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Umar ( , c. 586-590 CE 7 November 644), also known as Umar the Great or Farooq the Great was the most powerful of the four Rashidun Caliphs and one of the most powerful and influential Muslim rulers. He was a sahabi (companion) of the Islamic prophet Muhammad. He succeeded Caliph Abu Bakr (632–634) as the second Caliph of Rashidun Caliphate on 23 August 634. He was an expert jurist and is best known for his justice with Muslims and non-Muslim subjects alike, that earned him the title Al-Farooq (The one who distinguishes between good and bad) and his house as Darul Adal (house of justice). Also, Omar was the first Caliph to be called (Amir al-Mu'minin; Commander of the Faithful).

Under Umar the Islamic empire expanded at an unprecedented rate ruling the whole Sassanid Persian Empire and more than two thirds of the Eastern Roman Empire. His legislative abilities, his firm political and administrative control over a rapidly expanding empire and his brilliantly coordinated multi-prong attacks against Sassanid Persian Empire that resulted in conquest of Persian empire in less than two years, marked his reputation as a great political and military leader. It was Umar who for the first time in 500 years since expulsion of Jews from the Holy Land, allowed them to practice their religion freely and live in Jerusalemmarker.

Religiously a controversial figure in the Muslim world, Umar is regarded by Sunni Muslims as one of four Rashidun or rightly guided caliphs who were true successors of Muhammad; in stark contrast, regarded by Shi'a Muslims as unjust in his usurpation of Ali's right to the caliphate, indeed as the principal political architect of opposition to Ali.

Early life

Umar was born in Meccamarker to the Banu Adi clan, which was responsible for arbitrations among the tribes. His father was Khattab ibn Nufayl and his mother was Hatmah bint Hasham she was from the tribe of Banu Makhzum. He is said to have belonged to a middle class family. In his youth he used to tend to his father’s camels in the plains near Meccamarker. His father was famed for his intelligence among his tribe. He was a middle class merchant, and was a ruthless man and emotional polytheist who often used to treat Umar badly. During his later political rule, Umar said; "My father Al-Khittab was a ruthless man he used to make me work hard, if I didn't work he used to beat me and when he used to work me to exhaustion."

Despite literacy being uncommon in pre-Islamic Arabia, Umar learned to read and write in his youth. Though not a poet himself, he developed a love for poetry and literature. According to the tradition of Quraish, while still in his teenage years, Umar learned martial arts, horse riding and wrestling. He was tall and physically powerful and was soon to became a renowned wrestler. Umar was also a gifted orator, and due to his intelligence and overwhelming personality soon after his father's death he replaced him as an arbitrator of conflicts among the tribes.

In addition, Umar followed the traditional profession of Quraish. He became a merchant and had several journeys to Rome and Persia, where he is said to have met the various scholars and analyzed the Roman and Persian societies closely. However, as a merchant he is believed to have never been successful. Drinking alcohol was very common among the Quraish, and Umar was also fond of drinking in his pre-Islamic days.

During Muhammad's era

Umar's hostility to Islam

In 610 Muhammad started delivering the message of Islam; as other people of Mecca, Umar too opposed Islam.He resolved to defend the traditional, polytheistic religion of Arabia. He was most adamant and cruel in opposing Muhammad and very prominent in persecuting the Muslims.Umar was the first man who resolved that Muhammad had to be murdered to finish Islam.Umar firmly believed in unity of Quraish and saw the new faith of Islam as a cause of division and discord among Quraish.

Due to the persecution at the hands of Quraish, Muhammad ordered his followers to migrate to Abyssinia a small group of Muslims migrated, this migration made Umar feel worried about the unity and future of Quraish, he thus decided to assassinate Muhammad to get rid of the division that was created by Islam among the people of Mecca.

Converting to Islam

Umar converted to Islam in 616, one year after the Migration to Abyssinia.According to the most popular account of the story, recounted in Ibn Ishaq's Sīrah, ` On the way to murder Muhammad, Umar met a polytheist who told him to set his own house in order first, as his sister and her husband had converted to Islam. Upon arriving at her house, `Umar found his sister and brother-in-law Saeed bin Zaid (Umar's cousin), reciting the verses of the Qur'an. He started beating his brother-in-law savagely. When his sister came to rescue her husband he also beat her until she started bleeding. Seeing his sister now, he calmed down and asked his sister to give him what she was reciting. She gave him the paper on which was written the verses of the chapter Ta-Ha. He was so struck by the beauty of the verses that he accepted Islam that day. He then went to Muhammad with the same sword he intended to kill him with and accepted Islam in front of him and his companions. Umar was 27 when he accepted Islam . Following this `Umar went to inform the chief of Quraish, Amr ibn Hishām, about his acceptance of Islam. According to one account Umar thereafter openly prayed at the Kaaba as the Quraish chiefs, Amr ibn Hishām and Abu Sufyan ibn Harb, reportedly watched in anger. According to the same account this further helped the Muslims to gain confidence in practicing Islam openly. At this stage Umar even challenged anyone who dared to stop the Muslims from praying, although no one dared to interfere with Umar when he was openly praying.Umar’s conversion to Islam gave power to the Muslims and the faith in Mecca. It was after this that Muslims offered prayers openly in Masjid al-Harammarker for the first time. Abdullah bin Masoud said:

All these things earned Umar the title of Farooq, meaning one who makes a difference.

Migration to Medina

In 622 due to the growing popularity of Islam in the city of Yathrib (later renamed Medīnat an-Nabī, or simply Medinamarker) Muhammad ordered his followers to migrate to Medina. Muslims usually migrated at night due to fear of Quraish's resistance to that migration, but Umar is reported to have migrated openly during the day time saying; Any one who wants to make his wife a widow and his children orphan. should come and meet me there behind that cliff."Umar migrated to Medina accompanied by his cousin and brother-in-law Saeed ibn Zaid..

