‘Umar – A Door Holding Back Fitnah


It is related that once a man from among the humans met a man from among the jinn. The two of them wrestled and the human threw the jinn to the ground and defeated him. They wrestled once more and again the human won. This person was none other than Amir al-Mu’minin Abu Hafs ‘Umar bin al-Khattab al-‘Adawi, radiyallahu ‘anh. It was asked to ibn Mas’ud, radiyallahu ‘anh, the one who narrated this event, that was that person ‘Umar? And his reply was that who else could it have been?[1] This incident brings to light the first thing that comes to mind whenever one hears of ‘Umar radiyallahu ‘anh: the image of great strength and power, both physically and otherwise. It is related about him that when he walked down the street, Shaitan would take a different path to avoid him.[2] Even the devil was afraid of him!

‘Umar radiyallahu ‘anh was once with some of the Sahabah radiyallahu ‘anhum and he asked whether anyone of them could relate to him about the fitnahs which would soon come. And this which he was referring to was not any ordinary fitnah, but rather that which would come one after the other, like the waves of the ocean. Hudhaifah radiyallahu ‘anh replied to him and also informed him that between him and that fitnah was a closed door which would very soon be broken, never to be closed again.[3] This was a metaphor, and the door represented a man; its being broken represented his death or his murder. And the one referred to here was the Amir al-Mu’minin himself. He was such a great personality that by virtue of his qualities alone, this great fitnah was averted for as long as he remained alive.

One of the most amazing things about him was that His Lord, Allah ‘azza wa jall, agreed with him.[4] The battle of Badr was one such incident. After this battle, the Muslims had to decide what to do with the prisoners of war. Abu Bakr radiyallahu ‘anh was of the opinion that they should be ransomed while ‘Umar radiyallahu ‘anh said that they should be killed. The Prophet sallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam took the view of Abu Bakr radiyallahu ‘anh but Allah ta’ala then revealed ayat in support of ‘Umar’s view. On another occasion he voiced the opinion that the Messenger of Allah sallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam should pray behind the maqam of Ibrahim. Allah ta’ala then revealed: “Wattakhidhoo mim maqaami Ibraahima musalla – Take the station of Ibrahim as a place of prayer (al-Baqarah: 125).” He also expressed the view that the Prophet sallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam should impose hijab on his wives and Allah ta’ala revealed: “Wa idhaa sa’altumoohunna mataa’an fas’aloohunna min waraa’i hijaab – And when you ask them for something, ask them from behind a screen (al-Ahzab: 53).” But another incident, more astounding and incredible than all of these, was when the following ayat were revealed: “Wa laqad khalaqnal insaana min teen. Thumma ja’alnaahu nutfatan fee qaraarim makeen. Thumma khalaqnan nutfata ‘alaqatan fa khalaqnal ‘alaqata mudghatan fa khalaqnal mudghata ‘izaaman fa kasawna’ ‘izaama lahmaa; thumma ansha’naahu khalqan aakhar – We created man from the purest kind of clay; then made him a drop in a secure receptacle; then formed the drop into a clot and formed the clot into a lump and formed the lump into bones and clothed the bones in flesh; and then brought him into being as another creature (al-Mu’minun: 12 – 14).” When ‘Umar radiyallahu ‘anh heard this, he was astonished at the greatness and grandeur of Allah ta’ala’s power of creation and exclaimed “Fatabarakallahu ahsanul khaaliqeen – Blessed be Allah, the best of Creators!” And that is exactly how the rest of the ayah was revealed. Subhanallah!

He was one of those people who attained such a high level of piety and closeness to Allah ‘azza wa jall, that he was granted karamat (miracles). One incident is when he was giving a khutbah on the mimbar and then suddenly said, “To the hill Sariyyah!”[5] He was giving this instruction to the commander of the Muslim army who was busy fighting a battle, thousands of miles away. By the permission and the power of Allah, the commander was able to hear him and thus they were saved from the enemy.

Furthermore, he was of that category of people who are mustajaab al-da’wah – those whose du’as are readily accepted. He used to make du’a that he would be martyred while still in the city of Madinah.[6] This seemed like a strange and unlikely thing to happen, since usually martyrdoms occur on the battlefields. Madinah at that time was the capital of the Muslim empire which extended far and wide. The battlefields were extremely distant. In addition, he also made du’a that his death should not be at the hands of someone who had made even just one sajdah to Allah ta’ala.[7] Despite the unlikelihood of all this taking place, we know that Allah ta’ala accepted his du’a and made it come true – he was martyred in Madinah while leading the Fajr salah… may Allah have mercy on him and grant him Jannah, Ameen.

The Prophet also spoke in praise of him. One such commendation is one that we hear every week in the Friday khutbah: “Wa ashadduhum fee amrillahi ‘Umar – The most severe of them in the commands of Allah is ‘Umar.”[8] But I cannot think of any greater praise of him than that which is related from the Prophet sallallahu ‘alahi wa sallam in the following hadith: “Law kaana ba’dee nabiyyun, la kaana ‘Umar bin al-Khattab – Were there ever to be another Prophet after me, it would have been ‘Umar bin al-Khattab.”[9] Allahu akbar!

He radiyallahu ‘anh was one of a kind. He had the title of al-Faruq – because he made the truth distinct from falsehood. This world has never seen his like since his death, nor will it ever do so. But we pray that Allah ta’ala grants us to follow in his footsteps and grant us even just a fraction of his strength, piety, sagacity and taqwa.

[1] Majma’ azl-Zawa’id by Imam al-Haythami.

[2] Sahih Bukhari.

[3] Sahih Muslim.

[4] al-Jami’ li Ahkam al-Quran by Imam al-Qurtubi: Surah Baqarah, ayah 125.

[5] Tarikh al-Khulafa by Imam al-Suyuti.

[6] Manaqib Amir al-Mu’minin ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab by Imam ibn al-Jawzi.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Sunan al-Tirmidhi.

[9] Ibid.

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