Source: A transcribed lecture by Mufti Menk. Original is at Youtube under the title: THE STORY OF UMAR IBN KHATTAB
We want to start with the life story of the next greatest to walk the earth after Abu Bakar Siddiq (RA) and he was none other than Umar ibn Khattab (RA). I want to mention of very few points about this hero of Islam.
Early years of Umar ibn Khattab RA
Umar ibn Khattab (RA) was 13 years younger than Mohammed (SAW). So, when Prophethood was granted to Mohammed (SAW), Umar ibn Khattab was only 27 years old. Although he was young but he was feared. He was known as the ambassador of Quraysh. He was sent to other places to give the message of Quraysh across to other regions in other parts of the Peninsula and whenever there were difficulties and problems where Quraysh had to explain their positions, they sent Umar on their behalf. He was a strong man, powerful, well-spoken and very feared. As a young man he lived a life in the fast lane. You know today you say someone is on the fast lane. What does that mean? I had to pause for a moment because out of respect of Umar ibn Khattab (RA) we don’t want to use low terms. But out of explaining to you that before he became a Muslim he was in involved in a lot of what today’s misguided youth would actually be involved in, we would not be wrong because he said that of himself. He said that he was a womaniser and he was an alcoholic of the worst kind and he used to drink so much he used to worship the idols just like everybody else did, so much so that he made his own idols and he worshipped them. That was Umar Ibn Khatatb before Islam. But the reason why I am mentioning this is to show you that if Allah wills goodness and if you have goodness in your heart, no matter what you have done in the past and no matter what situation you might be in right now there is always hope for you that Allah may eventually bring guidance.
Umar ibn Khattab and Pre-Islamic years
This man was farthest away from the teachings of Islam. However, something struck him and he immediately turned to Islam. We will come to the exact details of what happened a little later. In his early days, this man hated Islam and the Muslims. When he heard of Mohammed (SAW), he had so much hatred that everyone that Mohammed SAW spoke to he would quietly go afterwards and tell them “Watch out. You better not listen to this man. You watch out.” He had a slave girl whom he used to harm from morning to evening solely because she accepted the message of Mohammed SAW. This was the man. The womaniser. The one who was an alcoholic. Known as Umar ibn Khattab. Where did the change come? How did it come and why did it come? Later, he became one of Islam’s Heroes.
Umar at the time when Muhammad became a prophet
When the Prophet (SAW) had achieved prophet-hood, Umar was engaged in all the vices. He said himself that he worshiped idols that he carved with his own hands and he was a person who was involved not only with alcohol but even with women. Then as he grew up, he was well respected in Quraysh because he was a businessman. He used to travel a lot with his own caravans and with his own wealth up to the northern part of the Arabian peninsula and coming down to the south as well and he earned a lot of his wealth. So, at a young age not only was he wealthy and eloquent but at the same time he was quite feared because of his power and might in Quraysh.
And over and above that, he was a person to whom the Quraysh would go to whenever they needed to explain their position because of the difference they may have had with the others. They used him as an ambassador, and he was known as ‘safeer ul Quraysh’ which means one of the spoken persons or ambassadors of Quraysh and an ambassador that they used to send to other regions or parts of the peninsula. So, this was Umar ibn Khattab R.A.
Prophet Muhammad started to teach Islam to Quraish
When Muhammed (SAW) presented Islam to the people of Makkah, Umar ibn Khattab was one of those youths who used to constantly listen to the older people saying “We need to eradicate this man, we need to kill this man, we need to get rid of this man” This is what they used to say. So the young people used to all talk to each other, “who is going to do this?” and each one would say “I would do it” this one would say “I would do it” but no one would actually end up doing it because they were upset that Mohammad (SAW) was telling them that “what your forefathers have been doing is wrong and what I have come with is actually correct, so don’t worship me but worship my maker and yours who is Allah (SWT)”.