Life in Medina

Medina became the new center of Islam and the religion spread rapidly across Arabia.When Muhammad arrived in Medina, he paired off each immigrant (Muhajir) with one of the residents of the city (Ansari), joining Muhammad ibn Maslamah with Umar making them brothers in faith. Later in Umar's reign as caliph Muhammad ibn Muslamah would be assignd the office of chief inspector of Accountability.In Medina Umar, along with Abu Bakr, was one of the chief advisers to Muhammad.He remained with Muhammad on every event and the Prophet often took his advise on matters, utilizing his opinion if not always following his consultation.Muslims remained in peace in Medina for approximately a year before the Quraish raised an army to attack them.In 624 Umar participated in the first Battle between Muslims and Quraish of Meccamarker i.e Battle of Badrmarker.In 625 he participated in the Battle of Uhud. In the second phase of Battle when Khalid ibn Walid's Cavalry attacked Muslims at the rear changing the victory of Muslims to defeat, rumors of Muhammad’s death were spread many Muslim were warriors routed from the battle field, Umar too was initially routed but hearing that Muhammad was still alive he went to Muhammad at the mountain of Uhud and prepared for the defenses of the hill to keep the Quraishi army down the hill..Later in the year Umar was a part of campaign against the Jewish tribe of Banu Nadir.In 625 Umar’s daughter Hafsah was married to Muhammad .Later in 627 he participated in the Battle of the Trench and also in the Battle of Banu Qurayza. In 628 Umar participated in the Treaty of Hudaybiyyah and was made one of the witness over the pact..In 628 he was a part of Muslims' campaign to Khaybar. In 629 Muhammad sent Amr ibn al-A’as to Zaat-ul-Sallasal from where he called for reinforcement and Muhammad sent Abu Ubaidah ibn al-Jarrah with reinforcement, serving under him were Abu Bakr and Umar, they attacked and defeated the enemy .In 630 when Muslim armies rushed for the Conquest of Mecca he was part of that army. Later in 630 he was part of Battle of Hunayn and Siege of Ta'if. He was part of Muslim's army that went for the campaign of Tabuk under Muhammad's command and he was reported to have given half of his wealth for the preparation of this expedition. He also participated in a farewell Hajj of Muhammad in 631..

Death of Muhammad

Muhammad died on 8 June 632. Umar was full of grief upon hearing the news, Umar, the devoted disciple, couldn't accept the reality that the "Messenger of God" has died. According To The Quran Muhammad is but a messenger; messengers have passed away before "i.e. died or killed". It is said that Umar promised to strike the head of any man who would say that Muhammad died. At this point Abu Bakr is reported to have come out to the Muslim community and gave his famous speech which included:

Abū Bakr then recited these verses from the Qur'an:

Hearing this from Abu Bakr, the most senior disciple of Muhammad, Umar then fell down on his knees in great sense of sorrow and acceptance of the reality. Sunni Muslims say that this denial of Muhammad's death was occasioned by his deep love for Muhammad.

Foundation of the Caliphate

Umar's political genius first manifested as the architect of the caliphate after Muhammad died in 8 june 632.. While the funeral of Muhammad was being arranged a group of Muhammad's followers who were natives of Medina, the Ansar (helpers), organised a meeting on the outskirts of the city, effectively locking out those companions known as Muhajirs (The Emigrants) including Umar . Umar found out about this meeting at Saqifah Bani Saadah, and taking with him two other Muhajirs, Abu Bakr and Abu Ubaidah ibn al-Jarrah, proceeded to the meeting, presumably to head off the Ansar's plans for political domination. Arriving at the meeting Umar was faced with a unified community of tribes from the Ansar who refused to accept the leadership of the Muhajirs.. However Umar was undeterred in his belief the caliphate should be under the control of the Muhajirs,. Though they Khazraj were in disagreement, Umar after strained negotiations lasting up to one or two days, brilliantly divided the Ansar into their old warring factions of Aws and Khazraj tribes, Umar resolved the divisions by placing his hand on that of Abu Bakr as a unity candidate for those gathered in the Saqifah, most others gathered at the Saqifah followed suit with the exception of the Khazraj tribe and their leader, Sa'd ibn 'Ubada, whose tribe was ostracized. The Khazraj tribe is said to have posed no significant threat as there were sufficient men of war from the Medinan tribes such as the Banu Aws to immediately organize them into a military bodyguard for Abu Bakr..

The creation of the islamic caliphate would be one of Umar's most enduring legacies, and its significance to world history is hard to overestimate. However Umar himself was characteristically guarded about his own creation, the Western scholar Dr. Wilferd Madelung in his book The Succession to Muhammad summarising Umar's contribution :

Umar judged the outcome of the Saqifa assembly to be a falta [translated by Madelung as 'a precipitate and ill-considered deal'] because of the absence of most of the prominent Muhajirun, including the Prophet's own family and clan, whose participation he considered vital for any legitimate consultation (shura, mashwara). It was, he warned the community, to be no precedent for the future. Yet he also defended the outcome, claiming that the Muslims were longing for Abu Bakr as for no one else. He apologized, moreover, that the Muhajirun present were forced to press for an immediate oath of allegiance since the Ansar could not have been trusted to wait for a legitimate consultation and might have proceeded to elect one of their own after the departure of the Mekkans. Another reason for Umar to censure the Saqifa meeting as a falta was no doubt its turbulent and undignified end, as he and his followers jumped upon the sick Khazraji leader Sa'd bin Ubada in order to teach him a lesson, if not to kill him, for daring to challenge the sole right of Quraysh to rule. This violent break-up of the meeting indicates, moreover, that the Ansar cannot all have been swayed by the wisdom and eloquence of Abu Bakr's speech and have accepted him as the best choice for the succession, as suggested by Caetani. There would have been no sense in beating up the Khazraji chief if everybody had come around to swearing allegiance to Umar's candidate. A substantial number of the Ansar, presumably of Khazraj in particular, must have refused to follow the lead of the Muhajirun. .

According to various shia sources and some western scholars, Umar and Abu Bakr had in effect mounted a political coup against Ali at the Saqifah According to one version of narrations in primary sources, Umar and Abu Bakr are also said to have use force to secure the allegiance from Ali and his party. It has been reported that after Ali's refusal to pay homage, Abu Bakr sent Umar with an armed contingent to Fatimah’s house where Ali and his supporters are said to have gathered. Umar is reported to have warned those in the House that unless Ali succumbed to Abu Bakr, he would set the House on fire, with its inhabitants ablaze, and under these circumstances Ali was forced to capitulate. This belligerent version of events, fully accepted by Shia scholars, is generally rejected by Sunni scholars who in view of other reports in their literature believe that Ali gave oath of alliance to Abu Bakr without any grievance, while others believe that Ali was reluctant to swear allegiance to Abu Bakr and gave his allegiance six months later after the death of his wife Fatimah.

