the moral upbringing of children. Yusuf bin Yaqub said, “Ibn Shihab said to me, my brother and my cousin when we were still young children, ‘You should not consider yourself inferior based on the fact that you are children. The reason for this is that whenever Hazrat Umarra encountered a certain issue, he would gather the children and seek their suggestions as well and he did this with the aim of sharpening their minds.’” (Sirat Umar bin al-Khattab, Ibn al-Jawzi, p. 165, Egypt, Al-Azhar)
During the Battle of Uhud, when the situation changed and the Muslims suffered great losses, at that time, Abu Sufyan called out three times – this incident is in relation to Hazrat Umarra’s sense of honour – “Is Muhammad among you?” The Holy Prophetsa instructed the companions not to reply. Abu Sufyan then called out three times and asked, “Is the son of Abu Quhafah among you?” He then asked three times, “Is Ibn al-Khattab among you?” Thereafter, he returned to his men and stated, “All of these people have been slain.” Upon hearing this, Hazrat Umarra was unable to restrain himself and stated, “O enemy of Allah! By God, you have spoken a lie! Those whom you have named are all alive and there is a great share of misfortune destined for you.” Abu Sufyan replied, “Consider this day to be a recompense for Badr. And battle is like a pail, at times, it rises and at times it falls.” (Sahih al-Bukhari, Kitab-ul-Jihad, Hadith 3039)
Then, in relation to how particular Hazrat Umarra was about safeguarding the wealth of the treasury, there is a narration of Zaid bin Aslam who says, “Hazrat Umarra bin al-Khattab drank milk, which he enjoyed.” Someone gave him a glass of milk, so he drank it and enjoyed it. “He asked the person who handed him the milk, ‘Where is this from?’ He replied by saying that he went to a spring and mentioned the name of the spring, where people were giving water to the Zakat camels. They milked the camels and brought some for him and he put it in a water bowl.’ Hazrat Umarra put his hand in his mouth and vomited the milk out saying that it belonged to Zakat and that he would not drink it.” (Al-Muwatta, Imam Malik, Kitab-ul-Zakat, Hadith 31, Ahya-ul-Turath al-Arabi, Beirut, 1985)
Bara bin Ma‘rur’s son narrates, “Hazrat Umarra once came out of his home then stood at the pulpit. At the time, he was unwell and was prescribed some honey for his illness. There was a pot of honey in the treasury. Hazrat Umarra said to the people, ‘If you permit me, I shall take this, otherwise, it is not permissible for me.’ The people permitted him to do so.” (Al-Tabaqat al-Kubra Li Ibn Saad, Vol. 3, p. 147, Dar-ul-Ahaya al-Turath Al-Arabi, Beirut, 1996)
In relation to the extent of his concern for protecting the wealth in the treasury, there is an incident that has been mentioned previously and I shall present it briefly now. One afternoon, during the scorching heat, Hazrat Umarra was leading the camels to the grazing grounds that had been left behind in order to prevent them from getting lost. When Hazrat Uthmanra happened to witness this, he said, “Let us see to this task and you should come and sit in the shade.” Hazrat Umarra replied, “You all sit in the shade, this is my responsibility and so I shall do it myself.” (Usdul Ghaba Fi Ma‘rifat al-Sahaba, Vol. 3, p. 667, Umar bin al-Khattab, Dar-ul-Fikr, Beirut, Lebanon, 2003)
Hazrat Musleh-e-Maudra has described this incident in the following manner:
“In accordance with the promise of Allah the Almighty, the Muslims were granted riches, wealth, honour and status, yet they did not become neglectful of Islam.”
Hazrat Musleh-e-Maudra is explaining that even if one has a lot of wealth, they must not become neglectful of their faith, the teachings of Islam and their duties.
He then states:
“Hazrat Uthmanra relates, ‘I was once seated in my quarters and the heat was so severe that it was difficult to even muster the strength to open the door. In the meantime, one of my assistants told me that there was a man walking outside in the scorching heat […] a few moments later, that man arrived closer to my quarters and I realised that it was Hazrat Umarra. Upon seeing him, I became concerned and went outside and asked, ‘Where are you going at this time in this intense heat?’ Hazrat Umarra said, ‘A camel from the treasury has been lost and I am out searching for it.’”