Those who grew up in that particular era knew that anyone with a new message had their own agenda. But in this particular case Muhammad (SAW) had no agenda of his own. Rather, he would call people to develop a link with their maker alone and this was something unique. So, Umar ibn Khattab RA detested Mohammad (SAW) at that time and he detested those who were believers. He used to go to everyone whom Mohammad (SAW) used to speak to, after he had left and he would tell them, “Be careful, don’t follow this. Be careful, watch this man, don’t listen to him. If you do, your life will be made difficult and I will be the first one who is going to sort you out”. And so on.
The incident at Safa involving Hamzah Ibn Abdul Muttalib
Then, an incident that occurred in Safa. Safa is one of the mounts where we visit when doing the sa’ee during Umrah and Hajj. We actually have to walk and run between Safa and Marwaha. So, close to where safa was, there was an incident that had occurred and in fact another incident that occurred of importance and we will make mention of it today, was just near the Kaaba. When Muhammed (SAW) was praying, Abu Jahal came to him and struck him with his stick or a part of his bow. This hurt Mohammed (SAW). Abu Jahal was a very strong leader of Quraysh and Muhammed (SAW) said nothing at that time but then came Hamza ibn Abdul Muttalib who was the uncle of Mohammed (SAW). He was on a trip to hunt and when he came back from his hunting trip, something strange happened. Someone told Hamzah, “Do you know your nephew was beaten up by Abu Jahal”. So, Hamza ibn Abdul Muttalib got so angry and so upset that he went to beat up Abu Jahal and he told him how dare you speak to my nephew in these words when I too am amongst his followers. So, this was a declaration of faith by Hamzah too. No one before that knew that Hamza ibn Abdul Muttalib was one of the followers of Mohammed (SAW) but at that stage he became known as one of the followers of Mohammed (SAW).
Umar decides to kill the prophet
Umar ibn Khattab RA was related to Abu Jahal in that Abu Jahal was Umar’s maternal uncle. Umar, therefore, got very upset that his uncle (Abu Jahal) was beaten by Hamza or was disrespected by Hamza. So, as a result he decided to take the revenge from Prophet Mohammad. So Umar ibn Khattab (RA) walked out with his sword. He was angry, ferocious, vicious, and he had bad intentions regarding the Prophet. When he walked out it was clear for all those who saw him that he was angry.
On his way he met Nuaym ibn Abdullah, who although was a Muslim but was not known to be one. He had accepted Islam and was silent about it because he was worried and concerned what the people and his family would say or how would they react. Later on he made his Islam known to the people but not in the initial stages. So as he saw Umar, he asked him, “Where are you going? Is everything okay?” He said, “Today I am going to execute Muhammed (SAW).” On this, Nuaym ibn Abdullah said, “You know you are a man, you are intelligent, you are a strong man, and Quraysh respects you”. Umar ibn Khattab said “I don’t mind, I will execute him and I will hand myself over to his own clan and I will then be executed as a result of him, I don’t mind but I will sort this problem out now because he has split Quraysh into two pieces and we don’t like that”. So Nuaym ibn Abdullah told him (to protect the prophet) that Umar had a problem in his own family as his sister Umm Jameel (Fatima bint al- Khattab) had accepted Islam. So Nuaym says “why don’t you deal with them? Your brother in law, Saeed bin Zaid too has become a Muslim and are openly Muslims. They follow Muhammed, they support Muhammed (S.A.W), so go and deal with them first.”
Umar goes to his sister Fatima
So, Umar ibn Khattab RA diverted and walked and knocked on the door of his sister. At that time, there were three of them in the house. There was Fatima ibn Al-Khattab, his sister; his brother in law Saeed ibn Zaid and a teacher who came to teach them Quran by the name of Khabbab ibn Al-Arat. Khabbab ibn Al-Arat had brought with him some parchments and was teaching them parts of the Quran. So as the door was knocked, according to one of the narrations, Khabbab ibn Al-Arat happened to hide and the parchments were actually hidden as well. Umar ibn khattab (RA) flung the door open and walked in and started beating his sister and brother in law.
