Shadows Of Death
Once the Holy Prophet saw in a dream that he was drawing water from a well. Then he stepped aside and asked Abu Bakr to draw water. Abu Bakr was able to draw two buckets only. While drawing the third bucket, he felt exhausted and stepped aside. Then Umar took the job, and he completed ten rounds. The Holy Prophet interpreted the dream to signify that after his death, Khilafat would vest in Abu Bakr, who would hold the office for two years and a few months. Thereafter Umar would succeed him, and his term of office would be ten years. When Umar assumed office as Caliph, he had the conviction that he would die after ten years.
In the time of Abu Bakr, Auf bin Malik Al-Shajjai a prominent companion had a dream in which it was indicated to him by an unknown power that Umar was to be conspicuous for three things: firstly, that he would be a pillar of strength for Islam; secondly, that he would be the Caliph; and thirdly, that he would die the death of a martyr. When the dream was narrated to Umar in the time of Abu Bakr, Umar silenced Auf bin Malik saying "May Abu Bakr live long; do not talk of the caliphate of any one else. "When Abu Bakr died and Umar became the Caliph, he asked Auf bin Malik to narrate his dream. After hearing the dream, Umar said, "How can I get martyrdom when I stay in Madina, and do not go to the field to take part in the battles against infidels. But then Umar recalled that the Holy Prophet himself on more than one occasion had referred to him as 'Shahid'. He, therefore, felt that he might be blessed with martyrdom even in Madina.
In the battle of Nihawand, the Muslim forces by way of war strategy spread the news that the Caliph had died. That brought the enemy in the open and in the ensuing fight they were defeated, and the Muslims were victorious. When Umar came to know of this, he said 'If with the death of Umar, Islam can be victorious, let Umar die a hundred times."
When the year 644 A.D. dawned, that being the tenth year of his rule, Umar had the premonition that before the year ended, he would die.
That year the Hajj fell in the month of October. Umar performed the Hajj in the company of all his wives and all the surviving wives of the Holy Prophet. Umar had the feeling that that was his last Hajj. It is related that when Umar stood at the mount of Arafat he heard a voice saying, "O Caliph, never again will you stand on the Mount of Arafat". When during the Hajj ceremony, Umar threw pebbles at the devil, he once again heard a voice that that was to be his last Hajj".
Ayesha who was present on the occasion of the pilgrimage has left on record that as the party treaded the path between Mina and Mecca, some unseen person addressing Umar said:
"Upon such an Iman as thou be peace and blessings,
You brought glory to Islam,
From God you came, and now to God return."
It is narrated by Said b. Al-Museeb that while at Mina, Umar raised his hands and prayed:
"O Allah, I have now become old. I am feeling weakness in my limbs.
O Allah I have done the mission entrusted to me to the best of my capacity. Now call me to Yourself before I feel imbecile to work in your cause. O Allah bless me with the death of a martyr, and may that be in Madina the city of your beloved."
Jabir bin Mutaam states that he was present at the time of the Hajj with Umar. He relates:
"We saw a man standing at the top of the hill and crying 'Verily that is the last Hajj of Umar. He will never come here again."
Ahu Musa Ashaari states that at that time he had a dream. In the dream he saw the Holy Prophet and Abu Bakr standing on a mountain. Umar stood at the base. Abu Bakr and the Holy Prophet asked him to come up and he climbed the mountain. The dream was interpreted to imply that the death of Umar was imminent.
On the last Friday in October 644, while presiding at the Friday Prayers Umar said that in a dream he had seen a bird peck at him and this implied that he was going to die. He said, "May be this is the last Friday prayer for me to preside, and thus ye faithful, farewell."
Kaab Ahbar, a soothsayer came to Umar and said "O Caliph you are going to die within three days. You may nominate your successor if you like". Umar enquired how he knew that he was to die within three days. He said that he knew that from the holy book Torah. Hadrat Umar enquired whether there was any reference to him in the Torah. Kaab said that Umar was not mentioned as such in the Torah, but the Torah questioned a king who was just like Umar, Kaab said that when he read of that king, he always recalled Uznar.
About that king it was written in the Torah:
"And he had with him a prophet who was inspired, and the Lord inspired the prophet to say to him make thou the covenant, and write thy testament, for verily thou art a dead man within three days. The prophet therefore told him this, and when it was the third day, he fell down between the wail and the bed".
