The Prophet Muhammad (saw)

Umar: Grace within the Caliphate

The sacred city of two religions with holy-scriptures, Jerusalem is under siege. Giving direction to world history up to that time, the Jews, Romans and Byzantines, respectively, governed this city as ancient as the history it glorified. Now it no longer attracted the attention of world history. Offended by life, it was enduring at the mercy of raiders over-flowing from desert lands. The army coming from the desert was as resilient as the thousand year-old Jerusalem. Jerusalem will surrender, but it insists on the signature of the caliph, himself, in the agreement it will make with the victorious army. The caliph is informed of the situation. In order to prevent any further damage to the sacred city and the Muslim army, the caliph sets out on his journey.

Accustomed to Byzantine pomp and circumstance, the local people wait curiously for the city's new ruler, the powerful caliph. Preparations and bargaining continue in the sacred city until the shadow of the magnificent silhouette falls on the city walls.

The shadow of a tall and dignified man clothed in old, coarse woolen clothing falls on the city which rests on the ruins of the Temple of Solomon in a location commanding the region. This magnificent city is thirsty for the majesty and simplicity of this man who gets his dignity from his humble stand. His dignity first amazes and then sends well-being to the curious looks. The crowds relax with the caliph's words that their lives, property, church, cross and the sick are safe; as he speaks, faces strained by anxiety soften one by one. Jerusalem's land was conquered; now Umar b. Hattab is conquering its heart. While the ruins of Solomon's Temple are being cleaned up and necessary preparations are being made to build a mosque on the site, Jerusalem opens its doors to the last monotheistic religion.

A thick and plaintive voice is heard on the city's horizons.  A call to prayer is made to Muslims by Bilal, who swore not to open his mouth after the death of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). Shaking Jerusalem, this enchanting sound mingles with the sobs of those who love the Prophet as his memory comes alive before their eyes. The city whose heart was conquered by Umar b. Hattab is now surrendering its spirit with the voice of the Prophet's muadhan (caller to prayer), Bilal. Thus, Muslims meet Jerusalem, and Jerusalem meets Islam.

In Umar's reign when the most brilliant victories in world history are won, first the cities and then the people are conquered like in Jerusalem. The children of an arid and virginal land spread out to the world's most ancient pools of civilization and to the most important cultural beds one by one. The Arabian lands where the Prophet entrusted mankind with the last religion resemble a military camp. Conquering itself with Abu Bakr, Arabia runs towards new targets with armies that have very high military and dispatchment power. While taking the Sassanid Empire under its rule within ten years, Islam deprives Byzantium of one of its most important provinces. Under the weight of heavy taxes, the people lost their loyalty and fidelity to the government and were subject to oppression and torture. Now under Umar's rule everything from animals to humans, from the land to the state -everything in nature- found its rightful place on a humane foundation, and found stability with a sense of justice balanced by mercy and authority. The actions taken during Umar's time in which worldly power and victory were weighed in the sensitive balance of religion are carried over to a rich heritage in the history of humanity and to books and podiums as a model of Islamic culture.

The special qualities that gain Umar the characteristic of being a model in Islamic history undoubtedly are derived from his power to solve innumerable problems that faced the young Islamic state that was expanding with his victories. The genius and skill shown in many matters from the administration of newly conquered lands where legal rules and regulations were not yet codified and applied to  non-homogenous multitudes of various races, religions, sects, and members of different forms of state and civilization, carried Umar to the zenith of Islamic history. Both formidable matters like the state of social needs of the new masses brought into Islamic society and the preservation of the modest Islamic community which the Last Prophet had carefully trained against the two great dominant cultures of the time were resolved during Umar's caliphate.

For both a serious transformation is begun in the expanding Islamic geography to make Islam "permanent' in the mosaic of faith in regions where not even a single Muslim lived, and application is put into effect for the masses in regard to the protection of the exemplary generation that realized the victory. Religion embraces the society in its most vibrant way and gives direction to the new needs of the society.

Crowned with the prayer of the Prophet, "O Lord! Exalt Islam with one of these two men," Umar continues to honor Islam from the day he was honored with Islam. Implementing every rule he advices to society in his own family first, Umar's warning to his family regarding violations of prohibitions goes down in history as a universal message: "People will watch you like a predatory bird watches meat; I swear to God, if I see one of you violating a prohibition, I will punish him several-fold."

In the words of Abdullah b. Masud, Umar's "becoming Muslim was a conquest, his migration was a victory, and his caliphate was a mercy." With his rule of mercy which was interwoven with justice that ensured that Muslims could reach their rights in time, Umar long since deserved reaching the zenith of Islamic history and civilization. Symbolized by his patched shirt and his bed stuffed with date leaves, Umar is also a legend with this lifestyle that represents piety amidst the ostentatious life of that time.



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