The mission of the Holy Prophet was still in the early stage. Islam was still weak and helpless. The chiefs of Mecca were up against it. One night the Holy Prophet stood in the Kaaba, lost in thoughts. Presently he raised his hands and turned his eyes heavenward. “Lord!” he prayed, “make Islam strong with either of the two men, Amr bin Hisham or Omar bin Khattab.”
The prayer was instantly granted. Allah chose Omar to serve Islam. Amr bin Hisham was to die as Abu Jahl( Father of Ignorance ). But Omar was to become a great pillar of strength for Islam.
Omar was twelve years younger than the Holy Prophet. He was the son of Khattab. His mother’s name was Khatmah. He came of the Adi branch of the Quraish. Banu Adi were held in great respect. They acted as the agents of the Quraish in talks with other tribes. They als acted as judges in their disputes.
In early youth, Omar got training in methods of warfare. He also learnt the art of public speaking. From the outset, he showed unusual courage and frankness of manner. Eager to learn, he was earnest and thorough in whatever he undertook. These qualities won him a name in the country rather at an early age. As a trader, he had to travel to other lands. These travels brought him a wide knowledge and a deep understanding of men and things.
Acceptance of Islam
Omar was twenty seven when the Holy Prophet began his mission. Young Omar was one of those who did not care to listen to the message of Islam. He was for the old way of life. As years went by, Islam made a slow headway. This made Omar angry. Do what the Meccan chiefs might, people who once went over to Islam never went back to their old faith. One of Omar’s own maid-servants became a Muslim. He beat her as much as he could, but she would not give up the new faith.
At last in the sixth year of the Mission, a number of Muslims left for Abyssinia. This made Omar boil with rage. “Here is a man,” he thought to himself “who has split the people. People lived smoothly enough. He appeared on the scene He has torn son from father and brother from brother. Now his followers are running away to another land. Surely Muhammad is the cause of all trouble. I must slay him and put an end to the trouble.”
With this resolve Omar drew his sword and set out to kill the Holy Prophet. On the way he met a friend who asked him why he looked so upset. Omar told him what he was going to do. “You better take care of your own kin first,” said the friend, “Your sister and her husband have gone over to Islam.”
These words changed the direction of Omar’s anger. He went straight to the house of his sister, Fatima. He knocked at the door. Someone was reciting the Quran inside. Fatima was terrified when she heard Omar’s voice. She hid the portion of the Quran she was reading and opened the door.
“What was it that you were reciting just now?” Omar demanded.
“Oh nothing,” said the sister.
“Why nothing?” he shouted in rage.
“I have heard it alright. I know you both have accepted Muhammad’s faith.”
Saying this, he began to beat his brother-in-law, Saeed. Fatima ran to his help and got a blow to the head. The head began to bleed. This made the couple bold. “Yes, we have become Muslims,” they shouted at Omar. “Do what you will.”
The sight of the bleeding sister deeply moved Omar. Fatima was such a loving sister! Surely there must be some great truth in the Quran which had won her innocent heart. “Would you let me have a look at the Quran?” said Omar.
Fatima handed him the few pages of the book she had.
Omar sat down to study the pages. Soon his face changed. His anger cooled down. The fear of Allah gripped his heart. He wept and declared, “Surely this is the word of Allah. I bear witness that Muhammad (peace be upon him) is the Messenger of Allah.”
Omar was again on his way to the place of the Holy Prophet. But he was not a changed man. He was not going to slay him but to embrace his faith.
The Holy Prophet was sitting in the company of some men. He saw Omar coming and asked, “Omar, what brings you here?”
“O Prophet of Allah!” replied Omar, “I have come to embrace Islam.”
Great was the joy of the Holy Prophet and his followers. Loud shouts of “Allah is Great” rented the air of Mecca. Soon everyone knew that Omar was no longer an enemy of Islam. It was a great day for Islam because one of its bitterest enemies had become its staunch follower.
The coming over of Omar made a difference for Islam. Hitherto, the Muslims had lived in constant fear of the non-believers. Some of them had not even made their faith known to the people. They could not say their prayers publicly. All this changed when Omar became a Muslim.
The first thing Omar did was to call together the chiefs of Mecca. Before this gathering he declared himself a follower of Islam. They started at him in silence. No one had the courage to utter a word of reproach.
Omar next requested the Holy Prophet to say prayers in the Kaaba. He himself led a party of Muslims to that place. A second party was led by Hamza. When all had gathered, they said their prayers in congregation. The Holy Prophet led the prayer. This was the first prayer of its kind said in the Kaaba.
When migration to Medina started, the same thing happend again. Most of the Muslims left Mecca silently and secretly. But Omar would not do so. He put on his arms. Then he went to the Kaaba and said his prayer. The chiefs of Mecca looked at him in silence. After the prayer, he shouted out to them, “I am leaving for Medina. If anyone wants to stop me let him meet me across the valley. His mother shall certainly have to weep for him in sorrow.”
Despite this challenge, no Meccan would dare to stop Omar. These things earned for Omar the title of Farooq. Farooq is the one who makes a difference. Omar’s acceptance of Islam had made a big difference for Islam and Muslims.
Omar stood by the side of the Prophet in all battles and expeditions. Great was his love for Allah and His Apostle. He never allowed any blood ties or friendship to stand in the way of this love.
The death of the Prophet was a stunning shock to Omar. He could not believe it, so much so that he drew his sword and swore that he would cut off the head of the man who said the Messenger of Allah was dead. He was overwhelmed with grief. Life without the Prophet was unthinkable, he thought. And if the Prophet was really no more, as people said, what was going to happen to Islam and the Muslims? These dark thoughts blotted out all reason from Omar’s head. Not till Abu Bakr had reminded him of the clear verdict of the Quran on the point did he come to himself. Abu Bakr, during his calpihate, depended on Omar for advice. That was because the Master, in his life-time, gave great weight to what Omar said.
After Khalid, Muthanna was the Commander of Muslim forces at Hira in Iraq. He was attacked by the enemy once, but he beat back the attack. However, reports were pouring in that the Iranians were preparing for another heavy blow. So Muthanna came to Medina to explaing things to the Caliph.
A day after Muthanna bin Harith reached Medina, Abu Bakr died. But before death he had urged Omar to give first thought to Iraq.
People from far off parts of the country soon started pouring into Medina. They came to pledge loyalty to the new Calpih. Omar took advantage of their presence. He spoke to them and urged them to take part in the Iraq campaign. But most people had come to look upon Khalid bin Walid as the only man who could deal with the enemy. They were doubtful about the outcome of a campaign not neaded by Khalid. However, Omar went on urging people. He wanted to uproot the wrong idea that Islam could not do without a particular man, however great a man might be. At last the well-known chief of Banu Thaqif, Abu Obaid Thaqfi, came out to fight for the cause of Allah. His example was followed by many more. Abu Obaid Thaqfi was given the command of Iraq operations.
Defeats in Iraq had made the rulers of Iran desperate. The nobles set aside their differences and met in counsel. After much thought, they crowned Princess Puran Dukht as the empress. The well-known noble, Rustam, was appointed her Chief Minister and Commander-in-Chief.
The first thing Rustam did was to take back the frontier districts that had fallen to the Muslims. He then sent two big armies under his experienced commanders, Jahan and Narsi. Narsi was a prince and Jahan a famous noble.
Abu Obaid’s first battle was with Jahan. It was fought at Namariq. Jahan was utterly defeated and was taken prisoner by a Muslim soldier, who did not know who the prisoner was. “I am an old man,” Jahan said, “let me go. I will give you good money for it.” The soldier agreed. Soon after, some other soldiers identified Jahan. They dragged him to Abu Obaid. Jahan told the commander of the deal he had made with one of his men. Most of the men objected to the deal in strong words. But Abu Obaid said, “We must honor the word given by one of us. Islam does not allow us to go back on our word.” Thus Jahan got his freedom.
