In order to maintain the integrity of administration, Umar laid down very difficult criteria for the selection of candidates for appointment as Governors. Some accounts have come down to us which show how scrupulous was Umar in choosing his Governors.
It is related that once Umar decided to appoint a Governor. The Governor-designate came to Umar to get his orders of appointment. Umar asked his Secretary to draft the order. As the order was being drafted a younger son of Umar came and sat in his lap. Umar caressed the child. Thereupon the Companion said, "Amir ul Muminin your children come to you freely, but my children do not dare to come near me". Thereupon Umar said, "If your own children are afraid of you, the people will be still more afraid of you. The oppressed will hesitate to bring forward their complaints to you. As such you are not fit to be a Governor, and the orders about your appointment as Governor stand cancelled."
Once Umar thought of appointing a Companion as Governor. Before the orders of appointment were issued that Companion called on Umar and solicited appointment as a Governor. Umar said:
"I was going to appoint you as a Governor on my own account, but now that you have yourself asked for this appointment, I think you are not fit for the office. As you have asked for the office I fear you will use it as an office of profit and I cannot allow that. I would appoint only such men who regard such office as a burden to he entrusted to them in the name of Allah."
The appointment of Governor for Kufa became a matter of great headache for Umar. If he appointed a man who was harsh and stern the people complained against him. If he appointed a soft hearted man, the people took advantage of his leniency. Umar wanted his comrades to advise him regarding the selection of a right man for the office of the Governor of Kufa. One man rose up to say that he could suggest a man who would be the fittest person for the job: Umar enquired who was he, and the man said,", Abdullah bin Umar" Umar said, "May God curse you, you want that I should expose myself to the criticism that I have appointed my son to a high office. That can never be".
Around Umar there were such prominent persons as Usman Ali, Zubair, Talha and others. Umar did not offer them any office. Some one asked Umar why did he not appoint such prominent persons as Governors. Umar said, "These notables occupy a high status because of their virtues and other qualities. I do not appoint them as Governors lest for any lapse they may lose the prominence they enjoy at present."
Once the post of the Governor of Hems fell vacant, and Umar thought of offering it to Ibn Abbas. Umar called Ibn Abbas and said, "I want to appoint you as the Governor of Hems, but I have one misgiving." "What is that", asked Ibn Abhas. Umar said, "My fear is that some time you would be apt to think that you are related to the Holy Prophet, and would come to regard yourself above the law." Ibn Abbas said, "When you have such a misgiving I would not accept the job." Umar then said, "Please advise me what sort of man should I appoint." Ibn Abbas said, "Appoint a man who is good, and about whom you have no misgiving".
Some one asked Umar, "What is your criterion for selecting a man for appointment as a Governor?" Umar said, "I want a man who when he is among men should look like a chief although he is not a chief, and when he is a chief, be should look as if he is one of them."
Under Umar the country was divided into number of provinces. Historians differ about the exact number of provinces. Some say that the number of provinces was eight, while there are others who give a higher figure.
From the information that has come down to us, it appears that:
Each province was in turn divided into districts. The exact number of districts is not known. In Persia alone the number of districts was 47. The total number of districts in the country must thus be around 100.
Each province was under the charge of a Governor or Wali. Other officers at the provincial level were:
In some districts there were separate military officers, though the Wali was in most cases the Commander-in-chief of the army quartered in the province.
During the Caliphate of Umar some of the notable Governors were:
For every district, there were two main office holders, namely:
Every appointment was made in writing. On appointment every officer was given an instrument of instructions in which his powers and duties were specified. On arrival at the headquarters of his charge, the officer in question was required to assemble the people and read the instrument of instructions before them. In this way the public became aware of the powers and obligations of the officers concerned, and could call them to account for any sins of omission or commission.
Umar's general instructions to his officers were: "Remember, I have not appointed you as commanders and tyrants over the people. I have sent you as leaders instead, so that the people may follow your example. Give the Muslims their rights and do not beat them lest they become abused. Do not praise them unduly, lest they fall into the error of conceit. Do not keep your doors shut in their faces, lest the more powerful of them eat up the weaker ones. And do not behave as if you were superior to them, for that is tyranny over them."
