In the month of the Holy Ramadan, it was the practice with the Holy Prophet that he would stay in the mosque after the Isha prayers, and offer extra prayers. One night as the faithful saw the Holy Prophet offering extra prayers, they also prayed as the Holy Prophet did. The following night more Muslims stayed in the mosque after the night prayer to offer extra prayers. On the third night there was a still larger gathering of the Muslims to perform the extra prayers. On the fourth night when a large number of the faithful assembled to offer the extra prayers, the Holy Prophet did not offer the extra prayers and retired to his house immediately after the Isha prayers. For the following nights as well the Holy Prophet retired immediately after the night prayers, and gradually the number of Muslims who offered the extra prayers diminished. Then one night the Holy Prophet offered the extra prayers again. When the Holy Prophet was asked about the reason for the break in the extra prayers for some nights he said that he had avoided these prayers lest the Muslims might take them to be an obligation under law, and that might become a burden for the Muslims. The Holy Prophet explained that such prayers were not compulsory, but if any one offered them voluntarily, he would have the blessing of God. Thereafter it became the practice that some Muslims offered the extra prayers during the month of Ramadan on their own account, while others did not, and retired to their homes after offering the night prayers.
When Umar became the Caliph, he saw that many Muslima gathered in the Prophet's mosque to offer extra prayers after the night prayers. Each person prayed according to his own discretion, and there were no specifications about the number of Rakaats to be offered. Umar felt that it would be a reform in the proper direction, if the prayers were offered in congregation and the number of Rakaats was fixed. After consulting the Companions, Umar issued instructions in 635 AD that such extra prayers should be offered in congregation under the imamate of a Quran reader who should recite a considerable part of the Quran each night, so that the entire Quran was completed during a week or so. It was laid down that these prayers should comprise ten taslima's each containing two rakaats and that after every four rakaats there should be a rawih' or a pause. Because of such pauses these extra prayers came to be known as 'Tarawih'.
These instructions were circulated throughout the Muslim dominions. There were some who felt that as the Holy Prophet had not prescribed such prayers, it was unlawful to prescribe such prayers after the death of the Holy Prophet. Umar explained that he was not prescribing these prayers as compulsory; it was open to any one to offer or not to offer these prayers at his discretion. If any one offered these prayers that would be to his credit, but if any body did not do so that would not bring him any discredit. He also elucidated that his instructions being of an advisory character only were in no way repugnant to Islam. If he had instructed the Muslims to do what Allah or the Holy Prophet had prohibited that would have been repugnant to Islam, out if he wanted the Muslims to do anything at their option which was intrinsically good and had not been prohibited, that was not repugnant to Islam, but was on the other hand in consonance with the spirit of Islam.
The Holy Quran was revealed to the Holy Prophet in parts from time to time spread over a period of 23 years. Whenever the Holy Prophet received the revelation. he would dictate it to one of his Katibs who would record it on some piece of leather, date skin, or even bones and stones.
The principal scribe of the Holy Prophet was Zaid bin Thabit. Many companions committed the entire Quran to memory and these 'Huffaz' could recite the entire Quran any time. The Holy Prophet kept all the pieces of leather, date skins another materials on which the verses of the Holy Quran had been written in his custody.
During the lifetime of the Holy Prophet, revelation was a continuous process, and there was no occasion for giving them the form of a book. After the death of the Holy Prophet, the process of revelation came to close, and now the need of some sort of compilation to preserve the Word of God was felt.
In the battle of Yamama, most of the Companions who had learnt the Holy Quran by heart were martyred. Umar was the first to feel that if those who had committed the Holy Quran to memory were dead, there was the danger that there would be none left who could be relied upon as the repository of the Quran. There was also the danger that with the lapse of time there might be some interpolations in the text inadvertently or even deliberately.
Umar suggested to the Caliph Abu Bakr that the Holy Quran should be suitably compiled under the authority of the State Abu Bakr was reluctant to undertake the project. His plea was that as the Holy Prophet had not felt the necessity for such a compilation, it did not behoove him as the successor to the Prophet to take any initiative in the matter.
