‘Umar bin ‘Abd al-Aziz

By ‘Allamah Abu ‘l-Hasan ‘Ali Nadwi

Reformist Endeavors of the FirstCentury:

Soon after the Khilafate Rashida (the rightlyguided
caliphate) came to an end and the
Ummayyad Empire, which was more Arab than
Islamic, consolidated itself, the need over
reformation and renovation in Islam was felt
keenly. Customs, traditions and remembrances
of the pagan past, which had been discredited
and repressed under the impact of the Prophet’s
teachings and the vigilant eye of the Khilafate-
Rashida, began to re-assert themselves among
the new Arab converts to Islam. The then
Government was not organized according to the
dictates of the Qur’an and the Sunnah: its
guiding lights were Arab diplomacy, expediency
and interest of the State. Arab racialism, tribal
pride, partisan spirit and nepotism, regarded as
unpardonable sins during the days of the
Khilafat-e-Rashida, became the hallmarks of the
new aristocracy. The unruly spirit of the Arabs,
which had sought asylum in the far off deserts,
returned again to reassert itself; extravagance,
pretentiousness and boastfulness took the place
of virtuous deeds and moral excellence. Baitul-
Mal (the State Exchequer) became personal
property of the Caliphs who wasted public
money on professional poets, eulogists, jugglers
and buffoons. The courtiers of the rulers began
to be accorded a preferential treatment, which
gave them heart to break the law of the land.
Music and singing grew almost to a craze.
The extravagant rulers, surrounded by dissolute
parasites who flocked to the capital, demoralized Umar Ibn Abdul Aziz
the society and produced an aristocracy
resembling the pagan Arab wastrels of the age
of Ignorance in morals and behavior. It
appeared as if the pre-Islamic Ignorance had
retuned with a vendetta to settle its accounts of
the past forty years with Islam.

Religious Teachers of the Ummayyad Period:

Although crass materialism had captured the
soul of the ruling classes during the Ummayyad
period, the masses had still not forsaken the
moral values and the deep-seated deference for
Islamic teachings. The regard for moral worth
and tenets of Islam was due mainly to those
scholars of impeccable worth and ability who
were held in high esteem by the masses for their
moral and spiritual excellence, selflessness,
piety, sagacity and beneficence. Outside the
governmental circles these persons wielded
tremendous influence over the people, which
acted as a corrective force and saved the
masses from falling a prey to the pull of worldly
temptation. The person most respected and
loved during the period was ‘Ali ibn Husain
(Zainul Abdin). In the simple, pure and saintly
life led by him, ‘Ali ibn Husain had no peer.
Once Hisham ibn ‘Abdul Malik, the crown
prince, came to the Ka’aba for Tawaf
(circumambulation) but owing to the huge
gathering he could not reach the Hajar-e-
Aswad. He, therefore, sat down to wait till he
could get a chance to kiss it. In the meantime
‘Ali ibn Husain arrived and the people at once
cleared the way for him to make the Tawaf
and kiss Hajar-e-Aswad. Everyone presenting
the Ka’aba received ‘Ali ibn Husain with the utmost respect. At last, Hisham, pretending as
if he did not know ‘Ali ibn Husain, asked who
he was. The poet Farazdaq, who happened to
be present on the occasion, instantaneously
composed an introductory ode for ‘Ali ibn
Husain. It is reported that certain additions were
made to this famous ode later on but it is still
regarded as a masterpiece of Arabic poetry. It
opened with the verse: Pebbles and paths of
Mecca affirm his virtue: The House of God
knows him well as the environs do.
Other highly reputed religious scholars of
outstanding piety during the Ummayyad period
were Hasan al-Muthanna, his son ‘Abdullahal-
Mahadh, Salim ibn ‘Abbdullah ibn ‘Umar,
Qasim ibn Muhammad ibn Abu Bakr, Saeed ibn
Musayyib and ‘Urwah ibn Zubair. Complete
detachment from the ruling circles of their day,
immaculate selflessness, unswerving
truthfulness, had made each of these persons
an ideal of Islamic piety. The demoralization that
had set in owing to the immoral conduct of the
ruling elite was undoubtedly on the increase but
the moral influence wielded by these persons
on the masses was not without a salutary effect;
their pure and simple life was a standing
reproach to the unprincipled.