The Iranians, who fled from Namariq, joined the army of Narsi. But Narsi was also defeated. The two victories had a healthy effect on the frontier districts. The chiefs and nobles of these districts presented themselves before Abu Obaid to pledge loyalty.
Some of the chiefs from frontier districts brought with them choice dishes for Abu Obaid.
“Is this food for me alone or for the whole army?” he asked.
“It was difficult,” they pleaded, “to prepare food for the whole army in such a short time.”
“Well,” replied the Muslim commander, “these men and I are partners in spilling our blood. I cannot part company with them at the dinner table. I must eat what they eat.”
This was something unheard of for these proud chiefs, who were used to the Iranian way of life. The Muslim way of life amazed them beyond description.
The defeat of Jahan and Narsi startled Rustam. He was bent upon doing something about the Arabs. Immediatley he collected a very huge army. He put it under the command of his bravest general, Bahman Juduya. He gave Bahman the famous Durfash-i-Kawayani. This was the sacred flag of Iran. It was taken out only on very special occasions.
In the month of Shaaban, 13 A.H., Abu Obaid advanced to meet Bahman. The Euphrates lay between the two armies. Bahman asked Obaid whether he would cross over or he should do it. Leaders of the Muslim army liked to stay on this side of the river. But Abu Obaid was carried off his feet by over-confidence. He chose to fight across the river.
A bridge of boats was built and the Muslims crossed the river. Here they found themselves at disadvantage. The ground was uneven. The army could not move freely. On top of this, the Iranians stood shielded by a thick wall of elephants. The Arab horses had never seen the giant beasts before. They got frightened and became difficult to manage.
Seeing this, Abu Obaid ordered his men to get down from their horses. With their swords, Muslim soldiers cut down the ropes of the howdahs, brought down the riders and killed them. But the elephants still remained a problem. They trampled men to death. A white elephant was the leader of the herd. Soon the white giant became a terror. Wherever it went, panic overtook the Arabs and their lines broke. Abu Obaid decided to do something about it. So with one stroke of his sword, he cutt of the trunk of the white elephant. The next moment, the angry beast trampled the Muslim Commander to death.
His brother stepped forward to hold the standard. He also met the same fat. In this way seven relatives of Abu Obaid fell one after another.
This made the Muslim army lose heart. There was a rush for the bridge. But there was no bridge! It had been cut by a young man of Banu Thaqif, lest the Muslim army should take to flight.
The outlook was hopeless. Muthanna had now the command. He ordered the rebuilding of the bridge. In the meantime, he held back the enemy. But even so, the Muslim army suffered a heavy loss. Almost four thousand men, out of an army of nine thousand, could be save.
The defeat made Omar very sad. How strongly he felt for the precious lives lost! He sent words to different tribes to fight under the command of Muthanna. It was not long before Muthanna had enough men to re-start the fight.
This time Rustam chose Mehran to fight the Muslims. This general had had long experience of Arab warfare. Rustam felt sure that Mehran would be more than a march for Muthanna. To be doubly sure, he put twelve thousand men of the Royal Guard under Mehran’s command.
The two armies met were Kufa now stands. The Euphrates lay between them. Mehran asked if Muthanna would cross over. He refused. So the Iranian host crossed the river.
The battle began. It was a grim fight. The Iranians were several times in number. But the Muslims sought desperatley. With amazing daring, they plunged into the heart of the Iranian host. A young man of Banu Taghlab identified Mehran. He flew at him and cut off his head. The he cried out, “I am a youth of Taghlab and the killer of the Iranian commander.”
Panic overtook the Iranian host. There was a wild rush for the bridge. Muthanna had his plans ready for removing the bridge before the enemy could get to it. With the bridge gone, thousands of the fleeing Iranians got drowned. No less than a hundred thousand of them lost their lives in this battle. Muslim victory was complete. The whole of Iraq, west of the Euphrates, was now in Muslim hands.
The challenge of Iran had to be met. Omar started preparations on a big scale. Orders were sent to governors to send to the capitol brave warriors, tried generals and good speakers. These orders were carried out. Medina was soon flooded with the best sons of Islam.
Omar himself wanted to lead the army. Talha, Zubair, Abdur Rahman and other noted companions were appointed commanders of different regiments. Omar marched at the head of the army for about three miles. Then he encamped to decide finally whether or not he himself should command. The general opinion was for it. But the veterans said it was a risky affair. No one could foretell the outcome of the battle. If the Muslims lost, fighting under the command of the Caliph, nothing could give them back their confidence and prestige. Omar saw the point. He handed over the command to Saad bin Abi Waqqas, the maternal uncle of the Holy Prophet, and himself returned to Medina.
Saad continued the march until he reached where Kufa stands now. Here he received news of Muthanna’s death. Muthanna’s brother joined Saad with his army of eight thousand. He also brought far the new commander some very useful hints which his late brother had given.
Sitting in Medina, Omar gave careful thought to the smallest details of the campaign. Saad was constantly receiving instructions from the Caliph. If was Omar who said how the army should be organized. Again it was he who chose Qadisiya as the place where the Muslims were to halt. He then asked for a detailed map of the surrounding country. In the light of this map he sent further instructions about the tactics to be used.
Saad received orders that an offer of peace be made to the enemy before fighting was begun. So he chose fourteen chiefs of different tribes to be the envoys of Islam.
Yezdgird held his court to receive the envoys. The court was a mirror of the pomp and glory of Iran. The Iranians wanted to dazzle the eyes of the desert dwellers by the display of their splendour. But the Muslims turned out to be made of a different stuff. With shawls of Yemen flung across their shoulders, leather boots on their feet and whips in their hands, they walked fearlessly into the court. The courtiers and the Emperor alike were amaed at the dauntless bearing of the Arabs.
The peace talks began. Yezdgird asked the envoys what had brought them into his territory. Naaman bin Maqran, the leader of the deputation, came forward and said:
“O king, not long ago we were an ignorant and wild people. Allah had mercy on us. He sent to us His chosen Prophet. The Prophet showed us the path of truth. He called us towards good life and rid us of all evils. He had said that if we accepted his message, we would be successful in this world as well as in the next.
We accepted his message. He then ordered us to carry his message to the people living in the neighborhood. This message is Islam. It is the fountain-head of all good. It clearly tells what is good and what is bad.”
“O nobles of Iran, we call you to the path of the holy faith. If you accept it nothing can be like it. We will leave you alone. We will hand you the book of Allah. That will be your guide. You will have to follow its commandments. But if you reject the message of Islam, you will have to pay the jizya and live under us. You will have to give an undertaking that there will be no more injustice of evil doing in your country. If you refuse to accept this offer too, the sword must decide.”
Yezdgird calmy heard this speech, then said:
“O Arabs, not very long ago no people on earth were so wretched or rotten as you. The smallest favor from us was enough to win you. Whenever you did a mischief, we wrote to a frontier chief and he set you right. I advise you to give up your whims of conquest. If you do not have enough food or other necessities, let us know. We will send you supplies. We will also appoint a good ruler over you, that he may treat you kindly.”
When the king had finished, Mughira bin Zarara rose and spoke back:
“O king, we were certainly as wretched as you have said; perhaps worse. We ate dead animals, wore skins and slept on the bare ground. But ever since Allah’s chosen Prophet appeared among us, we have totally changed. His wonderful teachings and his lofty example have made us leaders of the world. Even proud kings like you fear us now.”