At the time of appointment, every officer was required to make the promise:
At the time of appointment a complete inventory of all the possessions of the person concerned was prepared and kept in record. If there was an unusual increase in the possessions of the office holder, he was immediately called to account, and the unlawful property was confiscated by the State.
The principal officers were required to come to Mecca on the occasion of the Hajj. In public assembly Umar invited all who had any grievance against any office to present the complaint. In the event of complaints inquiries were made immediately and grievances redressed on the spot.
Explaining the functions of the officers, Umar said: "Brethren, officers are appointed not that they should slap you in your faces and rob you of your properties, but in order that they should teach you the way of the Prophet of Allah. So, if any officer has acted contrary wise, tell me that I might avenge it."
A special office was established for the investigation of complaints that reached the Caliph every now and then against the officers of the State. The Department was under the charge of Muhammad b Maslamah Ansari a man of undisputed integrity. In important cases Muhammad b 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 Madina, and put to explanation by the Caliph himself.
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 thousand rupees a month besides their shares of the spoils of war.
As a consequence of conquests on a large scale in Iraq and Persia and elsewhere a question arose as to the administration of land in the conquered territories. The Arabs followed the maxim, "Spoils belong to the victors". On this basis all spoils that were won as a result of any victory were distributed to the extent of four-fifth among the conquering army, and one-fifth was sent to Madina as the State share. On this analogy the army insisted that all agricultural lands should be distributed among the conquering army, and the inhabitants should be made their serfs and slaves.
Umar convoked a special assembly at Madina to consider the question from all aspects. Eminent companions like Abdur Rahman b Auf and others supported the viewpoint of the army. They argued that the lands belonged to the conquerors, and future generations had no right to them. Bilal was so vehement in the support of the demand of the army that Umar had to exclaim "May Allah save me from Bilal."
At the assembly Umar argued that as the conquering army had already had the spoils distributed among them that was enough and the land should belong to the State. Umar advanced the argument that if the lands in the conquered territories were divided up among the army, wherefrom would they get the necessary finance for the raising and equipment of the armies in future for defense against foreign aggression and for the maintenance of law and order within the country.
Ali, Usman, and Talha supported Umar but still no decision could be reached. Then Umar recollected Sura Al-Hashr which spoke of the poor who had fled, and of those to come thereafter. From these verses Umar inferred that lands were assets in which even the coming generations were interested and as such these should be the property of the State. These verses proved decisive and a consensus was reached:
That was a wise decision attribute to the genius of Umar. Umar took settlement operations in a scientific way. In Iraq his Settlement Commissioners were Usman b Hanif and Hudhaifah b al-Yaman. These Settlement Commissioners measured land in Iraq with such care and precision as one measures cloth. Iraq measured 375 miles long and 240 miles wide with a superficial area of 30,000 square miles. The royal dynasty's estates, endowments of fire temples, and the estates of those who had died heirless or fled the country were declared state property. The rest of the lands were left in the possession of their former occupants and assessed to land revenue per jarib according to the nature of crops sown. These rates were: wheat two dirhams per jarib per year; barley one dirham; sugar cane six dirhams; cotton five dirhams; grapes ten dirhams; date palm gardens ten dirhams and so on. In the first year the income from State land amounted to seventy lakh dirhams. Land revenue assessment under private occupation worked out at 86 million dirhams.
The whole settlement was carried out in such a way that fresh lands were extensively brought under cultivation, and the land produce increased extensively. In the year following the settlement the land revenue increased from 86 million dirhams to 100 million dirhams.
In other conquered countries no special settlements were carried out. In such countries the existing systems continued and the records in existence were adopted. In Iraq and Persia the records were kept in Persian. Umar allowed the records to be kept in Persian even after their conquest by the Muslims. In Syria the previous records were kept in Latin, and in Egypt in the Coptic. In all such cases status quo was allowed to continue.
