The Prophet Muhammad (saw)

Umar: Grace within the Caliphate – II

Here we will examine Caliph Umar's rule of grace, which became the peak of Islamic history and civilization. We seek the traces of his transition from a heart that did not shake while burying his daughter alive into a heart that sought a cure for the wounds of camels passing by his door, and the graceful rule built upon such a transition.

Caliph Umar's rule, in which the foundation of the young Islamic state that was blossoming in the peninsula, illuminated by the prophethood, was re-laid and in which appropriate solutions were produced for the needs of the Islamic society, the size of which was increasing with the campaigns, lies behind the nature of many organizations established in the Islamic world. The urgent problems that were encountered in this period were the results of new lands being opened to the Muslims through the campaigns, and were related to the nations that lived in these lands and the new conditions encountered by the Muslims who came face-to-face with new lifestyles in the conquered regions. The predicaments brought about by the multifaceted and multicultural atmosphere of the world's two super powers, the Byzantine Empire and the Sassanid Empire, were overcome one by one with the rational decisions of Umar. The humanitarian aspect of these decisions, which brought a great richness to the Islamic civilization, has constituted a model for centuries.

The conquest policy, which would become the basic administrative policy for later Muslim states, is especially remarkable. Umar made a clear distinction between the lands obtained by war and the regions taken under sovereignty by agreement. The lands of the regions that surrendered without fighting were handed down to their owners almost as a reward. In this way, the aim was to please the people in these lands, and they continued to cultivate the land on condition that they paid some of their income to the Islamic state. This policy of Umar, who realized that it was not possible for Arabs to become farmers and to be successful in cultivating the land overnight, eased the burden of his rule and that of the other Muslims in relation to the administration of the rapidly enlarging lands. Umar handed the lands over to their original owners, allowing local administrators in the newly conquered lands to continue in their positions, and he made these regions subject to Medina via commanders, governors and representatives who were appointed by him.

Umar built an understanding of administration in which the aforementioned administrators and all representatives in the state service were under strict supervision and control, having to give account of their actions to the public. This condition constituted the most significant aspect of the Caliph Umar's rule. All the actions of the administrators were supervised by public representatives and reviewed by the inspectors sent from the central administration. Every year during the pilgrimage season, they had to give account of their actions to the caliphate in the presence of public representatives. Such a policy, based on public satisfaction with the administration, constituted the basic ruling philosophy of Caliph Umar's rule. Administrators continued to serve in their positions according to their competence. They were removed if even the most trivial complaints against them were proven.

Another policy relating to the conquered lands was that the military units that were greatly successful during the conquests were prevented from forming a close relationship with the local people in the conquered regions. With this policy, it was intended that the soldiers be prevented from becoming estranged from the idea of jihad and coveting the comfortable lives in the conquered lands. Apart from being isolated from the local people, the duty of these soldiers was to provide domestic peace. "Military camp cities" like Basra and Qufa were established to ensure the soldiers were prepared for every emergency situation and they functioned from the beginning as military bases in which only soldiers and families of the soldiers could be accommodated in the barracks. With time, they opened their doors to resident communities, and consequently they became the first model cities in Islamic history.

Caliph Umar did not remove the local administrations in conquered regions. He implemented a similar policy. He did not share out the conquered lands between the warriors; instead, he handed these lands over to the landowners. There was a tax responsibility for land that was cultivated, with taxes being paid to the Islamic State. The taxes accumulated from these lands were collected in the state public treasury called the Beytulmal. Caliph Umar stated that the following generations would not be able to benefit from these lands if the conquered lands were shared out between the warriors. He was worried that his community would attach itself to the land and become lost among the nations that they had defeated. Therefore, he did not consider the lands as something to be pillaged, and this policy was quite significant. Another striking reform was related to the people: Caliph Umar removed the prisoners of war of their status as "loot". These implementations meant that the lands and the people could not be shared out among the warriors. For the Middle Ages, such implementations hold very significant modern humanitarian features, with very strict provisions about the land and the people living there.