“O king, any further talk is useless. Either accept the chosen Prophet of Allah and bow before his blessed teachings or agree to pay the jizya. If you accept neither of the two things, then wait for the sword to decide.”
Mughira’s words made the king lose his temper. “By Yazdan,” he roared in anger, “if it were not against the law to shed the blood of envoys, I must have got you beheaded. But I am sending Rustam to deal with you. He will bury you and all your commanders in the trenches of Qadisiya. You are going to get nothing from us except dust.”
Then the king asked, “Who is the most respectable among you?”
“I” replied Asim bin Omar.
The king got a basket full or earth and had it placed on Asim’s head. Asim galloped away, carrying the basket. He took the basket to the Commander, Saad, and placing it before him said, “Congratulations for the victory! The enemy himself has handed over his soil to us.” Then he recounted all that had taken place at the Iranian court.
Saad felt much pleased. He took it as a good omen for Muslim victory. Later events proved that he was right.
With an army of hundred and twenty thousand, Rustam advanced to Qadisiya. Here he dug up for the battle. But he feared the Muslims at heart. So he went on putting off the battle for weeks. Envoys kept coming and going from one side to the other.
The last envoy to visit Rustam was Mughira bin Shaaba. Rustam did all he could to dazzle the eyes of the Arab envoy. He sat on a throne of gold with a crown of diamonds on his head. The whole court was decked with brocades, gold and diamonds.
Mughira got down from his hourse and walked straight to Rustam’s throne. He climbed onto it and sat by Rustam’s side. All present were taken back. The guards ran forward and made Mughira get down from the throne.
Mughira remained cool. Addressing the courtiers, he said:
“O nobles of Iran, I thought you were wise. But you have proven quite silly. We Muslims do not raise men to the position of gods. The weak among us do not beleive in the overlordship of the strong. I thought you also followed the same practice. I never knew that the strong among you were raised high and were worshipped by the weak. I never knew that you did not believe in the equaitly of men. If I had known that, I would never have come to your court. But let me tell you that you cannot save your empire by these methods. Unrest among the weak will turn the tables against you.”
Mughira’s speech ended the peace talks. But his words continued to ring in the ears of the Iranian nobles.
In the month of Muharram, 14A.H., the battle of Qadisiya began at last. Saad bin Abi Waqqas, the Muslim Commander, was sick with sever pain. So he sat on the roof of a near-by house and directed the operations from there. After the early afternoon prayers, Saad ordered the attack. As was the Muslim practice, the commander raised three shouts of “Allah is Great!” At the fourth shout, the army went into action.
The fight went on until late in the evening. Iranian elephants were again a bug-bear fo the Arab horses. Muslim archers did their best to him them and their riders. But the elephant problem still remained unsolved. The first day ended with an advantge for the Iranians.
On the morning of the second day, the battle began again. The dead were buried. The wounded were left to the care of the women. Before fighting started, reinforcements from Syria arrived. These troops were six thousand in number. But they came galloping in small parties. Thus they kept pouring in until evening. The strategy made the Iranians think that the Muslim army was swelling at a fearful rate. The thought sowed dread in the hearts of the Iranians.
The Syrian troops thought of a very clever way of fighting the elephant danger. They covered their camels with big black, flowing cloaks. The sight made the Iranian elephants unmanageable. The two armies remained locked in a life and death struggle until midnight. Bahman, Prince Shahr Baraz and many other Iranian leaders were killed. The Muslims had a clear advantage on the whole.
A strange incident took place on the second day of the battle. Abu Mahjan Thaqfi was a great warrior and a good poet. Saad put him in prison because he had been found drunk. From the prison window, the brave warrior looked at the stirring scenes of the battle. He longed very much to be in the thick of the fighting. Presently Saad’s wife, Salma, passed by. He entreated her to set him free so that he might also fight. “If I live until evening,” he assured her, “I will walk back into this cell and put on the fetters.”
Salma was moved by the appeal. She set him free. Abu Mahjan at once darted into the thick of the battle. Saad noticed from the house top the outstanding feats of a particular warrior. Whichever way he turned, he broke the lines of the enemy. Saad was full of praise for his courage and wanted to know who he was.
At night, Abu Mahjan came back to his prison and put on the fetters. In the morning Saad’s wife told her husband all about the brave prisoner. Saad then knew who the wonderful warrior of the previous day was.
“By Allah!” declared Saad, “I cannot keep behind bars a man who loves Muslims so much.”
“By Allah!” declared Abu Mahjan as he got his freedom, “I will never touch wine again.”
The battle entered the third day. The Iranian elephants were still a problem. Saad asked to Iranian Muslims how best to solve the problem.
“Put out their eyes,” they said.
There were two big elephants the led the rest of the herd. Two Muslim warriors took it upon themselves to deal with one of the giant bests. At one and the same time, they put out both its eyes with their spears. Then one of them cut off its trunk. The same thing was done to the second giant beast. Mad with pain both the elephants reeled back into the river. The rest of the herd followed the blinded leaders. From then on, the elephants were seen no more.
The battle raged with full fury the whole day and throughout the night. When morning came, the chiefs of different Arab tribes shouted out to their men to make one final rush. At this call, men jumped down from horses. With drawn swords they thrust themselve into enemy lines. Before noon they were in the heart of the Iranian host. Some of them reached as far deep as Rustam, the Iranian Commander. Sitting on his throne of gold, Rustam was directing the fight. Take by surprise, he jumped down and gave a good fight. But he was slain at last by a Muslim soldier, Halal bin Alqama. Halal jumped onto Rustam’s throne of gold and shouted out, “By the Lord of the Kaaba, I have slain Rustam.!”
The death of Rustam completed the Iranian rout. Darufsh-i-Kawiyani fell in Muslim hands. Thirty thousand Iranians were killed. The Muslim loss was eight thousand killed.
Omar was very anxious about the outcome of the battle. Each morning, he walked a few miles out of Medina and waited for the messenger of Qadisiya. One day, as he sat waiting, a camel-rider appeared in the distance.
“Wherefrom?” asked Omar, as the man came near.
“From Qadisiya,” came the reply, and the man kept galloping on.
Omar ran by his side to keep pace and asked, “But what news have you brought?”
“Allah has granted victory to the Muslims,” was the answer.
Thus Omar went on running by the side of the messenger, getting more details from him. When the two reached the town, people greeted Omar as the “Commander of the Faithful”. The messenger was taken aback. He had never seen Omar before.
“O Commander, of the Faithful,” he said in a low voice, “why did you not tell me who you were?”
“No harm has been done,” said Omar. “Please go on with the details of your message.”
A party of Muslims will take the White Palace of the Iranian Emperor,” the Holy Prophet had foretold several years ago.
Madain was the proud capital of Iran. Here lived the mighty Emperor, in his well-known White Palace. The imperial city was not more than forty miles for Qadisiya.
Saad’s army rested after the Qadisiya victory for two months. When the men were fresh again, Saad ordered them to march towards Madain. Cities and forts that stood on the way were easily taken. Soon the Muslims reached the banks of the Tigris. The White Palace shimmered in the sun, on the oppostie bank.
The Iranians had destroyed the bridge on the river. So Saad ordered some of his men to get across and make the opposite bank safe for a landing. At once sixty horse-men threw themselves into the river. The sight so frightened the Iranian guards that they ran off, shouting, “The gians have come! The giants have come!”
Saad crossed over with his army. There was no opposition. Yezdgird and his courtiers had already fled.