Hazrat Musleh Maudra then writes:
“Allah the Almighty states:
عَلَی الْاَرَآئِكِ يَنْظُرُوْنَ
That is, they would be sat on thrones, yet their duty would be to constantly remain watchful. The bounties and comforts of this world would not make them idle. They would not be heedless seated on the couches; rather they would, at all times, be alert and attentive. They would tend to the rights of the people and would continue to fulfil their official duties in an excellent manner.” (Tafsir-e-Kabir, Vol. 8, pp. 314-315)
There is a narration with regard to equality; Saeed bin Musayyib relates that a Jew and a Muslim came to Hazrat Umarra with their dispute. Hazrat Umarra thought that the Jew was in the right, and passed the verdict in his favour. The Jew then said, “By God, you have made the correct decision.” (Al-Muwatta, Imam Malik, Kitab-ul-Aqziya, narration no. 1425, Dar-ul-Fikr, 2002)
Hazrat Anasra narrates that a person from Egypt came to Hazrat Umarra and said, “O Leader of the Faithful! I seek refuge with you from injustice.” Hazrat Umarra said, “You have chosen an excellent place of refuge.” The man said, “I had a race with the son of Amr bin al-Aas in which I overtook him. Upon this, he lashed me saying, ‘I am the son of an esteemed person, how dare you overtake me?’” Upon hearing this, Hazrat Umarra wrote a letter to Hazrat Amrra bin al-Aas and summoned him along with his son. When Hazrat Amrra bin al-Aas arrived, Hazrat Umarra asked for the Egyptian man and told him to take the whip and lash the son of Hazrat Amrra bin al-Aas. Thus, the Egyptian man began lashing Hazrat Amrra bin al-Aas’ son, while Hazrat Umarra was saying “Strike the son of the esteemed person”.
Hazrat Anasra further relates, “We were all pleased to see that he was hitting him, but he continued hitting him so much, that we wished he would stop. Then, Hazrat Umarra told the Egyptian man to strike Amrra bin al-Aas on the head. The Egyptian man said, ‘O Leader of the Faithful! His son hit me and I have taken retribution.’ Upon this, Hazrat Umarra said to Hazrat Amr bin al-Aas, ‘Since when have you started to enslave the people, whereas they were born free?’ Hazrat Amrra bin al-Aas submitted, “O Leader of the Faithful! I had no knowledge of this incident, nor did this Egyptian man come to me.’” (Kanzul Ummal, Kitab-ul-Fazail, Vol. 6, narration no. 36005, Dar-ul-Kutub al-Ilmiyyah, Beirut)
Once, Hazrat Umarra came in the possession of some wealth and he began distributing it among the people. People were crowded around, and Hazrat Saadra bin Abi Waqas began cutting in front of the people moving forward and reached Hazrat Umarra. Hazrat Umarra struck him with his whip and said, “You did not fear Allah’s authority on earth, and you cleaved through the crowd of people to reach the front. Thus, I thought I should inform you that Allah’s authority does not fear you either.” (Sirat Umar bin al-Khattab, Ali Muhammad al-Sallabi, p. 97, Dar-ul-Ma’rifah Beirut)
There is a narration regarding the high degree of Hazrat Umar’sra forbearance. Once, Hazrat Umarra was delivering a sermon and said, “O people, if anyone from among you finds any fault in me, he should rectify it.” A man stood up and said, “If we find any crookedness in you, we will rectify it with our swords.” Hazrat Umarra said, “I am thankful to Allah that he has created such a man in this nation who would rectify Umar’s crookedness with his sword.” (Sirat Umar bin al-Khattab, Ali Muhammad al-Sallabi, p. 106, Dar-ul-Ma‘rifah Beirut)
As he was delivering his sermon, Hazrat Umarra said, “Enjoin me to do good and stop me from evil and help me by advising me.” (Sirat Umar bin al-Khattab, Ali Muhammad Al-Sallabi, p. 107, Dar-ul-Ma‘rifah Beirut)
On another occasion, Hazrat Umarra said, “The person I like most is he who points out my shortcomings.” (Al-Tabaqaat-ul-Kubra, Vol. 3, p. 222, Dar-ul-Kutub al-Ilmiyyah, Beirut)
There is a saying of Hazrat Umarra which is, “I am afraid of committing a mistake, and not being shown the error of my way because people fear me.” (Sirat Umar bin al-Khattab, Ali Muhammad al-Sallabi, p. 107, Dar-ul-Ma‘rifah Beirut)
One day, a person came to Hazrat Umarra and began saying in front of a crowd, “O Umar, fear Allah.” Upon hearing this, some people became very angry and wished to silence him. Hazrat Umarra said to him, “There is no good in you if you do not explain the fault you see, and there is no good in us if we do not listen to it.” (Sirat Umar bin al-Khattab, Ali Muhammad al-Sallabi, p. 107, Dar-ul-Ma‘rifah Beirut)
Hazrat Umarra explained to him that he should not make a general statement; rather, he should be specific.