And as foretold by Kaab the soothsayer, Umar was stabbed to death within three days.
A Persian Stabbed Umar
After the battle of Nihawand, many Persians, men, women, and children were taken as captives by the Muslims. The captives were sold as slaves. One of these slaves was Firoz alias Abu Lulu. He was purchased by Mughirah Shu'bah the Governor of Basra. This Firoz was a craftsman, a carpenter, an iron smith and a painter. Umar did not allow non-Muslim adult captives to reside in Madina. Mughirah sought special permission for the residence of Firoz in Madina on the ground that as he was a skilled craftsman, he would be of service to the people. Umar gave the permission as a special case.
One day, Firoz waited on Umar and complained that the tax which his master Mughirah was exacting from him was too high. He wanted the Caliph to reduce the levy. Umar enquired what work did he do. He said that he worked as a carpenter, painter, and an ironsmith. He added that he could make windmills as well. Umar next enquired as to the amount of the tax that he was required to pay to his master. He said that he had to pay two dirhams a day. Umar said that keeping in view the lucrative nature of the jobs done by him, the levy of two dirhams a day was prima facie not excessive. Umar said that he would, however, write to Mughirah, and examine the question further in the light of what Mughirah said. That did not satisfy Firoz, and he went away sulking.
Umar wrote to Mughirah, and in reply Mughirah quoted facts and figures to establish that what he took from his slave was by no means excessive. When Firoz called on Umar again, Umar explained to him that as the levy was not excessive, no reduction therein was called for that made Firoz angry. In order to humor Firoz, Umar said, "I understand you make windmills; make one for me as well." In a sullen mood, Firoz said, "Verily I will make such a mill for you, that the world would talk about it." As Firoz went away, the Caliph told the people around him that the Persian slave had threatened him.
There were Persian children slaves in Madina. Seeing them, Firoz would say, "You have been enslaved at such a tender age. This Umar sees eaten my heart. I will take his heart out". He made for himself a dagger with a very sharp edge and smeared it with poison.
On the 1st of November 644 A.D. at the time of the morning prayer, Firoz went with his dagger to the Prophet's mosque and hid himself in a corner in one of the recesses of the mosque. When the faithful stood for prayer after straightening the lines, and Umar took up his position as the Imam to lead the prayer, Firoz emerged from his place of hiding and rushed at Umar. Firoz struck Umar six consecutive blows with his dagger, and Umar fell on the floor profusely bleeding.
Other persons rushed at Firoz, but he had the fury and frenzy of a desperate man about him. He struck right and left, and thirteen Muslims were wounded, some of them fatally, before Firoz could be overpowered. At last realizing that he could not escape, Firoz stabbed himself to death with his own dagger.
Umar On Death Bed
From the mosque Umar was carried home. When he regained consciousness he asked who was his murderer. He was told that his murderer was the Persian slave Firoz. Thereupon Umar said, "Praise be to God that I have not been murdered by a Muslim".
The physician administered him date cordial and milk. These could not be digested and gushed out of his wounds. That indicated that the wounds were fatal and that he could not survive for long.
The people around him praised him for his virtues and sterling qualities. He asked them not to praise him. He said:
"All praise is to Allah. If all the treasures of this world were to be at my disposal, I would offer them as a ransom to be saved from the trial at the Day of Judgment."
He then recited the Arabic verse:
"I have been unjust to my soul,
Umar asked his son Abdullah to wait on Ayesha and beg her permission for his burial by the side of the Holy Prophet and Abu Bakr. Ayesha wept as she came to know that Umar was about to die. She said, "I had reserved this place for my own burial, but I give Umar precedence over myself. Let him be buried there". When Umar was told that Ayesha had given the permission, he felt happy and said, "God bless Ayesha. She has fulfilled my greatest wish. Now I can die in peace."
Then he asked his son to estimate the debt that he had to pay. He was told that the debt amounted to eighty six thousand dirhams. This included the salary that he had drawn from the Baitul Mal during the period of his caliphate. He instructed that the debt should be paid by the sale of his property. Thereafter Umar gave detailed instructions to his son regarding his funeral. He said:
"Be moderate in the expenses of my shroud, for verily if there is anything of good with God in my favor, He will give me in exchange what is better than it, and if I have been otherwise, He will strip me of all that I have. And be moderate in the grave that you dig for me, for verily if there be anything of good with God in my favor, He will widen it for me, and if I have been otherwise, He will make it narrow for me to squeeze my body. And let no woman go with my funeral. Praise me not for that which is not in me, for the Lord knows best what I am. Therefore when you carry me to the grave, hasten in your going for if there is anything of good with God in my favor you will speed me to that which is good, and if I have been otherwise, you will cast from your necks an evil that you bear."