At last the Muslims were inside the White Palace. Here they met with heaps of precious stones and untold treasures. One-fifth of this rich booty was sent to Medina. The rest was divided among the men. Every soldier got twelve-thousand pieces of gold, in hard cash, in addition to other valuable objects.
Saad and Omar were both grateful to Allah. Their men had shown perfect honesty and uprightness throughout the campaign.
The rich booty from the White Palace at last reached Medina. It lay heeped in the Prophet’s Mosque. The sight of it brought tears to Omar’s eyes.
“There is nothing to weep at,” remarked one of the men standing near him.
“I weep,” said Omar, “because riches beget enmity and mutual bitterness. A nation which has these evils loses its respect.”
The botty also included the Emperor’s sword. Its handle was inlaid with jewels or rare beauty. The Caliph admired the beauty of the sword and also praised the honesty of the troops, who has kept back nothing from what had fallen into their hands.
“Commander of the Faithful,” remarked Ali, “When you yourself set a lofty example of honest, why should your people not be honest?”
Omar had no wish to conquer Iran. All he wanted was to take back Arab lands from the Iranians. This done, he watned to be left alone. He often said, “I wish there was amountain of fire between us and the Iranians, so that we could live in peace.”
But Yezdgird would not let the Muslims live in peace. All the time he was trying to get back what was once his. This led to constand fighting, the one at Jalul being a most terrible battl.e Everywhere the Iranians were beaten. Yezdgird fled form place to place but he would not make peace. At last he went to Khorasan and settled down in Merv. Here he began preparations for an all-out war on the Muslims.
Saad wrote to the Caliph about what was going on in Iran. Some people suggested that Omar himself should lead an army against Yezdgird. But Ali differed with this view. He wanted the Caliph to remain in the capital. Omar liked Ali’s advice. He appointed Naaman bin Maqran the Commander of the Army sent against Yezdgird. Naaman was ready to give battle in the month of Muharram, 19 A.H.
The Iranian Emperor led an army of one hundred and fifty thousand men. The two armies met at Nahawand. For two days they fought without a clear gain to either side. On the third day, the Iranians went behind fortifications. The Muslims did not want to prolong the fighting; so, by a clever stratagem, they lured the enemy out into the open.
Grim hand-to-hand fighting now began. It went on until late in the evening. So much blood flowed that the battlefiled became slippery. Commander Naaman’s horse slipped. He fell down and got wounded. But his brother at once sent him to a safe place. Then he put on Naaman’s turban and cloack, and rose his horse. Thus the army knew nothing about the Commander’s absence and kept on fighting as desperatlye as ever.
Under cover of night, the Iranians took to flight. But they were pursued and killed by the thousands. Huge booty fell into the hands of the victors.
Naaman’s wounds proved fatal. However, he liked to hear the happy news of victory. “A thousand thanks to Allah,” he gasped, “send news to Omar.” The next moment he was no more.
Omar was glad to hear the news of victory. But when the messenger told of Naaman’s death, the Caliph started weeping and wept for a long time.
After the victory of Nahawand, Omar made up his mind to put an end to the problem of Iran once and for all. The cities of Basrah and Kufa had already been founded in Iraq. They served as military bases for the Muslims. From these bases, several armies were ordered to march under different commanders to the various provinces of Iran. They completed their task of conquest in about five years. By the year 23A.H., almost the whole of Iran was part of the Muslim empire.
Hakam bin Omair Taghlabi marched as far east as [East Pakistan]. A big Baluch army came to oppose him. The Raja of Sind also sent his army to reinforce this host. Hakam won the day. Makran became a prt of the Muslim empire. Hakam wanted to march still farther east. He wanted to carry the standard of Islam to India. But Omar was not in favor of extending his empire. He did not want to spill Muslim blood for the sake of extending his frontiers. So he forbade Harkam to march beyond Makran.
Yezdgird continued to cause trouble for some time. He made several bids to win back power by raising armies. He even got military aid from the neighboring Turkish kingdoms. However, all his attempts failed. At last he gave up hope and fled to Transoxnia, where he was killed during the reign of Othman.
War with Byzantium was on when Omar became Caliph. In a few more days the enemy suffered a big defeat at Yarmuk. But the enemy was not oging to take this defeat as a final settlement of relations with the Arabs. Byzantium was bent upon wiping out the blot of the defeat. Soon big armies were gathered at Damascus and at Fahl. The emperor of Byzantium wanted to take back what he had lost. He also wanted to teach the Arabs a lesson, which they might never forget.
The Muslim Commander, Abu Obaida wrote to the Caliph asking for instructions. Omar wrote b ack that he must offer a fight on both fronts. So Obaida laid a seige to both the cities.
Damascus was the capital of Syria. Its defences were very strong. Abu Obaida, assisted by able generals like Khalid bin Walid, Amr bin As and Yazid bin Abu Sufyan, was directing the attack. But the Byzantine forces had shut themselves up in the city, and would not come out to fight.
Khalid was constantly on the look-out for an oppurtunity. He hardly slept at night. One night he noticed unusual excitement inside the city. Spies brought the news that a son had been born to the Governor and people had given themselves up to drinking and merry-making.
Khalid saw his chance. He crossed the moat, in the company of a few picked men. They had strong ropes with them. With these they succeeded in climbing onto the city wall. Then they jumped down, killed the guards and threw open the gate. Up went the shout of, “Allah is Great,” Khalid’s troops had rushed into the city!
The Byzantine commanders were taken by complete surprise. Hastily they opened the opposite gate of the city, went to Abu Obaida and begged for peace. Abu Obaida knew nothing of Khalid’s daring exploit. He readily granted them peace on easy terms.
Marching from the opposite gates, Khalid and Abu Obaida now knew of the cleverness of the enemy. However, he stuck to the terms that had been granted. Damascus fell in the month of Rajab 14A.H.
Yazid bin Abu Sufyan was appointed governor of Damascus. He and his younger brother, Muavia, conquered the surrounding country and its towns.
The emperor of Byzantium was at Antioch when Damascus fell. Close on the heels of his defeat came the rapid fall of other important cities. Byzantine forces were being simply swept away by the advancing of Arab conquest. Constant defeats at last made the Emperor despair of Syria. He left this country for good and set off to the safety of Byzantium. “Good-bye, O fair land of Syria,” he said, with a sigh, as he stood on top of a hill. “Never again shall I set my eyes on you.”
On reaching Byzantium, Heracleus sent for a former prisoner of war. He had fallen in the hands of Muslims and had recently escaped.
“What kind of people are they?” asked the Emperor.
“O Emperor,” replied the man, “they are a wonderful people. They are fearless warriors in the daytime but spend their nights in prayers. They do not get anything from the conquered people without paying for it. Wherever they go, they carry peace and justice with them. But if a people oppose them, they do not leave them alone until they give in.”
“If they possess such magical powers,” said the Emperor, “they are sure to conquer some day the ground under my feet.”
The Muslims now took Alleppo. Next they marched on Antioch. This key-city was the Asiatic capital of the Emperor. It was taken without much resistance.
When Abu Obaida and Khalid were busy in Northern Syria, Yazid son of Abu Sufyan was mopping up enemy pockets in the Lebanese coasstal strip. Taking Beruit, he marched up and down the entire length of the coast and occupied it.
The stronghold of Ajnadain fell next. Now it was the turn of Jerusalem. A Muslim army was already laying seige to it.
Amr bin As was laying seige to Jerusalem. After the fall of Antioch, Abu Obaida, Khalid and other Muslim generals also joined Amr. The Christians had little hope of help from Byzantium. So they decided to give in.