Western scholars tend to agree that Ali believed he had a clear mandate to politically succeed Muhammad, but offer differing views as to the extent of use of force by Umar in an attempt to intimidate Ali and his supporters, for instance, Dr. Wilferd Madelung in his book The Succession to Muhammad, discounts the possibility of use of force and argues that:
Isolated reports of use of force against ali and banu hashim who unanimously refuse to swear alligence for six months are probably to be discounted. Abu bakr no doubt was wise enough to restrain umar from any violence against them, well realizing that this would inevitably provoked the sense of solidarity of majority of abdul mannaf who’s acquiescence he needed. His policy was rather isolating banu hashim as far as possible.
While other western academics, for instance Simon Ockley, have been of the opinion that Umar was pugnacious to an extent consistent with the aforementioned bellicose accounts.

Caliph Abu Bakr's era

During Abu Bakr's short reign as caliph he was mostly remained occupied with Ridda wars, Umar was one of his chief advisers and secretary. Umar along with Khalid, probably was the architect and main strategist behind the collapse of rebellion in Arabia.Though at the beginning due to the apprehensive situation in Arabia Umar was opposing the military operations against the rebel tribes, it was to enjoy their support in case of any possible foreign invasion by Romans or Persian, but later he seem to agree with Abu Bakr's warlike strategies to crush rebellion. Khalid ibn Walid by late 632 had successfully united Arabia after consecutive victories against rebels. Later during his own reign, Umar would mostly adopt the policy of avoiding wars and consolidating his power in the conquered land rather than expanding his empire through continuous warfare.Prior to Battle of Yamamah, Umar pressured Abu Bakr to call back Khalid, who had killed Malik ibn Nuwayrah, a rebel chief who was a state criminal. Umar was reportedly misguided by Malik's brother that Malik was a Muslim and Khalid killed him because he wanted to marry his wife Layla bint al-Minhal, a renowned beauty in Arabia.While Abu Bakr refused to accept Umar's opinion and Umar continue insisting for Khalid disposal even after Khalid's conquest of Iraqmarker. This became a major issue between Abu Bakr and Umar and a spacious chapter in Islamic history.It was Umar who advised Abu Bakr to compile Quran in the form of a book, after the death of 300 memorizers of Quran in Battle of Yamamah. Abu Bakr appointed Umar as his successor prior to his death in 634. He was confirmed in the office thereafter.

Appointment as a Caliph

Due to his strict and autocratic nature, Umar was not a very popular figure among the notables of Madinah and members of Majlis al Shura, accordingly succession of Umar was initially discouraged by high ranking companions of Abu Bakr.Nevertheless, Abu Bakr decided to make Umar, his successor.Umar, still was well known for his extraordinary will power, intelligence, political astuteness, impartiality, justice and care for poor and underprivileged people.Abu Bakr is reported to have said to the high-ranking advisers:

Abu Bakr of fully aware of Umar's power and ability to succeed him. Succession of Umar was thus not as troublesome as any of the others. His was perhaps one of the smoothest transitions to power from one authority to another in the Muslim lands.Abu Bakr before his death called Uthman to write his will in which he declared Umar his successor. In his will he instructed Umar to continue the conquests on Iraqmarker and Syrianmarker fronts.Abu Bakr's decision would prove to be crucial in the strengthening of the nascent Islamic empire.

Reign as Caliph

Sword of Caliph Umar, with later hilt.
On 22 August Caliph Abu Bakr died. The same day Umar assumed the office of Caliphate.After the assumption of office as the Caliph, Umar addressed the Muslims in his Inaugural address as:

Initial challenges

Umar was already not a endearing figure in Medina. Although almost all of the Muslims had given pledge of loyalty to him, nevertheless he was rather more feared than loved. The first challenge for Umar was to win out his subjects and members of Majlis al Shura.Umar was a gifted orator, and he would use his ability to get a soft corner in the hearts of people.On Friday prayers Umar addressed the people as follow:

Umar's addresses greatly moved the people. Next time he addressed the people as:

There could be no better definition of the democracy and justice, then the historic words of Umar, over which he laid foundation of his rule:

Umar's stress was on the well being of poor and underprivileged people, as this class made a bulk of any community, the people were soundly moved by Umar's speeches and his popularity grew rapidly and continuously over the period of his reign.In addition to this Umar, in order to improve his reputation and relation with Banu Hashim, the tribe of Ali, delivered to him his disputed estates in Khayber. Though he followed Abu Bakr's decision over the dispute of land of Fidak, continued its status as a state property.In Ridda wars, thousands of prisoners from rebel and apostate tribes were taken away as slaves during the expeditions. Umar ordered the general amnesty for the prisoners, and their immediate emancipation. This made Umar quite a popular among the budoiene tribes.With necessary public support with him, Umar took a bold decision of retrieving Khalid ibn Walid from supreme command on Roman front.

Dismissal of Khalid from command

Khalid ibn Walid, a military genius and then a hero of the campaign of Apostasy and conquest of Iraq.Umar dismissed Khalid from high command and appointed Abu Ubaidah ibn al-Jarrah as new commander in chief. Even though he was his cousin, the relationship between Khalid and Umar were already tense since the incident of Malik ibn Nuwayrah. There was an air of distrust between Khalid and Umar, which thus resulted in the dismissal of Khalid from supreme command then and later in 638 from military services.There was a huge uproar over this decision of Umar in Madinah, as Khalid was immensely popular among the people due to his military genius. Khalid, rather gave a pledge of loyalty to the new Caliph and keep on serving as an ordinary commander under Abu Ubaidah. He is reported to have said:This decision would be one of Umar's decision over which he regretted later.There was inevitably a slowdown in the pace of military operations, as Abu Ubaidah would move slowly and steadily. The conquest of Syria continued under him, Abu Ubaidah being an admirer of Khalid, made him command of cavalry and relied heavily on his advice during the whole campaign.