One day, Hazrat Umarra stood to deliver a sermon to the people. He had only said, “O people, listen and obey” when a man interjected and said, “O Umar, we will not listen, nor will we obey.” Hazrat Umarra politely asked him, “O servant of Allah, why is this so?” He replied, “Because people were only able to make a shirt from the fabric that was distributed to everyone from the treasury, and were unable to make a full suit. You must also have received the same amount of fabric; how then do you have a full suit?” Hazrat Umarra told the man to stay where he was and summoned his son Abdullah. Abdullah said that he had given his share of fabric to his father so that his suit may be complete. People were satisfied upon hearing this and that man said, “O Leader of the Faithful, now I will listen and obey.” (Sirat Umar bin al-Khattab, Ali Muhammad al-Sallabi, p. 107, Dar-ul-Ma‘rifah Beirut)
There used to be ignorant people like this, but one would never hear such words uttered by the eminent companions who had been trained by the Holy Prophetsa. People like this [aforementioned person] were those who became Muslim later on, or were impolite, uneducated and ignorant. The preeminent companions never acted in this way; rather, they always showed complete obedience.
How did Hazrat Umarra implement the religious freedom afforded by Islam? After the conquest of Alexandria, its ruler sent a message to Hazrat Amrra bin al-Aas saying, “Among the other Arab nations, I used to pay tax to more contemptable nations than you”, i.e. the Persians and Byzantines. “If you wish, then I am prepared to pay you a tax as well, on the condition that you free the prisoners of war from my area.”
Hazrat Amrra bin al-Aas wrote a letter addressed to the Caliph, explaining the situation. Hazrat Umarra replied, “Suggest to the ruler of Alexandria that he should pay the tax, but the prisoners of war who are in your”, i.e. the Muslim’s “custody should be given the choice of either accepting Islam or to remain on the faith of their people. Those who become Muslim will join the Muslims and will have the same rights and responsibilities as other Muslims. However, those who remain on their faith, will be subject to the same tax as others of their faith.” Hence Amrra bin al-Aas gathered all the prisoners and read to them the instructions received from the Caliph. Many of the prisoners became Muslims. (Tarikh al-Tabari, Vol. 2, pp. 512-513, Dar-ul-Kutub al-Ilmiyyah, Beirut, 2012)
There is an incident which illustrates how careful Hazrat Umarra was when it came to religious freedom. Once, an elderly Christian lady went to Hazrat Umarra due to some need. Hazrat Umarra advised her, “Become a Muslim and you will be safe. Allah sent Muhammadsa with the truth.” She replied, “I am an old woman and death is drawing near.” He fulfilled her need; however, he feared that what he did would be likened to taking advantage of her need and forcing her to become Muslim. Thus, he sought repentance from Allah the Almighty for this and said, “O Allah, I only showed her the right path, I did not force her.” Thus, he was very careful in this regard. (Sirat Umar binaAl-Khattab, Ali Muhammad al-Sallabi, p. 101, Dar-ul-Ma‘rifah Beirut)
Then, there is another incident. Hazrat Umarra had a Christian slave whose name was Ashaq. He says, “I was Hazrat Umar’sra slave. He said to me, ‘Become a Muslim, so that I may seek your help in certain matters pertaining to the Muslims, as it is not appropriate for me to seek help from non-Muslims in matters that pertain to Muslims.’” The slave says, “However, I refused. Hazrat Umarra said:
لَآ اِكْرَاهَ فِي الدِّيْنِ
“That is, there is no compulsion in the religion of Islam [Ch.2: V.257]. When Hazrat Umarra was about to pass away, he freed me and said, ‘Go wherever you please.’” (Syyedna Umar bin al-Khattab Shakhsiyyat Aur Kaarname, Dr Ali Muhammad al-Sallabi, Urdu translation, p.184, Al-Furqan, Muzaffar Ghar, Pakistan)
There is an incident regarding how Hazrat Umarra showed compassion and kindness to animals. Ahnaf bin Qais narrates:
“We came as a delegation and gave Hazrat Umarra good news of a great victory. Hazrat Umarra asked where we were staying, to which I replied that we were staying at such and such place. Hazrat Umarra started walking with me. We reached the place where the camels for our transportation were tied. After examining every single camel, Hazrat Umarra said, ‘You have no fear of Allah with regards to your mounts. Do you not know that they have a right over you! Why did you not leave them free so they could graze freely on the grass?’” (Sirat Umar bin al-Khattab, Ali Muhammad al-Sallabi, p. 171, Dar-ul-Ma‘rifah Beirut)