Under the Pharaohs taxes on land in Egypt could be paid in cash or kind, and the settlement was for a period of four years at a time. When the Romans occupied Egypt the same system continued but besides the normal land revenue they levied additional levies "hereunder large quantities of grain were collected for presentation to the authorities at Constantinople. Umar abolished the additional levies and the system in vogue under the Pharaohs was allowed to continue. The rules about the method of collection were made simpler and milder. In the time of Umar the land revenue collected from Egypt amounted to twelve million dinars.
In Syria the annual collection of land revenue in the caliphate of Umar was fourteen million dinars.
In the early days of Islam there was no standing army. On the occasion of any battle contingents were raised from the various tribes and these were disbanded when the battle was over. No regular salaries were paid. Those who fought were compensated by distributing the spoils of war among them.
Umar was the first Muslim ruler to organize the army as a State Department. This reform was introduced in 637 A.D. A beginning was made with the Quraish and the Ansars and the system was gradually extended to the whole of Arabia. A register of all adults who could be called to war was prepared, and a scale of salaries was fixed.
The scale was:
All men registered were liable to military service. They were divided into two categories, namely:
For the purpose of army administration, Umar established Military Centers which were called 'Jund'. These Centers were set up at Madina; Kufa; Basra; Mosul; Fustat; Damascus; Jordan; and Palestine. At these centers barracks were built for the residence of troops. Big stables were constructed where four thousand horses fully equipped were kept ready for service at short notice at every Military Center. All records pertaining to the army were kept at Military Centers. Food stores of the commissariat were kept at these places and there from sent to other places.
In addition to Military Centers, cantonments were established in big towns and places of strategic importance.
Under the Army Department, there was a separate Commissariat Department. All the food stores were collected at one place, and from there disbursed on the first of every month.
Pay and Bhatta were disbursed at different times. The pay was paid in the beginning of the Mohurram. The Bhatta was paid in spring and some extra allowances were paid during the harvesting season.
Every tribal unit had its leader called Arifs. Such units if under Arifs were grouped and each group was under a Commander called Umar-ul-Ashar.
Promotions in the army were made on the strength of the length of service or exceptional merit.
Expeditions were undertaken according to seasons. Expeditions in cold countries were undertaken during the summer, and in hot countries in winter. In spring the troops were generally sent to lands which had a salubrious climate and a good pasturage.
Much thought was given to climate and sanitation in the lay out of cantonments and the construction of barracks. Special provisions were made for roads and streets in cantonments, and Umar issued instructions prescribing the width of roads and streets.
When the army was on the march, it always halted on Fridays. When on march, the day's march was never allowed to be so long as to tire out the troops. The stages were selected with reference to the availability of water and other provisions.
Leave of absence was given to army men at regular intervals. The troops stationed at far off places were given leave once a year and some time twice.
Each army corps was accompanied by an officer of the treasury, an Accountant, a Qazi, and a number of interpreters besides a number of physicians and surgeons.
Umar issued instructions laying stress on the teaching of four things to the soldiers, namely: horse-racing; archery; walking barefoot, and swimming.
On the battlefield the army was divided into sections. These sections were:
Other components were:
According to instructions every soldier was required to keep with him several things of personal need. These included among other things needles, cotton, twine, scissors, and a feeding-bag.
Catapults were used extensively in siege operations. Under Umar another machine employed in siege operations was Dabbabah. It was a wooden tower which moved on wheels and consisted of several storeys. The tower was wheeled up to the foot of the fort under siege, and then the walls were pierced by stone throwers' wall-piercers and archers who manned the Dabbabah.
Under the instructions of Umar, suitable arrange, meets were made for the clearance and construction of roads, and bridges. These operations were usually performed by the conquered people under the supervision of the Muslim army.
A remarkable feature of the army organization under Umar was that he had complete control over the army at all times as if he were present in person at every field. The control was facilitated because of the sense of awe and majesty that the person of Umar inspired. The espionage and intelligence services in the army were well organized. Reporters were attached to every unit, and they kept the Caliph fully informed about everything pertaining to the army.
Under Umar vast conquests were made in Iraq, Persia, Syria, and Egypt and this speaks for the efficiency of the army and the military organization.
Umar took particular pains to provide effective and speedy justice for the people. He set up an effective system of judicial administration, "hereunder justice was administered according to the principles of Islam.