Political Revolution:
Gradually the contaminating inflexion of the
political revolution deepened and spread out, and,
at the same time, there was a marked decrease
in the number of religious teachers who could
exert a strong and ennobling influence over the
people like the pious souls of the preceding
period. Now it became impossible to revitalize
the people and fill them with the faith and moral
worth without a revolution in the State itself.
The Ummayyad power was, however,
entrenched in such a firm military strength that
it was not possible to dislodge it, nor there
existed any internal or external force, which
could dare to challenge it. Not long before two
efforts made by Husain ibn ‘Ali and ‘Abdullah
ibn Zubair had proved abortive and one could
hardly expect any more armed insurrection for
bringing about a political revolution. Autocratic
and hereditary form of government had
produced a despondency which had left no hope
for any change in the prevailing conditions and
it appeared as if the fate of Muslims had been
sealed for a fairly long time. It required a miracle
alone for the Islamic precepts to find an
expression again in the political law guiding the
community’s behavior. And the miracle did
happen at the most appropriate time.
Accession of ‘Umar ibn ‘Abdul ‘Aziz:
The miracle was the accession of ‘Umar ibn
‘Abdul ‘Aziz to the throne in 99 A.H. (717
A.D.). He was a grandson of Marwan and his
mother, Umm’Asim, was a grand daughter of
‘Umar I, the second Caliph. The Ummayyad
and the Farooqi families were thus jointly
represented in ‘Umar II, surnamed as the pious
Caliph, who brought about the much-needed
‘Umar ibn ‘Abdul ‘Aziz was born in 61 A.H.
He was a cousin of the preceding Caliph,
Sulaiman ibn ‘Abdul Malik and had been posted
as Governor of Madina since the time of Walid
ibn ‘Abdul Malik, the Caliph before Sulaiman.
The life led by him as Governor was entirely
different from that he adopted as a Caliph. He
was known as a polished and decorous
aristocrat of refined taste. Anybody could tell
from the fragrance of perfumes he used that
‘Umar has passed that way. He was all the rage
for the fashionable youths of his day. Except
for his integrity of character and righteous
disposition there was nothing to suggest that he
was destined to perform a memorable task in
the history of Islam.
But he proved to be a standing miracle of Islam.
The very way he ascended to the Caliphate was
miraculous; for, nobody could have predicated
the dramatic turn that the events took in bringing
him to the throne. He could not have hoped to be anything more than a viceroy under the
hereditary custom of accession to the Caliphate,
but God had willed otherwise. Sulaiman ibn
‘Abdul Malik fell seriously ill and lost all hopes
of recovery. He was anxious to leave the throne
to one of his sons who were still minors. Shaken
with this anxiety he got his sons put on longer
dresses, uniforms and armours so that they might
appear sizeable, but all his efforts proved fruitless.
In his dreadful agony, he cast a pathetic glance
over his sons and said: “He is really fortunate
who had grown-up sons”. Raza’ ibn Haiwah
happened to be present at the time and he
promptly proposed ‘Umar ibn ‘Abdul Aziz as the
successor to the throne. Caliph Sulaiman
accepted the suggestion and thus by his timely
intervention Raza rendered yeoman service for
the revival of Islam.
Character of Umar II:
Immediately upon his accession, ‘Umar
dismissed provincial governors knows to be cruel
or unjust to the people. All the jewellery and
valuable presents brought before him on
accession to the throne were deposited in the
State treasury. He was now completely changed
man; he considered himself a successor to Caliph
‘Umar I, son of Khattab, rather than Sulaiman
ibn ‘Abdul Malik, slaves of the royal household
were emancipated; the royal court modeled after
Persian and Byzantine royal patterns was now
marked by an austere and primitive simplicity.
