Ameer al-Mu’mineen `Umar bin al-Khattab (ra): Just and god-fearing ruler, or oppressive dictator?

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al-Salamu `Aleykum,

 

Ameer al-Mu’mineen `Umar bin al-Khattab (ra)

(Just and god-fearing ruler, or oppressive dictator?)

 

The Shia claim that `Umar bin al-Khattab (ra) was an oppressive dictator who would crush anyone who stands in his path, who would oppress anyone who opposes him, and who would silence all those who disagree with him… This is how the Imami Shia painting his image among their followers, and they also use this as an excuse as to why `Ali (ra) didn’t revolt against him, and why `Ali (ra) couldn’t clarify the matters of Imamah and religion, for fear from harm…

But little do the Imami Shia know about `Umar (ra) and little do they know about the religion altogether.

So, below we shall show a few examples of `Umar (ra) consulting `Ali (ra) as well as other Sahaba (ra) and taking their advice and opinions and preferring their word over his own.

(This article shall provide only one example from each companion or follower and will not concentrate on `Ali since we plan to write a separate article on his relation with the three leaders who preceded him.)

`Umar bin al-Khattab and some of the Sahaba and Tabi`een may Allah be pleased with them:

 

1- Mu`adh ibn Jabal:

A man came to `Umar bin al-Khattab and said: “O Ameer al-Mu’mineen! I have been absent from my wife for two years and when I returned I found her pregnant!”

So `Umar consulted the people about stoning her.

But Mu`adh ibn Jabal said: “O Ameer al-Mu’mineen! You may have the authority to stone her but you do not have the authority to do the same for the child in her womb.” So he left her until she gave birth to a boy.

The man saw in him great resemblance to himself, and shouted: “By the Lord of the Ka`bah he is my son!”

`Umar then told Mu`adh: “Women have given up trying to give birth to anyone like Mu`adh, if it were not for Mu`adh then `Umar would perish.”

 Comment: Mu`adh helped `Umar solve the man’s case peacefully by pleasing all sides.

source: Sunan al-Bayhaqi al-Kubra.

2- Zayd ibn Thabit:

`Ubadah ibn al-Samit called a man from Nabatiyyah to hold his camel for him near al-Quds, but he refused, so he hit him and injured his head, so he called `Umar ibn al-Khattab, and he said: “What caused you to do what you did?”

He replied: “O chief of believers, I asked him to guard my camel for me and he refused, and I am a man with temper so I hit him.”

`Umar said: “Sit down for punishment.”

Zayd ibn Thabit said: “Would you punish your brother for your slave!?”

So `Umar untied him and ruled that he must pay blood money (Diyyah).

 Comment: `Umar adopted the opinion of Zayd over his own.

source: Sunan al-Bayhaqi al-Kubra.

3- abu `Ubaydah bin al-Jarrah:

A man from Ahlul-Dhimmah was intentionally murdered in al-Sham, and `Umar bin al-Khattab was then in al-Sham, so when this news reached him, he said: “Have you people began oppressing Ahlul-Dhimma!? By Allah I will execute his killer for this!”
so abu `Ubaydah said: “You have no right to do this.”
Then after prayer he called on abu `Ubaydah and asked: “Why do you see that I should not kill his killer?”
He replied: “Do you see if he killed a slave of his, would you have killed him for it?”
So `Umar was silent, and he ruled with harshness that he must pay a thousand Dinars for this.

Comment: `Umar took the opinion of abu `Ubaydah over his own,  he spared the killer but made him pay a big sum of blood-money.

source: Sunan al-Bayhaqi al-Kubra.

4- Hudhayfah bin al-Yaman:

Hudhayfah said that he met `Umar bin al-Khattab one morning, so `Umar told him: “How are you faring today O son of al-Yaman?”

He told him: “And how would you like me to fare!? By Allah, this morning I hate the truth, and I love the trials, and I give testimony to that which I did not see, and I guard that which is un-created, and I pray without ablution, and I have on earth what Allah does not possess in the heavens.”

So `Umar got angry from his words and left quickly to attend to an urgent matter, but he had resolved to punish Hudhayfah because of what he said. Along the way, he passed by `Ali ibn abi Talib, who saw that he had an angry face, so he asked: “What angers you O `Umar?”