Umar, however, continued to press his point. Umar argued that during the lifetime of the Holy Prophet the process of revelation was continuous, and as the Holy Prophet himself was the repository of all revelations, there was no occasion for such a compilation. After the death of the Holy Prophet, the position had changed, and unless the Holy Quran was compiled, there was the danger that the Quran might be lost. In the absence of an authentic text, there was also the danger that some unscrupulous persons might add to or vary the text to suit their interests. The argument appealed to Abu Bakr, and when other prominent Muslims were consulted, they also endorsed the views of Umar. Abu Bakr accordingly undertook the project for the compilation of the Holy Quran.
Zaid b. Thabit was commissioned by Abu Bakr to collect all the verses of the Holy Quran and compile them in a book form.
Zaid's immediate reaction to the proposal was that if he had been asked to remove a mountain from its original site, and place it elsewhere, he would have considered such a task easier than the task of collecting the Holy Quran. Abu Bakr and Umar appreciated the gravity of the problem, but observed that as the Word of God had to be preserved for the guidance of the coming generations, the task had to be undertaken whatever the odds. Zaid thereupon set to the task of collecting the verses.
A proclamation was made that whosoever had learnt any portion of the Quran from the Holy Prophet should produce such portion. Two witnesses had to be produced in each case to establish the genuineness of the verse. When all the verses had been collected a Committee was set up of which Umar was a member. This Committee supervised the compilation of the Holy Quran. Sad b. al As dictated, and Zaid bin Thabit wrote the Holy Quran. These was checked by the members of the Committee including Umar.
When the work was completed it was further checked by Abu Bakr, and the finally approved copy was kept by Abu Bakr in his personal custody. The sacred compilation was given the name of 'Mashaf'.
During his Caliphate, Umar took steps to ensure that the teaching of the Holy Quran was spread extensively, and that a large number of persons learnt the text by heart so that there could be no possibility of any corruption in the text.
Under the orders of Umar, hundreds of schools were opened throughout the length and breadth of the Islamic world for the teaching of the Holy Quran. Highly qualified teachers were appointed for the purpose, and they were given good salaries.
Such Companions who had learnt the Holy Quran by heart were sent to distant places to teach the Holy Quran. Muadh b. Jabal; Ibada b al Samit; and Abu Darda were prominent companions who knew the Holy Quran by heart. They were sent to Syria where Ibada headed the school at Hims: Abu Darda at Damascus; and Muadh at Jerusalem. It is related that Abu Darda held his classes in the Jamia Masjid at Damascus and the enrolment in his class was 1600.
Umar took pains in promoting and popularizing the study of the Holy Quran. All the Muslims were required to learn at least five Suras by heart. Special stipends were granted for the learning of the Holy Quran. In his instructions to the Army, Umar exhorted the men to read and memories the Holy Quran.
Umar was very particular about the use of correct vowels and the correct pronunciation of the words in the Holy Quran. In his instructions to the teachers of the Holy Quran, Umar said:
"Teach them the vowels of the Quran, as you teach its learning by heart."
Umar also instructed that along with the teaching of the Holy Quran, the study of the Arabic language and literature should be made compulsory so that the readers of the Holy Quran should themselves be able to distinguish between right and wrong vowels.
Umar also laid down that no one who was not versed in Arabic lexicology should be permitted to teach the Holy Quran.
As the Islamic dominions extended progressively, Umar ordered that mosques should be built in all conquered territories.
In the newly founded cities of Kufa and Basra, Jami Masjids were built in the center of the city and smaller mosques were built in each tribal quarter.
In the case of smaller towns in Iraq and Syria, a mosque was required to be constructed in each town. According to one account as many as 4000 mosques were constructed during the caliphate of Umar.