He returned to the State not only his ancestral
life but even the valuables and jewellery his wife
bad received from her father and brothers. He
led such a simple and ascetic life as it would
have been difficult to find among the monks and
recluses much less the kings and emperors. On
several occasions he was late for Friday prayers
since he had to wait till his only shirt dried up
after a wash. Before Caliph ‘Umar II ascended
to the throne Baitul-Mal, the public treasury,
was treated as a personal property of the King
from which members of royal family were
granted enormous sums, but now they had to
be content with the paltry stipends. Once, when
he was talking to his daughters, he noticed that
the children cupped their mouth while talking
to him. On making enquiries he found that since
only pulses and onions were available in his
house on the day, which had been taken by the
children, they cupped their mouths lest its smell
should offend him. With tears in his eyes, ‘Umar
said: “My children, would you like to have
sumptuous food and your father to be consigned
to hell?” He was the ruler of the mightiest
empire of his day but he did not have enough
money to perform the Hajj. He once asked
his servant if he had saved anything so that he
had only ten or twelve Dinars and thus he could
not undertake the journey. After a few days,
‘Umar II received a sum sufficient to perform
the Hajj from his personal holdings. The
servant congratulated ‘Umar II, and said that
now he could go for the Hajj. ‘Umar II
however, replied: “We have been deriving
benefit from these holdings since a long time.
Now Muslims have a right to enjoy its fruits”.
Then he got the entire proceeds deposited in
the public treasury.
‘Umar II never spent more than two Dirhams
on his messing. If any official came to see him
and began talking of the Caliph’s private affairs,
he would promptly put off the candle provided
by the State and ask for his own candle to be
brought in. He would never use the hot water
taken from the State mess or even inhale the
fragrance of musk belonging to the Bait-ul-
‘Umar II was careful not for his person alone.
He always exhorted the State officials to be
extremely cautious in their dealings involving
the State property. The Governor of Madina,
Abu-Bakr ibn Hazm, had submitted an application to Sulaiman ibn ‘Abdul Malik
demanding candlesticks and lamp-glass for the
official work. By the time the requisition reached
the Caliph, Sulaiman had died and it was placed
before ‘Umar II. He wrote: “O Abu-Bakr, I
remember the days when you wandered during
the dark nights of winter without candlesticks
and light, and, were you then in a better condition
than now? I have now enough candlesticks to
spare a few for conducting the business of the
State.” Similarly on another request made for
supply of paper for official work, he remarked:
“Make the point of your pen finer, write closely
and concisely; for, Muslims do not require such
detailed reports which are unnecessarily a
burden on the State exchequer.”
Extreme cautiousness, moderation, simplicity
and unaffected piety were not the only feature
of ‘Umar’s character. He transformed the view
point of his government making the weal of the
people the sole object of administration. Before
‘Umar II the State was concerned mainly with
collecting revenues and spending it, having
nothing to do with the moral guidance and
religious instruction of the people. The historic
dictum of ‘Umar II that ‘Muhammad was sent
as a Prophet and not as collector, adequately
illustrates the objective he had set before the
State under him. In truth and reality, during the
entire period of his Caliphate he sought to
translate this idea into practice. He always
preferred principles, moral dictates and
demands of the faith to political expediency and
never cared a whit for pecuniary losses suffered
by the State if the policy commended by religion
entailed it. During his reign the non-Muslims
were embracing Islam in ever-increasing
numbers which meant a dwindling income from
the pool-tax. As the sharp fall in revenues posed
a danger to the financial stability of the State,
‘Umar’s attention was drawn towards it. But
his reply was that the situation was eminently
in accord with the objectives underlying the
prophet-hood of Muhammad. To another official
he wrote: “I would be too glad if all the non-
Muslims embrace Islam and (owing to the
drying up of income from pool-tax) we have to
take up cultivation for earning our living. A fixed
amount of land revenue was to be remitted by
the provincial Government of Yemen every year
whether it had a favorable crop or not. ‘Umar
II ordered that the revenues should be assessed
in accordance with the agricultural production
every year. He added that he would willingly
accept it even if a handful of grain were to be
received in pursuance of his order. He
discontinued levy of control throughout the
kingdom saying that it was prohibited by the
Solicitude for Moral Reformation:
After the Khilafat-e-Rashida came to an end,
the Caliphs began to consider themselves simply
as monarchs and administrators; they were
neither capable nor had the time to bother about
the moral and social conditions of their subjects.
