In The Name Of Allah, The Most Gracious, The Most Merciful
All perfect praise be to Allah, The Lord of the Worlds. I testify that there is none worthy of worship except Allah, and that Muhammad is His Servant and Messenger.
Dear Brothers and Sisters! There are a few leaders in the world who have left indelible impressions in human history. Khalifah Umar Ibn Abdul Aziz tops that list. He is considered one of the finest leaders in Muslim history, second only to the four rightly guided caliphs — Abu Bakr, Umar, Uthman and Ali (RA). In fact, in some circles, he is affectionately referred to as the fifth and the last Khalifah of Islam.
The Roman emperor, when heard about his death, said:
“A virtuous person has passed away… I am hardly surprised to see an ascetic who renounced the world and give himself to the prayers of Allah. But I am certainly surprised at a person who had all the pleasures of the world at his feet and yet he shut his eyes against them and lived a life of piety and renunciation.”
Umar Ibn Abdul Aziz ruled as a Khalifah for only 30 months but during this short period he changed the world. His tenure was the brightest period in the 92-year history of the Umayyad Caliphate.
He was the son of Abdul Aziz Ibn Marwan, the governor of Egypt, while his mother, Umm Asim was the granddaughter of Khalifah Umar Ibn Al Khattab.
Umar Ibn Abdul Aziz was born in 63 A.H. (682 A.D.) in Halwan, Egypt (some historians says he was born in Madinah), but he received his education in Madinah from his mother’s uncle, the celebrated scholar Abdullah Ibn Umar. He stayed in Madinah till his father’s death in 704 A.D., when he was called by his uncle Khalifah Abdul Malik and was married to his daughter Fatimah. He was appointed governor of Madinah in 706 A.D., succeeding Khalifah Walid Ibn Abdul Malik.
Umar remained governor of Madinah throughout the reigns of Khalifah Walid and Khalifah Sulaiman. But when Sulaiman fell seriously ill, he wanted to appoint heir, as his sons were still minors. Rajah Ibn Haiwah, the adviser, proposed to him to appoint his cousin Umar Ibn Abdul Aziz as his successor. Sulaiman accepted the suggestion.
After being nominated Khalifah, Umar addressed the people from the pulpit saying:
“O people, I have been nominated your Khalifah despite my unwillingness and without your consent. So here I am, I relieve you of your pledge (Bai’ah) that you have taken for my allegiance. Elect whomsoever you find suitable as your caliph.” People shouted: “O Umar, we have full faith in you and we want you as our Khalifah.” Umar continued, “O people, obey me as long as I obey Allah; and if I disobey Allah, you are not duty-bound to obey me.”
Umar was extremely pious and averse to worldly luxuries. He preferred simplicity to extravagance. He deposited all assets and wealth meant for the ruling Khalif into the Baitul Maal (Public Treasury). He even abandoned the royal palace and preferred to live in a modest house. He wore rough clothes instead of royal robes and often went unrecognized in public like his great grandfather Khalifah Umar Ibn Al Khattab.
After his appointment as Khalifah he discarded all the pompous appendages of princely life-servants, slaves, maids, horses, palaces, golden robes and real estates and returned them to Baitul Maal. He also asked his wife Fatimah to return the jewelry she had received from her father Khalifah Abdul Malik. The faithful and obedient wife complied with his bidding and deposited all of it in the Baitul Maal. Later, he got his articles of luxury auctioned for 23,000 dinars and spent the amount for charitable purposes.
He never built a house of his own. Allamah Suyuti in his historical work “Tarikh Al-Khulafah” records that Umar spent only two dirhams a day when he was Khalifah. He received lesser salary than his subordinates. His private properties yielded an income of 50,000 dinars annually before his nomination, but when he returned all his properties to the Baitul Maal, his private income was reduced to 200 dinars per annum. This was his wealth when he was commanding the vast Caliphate from the borders of France in the West to the borders of China in the East.
Once his wife found him weeping after prayers. She asked what had happened. He replied:
“I have been made the leader over the people and I was thinking of the poor who are starving, and the sick who are destitute, and the naked who are in distress, and the oppressed that are stricken, and the stranger that is in prison, and the venerable elder, and him that hath a large family and small means, and the like of them in countries of the earth and the distant provinces, and all those killed under my leadership, and I felt that my Lord would ask me about them on the Day of Resurrection, and I feared that no defense would avail me (at that time), and I wept.”
● He was very considerate to his subjects.
