Caliph Umar

Caliph Umar

Umar’s Reign as a caliph

During Umar’s reign, the Islamic empire grew at an unprecedented rate, taking Mesopotamiaand parts of Persia from the Sassanids (effectively ending that empire), and taking Egypt,PalestineSyriaNorth Africa and Armenia from the Byzantines. Many of these conquests followed major battles on both the western and eastern fronts. The Battle of Yarmūk, fought near Damascus in 636, saw a small Muslim army defeat a much larger Byzantine force, permanently ending Byzantine rule south of Asia Minor [Citation needed]. A Muslim army achieved victory over a force in the Battle of al-Qādisiyyah (c. 636), near the banks of theEuphrates River. During the course of the battle, Muslim general Sa’ad bin Abu Waqqasrouted the Sassanid army and killed the Persian general Rostam Farrokhzād.

[edit]The Treaty of Umar

In 637 , after a prolonged siege of Jerusalem, the Muslims finally entered the city peacefully following the signing of a treaty by the Patriach of Elya Al-Quds (i.e. Jerusalem) and Umar himself. Several years earlier, the Patriach had announced that he would not sign a treaty with anyone other than the Caliph himself. For this reason, `Umar personally came to Jerusalem after Muslims had established control of all the surrounding territory. According to both Muslim and Christian accounts, `Umar entered the city humbly, walking beside a camel upon which his servant was sitting, due to the reason they share turns over it and it was his servant’s turn when they happen to reach the city. He is said to have been given the keys to the city by the Orthodox Christian Patriarch Sophronius, after conducting the peace treaty known as the Treaty of Umar, the English translation of which is provided below:

In the name of Allah, the Most Merciful, the Beneficent.This is what the slave of Allah, Umar b.Al-Khattab, the Amir of the believers, has offered the people of Illyaa’[1] of security granting them Amaan (protection) for their selves, their money, their churches, their children, their lowly and their innocent, and the remainder of their people.Their churches are not to be taken, nor are they to be destroyed, nor are they to be degraded or belittled, neither are their crosses or their money, and they are not to be forced to change their religion, nor is any one of them to be harmed.

No Jews are to live with them in Illyaa’ and it is required of the people of Illyaa’ to pay the Jizya, like the people of the cities. It is also required of them to remove the Romans from the land; and whoever amongst the people of Illyaa’ that wishes to depart with their money together with the Romans, leaving their trading goods and children behind, then they selves, their trading goods and their children are secure until they reach their destination.

Upon what is in this book is the word of Allah, the covenant of His Messenger, of the Khulafaa’ and of the believers if they (the people of Illyaa’) gave what was required of them of Jizya.

The witnesses upon this were Khalid ibn Al-Walid,‘Amr ibn al-‘AsAbdur Rahman bin Awf andMuawiyah ibn Abi Sufyan. Written and passed on the 15th year (after Hijrah)

Then Umar asked the Patriach to lead him to the place of the oldJewish Temple. Umar was shocked to find the site covered in rubbish, as the Romans had initiated the custom of using it as a dung heap. `Umar knelt down immediately, and began to clear the area with his hands. When the Muslims saw what he was doing, they followed his example, and soon the entire area of al-Aqsa, approximately 35acres, was cleaned up [Citation needed]. Thereafter, commissioned the construction of a wooden mosque on the southern end of the site, exactly where the present-day mosque of Al-Aqsa stands.

`Umar was then led to the sites of the Foundation Stone by a rabbi, Ka’ab al-Ahbar, who had converted to Islam. The rock was surrounded it by a fence, and several years later anUmayyad Khalif built the Dome of the Rock over the site.

Upon taking Jerusalem, `Umar demonstrated the utmost respect for members of the other faiths living in the city. For the first time in 500 years since their expulsion from the Holy Land,Jews were allowed to practice their religion freely and live in the vicinity of Jerusalem. According to the Encyclopedia Judaica, seventy Jewish families took up residence in the city. `Umar also agreed to several pacts, called the Umariyya Covenant, with the local Christian population, determining their rights and obligations under Muslim rule.

