Historical Tales and Anecdotes of the Time of the Early Khalifahs/Anecdote of 'Omar's Justice

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'Omar-ibn-el-Khattdb was the second Khalifah of the Rashfd[1] dynasty, and traced connection with the Prophet through Ka'ab the son of Liiwa, from whom the Prophet was descended in the eighth generation. 'Omar was born thirteen years after the Prophet, and was the fortieth person who professed el-Isldm, which profession greatly increased the spread of the true faith. Muslims affirm that his con- version was a miracle wrought in answer to the Prophet's prayer. 'Omar-ibn-el-Khattib and Amr-abi-Jahl were two of the Prophet's bitterest enemies, and were of high estate and greatly esteemed amongst the Arabs. The Prophet, therefore, knowing that the conversion of either of them would much aid the progress of el-Isldm, prayed that God would cause one of them to profess. And in answer to this prayer 'Omar-ibn-el-Khattib became a true believer, but Amr-abi-Jahl died an infidel. Hafsah, 'Omar's "daughter, was one of the Prophet's wives. 'Omar succeeded Abu-Bekr in the Khalifate a.h. 13. He was murdered by a Persian of the Magian religion named Abi-Liiliiah el-Fayruz, who was a slave belonging to el-Mughirah-ibn-Shuibahy in a.h. 23, aged 63 years. He was buried at el-Medinah, in the same building as the Prophet and his first successor Abu-Bekr.

IT is related of 'Omar that on his return from ^ Damascus to el-Medlnah, he withdrew himself froni the public in order to study more minutely the circumstances of his subjects. Happening to pass by the hovel of an old woman, and turning towards her, she addressed him, saying, " And what is ^Omar doing ?"

" He has returned from Damascus in safety," was his reply. Whereupon she exclaimed, " Has the fellow, indeed ? May he obtain no recompense from God on my account !*'

" And wherefore ?" aSked *Omar.

" Because," she replied, " since he has held rule over the Muslims he has never given me one. dindr ; no, nor even a dirhem." *

  • " The dinir of the Arabs was a perpetuation of the golden

solidus of Constantine, which appears to have borne the name of denarius in the eastern provinces, and it preserved for many himdred years the weight and intrinsic value of the Roman coin, though in the fourteenth century the dindr of Egypt and Syria had certainly fallen below this. The dirhem more vaguely repre- sented the drachma, or rather the Roman (silver) denarius, to


" But," said he, " how is it possible for 'Omar to know anything of your condition ; and you living in such a place as this ?"

" The Lord be praised !" she cried. " By Allih ! I could not have supposed that a ruler over men ex- isted, who was in ignorance of anything that occurred between the east and the west of his dominions."

Then 'Omar wept, and said inwardly, ** O 'Omar ! every one is better acquainted with the Divine law than thou, even old women. Alas, O 'Omar !" Then he said to her, "O handmaid of Allih! for how much will you sell me the injustice you have received from 'Omar } For I would redeem him from hell-fire."

" Do not mock me," she cried, " as God may have mercy upon you.'


which the former name was applied in the Greek provinces." (See Castiglione, Monete Cuficke, Ixi. seqq.)

In these pages I have not attempted to render the sums men- tioned, in even approximate sums of English money ; and for this reason : according to the period and the place, the worth of the dinir varied between 9s. 6d. and 14s. lod. And in like manner the dirhems were at different times and places valued at from ten to twenty-five to the dindr. Those who are curious will, however, find an interesting note upon this subject in the second volume of Col. Yule's Cathay, and the Way thither, from which work I took the extract given above.

The oldest gold dindrs are of A. H. 91 and 92. The following is


" I am not mocking you," said 'Oman And he did not leave her until he had bought her injustice for five-and-twenty dinirs.

Now whilst he was thus occupied, behold! 'Aly the son of Abu-T41ib,* and *Abd-A114h the son of

a description of the oldest dinir I have seen. It was struck in A.H. 96 (A.D. 714-15), during the Khaltfate of el-Walld-ibn-'Abd- el-Mdlik, the sixth of the Benu-'Omeyyah Khalifahs : —


/'(Area) There is no God but God. He is one. He hath no

partner. (Negation of the Trinity.)

(Circle) Muhammad is the Apostle of God, Who hath sent him with the true Guidance and Religion, that he should manifest it above all other religions. ^(Area) God is one. God is eternal. He neither begets (negation of Christ being the Son of God) nor is begotten. (Negation of Christ being God.)

(Circle) In the name of God. This dinir was struck (in the) year 96.



  • 'Aly, the son of Abu-Tilib, became in after-years the fourth

Khaltfah of the Rashid dynasty. His father, Abu-Tdlib, was the Prophet*s paternal uncle ; and he ('Aly) married Fitimah- ez-Zdhrah, the Prophet's daughter. He was born thirty years after the Prophet, and professed el-Isldm two days after the Pro- phet received his mission, being the first who did so after Kha- dijah daughter of Khuilid, the Prophet's wife. 'Aly was the father of Hdsan and Husein, and succeeded 'Othmin-ibn-'Affin in A.H. 35 (a.i>. 656). He was murdered by 'Abd-er-Rahm^, ibn-Mulgim, el-Muridy, in A.H. 40, aged 63 yearSj after a reign of four years and nine months. He was buried at el-K^fah^ and his grave is famous. To this day it is visited by the pious.


lo 'ILAM'EN'NAs.

