History of Islamic Civilization




Muhammad Hozien

Essay by: Muhammad Hozien








THE DEATH OF THE PROPHET and Abu Bakr’s Khalifah










Umar is one of the few leaders of Islamic Civilization that is unique other than the career of the Prophet Muhammad with whom this whole cycle of events started. From his early days he had shown signs of greatness and the future to come.

It was Abdullah ibn Masood [1] who said of him, "We are still noble since Omar’s Submission to Islam"[2] He also said "Omar’s Submission to Islam was a conquest, His Migration was a victory, His Immate [period of rule] was a blessing, I have seen when we were unable to pray at "the house" [Kaba] until Umar submitted, when he Submitted to Islam he fought them [the antagonistic idolaters] until they left us alone and we prayed."[3]

There are many traditions that speak of the high regard that the companions of Muhammad had for Umar. He was the one of the two main counselors of the Messenger, the other being Abu Bakr. There are many reasons for the greatness of this man. He was of paramount importance in the early formation of the Islamic State.

During his time many new innovations were adopted. The state was expanding at a unprecedented rate and swift action needed to be taken which he did not hesitate to take or adopt. His bravery and simple life were trademarks of his era. His genius for leadership clearly is shown in his many accomplishments. The great prose writer Abas Mahmoud al-Aqad, at the turn of the century had written a volume dedicated to him called, Abqaryat Umar [4], [The Genius of Umar.]

There is quite number of good works on Umar in Arabic. There also seems to be quite a number of books just about him either popular or scholarly. Al-Aqad’s book is one of the popluar works so is Ali Tantanwi, the famous Muslim TV personality, book about Umar. The Fiqh Council of (al-Majmah al- Fiqhi li Jamat al-Imam Muhammad bin Saud) Muhammad bin Saud University in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia had published a 3 volume book on the Fiqh of Umar. There is also a Ph.D. thesis that is only dedicated to the Innovations of Umar in Administration and Judicial Affairs.[5]

While in this short thesis we can only point to some of his most important contributions there are still many others that must be ignored for the sheer number of them. A work of this size will only limit it self to the most evident and important of these accomplishments. Further this thesis will also concentrate on the conquests of the Islamic State during his rule.

The turning points during Umar’s life are in his Submission to Islam and in his rule after the death of Abu Bakr the Caliph of the Messenger in 13 A.H./634 AD. He ruled for ten years and was assassinated by a Magian named Abu Lulu Feroze, who had a attacked him during prayer with a dagger and stabbed him several times.


Umar was born in Mecca 13 years after the incident of the Elephant, In 583 A.D. Of his early years there are not many recorded details save that he grazed camels for his father who was very harsh with him. In his reign he would recall his father’s harshness to him when he passed the field which caused him pains early in his life.[6]

We later see him as wrestler who used to attend the famed Ukaz (the annual fair.) Also due to his family’s position in the Meccan Hierarchy he would receive an above average education and would travel throughout Arabia and Greater Syria.

Umar’s personality was dynamic, self-assertive, frank and straight forward. He always spoke whatever was on his mind even if it displeased others.


Umar belonged to the Adi clan from the Tribe of Quraish. His full name is: Umar ibn al-Khattab ibn Nufail Ibn Abdul-Uzza Ibn Riyah Ibn Qart Ibn Razah Ibn Adi Ibn Ka’b Ibn Lu’ayy ibn Fihr ibn Malik. Ameer al Muminin, abu Hafs, al-Qurashi, al-Adwai, al-Farooq.[7]

Umar’s family was considered among the families that served as arbitrators that would settle the tribal disputes and disagreements. Also ambassadors were chosen from his family as well. [8]


There are three versions of Omar’s conversion, the story Anas bin Malik relates is this version: One day, full of anger against the Prophet, he drew his sword and set out to kill him. A man from Bani Zuhrah (perhaps an acquaintance, who secretly professed Islam) met him on the way. When Umar told him what he planned to do, he informed him that Umar’s own sister, Fatimah, and her husband had also accepted Islam and abandoned your faith.

Umar went straight to his sister’s house where he found her reading from pages of the Qur’an. He fell upon her and beat her mercilessly. Bruised and bleeding, she told her brother, "Umar, you can do what you like, but you cannot turn our hearts away from Islam." These words produced a strange effect upon Umar.

What was this faith that made even weak women so strong of heart? He asked his sister to show him what she had been reading; he was at once moved to the core by the words of the Qur’an and immediately grasped their truth.

