History of the Caliphs

By: Rasūl Ja’farīan

Translation by: Ali Ebrahimi

p. 55-59
The caliph was a quick-tempered man[1] and an extremist[2] and both characteristics seriously affected his political and administrative career. Management to him was some kind of strictness by which he did his best to control the Bedouin Arabs. His inner being was easily detectable in his thoughts and deeds during the lifetime of the Prophet of Islam. We know that in the war of Badr, he asked the Prophet (s) to kill all captives. His harsh treatment with Suhayl Ibn ‘Amr, in the case of the Hudaybiyya peace deal, has been recorded in history. He also held extreme stances against the Hudaybiyya peace accord. On his first day of caliphate, he said, “O God! I am hot-tempered. Soften my behavior!”[3]

He knew he could not live without his lash. Therefore, he was the first one in Islam who took the lash of “Dirra” in his hand.[4] They have said his cane was more horrendous than the sword of Hadjdjādj.[5]

As said, Talha objected to Abū Bakr as to why he imposed ‘Umar upon them knowing that he is hot-tempered.[6]

According to Ibn Shubba, a man told ‘Umar, “People are mad at you; they hate you.”

‘Umar asked, “ why.”

He replied, “They complain of your tongue and cane!”[7] One day, Zubayr’s slave was standing in prayers after evening prayers when he saw ‘Umar approaching him with his Dirra (cane). The slave fled right then but ‘Umar caught him. The slave said, “I’ll never do so again!”[8]

After the death of Yazīd Ibn Abī Sufyān, ‘Umar proposed marrying his wife but she did not accept because she believed ‘Umar was bad-tempered when both leaving and entering the house.[9] Even ‘Āyisha who had close relations with the caliph, prevented his marriage with her sister for the same reason.[10] ‘Abd al-Razzāq San‘ānī quoted Ibrāhīm Nakha‘ī as saying that some day ‘Umar was passing near a group of women when he smelled a perfume.

He said, “If only I knew whose perfume this is. Then, I would know what to do with her. Women should wear perfume for their husbands only.” According to the same story, the woman who had worn perfume urinated out of fear[11] and another woman who saw her had a miscarriage.[12]

As a matter of fact, no one dared ask a question from ‘Umar and he preferred to do it through ‘Uthmān or someone else.[13]

‘Umar considered the criterion of strictness in selecting his rulers for the states.[14] He did not show mercy to offenders, no matter what tribe they belonged to. This made Djabala Ibn ’Ayham, a ruler of Damascus, who had committed a fault flee from Mecca to Damascus and turn away from Islam.[15] Even governors and the caliph’s children were not immune to his wrath. One day, he beat up one of his sons for the exquisite garment he had put on and the son burst into tears. When Hafsa objected, ‘Umar said, “He was acting proudly and I punished him to belittle him.”[16] He beat one of his children to death for drinking wine.[17] Apparently, ‘Amr Ibn ‘Ās had lashed him in Egypt for the same reason and on his return to Medina, his father beat him to death. When he was about to die, he told his father, “You killed me!”

‘Umar said, “If you should see God, tell Him we observe his punishment (Hadd) on earth.”[18] His severe treatment raised public hatred and dissatisfaction. The people asked ‘Abd al-Rahmān Ibn ‘Awf to talk to him in this regard and tell him that girls fear him even in their houses.

‘Umar replied, “People will not be reformed except with this method; otherwise, they will even strip me of my clothes.”[19] He, himself, admitted that people feared him because of his harshness.[20] In essence, the same treatments could stop public disagreement on his approach.[21] When the Prophet (s) ordered men not to beat their wives, ‘Umar asked the Prophet (s) to let men beat their wives like in the past but he did not accept.[22]

We said that ‘Umar’s concept of religion had made an extremist out of him. Punishing his son to death for drinking wine was one example. He was very strict towards women and did not let them attend morning and evening congregational prayers. He did not have sensible military courage but he attached special significance to Djihād.[23] This is why he omitted “Hayya ‘Alā Khayr al-‘Amal” (Rush to the best deed) from Adhān (the call to prayers, under the pretext that people would not go to the holy war. Of course, he added a good part to Adhān and that was saying, “Prayer is better than sleep”. Imām Sadjdjād and ‘Abd Allāh Ibn ‘Umar considered “Hayya ‘Alā Khayr al-‘Amal” (hasten to good deed) obligatory in Adhān[24] and Abū Hanīfa believed that “al-Salāt Khayr min al-Nawm” (Prayer is better than sleep) should be told after Adhān because it is not part of it.[25]