In fact, the Caliphs were never expected to
advise people in religious affairs, take steps for
their moral, religious or spiritual advancement
or assume the role of a pulpiter. This was
considered to be the domain of scholars and
religious luminaries, ulama and traditionists.
‘Umar Ibn ‘Abdul ‘Aziz did away with this
dichotomy and proved himself to be really a
successor of the Prophet, as his office implied.
No sooner did he ascend the Caliphate, he sent
out quite lengthy letters and directives, which
dealt with more about religious and moral
reforms than with the so-called administrative
affairs. His edicts embodied a spirit of preaching,
religious and moral, rather than the dispensation
of government. In his letters he would compare
the social and moral condition of people with
that in the days of the Prophet and early
Caliphate and elaborate the fiscal and
administrative system required to bring about
an Islamic regeneration; impress on the
governors and generals the importance of timely
performance of their prayers and presiding at
these services.’ Exhort public servants to
inculcate the awe of God and meticulously
follow the regulations of the Shariah; charge his officers with the responsibility of spreading
the message of Islam in the provinces under them,
which he considered to be the sole objective of
Divine revelation and the Prophet-hood of
Muhammad; insist on the enforcement of what
is incumbent and on the prevention of that which
is forbidden, and warn them of the harmful
effects of neglecting this obligation; elaborate the
criminal law of Islam and instruct the magistrates
to be lenient in awarding punishment; draw attention towards the deviations and innovation,
customs and foreign traditions that had found
a way into the life of the people; forbid
lamentations and put a stop to the custom
requiring women to accompany the funeral
processions as well as their public appearance;
denigrate tribal partisanship; and, prohibit laxity
in the use of Nabiz which gradually led to
drinking bouts and to numerous other vices.

Defender of the Faith:
The unalloyed Islamic thought and spirit of
religion that ‘Umar ibn Abdul Aziz tried to infuse
among the Muslims and give a practical shape
through the State he presided, can be gauged
from the letters and edicts he issued from time
to time to the different functionaries of his
government. These dispatches show about the
deep understanding of Islam he had without
the least trace of pre-Islamic Ignorance or the
stamp of Ummayyad royalty.
It was once reported to him that certain tribal
chiefs and Ummayyad aristocrats had revived
the pagan custom of entering into alliances and
were giving a call to one another in the name
of tribal solidarity during their fights and forays.
This custom cut at the very root of Islamic
concept of brotherhood and the social order
it wanted to bring into existence. Earlier rulers
would have been complacent at it or even
encouraged the practice as a political
expediency but ‘Umar ibn Abdul Aziz being
fully alive to the pernicious implications of the
practice, issued an order to Dhahhak ibn
Abdur Rahman for curbing the evil forthwith.
In it he writes: “Praise be to God and peace
unto His Apostle. Thereafter you should know
that Allah does not like any religion other than
Islam, which he has chosen for Himself and His
bondsmen, Allah had been pleased to honor His
religion, Islam, with a Scripture, which had made
Islam distinct form other religions. In it he says:
Now hath come unto you light form Allah
and a plain Scripture. Whereby Allah guideth
him who seeketh His good pleasure unto paths
of peace. He bringeth them out of darkness
unto light by His decree and guideth them
unto a straight path. (Al-Mai’da: 15-16)
Allah also says: With truth We have sent it
down, and with truth had it descended. And
We have sent thee as naught else save a
bearer of good tidings and a Warner. (Bani
Israel: 105)
God Almighty endowed Prophethood on
Muhammad (saws) and revealed the Scripture
to him. Then, O Arabs, as you know, you lived
in ignorance, idolatry and impurity; were plunged
in poverty, disorder and chaos; fights and forays
baulked large in your life; you were looked down
upon by others; and, whatever little light of
Divine Guidance was available to other nations,
you were deprived even of that. There was no
perversion and depravity, which was not to be
found amongst you. If you lived, yours was a
life of ignorance and infidelity; and, if you died,
you were consigned to the Hell. At last Allah saved you form these evils, idolatry and anarchy,
hatred and conflicts. Although many amongst
you denied and decried the Prophet of God, he
remained steadfast in his endeavour till a few
poor people amongst you responded to his call.