He said: “I passed by Hudhayfah bin al-Yaman and asked him how are you this morning? and he replied: this morning I hate the truth.”

`Ali said: “He is truthful, because death is The Truth.”

He said: “And he also says: I love the trials!”

`Ali said: “He is truthful, he loves wealth and children as Allah said: {Your wealth and your children are but a trial}”

He said: “O `Ali! he says that he bears testimony of what he did not see!”

`Ali said: “He is truthful, he testifies that Allah is one, and he testifies to death and resurrection and heaven and hell although he never saw them.”

`Umar said: “He guards the un-created?”

He replied: “He speaks truth, he guards the Qur’an and it is un-created.”

He said: “And he prays without ablution?”

He replied: “He speaks truth, as he sends prayers upon my cousin the messenger of Allah (SAWS) without ablution and it is valid.”

`Umar said: “O abu al-Hassan, he said a much greater thing.”

He said: “What is it?”

He said: “He said I have on earth what Allah does not possess in the heavens!”

`Ali said: “True, he has a wife and a kid, and Allah most high is elevated above having a wife and a kid.”

`Umar then told him: “Ibn al-Khattab almost perished, if it weren’t for `Ali ibn abi Talib.”

 Comment: `Umar understood the apparent meaning of Hudhayfah’s words without thinking of possible excuses, so when `Ali saw him walking with an angry face, he was concerned and asked him about it. Then `Umar thanked `Ali for saving him from committing a mistake.

source: al-Fusoul al-Muhimmah by ibn al-Sabbagh al-Maliki.

5- `Abdullah ibn Mas`ud:

`Umar bin al-Khattab gave his Fatwa about a man who killed another man intentionally, that he must be killed, then some of his heirs pardoned the man, but still `Umar insisted to have him killed.

Ibn Mas`ud said: “His fate was placed in their hands, and when they pardoned they granted life, so he cannot be put to death unless he takes the life of another.”

`Umar said: “What do you think?”

He said: “I see that you place a Diyyah on him, and raise the share of he who pardoned.”

`Umar said: “I am of this opinion too.”

 Comment: `Umar changed his opinion and accepted the Fatwa of ibn Mas`ud.

source: al-Umm by al-Shafi`i.

6- Ubay ibn Ka`b:

`Umar bin al-Khattab and Ubay bin Ka`b both made Zayd ibn Thabit a  judge between them because Ubay claimed some palm trees to be from his property, so Zayd told Ubay: “Pardon the chief of believers.” but `Umar said: “Why should he pardon the chief of believers? If I recognized something as mine I shall swear an oath that it is, otherwise I leave it. By Allah the one and only, these palms are mine and Ubay has no right to them.” -So when they returned- `Umar offered the trees to Ubay, then it was said to him: “Why didn’t you do this before making the oath?” He said: “I feared that if I did not swear an oath, the people would not do it when it comes to their rights after me, and they would take it as Sunnah.”

 Comment: `Umar would be judged just as any common man would, and even though he won the case and regained his right, yet later he offered it to Ubay so as to not create hatred, when asked why he did this if he was going to offer him the trees in the first place, he said that he did this so that people would see his example and follow it.

source: Tareekh al-Madinah by ibn Shubbah.

7- al-Dahhak bin Suffiyan:

`Umar bin al-Khattab used to say: “Diyyah is for the sane woman, and the wife does not inherit anything from the Diyyah of her husband.” until al-Dahhak bin Suffiyan informed him that the Prophet (SAWS) wrote to him to give the woman of Ashiyam al-Dabbabi from his Diyyah, so `Umar went back to doing this.

Comment: `Umar was informed of a prophetic ruling so he chose to follow it.

source: Sunan abu Dawud.

8- Shaybah bin `Uthman:

Shaybah told Shaqeeq: “`Umar bin al-Khattab sat in your seat as you are sitting now then said: I shall not leave until I divide the money of the Ka`bah.”

I said: “You will not do it!”

He said: “I shall!”

I said: “You shall not do this!”

He said: “Why?”