Political and civil administration

The government of Umar was more or less a unitary government, where the sovereign political authority was the Caliph. The empire of Umar was divided into provinces and some autonomous territories like in some regions Azerbaijanmarker and Armeniamarker, that had accepted the suzerainty of Caliphate. The provinces administered by the provincial governors or Wali. The selection of which was made personally by Umar, who was very fastidious in it. Provinces were further divided into districts, there were about 100 districts in the empire. Each district or main city was under the charge of a junior governor or Wali, usually appointed by Umar himself, but occasionally they were also appointed by the provincial governor. Other officers at the provincial level were:

  1. Katib, the Chief Secretary.
  2. Katib-ud-Diwan, the Military Secretary.
  3. Sahib-ul-Kharaj, the Revenue Collector.
  4. Sahib-ul-Ahdath, the Police chief.
  5. Sahib-ul-Bait-ul-Mal, the Treasury Officer.
  6. Qadi, the Chief Judge.

In some districts there were separate military officers, though the Governor (Wali) was in most cases the Commander-in-chief of the army quartered in the province.Every appointment was made in writing. At the time of appointment an instrument of instructions was issued with a view to regulating the conduct of Governors. On assuming office, the Governor was required to assemble the people in the main mosque, and read the instrument of instructions before them..

Umar's general instructions to his officers were:

Various other strict code of conducts were to be obeyed by the governors and state officials. The principal officers were required to come to Mecca on the occasion of the Hajj, during which people were free to present any complaint against them. In order to minimize the chances of corruption, Umar made it a point to pay high salaries to the staff. Provincial governor received as much as five to seven thousand dirham annually besides their shares of the spoils of war (if they were also the commander in chief of the army of their sector).Under Umar the empire was divided into the following provinces.

  1. Arabia was divided into two provinces, Mecca and Medina;
  2. Iraq was divided into two provinces, Basramarker and Kufamarker;
  3. In the upper reaches of the Tigrismarker and the Euphrates, Jazira was a province;
  4. Syria was a province;
  5. Umar divided Palestine in two provinces Aylyamarker and Ramlahmarker;
  6. Egypt was divided into two provinces, Upper Egypt and Lower Egypt;
  7. Persia was divided into three provinces, Khorasan; Azarbaijan and Farsmarker.

Umar was first to established a special department for the investigation of complaints against the officers of the State. This department acted as Administrative court, where the legal proceedings were personally led by Umar.The Department was under the charge of Muhammad ibn Maslamah, one of Umar's most trusted man. In important cases Muhammad ibn Maslamah was deputed by Umar to proceed to the spot, investigate the charge and take action. Sometimes an Inquiry Commission was constituted to investigate the charge. On occasions the officers against him complaints were received were summoned to Madinah, and charged in Umar's administrative court.One of Umar's most powerful department was his intelligence department of secret services. Umar's iron fist rule on his empire, is often credited to this institution . His agents were every where, in the army, in the bureaucracy and in the enemy land. For the officials of Umar it was said to be the most fearsome department.


Umar is regarded as one of the greatest political geniuses in history. While under his leadership, the empire was expanding at a unprecedented rate, he also began to build the political structure that would hold together the vast empire that was being built. He undertook many administrative reforms and closely oversaw public policy. He established an advanced administration for the newly conquered lands, including several new ministries and bureaucracies, and ordered a census of all the Muslim territories. During his rule, the garrison cities (amsarmarker) of Basramarker and Kufamarker were founded or expanded. In 638, he extended and renovated the Masjid al-Harammarker (Grand Mosque) in Mecca and the Al-Masjid al-Nabawimarker (Mosque of the Prophet) in Medina.Umar also ordered the expulsion of the Christian and Jewish communities of Najranmarker and Khaybarmarker allowing them to reside in Syria or Iraq. He issued orders that these Christians and Jews should be treated well and allotted them the equivalent land in their new settlements. Umar also forbade non-Muslims to reside in the Hejaz for longer than three days.He was first to establish army as a state department.Umar was founder of Fiqh, the Islamic jurisprudence. He is regarded by Sunni Muslims to be one of the greatest Faqih. Umar as a jurist started the process of codifying Islamic Law.In 641, he established Bayt al-mal, a financial institution and started annual allowance for the Muslims. A year later he also started allowance for the poor, underprivileged and old non-Muslim citizens of the empire.As a leader, 'Umar was known for his simple, austere lifestyle. Rather than adopt the pomp and display affected by the rulers of the time, he continued to live much as he had when Muslims were poor and persecuted. In 639, his fourth year as caliph and the seventeenth year 17 since the Hijra, he decreed that the Islamic calendar should be counted from the year of the Hijra of Muhammad from Mecca to Madinah.

Military expansion

It is widely believe that Umar stressed more on consolidating his power and political influence in the conquered land, rather than persisting conquests. Nevertheless under Umar, The Islamic empire grew at an unprecedented rate. In 638, after the conquest of Syria, Umar dismissed Khalid, his most successful general due to his every growing fame and influence. Later however Umar regretted over his decision. The military conquest were partially terminated between 638-639 during the years of great famine and plague in Arabia and Levant respectively. During his reign Levant, Egypt, Cyrenaica, Tripolitania, Fezzanmarker, Eastern Anatoliamarker, almost whole of Sassanid Persian Empire including Bactria, Persiamarker, Azerbaijanmarker, Armeniamarker, Caucasus and Makran were annexed to Islamic Empire. Accordiong to one estimate more than 4050 cities were captured during these military conquest. Prior to his death in 644, Umar had ceased all military expeditions apparently to consolidate his rule in Egypt and newly conquered Sassanid Empire (642-644). At his death in November 644, domain of his rule extended from present day Libyamarker in west to Indus rivermarker in east and Oxus rivermarker in north.

The great famine

In the year 638, Arabia fell into severe drought followed by a famine. Bedouin people began to die because of hunger and epidemic diseases, as a result of drought and famine hundreds of thousands of people from all over Arabia gathered at Madinahmarker where due to city life and civic sense, food was rationed. Soon the reserves of food at Madinah began to decline, Umar wrote to the provincial governors of Syria, Palestine and Iraq for the aid. State of emergency was declared in Madinah and Arabia. The timely aid of Umar's governors saved life of thousands of people through out Arabia. First governor to respond was Abu Ubaidah ibn al-Jarrah, the governor of Syria and supreme commander of Rashidun army. The sent a historic letter to Umar sayingLater Abu Ubaidah paid a personal visit to Madinah and acted as an officer of Disaster management cell, which was headed personally by Umar. Hundreds of thousands of people from desert towns had already gathered in Madinah, once adequate supply of ration reached Madinah, Umar dispatched his men to the routes of Iraq, Palestine and Syria to take the supply caravans to the desert settlements deeper into Arabia, which in turn saved millions from annihilation. For the internally displaced people, Umar hosted a diner every night at Madinah, which according to one estimate every night more than hundred thousand people use to attend. By early 639 conditions begun to improve, Arabia received precipitation and as soon as famine ends, Umar personally supervised the rehabilitation of the displaced people. They were given adequate amount of ration and were exempted from payment of zakat for that year and the next year.