Fearing the worst, these men always ran for their
lives but God gave them asylum, sent His succour
to them and gave them strength through those
whom He chose to enlighten with Islam, the
Prophet of God was to depart form this world
and Allah had to fulfill the promise made to His
messenger. The promise of Allah never changes
but none save a few of the faithful believed in
what God Almighty had promised: He it is Who
hath sent His messenger with the guidance
and the Religion of Truth, that He may cause
it to prevail over all religion, however much
the idolaters may be averse. (Al-Raubah: 33)
“In another verse Allah had promised to the
Muslims: Allah hath promised such of you as
believe and do good works that He will surely
make them to succeed (the present rulers) in
the earth even as He caused those who were
before them to succeed (others); and that He
will surely establish for them their religion
which He hath approved for them, and will
give them in exchange safety after this fear.
They serve Me. They ascribe nothing as
partner unto Me. (An-Nur: 55)
Allah has fulfilled the promise made by him to
His Prophet and the Muslims. Therefore, O
Muslims, remember that whatever God
Almighty has bestowed on your enemies in the
world is nothing and you will be raised as a
witness unto others in the Hereafter. But for
Islam, you have no refuge in this world nor alter
death; you have nothing to fall back upon nor a
source of strength, no protection, no safeguard,
and if you are fortunate enough to see the
fulfillment of the promise made by Allah, you
need to pin your hopes in the abode of the
Hereafter, since God has said: As for the
Abode of the Hereafter we assign it unto
those who seek not oppression in the earth,
nor yet corruption. The sequel is for those
who ward off (evil). (Al-Qasas: 83)
I warn you of the disaster that will befall you if
you do not act according to the teachings of
the Qur’an. The bloodshed and disorder,
turmoil and affliction to which you had been
exposed as a result of disregarding the
guidance provided by the Scripture is recent
history. You should, therefore, desist from what
has been prohibited by Allah in His Scripture;
for, there is nothing more dreadful than the
admonition sounded by God Almighty… … I
have been constrained to write this letter on
account of the reports reaching me from the
countryside about those who have been
recently sent there as stewards and
administrators. These are an ignorant and stupid
set of persons who are not aware of God’s
commandments; they have forgotten the special
favour and benevolence of Allah over them or
they have rather shown ingratitude for the
undeserved favours bestowed on them. I have
been told that they seek the help of the people
of Mudhar and Yaman, for they think that these
tribes are their allies and partisans. Glorified
be Allah, Who alone deserves all praise. What
an ungrateful and ill-beseeming people these
are, and how inclined they are to invite death,
destruction and doom! They have no eyes to
see what a despicable position they have chosen
for themselves, nor are they aware how they
have deprived themselves of peace and amity Now I realise that miscreants and ruffians are
shaped as such by their own intentions and also
that Hell was not created in vain. Have they
never heard of the commandment of God
Almighty? The believers are naught else than
brothers. Therefore make peace between your
brethren and observe your duty to Allah that
haply ye may obtain mercy. (Al-Hujrat: 10)
And have they not heard this verse too? This
day have if perfected your religion for you
and completed My favour unto you, and have
chosen for you as religion Al-Islam. (Al-
Ma’idah: 3)
I have been told that certain tribes are entering
into alliances to help one another against their
enemies as they used to do in the bygone days
of Ignorance, although the Prophet has
prohibited unconditional alliances for helping
each other. The prophet has said: “there is no
partisanship in Islam.” In the time of Ignorance,
allies expected help from each other in every
unjust cause, no matter whether it led to
oppression or wrongdoing, transgression of the
commands of God or of the Prophet… …
I warn everyone who may happen to read my
letter or hear its content against taking any
shelter expect Islam and seeking amity of
anyone except God Almighty and His Prophet.
