Islam Today: If a member of the general public could question Hazrat Umar, why is it seen as rude to question Hazrat Khalifatul Masih?


The perception of a question being rude is, of course, related to whether or not the question was actually rude, and this in turn depends on the manner and place of the question.

What one must always remember beforehand, however, is that Hazrat Khalifatul Masihaa can be approached and reached in various ways. One is free to write him letters and have a correspondence conversation, or to go in person and present their matter to him in an audience.

It must also be clear that Hazrat Khalifatul Masihaa himself is very eager to hear the opinions and concerns of his followers and that he promptly responds to them and ensures that the problems and concerns of the Ahmadis that come to his attention are resolved.

What should not be done, however, is, where one has not been explicitly allowed to do so, to publicly try to engage Hazrat Khalifatul Masihaa, for example, with controversial questions or challenges, or to try to force his hand.

Hazrat Iyadra ibn Ghanm reported that the Messengersa of Allah said, “Whoever intends to advise one with authority on a matter, he should not do so publicly; rather, he should take him by the hand and advise him in private. If he accepts the advice, all is well. If he does not accept it, he [the one who advises him] has fulfilled [the obligation incumbent upon him].” (Musnad Ahmad)

When we look at the behaviour and demeanour of the Prophet’ssa Companionsra, it becomes clear that, in truth, they avoided asking questions to the extent that they had forbidden themselves to do so.

Hazrat Anasra ibn Malik reports, “We would avoid asking anything [without genuine need] from the Holy Prophetsa. It, therefore, pleased us that an intelligent person from the Bedouins should come and ask him and we should listen to it.” (Sahih Muslim)

Hazrat Musleh-e-Maudra said in a dars-e-hadith, commenting on this hadith:

“Some ignorant people used to say that in the congregation of the Holy Prophetsa, questions were asked with great courage and boldness; and that he used to answer them. However, saying this, they neglect the fact that the Prophet’s Companionsra said, ‘We would avoid asking the Holy Prophetsa about anything.’

“While the Companionsra were forbidden to ask questions, then which other Muslim would dare to ask boldly? Then it is said that Hazrat Umarra was asked in the congregation, ‘Why are you wearing this shirt?’ It is clear from the ahadith that the people who asked such questions did so out of lack of etiquette and manners related to the Prophet’ssa company. Otherwise, what would be the reason for the Companionsra to be afraid of asking the Holy Prophetsa even a simple question, while outsiders were asking him, continually swearing”. At that time, the hadith was discussed mentioning that a person asked the Holy Prophetsa by swearing by Allah, “Has Allah ordered you to perform the five daily prayers?” 

Hazrat Musleh-e-Maudra continues:

“Nowadays, the deniers of [the Ahmadiyya] Khilafat use the argument against the pledgers of allegiance that ‘people used to ask the Holy Prophetsa and his caliphs with great courage and boldness, but you do not have that courage. Thus, you have become saint worshippers.’ We say that if such questioning is a sign of courage of faith, then it is as if all the most eminent Companionsra were very cowardly and fearful, for it is proved by the ahadith that they did not ask the Holy Prophetsa any question. Yes, the Bedouins came and did so. Therefore, would they be seen as more courageous or faithful than the Companionsra

“Then, the questioner of Hazrat Umarra was not a companion. He was an ordinary man, for if he had been one of the Companionsra, he would have been mentioned by name, whereas this is a narration from an anonymous person. If it were a good and desirable thing to ask a question in such a way, why did Hazrat Uthmanra, Hazrat Alira and other companionsra not do so? Did they not have courage and bravery? They did and certainly did. However, since it was inappropriate, no one said so. Those who asked the Holy Prophetsa a question were the very same people who were either hypocrites or Bedouins to whom the etiquettes of the congregation were alien. Therefore, to present this foolish audacity and boldness as an argument is a proof of one’s own folly. Yes, this could have been authoritative if such an act had been committed by one of the eminent Companionsra.” (Al Fazl, 15 July 1915, p. 5)

But someone could bring up as a pretext the incident of Hazrat Umarra – who later became a rightly guided Caliph of the Holy Prophetsa –  where he made the mistake of having publicly challenged and confronted the Holy Prophetsa in his lifetime in a way that was not very polite. This was on the well-known event of the Treaty of Hudaybiyyah. 

Sahlra ibn Hunayf narrates that Hazrat Umarra ibn al-Khattab came and approached the Messengersa of Allah and said, “O Messenger of Allah, aren’t we fighting for truth and they for falsehood?” The Holy Prophetsa replied, “By all means.”

Then Hazrat Umarra asked, “Are not those killed from our side in Paradise and those killed from theirs in the Fire?” The Holy Prophet replied, “Yes.” 

Hazrat Umarra continued by asking, “Then why should we put a blot upon our religion and return, while Allah has not decided the issue between them and ourselves?” 

To this, the Holy Prophetsa replied: “O son of al-Khattab, I am the Messenger of Allah. Allah will never ruin me.” 

Hazrat Umarra went away, but he could not contain his rage. He approached Hazrat Abu Bakrra and said, “Abu Bakr, aren’t we fighting for truth and they for falsehood?” Hazrat Abu Bakrra replied, “Yes.”

Hazrat Umarra asked, “Aren’t those killed from our side in Paradise and those killed from their side in the Fire?” Hazrat Abu Bakr replied, “Why not?” 

Hazrat Umarra then asked, “Why should we then disgrace our religion and return, while God has not yet decided the issue between them and ourselves?” Hazrat Abu Bakrra said: “Son of al-Khattab, verily, he is the Messenger of Allah, and Allah will never ruin him.” (Sahih Muslim)

That this was not exemplary behaviour, but something that happened in the heat of the moment and in an emotion-ridden state is clear from the remorse that Hazrat Umarra himself felt all his life thereafter. Other companions admonished him and brought him out of his rage. 

It is reported that Hazrat Abu Ubaydahra ibn Jarrah said to him, “O son of al-Khattab, do you not hear what the Messenger of Allahsa says? Seek refuge with Allah from Satan and doubt your opinion!” 

Hazrat Umarra says, “I then went seeking refuge with Allah from Satan. There was no day worse for me than that day. I did a lot of good deeds to atone and compensate it.” Hazrat Umarra is also reported to have said, “I used to always give alms, fast, pray and free slaves – only to ward off the evil consequences of my deeds. I always had the hope that my mistake on that day could be atoned and its evil effects would come to an end.” (Subul al-Huda wa al-Rashad)

We must also not forget here that Hazrat Umarra did not mean to be rude at all. It was his love for Islam and for the Holy Prophetsa that he sounded bold in asking this question. Despite knowing his pure intention, he still felt deeply remorseful with the mere thought that he might have sounded argumentative, albeit in love. The biographical accounts of Hazrat Umarra are witness to the fact that he was an ardent lover of the Holy Prophetsa and respected every single word uttered by his holy master.

(Prepared by the Ahmadiyya Archive and Research Centre)

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