Umar had the sacred mosque at Kaaba extended. In 739 AD Umar purchased the surrounding houses at state expense. These were demolished, and the area under them was included in the mosque. Heretofore there was no wall round the mosque. Umar had a wall constructed for the first time. Heretofore the mosques were not lit. Umar provided lights for the mosques for the first time.
Formerly the cover of the Kaaba was of ordinary cloth. Umar had the cover made of a superior and finer cloth manufactured in Egypt.
The bounds of the Haram, the sanctuary of the Kaaba extended to three miles in one direction, and seven to nine miles in other directions. The boundaries were not defined, and there was the risk of this area being encroached upon. Umar had the area surveyed, and the boundaries were demarcated. Stone pillars called Ansab were fixed to mark the boundaries.
Umar extended the Prophet's Mosque at Madina as well. In 739 AD, the same year as the Kaaba was extended, Umar purchased the houses that surrounded the Masjid i-Nabvi. After demolishing them, the area was utilized for the extension of the mosque.
Abbas whose house also surrounded the mosque refused to sell his house. He sued the state in the Court of the Qazi Ubayy b. Kab. The Court gave its verdict against the state, and held that the property could not be acquired compulsorily. Umar accepted the verdict of the Court. Thereupon Abbas voluntarily gifted his house for the extension of the mosque. Umar accepted the gift gratefully, and provided alternative accommodation to Abbas.
As a result of extension the length of the mosque rose from 100 to 140 yards while its width rose from 60 to 80 yards.
Umar was the first to provide lights for Masjid-i-Nabvi. Umar also made arrangements for the burning of the incense in the mosque. The floor of the mosque was paved and covered with mats.
Some time in 638 AD, Abu Musa Asha'ari, the Governor of Basra wrote:
"Amir-ul-Mominin, we receive instructions from you every now and then, but as the letters are undated, and some times the contents of the letters differ, it becomes difficult to ascertain as to which instructions are to be followed."
That set Umar thinking. In the meantime, he received from Yemen a draft for some money which was encashable in Shaban. Umar thought that the practice of merely mentioning the month in such cases was defective for one could not be sure whether the month referred to was of the current or the following year.
Umar convened an assembly to consider the question of calendar reform.
Some one suggested that the Roman calendar should be adopted. After discussion the proposal was rejected as the Roman calendar dated from too remote an era and was cumbersome.
It was next considered whether the Persian calendar might be adopted. Hormuzan explained the salient features of the Persian calendar called 'Mahroz'. The consensus of opinion was that such a calendar would not be suitable for the Muslims.
The general opinion was that instead of adopting any alien calendar, the Muslims should have a calendar of their own. This was agreed to, and the point next considered was from when should such an era begin?
Some one suggested that the era should begin from the date of birth of the Holy Prophet. Some suggested that it should begin from the death of the Holy Prophet. Ali suggested that it should begin from the date the Muslims migrated from Mecca to Madina. After discussion, Ali's suggestion was agreed to.
The Holy Prophet had migrated in the month of Rabi-ulAwwal, when the year had already run two months and eight days. Next the question arose from which month should the new era start.
Some one suggested that the calendar should start with the month of Rajab as in the pre-Islamic period this month was held sacred. Some one proposed that the first month should be Ramzan as that is a sacred month for the Muslims. Another proposal was that the first month should be 'Zul Hajj' as that is the month of the pilgrimage.
Usman suggested that as in Arabia the year started with Muharram the new era should also start with Muharram. This suggestion was accepted. The date was accordingly pushed back by two months and eight days, and the new Hijri calendar began with the first day of Muharram in the year of migration rather than from the actual date of migration.
Umar accordingly issued instructions to all concerned regarding the enforcement of the Hijri calendar.
Drinking was very common among the Quraish. Some accounts say that during the days of ignorance even Umar was a wine bibbler. When Umar became a Muslim, he never touched wine. Umar was a great thinker. He thought that as under the influence of drink one becomes oblivious of his duties and responsibilities, drink must be prohibited by an injunction from God. Umar often talked to the Holy Prophet on the subject, and prayed for an injunction to enforce prohibition.