Hazrat Umarra once saw a camel which was greatly fatigued and showed signs of illness. Salim bin Abdillah narrates that Hazrat Umarra bin al-Khattab placed his hand on the camel’s back next to an injury mark and said to himself, “I fear lest Allah the Almighty questions me regarding you.” (Al-Tabaqaat-ul-Kubra, Vol. 3, p. 217, Dar-ul-Kutub al-Ilmiyyah, Beirut)
Aslam narrates that on one occasion, Hazrat Umarra said, “I feel like eating fresh fish.” Yarfa, the name of one of Hazrat Umar’sra slaves, took his mount and rode four miles in both directions and bought a good quality fish. He then turned to the mount and washed it. In the meantime, Hazrat Umarra came and said to come with him. He saw the mount and then said, “You forgot to wipe the sweat underneath the ears. You put an animal through pain in order to fulfil Umar’s desire. By Allah! Umar will not even taste this fish.” (Kanzul Ummal, Kitab-ul-Fazail, Vol. 6, p. 287, narration no. 35966, Dar-ul-Kutub al-Ilmiyyah, Beirut)
One afternoon, a delegation came from Iraq to see Hazrat Umarra in the summer months. Ahnaf bin Qais was also present in this delegation. Hazrat Umarra was wearing a turban and was applying pitch etc. on the camels for Zakat. Hazrat Umarra stated, “O Ahnaf! Take off your [outer] clothes and come and assist the Leader of the Faithful with this camel. It is a camel for Zakat. Orphans, widows and the poor have a right over it.” (Kanzul Ummal, Vol. 3, p. 303, Kitab al-Khilafah wa al-Imarah, Hadith 14303, Dar-ul-Kutub al-Ilmiyyah, Beirut)
With regard to a reply given by Hazrat Umarra to a Jew, there is a narration by Tariq. He narrated from Hazrat Umar bin al-Khattab, “A Jewish man came to Hazrat Umarra and said, ‘O Leader of the Faithful! There is a verse in your Book which you recite, if it was revealed to us’”, i.e. revealed to the Jews, “‘we would declare that day as a day of celebration.’ Hazrat Umarra asked which verse was it. The man replied:
اَلْيَوْمَ اَكْمَلْتُ لَكُمْ دِيْنَكُمْ وَ اَتْمَمْتُ عَلَيْكُمْ نِعْمَتِيْ وَرَضِيْتُ لَكُمُ الْاِسْلَامَ دِيْنًا
“‘This day have I perfected your religion for you and completed My favour upon you and have chosen for you Islam as religion [Ch.5: V.4]’. Hazrat Umarra replied, ‘I can recall that day and the place where this verse was revealed to the Holy Prophetsa. It was a Friday, and the Holy Prophetsa was standing in Arafat.’” (Sahih al-Bukhari, Kitab-ul-Iman, Hadith 45)
Hazrat Musleh-e-Maudra states:
“A Jew once said to Hazrat Umarra, ‘There is a verse in the Quran, if it was revealed in our scripture, we would decree that day as a day of celebration.’ Hazrat Umarra asked which verse it was. He replied:
اَلْيَوْمَ اَكْمَلْتُ لَكُمْ دِيْنَكُمْ
“Hazrat Umarra replied, ‘That day was a double celebration for us, i.e. the day the verse was revealed it was a Friday and also the Day of Arafah.’” (Tafsir-e-Kabir, Vol. 4, p.6)
Some esteemed personalities have written about Hazrat Umarra. Ash‘ath narrates, “I heard Imam Sha‘bi say, ‘When there is a difference of opinion amongst the people over a matter, check what Hazrat Umarra decided about that matter, because Hazrat Umarra never took a step without seeking counsel.’” (Hulyatul Auliya, Vol. 4, pp. 304-305, Narration no. 5841, Maktabatul Iman, 2007)
Imam Sha‘bi says, “I heard Hazrat Qubaisah bin Jabir say, ‘I remained with Hazrat Umarra bin al-Khattab. I have not seen a person who read the Book of Allah more than him, or who understood faith or one who taught and lectured better than him.’” (Tarikh Dimashaq al-Kabir Li Ibn Asakir, Vol. 11, part. 21, p. 128, Dar-ul-Ihya al-Turath al-Arabi, 2001)
Hazrat Hasan Basrirh states, “When you wish to illuminate your gatherings, then remember [the life of] Hazrat Umarra abundantly.” (Sirat Umar bin al-Khattab, Ibn al-Jawzi, p. 217, Egypt, Al-Azhar)
Mujahid narrates, “We would say to one another that in the time of Hazrat Umarra, undoubtedly, Satans were bound in chains [as it were]. When he was martyred, Satans began roaming around the land freely.” (Sirat Umar bin al-Khattab, Ibn al-Jawzi, p. 217, Egypt, Al-Azhar)
With regard to Hazrat Umarra, it is written that he had a fondness for poetry. Although he did not compose any himself, he enjoyed listening to poetry. Hazrat Abdullahra bin Abbas narrates:
“Once I set off with Hazrat Umarra on a journey. One evening, we were walking, when I went near to him, he hit the front of his pack-saddle with his whip and recited the following couplet:
كَذَبْتُمْ وَبَيْتِ اللّٰهِ يُقْتَلُ
أَحْمَدُ وَلَمَّا نُطَاعِنْ دُونَهُ وَنُنَاضِلُ
وَنُسْلِمُهُ حَتّٰى نُصَرَّعَ حَوْلَهُ
وَنَذْهَلَ عَنْ أَبْنَائِنَا وَالْحَلائِلِ
“‘You lie, I swear by the House of Allah’”, i.e. the Ka‘bah, “‘Ahmadsa cannot be martyred; as long as we stand guard and show the might of our spears and swords. We will not leave his side until we are martyred fighting in his presence, and forget all about our sons, our wives and families.”