As a conqueror, `Umar undertook many administrative reforms and closely oversaw public policy. He established an advanced administration for the newly conquered lands, including several new ministries and bureaucracies, and ordered a census of all the Muslim territories. During his rule, the garrison cities (amsar) of Basra and Kufa were founded or expanded. In 638, he extended and renovated the Grand Mosque in Mecca and the Mosque of the Prophetin Medina. He also began the process of codifying Islamic law. At the same time, `Umar also ordered the expulsion of the Christian and Jewish communities of Najran and Khaibar and forbade non-Muslims to reside in the Hijaz for longer than three days. (G. Levi DellaVida and M. Bonner, Encyclopedia of Islam, and Madelung, The Succession to Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him), p. 74)

As a leader, `Umar was known for his simple, austere lifestyle. Rather than adopt the pomp and display affected by the rulers of the time, he continued to live much as he had when Muslims were poor and persecuted. In 639, his fourth year as caliph and the seventeenth year 17 since the Hijra, he decreed that the years of the Islamic era should be counted from the year of the Hijra.

[edit]Narratives from Sunni Islamic literature

According to Sunni tradition, after the siege of Jerusalem, Sophronius welcomed `Umar because, according to biblical prophecies allegedly known to the church in Jerusalem, “a poor, but just and powerful man” will rise as a be a protector and an ally to the Christians ofJerusalem. Sophronius believed that `Umar, a great warrior who led an austere life, was a fulfilment of this prophecy.

In the account by the Patriarch of Alexandria, Eutichius, it is said that `Umar paid a visit to theChurch of the Holy Sepulchre and sat in its courtyard. When the time for prayer arrived, however, he left the church and prayed outside the compound, in order to avoid having future generations of Muslims use his prayer there as a pretext for converting the church into a mosque. Eutichius adds that `Umar also wrote a decree which he handed to the Patriarch, in which he prohibited that Muslims gather in prayer at the site.[8]
Another story tells of the meeting between `Umar and Hurmuzan, a Persian leader who fought against the Muslims, but later converted to Islam.[9] He found `Umar sleeping on the ground after he had sought him out for battle, and was amazed at his humility and austere lifestyle. The story continues that Hurmuzan declared: “You ruled by justice, therefore you became safe; only because of that, you are now able to sleep peacefully anywhere.”[10]

Tombstone of Caliph Umar. The first window from the right gives a view of Umar’s grave.


Umar died in 644, the victim of an assassin’s dagger. His killer, Pirouz Nahavandi (also known as Abu Lulua) was a Persian Soldier who was in both wars of Jaloola and Nahavand and taken as a captive in the second. Most probably Firuzan was a Zoroastrian as the majority of Iranian were at the time of Arab occupation of Iran in 7th century. One day when the caliph was leading prayers in the mosque, Pirouz Nahavandi walked over to him and stabbed him. There are varying accounts about the actual events that took place. Some believe that when Pirooz got to Umar he used his dagger to rip his stomach open from below belly all the way to his neck. and then stabbed him in his back as well and some say that he stabbed Umar six times. `Umar died two days later, and was buried alongside Muhammad and Abū BakrUthman ibn Affan was chosen as his successor, by a group of people appointed by Umar before his death.

[edit]Sunni views

Main article: Sunni view of Umar

Sunnis remember Umar as a Farooq, meaning “leader, jurist and statesman”, and the second of the rightly-guided Caliphs. He did not seek advancement for his own family, but rather sought to advance the interests of the Muslim community, the ummah. The general Sunni sentiment for Umar is summarized by one of Muhammad’s companions, Abdullah ibn Masud:

Omar’s submission to Islam was a conquest, his migration was a victory, his Imamate (period of rule) was a blessing, I have seen when we were unable to pray at the Kaabah until Umar submitted, when he submitted to Islam, he fought them (the pagans) until they left us alone and we prayed.[11]