At Madina the following verse was revealed to the Holy prophet:
"They ask you about wine and games of chance. Say 'They lead to great sin, and have some use for men. But the sin inherent in them exceeds their usefulness." (2: 219)
The Holy Prophet informed Umar of this revelation. Umar said: 'Holy Prophet. This is not enough, pray to God for a specific injunction."
Some time later came another revelation, namely:
"Believers! wine, games of chance, idols, and diving arrows are abominations which are the handiwork of the Devil. Avoid them so that you may prosper." (5: 90)
When Umar was informed of this revelation, he said: "Holy Prophet; this is a negative provision. Pray to God to give some positive injunction."
Then another verse was revealed which provided:
"The Devil intends that by means of wine, games of chance, he should provoke enmity and hatred among you; and stop you from remembering Allah and saying your prayers. Will you not keep them away from them?" (5: 91)
This verse provided the necessary sanction for the prohibition of drinking. In spite of this injunction many Muslims continued to indulge in drinking.
When Umar became the Caliph, and the Muslim conquests extended east and west, bringing prosperity to the Muslims, Umar felt that in order to safeguard the purity of faith some hard and fast policy about drinking should be laid down. While the Holy Qur'an provided specific punishments for some offences, no penalty was specified in the case of drinking. That made some of the wine bibblers take the plea that if God intended prohibition, the penalty for the offence would have been prescribed.
Umar convened a meeting of his Consultative Assembly to consider the question. The first question that was taken up for consideration was: whether the drinking of wine was lawful or unlawful. The verdict was that it was unlawful.
The next question was: if it was unlawful what should be the penalty therefore. Umar agreed that no penalty in this behalf had been laid down in the Holy Quran, but he held that a penalty therefore could be laid down on the basis of analogy keeping in view the penalty provided for offences of kindred character.
Ali argued that the offence of drinking was of the same species as calumny for under the influence of drink one was apt to say many things which he should not have otherwise said. In the case of calumny the Holy Quran provided punishment as follows:
"Give eighty lashes to each one,
Of those who accuse honorable women;
But do not support their accusation with four witnesses.
Do not accept their testimony,
For it is they who break the law."
Ali advised that for drinking the same penalty i. e. eighty lashes should be provided.
This advice was accepted by Umar. Umar issued orders to all concerned to the following effect:
"Drinking is banned under the Holy Quran. If any Muslim drinks and pleads that this was lawful then cut off his head for what he says is a violation of the Holy Word. If he says that it is unlawful but that he fell into error then give him eighty lashes publicly."
These instructions were enforced vigorously, and the Muslim society was practically rid of the evil of drinking.
When Islam appeared on the world stage, the world economy was based on slavery. Islam was the first religion to raise its voice against slavery. Among the early converts to Islam, many were slaves. Indeed one of the reasons for the hostility of the Quraish against Islam was that they saw in Islam a hostile force to slavery on which the economy of Mecca was based.
When Umar became the Caliph of Islam, he took particular measures to eliminate the evils of slavery as far as possible. He took a very bold step when he declared that no Arab could be a slave. Arabia was thus the first country in the world, which under the impact of Islam abolished slavery. During the apostasy wars many Arabs had been taken captive and made slaves. Umar emancipated all such slaves.
Umar also decreed that slave women who had borne a child to her master stood emancipated.
The Holy Quran laid down:
If you see good in them (slaves), make agreement with them."
Umar implemented this injunction and laid down that a slave could make an agreement with the master that he would pay so much within the specified period to secure his freedom. Anas had a slave Sirin by name. The slave wanted to enter into an agreement with his master, but Anas refused. When the matter was reported to Umar, he made Anas enter into an agreement with his slave.
In the matter of stipends allowed by the state, Umar made no distinction between the master and the slave. The slaves were given the stipends on the same scale as their masters.
Umar issued orders that slaves could not be separated from their kindred. Under these orders the child was not to be separated from its mother. If there were two brothers it was obligatory that both of them should be purchased by one master.