The great plague

While famine was ending in Arabia, many districts in Syria and Palestine were devastated by plague. While Umar was on his way to visit Syria, at Elatmarker, he was received by Abu Ubaidah ibn al-Jarrah, governor of Syria, who informed him about plague and its intensity and he was suggest to go back to Madinah, Umar tried to persuade Abu Ubaidah to come with him to Madinah but he denied to leave his troops in that critical situation. Abu Ubaidah died in 639 due to plague, which also cost the life of 25,000 Muslims in Syria. After plague was weaken in late 639 Umar visited Syria for it political and administrative re-organization, as most of the veteran commanders and governs had died in plague.


In 644, at zenith of his power, Umar was assassinated. It is believed that his assassination was a Persian conspiracy, who were infuriated by Umar's conquest of their empire. The assassination was planed several months earlier, in October 644 Umar went for Hajj in Mecca, the assassins started the hoopla of Umar's possible death that year, the massive crowd of congregation was used by the conspirators as a veil to hide themselves. It is related that when Umar stood at the Mount Arafatmarker he heard a voice saying:
"O Caliph, never again will you stand on the Mount of Arafat"
. A companion of Umar, Jabir bin Mutaam is reported to have said:
We saw a man standing at the top of the hill and crying 'Verily that is the last Hajj of Umar.
He will never come here again."
During one of rituals of Hajj, the Ramy al-Jamarat (stoning of the Devil), some one threw a stone on Umar that wounded his head, a voice was heard that Umar will not attend the Hajj ever again.Amongst the conspirators was Hormuzan, the alleged master mind of the plot. He was Persian commander in Chief and was captured and brought to Umar at Madinah where to save his life he apparently converted to Islam. One of Umar's advisors, Ka'ab al-Ahbar, a former Jewish Rabbi, who apparently had converted to Islam, but his conversion is generally doubted by the scholars. Jafinah, the Christian Arab from Iraq, who was also a foster brother of Saad ibn Abi Waqqas, former governors of Busramarker. The last of the master minds was Piruzan, popularly known as Abu Lulu, he was slave of Mughira ibn Shu'ba, then a governor of Busramarker. It was Abu Lulu who was assigned the mission of assassinating Umar. According to the plan, before the Fajrprayers (the morning prayers before the dawn) Abu Lulu will enter Al-Masjid al-Nabawimarker, the main mosque of Madinah where Umar led the prayers and will attack Umar during the prayers, and will fled or will mix with the congregation at mosque.There were Persian children slaves in Madina. Seeing them, Firoz is quoted saying:
You have been enslaved at such a tender age. This Umar sees eaten my heart. I will take his heart out".
Abu Lulu brought a conjectural complain to Umar about the high tax charged from him by his master Mughirah. Umar wrote to Mughirah and inquired about the tax, Mughirah's reply was satisfactory Umar held that the tax charged from Abu Lulu was reasonable, owning the to his daily income. Umar than is reported to have asked Abu Lulu:
I heard that you make windmills; make one for me as well. In a sullen mood, Firoz said, " Verily I will make such a mill for you, that whole world would remember it ".
As Firoz went away, the Caliph told the people around him that the Persian slave had threatened him.Three days before attack on Umar on 1 November 644, Ka'ab al-Ahbar, is reported to have warned Umar that he will die in three days. On each successive day he further warned him about two days left and then one day left until on 3 November 644, Umar was attacked, while leading the morning prayers, Abu Lulu stabbed him six times in the belly and last on the navel, that proved fatal. Umar was left profusely bleeding while Abu Lulu tried to fled but people from all sides rushed to capture him, he in his desperate efforts to escape is reported to have wounded twelve other people, six or nine of them later died. At last he was captured but committed suicide from the same dagger.Umar died of the wounds three days later on Sunday, 7 November 644.Umar is reported to have left the following testament:

As per Umar's will, he was buried in Al-Masjid al-Nabawimarker alongside Muhammad and Caliph Abu Bakr.


On his death bed Umar vacillated to appoint his successor, however it has been reported that he said that if Abu Ubaidah ibn al-Jarrah, Khalid ibn Walid or Salim, the mawali and freed Persian slave, were alive he would have appointed one of them his successor. Umar finally appointed a committee of six persons comprising,
  1. Abdur Rahman bin Awf
  2. Saad ibn Abi Waqqas
  3. Talha ibn Ubaidullah
  4. Uthman ibn Affan
  5. Ali ibn Abi Talib
  6. Zubayr ibn al-Awwam

Their task was to chose a caliph from amongst them. Umar appointed a band of fifty armed soldiers to protect the house where the meeting was proceeding. Umar further instructed that with in three days of his death if the committee failed to elect the caliph they shall be executed.Until the appointment of the next caliph Umar appointed a notable Sahabi, a mawali, Suhayb ar-Rumi (Suhayb the Roman) as a caretaker Caliph.While the historic meeting for selection of caliph was preceding, Abdulrehman ibn Abu Bakr and Abdur Rahman bin Awf revealed that they saw the dagger used by Abu Lulu, the assassin of Umar. A night before Umar's assassination, reported Abdur Rahman bin Awf, he saw Hormuzan, Jafina and Abu Lulu, while they were suspiciously discussing some thing, bewildered by his presence dagger was dropped from them, it was the same two sided dagger. Abudulrehman ibn Abu Bakr, son of late caliph Abu Bakr also confirmed that few days before Umar's assassination, he once saw this dagger with Hurmazan. After the mystery of assassination uncover by the two of the most notable governmental figures, it seemed clear that the assassination was planed by the Persians residing in Madinah. Infuriate by this Umar's younger son Ubaidullah ibn Umar sought to kill all the Persians in Madinah. He killed Hormuzan, Jafinah, and daughter of Umar's assassin Abu Lulu, who is believed to be a Muslim. Ubaidullah was intercepted by the people of Madinah and withholding him from the massacre. Amr ibn al-Aas is said to have intercepted him, convince him to handover his sword. The murder of Jafinah, enraged Saad ibn Abi Waqqas, his foster brother, and he assaulted Ubaidullah ibn Umar and again the companions intervened. It is also believed that Umar daughter Hafsa bint Umar provoked Ubaidullah to take the punitive action. When Umar was informed about the incident, he ordered that Ubaidullah should be imprisoned and the next Caliph should decide his fate.Umar died on 7 November 644; on 11 November Uthman succeeded him as the Caliph. After prolonged negotiations the tribunal decided to give blood money to the victims and released Umar's son Ubaidullah, on the ground that after the tragic incident of Umar's assassination people will be further infuriated by execution of his son the very next day.