I again warn everyone with all the emphasis at
my command and seek to make Allah my
witness against these persons, for He has
authority over every being and He is nearer to
everyone than his jugular veins.
The directives sent by Umar ibn Abdul Aziz to
the commander of military expedition illustrate
the extent to which he had imbibed the Qur’anic
mode of thought and view-point, and how he
differed diametrically form other rulers and
emperors of his time. In one of his edicts to
Mansur ibn Ghalib he wrote:
“This is a directive form the bondsman of Allah
and Commander of the Faithful to Mansur ibn
Ghalib. Whereas the Commander of the
Faithful has charged Mansur to wage war
against those who might oppose him, the latter
is also instructed to inculcate awe of God; since,
it constitutes the best of provisions, the most
effective strategy and the real power. For the
sin is even more dangerous than the ruses of
the enemy, the Commander of the Faithful bids
upon Mansur that instead of talking fright of his
enemy, he should fear transgressing the limits
of God. We overcome our enemies in the
battlefield only because of their vices and sins,
for, had it not been so, we would not have had
the courage to face them. We cannot deploy
troops in the same numbers as our enemies can.
We do not possess the equipments they have
got. Thus, if we equate ourselves with our
enemies in misdeeds and transgressions, they
would undoubtedly gain a victory over us by
virtue of their numerical superiority and strength.
Behold, if we are not able to gain ascendancy
over our enemies on account of our
righteousness, we would never be in a position
to defeat them through our might. We need not
keep an eye upon anything more than the enmity
of our own wickedness nor do we have to hold
in leash anything more than our own
viciousness. You should realize the fact that God
Almighty has deputed wardens over you who
never part company with you and they are
aware of whatever you do in your camps and
cantonment, secretly or in public. Therefore,
do not put yourself to shame by exceeding the limits of God; be kind to others, especially as
you have left your hearths and homes for the
sake of God. Never consider yourselves
superior to your enemies, nor take your victory
for granted because of the sinfulness of your
foes, for many a people worse than his enemy
was granted ascendancy in the past. Therefore,
seek the help of God against your own
temptations in the same way, as you desire the
succour of God against your opponent. I would
also beseech God’s blessings for myself and
“Commander of the Faithful also bids Mansur
ibn Ghalib that he should treat his men with
leniency. He should not require his troops to
undertake toilsome journeys, nor refuse to
encamp when they require rest. The troops
enfeebled by exertion and long travels, should
not be required to face an enemy whose forces
and the beasts of burden are taking rest at their
own place. Thus if Mansur does not accord a
humane treatment to his men, his enemy would
easily gain ascendancy over Mansur’s forces.
Verily, help can be sought from God alone.
“For giving rest to his men and the beast of
burden and also for getting his armaments
repaired, the Commander of the Faithful orders
Mansur ibn Ghalib to break his journey on every
Friday for the whole day and night thereof. He
is also ordered to encamp far away from the
habitations, which have entered into treaty
relations with us, and allow none from his troops
to visit their dwellings, markets or gatherings.
Only those of his men who are firm in faith and
trustworthy and who would neither be illdisposed
nor commit a sin against the people
could be allowed to visit such habitation for
collection of lawful dues. You are as much
bound to guarantee their rights as they are
enjoined to fulfill the duties devolving on them
i.e. you have to honour your obligation to them
so long as they do theirs. You should never try
to gain an advantage over some under your
protection, for you have already got a share (in
the shape of Jeziah or poll-tax) in their earnings
and you neither need to increase it nor they are
bound to pay more. We have too not cut down
your provisions, nor deprived you of anything
required for strengthening you. You have been
given charge of our best forces and provided
with every thing required for the job. Now you
need to pay attention to the land of polytheists,
our enemies, and need not concern yourself with
those who have come under our protection.