At any rate, ‘Umar was harsh in his contacts with people. This was contrary to the fact that he tried to rule as a caliph, not as a Sultan. It is good to retell a part of ‘Utba Ibn Ghazwān’s speech who served as ruler of Basra for six months only, and who was indeed commander of Muslim forces in Basra. Pointing to the economic problems in the time of the Prophet of Islam and the poverty of his companions, he drew a comparison with the time of ‘Umar and said each one of the companions had become an emir of a city. “There is no prophethood not to be abolished by the “land”. I will take refuge in God when prophets turn to be “kings” and I will seek God’s shelter when I feel a great man in myself but be despicable in view of people. You will soon see emirs coming after us, and you will know them soon and will deny them.”[26] It was a general attitude that time and many people were sure that the caliphate would turn into kingdom. ‘Umar, himself, used to say he wondered whether he was a caliph or a king. Ka‘b al-Ahbār assured him he was a caliph and that he had found his name in the divine books![27] Apparently, Abū Bakr imagined himself a king.[28] Despite ‘Umar’s harsh behavior, many dared criticize him. When Bilāl was getting ready to say the Adhān, ‘Umar objected to him, saying it was not time for prayers, but Bilāl responded, “I knew the time when you were more astray than the ass of your tribe.”[29]

‘Umar used to say, “Guide me if you see a fault in me.”

A Bedouin Arab replied, “We will guide you with sword if we see a fault in you.” Hearing this, ‘Umar thanked God that there was somebody in the tribe to guide him by force.[30] On the contrary, ‘Āyisha, daughter of ‘Uthmān, believed that ‘Umar’s roughness prevented ordinary people from criticizing him.[31] ‘Umar, himself, believed that the best policy for leading Muhammad’s nation was to act with power and not by force, to be soft but not lax, to bestow but not go to extremes, and to have abstinence but without stinginess.[32] We must admit that ruling Bedouin Arabs was not an easy task at all.

His strictness showed its signs in economy as well. He preferred a simple life for himself and for his functionaries and family. It seems that the Prophet’s lifestyle was still common among people and some of the emirs. ‘Umar had an extremist pious understanding of religion. A sign of this was his understanding of the verses, “أَذْهَبْتُمْ طَيِّبَاتِكُمْ فِي حَيَاتِكُمْ الدُّنْيَا.” “You selfishly used your pure gifts in your worldly life,” that allows Muslims to be so. Of course, he was objected to for this and when he learned that the verse concerned infidels,[33] he accepted it. His pious life did not mean that he had no wealth during his caliphate; rather, it has been mentioned in sources that ‘Umar was among the wealthiest of the Quraysh.[34]

Someone asked Nāfi‘, “Was ‘Umar in debt?”

Nāfi‘ said, “How could he be in debt when one of his inheritors, alone, sold his inheritance at 100000 dhms (Dirham or Dīnār?)?[35] ‘Umar had set his wife’s marriage portion at 4000 dhms.[36] Also once, he bestowed tens of thousands of dhms from his original wealth to his son-in-law.[37] More pious than ‘Umar was Salmān who warned him against luxury life.[38]