Umar is regarded as one of the most influential figure in history. He was in true sense, architect of Islamic Empire.As a leader, 'Umar was known for his simple, austere lifestyle. Rather than adopt the pomp and display affected by the rulers of the time, he continued to live much as he had when Muslims were poor and persecuted.'Umar was vigorous, robust and a very tall man, in markets he would tower above the people. The front part of his head was bald, always A'sara Yusran (working with two hands), both his eyes are black, with yellow skin, however, ibn Sa'ad in his book The Book of the Major Classes (Tabaqat al-Kubra) stated that he never knew that 'Umar had yellow skin, except if the people took into criterion a certain part of his life where his color changed because he always ate oil at that part of his life,Others say he has reddish-white skin. His teeth were ashnabul asnan (very white shining). He would always color his beard and take care of his hair using a type of plant.


In his book Encyclopaedia of Islam Mufti M. Mukarram Ahmed describes his journey to Jersualem to take control of the city from the Byzantine Patriarch of Jerusalem Sophronius:
"Hadrat' Umar (R.A.) appointed Hadrat Ali (R.A.) as his deputy and went to Jerusalem with his slave.
They were having one camel on which each of them rode by turn.
When Hadrat Umar (R.A.) was entering Jerusalem it happened to be the slave’s turn to ride on the camel.
Though the slave offered his turn to the “Khalifah” but Hadrat Umar refused and remarked: “The honour of Islam (i.e., being Muslim) is enough for all of us.” He entered Jerusalem holding the rope of the camel on which was riding his slave.
His clothes were dirty and there were several patches on them."

In The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Gibbon refers to Umar in the following terms:
"Yet the abstinence and humility of Umar were not inferior to the virtues of Abu Bakr: his food consisted of barley bread or dates; his drink was water; he preached in a gown that was torn or tattered in twelve places; and a Persian satrap, who paid his homage as to the conqueror, found him asleep among the beggars on the steps of the mosque of Muslims."

Political legacy

Umar is considered as a political genius, as an architect of Islamic Empire he is regarded as 52nd most influential figure in history.Umar remained politically stagnant during Prophet Mohammad's era, however after his death, it was Umar's brilliance that Abu Bakr was elected Caliph, despite of massive initial confrontations at Saqifah. Umar successfully broke the alliance of the tribes of Madinah who claim Caliphate to be their right in addition cleverly sidelined Ali, paving the way for the succession of Abu Bakr. during Abu Bakr's era, he actively participated as his secretory and main adviser. After succeeding Abu Bakr as caliph, Umar win over the hearts of Baudouin tribes by emancipating all their prisoners and slaves taken during Ridda wars, his excellent oratory skills helped him to heightened his popularity graph, mostly among the poor and underprivileged people. He proved himself as a excellent manager during the year of the great Famine when his dynamic abilities saved millions from starvation. He is best known to built up an efficient administrative structure of the empire, that held together his vast realm. He organized an effective network of intelligence, partly a reason for his strong grip on his bureaucracy. His judicial reforms were fairly modern and advance in nature when compared to contemporary systems of his era. He opposed the construction of present day Suez Canalmarker, as it posed threat to the security of Madinah. Twelve hundred years later Great Britain opposed the construction of the canal for the same reason as it then posed threat to its colonies in Indian subcontinent. One of the reason of the compactness of his political rule in the conquered lands is reputed to his policy of tolerance to their religious believes and imposition of far lower taxes on them as compared to Sassanid Persian empire and Byzantine Empire. Their local administration was kept un-touched and several of the former Byzantine and Persian official were retained on their services under Umar's governors.Umar was very painstaking in every matter. His meticulous was evident from his appointment of governors and judges that never let him lose his grip on the government. He never appointed governors for more than two years, for they might get influence in their county. He dismissed his most successful general Khalid ibn Walid, due to his immense popularity and growing influence that he saw menace to his authority. Rather than tenacious conquest he stressed more on consolidating his rule in the conquered land, a fact that saved Byzantine empire from complete disappearance. Umar is reported to have wished an official tour across his domain to personally examine the condition of his subjects. In 641, before the conquest of Persian empire, Umar is reported to have said:

It should be noted that at the time, Umar made this statement, Persia was not yet conquered (conquest of Persia begun in 642).He would walk the streets of Medina with a whip in his hand, and it is said that Umar's whip was feared more than the sword of another man. He is famous for covert night tour of the city to know the secret life of his domain, the tradition that later be followed by some of the Abbasid Caliphs and even Mughul rulers of Indian subcontinent.

Social justice and accountability

Saeed M Mohtsham cites from Caliph Umar's rule in his research paper Vision and Visionary Leadership – An Islamic Perspective:
"He used to monitor very closely the public policy and had kept the needs of the public central to his leadership approach. As second caliph of Islam, he refused to chop off the hands of the thieves because he felt he had fallen short of his responsibility to provide meaningful employment to all his subjects. As a ruler of a vast kingdom, His vision was to ensure that every one in his kingdom should sleep on a full stomach.


He also knew that just having a vision is not enough unless it is supported by effective strategies. He didn’t only have a vision; he truly transformed his vision into actions. For example, to ensure that nobody sleeps hungry in his empire, he used to walk through the streets almost every night to see if there is any one needy or ill."