Now to pause for the moment, something had happened a little earlier. At the height of the persecution of Muslims, they were given permission to migrate to Abyssinia. There were a few of them who started migrating and at that time there was one of the wives of one of the companions known as Amir ibn Rabia. As she was about to leave for Abyssinia, Umar ibn Khattab saw her and he was very angry at the people’s migration but when he saw that, he felt pity in his heart. As strong as he was, as fearless as he was, as powerful as he was, as fierce as he was, he felt something in his heart seeing this lady go and he told her may Allah be with you. It was a statement before Islam. The wife of Amir ibn Rabia knew then that this man had a soft spot, and there is something in his heart. So, she told her husband that I have hope in this man and he perhaps will understand the truth. However, her husband said “No ways, it is impossible for Umar to accept Islam and the wife said don’t say that, there is nothing impossible. My Allah (SWT) help us learn a lesson from this: Nothing is impossible. No matter where you have been and what you have done, Allah’s mercy is near.
Also, before Islam, Umar amazingly used to tell himself “The Muslims are very strong, no matter how much we persecute them they’re not quitting” That was something that used to impress him because he was a fearless man, when a man is fearless he’s always impressed by others who are fearless as well, to say these people are being persecuted, we are beating them we are doing so much against them. There is a slave girl of my own.” He used to tell himself “I persecute her from morning to evening but she doesn’t quit and she says “No, I still say what Muhammed has brought is correct.” He was amazed by it in a certain way.
No matter who has done what on the global level, if Allah wants, they will turn into the mercy of Allah SWT. Always have hope and always make positive dua, always have hope in the mercy of Allah. So, as Umar ibn Khattab was beating up his sister and his brother in law, he noticed that she began to bleed and when he saw the blood, that’s when the soft spot was struck, the cord was struck and he immediately stopped because he realized, ‘this is my sister; what am I doing, you know, we share the same parents. What am I doing with the sister of mine?’ and he said “Look, what were you people doing here? So, she said we were reading the Quran. “Where is it? I want to see it”. By this time, Khabbab ibn al -Arat had come out and they brought the parchment. They told him “If you would like to read this you first need to wash yourself.” So, he washed himself in the ghusl that he had, in whatever way he did wash himself and then returned.
Now he started reading and co-incidentally for him but not coincidentally for Allah (SWT), the verses he read were the opening verses of Surah Taha. So here, Umar ibn Khattab RA read the verses:
[These letters are one of the miracles of the Qur’an, and none but Allah (Alone) knows their meanings.]
2. We have not sent down the Qur’an unto you (O Muhammad ) to cause you distress,
3. But only as a Reminder to those who fear (Allah).
4. A revelation from Him (Allah) Who has created the earth and high heavens.
On hearing this, Umar ibn Khattab was drawn to tears. He read these verses and he was shocked and amazed and he said “Take me to Muhammed (SAW).” Imagine all the hatred and all the enmity and all the evil that he was engaged in prior to this moment. Suddenly it came crashing to the ground and his heart was filled with instant love for Muhammed (SAW). So Umar ibn Khattab (RA) was taken to the house of Al- Arkham ibn abdul Arkham where Muhammed (SAW) used to gather. Thirty-nine men had accepted Islam. He was the fortieth, according to most of the narrations to accept Islam. So, he walked into the house of Al-Artham ibn abdul artham and they allowed him to come in. One might ask why didn’t they just allow him to come in when he had this sword with him and according to some narrations there was a sign that he was, in some type of a quarrel situation earlier because of the blood from beating his sister. Also, they allowed him because Muhammed (SAW) had made a dua that the companions were aware of. That dua was: Allahumma aa-izzal Islama bi ahlil umarain: Oh! Allah strengthen Islam through the acceptance of Islam by one of the two strong men either by Umar ibn Khattab or Amru ibn Hishaam who was known as Abu Jahal. And the prophet (SAW) later said, in my heart I always knew that Umar was a better option. Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar, may Allah grant us goodness. So, this goes to teach us again: remember to make good prayers for those who sometimes might do something bad. We have a weakness, our own children we curse them sometimes when they do something bad. It happens. It’s the weakness of man, don’t ever do that. It’s the moment of acceptance of prayer. Why don’t you make a good prayer for your children. Ask Allah SWT Oh Allah, my child has disobeyed me. Oh Allah bless the child, make the child obedient to you ya Allah SWT.