I said: “Because the messenger of Allah (SAWS) left it in its place and so did Abu Bakr, and they were both more in need of it than you but they never took it out.”

So he stood up and left.

 Comment: When the Prophet (SAWS) opened the Ka`bah he found in it many treasures from gold and gifts, so he left them in place and so did Abu Bakr, but when the conditions became very bad during the Khilafah of `Umar, he wished to extract these treasures and  divide them among the people but when reminded of the example of his two companions he chose to follow their footsteps.

source: Sunan abu Dawud.

9- `Abdullah ibn `Abbas:

Ibn `Abbas told Nafi`: “I was the one responsible for what happened to that woman they brought to `Umar, she gave birth in six months and the people did not accept this, so I told `Umar: Why do you oppress?”

He said: “How?”

I said recite: {his bearing and his weaning are thirty months} and {Women shall suckle their children two complete years}

I asked: “How much is the year?”

He said: “Twelve months.”

I said: “So twenty four months are two complete years, and Allah delays from the pregnancy what he wills and hastens what he wills.”

So `Umar felt comfortable with my saying.

 Comment: `Umar bin al-Khattab accepting the opinion and judgement of the much younger ibn `Abbas.

source: Musannaf  `Abdul-Razzaq.

10- `Ali bin abi Talib:

They brought `Umar a woman who committed adultery, so he consulted some people in this then ordered that she be stoned, and on their way they passed by `Ali who asked: “What is her problem?”

They said: “She is the crazy woman from such and such tribe, she did adultery and `Umar ordered she be stoned.”

`Ali said: “Return her.”

Then `Ali went to `Umar and told him: “O chief of believers! Did you not know the saying of the messenger of Allah (SAWS): The pen is lifted from three: The child until he reaches puberty, one who sleeps until he wakes up, and the insane until he regains sanity!? and this woman is a lunatic from such and such tribe, maybe the one who did this to her did it while she was in that condition?”

So `Umar let her go and started saying: “Allahu Akbar.”

 Comment: `Umar here did not notice that the woman was not sane had `Ali not informed him of it, so the ruling he gave initially was cancelled.

source: Sunan al-Nasa’i.

11- `Abdul-Rahman ibn `Awf:

Ibn `Abbas said that `Umar had told him: “Hey boy, have you heard from the messenger of Allah (SAWS) or from any of his companions, that if one has doubts about his prayer what he should do?” `Abdul-Rahman bin `Awf came at this instance asked what they were talking about, so `Umar said: “I asked the boy if he heard from the messenger of Allah (SAWS) or from any of his companions, that if one has doubts about his prayer what should he do.” `Abdul-Rahman said: “I heard the messenger of Allah (SAWS) say: if any of you has doubts about his prayer and did not know if he did one or two then let him make them one, and if he did not know whether he did two or three then let him make them two, and if he did not know whether three or four then he makes them three, then after he is done with his prayer his makes two prostration as he sits before making Tasleem.”

 Comment: `Umar would not invent any ruling, he would try and seek what the Prophet (SAWS) says, so he is asking a little boy if he had heard anything about it, then `Abdul-Rahman came and informed him of that ruling.

source: Musnad Ahmad bin Hanbal.

12- Ka`b bin Suwar:

Ka`b was once sitting with `Umar when a woman came, she said: “O chief of believers, I have not seen a man better than my husband, by Allah he would spend the night praying, and he would spend the day fasting, even in the hot day he would not break his fast.” `Umar asked Allah to forgive her and praised her, so she was shy and she returned home, Ka`b then told him: “Will you not return the woman?” He said: “Why, what was her complain?” Ka`b said: “She complained about her husband greatly!” `Umar said: “Is this what she meant?” He said: “Yes.” So `Umar said: “Return this woman to me.” and when she returned he said: “There is no harm if you tell us the truth, this man claimed you are complaining about your husband because he abandoned you in bed?” She said: “Yes, I am a young woman, and I desire what women desire.” so they called on her husband, and `Umar told Ka`b: “Rule between them”  Ka`b said: “The chief of believers has more right to judge.” `Umar said: “I insist that you judge because you understood from her words what I did not.”