Umar went straight to the house where the Prophet was staying and vowed allegiance to him. It is also mentioned in more than one version that before he spoke the formula the Messenger took him by the shirt and shook him up. [9]

Shortly after the conversion Umar and Hamza had led the Muslims in a March on the Kabaa to worship there. [10] Later on he would openly proclaim his emigration to Medina and in one version he would dare the Meccans to harm him. [11]


There are many narrations that the Messenger was hoping that Umar would accept Islam and when Umar because of the bright future that the Messenger was hoping. It is as if he was recruiting the right people for the future of the Islamic State. In one of the traditions that is mentioned by as-Suyuti we see the Messenger praying that Umar accept Islam.

There are other traditions that point to the excellent qualities of Umar in matters of advice. One such tradition is: "Ibn Umar related that the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, ‘Allah has put the truth upon Umar’s tongue and in his heart." And another is "If there were to be a prophet after me it would be Umar ibn al-Khatab" narrated by: Uqbah bin Amir. [12]

As-Suyuti further states that Abu Abdullah ash-Shaybani in his book Fada’il al-Imamayn (the Merits of the two Imams [Abu Bakr and Umar]) had listed 20 different points in which Umar’s Opinions matched the later revelations of the Qur’an. [13]

For the above mentioned reasons that the Messenger always sought the advice of Umar. It was not that the Messenger always followed Umar’s Consultation but he still utilized him on many occasions.


When the Prophet died Umar was in denial and refused to believe that he died. Umar promised to strike the head of any man who would say that he died. Abu Bakr kept his cool about him and reminded the people that the Messenger was human. Then the Medinaites namely the Awas and Khazraj tribe were in dispute as to who would take charge after the Messenger, it was then that Umar gave biyah (oath of Allegiance) to Abu Bakr.

Umar had convinced them that Abu Bakr was the ideal choice to be the successor of the Messenger. He spoke about the excellent qualities of Abu Bakr and how the Messenger had left some clues at to whom to lead after his death. [14]


Abu Bakr had high regard for Umar who said: "There is not on the face of the earth a man more beloved to me than Umar." Umar was also highly regard among the companions of the Messenger. Aisha has said: "He was, by Allah, skillful in managing affairs, absolutely unique." And Muawiyah has said: "…Umar, the world wanted him and he did not want it…" [15]

Further Abu Bakr had asked Usmah bin Zaid permission to use Umar because at the time of the death of the Messenger, Umar was part of an Invasion force that was led by Usamah. [16]

Although Abu Bakr did not take every advice that was given to him by Umar, namely the affairs of the Ridda Wars [17] and when the Arabs refused to pay the Zakah (Alms, poor due, tax) in which Abu Bakr acted correctly and successfully. Abu Bakr had said: "By Allah, I will fight whoever makes a distinction between the prayer and the Zakah…" [18] It was at this point that Umar saw the error of his way, retracted and joined Abu Bakr in the wars.


The appointment of Umar to office of Khalifah is a well recorded event. It is not as troublesome as any of the others. His was perhaps one of the smoothest transitions to power from one authority to another in the Muslim lands. When Abu Bakr was dying he only appointed Umar as his successor and no other. [19]

Umar succeed Abu Bakr the day after his death. [20] Abu Bakr was well aware of Umar’s powers and of his ability to succeed him. When he was dying he consulted with Abdur-Rahman bin Awaf [21] and Uthman bin Affan [22] who regarded him quite highly.

Umar rule was to last ten years which are full of accomplishments. In this paper I will deal with some of them in detail. His most apparent achievements are in two major categories namely, the conquests and the innovations in ruling.


In this area Umar would excel as no other for many reasons some of which are that in his time the state would be stable. He dealt with many matters quickly and before they would rise to cause. It was also the sharpness of his personality and austerity that quelled many of the troubles that would appear to his successors. Here is some of his major achievements in list form.