His generous reforms and leniency led the people to deposit their taxes willingly. Ibn Kathir writes that thanks to the reforms undertaken by Umar Ibn Abdul Aziz, the annual revenue from Persia alone increased from 28 million dirham to 124 million dirham.
He undertook extensive public works in Persia, Khurasan and North Africa, including the construction of canals, roads, rest houses for travelers and medical dispensaries.
The result was that during his short reign of two and half years, people had become so prosperous and contented that one could hardly find a person who would accept alms, sadaqah or Zakah.
Umar is credited with having ordered the first collection of Hadith, in an official manner, fearing that some of it might be lost. Abu Bakr Ibn Muhammad Ibn Hazim and Ibn Shihab Al-Zuhri, were among those who compiled Hadith at Umar’s behest.
Following the example of the Noble Prophet (Peace be upon him), Umar sent out emissaries to China and Tibet, inviting their leaders to embrace Islam. It was during the time of Umar that Islam took roots and was accepted by a large segment of the population of Persia and Egypt. When the officials complained that because of conversions, the jizyah revenues of the state had experienced a steep decline, Umar wrote back saying that:
“Noble Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) was sent as a Prophet (to invite the people to Islam) and not as a tax collector.”
He (Umar Ibn Abdul Aziz) abolished home tax, marriage tax, stamp tax and many other taxes as well. When many of his agents wrote that his fiscal reforms in favour of new converts would deplete the Treasury, he replied:
“Glad would I be, by Allah, to see everybody become Muslim so that you and I would have to till the soil with our own hands to earn a living.”
Once a Muslim murdered a non-Muslim of Hirah. Khalifah Umar, when informed of the event, ordered the governor to do justice in the case. The Muslim was surrendered to the relations of the murdered person who killed him.
The general princely class of that time could not digest these policies of justice, simplicity and equality. A slave of the Khalifah was bribed to administer the deadly poison to him. The Khalifah having felt the effect of the poison sent for the slave and asked him why he had poisoned him. The slave replied that he was given 1,000 dinars for the job. The Khalifah took the amount from him and deposited it in Baitul Maal. Freeing the slave he asked him to leave the place immediately, lest anyone might kill him. This was his last deposit in the Baitul Maal for the welfare of people.
Umar died in Rajab 101 AH at the age of 38 in a rented house at the place called Dair Sim’an near Homs (in Syria). He was buried in Dair Sim’an on a piece of land he had purchased from a Christian. He reportedly left behind only 17 dinars with a will that out of this amount the rent of the house in which he died and the price of the land in which he was buried would be paid. And thus departed the great soul from the world.
Dear Servants of Allah! Wallahi when we go over the history of our Ummah; we read the biographies of the great men of the past, present, and the future. Among them was this man of the Tabi‘in (followers of the Companions). He was a great and knowledgeable scholar, who was like a solid mountain; whom the generations take the meanings of justice, honour, and sincerity from; he is this Amir of the Believers (Amirul Mu’minin), the mujtahid Imam, the fifth or sixth just Khalifah and the Mujaddid (the renewer) of the first one hundred Hijrah years, Abu Ja‘afar, Umar Ibn Abdul Aziz, Ibn Marwan, Ibn Al-Hakam, Ibnil As, Ibn Abdus Shams. His mother is Lailah, Umm Asim, Bint Asim, Ibn Umar Ibn Al Khattab. His lineage goes back to the Amir of The Believers Al-Faruq (Umar) may Allah raise his rank.
He inherited lots of the good traits and manners of his great grandfather (from his mothers side) Umar Ibn Al Khattab such as: Supporting the truth, justice, Allah-fearing and piety.
Umar was a skinny, white, handsome with an awe and a nice beard. He was among the great and intelligent people, he was the most handsome person at that time in the way he walks, dresses, and in his physical appearance.
His ring was engraved with: “‘Umar believes sincerely in Allah.” An animal hit him once leaving a scar in his face, his father said while wiping the blood off his face:
“If you were to be the one with a scar, then you would be the happiest among the Umaiyyads.”
Umar Ibn Al Khattab used to say:
“There will be among my off-springs a man with a scar in his face who will fill the earth with justice same as it was filled with injustice and oppression.”
When he was a young boy, he used to go to Abdullah Ibn Umar, who was his mother’s uncle, and he would say to his mother:
“O mom, I would like to be like my uncle.”
She would say to him:
“Stop it, you want to be like your uncle?”