Umar was considerate that when some very highly placed person was taken captive, he should be ransomed and not kept as a slave. When in Syria the daughter of the emperor Heraclius was taken captive, she was returned to her father. When in the battle of Babylon, Armanusa the daughter of Maqauqas was taken captive she was returned to her father.
In order to raise the status of slaves, Umar enjoined that the master should generally take meals with their slaves. Occasionally Umar invited slaves to dine with him. Umar said:
"The curse of God be upon those who feel ashamed to sit to meals with slaves."
Umar laid down that if a Muslim slave gave protection to a non-Muslim such protection was to be honored like the protection given by any other Muslim.
Umar took pains to provide facilities to slaves to rise to position of importance in the State. During the caliphate of Umar Ikramah who came to be regarded as an Imam of Hadith was a slave. Nafi who was the teacher of Imam Malik was a slave. There were many other slaves who became eminent during the caliphate of Umar.
In the days of ignorance sexual laxity was the order of the day. Islam stood for reform in the moral and social fields, and condemned sexual laxity in all forms. Under Islam a limitation was placed on the number of wives one could marry. Such number was not to exceed four, and it was enjoined that all the wives should be treated alike with due justice. Lapidation was provided as the punishment for those found guilty of adultery.
When Umar became the Caliph he took further steps to rid the society of sexual laxity.
In the days of ignorance poetry was pressed into service as an instrument of moral laxity. The poets indulged in ribald poems. They named their sweethearts in their poems and by indulging in poetic license compromised the honor and integrity of ladies. Then where ladies were no party to love the poets in their imagination made their beloveds return their love in passionate terms. Such poetry did considerable social harm, and disturbed domestic peace in many a home. Umar took cognizance of this unsocial practice. He commanded the poets not to mention the names of ladies in their poems. He also issued directions that the poets should not indulge in any versification calculated to encourage moral depravity. Where some poets inadvertently or otherwise contravened these instructions they were flogged or punished.
Mutah in some form or the other was permissible or at least not expressly forbidden before the time of Umar. Umar felt that Mutah "hereunder a man married a woman for a specified number of days amounted to disguised prostitution and this led to moral laxity. Umar accordingly passed an order prohibiting Mutah. He declared that it was open to a person to divorce a woman after regular marriage for any valid reason, but a marriage which was stipulated to be dissolved after a specified number of days was repugnant to the spirit of Islam which stood for stability of domestic homes. Umar elaborated that the purpose of marriage was to set up homes with a view to getting children and Mutah negated such objects. Moreover in the case of Mutah the children born of such union were to be subject to social disability which was detrimental to social order.
Under the Islamic law divorce was permissible. The Holy Prophet however took pains to explain that divorces which disrupted family life were distasteful to God. People were enjoined not to be hasty in the matter of divorce. Divorce could be effective only when three divorces were given. The idea was to provide some opportunity for reconciliation. When under Umar more countries were conquered and women from other countries became available for the Muslims, some Muslims resorted to the practice of announcing three divorces simultaneously. In order to put a stop to this unsocial practice Umar laid down that if a person gave three talaqs simultaneously such divorce would be irrevocable.
With the conquest of Iraq and Syria, Iraqi and Syrian women became available to the Muslims. Attracted by the beauty of these women, the Muslims divorced their Arab wives. That created a social crisis which led to sexual laxity. Umar accordingly ordered that marriages with foreign ladies should be permitted under exceptional circumstances. Hudhaifa was the administrator of al Madina and he married a Christian beauty of Iraq. When this was brought to the notice of Umar he required Hudhaifa to divorce the Christian beauty, Hudhaifa said that he would not comply with the order unless he was told whether his marriage was unlawful or else; the Caliph referred to the authority under which he wanted him (Hudhaifa) to divorce his legally wedded wife. Umar wrote to say that the marriage he had contracted was not unlawful, but he had been advised to divorce the Christian beauty as it was bound to adversely affect the interests of Arab ladies. Moreover if the Muslims married non-Muslim ladies merely for their beauty that would encourage sexual laxity. Thereupon Hudhaifa divorced his Christian wife.