  1. Establishment of Public Treasury [23] .
  2. Establishments of courts of Justice and appointment of Judges. [24]
  3. Placing the reserve army on the state’s Payroll and organization of the War department. [25]
  4. Establishment of Postal service. [26]
  5. Establishment of the Land Revenue department. [27]
  6. Survey and assessment of lands. [28]
  7. Public census. [29]
  8. Punishment of those who practice Monopoly by exile to different lands. [30]
  9. Establishment of and use of Jails. [31]
  10. Building of Canals and Bridges. [32]
  11. First to use the Whip. [33]
  12. Establishment of Public Rest Areas, hostels and Wudu (Ablution) Stations. [34]
  13. Fixing the date to the Start of the Migration of the Messenger. [35]
  14. Dividing the state and the conquered territories into provinces. [36]
  15. Founding of new cities (al-Amsar) such as Kufah [37] , Basarah [38] and Fustat. [39]
  16. Zakat on Produce of the sea, such as fish, Lobster, shrimp etc., and appointment of a responsible official.
  17. Use of secret reports and specially designated emissaries to provide first reports as what is really going on in different provinces. [40]
  18. Salary for Imams, Muadhans (Callers to prayer) teachers and public lectures.
  19. Stipends for the poor among the Jews and Christians who lived in conquered lands.
  20. Punishment for drunkenness, written satires and lampoons.
  21. Establishment of Guilds for certain trades. [41]
  22. Prohibition of the mention of women’s names in poetry.
  23. Holding tarawih (Ramadan night prayers) in congregation, before his time it was done individually.
  24. Providing lighting in the Mosques at night. [42]
  25. Persuading Abu Bakr to collect the Qur’an in one book.
  26. Establishment of Military bases at strategic points in the different provinces.
  27. Establishment of the Police department. [43]
  28. Personally making nightly rounds to check on the condition of the people first hand.
  29. Formulation of the Principal of Qiyas (Analogical Reasoning.) for determining rulings on newly encountered matters in Fiqh (Jurisprudence.)
  30. Establishment of a more exact system of calculation of the inheritance.
  31. Limiting the relationship between Muslims and Non-Muslims. [44]
  32. Establishing a stable for the lost camels. [45]
  33. State intervention to control the price of merchandise. [46]
  34. First to enlarge the al-Haram (the Sacred Mosque) at Mecca. First to place a cover on the Kaaba. [47]
  35. Discovered the place of Isra, Ascension of the Messenger to heavens at Jerusalem. [48]



As was mentioned Umar had the respect and sometimes fear of many of his contemporaries. He personally involved himself in many of the states affairs. He was the hands on type and if he saw anything that did not please him he made no secret of it. He would constantly write letters of advice and guidance to his generals.

Umar had the welfare of the Muslims in his mind at all times. Umar’s food was simple which consisted of bread and olive oil. Rarely would he eat anything else, at times it is recorded that he eat meat, vegetables milk and vinegar. His dress was also simple such as a shirt only which was known to have a number of patches in it. He also wore a cap and sandals. [49]



…the immense power which the Caliphate had achieved during the reign of ‘Umar. His armies tore from the Roman empire some of its fairest provinces in the East, annexed the fertile land of Egypt, and pushed their way westward along the coast of North Africa; they overran Palestine and Syria, and after crushing the armies of the Persian King, established Arab rule over practically the whole of the old Persian empire, until they reached the banks of the Oxus in the extreme north east. [50]

The conquests during Umar’s time are not to be taken lightly the state was expanding at an exceedingly fast rate during Umar’s ten year rule like at no other time in the history of the Muslim Civilization.[51] As to the reasons for the high success rate of the conquests at this time period Prof. Donner states:

The Muslims succeeded, then primarily because they were able to organize an effective conquest movement, and in this context the impact of the new religion of Islam, which provided the ideological underpinnings for this remarkable breakthrough in social organization, can be more fully appreciated. In this sense, the conquests were truly an Islamic movement. For it was Islam- the set of ramifications- that ultimately sparked the whole integration process and hence was the ultimate cause of the conquests’ success. [52]

Further Umar had an excellent organizational skills and a very good knowledge of people. He would not only choose who are his Army generals but also would give them very detailed orders. He divided up the Empire into states and placed governors in each state that he would personally assign. He would keep in constant communication with all his generals and Governors. [53]

Umar would also make good use of agents to keep watch over the performance of the governors. He would also periodically ask the residents of different cities of the performance of the governors. In al-Kufa he would recall Saad bin Abi Waqas due to complaints about him. He would than look into the matter and explain to the people. [54]

The City of Hims (Emas) was also a city that complained about its governor. Umar also took appropriate action to remedy the situation. [55]

In his lifetime the following conquests were completed: [56]

Fall of Damasucus in 14/635

Fall of Fahl in 14/635

Fall of Hims in 14/635

Fall of Balbak and Basrah

Fall Ublah and the bridge of Abi Ubydiah in Najran in 14 /635

Fall of Yarmouk in 15/636

Fall of all of the Jordan except of Tabarias in 15 /635

The Battle of Yarmouk in 15 / 635

The Battle of Qadisyah in 15 /636,

In 16 /637

Battle of Jaljulah and Qansreen

Fall of Ahoz

Fall of Madain

Fall of Jerusalem in 16/637

Fall of Jazirah in 16/637

In 17/638

Fall of Hims again in 17/638

Fall of Hurmuz in 17/637

In 18/638

The City of Kufah is built in 18/639

The great Plague of Amwas, Abu Ubydaih bin al-Jarah dies and many Muslim soliders.

In 19/640

Fall of Qaisariah in 19/640

Battle of Sohab in 19 /640

Fall of Takrit in 19/640

An Army is sent Aremina in 19/640

In 20 /641

Fall of Egypt in 20 /641

Fall of North Africa

Fall of Alexandria in 21/642

Fall of Nahwind in 21/641

Fall of Khorasan in 21/641

Fall of Antioch and Qalqalyia Pecefuly.