 Comment: `Umar admits that his companion had more understanding when it came to judgement in this case, so he allowed him to judge in his place.

source: al-Mughni by ibn Qudamah.

13- Mu`adh ibn `Afra’:

`Umar bin al-Khattab had a conflict with Mu`adh ibn `Afra’ (regarding some property), so they agreed to make Ubay a judge between them, so they went to him and `Umar said: “A judge is sought in his own home.” Ubay then ruled that `Umar must make an oath to prove his case and he did, and then he(`Umar) offered it to Mu`adh.

Comment: Even though `Umar was the chief of believers, yet out of respect for the judge he would go to seek him in his own house. He did not have special privileges as ruler and was to be treated like all the common people.

source: Musannaf `Abdul-Razzaq.

14- al-`Abbas bin `Abdul-Muttalib:

al-`Abbas owned a rain gutter that ran from his home to a path that `Umar often used. One Friday, `Umar attired himself in his clothing. The same morning, however, two small birds were slaughtered for al-`Abbas, and so, when `Umar walked by al-`Abbas’s house, some water mixed with blood came out of the drain and spoiled his clothes, so he ordered that the drain be removed.

After borrowing some new clothes and leading the people in prayer, `Umar met al-`Abbas who said to him:

“By Allah, this drain you had removed was placed in that spot by none other than the messenger of Allah (SAWS).”

`Umar replied: “I take a firm pledge from you, that you will climb on my back and put the drain back in the exact same spot that the Prophet (SAWS) had placed it.”

al-`Abbas did what `Umar ordered.

 Comment: In this narration we see the great respect and love `Umar had for the Prophet (SAWS), he removed a drain that the Prophet (SAWS) placed for al-`Abbas, so he ordered al-`Abbas to step on his back and return it to its place.

source: Sifat-ul-Safwa by ibn al-Jawzi.

15- Shurahbil bin al-Samt:

`Umar appointed Shurahbil as governor of al-Mada’in and his father as the governor of al-Sham, so he wrote to `Umar: “You had ordered that the female captives cannot be separated from their children, yet you have separated me from my father.” So `Umar wrote to him and sent him to his father.

 Comment: `Umar had ordered that if two slaves were to be sold, such as a mother and a child, they must not be separated and must both be sold to the same man, because separating them would cause them much pain and sadness. `Umar also appointed Shurahbil and his father as his officials in different cities, in other words he separated them, so Shurahbil wrote to him what he wrote.

source: Sunan al-Bayhaqi al-Kubra.

16- Shurayh bin al-Harith:

`Umar bought a horse from a man with the condition of trying it out, then he told a rider to ride this horse for him so he can take a look at it and observe it, but the horse got injured when they were trying it out, so `Umar told the man: “This is your horse.” The man said: “Place whoever you wish as judge between us!” `Umar said: “I place between you and me Shurayh al-`Iraqi.” then they went to him, and `Umar said: “This man has accepted you as judge.” and he told him the story, so Shurayh told `Umar: “Take what you have bought or return his horse as you took it.” `Umar said: “This is how judgment should be!” and he appointed him as an official judge and he was from the first to receive this position.

 Comment: `Umar bought a horse on the condition of trying it out, the horse was injured while he was trying it, so he did not want it anymore, the man who sold him the horse of course would not accept this, and the judge told `Umar to either return the man’s horse in the same condition that he took it, or to keep it and pay the man its price.

source: Akhbar al-Qudat by Muhammad bin Khalaf ibn Hayyan.

17- abu Mihjan al-Thaqafi:

`Umar was once told that abu Mihjan al-Thaqafi was drinking with some of his companions in his house, so he quickly went to him and entered on him, only to find out that he has nobody home except one man, abu Mihjan said: “O Ameer al-Mu’mineen! it is not permitted for you, Allah forbade spying.” `Umar asked: “What is this man saying?” so Zayd bin Thabit and `Abdul-Rahman bin al-Arqam both said: “He speaks truth O Ameer al-Mu’mineen. This is considered spying.”  `Umar then left him alone.

 Comment: `Umar had a lot of problems with abu Mihjan’s drinking habit, he ended up exiling him later to Yaman, in this narration we see that `Umar was really fired up and he dashed to the man’s house and caught him with one of his companions, but abu Mihjan said that this was “spying” and it is forbidden, so `Umar had to leave him be.

source: Tafsir al-Qurtubi.