After having made the best possible
arrangements for you, we have trust in God
Almighty: There is no power, no might, save
form Allah.
“And the Commander of the faithful further
directs that you shall appoint only such persons
as your spies from amongst the Arabs and non-
Arabs who are guileless and trustworthy, for
the intelligence received through deceitful
persons is hardly of any use. Even if a
treacherous fellow passes on to you some
correct information, he ought really to be treated
as a spy of the enemy and not yours. May God
have peace on you.”
In another circular letter to the provincial chiefs
he wrote: “Verily god has entrusted the charge
of administration to me. I have not accepted
this responsibility for the sake of riches or
sensual delight, feasts or attires, for God had
already favoured me with a fortune that only a few can boast of. For I fully realize the grave
responsibility of the charge entrusted to me, I
have taken upon myself this obligation with a
great deal of anxiety and heart-searching. I
know I would be called upon to render the
account in the presence of God when claimants
and defendants would both be present to argue
their cases on the Day of Requital-a
Burdensome Day, indeed, save for those on
whom Allah showers his mercy and whom He
protects from the grievous ordeal.
“I bid you to be cautious and God-fearing in all
the affairs of the State committed to your charge
and ask you to fulfill your obligations, perform
that which has been ordained by God and desist
from the acts prohibited by the Shariah. You
ought to keep an eye upon yourself and your
actions; be cautious of the acts that unite you
with Allah, on the one hand, and your liegemen,
on the other. You are aware that the salvation
and safety lies in complete submission to the
Almighty and the ultimate goal of all endeavours
should be, by the same token, to make
preparations for success on the Appointed Day.
“If you will, you might take a lesson from the
happenings around you. Only then I can drive
home the truth to you through my preachings.
“My God have peace on you.”
Propagation of Islam:
The efforts of ‘Umar ibn Abdul Aziz were not
limited to the enforcement of the Shariah, as
the law of the land, and reformation of the
Muslims only. He also paid attention towards
spreading the message of Islam among the non-
Muslims, and his endeavours were also
successful on account of his personal example
of simple life, unaffected piety, and unswerving
uprightness and immaculate sincerity. Balazuri
writes in Futuh-ul-Budan: “Umar ibn Abdul
Aziz wrote seven letters to the rajas in India
inviting them to embrace Islam. He promised
that if they did so, he would guarantee continued
existence of their kingdoms and their rights and
obligations would be the same as those of the
other Muslims.
“The name fame of ‘Umar ibn Abdul Aziz had
already reached those lands and when they
received ‘Umar’s dispatch they embraced Islam
and adopted Arab names.
“Isma’il ibn Abdullah ibn Abi la-Mahajir,
governor of Maghrib (north-west Africa),
administered the land with flawless justice and
gave a good account of his character and
morals. He initiated proselytizing activities
among the Barber tribes. Thereafter ‘Umar ibn
Abdul Aziz sent a letter inviting those people
to embrace Islam which was read out in huge
gatherings of the natives by Isma’il. A large
number of people were converted to Islam and
at last Islam became the predominant faith of
the land.
… ‘Umar ibn Abdul Aziz also wrote letters to
the rulers and chiefs of Transoxiana and
exempted new converts to Islam in Khurasan
from the payment of poll-tax (Jeziah). He also
granted stipends and rewards to those who
embraced Islam and got constructed rest
houses for the travelers.
Financial Reforms:
The financial reforms embarked upon by ‘Umar
ibn Abdul Aziz viz. remission of numerous taxes and tithes disallowed by the Shariah, did not
result in pecuniary difficulties or deficits in the
State income. On the contrary, people became
so much well off that it became difficult to find
destitute and beggars who would accept the
poor-due (Zakat).
Yahya ibn Sa’eed relates that ‘Umar ibn Abdul
Aziz had appointed him to collect the poordue
in Africa. When he got the dues collected,
he looked around for the needy and hard up
person, but he could not find a single individual
who could be rendered assistance. He adds
that ‘Umar’s economic policy had made
everybody a man of substance and, therefore,
he had no alternative but to purchase a number
of slaves and then emancipate them on behalf
of the Muslim populace.