Besides four lawful wives Islam permitted any man to take over any number of slave girls to bed. These slave girls were to be the property of the Master and he could sell them any time. With the extension in conquests the number of available slave girls increased and Umar felt that this would promote sexual laxity. He ordered that Umm ul Walad that is such slave girls who bore children to their masters would stand emancipated. This had the effect that such women could no longer be treated as concubines and were to be given the status of regular wives or divorced when they could, as free women, marry other persons.
During the days of ignorance, satires and lampoons were the common device to discredit one's adversaries. Poets were hired to write satires and lampoons ridiculing one's rivals and adversaries. As poetry was a popular pastime, such satires would get swift publicity and led to many disputes and much mischief.
Umar felt that such poems which ridiculed and caricatured certain sections of the society and were abusive and divisive in character were repugnant in Islam which stood for social solidarity. Umar declared the writing of satires a criminal offence and warned the poets that if they indulged in such unsocial activities they would be punished.
Tamim and Najashi were two poets. Tamim complained before Umar that Najashi had satirized him. Umar wanted the verse objected to be quoted. The verse provided:
"If God were to hate the mean and the ignoble;
Then may Banu Ajlal hate Tamim bin Muqbal."
Tamim argued that the implication of the verse was that he (Tamim) was mean and ignoble and that his tribe should hate him. Umar had other verses of the poem read as well and came to the conclusion that these verses were defamatory in character and amounted to a satire. Najashi was accordingly punished.
Hutayya was a well known satirist of the age. He ridiculed Zabarqan bin Badr and the later lodged a complaint against Hutayya in the court of Umar. Zabarqan was asked to quote the verse to which he objected. The verse ran:
"Do not aspire to do great deeds,
For in the matter of sustenance you are a burden on others."
Umar summoned Hassan bin Sabit the poet laureate of the time to give evidence whether this verse amounted to a satire. Hassan said that the verse implied that Zabarqan depended for his sustenance on others and was not capable of doing anything good. That amounted to a satire.
Hutayya explained that satirizing was his profession, indeed so much so that he satirized his own mother and even himself. Umar wanted to know how he had satirized his mother. He said that he had composed the following verse about his mother:
"Begone, be away from me
May God save the world from you."
Umar then wanted to know how he had satirized himself and he quoted the following verse:
"Today I will not say anything against any one,
For I have seen my own ugly face in the mirror."
Umar gave him some money and warned him that he should not satirize any one again.
In the time of the Holy Prophet when they saw that all their weapons against the Prophet and Islam had failed they hired poets to satirize the Holy Prophet. In retaliation the Holy Prophet permitted Hassan bin Sabit to satirize the Quraish. Hassan's poems remained in currency even after the Quraish had embraced Islam. When Umar became the Caliph he ordered that such poems should no longer be recited as these had become out of context and revived memories of ancient enmity.
In the conquest of non-Muslim countries by the Muslims, the population which did not embrace Islam were guaranteed life, liberty, and property and were called "Ah Al-Dhimma" or "Dhimmis" i.e. the People of the Covenant or Obligation.
In the treaties with the non-Muslims executed during the caliphate of Umar it was invariably provided that the life, liberty, and property of the non-Muslims who accepted to pay Jizyah was guaranteed.
In the treaty with the Christians of Jerusalem it was provided: "The protection is for their lives, and properties, their Churches and Crosses. Their Churches shall not be used for habitation nor shall these be demolished, nor shall injury be done to their Crosses."
Umar took pains to uphold the principle that there is no compulsion in religion. Those non-Muslims who chose to become Muslims of their own accord were welcome, but there were no compulsory conversions. The Muslims were forbidden to interfere with the religious freedom of the Dhimmis.