However, the Christians had some fears. They knew that other cities had given in before. In each case the victors had respected the life and property of the defeated. They had left alone their places of worship. They had allowed them to follow their own religion. But about Jerusalem the Christians were not very sure. It was as sacred to the Muslims as it was to them. Before giving in they wanted to make very sure that they would be treated well.
So the Christians put their proposal before Abu Obaida. “We are ready to give in,” they said, “but your Caliph must come here in person and sign the treaty of peace.”
The Muslim generals met in counsel and thought over the proposal. At last they decided to accept it. “Why spill human blood” they said, “if things can be straightened out without it?”
So the Christian proposal was conveyed to the Caliph. Jerusalem could be taken without shedding a drop of blood. But for that Omar had to come all the way from Medina to Jerusalem. To this Omar readily agreed.
Omar in Jerusalem
The Caliph left Ali in Medina as his deputy and himself left for Jerusalem. He had only one attendant with him and only one camel to ride. Omar and the attendant rode the camel by turns. It happened to be the servant’s turn to ride on the day when they were to reach Jerusalem. “Commander of the Faithful,” said the attendant, “I give up my turn. It will look awkward, in the eyes of the people, if I ride and you lead the camel.”
“Oh no,” replied Omar, “I am not going to be unjust. The honor of Islam is enough for us all.”
Abu Obaid, Khalid, Yazid and other officers of the army went some distance to receive the Caliph. All of them were wearing silk cloaks. This made Omar angry. He took some pebbles and threw them at his generals, saying, “Have you changed so much in just two years? What dress is this? Even if you had done this two hundred years from now, I would have dismissed you.”
The officers replied, “Commander of the Faithful, we are in a land where the quality of clothes worn tells the rank of a man. If we wear ordinary clothes, we will command little respect among the people. However, we are wearing our arms underneath the silken robes.”
This answer cooled down the anger of the Caliph.
Next the Caliph signed the treaty of peace. It ran as follows:
“From the servant of Allah and the Commander of the Faithful, Omar: The inhabitants of Jerusalem are granted security of life and property. Their churches and crosses shall be secure. This treaty applies to all people of the city. Their places of worship shall remain intact. These shall neither be taken over nor pulled down. People shall be quite free to follow their religion. They shall not be put to any trouble…”
The gates of the city were now opened. Omar went straight to the Temple of David (Masjid-i-Aqsa). Here he said his prayer under David’s Arch.
Next he visited the biggest Christian church of the city. He was in the church when the time for the afternoon prayer came.
“You may say your prayers in the church,” said the Bishop.
“No,” replied Omar, “if I do so, the Muslims may one day make this an excuse for taking over the church from you.”
So he said his prayers on the steps of the church. Even then, he gave the Bishop a writing. It said that the steps were never to be used for congregational prayers nor was the Adhan [ call to prayer ] to be said there.
Omar wanted to build a mosque in Jerusalem. He asked the Bishop which place would be suitable for the purpose. The Bishop suggested the “Sakhra,” or the rock on which Allah had talked to Prophet Jacob. Here the Christians had heaped garbage to tease the Jews.
Immediatley the Sakhra was cleared of the garbage. Omar himself worked like a laborer with the rest of his men. Jeruslaem, the city of David and of Christ, wittnessed the equality of Islam. When the Sakhra had been cleared of every trace of dirt, a mosque was built on the site. The mosque stand to this day and is known as Omar’s Mosque.
Northern Iraq OccupiedNorthern Iraq had thus far been left alone. This part of Iraq was called ‘Jazira.’ The people of Jazira made a plot to oust the Muslims from Syria. They asked the Emperor of Byzantium to send out an army to help them carry out the plot. He did so. The people of Jazira joined hands with this army. Abu Obaida and other Muslim generals were forced to shut themselves up in the city of Hims. The enemy laid seige to the city. The Caliph got the alarming news. He himself set out at the head of a forces to help his men. But before he reached the city, the enemy had been beaten off.
The Caliph now ordered the Jazira be occupied. Ayaz bin Ghanam carried out the order and overran Jazira.
The Great Plague
In the year 17-18 A.H., Iraq, Syria and Egypt found themselves in the grip of a widespread plague. The epidemic took away a great part of the population.
The Muslim army in Syria was also hit by the epidemic. So heavy was the toll taken by it that Omar himself had to go to Syria to study things. At Saraa, he was received by army leaders. They implored him to keep out of the affected area. The Calpih sought the advice of leading Companions. They differed. At last Omar chose to go back. Seeing this, Abu Obaida said “Omar, are you running away from teh decree of Allah?”
“Yes,” replied Omar, “I am running away from the decree of Allah to the decree of Allah.”
In the meantime Abdur Rahman bin Auf also came up. “I have heard the Messenger of Allah say,” he said, “‘Do not go to a place where an epidemic is raging.'”
Some days after Omar had left, Abu Obaida died of plague. His successor, Maaz bin Jabal met the same fat. The command now passed into the hands of Amr bin As. He at once ordered his troops to spread out on hill tops. This wise step brought the epidemic under control. But no less than tweny thousand warriors had already died. Among them were some of the topmost generals of Islam. These men, if they had lived on, could have conquered the whole world of Islam.
When the epidemic was over Omar paid his last visit to Syria. The purpose of the visit was to settle on the spot many problems created by the terrible epidemic. Some miles from the city of Ela, he gave his horse to his servant and himself rode the servant’s camel.
“Where is the Commander of the Faithful” people asked the servant.
“There he goes before you!” the servant replied, pointing to the camel-rider. This amazed the people. They could hardly beleive their eyes. At last they knew that Islam makes no distinction between master and servant.
During his stay in Syria, the Caliph distributed relief to families that had lost their bread-winners. New officers were appointed in place of the ones who had died.
One evening, people insisted that the Calpih should request Bilal to say the Adhan. Bilal who had never said the Adhan after the Prophet’s death, accepted Omar’s request. As he began, his melodious voice recalled to people’s minds the good old memories of the Prophet’s Mosque and all began to weep.
Omar felt very much for his people. So much so that he swore not to touch butter and honey as long as the famine lasted.
This had a bad effect on his health. Seeing this, his servant managed to get some butter and honey with the meals on day. But Omar refused to touch them, saying, “If I do not taste suffering, how can I know the suffering of others?”
The Egyptian Campaign
Amr bin As was very keen to conquer Egypt. He had been to that country and knew how green and fertile it was. In 18 A.H., when Omar visited Syria, Amr asked permission to invade Egypt. The Calpih was not very willing, but Amr pressed his point. At last Amr was allowed to march at the head of four thousand men.
Amr had not yet crossed into Egypt when he received a letter from the Caliph. It called him back. The thought that human blood would be unnecessarily spilled had made Omar change his mind. But Amr was so bent on conquering Egypt that he did not open the letter until he had crossed into that country.
The Viceroy’s Daughter Treated with Honor
Egypt was under the rule of a Viceroy of the Emperor of Byzantium. The Emperor kept a large number of troops in Egypt. The troops were under an imperial commander.
Amr bin As had his first battle with the imperial troops. The battle went on for a month. At last Amr won a victory in the end. This made further advance easy.
Continuing his march, Amr took the city of Balkis. Here lived the Viceroy’s daughter. She had been married to the Emperor’s son but had yet to leave for Byzantium. She was preparing to leave for her husband’s city. With her rich dowry she fell into Muslim hands. But Amr sent her to her father, with all her belongings. The Viceroy felt very grateful to Amr for this act of kindness.
The Viceroy Gives In
Amr now marched on to the biggest stronghold of the imperial forces. It stood on the easter bank of the Nile. Facing it, stood the Viceroy’s palace on the western bank.