When he was grown, his father Abdul Aziz Ibn Marwan set forth to Egypt after he became the Amir of Egypt, he wrote to his wife Umm Asim to come to him with her son. She went to her uncle Abdullah Ibn Umar and told him about her husband’s message, he said to her:
“O my niece he is your husband, so follow him.”
When she wanted to leave he said to her:
“Leave this boy with us – he means Umar Ibn Abdul Aziz – for he is the only one among you who looks like us.”
She left him with him and came to Abdul Aziz and told him where did she leave Umar, he was pleased to hear that. Abdul Aziz wrote to his brother Abdul Malik Ibn Marwan about the matter of Umar. Abdul Malik then ordered his workers to pay Umar one thousand dinar every month. Later Umar came to his father and stayed with him for as long as Allah willed for him to stay.
His father took good care of raising him since he was growing up. He wrote to Salih Ibn Kaisan to take care of him and to look after him.
He narrated the Hadith and acquired the science jurisprudence (fiqh) from a group of the Companions among them: Anas Ibn Malik, who died in the 90 AH when he was over 100 years old. Umar met him and narrated Hadith from his route, Anas also prayed behind Umar while Umar was the Imam leading the prayer. Also he took that knowledge from Abdullah Ibn Umar, who died in 74 AH, he was his mother’s uncle too as stated earlier; and from Abdullah Ibn Ja‘afar Ibn Abi Talib who died in 80 AH.
He also learned from a group of At-Tabi‘in like: Sa‘id Ibn al-Musayyib who died in 94 AH, he was the top scholar among at-Tabi‘in, Urwah Ibn az-Zubayr who died in 94 AH, Salim Ibn Abdullah Ibn Umar who died in 106 AH, Ubayd Ibn Abdullah Ibn Utbah Ibn Mas‘ud who died in 99 AH. Umar Ibn Abdul Aziz used to say:
“Being in a session for Ubaidullah is more loved to me than this world and what is in it.”
He also took the knowledge from Muhammad Ibn Muslim Ibn Shihab az-Zuhri who died in 125 AH.
Umar wrote to different areas:
“Take the Knowledge from Ibn Shihab, for you will not find any one who knows about the previous year more than him.”
Umar graduated from the school of those great knowledgeable scholars with a solid knowledge in the Religion, thus he became a dignified Imam in it.
Maimun Ibn Mahran, who died in 107 AH, said about him:
“The scholars were just students comparable to Umar Ibn Abdul Aziz.” He also said: “‘Umar Ibn Abdul Aziz is the teacher of the scholars.”
Umar said about himself:
“I was just a boy like other boys in Madinah, then I wished to learn Arabic Language and poetry, then I got what I wanted of that.”
In 87 AH Al-Walid Ibn Abdul Malik appointed him as a leader of Madinah. He went to it and stayed at the residence of his grandfather Marwan Ibn al-Hakam. People came to him and said salam to him; when he finished praying Zuhr (Noon Prayer); he called ten of the top fuqahah of Madinah: Urwah Ibn az-Zubair, Abdullah Ibn Ubaidullah Ibn Utbah, Abu Bakr Ibn Abdur-Rahman, Abu Bakr Ibn Sulaiman, Sulaiman Ibn Yasar, Al-Qasim Ibn Muhammad, Salim Ibn Abdullah Ibn Umar, Abdullah Ibn Abdullah Ibn Umar, Abdullah Ibn Amir Ibn Rabi‘ah, and Kharijah Ibn Zaid.
They came to him, entered his place, and sat down. He praised Allah all the due praise and said:
“I have called you for a matter which will earn you reward, and also to be supporters of the truth. I shall not decide on a matter unless I take your opinion into consideration, if you see someone violating the boundaries, or if you hear of any injustice of any of my worker; I ask you by the Greatness of Allah to inform me about that.”
This short statement was the constitution and the straight methodology which he put for his rule. So, it is no wonder that the historians and biographers listed him among the great and just leaders in history.
He ran the affairs of Madinah with good management and appointed Abu Bakr Muhammad Ibn Amr Ibn Hazim to the office of Justice. He knew the merit and the value of the scholars, so he honoured them with what they deserve. He remained as a leader of Madinah until 91 AH, when Makkah was added to his rule too. Al-Walid removed him in 93 AH. The reason behind that was that Umar wrote to Al-Walid telling him about the oppression and the aggression of Al-Hajjaj to the people of Iraq. Al-Hajjaj knew about that and sent to Al-Walid the following message:
“Some of the hypocrites from the people of disunity in Iraq where I am right now had left Iraq and took refuge in Makkah and Madinah, and this would cause feebleness.”