The Dhimmis were treated as full citizens of the State. There was to be no discrimination between a Muslim and nonMuslims in the eyes of law. If a Muslim killed a Dhimmi he was subject to the same penalty as if he had killed a Muslim. The lands of the Dhimmis were left in their possession. Umar issued strict instructions that all assessments in the case of Dhimmis should be fair.
The Dhimmis were required to pay Jizyah, but this was in lieu, of their exemption from military duty. Where the Dhimmis performed military duty, Jizyah was not taken from them. When any non-Muslim was too poor to pay Jizyah he was exempted from the levy.
Umar allowed the Dhimmis to follow their own personal laws. In order to maintain the integrity of the Dhimmis Umar ordered that they should wear the dress which they used to wear before the conquest of their country by the Muslims. They were required not to imitate the Muslims in the way of dress or otherwise. This order was issued not with a view to humiliating the Dhimmis in any way but to maintaining their cultural identity.
The Dhimmis were free to follow their religious practices but they were enjoined in their own interest not to carry such practices in any way offensive to the Muslims. The Christians were free to ring bells in their churches but in the interests of enmity between the two communities they were asked not to ring the bells at the time when the Muslims were offering prayers. The Christians were allowed to take out their crosses in processions but they were advised that such processions should avoid routes passing through settlements populated by Muslims. These restrictions did not in any way interfere with the liberty of the Dhimmis. These were in their direct interests in as much as thereby the risk of any conflict with the Muslims on sentimental grounds was eliminated.
Umar issued strict instructions to his officers that the covenants with the Dhimmis should be enforced in letter as well as in spirit. These instructions provided:
"Forbid the Muslims to do any injustice to the Dhimmis. No harm should be done to them in any way."
Even on his death bed, Umar thought of the State's responsibility to the Dhimmis. In his bequest to his successor he said:
"My bequest to my successor is that covenants with the Dhimmis should be observed faithfully. They should be defended against all invasions. No injustice should be done to them. They should be treated as full fledged citizens and should enjoy equality before law. Their taxes should be fair, and no burden should be imposed on them which they cannot bear."
After the battles of Yermuk and Qadisiyya the Muslims won heavy spoils. The coffers at Madina became full to the brim and the problem before Umar was as to what should be done with this money. Some one suggested that money should be kept in the treasury for the purposes of public expenditure only. This view was not acceptable to the general body of the Muslims. Consensus was reached on the point that whatever was received during a year should be distributed.
The next question that arose for consideration was as to what system should be adopted for distribution. One suggestion was that it should be distributed on ad hoc basis and whatever was received should be equally distributed. Against this view it was felt that as the spoils were considerable that would make the people very rich. It was therefore decided that instead of ad hoc division the amount of the allowance to the stipend should be determined before hand and this allowance should be paid to the person concerned regardless of the amount of the spoils. This was agreed to.
About the fixation of the allowance there were two opinions. There were some who held that the amount of the allowance for all Muslims should be the same. Umar did not agree with this view. He held that the allowance should be graded according to one's merit with reference to Islam.
Then the question arose as to what basis should be used for placing some above others. Suggested that a start should be made with the Caliph and he should get the highest allowance. Umar rejected the proposal and decided to start with the clan of the Holy Prophet.
Umar set up a Committee to compile a list of persons in nearness to the Holy Prophet. The Committee produced the list clan wise. Bani Hashim appeared as the first clan. Then the clan of Abu Bakr was put and in the third place the clan of Umar was put. Umar accepted the first two placements but delegated his clan lower down in the scale with reference to nearness in relationship to the Holy Prophet.
The members of the clan of Umar objected to the order of Umar but he rebuked them saying; "You desire that you should stand on my neck and deprive me of my good deeds. I cannot permit that."
In the final scale of allowance that was approved by Umar the main provisions were:
"I have decided the scale according to merit by entry into Islam and not by position."
In this award Umar's son Abdullah got an allowance of 3,000 dirhams. On the other hand Usama got 4,000. Abdullah objected to this distinction and Umar said:
"I have given Usama more than you because he was dearer to the Holy Prophet than you and his father was dearer to the Holy Prophet than your father."