The commander of the imperial forces shut himself up in the fortress. Amr laid seige to it. The seige went on but there seemed little hope of victory. So Amr wrote to Medina and the Caliph sent a reinforcement of twelve thousand men. With it came some of the most noted veterans. One of them, Zubair, was a very strong man. He managed to climb on the wall of the fortress. After him went many more. Together they raised the shout of “Allah is Great.” The imperial commander lost his nerve. Boats stood ready at the back of his fortress. He and his men sat in the boats and sailed off.
The sheild that protected the Viceroy was now gone. So he sent men to Amr to sue for peace. Amr kept the envoys with him for two days so that they might study the Muslim way of life. Then he sent them back with a hopeful reply.
When the envoys went back, the Viceroy asked them what kind of men the victors were.
“Our lord,” they replied, “the Muslims are a people who love death more than we love life. They love humility better than pride. Greed is unknown to them. They do not think it degrading to sit on the ground. They eat without sitting at a table. Their Commander is just one of them. There is no special mark about him. The Muslims know no distinction between the high and the low of the master and the servant. When the time for prayer comes, they all wash up and stand shoulder to shoulder, in all humility, before the Lord.”
The Viceroy was much impressed.
“Such a people,” he declared, “will overcome any power. We better make peace with them.”
So the Viceroy signed a treat of peace. By this treaty, the Muslims granted the Coptics security of life and property and freedom of faith. The Coptics, on their part, undertook to help the Muslims in their fight against imperial troops.
The treaty made the Emperor of Byzantium very angry. But the Viceroy of Egypt did not care for it. He firmly stood by the terms of the treaty and so did the Muslims. The result was that in a short time the greater part of Egypt was cleared of imperial troops.
At last Amr laid seige to the city. For six months the seige dragged on and victory seemed no nearer. This worried Omar and he wrote the following letter to Amr:
“I am afraid the Muslims have not lived up to the teachings of the Quran and the example of the Holy Prophet. Tell all Muslims to beware of this shortcoming. Urge them to be sincere, jardy and warlike. Give the enemy a final blow with the help of other army leaders.”
Amr read out the Caliph’s letter to the army. These orders were at once carried out. At last Alexandria fell after a seige of a full six months.
It was midday when the messenger reached Medina with the news of victory. He did not like to disturb the Caliph at that hour of the day and sat down in the Prophet’s Mosque. But a servant told Omar of the messenger’s arrival. The Calpih ran out and said to the messenger, “Why did you not come striaght to me?”
“I thought,” replied the man, “you might be having a nap.”
“What a pity you thought so!” exclaimed Omar. “If I start sleeping during the day, who will look after the affairs of the State?”
The conquest of Egypt was now complete. Amr founded a city on the Nile bank and named it Fustat. In the middle of it, he built a big mosque. In the course of years, the city of Cairo grew up in the neighborhood of this city. By the year 23 A.H., Amr had pushed Muslim arms as far as west Tripoli.
The Coptics were Christians. But they followed a savage practice. They used to hold a big festival in the early summer each year. This was a day of general merrymaking. However, the day was also marred with human sacrifice. A beatiful maiden, dressed as a bride, was thrown into the Nile. People that that the sacrifice was necessary to please the Nile, and get a big flood of water for their parched fields. If the Nile got displeased, they thought, there would be no flood and hence no crops.
The Coptics asked Amr’s permission to sacrifice a maiden as usual. He disallowed the savage act. It so happened that the Nile had very little water that year. Crops failed. Many of the peasants decided to leave the country. Amr wrote to the Caliph for advice.
The Caliph approved Amr’s action. He also sent a letter, addressed to the Nile. It said:
“From the servant of Allah and Commander of the Muslims to the River of the Nile of Egypt. O Nile, if you flow of your own will, then do not flow. But if your flow is controlled by Allah, the Almighty, we pray to Him to keep you flowing.”
This letter was thrown into the river, as directed by the Caliph. The river overflowed its banks that year. Such a big flood had not been seen for years. The country was once again green with crops. The peasants were happy. The savage practice of human sacrifice came to an end for ever.
“How much is the tax?” asked Omar.
“Two dirhams a day,” replied the slave.
“And what skills do you posses?” was the next question of the Caliph.
“I am a carpentar, a painter, and a black-smith,” Firoz said.
“Then the tax is by no means too heavy,” the Calpih remarked. “A person with your skills can easy pay this tax and shall live comfortably.”
“All right, I will settle with you,” grunted the slave as he went away.
Omar took no notice of the words.
“I have been rebuked by a slave.” he remarked with a smile.
Early next morning Omar went to the mosque as usual to lead the prayer. Abu Lolo was already hiding in the corner, with a dagger in hand. As soon as Omar began the prayer, the slave jumped on him. He gave six cuts with the dagger on the Caliph’s body. The horrified worshippers overpowered the assasin. Thereupon the wretch slew himself with the same dagger.
Omar kept lying in a pool of blood until the prayer was over. Then he was carried home.
“Who is my assasin?” he asked.
“Abu Lolo,” said the people.
“Allah be thanked!” said Omar. “It is not a Muslim who has shed my blood.”
A physician was called in to dress and treat the wounds of the Caliph. He said they were too deep to be healed. At this many people who stood around began to weep.
“Please do not weep,” implored Omar. “Have you not heard the Messenger of Allah say that the weeping of relatives adds to the torture of the dead person?”
Finding his end in sight, Omar called his son, Abdullah.
“My son,” he said, “go to Aisha. Give her Omar’s greetings. Do not refer to me as the Commander of the Faithful; for I am no longer one. Place before her my wish to be buried in her room, by the side of the Prophet and my illustrious predecessor.”
Abdullah found Aisha weeping. He delivered his father’s message to her.
“I wanted to reserve this spot for my own grave, but I prefer Omar to myself,” said Aisha.
Abdullah conveyed Aisha’s consent to his dying father.
“Allah be thanked!” said Omar. “This was the greatest wish of my life. But look, son, when you take my dead body to Aisha’s room, again give her my greetings and ask her permission. If she allows, bury me there, otherwise bury me in the graveyard of Medina.”
Fall of Jerusalem
After the battle of Yermuk, when the main Muslim army under Abu Ubaida and Khalid left for the north of Syria, some Muslim contingents under Amr bin al-As and Shurahbil remain stationed in the southern sector comprising Jordan and Palestine.
Finding that the bulk of the Muslim army had left, Artabun the Byzantine Governor assembled a large force at Ajnadin in another bid to drive away the Muslims from Syria. The battle at Ajnadin fought towards the close 636 C.E. was very bloody and gruesome. Both sides fought bravely but ultimately the Byzantines were defeated, Artabun defeated with heavy loss fled to Jerusalem with the remnant of his army.
After the victory of Ajnadin the Muslim forces spread in all directions in Jordan and Palestine. The towns of Sabtah, Gaza, Nablus, Bait-Jibrin and many other towns were captured one after the other. That cleared the way to Jerusalem. The city of Jerusalem sacred to the Jews and the Christians was strongly fortified. It was protected on every side naturally by deep valleys and steep ascents. Further, military engines were mounted on the walls which were intended for playing havoc with the advancing invader. It was the winter season, and the severity of the winter added to the difficulties of the besieging Muslim force. The siege dragged on and the Byzantines offered very stiff resistance.
Amr bin al-As the Muslim Commander in the southern sector wrote to Abu Ubaida for reinforcement. By this time, northern Syria had fallen to the Muslims and Aba Ubaida was able to spare many contingents which rushed to the aid of the Muslims fighting in the southern sector. When the citizens of Jerusalem came to know that the besieging Muslim forces has been considerably strengthened they lost heart. Finding further resistance futile, the Patriarch of Jerusalem sued for peace. He said that it was written in their holy books that the city would surrender to the man who was the best among the Muslims. He accordingly desired that the Caliph Umar (ra) should come to Jerusalem personally to receive the surrender of the city.
