Islamic Actions and Social Mandates

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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.

Umar And The Holy Quran

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.

Umar And Mosques

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.

The Hijri Calendar

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.

Umar And Drinking

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.

Umar's Control Of Sexuality Laxity

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.

Satires And Lampoons

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.

The Dhimmis

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."

Allowances And Stipends For The Muslims

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: 

  1. (1) The widows of the Holy Prophet received 12,000 dirhams each; 
  2. (2) Abbas the uncle of the Holy Prophet received an annual allowance of 7,000 dirhams; 
  3. (3) The grandsons of the Holy Prophet Hasan and Hussain got 5,000 dirhams each; 
  4. (4) The veterans of Badr got an allowance of 6,000 dirhams each; 
  5. (5) Those who had become Muslims by the time of the Hudaibiya pact got 4,000 dirhams each; 
  6. (6) Those who became Muslims at the time of the conquest of Mecca got 3,000 dirhams each; 
  7. (7) The veterans of the apostasy wars got 3,000 dirhams each. 
  8. (8) The veterans of Yermuk and Qadisiyya got 2,000 dirhams each! In announcing this scale Umar said: 

"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.

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