Al-Walid then wrote to Al-Hajjaj requesting that he tells him about two good men which he suggests to be appointed to Makkah and Madinah, he wrote him back telling him about: Uthman Ibn Hibban and Khalid Ibn Abdullah. Al-Walid then appointed Khalid to Makkah and Uthman to Madinah and removed Umar Ibn Abdul Aziz. Umar then left Madinah and resided in As-Suwaidah (present time in Syria).
He was entrusted to the Caliphate from 99 AH to 101 AH after the death of the Khalifah Sulaiman Ibn Abdul Malik who was his cousin.
They appraised his clothes when he was appointed to the office of Caliphate and found out that they worth twelve dirhams.
One day he said to his wife Fatimah Bint Abdul Malik, who used to have jewels which were ordered to her by her father:
“Choose between returning your jewels to Baitul Maal (the state treasury) or permit me to leave you, for I hate that me, you and these jewels be in the same house.” She said: “I would rather choose you over it and over its multiples.” He ordered them to be put in the state treasury.”
When Umar died may Allah have mercy upon him, the new Khalifah Yazid Ibn Abdul Malik Ibn Marwan said to Fatimah:
“If you want, I would return your jewels to you.” She said: “No, I swear by Allah that I was happy without them during his lifetime, so I will not have them back after his death.”
It was said that when Sulaiman Ibn Abdil Malik was buried and people moved away from his grave, Umar heard a noise, he said:
“What was that.” They said: They are the carts of the Caliphate brought to you to ride them O Amir of the Believers. He said: “I do not want them, take them away from me and bring me my own animal which I normally ride.” They brought it to him and he rode it; he said: “I am just a man of the people.”
He proceeded among the people until he reached the Mosque, he went up the Minbar (platform) and said:
“O people there is no true Divine Book after the revelation of the Qur’an and there is no Prophet after Muhammad (Peace be upon him). I swear by Allah that I am not a judge; however, I carry out what I was ordered to do. I am no innovator; however, I am a follower. I am no better than any one of you, but I am the one who is carrying the heaviest load amongst you; and I was inflicted with this without my opinion being taken in this matter; and without me asking for it; and without being consulted. I have decided to release you from the allegiance you have given me; so pick for yourself someone other than me.” People then yelled in one voice: We chose you O Amir of the Believers. He then said: “O people, whoever obeys Allah Ta‘ala then it is an obligation to obey him, and whoever disobeys him, then he is not to be obeyed; so obey me as long as I obey Allah; and if I would disobey Him then you are not obligated to obey me.”
Among what was said about his humility is that once a person praised him in his presence, Umar said to him:
“O you, had you known about myself what I know about it, you would have not looked at me twice.”
He took care of returning the rights to their owners and restored the just laws.
On another occasion he asked a person:
“Who is the master of your people?” He said: “It’s me.” Umar said: “If that was true, you would have not said that.”
He made his slogan zuhd (being detached from the worldly interests) and keeping himself away from the vanished pleasures of this world. Malik Ibn Dinar said:
“When Umar Ibn Abdul Aziz was entrusted to the Caliphate the shepherds in the hills of the mountains said: “Who is the righteous Khalifah that has been appointed to look after the people?” Some said to them: “Who told you about that?” They said: “Because, if a righteous Khalifah was to be appointed to look after the people, then the wolves and lions would leave off our sheep.”
It was also said about his fairness and justice to the people that if a person was to give a large sum of money to the poor as Zakah or Sadaqah, his money would be returned to him untouched because nobody would be found to take it. People were satisfied in his days, and it was said:
“Umar Ibn Abdul Aziz had fulfilled the needs of the people, so nobody is hungry and nobody is in poverty.”
Also it was related that a poor man came to Umar Ibn Abdul Aziz and said:
“O Amir of the Believers I came to you out of poverty, I have nothing left and Allah will question you about me on the Day of Judgment.”
Umar was shaken out of fear of Allah and said to him:
“Repeat what you have just said.”
The man did.
Umar, may Allah raise his rank, bent his head downwards and cried until the floor underneath him was soaked. He ordered his workers to give that man three hundred, and to each one of his daughters one hundred – he had eight daughters – on top of that he gave him one hundred and said:
“I gave you this one hundred from my own money, go and spend it on your needs until it is time for the charities (Sadaqah), you would then take from them along with people.”