Abu Ubaida referred the matter to Caliph Umar at Madina. Caliph Umar called a meeting of his Consultative Council, and asked for their advice. Othman (who later served as the third Caliph) expressed the view that it was not necessary for the Caliph to go and that the defeated Byzantines would themselves surrender. Ali (who later served as fourth Caliph) said that Jerusalem was as much sacred to the Muslims as the Jews or the Christians, and that in view of the sanctity of the place it was desirable that its surrender should be received by the Caliph personally. Caliph Umar decided to accept the advice of Ali.
Leaving Ali (ra) as his deputy in Madina, Caliph Umar proceeded to Jerusalem. No retinue accompanied the Caliph. Caliph Umar was accompanied by one servant, and between these two persons they had only one camel which they rode turn by turn. As they neared Jabia where the Muslim commanders were to meet Caliph Umar, it was the turn of the servant to ride. The servant wanted Caliph Umar to ride the animal but Caliph Umar refused. As they came to Jabia the people saw the strange spectacle of the servant riding the camel and the Caliph walking on foot.
At Jabia the Muslim Commanders met Caliph Umar. Abu Ubaida was dressed in coarse garments, and Caliph Umar was much pleased to meet him. Yazid bin Abu Sufyan, Khalid bin Walid and some other commanders were dressed in fine clothes and Caliph Umar expressed his displeasure at their gaudy dress. Abu Ubaida explained in detail the situation in Syria. He elaborated how with the grace of God the Muslims had been able to overthrow the mighty Byzantine power in Syria. As Caliph Umar saw the green fields, orchards and lofty buildings of Syria he was greatly moved and he recited from the Holy Quran:
They have left many a garden, fountain, park, arbor, and riches which they used to enjoy. Thus it is that We put another community in possession thereof.
A deputation from Jerusalem waited on Caliph Umar at Jabia and a treaty was drawn up. According to the treaty security of life and property were guaranteed to all citizens of Jerusalem. The safety of churches and other religious buildings and places was provided for. The citizens were required to pay Jizya. Any one not agreeable to owe allegiance to the Muslims was given the option to leave the city.
After the treaty had been drawn up, Caliph Umar decided to travel to Jerusalem. Again he traveled in a simple way as an ordinary traveler. No guard was suffered to accompany him. He rode on a poor horse, and refused to change it for a better charger.
At the gate of Jerusalem, Caliph Umar was greeted by the Patriarch of Jerusalem, the elite of the city, and the Muslim commanders. While those who had come to receive him wore costly dress, Caliph Umar was dressed in a garment of coarse cloth ordinarily worn by an average Arab. When some one advised him to wear a better dress befitting the State occasion, Caliph Umar turned down the suggestion saying that he derived his strength and status from his faith in Islam, and not from any dress. When the Patriaich of Jerusalem saw the simplicity of the Caliph of Islam, and then looked to own costly dress, he said, “Verily Islam has excelled all other religions.”
The Patriarch of Jerusalem handed over the keys of the Jerusalem to Caliph Umar. The Muslims were now the masters of Jerusalem. That was a special divine favor of God to the Muslims. As Caliph Umar entered the city he was greeted by the citizens with great enthusiasm. Caliph Umar said that he wanted to be led to some place where he could offer thanksgiving prayer to God. He was led to a church but he refused to pray there, on the ground that it would set a precedent for the Muslims of the following generations to forcibly convert churches into mosques. He was thereafter led to a place where the prophet David (Dawood, pbuh) used to pray. Caliph Umar offered special prayers of thanksgiving and Muslims joined him. As the Byzantines watched the Muslims at pray, they felt that such people so obedient to God were bound to command. The Patriarch said that he was not sorry for surrendering the city for he had surrendered it to a better people.
Caliph Umar stayed in Jerusalem for a few days. He reorganized the administration, and made the necessary arrangements to look after the needs of the citizens. He founded a Mosque at an elevated place in the city. This mosque came to be known as Umar’s Mosque. On the inaugural occasion Bilal (ra) was requested to give the call to prayer as he used to do in the time of the Holy Prophet. After the death of the Prophet (pbuh), Bilal had ceased to give the Adhan. At the request of Caliph Umar he agreed to give Adhan to mark the foundation of Umar’s mosque. As Bilal (ra) gave the call to pray in his stentorian voice, Caliph Umar and the Muslims wept recalling the days when the Prophet used to be in their midst. As the inspiring words of the Adban resounded in the hills and dales, the people stood in awe realizing that a new era had dawned in Syria.
After receiving the surrender of Jerusalem and completing the tour of Syria when Caliph Umar was returning to Madina he led the prayer at Jabiah. On this occasion he delivered an address which is preserved in history. The major part of his address was:
“O ye people I counsel you to read the Qur’an. Try to understand it and ponder over it. Imbibe the teachings of the Qur’an. Then practise what the Quran teaches. The Qur’an is not theoretical; it is a practical code of life. The Qur’an does not bring you the message of the Hereafter only; it is primarily intended to guide you in this life. Mold your life in accordance with the teachings of Islam for that is the way of your well being. By following any other way you will be inviting destruction.
“Fear Allah (The One True God), and whatever you want seek from Him. All men are equal. Do not flatter those in authority. Do not seek favors from others. By such acts you demean yourself. And remember that you will get only that is ordained for you, and no one can give you anything against the will of God. Then why seek things from others over which they have no control? Only supplicate God for He alone is the sovereign.
“And speak the truth. Do not hesitate to say what you consider to be the truth. Say what you feel. Let your conscience be your guide. Let your intentions be good, for verily God is aware of your intentions. In your deeds your intentions count. Fear God, and fear no one else. Why fear others when you know that whatever sustenance ordained for you by God you will get under all circumstances? And again why fear when you know that death is ordained by God alone and will come only when He wills?
“Allah has for the time being made me your ruler. But I am one of you. No special privileges belong to ruler. I have some responsibilities to discharge, and in this I seek your cooperation. Government is a sacred trust, and it is my endeavor not to betray the trust in any way. For the fulfillment of the trust I have to be a watch-man. I have to be strict. I have to enforce discipline. I have to run the administration not on the basis of personal idiosyncracies; I have to run it in public interest and for promoting the public good. For this we have the guidance in the Book of God. Whatever orders I issue in the course of day to day administration have to conform to the Qur’an. God has favored us with Islam. He sent to us His Messenger (Muhammad, pbuh). He has chosen us for a mission. Let us fulfil that mission. That mission is the promotion of Islam. In Islam lies our safety; if we err we are doomed.”
It was the usual practice of Caliph Umar that he would patrol the streets and suburbs of Madina to watch the interests of the people, and attend to their needs. One day Caliph Umar noticed a tent pitched in an open space outside Medina. A person was sitting outside the tent, and some one inside the tent was groaning.
Caliph Umar went to the man, greeted him, and wanted to know who he was. The man said that he was a man of the desert, and had come to Medina to wait on the Commander of the Faithful (Amirul Mominin) to seek his assistance. Umar next asked who was groaning inside the tent. The man said that his wife was groaning with labor pains; he was a stranger in Madina and did not know what to do. Caliph Umar enquired whether he had any woman to look after the confinement of his wife. He said there was none. Caliph Umar said: “Do not worry, I will make the necessary arrangements.” Caliph Umar came home, and asked his wife Umm Kulsum to accompany him on a mission of service. Umm Kulsum got ready and took with her such things as might be needed for purposes of confinement. Caliph Umar took with him some provisions for the purposes of cooking a meal.