وَمَا حَمَلَتْ مِنْ نَاقَةٍ فَوْقَ رَحْلِهَا
أَبَرَّ وَ أَوْفٰى ذِمَّةً مِنْ مُحَمَّدِ
“‘No camel ever placed on its back a person greater in piety and one who fulfils their promise more than Muhammadsa.’” (Tarikh al-Tabari, Vol. 2, p. 577, Dar-ul-Kutub al-Ilmiyyah, Beirut, 2012)
Dr Ali Muhammad Salabi, who is a historian, has written a book, Umar bin al-Khattab: His Life and Times, in which he writes about Hazrat Umar’sra love for poetry. He writes:
“Amongst the al-Khulafa al-Rashidun, the one who presented examples by means of a couplet the most was Hazrat Umarra. About him, some people have even written that there was hardly a decision he made and did not recite a couplet regarding it. It is written that Hazrat Umarra once wore a set of clothing and went outside. People began to look at him closely. Upon this, Hazrat Umarra gave them an example by way of the following couplet:
لَمْ تُغْنِ عَنْ هُرْمُزٍ يَوْمًا خَزَائِنُهٗ
وَالْخُلْدُ قَدْ حَاوَلَتْ عَادٌ فَمَا خَلَدُوْا
أيْنَ الْمُلُوكُ الَّتِي كَانَتْ نَوَافِلُهَا
مِنْ كُلِّ أَوْبٍ إلَيْهَا رَاكِبٌ يَفِدُ
“‘Even the treasures of Hormizd did not save him from death, and the people of ‘Ad tried to live forever. Where are those kings, whose springs and waterholes would quench the thirst of the caravans coming from far and wide?’” (Syyedna Umar bin al-Khattab Shakhsiyyat Aur Kaarname, Dr Ali Muhammad Al-Sallabi, Urdu translation, p. 33, Al-Furqan, Muzaffar Ghar, Pakistan)
Ali Muhammad Salabi further writes:
“Hazrat Umarra only liked those couplets which highlighted the beauty of the Islamic teachings; those that would capture the essence of Islam and those whose meanings were not against the teachings or values of Islam. Hazrat Umarra would encourage the Muslims to memorise and learn exquisite couplets and would say that they contained gems which people searched for. Furthermore, it granted wisdom to the wise and guided people to adopt a noble character.
“With regard to the excellence of poverty, Hazrat Umarra also stated it was the key to unlock the heart and a way to promote positive emotions in a person. Regarding the excellence and benefits of poetry, he would say that the best pastime of a person was for them to compose a few verses, which they could recite when needed; through it they could charm a noble and generous person and even attract the heart of a wretched one. He also had a passion to memorise poems from the poets of the ancient times, i.e. poets of the jahiliyya era [era of ignorance before the advent of Islam] because it had a deep connection with understanding and comprehending the Book of Allah. He would say, ‘Memorise your diwan [collection of poems], and you will save yourself from going astray.’ The people asked, ‘What is our diwan?’ Hazrat Umarra said, ‘Poems from the jahiliyyah period. They contain the commentary and meanings of your book’”, i.e. the Holy Quran. “This saying of Hazrat Umarra is affirmed from the saying of his student and commentator of the Holy Quran, Abdullah bin Abbas, whereby he stated, ‘If you read the Quran and are unable to understand it, then search for its meaning among Arabic couplets, because poetry is the Diwan of the Arabs.’” (Syyedna Umar bin al-Khattab Shakhsiyyat Aur Kaarname, Dr Ali Muhammad al-Sallabi, Urdu translation, p.336, Al-Furqan, Muzaffar Ghar, Pakistan)
Whilst mentioning Hazrat Umar’sra fondness of poetry, the famous biographer of the subcontinent, Allama Shibli Nomani writes in his book Al-Farooq:
“Although Hazrat Umarra is not famous for being associated with poetry, and it is true that he would rarely compose poems, he had such an exquisite taste in poetry that this aspect cannot be left out of his biography. He had memorised countless couplets of a famous Arab poet and held his own opinion about the works of other poets. Scholars of literature accept that in his time, there was nobody who would recite poetry more than him. Jahiz writes in his book, Al-Bayan wa Al-Tabyin, that in his time, Hazrat Umarra had the most knowledge and understanding of poetry. Hazrat Umar’sra love for poetry was such that if he heard a good couplet, he would enjoy it and keep on reciting it again and again. Although owing to his responsibilities as the Khalifa, he did not have the time to delve deeply into this pastime, because of his innate love for poetry, he had memorised hundreds and thousands of couplets. The scholars of literature say that his memory for recalling poetry was such that whenever he gave a verdict on a matter, he would always recite a couplet. He would only like those couplets which exhibited traits of self-control, freedom, nobility, honour or teaching a lesson. For this reason, he issued a mandate to the commanders of the army and governors of provinces to urge people to memorise poetry.