Thereafter Umar turned his face to the Qibla and breathed his last. There was serene smile on his face as he lay dead.
Umar And His Successor
When Umar was on his death bed, he was asked that he should nominate his successor. Umar sighed and said, "Whom should I nominate my successor? If Abu Ubaida had been alive, I would have nominated him as my successor for about him the Holy Prophet had said that he was the trustee of the Muslim community. If Salam the liberated slave of Abu Huzaifa had been alive, I would have nominated him as my successor for about him the Holy Prophet had said that among the Muslims he loved Allah most."
Some one said, "I propose the name of your son Abdullah for the office."
Thereupon Umar said:
"May God curse you for tempting me to nepotism by nominating my son when I am going to meet my Creator. The Caliphate is an affair affecting the entire Muslim community, and I would not like to make it an hereditary office in my family. I swear it by God that I never coveted the caliphate for myself. Therefore what I never coveted for myself I would not like to pass on to my family. If the caliphate is something good then by holding the office for the last ten years, I have had the blessing for my family. If the caliphate is something bad then why should I pass on this bad thing to my family? God is my witness that during my caliphate I showed no favor to my family members. On the other hand I was more hard with them than with the other Muslims. I have tried to fulfill the obligations of the office always under the shadow of the fear lest I may at any stage falter in the performance of my duties. I do not know whether I have succeeded in my purpose, but I will be happy if my achievements and failures just balance, so that I am neither rewarded nor punished for holding the office of the caliphate. Remember ye men, that if I nominate my successor, a better man than me (namely Abu Bakr) also nominated his successor. And again if I do not nominate a successor, remember that the best of men, namely Muhammad (peace be on him) did not nominate a successor. Whatever the case I am confident that Allah will Himself protect the interests of Islam."
At this, the persons around Umar went away. Umar had some sleep. Then the men came again and they said:
"O Amirul Mominin, if you are not going to nominate a successor at least leave some instructions for the selection of your successor."
Thereupon Umar said:
"After hearing you and weighing the pros and cons of the case carefully I had decided that I should nominate my successor who should lead the Muslims on the path of righteousness. But then I lost consciousness, and in that state of unconsciousness I had a dream. I saw that a man who had laid out the garden was plucking all ripe and unripe fruit from all the trees, and gathering it on the ground. I interpret this dream to mean that I will die, and Allah will Himself attend to the affairs of the Muslim community. I therefore refrain from nominating a successor for I do not wish that even after death I should continue to carry the burden of the caliphate."
When pressed to leave some guidance for the people to choose his successor, Umar said that he would nominate a Committee comprising Ali, Usman, Abdur Rahman b. Auf; Sad bin Abi Waqqas; Zubair b. Awwam; and Abu Talha. All these were eminent Companions whom the Holy Prophet gave the tidings of paradise in their lifetime. Umar said:
"I enjoin that this Committee should elect one of themselves as the Caliph."
The following, day Umar called the members of the Committee (except Abu Talha who was cut of station) and enjoined them that they should deliberate and choose one from among themselves as the Caliph. The Committee retired to hold a meeting. It was soon found that there were strong dissensions among the members, and loud voices were raised highlighting the differences. Thereupon Abdul Rahman b. Auf addressing the members of the Committee said:
"The Amirul Mominin is not yet dead, and you have started quarrelling over the question of succession."
When this state of affairs was brought to the notice of Umar he instructed:
"Defer the consideration of this issue for the present. When I die you take up the issue and then settle it within three days. On the fourth day after my death the person chosen by you should take the oath of office. He should be some one out of you. Abdullah b. Umar will sit with the Committee as Adviser and Moderator, but he will have no vote, nor will he be eligible for election as the Caliph. If during this period Abu Talha joins you he will be a member. If he does not come within three days, the rest of the members of the Committee will have the authority to take the decision. During these three days, Suhaib will lead the prayers. Thereafter, whosoever, is elected as the Caliph will lead the prayers."