Military legacy

It has been reported that Umar was a champion wrestler of his time, though not distinguish as a swordsman, he would latter attain prominence as a master strategist and along with Khalid, is said to be one of the main architect of the strategic planning for successful collapse of Arabian rebellion, the greatest triumph of Abu Bakr.One of his greatest strategic marvel was his brilliant fission of Persio-Roman alliance in 636, when Emperor Heraclius and Emperor Yazdegerd III allied against their common enemy Umar. He was lucky for the Persian Emperor Yazdegerd III couldn't synchronize with Heraclius, as planed. Umar fully availed the opportunity and successfully tackled the minefield by straining Byzantines to jump in the battle contrary the orders of Empreror Heraclius, who presumably wanted a coordinated attack along with Persians. Umar did this by sending reinforcement to Roman front with instructions that the reinforcement should appear in the form of small bands one after the other giving an impression of a continuous stream of reinforcement that finally lure Byzantines to an untimely battle. On the other hand Yazdegerd III of Persia was engaged into negotiations, that further gave Umar time to transfer his troops from Syria to Iraq these troops proved decisive in Battle of Qadisiyyahmarker. Both the battles thus fought proved decisive and are noted as one of the most decisive battles in history.His strategic dimensions were the prime reason of Muslim victory at 2nd Battle of Emesa in 638. Where the pro-Byzantine Christian Arabs of Jazira, aided by Byzantine Emperor, making an unexpected flanking movement and laid siege to Emesamarker. Umar's brilliance was behind Muslim victory that was achieved with out firing a single shot.Umar's orders to invade the very homeland of the Christian Arab forces besieging Emesa, the Jazirah. A three prong attack against Jazirah was launched from Iraq. To further pressurize the Christian Arab armies, Umar instructed Saad ibn Abi Waqqas, commander of Muslim forces in Iraq, to sent reinforcement to Emesa, Umar himself led a reinforcement from Madinah and marched towards Emesa. Under this unprecedented press-gang, Christian Arabs retreated from Emesa before Muslims reinforcement could reach their. This incursion from Byzantines however resulted in Muslim annex Mesopotamia and parts of Byzantine Armenia.Nonetheless the greatest triumph of Umar remained Conquest of Persian empire. After years of non-offensive policy according to which Umar wished the Zagros Mountainsmarker to be the frontiers between Muslims and Persians, after Battle of Nahavand Umar launched a whole scale invasion of Sassanid Persian Empire. The invasion was a series of well coordinated multi-prong attacks that was based on the principle of isolating and then destroying the target. Umar launched the invasion by attacking the very heart of Persia aiming to isolate Azerbaijanmarker and eastern Persia. It was immediately followed by simultaneous attacks on Azerbaijan and Farsmarker. In the final secession Sistan and Kirmanmarker and captured thus isolating the stronghold of Persian, The Khurasan. The final expedition was launched against Khurasan where after Battle of Oxus river Persian empire ceased to exist, and emperor Yazdegerd III fled to Central Asia. He founded the city of Cairomarker, conquered 36,000 cities or castles, and built 1400 mosques .

Religious legacy

Sunni views

Sunnis remember Umar as a rigid Muslim of stern and potentially aggressive disposition in matters of the religion of Allah, a man they title Farooq, meaning "leader, jurist and statesman", and the second of the rightly-guided Caliphs. He patched his clothes with skin, took buckets on his two shoulders, always riding his donkey without the saddle, rarely laughing and never joking with anyone. On his ring is written the words "Enough is Death as a reminder to you O' 'Umar". He did not seek advancement for his own family, but rather sought to advance the interests of the Muslim community, the ummah. The general Sunni sentiment for Umar is summarized by one of Muhammad's companions, Abd Allah ibn Mas'ud:

Omar made the pilgrimage to Mecca nine times. Mohammed had the highest esteem for Omar. He said that:

Shia views

Umar is viewed very negatively in Shi'a literature and is regarded as a traitor to Muhammad, a usurper of Ali's rights, and a murderer. Some Shi'a writers have accused him of killing Muhammad's daughter Fatimah (see Fatimah's death). According to Shia Muslims, Fatimah, wife of Ali and daughter of Muhammad, was physically abused by him. These sources report that the event caused her to miscarry her child and eventually led to her death soon after. (see Umar at Fatimah's house).

Western views

In his book Mahomet and His Successors, Washington Irving estimates the achievements of Umar in the following terms:

"The whole history of Umar shows him to have been a man of great powers of mind, inflexible integrity and rigid justice. He was more than any one else the founder of the Islamic empire; confirming and carrying out the inspirations of the Prophet; aiding Abu Bakr with his counsels during his brief Caliphate; and establishing wise regulations for the strict administration of the law throughout the rapidly-extending bounds of the Muslim conquests. The rigid hand which he kept upon his most popular generals in the midst of their armies, and in the most distant scenes of their triumphs, gives signal evidence of his extra-ordinary capacity to rule. In the simplicity of his habits, and his contempt for all pomp and luxury, he emulated the example of the Prophet and Abu Bakr. He endeavored incessantly to impress the merit and policy of the same in his letters to his generals. 'Beware' he would say of Persian luxury both in food and raiment. Keep to the simple habits of your country, and Allah will continue you victorious; depart from them and He will reverse your fortunes'. It was his strong conviction of the truth of this policy which made him so severe in punishing all ostentatious style and luxurious indulgence in his officers. Some of his ordinances do credit to his heart as well as his head. He forbade that any female captive who had borne a child should be sold as a slave. In his weekly distributions of the surplus money of his treasury, he proportioned them to the wants, not the merits of the applicants. 'God' said he, 'has bestowed the good things of this world to relieve our necessities, not to reward our virtues: those will be rewarded in another world'.

In his book The Caliphate: Its Rise, Decline, and Fall Sir William Muir says as follows about Umar:

Umar's life requires but few lines to sketch.
Simplicity and duty were his guiding principles; impartiality and devotion the leading features of his administration.
Responsibility so weighed upon him that he was heard to exclaim 'O that my mother had not borne me; would that I had been this stalk of grass instead!'
In early life, of a fiery and impatient temper, he was known, even in the later days of the Prophet, as the stern advocate of vengeance.
Ever ready to unsheathe the sword, it was he who at Badr advised that the prisoners should be put to death.
But age, as well as office, had now mellowed this asperity.
His sense of justice was strong.
And except it be the treatment of Khalid, whom according to some accounts, he pursued with an ungenerous resentment, no act of tyranny or injustice is recorded against him; and even in this matter, his enmity took its rise in Khalid's unscrupulous treatment of fallen foe.
The choice of his captains and governors was free from favoritism and (Al-Mughira and Ammar excepted) singularly fortunate.
The various tribes and bodies in the empire, representing interests the most diverse, reposed in his integrity implicit confidence, and his strong arm maintained the discipline of law and empire.
Whip in hand he would perambulate the streets and markets of Madina, ready to punish slanders on the spot; and so the proverb Umar's whip is more terrible than another's sword'.
But with all this he was tender hearted, and numberless acts of kindness are recorded of him, such as relieving the wants of the widows and the fatherless.

