We continue the series in which we remind ourselves of the companions of the Prophet SAWS. We do this because we live in a time and an age where the masses are following people without heed. A time where moronic messages can get over a billion views on social media. It is a difficult time for each of us, especially as parents when role models being presented by society do not measure up.
We need to get into the habit of pointing our children towards the best of role models, people who, after the Prophet SAWS, deserve to be role models for not just their generation but for us and our offspring today. From studying these people we can get lessons and wisdoms that apply to us today.
Umar Ibn Khattab may Allah SWT be pleased with him is one of those people and so today’s reminder is about the characteristics of this beloved companion of the Prophet SAWS.
He was the second caliph of Islam after Abu Bakr and he was one of the nobility of the tribe of Quraysh, he had the role of mediator amongst them; whenever war broke out among them or between Quraysh and others, they would send him as a mediator. He also acted as a judge among them when there were disputes. This shows us he was a man of fairness even before he accepted Islam.
It is narrated that, before Umar accepted Islam, on the way to murder Muhammad, he met a polytheist who told him to set his own house in order first, as his sister and her husband had converted to Islam. Upon arriving at her house, Umar found his sister and brother-in-law Sa‘id Ibn Zayd [Umar’s cousin], reciting the verses of the Qur’an. He started beating his brother-in-law severely. When his sister came to rescue her husband, he also struck her.
Seeing what he had done to his sister now, he calmed down and asked her to give him what she was reciting. She gave him the paper on which was written the verses from sura Ta-Ha.
He was so struck by the beauty of the verses that he accepted Islam that day. He then went to Muhammad SAWS with the same sword he intended to kill him with and accepted Islam in front of him and his companions.
It is also narrated that ‘Umar said: I went out to confront the Messenger of Allah SAWS, and found that he had headed to the mosque in Makkah. I stood behind him in hiding and he began by reciting Surat al-Haqqah.
I was astonished by the composition of the Qur’an, so I said, ‘By Allah, this is a poet as Quraysh say.’ It was at that point that the Prophet SAWS recited, ‘It is truly the saying of a noble messenger, and it is not the saying of a poet, how little you believe…’ and Islam came about in my heart.
Dear brothers and sisters, from this we learn the lessons of humility as this was a man willing to change stance and accept the truth from others. How often are we guilty of dismissing the opinion of others because we know best? Humility comes in knowing that Allah SWT is always providing us with the ability to learn, to improve and to better ourselves. By removing our ego, we can be open to this invitation from Him.
The Prophet Muhammad SAWS used to praise Umar’s knowledge, faith, and status. The Prophet SAWS bore witness to his knowledge when he said:
Allah’s Messenger SAWS said, “While I was sleeping, I saw that a cup full of milk was brought to me and I drank my fill till I noticed (the milk) its wetness coming out of my nails. Then I gave the remaining milk to `Umar Ibn Al-Khattab” The companions of the Prophet SAWS asked, “What have you interpreted (about this dream)? “O Allah’s Messenger SAWS” he replied, “(It is religious) knowledge.”
Dear brothers and sisters, we can derive lessons from this point also. Primarily we ought to never stop learning. Never stop acquiring knowledge on our faith. In turn our faith will increase and subsequently so will our status. We cannot rest on the fact that we are blessed to be Muslims, each day ought to be striving towards increasing our knowledge in Islam.
And as a Caliph, he was a caring and just leader. During this time, he was travelling with his servant Aslam when he saw a distant fire in the desert.
When he reached them, he found a woman and some children. The children were crying. The woman had a pan of water over the fire. Umar greeted her with salaam and, with her permission, went near her. [The woman didn’t recognize that it was Umar]. Umar asked, ‘Why are these children crying?’ The Woman said, ‘Because they are hungry.’ Umar said, ‘What is in the pan?’ The Woman replied, ‘Only water to soothe the children, so that they may go to sleep in the belief that food is being prepared for them. Ah! Allah will judge between Umar and me, on the Day of Judgment, for neglecting me in my distress.’
Umar said [weeping], ‘How can Umar know of your distress?’ The Woman said, ‘When he is our Caliph, he must keep himself informed about us.’ ‘Umar returned to the town and straight away went to the Baitul Mal [House of Charity] to fill a sack with flour, dates, fat, and clothes, and also drew some money. When the sack was ready, he said to Aslam, ‘Now put this sack on my back, Aslam.’ He went back and he himself cooked and served it to the family. When they had eaten until they were full, he gave them the little that was left for their next meal. The children were very happy after their meal and began to play about merrily. The woman felt very grateful and remarked, ‘May Allah reward you for your kindness! In fact you deserve to take the place of the Khalifah instead of Umar.’ Umar consoled her and said, ‘When you come to see the Khalifah, you will find me there.’
And so from this we learn about his kindness, his charitable nature and his modesty. We need to learn to keep our charitable acts consistent so that they become part of who we are, but not to show off in broadcast them as is the case via social media these days as that tarnishes the deed in itself.
Dear brothers and sisters, these are just a few of the many lessons we can learn. In a time and a place where suitable role models are increasingly difficult to find, we need to remind ourselves that they do not have to be living to be considered as such. We are blessed in this age with the world’s information at our fingertips. Lets use that blessing to study those people who deserve to be studied and followed. Those people like Umar bin Khattab (may Allah SWT be pleased with him) who deserve to be mentioned in ayat 54 of Sura Al Maida which says:
O you who have believed, whoever of you should revert from his religion – Allah will bring forth [in place of them] a people He will love and who will love Him [who are] humble toward the believers, powerful against the disbelievers; they strive in the cause of Allah and do not fear the blame of a critic. That is the favor of Allah ; He bestows it upon whom He wills. And Allah is all-Encompassing and Knowing.