During 640 A.D., Arabia suffered from serious draught. There were no rains, and as such there was no cultivation. That led to serious famine. There was not a blade of grass to be found anywhere, and as such there was nothing for the animals to graze upon. Because of serious famine conditions the people were involved in great distress. Black dust storms blow over the countryside and that added to the distress of the people. The people from the interior flocked to the cities. There was practically no grain in the market. Ghee, butter and meat disappeared from the markets. It became a serious problem to feed the people.
Umar rose to the occasion. He wrote to the provincial governors asking them to send food-grains to Arabia. Camel loads of food grains and other necessities of life came from Syria, Iraq, and Egypt. Food grains were received from Egypt through the sea as well.
Umar distributed food grains and other necessities among the people family wise. Meals were cooked at the State level and all persons from interior of the desert who took refuge in Madina were fed daily at state expense. According to one account as many as 40,000 persons were fed every day.
In view of the resources of his disposal, Umar could afford to have dainty food but he vowed that as long as the famine lasted he would eat only what was available to an Arab of ordinary means. He refused to eat meat, ghee or butter during the period of famine. He ordered that his meal should be cooked with oil. He would eat only the coarsest of food. As a consequence of eating nutrition less food his color took a blacker hue. His stomach would rumble, but he said: "O stomach you may rumble as much as you like, but as long as the famine persists I cannot allow you anything dainty". One day some ghee came to the market and his servant purchased the ghee for him. When Umar came to know of that he refused to have anything to do with such a luxury. A son of his cooked some meat one day and offered him the dish. He refused to eat it. So strict was Umar that during the period of famine he refused to go near his wives.
At night he would move about from street to street to see for himself that all had been fed. Whenever any case of hardship came to his notice he would rush relief immediately. He would in most cases carry the relief goods on his own back. After taking his rounds, Umar would pray to God till late hours of the night. He would then wake up in the early hours of the morning, and again pray before going to the mosque to lead the morning prayer.
Addressing the congregation Umar would say:
"I cannot say whether this calamity is because of the lapses of the Caliph or the sins of the people. Whosoever is to be blamed let us repent, and pray to God for relieving us of this misery."
There is a story on record that one Bilal bin Haris of the Mazni tribe slaughtered a goat. There was nothing but bones in the corpse. Bilal had the bones ground and fed on them. At night he saw the Holy Prophet in a dream. The Holy Prophet asked him:
"Go and give Umar my message. He is firm in the way of religion. He should further press religion into service for the aversion of this distress."
Bilal bin Haris called on Umar and delivered him he message of the Holy Prophet. Umar could not exactly follow what exactly was the significance of the message. He felt that perhaps the Holy Prophet was referring to some apse on his part. That made him shudder with the fear of God. Umar went to the mosque and enquired whether they had noticed any deficiency in him. They said that they had not seem any weakness in him. They enquired as to what was the occasion for the question. Thereupon Umar asked Bilal to narrate his dream. After Bilal had narrated his dream, one of the Companions stood up to say: "Amirui Muminin there is nothing against you in this message. The Holy Prophet prescribed the prayer of Istisqa for praying to God for being relieved of any calamity. The message of the Holy Prophet is that you offer special Istisqa prayers."
Umar fixed a day for the offering of Istisqa prayers. The faithful were required to offer the special prayer on the specified day throughout the Muslim dominions. On the day fixed all the Muslims in Madina assembled in a plain outside Madina and offered the Istisqa prayers. In the sermon on this occasion Umar said:
"We have erred. Let us repent and ask of forgiveness from God. O Allah Thee alone do we worship and from Thee alone do we ask help. O Allah forgive us for our sins. Have mercy on us, and be pleased with us."
It is related that within a week of the special prayer clouds appeared on the sky and there were heavy rains. Umar then led a thanksgiving prayer. After the rains things changed for the better and the famine was over. Umar led the people during the crisis of the famine with considerable credit.