“To Hazrat Abu Musa Ash‘arira, he wrote, ‘Urge the people to memorise couplets because they personify lofty morals; show the correct opinions and guide to the path of justice.’ The wording of the command he sent to all the provinces is as follows, ‘Teach your children swimming, horse riding as well as proverbs and good poetry’, i.e. to instil within them a passion for learning.
“It is worth noting that Hazrat Umarra eradicated many wrongful customs associated with poetry. At the time, it was a custom in all of Arabia that poets would mention noble women by name in their poems and openly express their love for them. Hazrat Umarra eradicated this custom and ordered a severe punishment for those guilty of this offence. Similarly, he declared lampooning in verse to be a crime and imprisoned Hautaya, who was famous for this.” (Al-Farooq, Shibli Nomani, pp. 330-333, Maktabatul Harmain, Lahore, 1431 AH)
Allama Shibli Nomani further writes:
“In those days, the most renowned poet was Mutammam bin Numairah, whose brother was accidentally killed by Hazrat Khalidra during the Khilafat of Hazrat Abu Bakrra. This incident affected him so deeply that he would often cry and recite elegies about him. When he went to see Hazrat Umarra, he requested permission to recite an elegy and recited a few couplets. Hazrat Umarra said, ‘If I was able to recite an elegy, I would recite it for my brother Zaid.’ He said, ‘O Leader of the Faithful! If my brother was killed in the manner your brother was killed’”, i.e. if he was martyred, “‘I would never lament over his death.’ Hazrat Umarra would always recall that nobody was able to offer their condolences to him in the manner Mutammam did.” (Al-Farooq, Shibli Nomani, p. 345, Maktabatul Harmain, Lahore, 1431 AH)
With regard to Hazrat Umar’sra virtues and attributes, the Promised Messiahas says:
“Some prophecies are such that are manifested only once and they exhibit their majesty gradually, or they are fulfilled in the person of someone else. Such is the case with the prophecy of our Holy Prophetsa in which he said that he was bestowed with the keys of the treasures belonging to the Caesar and Chosroes. But it is evident that the Holy Prophetsa passed away before this prophecy was fulfilled; he neither saw the treasures of Chosroes or Caeser, nor the keys to them. However, since it was decreed, those keys were granted to Hazrat Umarra because Hazrat Umarra in essence was a spiritual manifestation of the Holy Prophetsa. That is why in the spiritual realm the hand of Umarra has been declared to be the hand of the Holy Prophetsa.” (Ayam-us-Suluh, Ruhani Khazain, Vol. 14, p. 265)
The Promised Messiahas further states:
“It is vital to believe that Siddiq-e-Akbarra [Hazrat Abu Bakr Siddiqra], Hazrat Farooq-e-Umarra [Hazrat Umar Farooqra], Hazrat Dhul-Nurainra”, i.e. Hazrat Uthmanra, “and Hazrat Ali Murtazara were all the custodians of the faith. For Islam, Abu Bakrra was the second coming of Adam; similarly, if Hazrat Umar Farooqra and Hazrat Uthmanra did not show sincerity in the trust bestowed upon them, then it would be impossible for us to consider even one verse of the Quran to be from Allah the Almighty.” (Maktubaat-e-Ahmad, Vol. 2, p. 151, Letter no. 2 addressed to Hazrat Khansahib Muhammad Ali Khan Sahib, Rabwah)
The Promised Messiahas then states:
“I have been granted in-depth knowledge from my Lord regarding Khilafat. And just like any scholar, I have also been able to delve into the depth of the matter and my Lord has revealed to me that Siddiq [Hazrat Abu Bakrra], Farooq [Hazrat Umarra] and Uthmanra, may Allah be pleased with them all, were pious believers, who were among the chosen ones of Allah the Almighty and were favoured with the special bounties of the Gracious God. Furthermore, many of the wise have borne witness to their virtues. They left their lands for the pleasure of the Honourable and Glorious God, they entered the furnace of every battle, and they cared not for the scorching midday heat of every summer, nor the cold of the night of every winter; rather, they marched forward upon the paths of their faith like youthful men, inclining neither to their own people, nor to others and they bade farewell to everything, all for the sake of the Lord of all the Worlds. Their actions were imbued with a sweet fragrance and their deeds with an aroma.