[edit]See also


  1. ^ Ahmed, Nazeer, Islam in Global History: From the Death of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) to the First World War, American Institute of Islamic History and Cul, 2001, p. 34. ISBN 073885963X.
  2. ^ Ahmed, p. 35.
  3. ^ Armstrong, Karen, Muhammad (PBUH): A Biography of the Prophet, HarperCollins, 1992, pg. 120. ISBN 0062508865.
  4. ^ Numani, Shibli (2004). `UmarI.B. Tauris Publishers. ISBN 1850436703. p. 4
  5. ^ Armstrong, p. 128.
  6. ^ Armstrong, p. 35.
  7. ^ Armstrong, p. 151.
  8. ^ The Holy Sepulchre – first destructions and reconstructions
  9. ^ See Occupation of Khuzestan by Muslims
  10. ^ Fatwa pertaining to the authenticity of the story
  11. ^ as-Suyuti, The History of the Khalifas Who Took the Right Way, p. 112


  • Donner, Fred, The Early Islamic Conquests, Princeton University Press, 1981
  • Guillaume, A., The Life of Muhammad, Oxford University Press, 1955
  • Madelung, Wilferd, The Succession to Muhammad, Cambridge University Press, 1997
  • “G.LeviDellaVida and M.Bonner “Umar” in Encyclopedia of Islam CD-ROM Edition v. 1.0, Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, The Netherlands 1999″
  • Previte-Orton, C. W (1971). The Shorter Cambridge Medieval History. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

[edit]External links


Umar was the second Muslim Caliph and reigned during 634 to 644 CE. This article details the reforms of Umar’s era.



Umar undertook many administrative reforms and closely oversaw public policy, establishing an advanced administration for newly conquered lands, including several new ministries and bureaucracies, as well as ordering a census of all the Muslim territories. During his reign, the garrison cities of Basrah and al-Kūfah were founded or expanded. In 638, he extended and renovated the Grand Mosque in Mecca and the Mosque of the Prophet in Medina. He also began the process of codifyingIslamic law[citation needed].

Umar was known for his simple, austere lifestyle. Rather than adopt the pomp and display affected by the rulers of the time, he continued to live much as he had when Muslims were poor and persecuted[citation needed].

He saw the appointment of governors as one of his greatest responsibilities, understandably in an age when lack of rapid means of communication meant that each governor ruled his province with something near independence. His criterion for choosing a governor or military commander were 1.piety (al taqwah), although he made it clear that his preference between a man who had more taqwa and less ability and less taqwa and more ability would be the latter. 2. Competence (quwwah). 3. Trustworthiness (amanah). Interestingly he also forbade all his apppointees to engage in trade insisting that political involvement in the market would create an imbalance of power in the market leading to injustice. Another one of his requirements of his appointees was that they be Muslim and this is why he asked his secretary, who was a Christian, to accept Islam so that he could be given a position of authority in the Caliphate. When the slave refused, however, Umar did not force him to change his religion.

Pact of Umar

According to Islamic tradition, the Pact (Covenant) of Umar (c. 717 A.D.) is a treaty edicted by the Umayyad caliph Umar II (not to be confused with the second caliph Umar who had made the first treaty with Christians in Jerusalem known as “Umari Treaty”) for the ahl al-kitab(اهل الكتاب) (“People of the Book”) living on the lands newly conquered and colonized by Muslims. Muslims leaders were required to work out a way of dealing with Non-Muslims, who remained in the majority in many areas for centuries. The solution was to develop the notion of the dhimma, or “protected person”, who kept their religion to accept and submit to some rules. The Pact of Umar enumerates in detail many of the conditions of their subjugation, and served as a key foundational text in the legal elaboration of dhimmi status during the classical period of Islamic jurisprudence.


The Pact of Umar is a fundamental document in prescribing the condition of tolerated “People of the Book” (Jews and Christians) living within Muslim-controlled states.

Dhimmi are granted the right to practice their own religious rites in privacy. Manifesting their religion publicly or converting anyone to it was prohibited, as was building houses of worship or repairing such as fell into ruins. Protection of their persons and property was part of the pact and the punishment for infringement was less severe than for a Muslim, though any violation of the terms of the pact by Dhimmi rendered them “liable to the penalties for contumacy and sedition.” Additionally, during certain periods of persecution, these rights varied or did not apply.

