Omar bin Alkhatab, the closest associate and friend of the prophet Mohamed , was an outstanding public figure and a politician, the second Just Caliph. He was born circa 585 in Mecca. His father was Hattab ibn Nufayl, his mother — Hantama. There are not much data on his life before the adoption of Islam. It is known that he had been a shepherd at the beginning, and then he got engaged in trade. Gradually, he became the influential person in Mecca. He was often invited for solving various conflicts between tribes. Besides his virtuous qualities, valor, fearlessness, justice, and his talent of the politician and military leader, Omar was also a good expert on Islamic sciences. He was the interpreter of the Koran, the expert of hadises and the Muslim right. He learned all these sciences directly from the prophet.
Omar possessed a severe character and, at first, he took a hard line in relation to the Muslims. The point was that he decided to kill the prophet Mohamed as he urged the people to depart from the pagan belief of his ancestors. However, on the way to Mohamed, he met Nuayma ibn Abdullah who, having learned about his intentions, told him that his sister and his brother-in-law also adopted Islam. Having heard about it, Omar was angry even more and came back home. There he found his sister with her husband, reading the Koran. He started to beat his brother-in-law furiously and even hit his sister, but then he calmed down and became interested in the Koran. After he had familiarized himself with the contents of scrolls of Writing, he became a believer and adopted Islam. After that Omar went to the prophet Mohamed to Arkam’s house where the Muslims gathered and testified his belief before them. It happened six years after the beginning of Mahomed’s prophetical activity.
Omar had been a strong person who caused many offenses to the Muslims and pursued them. Said ibn Zayd ibn Amr ibn Nufayl, Omar’s cousin and the husband of his sister Fatima ibn Alknatab, said: “I swear the Allah, Omar strengthened me in Islam before he adopted Islam”. For example, it was reported that Omar had bound Said with a rope to avert him from the Islamic religion.
Omar accepted Islam after the first resettlement of the Muslims to Ethiopia. Owing to that , Islam became stronger, and the Muslims had an opportunity to pray at the Kaaba, without being exposed to attacks of the polytheists. It was reported that Abdullakh ibn Masud said, “After Islam had been adopted by Omar, we gained in strength constantly”. He also said, “Earlier we could not pray at the Kaaba, (and it proceeded until) while Islam was not adopted by Omar ibn Alkhatab, and after that he battled to polytheists while those did not leave us alone”. He said, “An acceptance of Islam by him was a support for us”.
After Omar had adopted Islam, polytheists began to make every possible difficulty that often led to strikes between them. At the time of jakhiliy, Omar was known for his eloquence and bravery; his force, justice, asceticism, mercy, knowledge, and awareness in the area of fikha gained popularity in the world of Islam. He was a sane person, and in several cases, his desire coincided with what was granted subsequently in the Koran.
Omar was a resolute, purposeful and fearless person. Right after his adoption of Islam, together with his brothers in faith, despite the resistance of pagans, he made all efforts to pass to the Kaaba where the Muslims made a collective Mohammedan prayer for the first time. He refused to profess belief secretly. Omar’s adoption of Islam and his determination in strengthening of Islam positions in Mecca, affected favourably the Muslims’ moods. At that time, he was placed near the prophet and provided his protection.
Omar differed by his fearlessness and courage even in cruel persecutions on the Muslims in Mecca. When the prophet Mohamed ordered them to move to Medina, many Muslims left the city secretly. But Omar refused to flee this time and moved publicly, without being afraid of anybody from the enemies.
Throughout the whole period of the prophet Mohamed’s life, Omar participated actively in all important issues of the young Muslim state. He participated and showed unprecedented examples of dedication and heroism in fights at Badra, Ukhuda, Handaka, Haybara and other battles. As a result, he deserved to become one of the leaders of the Muslim state.
After the death of the prophet Mohamed, Omar played a big role in the further history of the Caliphate. Thanks to his determination at the meeting Bann Sayd in Sakif, Abu Bakr was elected as the Caliph. During his rule, Omar was his main assistant. Before his death, Abu Bakr bequeathed the Caliphate to Omar. Thus, in 13/634, Omar became the second Just Caliph. All the Muslims supported him unanimously.
Being the Caliph, Omar proved himself as a skillful politician, differing by his determination and well thinking over the steps. He organized administrative and financial systems of the state, made plans of new conquests, provided ruling of the conquered territories, was on guard of the interests of the citizens, and watched the justice observance on the territory of the country. He dared to take nothing from public properties, except for one set of winter and one set of summer clothes, and a riding camel. As to his living provision, it equaled the provision of an average mukhagir. It is necessary to note that messages which Omar dispatched to the deputies of different areas testified about his deep understanding of the responsibility before Allah and the citizens, hope on Allah and belief in his strength.
Omar started the organization of the Islamic state and was engaged in it with indefatigable determination. It was necessary to cope with various difficulties and to meet new requirements since continuous expansion of the Islamic state gave a special urgency to that.
The major fulfillments of Omar ibn Alkhatab are listed below:
1. The foundation of public institutions (divans). For example, he founded a military divan that can be compared to the modern Ministry of Defense, and a divan kharaga (a land tax) whose functions were similar to the functions of the Ministry of Finance.
2. The establishment of the public treasury, the appointment of judges and writers, foundation of chronology according to higra, based on the calendar of the Islamic state, and the organization of the post service.
3. Instead of dividing the conquered lands between the soldiers as had happened beforehand, Omar left them in hands of the aborigines who were supposed to pay only a land tax.
4 Omar divided the conquered lands into provinces and appointed deputies to rule over each of them, so that the deputies earned an established salary from the general treasury. He chose deputies from a number of those who were known for the piety and administrative abilities, without paying attention to these people’s origin.