Fall of Adharbaijan in 22 /642

Fall of Masbithan in 22/642

Fall of Hamathan in 22 /642

Fall of Tabaristan in 22 /643

Fall of Armenia in 22 /643

Fall of Jarjan in 22/643

Fall of Koos and Raiy in 22/643

Fall of Tripoli (North Africa) in 22/643

Fall of Fars in 23/644

Fall of Kirman in 23/644

Fall of Sajastan in 23/644

Fall of Makran in 23/644

Fall of Khurasan (including Khawarazm, Farghanah, Takharistan) in 23/644



In the year 23/644 Umar was assassinated by Abu Lua’Lua the Magian, who had a personal grudge against Umar. The assassin stabbed Umar in the back and in his side below the belt with a poisoned dagger during the morning prayers. He also had stabbed thirteen others seven of which died. Abd ar-Rahman bin Awaf finished the prayers quickly as soon as Umar fell. They rushed to the fallen Umar and knew that he was dying and that there was no hope of recovery. Abdallah bin Abbas came to comfort him.

Umar appointed the office of Khalifah to one of six ( Uthman, Ali, Talha bin Ubiduallah, Zubair bin al-Awam, Abd ar-Rahman bin Awaf, and Saad bin Abi Waqas) to be chosen in three days. He commanded that Suhaib (the Roman) to lead the prayers. He made sure that his son would not get the office but made him one of the consultants. [57] His Khalifah was for a total of 10 years, six months and four days. [58]


In the end Umar wanted nothing of this earth, it was as Muywiah said of him.[59] His age was the age of Justice. Later on after he passed away his hut would still be called the house of Justice. Of wealth he left nothing behind. He willed that his hut be sold to pay off his debts. Muywaih would buy his house and payoff whatever remained of his debt. [60] He was Eulogized by many of his companions who remember him well. His was a time of stability and growth. Peace and constant war. It was not such a time of contradiction perhaps a time of harmony.

In His lifetime he had seen the Muslims go from being the meekest of the earth to being one of the major powers to be contended with. He would remember well that in his youth how he was being beaten by his father for taking a short break to rest to being the most powerful man in the Arabian peninsula. He was also content that in the end he was not killed by his own people but at the hands of a Magian.

Umar had warned against such people living among Muslims. Since his warning went unheeded it was the cause of his own death. He prided himself in serving not his own interest. It is said that he feared the burden of leadership and how that he might one day be asked why he did not pave the road for a stray sheep in Persia.

Umar continued to live simply to his final day. One of his companions reminiscing about Umar’s days he said of him: "When he walked, he did so quickly as to get someplace, when He spoke he was loud enough to be heard and when his hit it would hurt." He was a man of purpose and a Mission. He left a legacy that is not easy to follow.



  1. al-Baladhuri. Ahmad bin Yahya Futuh al-Buldan (Conquests of Nations).
  2. al-Qarashi, Ghalib A.K. Awliyat al-Farooq fi al-Idara wal-Qada (Firsts of the Farooq in Adminstration and Judicial affairs), being a Ph.D. thesis, Muasast al-Kutub al-Thaqafiyah, Beirut, 1990.
  3. al-Tabari, Muhammad bin Jarir Ta’rikh al-rusul wa’l Muluk (History of the Prophets and Kings), 10 Vols. Ed. Muhammad Abulfadl Ibrahim. Dar Suywdan, Beirut, copy of the Dar al-Ma’raf, Cairo 2nd edition, 1960-69.
  4. Arnold, Thomas W. The Caliphate, Barnes and Noble, New York, 1966.
  5. as-Suyuti, Jalal ad-Din The History of the Khalifahs who took the right way, being a portion of as-Suyuti’s tarikh al-Khulafah, translated by: A. Clarke, TaHa Publishers, London, 1995.
  6. Blankinship, Khalid Y. The History of al-Tabari, Volume XI: The Challenge to the Empires, Translated by: State University of New York Press, 1993.
  7. Donner, Fred M. The Early Islamic Conquests, Princeton University Press, 1981.
  8. Jandora, John W. The March from Medina, A Revisionist Study of the Arab Conquests, The Kingston Press, Clifton, 1990.
  9. Khatab, Mahmoud S. Bayan al-Aqeedah Wal-Qayidah (Between Creed and Leadership) Dar El-Fikr, Beirut, n.d.
  10. Nu’mani, Shibli Al-Farooq, The Life of Omar the Great, Translated from the original Urdu by: Zafar Ali Khan, International Islamic Publishers, New Delhi, 1992.


Essay by: Muhammad Hozien


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