“All of this points to the gardens of their rank and the orchards of their good deeds. Likewise, the aromatic breezes of their zephyr [soft, sweet-smelling wind] reveal their intricate qualities and their light becomes manifest to us with all its radiance. Thus, you ought to ascertain their illustrious rank from the aroma of their fragrance and do not show haste and follow those who think ill. And do not rely on just certain narrations because they are filled with poison and exaggerations and they cannot be trusted. Many of those narrations are like a powerful and destructive wind and like the lightning which deceives one into thinking there is going to be rain. Thus, fear Allah and do not follow such narrations.” (Sirrul Khilafah, Urdu translation, pp. 25-26)
The Promised Messiahas then states:
“By God, Allah the Almighty enabled the Sheikhain i.e. Hazrat Abu Bakrra and Hazrat Umarra and also Dhul-Nurain [Hazrat Uthmanra] to be like the doors to Islam and they were at the forefront of every army of the Holy Prophetsa who was the best of the creation. Thus, one who denies their lofty honour and discredits the clear and irrefutable arguments in their favour and does not show respect to them; rather it dishonours them and vilifies and speaks ill of them, then I fear that he may meet a terrible end and will become completely devoid of faith. And those who caused them grief and cursed them and levelled allegations against them, consequently their hearts became hardened and they incurred the wrath of the Gracious God. I have countlessly observed and have openly expressed this as well that to hold malice and enmity against these noble men is one of the main factors that severs man’s bond with God, Who is the Bestower of blessings. Whoever bears enmity against them becomes completely deprived of mercy and benevolence and the doors of divine cognisance and wisdom are never opened for them and they are left to partake in the desires and pleasures of the world and they are thrown into the abyss of carnal desires and He casts them away from His divine threshold and they remain deprived. They”, i.e. the Rightly Guided Caliphs, “also faced hardships just like the prophets, and curses were hurled at them, just as they were hurled towards the Messengers. This shows that they were the heirs of the prophets and their reward on the Day of Judgement will be the same as the leaders of [past] nations and countries. This is because when a believer is unjustly cursed and labelled a disbeliever, and is unduly mocked and ridiculed, he becomes like the prophets and akin to the chosen people of Allah. Then such an individual is recompensed just as the prophets are recompensed, and they are rewarded just like the Messengers. These people attained a lofty status through their servitude to the Best of All Prophetssa, and Allah the Mighty and Exalted praised them. He made them an esteemed group of people, and through His own spirit, Allah helped them just as He helps all of His chosen people. In reality, the light of their truth and the effects of their piety were brilliantly apparent, and it became clear that they were truthful and that Allah was pleased with them, and they were pleased with Him, and He granted them that which had never been granted to anyone in the heavens and earth.” (Sirrul Khilafah, Urdu translation, pp. 28-30)
Then, whilst refuting an aspect of Shia beliefs, the Promised Messiahas says:
“Those Shias who believe that Abu Bakr Siddiqra and Umar Farooqra usurped the rights of Ali Murtazara and Fatima al-Zahrara and were cruel to them have abandoned justice, adopted cruelty and followed the path of the transgressors. Surely, these people were such that abandoned their beloved homeland, friends and wealth for the sake of their Prophet, and they endured hardships at the hands of the disbelievers and were expelled from their homes by mischief mongers, but they remained patient like good and virtuous people.
“Then, they were later made Caliphs, but they did not fill their homes with riches, nor were their sons and daughter’s heirs to gold and silver. Instead, they gave whatever they received to the treasury. They did not make their sons their successors, just as worldly and misguided people do. They lived this life in poverty and destitution rather than being inclined towards worldly comforts like other leaders.
“Can it even be considered that such people would be capable of stealing the wealth of others, or were inclined towards usurping rights, looting or destruction? Was this the impact of having remained in the blessed company of the Chief of this world, the Holy Prophetsa? On the contrary, Allah the Almighty, the Lord of All the Worlds has praised them.
“The reality is that Allah purified their souls and cleansed their hearts. He enlightened their beings and made them an example for future pious people. We cannot find any weakness or superficial thought which would lead to any indication of deviation in their intentions or point towards any sort of evil in them, unless, someone is intent on attributing injustice and cruelty to them.