To secure their rights, dhimmi would pledge loyalty to their Muslim rulers, pay a special poll-tax (the jizya) for adult males, and in general show deference and humility to Muslims in social interactions.

While the conditions of the Pact were authoritative, the level of enforcement varied, as shown by the existence of churches constructed long after the Muslim conquests.


Modern scholars have questioned the authenticity of this agreement (which exists in several different textual forms), claiming it to be the product of later jurists who attributed it to the caliph Umar in order to lend greater authority to their own opinions:

Western orientalists doubt the authenticity of the Pact, arguing that it is usually the victors, not the vanquished, who propose, or rather impose, the terms of peace, and that it is highly unlikely that the people who spoke no Arabic and knew nothing of Islam could draft such a document. Academic historians believe that the Pact of Umar in the form it is known today was a product of later jurists who attributed it to the venerated caliph Umar I in order to lend greater authority to their own opinions. The striking similarities between the Pact of Umar and the Theodesian and Justinian Codes suggest that perhaps much of the Pact of Umar was borrowed from these earlier codes by later Islamic jurists. At least some of the clauses of the pact mirror the measures first introduced by the Umayyad caliph Umar II or by the earlyAbbasid caliphs.[1]

Scholars have argued that the Pact may have direct pre-Islamic inspiration:

It has recently been suggested that many of the detailed regulations concerning what the ahl al-dhimma were and were not permitted to do come from an earlier historical precedent, namely the regulations which existed in the Sassanian Persian Empire with reference to its religious minorities in Iraq. Here there was a highly developed Jewish community, and separate Monophysite and Nestorian Christian communities, and during the late Sassanian period the rulers experimented with arrangements by which efforts were made to ensure the loyalty of the population by granting military protection and some degree of religious toleration in return for the payment of taxes.
(Goddard p. 47)


Wikisource has original text related to this article:

The text exists in several different forms, one of them a letter from a community of Christians to Umar, enumerating in retrospect the conditions of their pact. One version of this letter may be foundhere.


  • Hugh Goddard (2000). A History of Christian-Muslim Relations. Chicago: New Amsterdam Books. ISBN 1-56663-340-0.
  • A. S. Tritton (1930). The Caliphs and their non-Muslim Subjects: a Critical Study of the Covenant of `Umar. London: Frank Cass Publisher. ISBN 0-7146-1996-5.

Medieval Islamic Civilization: An Encyclopedia By Josef W. Meri, Jere L. Bacharach Published by Routledge, 2006 ISBN 0415966906, 9780415966900 878 pages


  1. ^ Tritton (1970); Lewis (1984), pp. 24–25; Bat Ye’or (1985), p. 48; Goddard (2000), p. 46

Military conquests of Umar’s era

Umar was the second Sunni Caliph and reigned during 634 to 644. This article details the military conquests of Umar’s era.


During Umar’s reign, the Islamic empire grew at an unprecedented rate, taking Mesopotamia and parts of Persiafrom the Sāsānids (effectively ending that empire), and taking EgyptPalestineSyriaNorth Africa and Armenia from the Byzantines. Many of these conquests followed watershed battles on both the western and eastern fronts. The Battle of Yarmūk, fought near Damascus in 636, saw a Muslim army of 40,000 defeat a Byzantine force estimated to number 160,000, permanently ending Byzantine rule south of Asia Minor. Another small Muslim army achieved victory over a larger force in the much-mythologized Battle of al-Qādisiyyah of circa 636 CE, near the banks of the Euphrates River. During the course of the battle, Muslim general Sa`d ibn Abī Waqqās routed the Sāsānian army and achieved the death of the famed Persian general Rostam Farrokhzād[citation needed].

In 637, after a prolonged siege of Jerusalem, the Muslims took the city. `Umar was given the key to the city by the Greek Orthodox patriarch, Sophronius, and invited to pray at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Umar chose to pray some distance from the Church, so as not to endanger its status as a Christian temple. Fifty-five years later, the Mosque of `Umar was constructed on the site where he prayed[citation needed].