18- A woman from Quraysh:

`Umar bin al-Khattab climbed the Minbar of the messenger of Allah (SAWS) then said: “O people, why are you increasing the dowries of women, while the Prophet (SAWS) and his companions used to give as dowries four hundred Dirhams or less? If increasing the amount of money is a sign of the fear of Allah or a matter that He likes, you would not have beat them to it, and I do not know a man who gave more than four hundred.”

As he climbed down a woman interrupted him and told him: “O chief of believers, you forbade the people from spending more than four hundred as dowries?” He said: “Yes.” She said: “Have you not heard what Allah revealed in the Qur’an?” He said: “Which part?” She said: “Have you not heard him say: {And you have given one of them a great amount}” He said: “O Allah forgive me, everyone is more knowledgeable than `Umar.” then he climbed the Minbar again and said: “O people, I had forbidden you from increasing the dowry above four hundred, but let he who wishes give from his wealth as he wishes.” `Umar then said: “A woman was right and `Umar was wrong.”

 Comment: `Umar saw that people were spending a lot of money on marriage, so he intended to do what is right in his opinion, and place a limit to how much a man would pay, this limit is equal to the amount of money that the men from his generation used to pay in the life of the Prophet (SAWS). A woman interrupted him and told him that you cannot forbid a matter that Allah allowed, so `Umar allowed each man to pay as much as he wills.

source: Tafsir al-Qurtubi.

19-`Ammar ibn Yasir:

A man came to `Umar and told him: “I was in a state of Janabah(impurity from sexual intercourse) and I did not find water (for ablution)?” `Umar said: “Then don’t pray.” `Ammar said: “Do you not remember O chief of believers, me and you were among the soldiers, and we became in a state of Janabah, and we did not find water, you did not pray, but I rubbed myself with the sand and prayed? Then the Prophet (SAWS) said: It is sufficient for you to tap your hands on the ground then blow, then wipe with it your face and palms.” `Umar said: “Fear Allah O `Ammar.” so `Ammar said: “If you wish I shall not narrate this.” so `Umar said: “It’s ok, if I did not recall this, it doesn’t mean it is incorrect.”

Comment: `Umar was not aware of the ruling of  Tayammum, when `Ammar reminded him of it, `Umar told him to fear Allah because he must be absolutely certain before attributing a saying to the Prophet (SAWS), then `Ammar proposed not to narrate it if it will cause trouble, but `Umar told him “Nuwalika ma Tawallayt” which according to Ibn Hajar in Fath-ul-Bari and al-Nawawi in Sharh-Muslim would translate to: “It’s ok, if I did not recall this, it doesn’t mean it is incorrect.”

source: Sahih Muslim.

CONCLUSION:

How can `Umar bin al-Khattab (ra) be a dictator when he would listen to the opinion of other knowledgeable companions and followers? How can he be oppressive when he allows those around him to state their opinions openly? How can he be a tyrant when he would choose the opinions of others over his own opinions?

May Allah make us see the truth.

-END-

 

4 Comments

  1. Assalamu `alaykum ikhwan, quick question :

    you quoted a narration of Hudhayfa r.a from al-Fusul al-muhimmah li ma`rifat al-a’immah

    isn’t this a shi`i book?

    • Wa `Aleykum al-Salam dear brother, thank you for your question.

      The book “al-Fusoul al-Muhimmah fi Ma`rifat Ahwal al-A’immah” by `Ali bin Sabbagh al-Maliki is a strange case.

      Sunni scholar al-Sakhawi in “al-Daw’ al-Lami`” treats him like any other Muslim jurist of the four Madhabs.

      Shia scholar Yusuf al-Bahrani says in “al-Kashkoul” that the man was an Imami Shia who did Taqiyyah and acted like he adopted a Sunni Madhab to fool people.

      The possibilities are endless at this point, he could have even been a follower of an extreme Sufi order that has Ghuluw when it comes to Ahlul-Bayt. Either way, he is a really late unimportant jurist and we only took a story from his book.

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