Another man from the Quraish reports that
during the extremely short reign of ‘Umar ibn
Abdul Aziz people used to remit substantial
amounts pertaining to the poor-due to the State
exchequer for being distributed among the poor,
but these had to be returned to them as nobody
entitled to receive these charities was to be
found. He says that everyone had become so
well-off during ‘Umar’s time that nobody
remained in straitened circumstances entitled to
receive the poor-due.
Apart form the prosperity of the masses, which
is invariably a by-product of the Islamic form
of government, the more important change
accomplished by the regime of ‘Umar ibn Abdul
Aziz was the diversion in inclination and
aptitude, mood and trend of the populace. His
contemporaries narrate that whenever a few
friends met during the regime of Walid, they
used to converse about buildings and
architecture for that was the rage of Walid;
Sulaiman was fond of women and banquets,
and these became the fad of his days; but,
during the reign of ‘Umar ibn Abdul Aziz the
prevailing demeanour and subjects or discussion
were prayers, supplicatory and benedicatory,
obligatory and supererogatory. Whenever a few
people gathered, they would ask each other
about the voluntary prayers one offered for
acquiring spiritual benefits, the portion of Qur’an
recited or committed to memory, fast observed
every month, and so on so forth.
The guiding light for ‘Umar ibn Abdul Aziz and
the impelling force behind his endeavours were
his unflinching faith, the love and awe of the
Supreme being and conviction of accountability
on the Day of Resurrection. Whatever he did
was solely on account of the inducement, if it
can be called, to propitiate God Almighty. This
was the urge and driving force, which had made
the ruler of the most powerful and extensive
empire of the day to lead a life of austerity,
forbearance and abstinence. If anybody advised
him to raise his standard of living, as his position
and office demanded, he would recite the
Qur’anic dictum: “…I fear, if I rebel against
my Lord, the retribution of an Awful Day.
(Al-An’am: 15)
Once ‘Umar ibn Abdul Aziz said to this servant:
“Allah has favoured me with a disposition,
insatiable and ambitious; no sooner do I attain
an object I long for, I set my heart upon a still
higher objective. Now I have reached a
sublimation after which nothing remains to be
coveted. Now my ambition aspires for Paradise
alone.” Once he asked a certain sage for counsel, who
said: “Of what avail would it be to thee, if the
entire mankind were sent to Heaven and thou
were consigned to Hell? Similarly, what would
thou lose, if thou were awarded Heaven and
all others sent to the Hell?”
On hearing this “Umar’s qualm knew no bounds
and he wept so bitterly that the fire in the chafingdish
in front of him got extinguished by his tears.
Yazid ibn Haushab once said that ‘Umar had
so great a fear of God that it seemed as if the
Heaven and Hell had been created by God only
for him and Hasan al-Basri.
If Providence had only granted ‘Umar the span
of rule enjoyed by his predecessors, the world
of Islam would have witnessed a complete and
lasting revolution changing the course of its
history. But the Ummayyads who had been hit
hard during the reign of ‘Umar ibn Abdul Aziz
and who saw power and influence slipping out
of their hands, openly regretted the day when
the families of ‘Uamr ibn al-Khattab and the
Ummayyads’ had martially been united. They
could not endure the ordeal any longer for it
was against their grain, and they soon found a
way to get rid of the most virtuous Muslim of
their times. ‘Umar ibn ‘Abdul Aziz died in the
middle of 101 A. H. after a rule of only two
years and five months. There are reasons to
believe that a slave in the employ of the Caliph
was commissioned by his family to administer
poison to him.

Saviours of Islamic Spirit

(IV 04/09)


One thought on “‘Umar bin ‘Abd al-Aziz

  1. what about the role umar played as governor Madina.Any credit for suleman to appoint him caliph.ummayad not fairly judged.work as governor was due to ummayad who spread islam upto china and africa/THE author claiming syed is biased.


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