Umar ibn Khattab Accepts Islam
So here Umar ibn Khattab (RA) is faced with Hamza ibn Abdul Muttalib who was at the door of Arkham ibn abil arkham RA and he was walking in so Hamza says Oh Allah This is Umar. If Allah intends goodness from this man he will accept Islam and Oh Allah if anything else is intended by this man make it easy for us to overcome this man. Oh Allah make it easy for us to overpower and overcome this man if he intends any evil. So, as he walks in, according to some narrations he declared the faith and according to some other narrations Muhammed (SAW) said,” Oh Umar you are welcome into the fold of Islam” and he says, “Ya Rasullallah, inni ashadu al-la ilaha illallha wa ashadu anna ka abduhu wa rasooluhu” I bear witness oh messenger that there is none worthy of worship besides Allah our maker and I bear witness that you are indeed the messenger of Allah (SWT). At that moment, there was a takbeer that was heard, that was heard all the way to the Kaaba. So many people heard it in Makkah, it was an amazing takbeer and this was because the Sahaba were so happy because of what had happened to Umar ibn Khataab. The first thing that happened. He says “Oh Messenger (SAW) Are we not on the right path? Yes, we are. Well what are we fearing for? Let’s just get up and go and pray at the Kaaba? Why must we do it in the house of al- Arkham here.” He was a leader of Quraysh and he says one of the things that delayed him to accept Islam was the fact that he thought to himself. I’m a big ambassador of Quraish, I’m a wealthy businessman. I have so much respect in Quraish and if I accept Muhammed, I’m going to lose everything” and he thought that it actually kept him back. Otherwise he would have been one of the first to accept Islam but because of his top position and his wealth and he was fearing to lose so much. He said “No. Let me not accept this man.” However, this day of turning is so amazing Allah SWT gave him in Islam more than he had prior to Islam in terms of his status and level and respect up to today when we say his name, we say RaziAllahu Anhu May Allah be pleased with him Umar ibn Khattab. So, he got up and the prophet (SAW) got up and they made two lines of people. Hamza ibn Abdul Muttalib was the leader of one and Umar ibn Khataab RA was the leader of the other. Twenty people on either side and they marched all the way to the Kaaba and that was the first day that they congregated and they prayed right at the Kaaba and the people of Quraysh were gobsmacked. They did not know what to say, no words to utter. Why? because Umar is with them. What should we do now? They were just watching. A strong man whom we had hoped that he would deal with the crisis became a part of the crisis according to Quraysh.
Days after Umar Accepted Islam
Sohaib Rumi RA said that when Umar RA accepted Islam, that is when Muslims became powerful, that is when the dua of the prophet (SAW) was literally accepted, the strength was granted to Islam. Through the acceptance of Islam of Umar ibn Khattab RA we could sit in groups in public, and we could tell people that we were Muslims and no one would dare lift a finger up on us. This was Umar ibn Khataab RA. The day that Umar ibn Khataab RA migrated to Madina Al-Munawara, he became an instant hero amongst the Muslimeen and he defended them. No one would dare take the name of a Muslim. When it was his time to go for Hijra to Medina Al-Munawara he did not do what the others were doing, which was that they were all quietly going by night because Quraysh and their relatives were persecuting the Muslims. The Quraysh would go on to the road and path and take away whatever the Muslims had, beat them up in some cases, bring them back in some cases and do so much in terms of harm to them.
Umar ibn Khataab migrates to Madinah
So, Umar ibn Khataab heard all this and he knew he had a big family. And he knew Quraysh was large and he went to the Kaaba. According to one narration he made the tawaf around the Kaaba and then he went on to the Maqam and he called out very loudly. He says “Oh Quraysh I am going out for Hijra. I’m leaving to Medina Al-Munawara and if anyone has a problem with that see me on the other side of this valley. Anyone who wants their mother not to see them again and anyone who wants their children to be orphaned and anyone who wants their wives to become widows, see me on the other side. Try to pick a fight with Umar ibn Khataab and then come and see what happens.” Nobody followed him. They saw him leave and he left with his group that he had and nobody dared speak about Umar ibn Khataab. This was the man and this was the hero.