Umar Ibn Abdul Aziz, may Allah raise his rank, innovated a good innovation which was agreed upon by the scholars of his time, since it complied with the rules of the Religion. That innovation was: Making the holed mihrab where the Imam stands while leading the prayer. He was the first one to make the mihrab.
He was the first one who stopped people from cursing Imam Ali Ibn Abi Talib may Allah raise his rank from the minarets.
He wrote to his workers not to handcuff any jailed person for it prevents him from performing Prayer (Salah). He also wrote to them:
“If your power over the people were to lead you to treat them unjustly then remember the Power of Allah over you, and that what gives you the power to order them would be gone; and that what would bring you torture due to treating them that way would stay.”
He abolished the taxes too which were placed unjustly by some of the Umayyad leaders, and gave the money back to its owners. In addition to other great deeds he did in serving the people.
Initially, during the Call of the Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him), many Muslims were diligent in memorizing the Hadith (Sayings of the Prophet peace be upon him). As Islam spread through many countries, battles increased, killing many memorizers of Hadith. The remaining memorizers were dispersed throughout the countries. Growing concern arose that some of memorizers might keep the Hadith to themselves; verification of Hadith became little and falsehood and fabrication was being mistaken for the genuine truth. The need to write down and document the Hadith became very apparent. The first person who ordered written documentation of Hadith was Umar Ibn Abdul Aziz; who did so after he was appointed to the office of Caliphate. He viewed written documentation as the best means of preserving genuine Hadith of the Prophet (Peace be upon him).
In Fathul-Bari of Imam Ibn Hajar it was mentioned that:
“The first one to write down the Hadith was Ibn Shihab Az-Zuhri at the turn of the first century by the order of Khalifah Umar Ibn Abdul Aziz.”
Imam Al-Bukhari also mentioned in al-Fath:
“Khalifah Umar Ibn Abdul Aziz wrote to all the countries that: “Search for the Hadith of the Messenger of Allah (Peace be upon him) and assemble them.”
When Umar Ibn Abdul Aziz was dying, Muslimah Ibn Abdul Malik visited him and said:
“You have forbade your kids from this money and left nothing for them, they must have something, if you were to authorize me or my likes among your relatives we could fulfill their needs and take care of them.”
Umar then asked them to help him to sit and said:
“What you have just mentioned about forbidding them from having this money and leaving them with nothing, I did not prevent them from what belongs to them, and I was not going to give them what belongs to the others. As for what you have mentioned about fulfilling their needs and taking care of them with my relatives, I say that I would leave them to the care and protection of Allah Who revealed the Qur’an. The offsprings of Umar are of two kinds: One who is Allah-fearing, and Allah will provide him with the means of sustenance from wherever he does not expect, and the other is the one who disobeyed Allah, so I will not be the first one in helping him to disobey Allah with money. Call my kids for me.”
He looked thoroughly at them until his eyes were filled with tears and said:
“I was under a choice between making you rich and that your father would enter Hellfire, or that you will be poor and he would enter Paradise. So I loved that you will be poor and I would enter Paradise rather than being rich and enter Hellfire. I ask Allah that you will never need anybody and to provide you with the means of sustenance.”
It was said that Umar’s kids never needed anybody’s support after his death nor they got poor.
Dear Brothers and Sisters! I would like to mention a matter here about the permissibility of seeking blessings (Tabarruk) by the Prophet and his traces (Peace be upon him). Umar Ibn Abdul Aziz asked that some of the hair of the Prophet which he used to have that it be buried with him. He said:
“If I die, put this in my shroud.”
They did that for him after he died. This was mentioned by Imam an-Nawawi in his book al-Asma’ wal-Lughat, in the chapter of the biography of Khalifah Umar Ibn Abdul Aziz.
May Allah have mercy on him and gives us the benefit by his virtue. And May Almighty Allah rest his soul in peace and award him the best place in Paradise. Ameen.
All praise is due to Allah, Lord of the worlds. May the peace, blessings and salutations of Allah be upon our Noble Messenger, Muhammad, and upon his family, his Companions and his true followers.
This Jumu’ah Khutbah (Friday Sermon) was prepared for delivery today Friday, Shawwal 22, 1439 AH (July 6, 2018), by Imam Murtadha Muhammad Gusau, the Chief Imam of Nagazi-Uvete Jumu’ah and the late Alhaji Abdurrahman Okene’s Mosques, Okene Kogi State, Nigeria. He can be reached via: firstname.lastname@example.org or +2348038289761.