For one version of `Umar’s speech to the people after the surrender of Jerusalem, see [2].

Umar’s caliphate is notable for its many conquests. His generals conquered Iraq, Iran, Azerbaijan, Kirman, Seistan, Khurasan, Syria, Jordan, Palestine and Egypt, and incorporated them into the empire of the Muslims. All of these were permanent conquests. The Romans lost Syria, Palestine and Egypt for ever; and in Persia, the Sassani empire ceased to exist [1]..


Umar assumed power through the covenant of Abu Bakr in the sixth Islamic month (Jumada al-thani) of the year 13 AH (634635[2]. He was appointed on the day that Abu Bakr died which was Tuesday eight days before the end of the month. He undertook the command most fully [3].

The Muslim armies were fighting against the Persians in Iraq and the Romans in Syria when Umar took charge. Khalid ibn al-Walid, the favorite general of Abu Bakr, commanded the armies in Syria. Umar’s first act as Caliph was to dismiss him from all his commands, and to appoint Abu Ubaidah ibn al-Jarrah as the supreme commander of those forces [1].


In the year 14 A.H., Damascus was conquered partly both by treaty and force, and Homs (ancient Emessa) and Baalbek by treaty, and Basrah and Ubullah by force [2].

‘In that year ‘Umar united people in one jama’ah in salat at-tarawih (the optional prayers said at night in Ramadan),’ said al-‘Askari in Al-Awa’il (Firsts) [2].


In the year 15 A.H., all of Jordan was conquered by force except for Tiberias which was by treaty. In this year were the battles of Yarmuk and Qadisiyyah. Ibn Jarir said: In it Sa’d founded Kufa, and ‘Umar instituted regular wages (for the fighting men), registers, and gave allowances according to priority.[2]


In the year 16 A.H., Ahwaz and Mada’in were conquered, and in the latter Sa’d established the jumu’ah in the great hall of Khosrau, and this was the first jumu’ah to be held in Iraq. That was in the month of Safar. In it, was the battle of Jalula in which Yezdajird the son of Khosrau was defeated and he retreated back to Rai. In it, Takrit was taken, ‘Umar travelled and tookAl-Bait al-Maqdis (Jerusalem) and gave his famous khutbah in al-Jabiyyah. Kinnasrin, Aleppo, and Antioch were taken by force, Manbij by treaty, and Saruj by force. In that year, Qirqisiya’ was taken by treaty. In Rabi’ al-Awwal, dating was begun from the Hijrah on the advice of ‘Ali.[2]


In the year 17 AH, ‘Umar increased the size of the Prophet’s Mosque. In it there was drought and famine in the Hijaz and it was called the Year of Destruction, and ‘Umar prayed for rain for people by means of al-‘Abbas [2].


In the year 18 A.H., Jundaysabur was taken by treaty, and Hulwan by force. In it, was the plague of Emaus; Urfa (Edessa) and Sumaysat were taken by force; Harran, Nasibin and a part of Mesopotamia by force, and it has been said, by treaty; and Mosul and its environs by force.[2]


In the year 19 A.H., Cæsarea was taken by force [2].


In the year 20 A.H., Egypt was conquered by force. It is also said that all of Egypt was taken by treaty except for Alexandria which was taken by force. ‘Ali ibn Rabah said, ‘The whole of the Maghrib (north-western Africa) was taken by force.’ In that year Tustar was taken, Caesar (Heraclius), the great man of the Byzantines, died. In it also, ‘Umar expelled the Jews from Khaybar and Najran, and he apportioned Khaybar and Wadi’l-Qurra’ (between those who had been present there at the original battles of the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace).[2]


In the year 21 A.H., Alexandria was taken by force, and Nahawand, after which the Persians could not muster an army, and Barqah and other places. [2]


In the year 22 A.H., Azerbaijan was taken by force, and it has been said, by treaty, and Dinaur by force, Masabdhan and Hamadan by force, and Tripoli of North Africa, Rai, ‘Askar and Qumas. [2]


In the end of23 AH was Umar assassinated after his return from the Hajj [2]


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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