[1] Ibn Abi l-Hadīd writes,وكان في اخلاق عمر والفاظه جفاء وعنجهية ظاهرة ‘Umar’s ethics and words represented self-pride of some kind Sharh nahdj al-balāgha, vol.I, p.183
[2] The caliph, in appearance, was tall and had a brown-colored face and on front part of head, he was hairless, “Asla‘”. According to Muhammad Ibn Habīb, he had deceitful eyes.al-Muhabbar p.303; al-Munammaq, p.405
[3] Tabaqāt al-kubrā, vol.III, p.274; Abū Bakr Khallāl, al-Sunna اللهم إني غليظ فليّنّي O God! I am hot-tempered, make me soft-tempered.
[4] Tārīkh al-tabarī, vol.IV, P.209; Tārīkh al-khulafā’, p.137; Hayat al-hayawān, vol.I, p.346; Tabaqāt al-kubrā, vol.III, p.282. The first one to be lashed by Dirrah was Umm Farwa, Abū Bakr’s sister when she was crying for Abū Bakr after his death and ‘Umar deemed crying for the dead unrightful.
Sharh nahdj al-balāgha, Ibn Abi l-Hadīd, vol.I, p.181
[5] Rabī‘ al-abrār, vol.III, p.188; Hayat al-hayawān, vol.I, p.51; Sharh nahdj al-balāgha, Ibn Abi l-Hadīd, vol.I, p.188; al-Tarātīb al-idāriyya, vol.II, p.376; Tabaqāt al-kubrā, vol.III, p.281
[6] Sharh nahdj al-balāgha, Ibn Abi l-Hadīd, vol.VI, p.343, vol.I, p.164; Hayāt al-sahāba, vol.II, pp.128 and 130
[7] Tārīkh al-madīnat al-munawwara, vol.II, p.858
[8] al-Ma‘rifa wa l-tārīkh, vol.I, pp.364-365
[9] Nathr al-durr, vol.I, p.61يدخل عابساً ويخرج عابساً He entered with sullen face and went out in the same way.
[10] al-Aghānī, vol.XVI, p.93; al-Istī‘āb, vol.I, p.273
[11] al-Musannaf, ‘Abd al-Razzāq, vol.IV,pp.343-344
[12] Djāmi‘ al-bayān al-‘ilm, vol.II, p.103; Sharh nahdj al-balāgha, vol.I, p.174
[13] al-Fakhrī., p.106(Persian Translation)
[14] al-‘Iqd al-farīd, vol.I, p.15
[15] Tabaqāt al-kubrā, vol.I,p.265; al-Futūh, vol.II, pp.302-304; Sharh nahdj al-balāgha, Ibn Abi l-Hadīd, vol.I, p.183. About him, different stories are said of ‘Umar’s treatment and his repentance in manner of treating him. Tārīkh al-ya‘qūbī, vol.II, p.147
[16] al-Musannaf, vol.I, p.416
[17] Hayat al-hayawān, vol.I, p.49; Mus‘ab Zubayrī, Nasab Quraysh, p.356
[18] Tārīkh al-madīnat al-munawwara, vol.II, p.841
[19] Nathr al-durr, vol.II, p.35; ‘Uyūn al-akhbār, vol.I, p.12
[20] Hayat al-hayawān, vol.I, p.49
[21] Nathr al-durr, vol.IV, PP.34-35
[22] Tabaqāt al-kubrā, vol.VIII, p.205
[23] al-Aghānī, vol.VI, p.279
[24] Huwiyyat al-tashayyu‘, p.47 from, al-Musannaf, Ibn Abī Shayba, Sunan Biyhaqī
[25] Ibid. p.46 from, Taysīr al-usūl
[26] Tabaqāt al-kubrā, vol.VII, pp.6-7
[27] Hayāt al-sahāba, vol.II, p.36; al-Tarātīb al-idāriyya, vol.I, p.13; Tārīkh al-tabarī, vol.IV, p.211; Tabaqāt al-kubrā, vol.III, p.306
[28] Hayāt al-sahāba, vol.III, pp.475-476
[29] Mukhtasar Tārīkh Dimashq vol.XI, p.276
[30] Tafsīr al-manār, vol.XI, p.266
[31] Nathr al-durr, vol.IV, p.34
[32] Tārīkh al-madīnat al-munawwara, vol.II, p.879; Tabaqāt al-kubrā, vol.III, pp.344-345
[33] Sharh nahdj al-balāgha, Ibn Abi l-Hadīd, vol.I, p.182
[34] Kashf al-astār, vol.II, p.303; Hayāt al-sahāba, vol.I, p.347
[35] Tārīkh al-madīnat al-munawwara, vol.II, p.935; Djāmi‘ al-bayān al-‘ilm, vol.II, p.17
[36] Tabaqāt al-kubrā, vol.VIII, p.464; al-Tarātīb al-idāriyya, vol.II, p.405; al-Bahr al-zakhkhār, vol.III, p.101; Ansāb al-ashrāf, vol.IV, p.190; al-Musannaf, Ibn Abī Shayba, vol.IV, p.190
[37] Tārīkh al-khulafā’, p.120; Kanz al-‘Ummāl, vol.II, p.317; Hayāt al-sahāba, vol.II, p.356
[38] Mukhtasar Tārīkh Dimashq, vol.X, p.46
Source: maaref-foundation.com


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