Qadis were appointed at all administrative levels for the administration of justice. Umar was the first ruler in history to separate judiciary from the executive. The Qadis were chosen for their integrity and learning in Islamic law. High salaries were fixed for the Qadis so that there was no temptation to bribery. Wealthy men and men of high social status were appointed as Qadis so that they might not have the temptation to take bribes, or be influenced by the social position of any body. The Qadis were not allowed to engage in trade. Judges were appointed in sufficient number, and there was no district which did not have a Qadi.
Umar issued 'Farmans' from time to time laying down the principles for the administration of justice. In one of the Farmans issued to Judicial Officers, Umar laid down the following principles:
"Praise to God.
Verily justice is an important obligation to God and man. You have been charged with this responsibility. Discharge the responsibility so that you may win the approbation of God and the goodwill of the people.
Treat the people equally in your presence, in your company, and in your decisions, so that the weak despair not of justice, and the high-placed have no hope of your favor.
The onus of proof lies on the plaintiff. He who denies must do so on oath. Compromise is permissible, provided it does not turn the unlawful into lawful, and the lawful into unlawful. Let nothing prevent you from changing your previous decision if after consideration you feel that the previous decision was incorrect.
When you are in doubt on a question and find nothing about it in the Quran or in the Sunnah of the Prophet, think over the question over and over again. Ponder over the precedents and analogous cases, and then decide by analogy.
A term should be fixed for the person who wants to produce witnesses. If he proves his case, get him his right. Otherwise, the suit should be dismissed.
All Muslims are reliable, except those who have been punished with flogging, or who have borne false witness or are doubtful in integrity."
History has preserved the names of some of the eminent persons who held judicial office during the caliphate of Umar.
Zaid bin Thabit was appointed by Umar as the Qadi of Madina. He was well versed is Syriac and Hebrew, and was an expert in civil law.
Ka'b-b. Sur al-Azdi was the Qadi of Basra. He was a man of keen insight and wide learning. Many of the dicta laid down by him became classical and were reported by Imam Ibn Sirin.
Ibada b. al-Samat was the Qadi of Palestine. He was one of the five men who had memorized the Holy Quran in the lifetime of the Holy Prophet. Umar held him in great esteem.
Abdullah b Masud was the Qadi of Kufa. He was a man of great scholarship and judicial acumen. He is considered the Father of the Hanafi law.
Qadi Shuraih succeeded Abdullah b Masud as the Qadi of Kufa. He was well known throughout the country for his intelligence and keen sense of judgment. He was regarded as a model Judge. Ali used to call him 'Aqd-ul-Arab'-i.e. the most judicious of all the Judges of Arabia.
About Qadi Shuraih's appointment as a Judge there is a story on record. It is related that Umar purchased a horse on approval, and gave it to somebody to try it. The horse got hurt in the ride, and Umar wanted to return it, but the owner refused to take it back. In the dispute that arose as a consequence, Shuraih was chosen as the arbitrator. He gave the verdict that if the horse was ridden with the permission of the owner it could be returned; otherwise not. Umar said that that was the right decision and at once appointed Shuraih as the Qadi of Kufa.
In the time of the Holy Prophet there was no public treasury. Whatever revenues or other amounts were received were distributed immediately. There were no salaries to be paid, and there was no state expenditure. Hence the need for the treasury at public level was not felt.
In the time of Abu Bakr as well there was not treasury. Abu Bakr earmarked a house where all money was kept on receipt. As all money was distributed immediately the treasury generally remained locked up. At the time of the death of Abu Bakr there was only one dirham in the public treasury.
In the time of Umar things changed. With the extension in conquests money came in larger quantities, Umar also allowed salaries to men fighting in the army. In A.D., Abu Huraira who was the Governor of Bahrain sent a revenue of five lakh dirhams. Umar summoned a meeting of his Consultative Assembly and sought the opinion of the Companions about the disposal of the money. Most of the Companions advised immediate distribution of the money. Usman advised that the amount should be kept for future needs. Walid bin Hisham suggested that like the Byzantines separate departments of Treasury and Accounts should be set up.