During the rule of Caliph Umar, the government was perceived as an organization that was liable for providing the needs of its citizens. There were significant steps taken for the establishment of an organized financial system. The public treasury consisted of taxes taken from the landowners whose lands had been handed down to them, of rents taken from the confiscated lands, of personal taxes like zaqaat and poll taxes. The aim behind this was to provide the current and future needs of the government. In this financial system, where a certain amount of money (atiyye) was given to the warriors and an actual riziq allocation was made on a monthly basis, the people who were to receive a salary from the government were registered. In these lists, conversion to Islam was taken as a condition and the atiyye amounts were determined at different levels. This structure, known as "Divan Council", with its salary register feature, became an issue of debate both in that period and in following centuries. Caliph Abu Bakr thought that the allocated amounts were means of subsistence and that there should be equality in this issue. Under his implementation, any services performed for the benefit of Islam were to be awarded in the afterlife. Apart from this, there were also other comments on the negative aspects of this unique policy that was adopted in the period of Caliph Umar.

Regardless of its results, when we look at the activities and provisions of the period of Caliph Umar, we can see a dynamic ruling model where the human element and the particular conditions of the period were taken into account, and where emotions and intellect were blended together. Apart from the special care shown for the protection of the belongings and interests of the Muslims, the following account opens a small door on the aspect of grace during Caliph Umar's rule, summarizing the philosophy of his rule that illuminates subsequent centuries.

Caliph Umar would care for the camels that belonged to the state treasury with his own hands. One day some of the camels were being put out to pasture. The man herding them, Eslem, put some of his personal belongings on one of the camels. Upon seeing this, Umar warned him in the following words: "This camel is carrying income from the treasury of Muslims and you are tiring him by putting extra weight on him."




Umar radiallahu anhu did not bury his daughter alive.
The Incident of ‘Umar Burying his Daughter Alive

Once ‘Umar (Radhiyallahu ‘Anhu) was sitting with his companions when all of a sudden he started to laugh after which he began to cry. Those around him asked him, “What made you laugh after which you cried?” He replied,” During the days of Jāhiliyyah (ignorance), we usedgrave to make idols out of dates which we would worship and when we would get hungry we would eat them! Remembering this made me laugh. As for my crying, one day, I took my daughter to a field to bury her alive. As I was digging the grave, some dust fell on my beard. My daughter saw this and wiped the dust off my beard. Remembering this made me cry.”[1]

However, there are some fundamental flaws in this narration.

Firstly, this story has not been recorded by any reliable source.[2] The names of the children of Umar (Radhiyallahu ‘Anhum) are well documented. However, there is no mention of a daughter that he buried alive.

Secondly, it was not the custom of Hazrat ‘Umar’s tribe to bury their daughters alive. Moreover, Hafsah (Radhiyallahu ‘Anha), who was born five years before Rasūlullah’s (Sallallahu ‘Alaihi Wa Sallam) prophet hood, was his eldest daughter but was not buried alive.[3] It would not make sense that Hazrat ‘Umar (Radhiyallahu ‘Anhu) buried a younger daughter when he did not do the same with his eldest daughter.

Thirdly, it is mentioned in al-Mu’jam al-Kabir of Tabrānī that ‘Umar (Radhiyallahu ‘Anhu) was asked regarding the verse of the Quran,

(وإذا الموؤدة سئلت (التكوير

‘Umar replied, “Qays bin ‘Asim (Radhiyallahu ‘Anhu) came to Rasūlullah (Sallallahu ‘Alaihi Wa Sallam) and said, “During the days of ignorance, I buried eight of my daughters alive.” Rasūlullah (Sallallahu ‘Alaihi Wa Sallam) told him, “Free one slave on behalf of every daughter.” Qays bin Asim said, “I possess many camels.” Therefore, Rasūlullah (Sallallahu ‘Alaihi Wa Sallam) said, “If you wish, sacrifice one camel on behalf of each daughter.”[4]

It is important to note that if the incident you refer to had actually occurred, then ‘Umar(Radhiyallahu ‘Anhu) would have replied to the questioner by mentioning his own personal experience instead of narrating the incident of Qays bin ‘Asim(Radhiyallahu ‘Anhu).

In view of the above explanation, the incident in reference is questionable and should not be mentioned.

And Allah Ta’āla Knows Best

Muntasir Zaman

Student Darul Iftaa

Checked and Approved by,
Mufti Ebrahim Desai.

[1] دراسة نقدية في المرويات الواردة في شخصية عمر بن الخطاب وسياسته الإدارية رضي الله عنه (1/ 111)

[2] المرجع السابق

[3] الإصابة في تمييز الصحابة 70/7 دار الفكر

[4] المعجم الكبير للطبراني (18/ 337) مكتبة ابن تيمية – القاهرة