. Mas*iid * arrived at the place, and cried, " Peace be upon thee, O Commander of the Faithful!" Upon hearing which the old woman smote her head with her hand, and exclaimed, " Alas ! what a misfortune ! I have insulted the Commander of the Faithful to his face." But 'Omar said to her, "You have done no wrong. May God have mercy upon you !" And then he asked for a piece of parchment, that he might write upon it ; but as none could be found, he cut off a 'piece of his shirt, and wrote upon it, "In the name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful:

  • 'Abd-Allsth-ibn-Mas'iid was one of the first to profess

el-Isldm, and was amongst those who fled into Egypt from the persecution of the Kuraish. He was a learned man, and cele- brated amongst the Associates, to whom he was known .as Sahib es Sawdd wa 's Siwdk (lord of blackness and toothsticks), the former probably because he was lord or proprietor of the rural districts (called Sawdd) of el-Kiifah, to which place he belonged ; and the latter because he may have possessed a district or plantation of a certain tree called Ardk, from the branches and roots of which the Siwdk or Miswdk (toothstick) is made. ^3,yf^di TCitdJis belonging to the Sawdd (ox cultivated plains) of 'Irik. This region was so called because the Arabs of the, desert, when they first saw the verdure of the trees, exclaimed, " What is that sawdd (dark thing) ? '* and this ever afterwards continued to be its name. 'Abd-AUih died A.H. 23 ('a.d. 653), at el-Medinah, aged between 60 and 70 years, and was buried 1^. there in the cemetery called el-Bikiya, in the reign of 'Othmin- ^kibn-'Affin, the third of the er-Rashid Khalifahs.


this is what 'Omar has purchased from Such-an- one — The injustice which she has suffered from the time he began to reign over the Khaltfate, to such and such a day, for five-and-twenty dinars out of what she may claim from him on his appearance at the Resurrection before God Almighty — and 'Omar is exempted from it* Witnesses to this — 'Aly, and the son of Mas' Ad."

Then 'Omar gave the writing to his son, and said, " When I am dead, lay this in my winding-sheet, that I may appear with it when I rise in the presence of my Lord.f

  • Attention to the affairs of the poor, and almsgiving, are

amongst the first principles of Muhammadism. But the old woman condoned the injustice she had experienced by receiving compensation for it at the time.

t The circumstance related in the above anecdote would seem to have occurred on the return of 'Omar to el-Medinah after the reduction of Jerusalem in the i6th year of the Hijrah. After several conferences between the patriarch of that place and the Muslim general, it was finally agreed that the city- should be surrendered to the Arabs on condition that the inhabit- ants should receive from the Khalifah's own hands the articles of their security and protection. On receiving tidings of which, 'Omar therefore set out from el-Medtnah, attended by a nume- rous retinue. He rode upon a red camel, and carried with him two sacks — one of which contained his provision, consisting of barley, rice, or wheat, sodden and unhusked, and the other fruits. Before him he carried a leathern bottle to contain

12 'ilAM'EN-nAs,

water, and behind him a wooden platter, out of which every one of his fellow travellers, without distinction, ate with him. His clothes, according to Theophanes, were made of camel's hair, and were in a very ragged and tattered condition. The same author relates that when 'Omar entered the Church of the Resurrection at Jerusalem, he appeared in such sordid and filthy attire as gave great offence to the patriarch Sophronius, who with much difficulty prevailed upon him to put on some clean clothes till his own foul rags were washed. After the reduction of Jerusalem, and whilst the Muslim general was besieging Antioch, one 'Omar-ibn-Rafa'a, who had been taken captive by the Greeks, embraced Christianity, and was after his baptism received with great kindness both by the bishops and the Emperor Heraclius himself. The latter questioned him concerning the Khalifah, and desired to know what could induce him to appear in such mean attire, so different from that of other princes, when he had taken so much wealth from the Christians. " The consideration of the other world, and the fear of God," replied 'Omar. When further asked what sort of a palace the Khalifah had, " One of mud," he answered. " Who are his attendants ? " asked the Emperor. " Beggars and poor people." " What tapestry does he sit upon ? " " Justice and equity." " What is his throne ? " " Abstinence and certain knowledge." "What is his treasure.?" "Trust in God." "Who are his guards?" "The stoutest of the Unitarians. And knowest thou not, O king ! " continued 'Omar, " that some have said to him, O 'Omar ! thou possesses! the treasures of the Caesars ; kings and great men are also subdued unto thee ; why, therefore puttest thou not on rich garments? To whom he made answer, Ye seek the outward world, but I the favour of Him, who is Lord both of that and the other."

  1. Rashid means taking a right course, holding a right belief, orthodox. It is an appellative specially applied to the four first Khaltfahs, Abu-Bekr, 'Omar, 'Othmin, and 'Aly ; but also applicable to other Im^s who followed the same course as those four.