Caliph Umar returned to the camp with his wife. Umm Kulsum went inside the tent to attend to the women in pain, while Caliph Umar sat outside the tent with the Bedouin and began cooking some meals for him.
After an hour or so when the meals had been cooked, Umm Kulsum addressed Caliph Umar: “Amirul Mominin! Congratulate your guest on the birth of a son.” Hearing this the Bedouin felt much embarrassed. Turning to Caliph Umar he said, “Amirul Mominin, why did you not reveal your identity? You have overwhelmed me with your benevolence.” Caliph Umar put all his fears to rest saying: “That’s all right. There is nothing to worry about. Thank God, I have been of some service to you at the time of your need. You may come to me tomorrow and I will see what can be done further to help you.” It was late at night when Caliph Umar and Umm Kulsum left. The Bedouin thanked God and said: “God be praised I came to seek the Commander of the Faithful, and God send the Commander of the Faithful to seek me.”
One night, Caliph Umar as usual went in disguise with his companion Ibn Abbas to see the condition of the people. They strolled from one quarter to another. At last they came to a colony where poor people lived.
While passing by a small house, the Caliph heard a whispering talk within. The mother was telling her daughter that the amount of milk fetched by her for sale that day was very little. She told her that when she was young, and used to sell milk, she always mixed water with milk, and that led to considerable profit. She advised her daughter to do the same.
The girl said, “You adulterated milk, when you were not a Muslim. Now that we are Muslims, we cannot adulterate milk.” The mother said that Islam did not stand in the way of adulteration of milk. The daughter said, “Have you forgotten the Caliph’s order? He wants that the milk should not be adulterated.” The mother said, “But the Caliph has forgotten us. We are so poor, what else should we do but adulterate milk in order win bread?” The daughter said “Such a bread would not be lawful, and as a Muslim I would not do anything which is against the orders of the Caliph, and whereby other Muslims are deceived.”
The mother said, “But there is neither the Caliph nor any of his officers here to see what we do. Daughter you are still a child. Go to bed now and tomorrow I will myself mix the milk with water for you.” The girl refused to fall in with the plan of her mother. She said, “Caliph may or may not be here, but his order must be obeyed. My conscience is my Caliph. You may escape the notice of the Caliph and his officers, but how can we escape the notice of Allah and our own conscience.” Thereupon the mother remained quiet. The lamp was extinguished and the mother and the daughter went to sleep.
The next day, Caliph Umar sent a man to purchase milk from the girl. The milk was unadulterated. The girl kept her resolve. CaliphUmar turned to his companion and said, “The girl has kept her resolve in spite of the exhortation of her mother. She deserves a reward. What reward should I give her?” “She should be paid some money,” said Ibn Abbas. Caliph Umar said, “Such a girl would become a great mother. Her integrity is not to be weighed with few coins; it is to be measured in the scale of national values. I shall offer her the highest award in my gift, and which shall also be in the highest interest of the nation.”
The Caliph summoned the daughter and the mother to his court. The mother trembled as she stood before the mighty ruler. But the girl faced the Caliph boldly and with great equanimity. She was beautiful, and there was an impressive dignity about her. Then before the gathering, Caliph Umar related how he had overheard the mother and the daughter, and how in spite of the exhortations of the mother the daughter had kept her resolve.
Someone suggested that the mother should be taken to task. The Caliph said that ordinarily he would have punished the mother, but he had forgiven her for the sake of her daughter. Turning to the girl the great Caliph said, “Islam needs daughters like you and as a Caliph of Islam it devolves on me to reward you by owning you as a daughter.” The Caliph called his sons, and addressing them said, “Here is a gem of a girl who would make a great mother. I desire that one of you should take this girl as wife. I know of no better bride than this girl of sterling character. In matters of wedlock, it should be the character and not the stature in life that should count.”
Abdullah and Abdur Rahman the elder sons of the Caliph were already married. Asim the third son was yet unmarried, and he offered to marry the girl. Thereupon with the consent of the milkmaid and her mother Asim was married to the girl, and milkmaid became the daughter-in-law of the Caliph.
From this union was born a daughter Umm Asim, who became in due course the mother of Umar bin Abdul Aziz. Umar bin AbdulAziz was elected as Caliph and served for a short period during 717 – 720.
While other Caliphs of the Ummayad dynasty reveled in luxury, Umar bin Abdul Aziz as a Caliph set up standards for austerity and simplicity following in the footsteps of Caliph Umar, the second Caliph of Islam. It is said that if ever there was a noble Caliph after the first four “Rightly guided Caliphs,”such a man was Umar bin Abdul Aziz. And he inherited the noble qualities of the milkmaid who married the Caliph’s son, and those of Caliph Umar Farooq who had the eye to discern the nobler qualities of sterling character in a poor girl.
After the assumption of office as the second Caliph, Umar soon realized that he was more feared than loved. Abu Bakr, his predecessor, was tender and soft hearted. Whenever he appeared in the streets of Madina, the children ran to him saying “Father, Father.”
On the occasion of the first Friday prayer after his assumption of office as Caliph, Umar addressed the faithful assembled in the mosque of the Prophet in the following terms:
“Brethren, it has come to my notice that the people are afraid of me. They say when the Holy Prophet was alive, Umar was harsh to us. During the caliphate of Abu Bakr, Umar was hard and stern. Now that he has become the Caliph himself, God knows how hard he will be. Whoever has said this is not wrong in his assessment.
“The truth of the matter is that I was the slave and servant of the Holy Prophet. The Holy Prophet was most kind hearted, liberal and generous. In contrast I was hard and harsh. Sometimes he ignored my point of view. There were occasions when he agreed with me. Till the death of the Holy Prophet that remained the situation between him and me. Thank God, the Holy Prophet was pleased with me. Though the Holy Prophet sometimes accepted my advice, and sometimes turned it down, yet he approved of my conduct.
“During the caliphate of Abu Bakr my role remained the same. Abu Bakr was most soft hearted and tender. It was my business to bring the other side of the picture to his notice. He always took my point of view into consideration, but the ultimate decision lay with him. Sometimes he agreed with me, and I acted as his agent to enforce a decision which appeared to be harsh. Sometimes he did not agree with me, and I had to remain quiet. I am happy that throughout the period of his office, Abu Bakr approved of my conduct, and ultimately nominated me as his successor, although I did not covet the office.
“Now that the entire responsibility has come to vest in me, know ye brethren that you will feel a change in me. I will no longer be hard and stern in all matters. For those who practice tyranny and deprive others of their rights, I will be harsh and stern, but for those who follow the law, and are devoted to religion, I will be most soft and tender. I will not tolerate any person make any excess. He who commits any tyranny, him I will sternly call to account. I will be harsh and stern against the aggressor, but I will be a pillar of strength for the weak and the meek. They will find in me their best friend.
“Friends you have some rights on me, and I tell you of these rights, so that you may be in a position to call me to account. These rights are:
Firstly, that I should not exact any tax or other levy from you not authorized by law;
Secondly, that whatever taxes are lawfully realized from you are spent in your best interests;
Thirdly, it is incumbent on me that I should protect the frontiers of your land;
Fourthly, it is my duty to promote your prosperity and look after your interests;
and Fifthly, it is my obligation to do justice.
“O servants of God, continue to fear God. Suppress your selfish motives and work for the solidarity of the Muslims as a whole. In running the State, you are my partners. Help me with your sound advice. If I follow the right path laid down by God and His Prophet follow me. If I deviate, correct me. Strengthen me with your advice and suggestions. Let us pray for the glory of Islam.”