5. On his order, some cities, for example, Basra and Kufa in Iraq, were founded in the conquered countries, as well as Fustat in Egypt, and some others; each of them was supposed to become the center of the Islamic state in this region.
Just Caliphs differed by their modesty, care in ruling, and abstemiousness from the benefits of this life and aspiration to Islam realization, thanks to which they became imams of the beneficial and just way, reserving a trace, which would not disappear with the expiration of time and change of generations. Among these Caliphs, there was Omar ibn AlkhÐ°tab.
Omar accustomed himself to following the way of the Envoy of the Allah and his Caliph Abu Bakr. He wore clothes of wool in patches and bypassed the market with a whip on shoulders with which he punished people. Omar walked round at night and examined the citizens, studying their situation. He satisfied their needs, edified, educated and answered their requests. His motto was “Will you carry my sins in the Day of Trial?” (Abdullah)
Omar chose those valiys who did not ask him to rule and did not aspire to it. He gave position to those people who were afraid of him and tried to evade. If he appointed someone as the governor of the province, he took witnesses from a number of muhagirs. He demanded from the person appointed to the post that he did not ride on a good horse, did not eat good food, did not wear good clothes and did not close the doors before those who came to him with any requirement. If the valiy did some of these , Omar punished him immediately. He edified the valiys to be afraid of the Allah and to obey him. He spoke to Abu Musa alAshjariy: “The happiest governor is the one whose wards are happy. And the most unfortunate Allah’s governor is the one whose wards are unfortunate. Do not live in luxury, and do not let your governors live in luxury that Allah did not see you similar to an animal which looks at greens growing on the earth and enjoys it, gaining weight, though its death is the reason of this weight. Wish you peace from Allah!”.
Omar spoke to people: “I did not appoint you the governors so that they beat people, disgraced them and took away their property. However, I appointed them so that they trained you in the Book of the Allah and Sunna of his Envoy. I will punish those who offend my governor with something”.
During the season of haja, Omar brought together the governors and chided them, and then he said: “If any governor, appointed by me, offend someone and it reached me, and I did not chide him for this offense, which means, I offended him”. Omar constantly asked about the governors and about whether people were happy with them. He chided them before people.
Omar ordered the governors to observe the agreements and to fulfill them. He was very strict in the concept of realization: “Where did you get it?” He deprived his governors of money which they earned during their rule. He deprived of rule those who did not kiss their sons for if he was not merciful with his own children, he would not be merciful to other people. He combined the severity and hardness with softness and mercy. He said: “In this case, there should be severity in which there is no coercion; and softness in which there is no weakness”.
His policy concerning Umma’s property brought him people’s admiration. He swore that even if the camel intended for alms would lose its way on the coast of the Tigr, it would be afraid that the Allah would ask it for it. In summer days, he expected the camels intended for alms to be used where they were intended; Ali even said: “You exhausted those Caliphs who would be after you”.
He himself preserved the property of the Muslims. As for the poor and needy, he rendered them excessive honor, especially if they were from the predecessors in Islam. He hurried up to spend money on the Muslims as he wished there were not hungry, naked or needy among them.
The life of this great person broke tragically as a result of the plot which the Persian slave Firuz (Abu Lulu) in a month of Zulkhidzha of 23/644 carried out, in revenge for the resolute policy of Omar concerning Iran, which was completely crushed by the Caliphate armies. Firuz attacked the Caliph unexpectedly during the morning Mohammedan prayer, which he directed, and made him six severe knife wounds.
Being hard wounded, Omar accepted his death courageously, but before he managed to make the order about the Council convocation from six outstanding associates of the prophet Mohamed consisting of Osman ibn Affan, Ali ibn Abu Taliba, Talkha ibn Ubaydulla, Zubayra ibn Al-Avvama, Abd Ar-Rahman ibn Auf, and Saad ibn Abu Vakkas. It was ordered to them to come within three days to the agreement and to choose one of them as the new Caliph. As a result, Osman ibn Affan became the third Just Caliph.
As for Omar’s killer, he struck with a dagger everyone who was trying to stop him. All in all, he wounded thirteen associates, seven of whom died. Omar took Abdurrahman ibn Auf by the hand and led him forward so that he could finish the Mohammedan prayer. After the associates had overtaken Aba Lu Lu and threw a piece of fabric on him, he understood that he was caught and killed himself with a dagger.
Omar, having learned that he was killed by a polytheist, told: “Praise to the Allah! Who did not make the Muslim the reason of my death!” (Madelung 24) After that he sent his son Abdullah to Aisha that she would allow him to be buried near his friends, the Prophet and Abu Bakr, and she allowed him. He lived for three more days, and then he died.
Omar said: “This business should be assigned to the person who has four qualities: he is gentle but not weak; strong but not rough; abstinent but not greedy; generous but not prodigal. If there is no one quality, all three become vicious”.
Having become the Caliph, Omar became a consecutive successor of the prophet Mahomed’s business and the first Caliph Abu Bakr. His uncommon personal qualities, talent, and skillful management led to great successes of the Caliphate, the armies of which managed to crush such terrible rivals as Byzantium and Iran. Brilliant victories of the Caliphate armies were achieved at Yarmuka, Kadissy, and Nekhavenda. The power of the Caliphate extended to the Middle East, Iran, Egypt and even to some part of North Africa. Thanks to these victories, the population of all these regions got familiarized with Islam and the Muslims. Sometime later many of these people adopted Islam. Omar played an exclusive role in distribution and transformation of Islam into the world religion.