After consulting the Companions Umar decided to establish the Central Treasury at Madina. Abdullah bin Arqam was appointed as the Treasury Officer. He was assisted by Abdur Rahman and Muiqib. A separate Accounts Department was also set up and it was required to maintain record of all that was spent.
Later provincial treasuries were set up in the provinces. After meeting the local expenditure the provincial treasuries were required to remit the surplus amount to the central treasury at Madina. According to Yaqubi the salaries and stipends charged to the central treasury amounted to over three crore dirhams.
In most of the histories of the Muslim period it is stated that among the Muslim rulers, the Umayyad Caliph Abdul Malik bin Marwan was the first to strike coins. Further historical research has established that Umar has the distinction of being the first Muslim ruler to strike Islamic coins.
It is stated in Maqrizi's Kitab-ul-Nuqad ul-Islamia and Mawardi's Al-Ahkam us-Sultaniyah that Islamic coins were first struck by Umar. Umar struck the coins of dirhams. The coins of Umar resembled the coins of Anusherwan. These, however, bore the legends "Praise to Allah"; "Muhammad is the Apostle of Allah"; and "There is no god but Allah".
According to Mawardi when Persia was conquered three types of coins were current in the conquered territories, namely Baghli of 8 dang; Tabari of 4 dang; and Maghribi of 3 dang. Umar made an innovation and struck an Islamic dirham of 6 dang.
Umar stood for simplicity and austerity. Consequently he did not believe in any large scale program of public works involving extravagance. Nevertheless as a consequence of the extension of the Muslim rule to distant lands, the undertaking of works of public utility became imperative.
As Muslim conquests extended east and west, and more people embraced Islam, it became necessary to construct mosques. The mosques were not mere places for offering prayers; these were community centers as well where the faithful gathered to discuss problems of social and cultural importance. During the caliphate of Umar as many as four thousand mosques were constructed extending from Persia in the east to Egypt in the west Umar enlarged and improved the Prophet's mosque in Madina. He also paved the Holy Kaaba.
During the caliphate of Umar many new cities were founded. These included Kufa, Basra, and Fustat. These cities were laid in according with the principles of town planning. All streets in these cities led to the Friday mosque which was sited in the central chauk. Markets were established at convenient points. The cities were divided into quarters, and each quarter was reserved for particular tribes. In the construction of houses, strict instructions were laid down prohibiting the construction of palatial buildings. The houses were to be single storeyed, not exceeding specified dimensions. These instructions were vigorously enforced, and if any body constructed a double storey in violation of these instructions, such double storeys were invariably demolished. The houses did not reflect the opulence or poverty of the owners. These were symbolic of the egalitarian society of Islam, where under all were equal.
Many buildings were built for administrative purposes. In the quarters called "Dar-ul-Amarat" Government offices and houses for the residence of officers were provided. Buildings known as 'Diwans' were constructed for the keeping of official records. Buildings known as Bait-ul-Mal, were constructed to house public treasuries. For the lodging of persons suffering sentences as punishment, prison houses were constructed for the first time in Muslim history. In important cities Guest Houses were constructed to serve as rest houses. Roads and bridges were constructed for public use. On the road from Madina to Mecca, shelters, wells, and meal houses were constructed at every stage.
Military cantonments were constructed at strategic points. Special stables were provided for cavalry. These stables could accommodate as many as 4,000 horses. Special pasture grounds were provided and maintained for Bait-ul-Mal animals.
Canals were dug to irrigate fields as well as provide drinking water for the people. Abu Musa Canal was a nine mile long, canal which brought water from the Tigris to Basra. Another canal known as Maqal canal was also dug from the Tigris. A canal known as the Amirul Mumnin canal was dug to join the Nile to the Red Sea. During the famine of 639 A.D. food grains were brought from Egypt to Madina through this canal and the sea. Saad canal dug from the Euphrates brought water to Anbar. Amr bin Al Aas the Governor of Egypt even proposed the digging of a canal to join the Mediterranean to Red Sea. The proposal, however, did not materialize, and it was 1200 years later that such a canal was dug in the shape of the Suez Canal.