Sagacious, wise, just and mighty. These are perhaps the most apt adjectives that can be used to describe Hazrat Umar Farooq (R.A). As a follower of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) he was a dedicated person who never fell short of demonstrating his commitment towards Islam and its final Messenger. As a Muslim, he feared God and often wept at the mention of the Day of Judgment. As a ruler and administrator, his reforms and policies have stood the test of time and were the cause of Muslims’ dominance over other communities. Hazrat Umar (R.A) had a vast empire to rule, and he did so with an esteemed sense of justice and impartiality.
Not much is known about the early life of Hazrat Umar bin Khattab (R.A) except for the fact that he was a famous wrestler, owing to his impressive and powerful physique. Hazrat Umar (R.A) was powerfully built, since he was tall and possessed an imposing figure. He was also one of the very few people in Makkah who could read and write. By profession, he was a businessman. During the early days of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (PBUH)’s mission, Hazart Umar (R.A) was against Islam.
As per Islamic traditions, Hazrat Umar (R.A) converted to Islam after he read a verse from Surah Taha and was taken aback by its eloquent speech and supreme quality. Regarding Hazrat Umar’s (R.A) conversion to Islam, it is said that the Holy Prophet (PBUH) himself had prayed for him to become a Muslim. The Holy Prophet (PBUH) had prayed to God and said the following words:-
“O Allah, strengthen Islam by Abul Hakam (Abu Jahl) or ‘Umar Ibn al-Khattab.’
All the Muslims had converted to Islam in secret, owing to the Quraish’s severe persecution and torture of those whom had accepted the new faith. Hazrat Umar (R.A) was the only one who declared his faith openly and undauntedly to the chiefs of Makkah and did not hide his conversion. Before he had converted to Islam, Muslims used to pray in secret as they feared backlash from the Quraish. After Umar (R.A) converted, he led Muslims into prayer for the first time at the Holy Ka’abah. The Holy Prophet (PBUH) gave him the title of ‘Farooq’, which meant ‘the one who distinguishes between right and wrong’.
During the lifetime of the Holy Prophet (PBUH), he participated in almost all the important battles: Badr, Uhud, Ahzab, Khaibar, Hunain etc. In the expedition of Tabuk, he gave half of his wealth in the path of Allah.
After the Holy Prophet (PBUH) had passed away, Muslims chose Hazrat Abu Bakr (R.A) as their caliph. After governing for only two years, the first caliph of Islam fell ill and upon realization that he was nearing demise, he appointed Hazrat Umar (R.A) as his successor, after consultation with other Muslims. Hence, Hazrat Umar (R.A) became the second Righteous Caliph of Islam.
It was under his reign as caliph that Muslims saw immense progress and prosperity. Hazrat Umar (R.A) conquered and vanquished the mighty empires of Byzantine and Persia during his tenure and made the Islamic empire as the most dominant one in the world. As a caliph, he used to live a very simple and difficult life filled with hardships. The allowance he took from the Bait-ul-Maal was hardly enough for him and his family but he was more than satisfied with it, since he was a God-fearing man.
Hazrat Umar (R.A) introduced reforms and policies during his administration. His sense of justice and impartiality was a gift which earned him respect and admiration from his contemporaries. He safeguarded the internal safety by introducing the police force: he gave stipends to the poor; he constructed cantonments and forts for the safety of Islamic armies; he founded new cities for the growth of Islamic culture and civilisation; he improved agriculture and economics; he founded the educational system; in brief he was the founder of a great Muslim state.
Hazrat Umar (R.A) used to patrol the streets at night, under guise so that he could be aware of the actual poverty and hardships of the people. He helped out orphans, the destitute and the poor, when he used to patrol the streets at night.
Hazrat Umar (R.A) was so pious and just, that once a complaint was brought against him by a person (during his caliphate). When Hazrat Umar (R.A) walked into the courtroom and the qazi at the time stood up in his honour, Umar (R.A) remarked,”This is the first act of injustice you have committed.” Once, in the dead of night, he brought his wife to act as the midwife for a poor woman, who was about to give birth to a child. Such was his sense of empathy for the poor.
Hazrat Umar (R.A) died as a result of the wounds inflicted from a knife attack by a man named Abu Lulu Feroze. Feroze had a personal grudge against Hazrat Umar (R.A) due to which he attacked the second caliph of Islam with a poisoned dagger. Before his death, Hazrat Umar (R.A) appointed a panel to choose the next caliph among themselves and they chose Hazrat Usman (R.A) as his successor.
Thus, one of the most celebrated figures in Islam departed from this world, but left behind a towering legacy. Hazrat Umar’s (R.A) reforms are still popular till this day. Hazrat Umar’s (R.A) reign is filled with impressive conquests and stellar administrative reforms. His character was pure and he was above all, a perfect Muslim and one of the closest friends and companions of the Holy Prophet (PBUH).