In The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Gibbon refers to Umar in the following terms:

"Yet the abstinence and humility of Umar were not inferior to the virtues of Abu Bakr: his food consisted of barley bread or dates; his drink was water; he preached in a gown that was torn or tattered in twelve places; and a Persian satrap, who paid his homage as to the conqueror, found him asleep among the beggars on the steps of the mosque of Muslims. Economy is the source of liberality, and the increases of the revenue enabled Umar to establish a just and perpetual reward for the past and present services of the faithful. Careless of his own emolument, he assigned to Abbas, the uncle of the Prophet, the first and most ample allowance of twenty-five thousand dirhams of pieces of silver. Five thousand were allotted to each of the aged warriors? The relics of the field of Badr and the last and the meanest of the companions of Mohammad was distinguished by the annual reward of three thousand pieces. Under his reign and that of his predecessors, the conquerors of the East were the trusty servants of God and the people; the mass of public treasure was consecrated to the expenses of peace and war; a prudent mixture of justice and bounty maintained the discipline of the Saracens, and then united, by a rare felicity, the dispatch and execution of despotism with the equal and frugal maxims of a republican government."

In his book History of the Arabs Professor Philip Khuri Hitti has assessed the achievements of Umar in the following terms:

"Simple and frugal in manner the energetic and talented Umar (634-644) who was of towering height, strong physique and bald headed, continued at least for some time after becoming the Caliph to support himself by trade and lived throughout his life in a style as unostentatious as that of a Bedouin Sheikh. In fact, Umar, whose name according to Muslim tradition is the greatest in early Islam after that of Mohammad, has been idolized by Muslim writers for his piety, justice and patriarchal simplicity and treated as the personification of all the virtues a Caliph ought to possess. His irreproachable character became an exemplar for all conscientious successors to follow. He owned, we are told, one shirt and one mantle only, both conspicuous for their patchwork, slept on a bed of palm leaves, and had no concern other than the maintenance of the purity of the faith, the upholding of justice and the ascendancy and security of Islam and the Arabians. Arabic literature is replete with anecdotes extolling Umar's stern character. He is said to have scourged his own son to death for drunkenness. Having in a fit of anger inflicted a number of stripes on a Bedouin who came seeking his succor against an oppressor, the Caliph soon repented and asked the Bedouin to inflict the same number on him. But the latter refused. So Umar retired to his home with the following soliloquy: 'O son of Al-Khattab humble thou wert and Allah has elevated thee, thou went astray, and Allah hath guided thee; thou were weak, and Allah hath strengthened thee. Then He caused thee to rule over the necks of thy people, and when one of them came seeking thy aid thou didst strike him! What wilt thou have to say to thy Lord when thou presentest thyself before Him'. The one who fixed the Hijrah as the commencement of the Muslim era, presided over the conquest of large portions of the then known world, instituted the state register and organized the government of the new empire, met a tragic and sudden death at the very zenith of his life when he was struck down by the poisoned dagger of a Christian Persian slave in the midst of his own congregation."

Encyclopedia Britannica remarks about Umar:

"To Umar's ten years' Caliphate belong, for the most part, the great conquests. He himself did not take the field, but remained in Madina; he never, however, suffered the reins to slip from his grasp, so powerful was the influence of his personality and the Muslim community of feeling. His political insight is shown by the fact that he endeavored to limit the indefinite extension of Muslim conquest, to maintain and strengthen the national Arabian character of the commonwealth of Islam; also by making it his foremost task to promote law and order in its internal affairs. The saying with which he began his reign will never grow antiquated: 'By God, he that is weakest among you shall be in my eye the strongest, until I have vindicated for him his rights; he that is strongest I will treat as the weakest, until he complies with the law'. It would be impossible to give a better general definition of the function of the State."


Umar married a total of 9 women in his lifetime and had 14 children, 10 sons and 4 daughters.

The details are as follow:

:Wife: Zaynab bint Mazh'un (at the time of Jahiliyyah [Days of Ignorance])
::Son: Abdullah ibn Umar (The Older)
::Son: Abdullah ibn 'Umar (The Younger)
::Son: Abdulrehman ibn 'Umar
::Daughter: Hafsa bint Umar
:Wife: Umm Kulthum bint Jarwila Khuzima (divorced)
::Son: Ubaidullah ibn Umar
::Son: Zayd ibn 'Umar
:Wife: Quraybah bint Abi Umayyah al-Makhzumi (divorced, married by Abdulrehman ibn Abu Bakr)
:Wife: Umm Hakim bint al-Harith ibn Hisham (after her husband, a former ally of 'Umar and a companion Ikrimah ibn Abi-Jahl was killed in Battle of Yarmouk, later divorced but al-Madaini says he did not divorce her)
::Daughter: Fatima bint 'Umar
:Wife: Jamilah bint Ashim ibn Thabit ibn Abi al-Aqlah (from the tribe of Aws)
::Son: Asim ibn Umar
:Wife: Atikah bint Zayd ibn Amr ibn Nifayl (cousin of Umar and former wife of Abdullah ibn Abu Bakr married 'Umar in the year 12 AH and after 'Umar was murdered, she married az-Zubayr ibn al-Awwam)
::Son: Iyaad ibn 'Umar
:Wife: Umm Kulthum bint 'Ali (the daughter of Ali ibn Abi Talib) .
::Son: Zayd ibn 'Umar, (famously known as Ibnul Khalifatayn; the son of the two Caliphs i.e Umar and Ali).
::Daughter: Ruqayyah bint 'Umar
:Wife: Luhyah (a woman from Yemenmarker (Yaman) who's marital status with 'Umar is disputed, al-Waqidi said that she was Umm Walad, meaning a slave woman)
::Son: Abdulrehman ibn 'Umar (the youngest Abdulrehman while some say the middle Abdulrehman from Luhyah)
:Wife: Fukayhah (as Umm Walad)
::Daughter: Zaynab bint 'Umar (the smallest child of 'Umar from Fukayhah)

Another son is, az-Zubayr ibn Bakkar, called Abu Shahmah, though from which wife is unknown.

See also


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