“By God, they were just people. Even if they were given a valley full of unlawful wealth, they would not so much as spit on it, nor would they turn towards it like greedy people, no matter if the gold was as high as mountains or enough to fill the earth seven times over. If they came across lawful wealth, they would surely spend it in the way of the All-Powerful God and religious endeavours. Thus, how can we even fathom that they would upset Fatima al-Zahrara over a few trees and cause harm to the dear child of the Holy Prophetsa like the mischievous ones; rather, they were noble and righteous in their intentions and were firmly established upon the truth, and Allah showered His mercy upon them, and Allah knows the righteous full-well.” (Sirrul Khilafah, Urdu translation, pp. 37-39)
The Promised Messiahas further states:
“The truth is that Abu Bakr Siddiqra and Umar Farooqra were both from among the eminent companions. They both never showed any weakness in fulfilling the rights they owed. Righteousness was their way of life and establishing justice was their objective. They would carefully ponder over the matters and delve deep into its intricacies. Fulfilling worldly desires was never their objective. They devoted themselves in obedience to Allah. I have never seen anyone partake of such immense blessings and support the religion of the Holy Prophetsa than the Sheikhain, i.e. Abu Bakr and Umar, may Allah be pleased with them both. In their subservience to the spiritual Sun for the whole of mankind, [i.e. Muhammad] peace be upon him, they were even more swift than the moon. They were wholly devoted in their love for him and in order to establish the truth, they happily endured every hardship. For the sake of the Holy Prophetsa, like whom there is no other, they willingly and gladly endured every humiliation.
“At the time of battle against the army of disbelievers, they stood courageously like lions to the point that Islam triumphed and the enemy ranks suffered defeat. Shirk was abolished and totally eradicated and the spiritual sun of the nation and faith began to illuminate forth. They both rendered such exemplary service to their faith and afforded the Muslims with such excellence and favours that their final resting place was in the company of the most excellent of Prophetssa. This was owing to the grace of Allah the Almighty, from Whom no righteous person is hidden and indeed all grace belongs to Allah and He grants it to whomsoever He pleases.
“One who develops a bond with God Almighty with utmost devotion is never made to face ruin, even if the entire world were to oppose him. Those who seek to establish a bond with Allah never experience hardship or loss and Allah does not abandon His truthful servants. Allah is the Greatest! How great was the sincerity and devotion of these two men” i.e. Hazrat Abu Bakrra and Hazrat Umarra.
“Both were buried in such a blessed grave that if Mosesas and Jesusas were alive today, they would express their earnest desire to be buried there. However, such a rank is never bestowed owing to one’s heartfelt longing or desire; rather, this is an eternal mercy bestowed from the Lord of Honour. And this mercy is only granted to those who are granted His Divine favours from the very beginning. These are the people who at the very end are shrouded in the cloth of divine grace.” (Sirrul Khilafah, Urdu translation, pp. 77-79)
The Promised Messiahas then states:
“Whatever became of Islam after the Holy Prophetsa was due to the three companions. Whatever Hazrat Umarra accomplished – which was a great deal – it cannot overshadow what Siddiq Akbar [Hazrat Abu Bakrra]ra accomplished, for it was Siddiq Akbarra who laid the path to success and who dispelled a great dissension. The trials that Hazrat Abu Bakrra had to face in his time were never faced by Hazrat Umarra. Hence, [Abu Bakr] Siddiqra cleared the path, upon which Hazrat Umarra then opened the doors to further success.” (Malfuzat, Vol. 6, pp. 414-415)
Hazrat Maulvi Abdul Karim Sahibra then writes in one place in relation to the state of the Promised Messiah’sas heart and his love and respect for the Holy Prophetsa and the two companions, Hazrat Abu Bakrra and Hazrat Umarra:
“On one occasion, a friend who was truly absorbed in love for the Promised Messiahas, submitted to him, ‘Why should we not consider you to be greater in status than the Shaikhain’”, i.e. Hazrat Abu Bakrra and Hazrat Umarra “‘and closer in rank to the Noble Messenger, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him?’ Goodness gracious! On hearing this, His Holiness became pale and inexplicable anxiety and restlessness overtook him from head to toe. I swear in the name of God, who is most Honourable and Holy, that this particular instance increased my faith in the Promised Messiahas even more. The Promised Messiahas delivered an all-encompassing address continuously for six hours. When he began speaking, I looked at my watch, and when he finished, I looked at my watch again. He spoke for six hours. Not a minute less. To speak on a subject for so long, without rest, was an extraordinary occurrence. In his entire discourse, the Promised Messiahas spoke of the virtues and qualities of the Noble Messenger, may the choicest blessings and salutations be upon him, and about his own servitude and subservience to him. He also spoke of the excellences of the honourable Shakhain, may peace be on both of them. The Promised Messiahas said, ‘It is sufficient for me that I am an admirer of these men and the dust beneath their feet. The partial superiority which God Almighty has conferred upon them can never be attained by anyone until the Day of Resurrection. When will Muhammad, the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, ever be born again on earth so that one may receive the opportunity to render such service as the honourable Shakhain, peace be on both of them.” (Malfuzat Vol. 1, p. 326)
The accounts from the life of Hazrat Umarra have come to an end with regard to these sermons. Insha-Allah, and if Allah permits me, I shall begin narrating accounts from the life of Hazrat Abu Bakrra in the future [sermon].
(Original Urdu transcript published in Al Fazl International, 17 December 2021, pp. 5-9.Translated by The Review of Religions.)