Sulah hudaibiya Incident
During the Sulah hudaibiya incident, when Muhammed (SAW) had intended to make Umrah with his companions, the sixth year of Hijra, they went to Makkah, just outside Makkah and they camped in the place known as Hudaibiyah. Umar ibn Khattab RA was there and Muhammed (SAW) and his companions were denied entry into Makkah. They were told after the agreement that look, come back the following year and the agreement was signed. So, Umar ibn Khattab RA told Muhammed (SAW) that “We intended umrah and we should go in, no matter what happens. Why should we agree to come back next year? I don’t want to do this. I want to go in now, let’s just go” and Muhammed (SAW) said, “you know I am a messenger of Allah. I have been sent by Allah SWT when I told you we will go for umrah I did not say that it has to be this year so we will come back next year. Anyway, he was quite upset in his heart and as he walked away. He was upset to up to the degree that revelation came down when Allah revealed the opening verses of surah- al-Fatah.
Inna fatahna laka fatham mubeena. (Surah Al-Fath)
Indeed we have granted you a clear victory oh Muhammed (SAW) and this is when Umar ibn Khattab RA and some of the companions asked Is this a victory and the prophet (SAW) says “Yes it is, it is a revelation from Allah” then he was happy. And Umar ibn Khattab RA later on says that in my in life I engaged in so much of seeking forgiveness of Allah, so much of charity and so much of fasting and I freed so many of the slaves because I feared that the speech that I had on the day of Hudaibiyah must never be held against me.
Umar at the time of Prophet’s passing away
When Prophet Muhammad passed away, Umar ibn Khattab said “Whoever says Muhammed (SAW) has passed away I will execute him” and Abu Bakar Siddiq RA got up and explained the truth and this is when Umar calmed down. But one of the famous statements of Umar was that he used to immediately get angry with people who would step out of line and would as the Prophet to “deal with them”. But the prophet (SAW) would say “Relax, relax Oh ibn Khattab, take it easy. I have not been sent to be harsh. I have been sent as a mercy to mankind.”
Umar Ibn Khattab Supported Abu Bakar
So, this was the man, at the time of Abu Bakar Siddiq RA, he was the first person who stretched his hand and said “Oh Abu Bakar! I am the one who pledges my allegiance to you, you are the most worthy of khilafa and of being the leader and successor of Muhammed (SAW) here is my hand I pledge my allegiance” and everyone followed Umar ibn Khattab so much so that Abu Bakar Siddiq RA says that in my life as a Khalifa I love from amongst those who are on the earth, meaning obviously Muhammed (SAW) had passed away but I love from amongst those on Earth the most Umar ibn Khattab RA and he is my helper and he is the one who has been with me all through my period that I have ruled. This was the statement of Abu Bakar Siddiq RA and so when Umar ibn Khattab RA took the reins of leadership, I’m going to go through a list of what he did because he is our hero, really.
Umar’s Accomplishments during his caliphate
He has a lot of accomplishments for during the ten years that he ruled. He was thirteen years younger than Muhammed (SAW) approximately. And he ruled for ten years. So, he too was murdered when he was at the age of 63 approximately, 62 to 63.
He started the use of the Hijri calendar and said “From now on the Muslims, whenever we talk about the years, we should relate them to the Hijra” and he made it compulsory and that is what we are using to this day. He is the one who gathered the people in taraweeh in Ramadan, so the taraweeh that we read today in the gathering of this nature Umar ibn Khattab RA was the one who started that off because before him they used to read in small groups and the smaller groups later on became larger groups. He said that “Let us read in one group in the masjid and inshallah we will follow one imam”. Even though they were so many reciters amongst them but he put Ubaid ibn Ka’ab RA in the front and he said we will all read behind you.
He was the first person who created the proper army, an army that had the job and that was only to defend the Muslims and he was the first person who had actually sent his army to the borders in order to protect them full time, the borders of the Muslim nation. He was also the first person who created the police department amongst the Muslims where he had people who would walk around at night and he did do himself, finding out what happened and maintaining law and order and seeing that everyone was safe and sound.
There are so many more of his accomplishments that we can mention. In one touching incident, one day Umar ibn Khattab RA decided to walk through the city of Madinah. He decided to walk through the streets of Medina Munawara at night and he was followed by Talha RA and he walked into one home quietly when no one was watching and he came out after the while and he went back and he had a home that no one would distinguish because when he became the Khalifa, he did not change his house, he remained where he was all (alone??). So Talha RA decided to go the following day to that house to see who there was and what happened. And he found there was a very old blind woman there so he asked her, “Who came to you last night and why did he come here?” She said I don’t know but it’s a man who told me that he will come every so often, he brings me some food stuffs and he cleans my whole house and then he goes back.” Talha RA says “Subhanallah, this is Ameer ul mumeeneen, this is the leader of the mumeeneen and he goes himself at night to clean the house of this blind woman and to bring her some food once in a while.”
This was Umar ibn Khattab RA, the same man Muhammed (SAW) says” If Umar walks down the street Shaitan would never walk down the same street. Shaitan would walk down the other street because even Shaitan feared Umar ibn Khattab RA, this was a man, the hero. He was the first man who maintained the roads and built roads between cities and towns. He actually employed these men to service the cities by creating drainage and so many other facilities for the people of the cities and the towns. He was the man. He was the first man who developed what we know today as the Registrar General as he started recording the births, the deaths and other events. He’s the first man who decided that anyone who would memorize the Quran shall get an allowance from the Baitul maal. Today people who memorize the Quran, others question them because in so many countries the imam is the lowest paid in the whole community. This is in contrast to Umar ibn Khattab RA who encouraged such people because he knew that these people are our leaders, they are holding within them the deen, so let them get a stipend from Baitul Maal al Musleemeen from the treasury of the Muslims.
He also developed the treasury of the Muslims in such a beautiful way that he had so much that he used to spend even on the Christians in the non-Muslims who were poor, from the coffers of the Muslims. This was the man who developed the system of taxing imported goods when people brought goods from outside and a certain percentage was taken.
He was a man who developed the currency and decided that the coins need to have specific weight and all the weights should be recorded and when we are spending, we should have these gold and silver coins of specific weight and size. He was a man who told his people never to destroy a place of worship that belongs to those who are non-Muslim. He was the man who was very kind to one and all. He was so just that he was also known as Al-Farooq even prior to him becoming Khalifa, he was known as al Farooq, the one who distinguished. He was a just man. It is reported that one day a man came to him and told him, you know this man was supposed to be penalized because he was a thief. So, he said “Oh Ameer ul mumeeneen, how can I be penalized for having been a thief when it was pre-destined (an Islamic concept of Qada wal Qadr) that I was supposed to steal?” You see that is a statement he was using against Umar ibn Khattab RA and so the man says “How can this happen?” Umar ibn Khattab RA says, “Well, do you know what it was pre-destined that you were going to be penalized as well.” So here is the man, punish him. Allahu Akbar. So, he was one ahead, always sharp. This was Umar ibn Khattab RA, there are so many other stories of Umar ibn Khattab RA. He was a man who had surveyed the land.
But there came a day, ten years later, there came a day when there was one person who was disgruntled for some reason. His name was Abu Lulu Al Najoosi. Abu Lulu was a man from the Persians and he stabbed Umar ibn Khattab RA whilst he was leading Salatul Fajr, towards the end of 23rd year of Hijra. He stabbed him six times and Umar ibn Khattab RA fell down. He was taken away and three days later he passed away and that man who was known as Abu Lulu Firoz al Najoosi also stabbed several other companions who tried to catch him, some of them were killed instantly. And at the same time Abdul Rahman ibn Aous RA managed to get hold of him by throwing like a sheet over him and when that happened this man committed suicide and died so to this day we do not know the exact motive behind the killing of Umar ibn Khattab RA but what we do know is that it was a Persian man Abu Lulu Al Najoosi.
We have only touched on his life but I call on you to go through the details of the life of Umar ibn Khattab RA you will find volumes and volumes.